Galway Shawl


-Dingle, County Kerry


-please click ‘Play’

At Oranmore in the county Galway
One pleasant evening in the month’s of May
I spied a damsel; she was young and handsome
Her beauty fairly took my breath away

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

We kept on walking she kept on talking
Till her fathers cottage came in to view
Said she, ‘come in sir’, and meet my father
And play, to please him, ‘The Foggy Dew’

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

She sat me down beside the hearthstone
I could see her father he was six feet tall
And soon her mother, had the kettle singing
All I could think of, was the Galway shawl

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

I played, ‘The Black Bird’, ‘The Stack of Barley’
‘Rodney’s Glory’ and ‘The Foggy Dew’
She sang each note like an Irish linnet
And tears weld in her eyes of blue

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

‘Twas early, early, all in the morning
I hit the road for old Donegal
Said she, ‘goodbye sir’, she cried and kissed me
But my heart remain with the Galway shawl

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

Love, & ’tis true, ’tis true,
Matthew

Jehovah’s Witnesses – strategies

Jehovah witnesses are showing bible behind door. View from peephole.

“Each month Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) distribute millions of books, magazines, and pamphlets, in dozens of languages. Many of these are intended for non-Witnesses to try to convert them, but others are intended for Witnesses themselves.

One of the handbooks used by missionaries in the field is entitled Reasoning from the Scriptures. The book clearly centers around WTS (Watch Tower Society) theology, and this point is evident in part from the fact that some of the specific subjects treated in the book are identified as “Not a Bible teaching.”

The publication is intended to enable the average Witness going door-to-door to accomplish two purposes. First, it provides many Scripture references which seemingly support the WTS’s belief system. Second, it “arms” the JW with a variety of responses to statements and questions that are likely to surface in nearly any typical encounter with a non-Witness.

Some topics clearly have been selected because they concern beliefs peculiar to Witnesses. Others have been included because they are held by those of other faiths. This is especially true of Catholic doctrines. (A side note here: The Witnesses believe that all Christian denominations are demonic in origin, and they maintain Christianity as a whole went apostate—entirely abandoned the true faith—starting all the way back in the latter portion of the first century A.D. From their perspective, this alleged apostasy fulfills predictions in the New Testament. The main problem with this is that while the New Testament does speak of an apostasy, it refers to the falling away of large number of believers near the end times, not to the defection of the Church as an institution.)

Catholic doctrines discussed include apostolic succession; baptism as a sacrament bestowing grace; confession; holidays and holy days, such as Christmas, Easter, and St. Valentine’s Day; the use of images; Marian doctrines; the Mass; and purgatory. These alone constitute more than a tenth of the book and give an indication that the Witnesses see the Catholic Church as a main target.

Reasoning from the Scriptures begins with two how-to chapters, “Introductions for Use in the Field Ministry” and “How You Might Respond to Potential Conversation Stoppers.” The first gives suggested opening lines. “If the introductions you are now using seldom open the way for conversations, try some of these suggestions. When you do so, you will no doubt want to put them in your own words.”

Sample Openings

Five openings are given under the heading “Bible/ God.” The first reads this way: “Hello. I’m making just a brief call to share an important message with you. Please note what it says here in the Bible. (Read Scripture, such as Revelation 21:3-4.) What do you think about that?”

Notice the hook: “an important message.” It works for the advertising industry; why not in this context? Then come the Bible verses, followed by questions. The missionaries don’t tell their listener what to think—at least not at this point. Instead, they elicit his views. Once he gives them, it’s awkward for him to back out of the conversation.

Notice also in this example and in many of the ones that follow, JWs typically ask prospective converts for their own opinion or feeling on a theological matter. The advantage this approach has for JWs is that virtually everyone has some kind of opinion on the subject matter presented, so this approach practically guarantees that JWs can successfully engage a person in a dialogue. Once the dialogue has been established, the JW is then on his way to potentially making a convert. Fortunately for the JW, the average person fails to realize that theological or religious truth does not depend on one’s mere opinion or feeling.

Another opening line under this section is this one: “We’re encouraging folks to read their Bible. The answers that it gives to important questions often surprise people. For example: . . . (Ps. 104:5; or Dan. 2:44; or some other).” Again, here the listener is told he’ll be let in on a secret. He reads the passages, is asked his opinion, and then the Witnesses steer the conversation their way.

The leads given under the heading “Employment/ Housing” are more down-to-earth: “We’ve been talking with your neighbors about what can be done to assure that there will be employment and housing for everyone. Do you believe that it is reasonable to expect that human governments will accomplish this? . . . But there is someone who knows how to solve these problems; that is mankind’s Creator (Is. 65:21-23).”

This example shows another typical approach for Witnesses: they often target universal concerns. Who, for instance, is not worried about the future? Or living in a world free from pollution, poverty, and crime? So the “opening” for Witnesses often begins by focusing on these universal concerns, then continues by establishing a certain rapport, and finally turns to conversation that is more specifically theological in nature.

When many people in the area say, “I have my own religion,” it is recommended the missionaries use this opening: “Good morning. We are visiting all the families on your block (or, in this area), and we find that most of them have their own religion. No doubt you do too. . . . But, regardless of our religion, we are affected by many of the same problems—high cost of living, crime, illness—is that not so? . . . Do you feel that there is any real solution to these things? . . . (2 Pet. 3:13; etc.).”

Taking Cues

When many people say, “I’m busy,” this opening is used: “Hello. We’re visiting everyone in this neighborhood with an important message. No doubt you are a busy person, so I’ll be brief.” If the missionaries find themselves in a territory that is often worked by other JWs, they begin this way: “We’re making our weekly visit in the neighborhood, and we have something more to share with you about the wonderful things that God’s Kingdom will do for mankind.”

The second chapter of the Reasoning book instructs missionaries in how to “respond to potential conversation stoppers.” The reader is told that “not everyone is willing to listen, and we do not try to force them. But with discernment it is often possible to turn potential conversation stoppers into opportunities for further discussion.”

Missionaries are told not to memorize these lines, but to master them and put them in their own words. The key is sincerity. If the person who answers the door says, “I’m not interested,” the JW is to follow up with this: “May I ask, Do you mean that you are not interested in the Bible, or is it religion in general that does not interest you? I ask that because we have met many who at one time were religious but no longer go to church because they see much hypocrisy in the churches (or, they feel that religion is just another money-making business; or, they do not approve of religion’s involvement in politics; etc.). The Bible does not approve of such practices either and it provides the only basis on which we can look to the future with confidence.” Six other responses to the “I’m not interested” line are given.

Keep in mind that the JW has been well-trained and is well-versed in the “prepackaged” responses he has been taught. This fact adds to the appearance of the JW’s credibility and even his biblical “knowledge.” The reality, however, is that a given Witness has merely become adept at repeating select Bible verses and responses which he uses time and time again.

“Not Interested in Witnesses”

If the person is more specific still and says, “I’m not interested in the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the missionaries give this kind of response: “Many folks tell us that. Have you ever wondered why people like me volunteer to make these calls even though we know that the majority of householders may not welcome us? (Give the gist of Matt. 25:31-33, explaining that a separating of people of all nations is taking place and that their response to the Kingdom message is an important factor in this. Or state the gist of Ezekiel 9:1-11, explaining that, on the basis of people’s reaction to the Kingdom message, everyone is being ‘marked’ either for preservation through the great tribulation or for destruction by God.)”

Here you see peeping out one of the Witnesses’ peculiar doctrines—they don’t believe in hell. They think the unsaved are annihilated and simply cease to exist. Only the saved will live eternally. If the person at the door says, “I have my own religion,” he should be asked, “Would you mind telling me, Does your religion teach that the time will come when people who love what is right will live on earth forever? … That is an appealing thought, isn’t it? … It is right here in the Bible (Ps. 37:29; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:4).”

Notice again the approach: the Witness ultimately gets to a theological matter by means of an attraction to the emotions or one’s opinions (“That is an appealing thought, isn’t it?”) and not to revealed religious truth.

Also, this belief that the majority of believers will reside on a paradise Earth is another doctrine peculiar to the Witnesses. They think the saved will live forever on a regenerated Earth sometime in the future, after the wicked have been destroyed by Jehovah God at the Battle of Armageddon. But the “hook” they use is not peculiar to them.

Like Fundamentalists

Fundamentalists, though their theology is vastly better than that of the JWs, use a similar technique. On one hand, JWs argue to the truth of their position by asking, “That is an appealing thought, isn’t it?” Many people will conclude, “Yes, it is, and therefore it must be true”—illogical, perhaps, but that’s how many people think.

On the other hand, Fundamentalists will ask, “Wouldn’t you like an absolute assurance of salvation?” “Who wouldn’t?” is the reply, and, having given that reply, many people will find themselves accepting the Fundamentalists’ notion that one can have an absolute assurance of salvation (a doctrine that arises from their belief that all one needs to do to be saved is to “accept” Jesus as one’s “personal Lord and Savior”).

If the person answering the door says, “I am already well acquainted with your work” (a polite way of saying, “Get lost”), the missionaries should say: “I am very glad to hear that. Do you have a close relative or friend that is a Witness? . . . May I ask, Do you believe what we teach from the Bible, namely, that we are living in ‘the last days,’ that soon God is going to destroy the wicked, and that this earth will become a paradise in which people can live forever in perfect health among neighbors who really love one another?” Notice that once again the Witness has managed to turn around the conversation with this response and thus at least “plant seeds” in the mind of the person at the door.

The above examples show how JWs typically work when they come knocking at your door. It is evident from the Reasoning book that they are prepared for virtually every kind of response they may face. But while their “gospel” is false and their presentation is carefully prepackaged, Catholics should at least take note of the JWs’ willingness to promote what they believe. This is perhaps one lesson we can learn from them.”

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Love & truth,
Matthew

Impassibility: does God have emotions?


-by Trent Horn

“Biblical descriptions of God’s emotions are metaphors that describe how human beings relate to God, not how God relates to us

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and atheist whose writings are very critical of Christianity. In her essay “God’s Emotions” in the anthology The End of Christianity, she argues that emotions are a non-rational “evolved functional feedback response” found in higher-order animals. Therefore, the Bible’s depictions of God having emotions such as anger or regret reveal that ignorant nomads who “only had a superficial idea of what these words mean” wrote the Bible. According to Tarico, “It is a testament to our narcissism as a species that so few humans are embarrassed to assign divinity the attributes of a male alpha primate.”

Some people may say biblical descriptions of God’s emotions are nothing to be ashamed of because they make God more relatable to us. But although God did experience human emotions through the human nature He assumed through His Incarnation as Jesus Christ, God does not experience emotions as part of His divine nature. The Incarnation makes God more relatable precisely because, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God—”the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable”—with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God (CCC 42).

For example, the persons you and I know have intellects and loving qualities, but God is “intellect;” He is “love” (1 John 4:8). God is not a person or being who embodies these attributes; He is the perfect exemplification of them. This is similar to the fact that God doesn’t have “goodness” or “being,” but simply is “Goodness” or “Being” itself.

If this is hard to grasp, remember what God said about Himself through the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).

Emotions usually comprise our responses to unexpected or uncontrollable events. But nothing can surprise or overwhelm that which is “the infinite act of being,” so that means God lacks emotions. This doesn’t mean, however, that God is an impersonal force of nature. It just means that although God has qualities we see in persons, God himself is not a person, in the same way, humans are persons (similar to how God is not a being but just is being). According to Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin priest and author of the book Does God Suffer?:

From the dawn of the patristic period Christian theology has held as axiomatic that God is impassible—that is, he does not undergo emotional changes of state, and so cannot suffer. . . . God is impassible in that he does not undergo successive and fluctuating emotional states, nor can the created order alter him in such a way so as to cause him to suffer any modification or loss.

When the Bible describes God as having emotions such as anger, regret, or pleasure, we understand that these are metaphors that describe how human beings relate to God, not how God relates to us. Saying God is angry at our sin or pleased with our obedience doesn’t mean God is reacting to something we did. It means we did something to alienate ourselves from God or to draw us closer to him. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger put it this way:

The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. . . . “The punishment of God” is in fact an expression for having missed the right road and then experiencing the consequences that follow from taking the wrong track and wandering away from the right way of living.

The Bible’s descriptions of God’s emotions also represent how ancient people conceived of God in light of their cultural context. In places such as the ancient Near East, deities were often compared to human kings, and the best kings were those who were strong and swiftly punished anyone, whether foreign invaders or domestic rebels, who threatened the populace.

Just as the Bible contains ancient, popular descriptions of the world that should not be equated with modern scientific descriptions of it (for example, descriptions of the firmament), the Bible also contains ancient, popular descriptions of God that are true if they are not treated as modern theological or philosophical descriptions of God.

Now, Valerie Tarico emphatically objects to the idea that the Bible’s descriptions of God’s emotions are not literal. She says, “A metaphor about something as deep as the human relationship to ultimate reality needs to be deeply accurate . . . but the Biblical descriptions of God have this backwards.” They are backward, according to Tarico, because emotions are merely physiological responses to weakness or stress. Saying God is angry or pleased would indicate that God is imperfect.

But remember that these descriptions of God are not obscure or “mere” metaphors. They are expressions, albeit in an indirect way, of real truths about God that ancient people understood despite their ignorance of the physiological causes of emotions. Though they lacked Tarico’s training in psychology, ancient people still knew that being angry at someone meant you had a negative relationship with that person, and being pleased with someone meant you had a positive relationship. These are not naïve or improper ways of describing how finite, sinful humans might stand in relation to God.

People who say that the God of the Bible has “all-too-human needs or desires,” as does Tarico’s fellow contributor to The End of Christianity, Jaco Gerike, fail to grasp this metaphorical understanding of God’s emotions. Or they outright reject it. Gerike says, “None of these divine psychological characteristics were in their biblical contexts understood as being mere metaphorical descriptions or the result of any supposed divine accommodation.”

But the whole point of divine accommodation is that God lowered himself to a level for the biblical authors to understand him. Just as these authors would not have considered their descriptions of the physical world to be popular descriptions accommodated to ancient sensibilities, but rather how the world appeared, they would have thought the same of the descriptions of God they penned in the Bible. Those descriptions are true, but not if we read them as modern, theological treatises.

Sometimes they even fail to grasp the literal truth behind these nonliteral descriptions. For example, Gerike says that God is “narcissistic and egotistic” because he prescribes in detail how to worship him. Gerike takes aim in particular at the elaborate instructions for constructing the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25-40 but fails to see that these instructions were for the Israelite’s benefit, not God’s. Human beings require custom and ritual in order to form their identities, and these rituals foster proper reverence for God. Just because they were tailored for what a resident of the ancient Near East would expect for pious worship does not make them evidence of God’s “narcissism.”

Finally, it is egotistical for creatures to demand to be worshiped, because they are not infinite in value like God. God, however, has a right to our worship, because he is “that which no greater can be thought.” Worship means we give someone his “worth-ship,” and so a being of infinite worth has a right to our unconditional obedience and adoration.”

Love & His love,
Matthew

Why don’t intellectuals believe in God?

“For many people who don’t believe God exists, this is one reason why: the smart people they know and respect, such as scientists and philosophers, are often atheists.

For example, ninety-three percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the most elite scientific organizations in the United States, deny God’s existence. One study found that seventy-three percent of professional philosophers are atheists

With such an overwhelming amount of smart people embracing atheism, it’s no surprise that a person who wants to be intellectually responsible will be disinclined to acknowledge that God exists. Let’s look at two strategies for how we can lower this mountain, and prepare a way for the Lord.

Strategy 1:

Explain that just because someone is smart in one area of expertise doesn’t make him competent when it comes to the question of God’s existence.

QUESTION: “Would you trust a mechanic’s views on politics because he is a good mechanic?”

I think it’s safe to say your friend will answer no. The training that a mechanic receives as a mechanic doesn’t equip him with political knowledge or wisdom. Explain that the same principle applies to what natural scientists and philosophers who are not trained in philosophy of religion, for example, say about God’s existence.

You can remind your friend that God is not subject to scientific inquiry. God is an immaterial being who transcends the boundaries of science’s data source—namely, physical reality. This being the case, no amount of scientific training is going to equip a scientist to pursue the philosophical inquiry of God’s existence.

QUESTION: “If you shouldn’t trust a mechanic’s views on politics just because he knows cars, then why should you trust a scientist’s views about God because he knows chemistry?”

Since the question of God’s existence is beyond a scientist’s expertise, as a matter of authority his opinion on the matter is of equal value to that of any other educated non-scientist—just like his opinion on art, or history, or sports.

Strategy 2:

Name some smart people that were/are believers in God or some transcendent power.

Your friend doesn’t merely have to trust polls that say many scientists and philosophers are believers. You can share with him the names and pro-God quotes of some of the greatest minds of history. Some of them laymen who were/are theists:

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), father of the heliocentric theory of the solar system: “The universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”

Max Planck (1858–1947), originator of the quantum theory: “Religion is the link that binds man to God—resulting from the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe.”

Albert Einstein (1879–1955): “Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order… This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”

And consider the contributions of these Catholic scientists:

Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294), English Franciscan monk whose writings predicted the construction of the telescope and laid the groundwork for the scientific method.

St. Albert the Great (1200–1280), bishop who taught St. Thomas Aquinas and who did a great amount of observational work in botany and zoology.

Thomas Bradwardine (1290–1349), archbishop of Canterbury who proved Aristotle’s scientific ideas on motion to be inconsistent and was the first to attempt to formulate a mathematical law of motion.

Nicholas of Oresme (1323–1382), bishop of Lisieux in France who made significant contributions to psychology, physics, mathematics, and economics.

Nicolas of Cusa (1401–1464), German cardinal who posed bold ideas such as the universe being infinitely large and that the sun and earth were in motion in infinite space.

Marin Mersenne (1588–1648), historic figure in mathematics referred to as the “father of acoustics.”

Christoph Scheiner (1573–1650), Jesuit priest who was one of the first five people to discover sunspots with a telescope independently of each other. His sunspot data is still used by scientists today.

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–1799), top biologist of the eighteenth century whose investigative work and experiments served as the foundation for the work of Louis Pasteur

Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), Augustinian monk and priest who was the founder of genetics.

Abbe Henri Breuil (1877–1962), one of the leading paleontologists of his time and known for his expertise on cave paintings and prehistoric art.

George Lemaitre (1894–1966), director of the Pontifical Academy of the Science who was one of the two originators of the Big Bang theory.

By now your friend will see that to believe in God is to be in good intellectual company.”

Love & His truth,
Matthew

“Quid est veritas?” -Pontius Pilate, Jn 18:38


-by Br Charles Marie Rooney, OP

“Every once in a while, we do well to ask ourselves why we are Catholic. Is it because the community at our local church is kind and welcoming? Because we enjoy the liturgy or like the priest? Or perhaps because we are nostalgic for the customs of our youth?

Though common, each answer puts the cart before the horse. First and foremost, we are Catholic because we know it to be true that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16), for He alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).

And yet, astoundingly, we cannot adjudicate the question on our own power. We believe Christ to be the Savior not because flesh and blood has deduced this but rather because the Father in heaven has made it known, and he has moved us to affirm His truth (cf. Mt 16:17).

This graced acceptance of and confidence in the truth of the Gospel is absolutely primary in the Christian life. Every human person has a visceral sense of what it means for something to be true: that it is. For as long as we can remember, we have instinctively understood that to lie is to tell what is not, what does not exist, what is not in fact real. Lying never ultimately feels good because it is contrary to what is most basic about human experience: that we receive and respond to an ordered reality that exists outside of ourselves. The liar, in taking what is real and recreating it in his own image for his own selfish purposes, commits an offense against the very being of things [Ed. helpful if you know a little, or as in my case very little, philosophy.]  We feel this all the more acutely when we discover that someone has lied to us, for then we have become victims of such a cheapening of reality, and our own natural, inquisitive desire for the truth—and our trust in its knowability—is wounded.

The act of faith heals these wounds because it perfects the human mind, elevating it to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who stands above and beyond our mere natural capacities of knowing. We can thus say with Blessed Columba Marmion that “faith is the homage of our intellect to the divine veracity”—a consecration of the mind to Him Who Is and to all that He has spoken. Faith is an expression of total trust that “Truth Himself speaks truly, else there’s nothing true” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Adoro te devote, trans. Gerard Manley Hopkins).

Conversion to Christ must begin with the recognition that we are not artificers but recipients of truth. This always entails the humble realization that my life to this point has, to a greater or lesser degree, been a lie, and that a more fundamental truth exists to which I must conform myself. Indeed, it is this same recognition that enables ongoing conversion, as when Catholics are convicted to go to confession: we see that an act against the truth—an ontological lie—has been committed, that we have done it, and that only the truth Himself can restore us to the eternal end for which we are made.

Pope Saint John Paul II once said that “truth” is the most important word in the Gospels (Witness to Hope, 244). Indeed, the Lord says, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Truth alone liberates because truth alone illumines what we are and hence what is good for us. The light of faith shines upon the mind the brightest beam possible in this life. It communicates certain, saving truth—the knowledge that makes possible intimacy with Christ, Who frees us to turn toward what is and to shun what is not.

Our world, in denying this, sows doubt {Ed. and its own sorrow and destruction by doing so] about divine truth. But we are Catholic because we are convicted by grace that Christ is Who He says He is  [Ed. a difference between God and man is, what God says is] and does what He says He does. On this, everything hangs in the balance. Such, then, is our call: “for this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).”

Love & His truth,
Matthew

Feb 4 – St Catherine de Ricci, OP, (1522-1590) – Everyday stigmata


-by Br Paul Marich, OP

“The Dominican Order celebrates the witness of one of its own members today, Saint Catherine de Ricci (1522-1590). Devotion to her may not be as widespread in the universal Church as it is to Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), another Dominican for whom today’s saint was named. Yet the life of Catherine de Ricci offers us an example of how to bear the sufferings of this life while still fulfilling our daily responsibilities.

From an early age, St. Catherine de Ricci desired to serve Christ, developing a strong devotion to his passion. She joined a community of Dominican lay women, where she started to have mystical experiences. Many members in Catherine’s community, unaware that she was having visions of spiritual ecstasy, initially had doubts about her vocation. They misunderstood her experiences as rude manners. [Ed. De’ Ricci’s period of novitiate was a time of trial. She would experience ecstasies during her routine, which caused her to seem asleep during community prayer services, dropping plates and food, so much so that the community began to question her competence, if not her sanity.] Nevertheless, she persevered in her vocation, finding ways to complete her tasks in the convent while not losing sight of her devotion.

Catherine’s love for the passion of Christ led her to receive a mystical gift, something only given to a few chosen souls. On Thursdays and Fridays of each week, Catherine would receive visions of the passion, which were accompanied with great physical pain. She was entirely united to Christ’s sufferings through these experiences, which included the gift of the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ on her very body. However, in the midst of such extraordinary graces, Catherine was diligent in carrying out her everyday tasks. Recognition of her skills and abilities would lead to her election as superior of the community on several occasions. She offered spiritual counsel to the people of her town of Prato, while fulfilling the demands of her life within the Dominican community.

Catherine’s example can help us in the midst of our everyday trials and sufferings. Of course, only a few are called to receive the mystical graces that Catherine experienced. One does not have to receive such special visions of Christ’s passion in order to be holy. “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt 16:24).

Christ calls each one of us to bear our everyday crosses with courage. These can be small setbacks, uncertain circumstances in life, persecution for our beliefs, physical ailments, or long-term struggles that seem to have no sense of a resolution, to name just a few. Embracing these crosses in union with Christ allows us to be conformed more fully to Him. At the same time, we must not allow these crosses to prevent us from going about our daily tasks, be they family responsibilities, work, or our contributions to society. In the midst of suffering, Christ’s instruction at the conclusion of the Beatitudes should give us great comfort: “rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:12). (Ed. The priest who married Kelly and I said jokingly?, “Don’t kid yourself.” He turned out to be a bad apple anyway.)

St. Catherine de Ricci provides an example of one who fulfilled her daily commitments, while secretly carrying the burden of the cross. Now that she shares in the glory of heaven, her witness shows us the hope that awaits us in Christ, now risen from the dead. By uniting our sufferings to His, we can be assured that He will transform our pain and sorrow for the sake of His greater glory. Such confidence in Christ allows us to go about our daily tasks without any fear, for He has been victorious in His sufferings.”

Love & strength, resilience, courage, endurance through His grace, Phil 4:13,
Matthew

Feb 2 – Candlemas


-by Br Nicodemus Thomas, OP

“Whether it is a candlelit meal at a fancy restaurant, a birthday celebration with a candle-topped cake, or the procession of the paschal candle at the Easter Vigil, candles are a clear sign of solemnity. We usually sense something different, even quasi-religious, on the occasions that candles are used—think, for another instance, of candles lit at the vigils of societal tragedies and untimely deaths. Suffice to say, candles are objects with rich, religious symbolism.

To understand the religious symbolism of candles, we must first recognize the natural qualities present in candles. There are three qualities of candles we immediately observe: their light, their flame, and their total consumption. By briefly examining these three qualities, we will grasp more deeply the way candles symbolize Christ.

The most obvious characteristic of a candle is its light. In fact, its original purpose was just that—to provide light. We have a foundational desire to know and this desire drives us to seek the light of truth, especially since sight is the most obvious way to knowledge. In the Christian realm, this is no less true. In fact, Christ says as much. He claims to be, “the light of the world” (John 8:12). Through his presence in our souls by faith, he illumines the darkness of our minds so that we may begin to see him as he is (c.f., 1 John 3:2).

A candle, by its flame, is also able to represent love. We draw in this symbolism explicitly when we pray “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy love…” A candle’s flame can remind believers of the flame of charity present in their hearts. This is one reason the Church gives candles to the newly baptized and why we all carry candles during the Easter Vigil; the flame represents the work of God in our souls. While we may not see God clearly in this life, the flame of charity allows us to cherish God’s presence in our souls.

Finally, in order to produce the light and flame the candle must be consumed. Our Lord, in shining the light of faith in our intellects and kindling the fire of charity into our hearts, was himself consumed in his humanity—he died that we might have life. It would be easy to think that this occurred only at the Cross. However, we see from the very beginning of his earthly life that he was destined to be a sacrificial lamb. In a similar way, the light that Christ shines in our minds and the fire of charity that sets our souls aflame should consume us, such that we can say with Saint Paul: “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Yesterday, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It is no coincidence that this same feast day is called “Candlemas.” The first appearance of the Lord in the Temple is commemorated by the blessing of pillars of wax—wax that will later be used to remind us of Christ’s presence in other temples: the tabernacle of the Church and in the depths of our heart.”

Love & He is the Light!!!!
Matthew

Historical Jesus 2

-by Cale Clark, Cale’s two most amazing discoveries in life have been that Jesus Christ would forgive him, and that Patricia would marry him. In 2004, Cale returned to the Catholic Church, which was founded by Jesus Christ, after spending ten years in Evangelical Protestantism, with much of that time spent in pastoral ministry.

“I began to fall away from the Catholic faith during my high school years. One of the big questions I had at the time was, “How do I know that Jesus even existed?”

Back then, this wasn’t high on most people’s lists of doubts, but, my, how things have changed. As we delve deeper into the season of Advent, we watch for the annual appearance of blog posts, magazine articles, and TV shows asserting that the very person whose birth we are about to celebrate never lived at all.

For example, a lapsed Christian and fellow Canadian named Tom Harpur (author of The Pagan Christ) recently opined that historians don’t have “a shred of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.” A Catholic layman might read that and find the notion disturbing. This guy has written some books! As a published author, he must know of what he speaks.

But it’s important to know that Jesus-deniers such as Harpur represent the tiniest minority of voices on this issue. They really are considered to be the lunatic fringe, and no reputable scholar of history takes them seriously, no matter how much noise they make in the media.

The Facebook Challenge

John Dickson, who holds a doctorate in ancient history and is a senior research fellow at Macquarie University, got so tired of these false claims that three years ago he took to Facebook with a challenge: if anyone could give him the name of a single professor possessing a Ph.D. in ancient history who claimed Jesus never existed, he would eat a page from his Bible.

So far, Dickson has not had to “consume the word” in that literal sense!

Indeed, there’s a reason why Dickson could confidently make that challenge: there’s a veritable mountain of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, both inside and outside the Bible. This is why no credible historians—even skeptical or anti-Christian scholars—doubt it. They don’t have to believe the Bible is the word of God, or even merely that it’s a good historical source, in order to affirm that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Even non-Christian writers and historians provide us with an abundance of evidence. Let’s take a look at perhaps the most important of those writers.

1. Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62-113):

“They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but of an ordinary and innocent kind (Epistles 10.96).”

“Pliny Jr.” was a Roman governor in Asia Minor, not to be confused with his father, Pliny the Elder, the naturalist who died when Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Pliny wrote to Emperor Trajan asking what ought to be done regarding the proliferation of Christians in his territory. Pliny explains what he had learned from interrogating these believers: especially noteworthy is their habit of Sunday worship, with a very early reference to belief in Jesus as divine.

As scholar Craig Evans notes, these Christians were likely slaves. The way Pliny treated them—even torturing them for information—means they were probably not Roman citizens. They awoke very early in order to worship before their work began, as slaves would have had to do. They also vowed not to do many of the immoral things that Roman slaves often did, including committing theft and sexual sin.

Of particular note is Pliny’s description of what, in all likelihood, was the celebration of the Eucharist. Some in the empire believed the Christians to be cannibals, because they had heard chatter about believers consuming the “body” and “blood” of a certain individual. Pliny, perhaps in response to this, notes that the food was “of an ordinary and innocent kind.” In other words, Pliny was describing the “accidents” of bread and wine, which Christians believed were transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

2. Tacitus (A.D. 60-120):

“Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue (Annals 15.44).”

Tacitus is considered one of the greatest Roman historians. Here he situates the death of Jesus in history—as does the Apostles’ Creed—linking it with the involvement of another known historical personage: Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea under Emperor Tiberius. Tacitus also verifies that the death of Jesus did not stop the movement he founded, which eventually established itself in Rome.

An interesting sidebar: some moderns have even doubted the historical existence of Pontius Pilate! This was laid to rest, though, by the 1961 discovery of a first-century stone inscription dedicated to Pilate in Caesarea Maritima.

3. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100), the great Jewish historian of the times, was born shortly after the death of Jesus, and wrote about him in a famous (and famously disputed) passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum (“The Testimony of Flavius Josephus”). It’s disputed because most scholars believe that later Christian interpolators doctored the text to make it appear that Josephus was attributing more to Jesus than what, in all likelihood, Josephus actually had done. Since Josephus was not a Christian, it’s hardly plausible that he composed these disputed sections. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to spot what likely didn’t come from Josephus’s own hand (indicated below by brackets):

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to call him a man], for he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. [He was the Messiah.] When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. [On the third day, he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.] And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared (The Antiquities of the Jewish People 18.3.3).”

If we delete the dubious portions of this passage, we still have solid evidence that Josephus wrote about Jesus as a historical figure. Josephus also corroborates much of what we know from Jesus’ biographies, the Gospels: namely, that Jesus was known as a miracle worker and convincing teacher and was condemned to death by the Jerusalem priesthood (“men of the highest standing”).

Josephus mentions Jesus again later on when discussing the death of James, the relative of Jesus who became the bishop of Jerusalem. This latter passage is relatively undisputed in terms of its authenticity:

“Possessed of such a character, Ananus [the high priest] thought that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus was dead and Albinus was still on the way (Festus and Albinus were Roman governors.). And so he convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others (The Antiquities of the Jewish People 20.9.1).”

What we have here are three ancient, non-Christian writers who confirm the existence of Jesus. And in the case of Pliny and Tacitus, we have two “hostile witnesses” who are not at all sympathetic to the claims of Christ or his followers. There are other ancient, non-Christian writers who also corroborate the existence of Jesus. But this brief sampling should be enough to convince a reasonable person that, despite the bizarre claims that seem to rise to the surface every December, the Jesus whose birth we will commemorate at Christmas was indeed a historical figure who walked the Earth.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Nov 13 – St Francis Xavier Cabrini, MSC, (1850-1917), a saint’s face

I visited Mother Cabrini’s room behind glass, left as she died, while I lived in Chicago.  The shrine to her was beginning construction.


-by Josemaria Guzman-Dominguez, OP

“The heart changes the countenance,

either for good or for evil.

The sign of a happy heart is a cheerful face.” (Sir 13:25-26)

And the sign of disappointment? A frown. Of embarrassment? Blushing cheeks. Of pain or anger? Clenched teeth. What about profound sadness? Teary eyes. And what is the sign of roaring merriment? A mouth open with laughter.

A saintly face, then, manifests a saintly heart. What do those look like?

In a beautiful paragraph at the start of The Quest Elisabeth Langgäser writes:

Let us . . . examine the face of Mother Cabrini, the first saint of North America. Let us look at it honestly and without fear, this quiet, sublime countenance full of kindness and gentle humor. It is broad and plain, like the face of an Italian peasant woman, with big black eyes that are sheer love. The mouth too is large, an animated mouth whose corners curve slightly upward; a mouth made as if made for merriment and for storytelling. The cheeks are full. They are ripe and like fruits that must soon be picked. Here and there is a faint shadow – the shadow of a mystery. For the flesh of a saint harbors a secret that is fearful and repulsive. It was crucified and hammered into ripeness by the fists of Satan. In the battle with the Adversary it has already been touched by decay, already carries the mark of death and has become an object of horror to the world. But also it has already passed beyond decay. It has already survived its death and is on the point of manifesting in itself immortality and the resurrection of the dead.

On Mother Cabrini’s face, on the face of any saint, contraries meet: silence with storytelling, recollection with laughter, sublimity with commonality, light with shadow, youth with decay, death with resurrection. The saints’ flesh, their faces, carry opposites because their hearts do too. In unredeemed nature, these contraries would wound flesh, disfigure faces, and rend hearts irreparably, to the point of destruction. For contraries do not abide together so easily. One opposite could dominate over the other so that a face becomes a caricature. Or two contrary dispositions might be in a person, which almost splits him into two, such as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Or, out of fear, human qualities could be so muted that a person becomes bland and expressionless.

But the saints hold contraries together in a harmony of paradoxes revealed even on their faces. They can do so only because their hearts were transformed by (even into) the heart of Christ Jesus. This heart knew sorrow and utmost joy. It felt anger and compassion. It was pierced and resurrected. We wonder at the saints, their flesh, their faces, their hearts, because they were, and will be once more at the resurrection, one with Jesus’ flesh, face, and heart. And the human heart of Jesus is one with the heart of God; on His face we see God’s face.”

Love, joy, peace only He can give,
Matthew

Anti-Catholic “Fake News” 2

The Myth: The Church began mandating clerical celibacy during the Middle Ages so that it could acquire the clergy’s family property.

The History Behind the Myth: Bruno of Alsace was noted for his piety. As bishop of Toul (in modern-day France), he cared deeply for his people. The abuses in the Church, especially among the clergy, pained him. When Pope Damasus II, the third German to sit on the Chair of Peter, died in 1048 after a short pontificate of only twenty-three days, Bruno of Alsace was the logical and saintly choice as his successor.

Pope St. Leo IX (r. 1049-1054) was faced with three major issues that shaped his pontificate: the protection of the Papal States from the encroaching Normans; resolution of disputes with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines); and the reform of the Church. And the Church was indeed in desperate need of reform in the eleventh century. The practice of simony (buying or selling Church offices) was rampant, as were violations of the discipline of celibacy among clergy (deacons, priests, and bishops)

To combat these abuses, Leo IX launched one of the most comprehensive reforms in the history of the Church. To ensure its effectiveness, he did not just issue decrees from Rome and demand obedience; he went on the most significant papal road trip in history, traveling throughout Italy, Germany, and France, and holding local synods along the way. Indeed, in the five and half years of his pontificate, Leo spent only six months in the city of Rome. Leo deposed immoral and corrupt bishops, and excommunicated clergy found guilty of simony or unchastity.

Leo’s eleventh-century reform illustrates that the discipline of celibacy was highly regarded in the medieval Church, and was not instituted to enrich it with the land of the clergy. The promise of celibacy freely taken by the clergy dates to the early Church and is rooted in Christian doctrine and tradition. As a discipline (not a doctrine), celibacy has developed through the centuries. In the first three centuries of Church history there was no law prohibiting the ordination of married men, and many priests were married; however, marriage was never permitted after ordination. Moreover, all priests—married, single, or widowed—practiced sexual abstinence after ordination. Indeed, the prohibition of marriage after ordination makes sense only if sexual abstinence was demanded even of married priests. St. Paul taught that a bishop should be the “husband of one wife,” meaning that a man who remarries after the death of his wife illustrated an inability to live conjugal abstinence as required by the Church.

The first recorded Church legislation mandating clerical celibacy in the West was decreed at the Synod of Elvira in Spain around the year 300. In the East, ordination of married men continued through the centuries (and remains a practice), but from the seventh century onward only celibate monks or priests were elevated to the episcopacy. And neither the Eastern nor the Western Church has ever allowed marriage after ordination. In 385, Pope Siricius (r. 384-399) mandated celibacy for all clergy in the West.

Although most people today think of celibacy as unique to Catholicism, conjugal abstinence was required of Jewish priests during their temple duty in Jerusalem, and pagan soldiers abstained from sexual intercourse before battle. Though the early Church permitted the ordination of married men, virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was highly regarded. Men who left the world to seek closer union with God in the desert practiced celibacy, and in monasteries throughout the world it became the norm. Nor was celibacy limited to clergy in the early Church: women, both consecrated virgins and widows, pledged celibacy out of love for God. At the time of St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), there were 3,000 virgins and widows in Constantinople.

Despite the longstanding practice of the Church, celibacy was often not lived faithfully in the early medieval Church. Pope Benedict VIII (r. 1012-1024) held a synod at Pavia where he reinforced the rule of clerical celibacy and denounced the scandal of clerical marriage. By the time of Pope Leo IX in the mid-eleventh century, unchastity among the clergy was widespread. So many priests lived openly with mistresses or practiced the abhorrent vice of homosexuality that St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) wrote The Book of Gomorrah against the sexual sins of the clergy. The eleventh-century papal reform focused on ensuring the independence of the papacy from the interference of secular rulers, and was led mostly by popes who were former monks, free from the sins of secular (diocesan) clergy. These reform popes (St. Leo IX, St. Gregory VII, Bl. Urban II) recognized that reform in terms of the Church’s freedom from external secular control could be accomplished only if reform began in the Church, hence their focus on rooting out simony and unchastity among the clergy. Urban II captured the essence of the reform movement when he wrote, “The Church shall be Catholic, chaste and free: Catholic in the faith and fellowship of the saints, chaste from all contagion of evil, and free from secular power.””

Love & truth,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine


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