Sentire Cum Ecclesia, “To think with the Church” – Importance of Catholic teachings: 1-10


-I have this figurine of “Buddy Christ”, from the 1991 film “Dogma”, a favorite, the figurine at least. Part of the “Catholicism WOW!!!” campaign, led by Cardinal Ignatius Glick (George Carlin). 🙂

I have often wished that Catholic teachings had an importance number assigned, even grossly, like 1-10, so in conversation with fellow Catholics there could be an agreed number, and with non-Catholics there could be an understood level of consequence.  Apparently, I’m not as crazy as I look?  I know, you just said, “YES!  YOU ARE, MATT!!! 🙂


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

3/1/2013

“Is everything the Church teaches infallible? How can you tell what is and what isn’t? Just how much weight are we supposed to give to particular teachings?

As Catholics, we trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church, and much of the time, we do not have a pressing need to determine the precise level of authority of a particular statement in a magisterial document. But sometimes we do, particularly in apologetic contexts:

  • Liberal dissenters may try to dismiss teachings that are infallible.
  • Traditionalist dissenters may underestimate the authority of recent magisterial statements or overestimate the authority of earlier ones.
  • Non-Catholics may assume that anything ever said by a pope is supposed to be infallible and on that basis try to generate contradictions or absurdities.

In these situations and others, it’s important to know how to identify the level of authority of a magisterial statement.

Theological notes

For centuries, theologians would assign rankings to different propositions of Catholic belief. These rankings were known as “theological notes.”

The rankings were usually not official. They tended to be applied by individual theologians rather than by the magisterium itself, but they did indicate what weight their authors thought they had.

At the top end were propositions that were de fide definita (“defined as being of the faith”). This referred to dogmas—things that the Church had infallibly defined as revealed by God. Below this was a spectrum of ranks that stretched down to propositio haeretica (“heretical proposition”), which is the rejection of a dogma. In between, theologians distinguished various degrees of certainty or confidence that a particular idea was true or false.

Although the use of unofficial theological notes has fallen off in recent years, it’s striking that the magisterium has begun ranking Catholic teachings in a similar way.

The new profession of faith

In 1998, Pope John Paul II issued a new profession of faith to be used when someone assumes a certain office within the Church (e.g., when someone becomes a bishop or seminary rector).

The first part of this profession of faith is the Nicene Creed, but the second part consists of three concluding paragraphs:

With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

These paragraphs refer to teachings with different levels of doctrinal authority, and they were discussed at-length by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in a document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Dogmas

The truths referred to in the first concluding paragraph of the profession of faith are dogmas (see “Examples of dogmas,” p. XX). These are truths the magisterium teaches infallibly as being divinely revealed.

They can be taught by the pope, by an ecumenical council, or by the Church’s ordinary and universal magisterium.

According to Cardinal Ratzinger, “These doctrines require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful. Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy” (Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei 5).

Other infallible teachings

A step below dogmas are truths referred to in the second concluding paragraph. Cardinal Ratzinger described each of these as sententia definitiva tendenda (Latin, “an opinion to be held definitively”).

Like dogmas, these have been infallibly taught by the magisterium (see “Examples of other infallible teachings,” page xx). However, unlike dogmas, the magisterium has not infallibly taught them to be divinely revealed. The magisterium is capable of infallibly teaching certain things that are connected with divine revelation but are not themselves divinely revealed. This allows the Church to protect the truths that are divinely revealed.

For example, a person could challenge a dogma by saying that the pope who taught it was not a valid pope or the council that formulated it was not an ecumenical council.

The Church thus may need to settle whether a particular pope was validly elected or whether a particular council is ecumenical.

Because teachings referred to in the second paragraph are infallible, every believer “is required to give firm and definitive assent to these truths, based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Church’s magisterium, and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the magisterium in these matters. Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church” (Doctrinal Commentary 6).

On the way to being a dogma?

Sometimes the Church infallibly teaches a divinely revealed truth without initially saying that it is divinely revealed (see sidebar page xx).

As an example, Cardinal Ratzinger cited the example of the teaching that priestly ordination is reserved to men alone.

When John Paul II issued his famous motu proprio on the subject (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis), he did not wish “to proceed to a dogmatic definition,” but he “intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively” because “it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium.”

But Cardinal Ratzinger was quick to point out that “this does not foreclose the possibility that, in the future, the consciousness of the Church might progress to the point where this teaching could be defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed.”

The fact that only men can be ordained to the priesthood is thus an infallible doctrine but not a dogma, because the magisterium has not infallibly said that it is a divinely revealed truth.

Whether it is a divinely revealed or a truth in some way connected with divine revelation (but not itself revealed) is presently an open question, according to Cardinal Ratzinger.

Other teachings

The third concluding paragraph deals with other teachings of the magisterium—those that are not dogmas or otherwise infallible.

According to Cardinal Ratzinger, “To this paragraph belong all those teachings—on faith and morals—presented as true or at least as sure, even if they have not been defined with a solemn judgment or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal magisterium” (Doctrinal Commentary 10).

These teachings are “an authentic expression of the ordinary magisterium of the Roman pontiff or of the college of bishops and therefore require religious submission of will and intellect. They are set forth in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of revelation, or to recall the conformity of a teaching with the truths of faith, or lastly to warn against ideas incompatible with these truths or against dangerous opinions that can lead to error.

“A proposition contrary to these doctrines can be qualified as erroneous or, in the case of teachings of the prudential order, as rash or dangerous and therefore tuto doceri non potest [Latin, “not able to be safely taught”].”

The Doctrinal Commentary does not give examples of non-infallible teachings, presumably because there are so many. Most statements in magisterial documents fall into this category.

Theological opinions

In the Doctrinal Commentary, Cardinal Ratzinger stated that the third concluding paragraph referred to propositions that the magisterium “presented as true or at least as sure.”

Do magisterial documents ever present teachings in another way?

Actually, they do. Sometimes they propose theological opinions without presenting them as true or sure.

An example comes from Pope Benedict himself, when he considers the nature of the “fire” of purgatory in his encyclical on Christian hope:

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgment. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves (Spe Salvi 47).

He does not mention that, if you read his earlier books, then-Fr. Ratzinger was himself an advocate of this view.

But notice how he presents it here: He says that “some recent theologians” have thought this. He doesn’t say that he does or that the Church does. As a result, he takes an item of theology and proposes it for the reader’s consideration without imposing it as a matter of Church teaching.

He would have done the latter if he had gone on to indicate, in one way or another, that we must accept this view, but he does not. He leaves it as a theological proposal, not a matter of Church doctrine.

Other non-doctrinal statements

In 2011, the Vatican newspaper published a piece that grew out of the Holy See’s dialogue with the traditionalist group known as the Society of St. Pius X.

At one point, the piece observed: “Documents of the magisterium may contain elements that are not exactly doctrinal—as is the case in the documents of the Second Vatican Council—elements whose nature is more or less circumstantial (descriptions of the state of a society, suggestions, exhortations, etc.). Such matters are received with respect and gratitude but do not require an intellectual assent in the strictest sense” (“On Adhesion to the Second Vatican Council,” L’Osservatore Romano, Dec. 1, 2011).

We’ve already seen that magisterial documents may propose theological ideas for the reader’s consideration without making them matters of Catholic doctrine, but what about the kind of pastoral statements the L’Osservatore Romano piece has in mind?

The state of society and the death penalty

An example might be a statement John Paul II made regarding the death penalty. In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, he stated that society “ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.”

He went on to say: “Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent” (Evangelium Vitae 56).

The second statement could be seen as one of the “descriptions of the state of a society” that is “not exactly doctrinal” and thus as a judgment that should be “received with respect and gratitude” but that does “not require an intellectual assent in the strictest sense.”

This understanding may be reflected in statements made by Cardinal Ratzinger in a 2004 memorandum where he wrote:

“If a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. . . .

“There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty” (Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles 3).

The spectrum

We’ve seen that several different kinds of statements can be found in magisterial documents:

  1. Dogmas
  2. Other infallible statements
  3. Doctrines that have not been taught infallibly
  4. Theological opinions
  5. Other non-doctrinal statements.

This leaves us with an important question: How can we know which category to assign a statement to?

This can be tricky, because over the centuries the magisterium has used different methods of signaling the weight of a teaching. Today the matter is mostly discussed by experts, and the experts do not always agree.

But there are some indicators.

Indicators of Infallibility

There is no set form of words that a pope or council must use to make an infallible statement.

The pope teaches infallibly “when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held” (CIC 749 §1).

The conditions for an ecumenical council are similar (CIC 749 §2).

Although popes and councils can use a variety of wordings to teach infallibly, there are certain words they have tended to use.

Historically, ecumenical councils have used the word anathema when defining a matter.

In recent history, popes have tended to use the verb define when applying their infallibility.

Thus if you find an ecumenical council saying something like, “If anyone says X, let him be anathema,” or if a pope says something like, “We declare and define X,” you are likely looking at an infallible statement. (Though there may be exceptions, as these terms have been used in more than one way in Church history.)

To know whether an infallible statement is a dogma, you need to see whether the one making the definition identifies it as being divinely revealed. If so, it is a dogma.

Non-infallible statements

The default assumption is that statements in a magisterial document will not be infallible.

The Code of Canon Law provides: “No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident” (can. 749 §3).

If a doctrine is non-infallible, it may have different levels of authority.

According to Cardinal Ratzinger, non-infallible doctrines “require degrees of adherence differentiated according to the mind and the will [the magisterium has] manifested; this is shown especially by the nature of the documents, by the frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or by the tenor of the verbal expression” (Doctrinal Commentary 11).

Here he names three tests that can be used to determine the level of authority attached to a non-infallible teaching.

The three tests

The first is the nature of the document that teaches it. Some documents are more authoritative than others.

A papal encyclical is more authoritative than the weekly general audiences a pope gives, and the dogmatic constitutions of Vatican II are more authoritative than the council’s decrees.

The second test is the frequency with which the magisterium repeats a doctrine.

If it is something mentioned only occasionally, or even rarely (perhaps not even in centuries), it will have a lower level of authority attached to it. But if it is something that the magisterium repeats with great regularity, it is more authoritative.

The third test is the tenor of the words used to express the teaching.

If it is proposed briefly and tentatively, it will have less authority. If it is expounded at length or emphatically, it will have more authority.

Non-doctrinal statements

Identifying statements that fall into the final two categories is done by looking at the words they use.

If a pope identifies a source for a particular idea and he does not indicate that the Church teaches this idea, then it may be something he is proposing for our consideration, or even recommending as worthy of belief, without imposing it as a matter of doctrine.

We saw this earlier with Pope Benedict’s reference to an idea proposed by “some recent theologians” that he discussed without imposing by his own authority.

Similar examples can be found when popes reference ideas from modern biblical scholarship, which often deal with matters of history (how texts were composed and by whom) rather than matters of doctrine.

To think with the Church

We noted that determining the weight the magisterium gives to a particular doctrine can be important in apologetic discussions, when the matter is under dispute.

The skill of being able to identify the nature and weight of a particular magisterial statement is also useful in other contexts.

One reason it’s useful is that it helps us better understand the mind of the Church.

The Church has not chosen to give all its teachings a single level of authority—whether infallibility or any other. Instead, it has chosen to invest different teachings with different levels of authority.

The more we understand those levels, the more we understand the mind of the Church.

And by better understanding the Church’s mind, we better learn sentire cum ecclesia—“to think with the Church.””

Love, fides et ratio,
Matthew

Jul 9 – St Mark Ji Tianxiang (1834-1900), Husband, Father, Grandfather, Doctor, Martyr, Opium addict, Intercessor for addicts, patron against despair, patron of the opiate crisis


-Chinese martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion icon, please click on the image for greater detail.

“God doesn’t require us to succeed, He only requires that you try.”
― St Teresa of Calcutta

What do Catholic martyrs do?  They sing!!!


-by Meg Hunter-Kilmer

“St. Mark Ji Tianxiang couldn’t stay sober, but he could keep showing up.

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang was an opium addict. Not only had he been an opium addict. He was an opium addict at the time of his death.

For years, Ji was a respectable Christian, raised in a Christian family in 19th-century China. He was a leader in the Christian community, a well-off doctor who served the poor for free. But he became ill with a violent stomach ailment and treated himself with opium. It was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but Ji soon became addicted to the drug, an addiction that was considered shameful and gravely scandalous.

As his circumstances deteriorated, Ji continued to fight his addiction. He went frequently to confession, refusing to embrace this affliction that had taken control of him. Unfortunately, the priest to whom he confessed (along with nearly everybody in the 19th century) didn’t understand addiction as a disease. Since Ji kept confessing the same sin, the priest thought, that was evidence that he had no firm purpose of amendment, no desire to do better.

Without resolve to repent, sincere remorse, and resolve to sin no more, confession is invalid, and absolution, required for receiving the Eucharist, is denied.

After a few years, Ji’s confessor told him to stop coming back until he could fulfill the requirements for confession. For some, this might have been an invitation to leave the Church in anger or shame, but for all his fallenness, Ji knew himself to be loved by the Father and by the Church. He knew that the Lord wanted his heart, even if he couldn’t manage to give over his life. He couldn’t stay sober, but he could keep showing up.

And show up he did, for 30 years. For 30 years, he was unable to receive the sacraments. And for 30 years he prayed that he would die a martyr. It seemed to Ji that the only way he could be saved was through a martyr’s crown.

In 1900, when the Boxer Rebels began to turn against foreigners and Christians, Ji got his chance. He was rounded up with dozens of other Christians, including his son, six grandchildren, and two daughters-in-law. Many of those imprisoned with him were likely disgusted by his presence there among them, this man who couldn’t go a day without a hit. Surely he would be the first to deny the Lord.

But while Ji was never able to beat his addiction, he was, in the end, flooded with the grace of final perseverance. No threat could shake him, no torture make him waver. He was determined to follow the Lord Who had never abandoned him.

As Ji and his family were dragged to prison to await their execution, his grandson looked fearfully at him. “Grandpa, where are we going?” he asked. “We’re going home,” came the answer.

Ji begged his captors to kill him last so that none of his family would have to die alone. He stood beside all nine of them as they were beheaded. In the end, he went to his death singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And though he had been away from the sacraments for decades, he is a canonized saint.

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang is a beautiful witness to the grace of God constantly at work in the most hidden ways, to God’s ability to make great saints of the most unlikely among us, and to the grace poured out on those who remain faithful when it seems even the Church herself is driving them away.

On July 9, the feast of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, let’s ask his intercession for all addicts and for all those who are unable to receive the sacraments, that they may have the courage to be faithful to the Church and that they may always grow in their love for and trust in the Lord. St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, pray for us!”

Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ hear us
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, Pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, Pray for us.
Mother of Christ, Pray for us.
Mother of the Church, Pray for us.
Mother of Divine Grace, Pray for us.
Mother most pure, Pray for us.
Mother most chaste, Pray for us.
Mother inviolate, Pray for us.
Mother undefiled, Pray for us.
Mother most amiable, Pray for us.
Mother most admirable, Pray for us.
Mother of Good Counsel, Pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, Pray for us.
Mother of our Savior, Pray for us.
Mother of mercy, Pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, Pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, Pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, Pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, Pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, Pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, Pray for us.
Mirror of justice, Pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, Pray for us.
Cause of our joy, Pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, Pray for us.
Vessel of honor, Pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, Pray for us.
Mystical Rose, Pray for us.
Tower of David, Pray for us.
Tower of ivory, Pray for us.
House of gold, Pray for us.
Ark of the Covenant, Pray for us.
Gate of Heaven, Pray for us.
Morning star, Pray for us.
Health of the Sick, Pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, Pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, Pray for us.
Help of christians, Pray for us.
Queen of angels, Pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs, Pray for us.
Queen of prophets, Pray for us.
Queen of apostles, Pray for us.
Queen of martyrs, Pray for us.
Queen of confessors, Pray for us.
Queen of virgins, Pray for us.
Queen of all saints, Pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, Pray for us.
Queen assumed into Heaven, Pray for us.
Queen of the Holy Rosary, Pray for us.
Queen of families, Pray for us.
Queen of peace, Pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray- Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we Thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enjoy everlasting happiness. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen


-by Erik Durant, 2017, 3/4 scale, 42 in high


-by Brian Fraga, contributing editor to Our Sunday Visitor

“The opium pipe rests in the half-open hands of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, who looks up to heaven, as if to plead, “Please, take this away from me.”

“He holds it out in a sort of way like, ‘I don’t want this thing,’” said Erik Durant, a Massachusetts-based artist who designed a striking sculpture of the 19th-century Chinese layman who died as a martyr in 1900.

Durant told Our Sunday Visitor that he created the sculpture a few years ago after a local parish priest reached out to him. Biographical details were scarce.

“Basically all I got was the timeframe when he lived, that he was a known opium user for over 30 years and that because of the drug usage, he never received Communion yet continued to regularly go to church,” Durant said.

Father David Deston, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, saw in St. Mark Ji a symbol of hope for people struggling with drug addiction.

“His story is amazing, just absolutely amazing,” Father Deston said. “It’s one that I think should be out there more.”

St. Anne Church and Shrine

St. Anne Shrine at 818 Middle Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, houses the statue of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang. The main church was closed in May 2015 when a large piece of plaster fell off the wall during a Mass. The church ceased to be a diocesan parish when it closed Nov. 25, 2018. The St. Anne Preservation Society is raising funds to stabilize the building and restore the building as a shrine. The Diocese of Fall River and the St. Anne’s Preservation Society entered into an agreement on July 1, 2019, through which the shrine will be under the care and oversight of the society. The basement shrine reopened July 4. Masses will be celebrated a minimum of twice per year. The shrine is open Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the recitation of the Rosary, Bible study and special programs.

Denied the Eucharist

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang struggled with opium addiction for almost half of his 66 years of life. A committed Catholic, he continually confessed to smoking opium, but the graces of the sacrament were not enough to deliver him from his addiction.

“He was definitely hooked. He was hooked on what was essentially a pure form of heroin for decades,” said Michael Rayes, a Catholic counselor in Phoenix.

St. Mark Ji’s confessor — without the benefit of modern science that has revealed drug addiction to be a disease that changes brain chemistry — eventually withheld absolution because he did not believe that St. Mark Ji had a firm purpose of amendment to stay away from the opium pipe.

For the last 30 years of his life, St. Mark Ji was denied the reception of the Eucharist, but he still grew in holiness.

“He never gave up, even when he couldn’t really have a full sacramental experience,” Rayes said. “I’m sure he made plenty of spiritual communions, and that must have hurt his heart.”

Believing that martyrdom was his only way to heaven, St. Mark Ji prayed for and received the martyr’s crown when he was killed during the anti-Christian persecutions of the Boxer Rebellion.

“Here, you have St. Mark Ji, who stops receiving the Eucharist, and yet he’s still a saint who was growing spiritually,” said Dr. Gregory Bottaro, executive director of the Catholic Psych Institute, a Catholic psychology practice based in Connecticut.

Bottaro told Our Sunday Visitor that St. Mark Ji’s complicated life challenges modern Catholics to think deeper and “outside the box” about the Communion of Saints, life, holiness, the sacraments and the Catholic faith itself.

“It’s stories like his that help to recalibrate our sense of humanity and our relationship with God,” Bottaro said.

Gripped by addiction

The short official biographies indicate that St. Mark Ji Tianxiang was born in 1834 in the apostolic vicariate of Southeastern Zhili, China. He was raised in a Christian family and grew up to become a physician and a respected member of his community.

As a doctor, St. Mark Ji served the poor for free. However, in his mid-30s, he became ill with a serious stomach ailment and treated himself with opium, which was a common pain medicine, but it was but highly addictive.

St. Mark Ji soon was gripped by opium addiction, which in 19th-century China was considered to be shameful and a grave scandal. Similar to how heroin addicts today often are reviled and called junkies, opium addicts then in China were scorned.

Black-and-white photos of Chinese opium addicts from the late 1800s show they were often gaunt, with hollowed-out eyes, sunken cheekbones and the outlines of their rib cages clearly visible through the skin.

“They’re all emaciated and almost skeletal looking,” said Durant, who studied 19th-century photographs of Chinese opium addicts to get an idea of how St. Mark Ji may have looked after 30 years of smoking opium.

“I basically came up with an amalgamation,” Durant said. “I used my knowledge of anatomy and had a model pose for a general gesture. I basically stripped the muscle off that person in order to come up with an image.”

St. Mark Ji prayed for deliverance, but the chains of addiction were never removed from him. Still, he fought it, frequently going to confession. But after a few years, the priest to whom St. Mark Ji confessed told him to stop coming back until he was serious about stopping his sin.

“One of the elements that struck me about his story was his support system did not understand his addiction, and essentially they rejected him,” said Rayes, who chose St. Mark Ji as the patron for his counseling practice, Intercessory Counseling & Wellness in Phoenix.

Today, priest-confessors have the benefit of modern science and psychology when it comes to understanding that drug addiction is a disease. In light of that understanding, Bottaro said the Church is “constantly developing” in its application of eternal truth.

“Obviously, truth doesn’t change, but the depth of understanding matures,” Bottaro said. “And here you have a perfect example where we didn’t have the sort of human understanding of science, from brain science studies and social psychology, of understanding the effect of drugs and understanding what’s happening in the brain.”

Being denied access to the sacraments and shunned by one’s community would arguably be enough to discourage most people from wanting to be involved with the Church. But St. Mark Ji remained a practicing Catholic, even if he could not beat his addiction.

“The Church, his confessors, didn’t understand the nature of addiction, and yet he persevered in his faith,” Rayes said. “So that, I think, is a really strong example for those today who are struggling with addiction, because you can feel so alone.”

“He did what he thought was the right thing to do,” Father Deston added. “He struggled to live a good life. He attended Mass regularly. He never stopped believing in God’s mercy. I think his martyrdom just grew out of his own faith. It wasn’t a means to an end for him.”

Martyrdom

Between 1899 and 1901, toward the end of the Qing dynasty, the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China as Chinese nationalists cracked down against foreigners and Christians. During the two-year uprising, more than 32,000 Chinese Christians and 200 foreign missionaries were massacred.

In 1900, the Boxers arrested St. Mark Ji, rounding him up with dozens of other Christians, including his son, six grandchildren and two daughters-in-law. At trial, St. Mark Ji was given the opportunity to apostatize, but he refused.

He was led to his execution with the other members of his family on July 7, 1900. He begged his captors to kill him last so that none of his relatives would die alone. As he awaited his own death, he sang the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“When we have this story of St. Mark, it’s so out there that that’s it’s almost impossible to tidy it up and make it neat and pretty for a little prayer card,” Bottaro said. “His story is so central on the messiness of his life that you can’t avoid that aspect of it.”

Sainthood

Pope Pius XII beatified St. Mark Ji along with 120 other Chinese martyrs on Nov. 24, 1946. St. Pope John Paul II canonized him on Oct. 1, 2000. His feast day is July 9.

In more recent years, St. Mark Ji’s life story has resonated with many who have been affected by the national opioid crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people in the United States die each day after overdosing on opioids.

For many today who suffer from drug addiction, and people who see their loved ones struggling with the disease, St. Mark Ji has become a patron.

“People would leave notes by his statue. Occasionally, I would straighten them up and read them. Many of them were just heartbreaking, where people were talking about their own struggles or asking for prayers for their loved ones,” said Father Deston, who had the statue of St. Mark Ji placed in his former parish’s basement shrine.

Durant said a priest in Pittsburgh called him and asked for a copy of the sculpture. Employees from an addiction center in New Hampshire traveled to St. Anne Shrine in Fall River, Massachusetts, to see the statue.

“I think he’s a fascinating and important character,” Durant said.

“Drug addiction, then or now, is one of the issues of our time,” Durant said. “It’s so big, affecting so many people. It affects all ages, races, socioeconomic status. It affects all of us. It’s important, whether you’re Catholic or not.”

I am a member of Al-anon, attending weekly meetings for over a year now, when not pandemic bound.  The Catholic Church views substance abuse as a sin, even though a disease of the mind and body. There are many kinds of addictions. They are in conflict with the freedom of God’s children, the gift of life and the goodness of life, all created from and by the goodness of God Himself. Addicts today are not excluded from the sacraments because they are addicts. However, a sincere Act of Contrition, immediately, and the sacrament of reconciliation should be sought quickly, to remain as much in the state of grace as possible considering mortality.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -1 Cor 12:7-10


-please click on the image for greater detail

St Mark Li Tianxiang is called the ‘trier’ because he never gave up trying to overcome his addiction and be able to receive the sacraments again.

Nonetheless, Mark always attended Mass and lived a truly committed and devout Catholic life. It is said that he helped the sick and dying free of charge or only ever accepted what his patients were able to give him for his service.

St Mark Li Tianxiang, pray for us!!! Intercede with God on our behalf for whatever obstacles prevent us from being good servants of the Lord, particularly those sins to which we are truly addicted (pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth, substance abuse, timidity, tepidity, lukewarmness in Your service, fear, etc.) or cannot rid ourselves of through His most generous and powerful grace; such is our too, too strong attachment to our sins. Jesus, help us!!! Jesus, save us!!!

Love, & His healing,
Matthew

Netflix’s “Lucifer”, logismoi, nepsis & 1 Pet 5:8

This Spring and Summer, so far, I have discovered Netflix.  I recall looking at Netflix and Hulu at an earlier date and being completely unimpressed, their hosting all old, low royalty, programming.  I wasn’t interested.  That may have been just before 2016?

Boy, has Netflix, and hopefully Hulu, been at work.  I have been binge watching Marvel’s “The Iron Fist”, “The Defenders”, “The Punisher”, halfway through “Jessica Jones”, and now DC Comics’ “Lucifer”.

I was trying to understand where “Lucifer” fit, if at all, along the truth meter of Judeo-Christian theology, and I have determined “Lucifer” is really not at all about Judeo-Christian theology, but all a parody of Los Angeles, the advantaged side, culture.

The show uses, to good effect, a single amorphous, tiny-tiny, undefined grain of Judeo-Christian thought, lots of sexual innuendo for comical reasons, and lots of parody of Los Angeles advantaged culture.  It’s entertainment.  It’s hot outside.  And, “mindless” entertainment is my escape from work and my “quarantine bubble”.  I’m at the end of season 2 of 6.


-The Torment of Saint Anthony, Michelangelo, c. 1487–88, tempera and oil on panel, Height: 470 mm (18.50 in); Width: 337 mm (13.26 in), Kimbell Art Museum, Ft Worth, TX

In one of my online catechetical training classes I took, I was invited to read St Athanasius‘ (293-373 AD) “Life of (St) Antony (of the Desert) (251-356 AD)”. Excellent introduction to the earliest Christian eremitical tradition. Highly recommend.


-by Br Cyril Stola, OP

“Satan is an excellent marketer. He does his best to make sin attractive. He introduces maxims like “heaven for the climate, hell for the company” into common discourse, as if sin makes one interesting instead of simply destructive. He makes us love the antihero trope, which does not merely portray the hero’s flaws as tragic, but instead it embraces such flaws and makes that embrace central to the character. He gives us a subversive thrill in vice. Sin, however, is nothingness. Sin is always an emptiness and a void, it gives us nothing positive and has no redeeming qualities. The only attention it deserves is in combating it and healing its effects.

The moral tradition of the Church shines the proper light on sin by helping us understand it. It describes seven capital vices under which all sins and temptations fall: gluttony, lust, greed, anger, sloth, envy, and pride. These vices arise from our desires for genuine goods, but, in consequence of the fall, we desire good things in wicked ways. We all have temptations, and categorizing our vices helps us see their inter-relations and unveils the ways in which we may combat them.

Evagrius of Pontus, a 4th century Greek-speaking monk, was the first Christian to categorize vices in this spirit. Echoing St. Peter’s command, “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith,” (1 Pet 5:8) Evagrius gave us perceptive insights on how to understand and battle sin.

The fight against sin, Evagrius writes, is primarily an internal battle that takes place in how we respond to our logismoi, our tempting thoughts. We receive logismoi passively, and so having a perverse image or evil idea pop into our heads does not entail sin. However, if we allow such thoughts into our hearts and entertain them with passion and intent, then we sin, even without carrying out those actions. Only in combating these temptations do we heed Jesus’s admonition, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28).

To combat logismoi, Evagrius proposes nepsis or watchfulness. After a period of temptation, we can stop and consider the roots of our thoughts. He advises, “Sit down and recall for yourself the things that happened to you-where you started from, where you went, and the place in which you were caught by the spirit of lust or anger or despair, and how in turn these things took place.” (On Thoughts) We often fall in the same ways, and by watchfulness we can begin to see the patterns and circumstances that antecede sin.

One may note that his gluttony begins with boredom, or that his temptations towards envy or greed begin when he scrolls on social media. Lust may begin with loneliness, slothful distractions may begin with checking one’s email. Anger may follow from recalling an inconsiderate person, pride may arise from noting the flaws of others. Different people are plagued with temptations in individual ways, so each person needs to observe his or her own thoughts to discover how to combat them.

If we know the patterns in our own lives, we can address the roots of our vices. If remembering a certain person leads us to worse thoughts of pride or anger or lust, then we can immediately turn our attention elsewhere when that person pops into our memories. Watchfulness requires diligence and practice, but it works. Watchfulness unmasks the devil’s marketing, helping us combat sin in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done, and in what we have failed to do.”

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti,
et vobis fratres,
quia peccavi nimis
cogitatione, verbo,
opere et omissione:
mea culpa, mea culpa,
mea maxima culpa.
Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos,
et vos, fratres,
orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Love & penance & the joy of knowing Him,
Matthew

Intrinsically/objectively act/desire disordered CCC 2357/8


Aug. 30, 2019
Ed Condon
Catholic News Agency

WASHINGTON – “After a major scientific study found there is not a singular genetic marker for homosexuality, a Catholic theologian explained that the findings are fully in accord with Catholic teaching.

The study was published Aug. 30 in Science. It examined data from several large genetic databanks in multiple countries, and surveyed nearly half a million people about their sexual partners and preferences. Previous studies on the matter have only examined sample groups of hundreds of people.

“From a genetic standpoint, there is no single [genetic distinction] from opposite-sex to same-sex sexual behaviors,” said Andrea Ganna, a geneticist at Finland’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, and the study’s lead author.

Speaking to Scientific American, Eric Vilain, a geneticist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., called the study’s result “the end of the ‘gay gene’” theory…

…In a commentary published along with the study, Oxford University geneticist Melinda Mills noted an “inclination to reduce sexuality to genetic determinism” in support of sociological or ideological positions.””  [Ed.  to avoid personal responsibility for one’s choices?  Actions?  Seems to be all the rage these days, that old canard ‘The genes (or, devil) made me do it!]


-by Arland K. Nichols

“The Church’s document, The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, notes that sexual attraction to persons of the same sex is “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” The Catechism uses nearly identical language: “Exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex … is objectively disordered.”…

…Before clarifying the meaning of the term it should be noted that one reason such language is received as harsh is because we live in a society that no longer sees human nature as universal, intrinsic, and immutable. Rather than recognizing an intelligible telos, or inner aim of man, today it is claimed that our human nature consists of whatever individual feelings come “spontaneously,” are “genuine” or what feels “natural to me.” Most are unfamiliar with natural law and thereby reject the traditional western and Biblical belief that as humans we have a law written upon our hearts, and to abide by that law ensures our flourishing. To flaunt that law does harm. The reaction to Church teaching in the area of homosexuality is, in part, symptomatic of a deeper and fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the human person. The misunderstanding of the Church’s teaching is further complicated by the fact that we live in a sound-bite culture, where nuanced technical terms are underappreciated. [Ed. “…hidden nuances which 99 percent of the Catechism’s readers cannot be expected to fathom.” Included in this are the phrases “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically disordered,” terms which rise from the language of Catholic moral theology and Catholic philosophy. In this usage, the term “disordered” indicates a departure from the norm and not, as usage in English could suggest, sinful, demeaning, or sickly.] Therefore, it is incumbent upon Catholics to explain thoroughly and with sensitivity the eternal truth conveyed by the language of the Church.”

Intrinsic & Objective Disorder

The morality of the act itself = intrinsically disordered.  By the very definition of the act, it is of and in of itself intrinsically sinful, by definition.  There are not circumstances, extenuating or otherwise, than can make such an act not sinful.

The morality of the desire is = objectively/logically disordered, since its goal/object cannot be but disordered according to natural law and Revelation.  There are no circumstances, extenuating or otherwise, than can make such an act not sinful.

Sins, such as homosexual attraction are intrinsically sinful.  There is no circumstance, extenuating or otherwise, where homosexual attraction is not sinful.  Same sex coitus is objectively sinful.  There is no circumstance, extenuating or otherwise, where same sex coitus is not sinful.

One problem with the language of “intrinsic disorder” is that almost no one apart from theologians trained in the scholastic tradition correctly grasps its meaning.  Read the WHOLE article by clicking on the link below, if you dare.  (My brain hurts/is full.  May I be excused, please?  Medieval scholastic theologians are not the only theologians in the Church.  They’re dead.  But, have pride of place in Catholic theology.  Remember, a theologian is one who studies the discipline of theology.  Ask twelve living theologians a question, get >13 answers. lol)

-by Daniel Quinlan @masterjedi747

“In harmony with centuries of Catholic teaching on how we should evaluate the moral character of certain actions, the Catechism affirms: “There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery.” (CCC 1756) In other words, there exist actions that must always, by their very nature – without any exception, under any circumstances – be considered as evil. Because the wickedness of the action is inherent, arising internally from the account of the very nature of the action, we describe actions of this sort as “intrinsically evil”, and hold that there is nothing that can ever justify such an action…

…Traditional moral theology holds that human actions always have some end or purpose: something that the action is for, some goal that the action is “ordered toward” obtaining. In many cases, the purpose of an action is given by nature (e.g. eating food is naturally ordered to health, whether or not that purpose is consciously intended by the person). In other cases, the purpose of an action is superadded by the human will (e.g. when “comfort food” is desired primarily because it gives pleasure or satisfaction, without any explicit concern for nutritional value). And sometimes, it can happen that the human purpose driving an action is radically incompatible with the natural purpose (e.g. when poison is consumed for the sake of suicide, which is absolutely incompatible with health)… and in these cases the action is considered to be disordered, because the natural purpose of the action has been wholly and fundamentally impeded. Note however that when moral theologians speak of actions being disordered, this refers to the moral character of the action. And indeed the Catechism is explicit on this point: “The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts… that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil” (CCC 1755).

In a very similar (and perhaps slightly more obvious) way, we also say that every desire has an end: something that the desire is for, something that the desire is “ordered toward” obtaining. If you desire to commit an action, we say that your desire is ordered toward that action; and if we speak of your desire as being disordered, this refers to the fact that your desire is ordered toward something bad, which you should not desire. Therefore: if you desire to commit an action that is evil, your desire is disordered; and if you desire to commit an action that is intrinsically evil (e.g. if you desire to murder your annoying neighbor), then we describe your desire as intrinsically disordered. Note well that if an action is only a sin in some cases, but not in others – if there are exceptions – then it is not an intrinsically evil action. Note also, for the very same reason, that every temptation toward sin is intrinsically disordered: because no matter how large or small the sin might be, sin (by definition) is always evil without exception.”


-by Karlo Broussard

“It isn’t compassionate to encourage people to embrace a false version of reality.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the desire to be romantically involved with a member of the same sex is “objectively disordered” (2357). But for some, them’s fightin’ words.

Take Fr. James Martin, S.J., for example. In a 2017 interview with columnist Jonathan Merritt, Fr. Martin reaffirmed the position he took in his book Building a Bridge, namely, that this language in the Catechism is “needlessly hurtful” and should be replaced with the more pastoral language of “differently ordered.”

I don’t know if Fr. Martin still holds this view. In a 2018 article for America Magazine, he presents the Church’s official teaching on the objective disorder of same-sex sexual activity and the disorder of the desire for it. He then says, “As a Catholic priest, I have…never challenged those teachings, nor will I.”

Perhaps we could push back a bit on this last claim since he routinely celebrates events and organizations that publicly oppose Church teaching. Regardless, we still need to address the question: are romantic desires for members of the same-sex disordered or merely different?

First, to say the desire for romantic involvement with a member of the same sex is “different” is to suggest the desire is not disordered. We don’t say someone’s preference for vanilla ice cream over chocolate is disordered; we say it’s different. But to say the desire for same-sex sexual activity is not disordered entails the further claim that there’s no disorder in same-sex sexual activity itself. And there’s the rub: same-sex sexual activity is morally disordered, as Fr. Martin acknowledged in the America article.

A morally disordered act is a human act (proceeding from intellect and will) that lacks the order to its due end. In other words, it’s a human act that intentionally misses the mark, like the archer that intentionally misses the target he’s supposed to hit. St. Thomas Aquinas explains,

Sin as we properly speak of it in moral matters, and as it has the nature of moral wrong, comes about because the will by tending toward an improper [undue] end fails to attain its proper [due] end (De Malo q.3, a.1).

Elsewhere, Aquinas articulates the principle this way: “We call every act that is not properly related to its requisite [due] end a disordered act” (De Malo q.15, a.1).

But what does Aquinas mean when he speaks of a “proper [due] end” for a human act? It’s that which the human action naturally aims at: its natural end.

Consider, for example, how the due end or goal of an oak tree is to grow and to reproduce, which entails sinking its roots deep into the ground, taking in nutrients, performing photosynthesis, and dropping acorns. Such things are due or proper to the oak tree in that the achievement of such things makes the oak tree flourish as the kind of thing it is. If the oak tree were to fail in achieving these natural ends or goals, the oak tree would be defective in being an oak tree.

So, the due end of a thing is the natural end or goal of a thing and its activities: that which is befitting for the perfection of the thing, making it a good instance of its kind.

The same holds true for human actions. Some human actions have natural ends or goals that constitute the perfection of the act. For example, the human act of assertion has the natural end of expressing that which we believe to be true. So, when we assert what we believe to be true, that act is perfected inasmuch as it is the kind of act that it’s supposed to be.

Similarly, the act of eating has the natural end of nourishing the body. When we eat in a way that achieves this natural end or goal, our act succeeds in being the kind of act it’s supposed to be.

Disorder enters into human acts when we voluntarily engage in an act that is directed away from its natural end or goal (a due end or goal). Eating with the intention to vomit out the food afterward is one example of a disordered action. The act from the beginning is willfully directed away from its natural end of nourishing the body. Perversion is another word for this.

Now, the achievement of the natural ends of a human action not only determines the perfection of the act itself, but also of the person who performs the action. For the power to act belongs to a person for the sake of fully actualizing herself as a human being, or acquiring those things that are perfective of her nature.

So, when a person voluntarily prevents her act from achieving its natural end, she rejects the associated good. Since morality entails doing good and avoiding evil, to reject the good of an action is a moral defect, or in the words of Aquinas from the above quote, “sin.”

So what’s all this got to do with same-sex sexual activity? As I’ve argued before, one of the natural (due) ends of our reproductive organs is the generation of offspring. That’s an end or goal at which the sexual act naturally aims (the other being unitive love between the spouses).

And since it’s a moral disorder to voluntary prevent an act from achieving its natural end, it follows that to voluntarily thwart the use of our sexual organs from achieving their natural end of generation of offspring is morally disordered. Same-sex sexual activity does just that. Therefore, same-sex sexual activity is morally disordered.

With this in mind, let’s go back to our original question: should we start calling the desire to be romantically involved with a member of the same sex “different” instead of “disordered”?

No, we should not. Either we encourage people to embrace a false version of reality by telling them their romantic desires for members of the same-sex are natural and good, or we stick with what’s true and invite people to live in accordance with reality.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about leading people to the truth and helping them experience authentic human happiness. I don’t see anything “needlessly hurtful” about that.”

Love,
Matthew

Why is the Sacred Heart aflame?

“To Jesus Heart All Burning” traditional Catholic hymn


-by Stephen Beale, is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints.

“Images of the Sacred Heart meticulously recount key details of the crucifixion. The wounded heart itself, the crown of thorns, and the cross itself all appear. Some depictions even include the lance that pierced the side of Christ penetrating His heart.

But there’s one detail that seems out of place. There was no fire at the crucifixion, yet the Sacred Heart is often shown with flames. Why?

A burnt offering. Recall that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was mean to recapitulate and supersede all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. What was a common feature of these sacrifices? Fire. Think of the fire that devoured the sacrifices offered by Elijah and the fire that Abraham would have set had an angel not intervened (see 1 Kings 18 and Genesis 22). In ancient Israel, a burnt offering was the supreme form of sacrifice, it symbolized a total commitment to God—particularly the death of the victim animal and the all-consuming nature of the fire.  The burning Sacred Heart reminds us that this sacrifice too was incorporated into Christ’s supreme offering of Himself on the cross.

Symbol of divinity. Of course, fire is also a familiar Old Testament symbol of God. We encounter God’s fiery presence at Sinai and in the account of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 1). This symbolism carries over into the Old Testament, where the Holy Spirit descends upon the heads of the apostles as tongues of fire. Perhaps it’s especially fitting that the Sacred Heart is burning given that from it poured water and blood, symbols of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharistic wine, both the work of the Holy Spirit.

Symbol of the divine Incarnate. The fire burns, but the Sacred Heart is not consumed. Does this sound familiar? It recalls Moses’ first encounter with God, in a bush that burned but was not consumed. This foreshadowed the Incarnation, in which God assumed human nature, without his divinity extinguishing the humanity that had been assumed: Christ was fully man and fully God. It is fitting that at this climactic moment of the Incarnation that its deepest reality is reaffirmed in such an acute way.

Jesus’ passion for us. In the context of the gospels, the Passion refers to the suffering of Christ. But, in our society, we usually use the word passion to refer to something or someone that drives our enthusiasm, interest, desires, and commitments. Is this meaning still valid for the Sacred Heart? I think so. There is evidence in the gospels that a burning heart signified intense emotions. One clear example of this is the two disciples who encountered Christ on the road to Emmaus and afterwards remarked that their hearts had been burning. (cf Luke 24)  So yes, the flames on the Sacred Heart are a true reminder of God’s burning love for us.

Light of the World. Fire does two things. First, it consumes that which it burns. Second, it gives off light. This second aspect is certainly relevant to the symbolism of the Sacred Heart, given that Christ is the true light of the world. Remember that during the crucifixion, darkness descended upon the land (see Mark 15:33). In the darkest hour, the Sacred Heart burned bright with hope.”

Love, may the divine furnace of His love consume us,
Matthew

The Gospel at a Pride Parade – to win souls, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become white as wool.” -Is 1:18


-by Trent Horn

“Last month I was going for a jog in Balboa Park here in downtown San Diego when I noticed the park was more crowded than usual. I headed toward the sounds of music and noticed more and more rainbow flags as I neared Cabrillo Bridge. “Maybe, just once,” I thought, “this will be a festival celebrating God’s covenant with Noah! (rainbow)”

Not so much.

It was San Diego’s 40th annual “Gay Pride Parade,” which this year boasted 300,000 participants who marched through San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood (known for its LGBT flair) to Balboa Park for a concert.

The participants were joyful and carefree—until they walked by a group of Christians protesting their event. The Christians, who I assume were conservative Evangelicals, held signs that said things like, “Jesus is the only way to salvation” and “Love is self-giving.”

They weren’t doing anything I considered offensive or outrageous, but I also thought their approach would not be very effective—and I was right.

An unexpected springboard

As the Christians preached through bullhorns, most of the LGBT festival-goers walked by laughing or saying things like, “You know you’re probably gay!” or “God is love!” They also said a lot of other things I can’t repeat without diving into indecency.

Others stopped to yell at the Christians or even just plead with them. One woman said, “There are real sinners down at the county jail. Why aren’t you there?” The Christian responded, “I go to the jail all the time. Lots of Christians do that, too. I’m here today to help you people.”

As the police stood warily nearby, I watched and observed alongside the festival attendees, getting a feel for the whole situation.

Suddenly I had a flashback.

Deja vu all over again

After college I used to travel the country with a pro-life group named Justice for All. We would setup exhibits with large pictures of unborn children before and after abortion and talk with college students about the pro-life worldview.

During those outreaches I would sometimes walk around and act like a student on campus. I wouldn’t lie about who I was, but I also wouldn’t immediately say who I was with, either. I would just ask students looking at the pictures, “So what do you think of this big ugly thing?” Pretty soon we were off to the races having great conversations.

So I wandered around the pride parade asking people who were staring at “the big, ugly Christians” a simple question: “What do you think of those guys over there?” I ended up having several conversations about the Bible, same-sex morality, and faith in general.

One young man, whom I’ll call Greg, was especially memorable.

What does the Church say?

I asked him what he thought of the Christians, and we began to talk, along with his two male friends. All three of them identified as being gay, and they asked me what I was doing at the festival. I said that my wife was out of town and I decided to go on a jog through the park until . . .

“Until the gays showed up!” one of the young men interjected.

“Something like that,” I said.

I explained that I worked for an organization called Catholic Answers and that my job is to explain and defend the Catholic Faith. One of them then asked, “So what does the Church say about me being gay?”

I was nervous but also felt the Holy Spirit giving me the right words and tone.

“Well, the Church makes a distinction between someone’s desires and someone’s actions. We can’t control our desires, and so they shouldn’t be central to our identity. You also can’t say someone is sinning just because they have certain desires because, like I said, you can’t control them. I wouldn’t say that I’m straight or that you’re gay, but that you and I are men made in God’s image with different desires for sexual intimacy.”

Wrong even for straight people

They nodded, so I continued.

“So our desires don’t define us, and they don’t condemn us. But our actions do define us, and we can be held accountable for them. Or, as Batman would say (switch to guttural Batman voice), “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

We shared a laugh.

“It’s actions, not desires. This is important, because the Church teaches that we shouldn’t use sex for a purpose it wasn’t intended for. That means it’s wrong for anyone to engage in same-sex behavior, even if they’re straight.”

They raised their eyebrows at the unexpectedness of what I said, and I went on.

What is sex for?

“For example, if a straight guy has been in prison for a long time and he just wants sexual release, he might have sex with a man, even though he says he’s not gay. But that would be wrong, because sex isn’t just for satisfying your urges. For me, the big question I ask when I think about tough issues like same-sex attraction is: What is sex for?”

To my surprise, one of the young men said, “Procreation?”

My eyes lit up.

“Yes! I mean, that’s not the whole reason, but for me it makes sense to say that sex is ordered towards making babies and uniting men and women for their good and the good of any babies they might create. That’s also why as a Catholic I’m against contraception, because it goes against what sex is for.”

Rather than be offended, the three young men pondered what I said and seemed to appreciate the reasonableness of it, as well as the fact that I didn’t just quote a Bible verse and rest my case.

A pebble in the shoe

We talked a bit more, and then Greg and I talked one-on-one for a while. We discussed his religious background and his decision to leave the Mormon Church (which was motivated by his same-sex attraction but also by critical examination of the Book of Mormon).

As our conversation came to a close, I encouraged him to visit the website of Courage, which I described as a nonjudgmental ministry that helps Catholics who have same-sex attraction lead chaste lives. I said, “They really try to meet people where they’re at. They’re not about ‘praying the gay away.’” Greg said he was relieved they weren’t “like that” and said he’d check them out.

We parted ways, and I walked back to Balboa Park across the Cabrillo Bridge, remembering that conversion happens slowly, bit by bit. Sometimes the best we can do is plant a “pebble in their shoe” or a thought in the mind that will roll around until the person has an “epiphany moment.”

As I walked I also thought about how amazing it would be to take two dozen Catholics, well-formed in their Faith and trained to engage people in civil and compassionate dialogue, to an event like this. It would be a time to not try to win arguments but to win people and show that, even if we disagree about sexual ethics, we can still treat each other with respect and kindness.

Maybe next year . . .”

Love,
Matthew

Attributes of the Sacred Heart


-Catholic holy card depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus, circa 1880. Auguste Martin collection, University of Dayton Libraries, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Stephen Beale, is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints.

“The Sacred Heart is among the most familiar and moving of Catholic devotional images. But its symbolism can also be strange. As we mark the Feast of the Sacred Heart, here is a look at the explanation behind some of the features of the Sacred Heart.

The flames

The Sacred Heart most obviously brings to mind the Passion of Christ on the cross. There is the crown of thorns, the cross, usually atop the heart, and the wound from the spear that pierced His side. But why is the Sacred Heart always shown as if it’s on fire? That certainly did not happen at the crucifixion.

There are three reasons behind this. First, we have to remember that Christ’s self-offering on the cross was the one-time perfect consummation of all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. This necessarily includes burnt offerings, which were the highest form of sacrifices in ancient Israel, according to The Jewish Encyclopedia. An early form of such sacrifices was what Abraham set out to do with Isaac, hence the wood he had his son collect beforehand.

Second, fire is always associated with the essence of divinity in the Old Testament. Think back to the burning bush that spoke to Moses, the cloud of fire that settled on Sinai, and the flames from above that consumed the sacrifice of Elijah. This explanation fits with the gospel account of the crucifixion, in which the piercing of Christ’s side revealed His heart at the same time that the curtain of the temple was torn, unveiling the holy of holies where God was present.

Finally, the image of fire associated with heart represents Christ’s passionate love for humankind. One 19th-century French devotional card has these words arched above the Sacred Heart—Voilà ce Cœur qui a tant aimé les hommes, which roughly translates to: “Here is the heart that loved men so much.” One traditional exclamation is, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with love of us, inflame our hearts with love of Thee.” We see this actually happen in the gospels, where the disciples on the road to Emmaus realized that their hearts had been “burning” after their encounter with Jesus.

The rays of light

Look closer at the image of the Sacred Heart. There is something else framing it besides the flames. They are rays of light. In John 8:12, Christ declares that He is the “light of the world.” In Revelation 21:23, we are told that in the new Jerusalem at the end of times there will be no light from the sun or moon because the Lamb of God—that is, Jesus—will be its source of light. Light, like fire, is a symbol of divinity. Think of the Transfiguration and the blinding light that Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. As the light of the world, Christ is also the one who “enlightens” us, revealing God to us. The Sacred Heart constitutes the climax of divine self-revelation, showing us the depths of God’s love for us.

The arrows

The crown of thorns and the spear make sense. But sometimes the Sacred Heart is also depicted with arrows. Again, that’s not something we find in the gospels. One explanation is that the arrow represents sin. This is reportedly what our Lord Himself said in a private revelation to St. Mary of St. Peter.  The arrow could also draw upon an ancient Roman metaphor for love, which, according to ancient myth, occurred when the god Cupid shot an arrow through the hearts of lovers.

The crown of thorns

Unlike the arrows, the crown of thorns is reported in the gospels. But in traditional images it encircles the Sacred Heart, whereas in Scripture the crown was fixed to Jesus’ head. One traditional account offers this interpretation, describing those who are devoted to it: “They saw the crown transferred from His head to His heart; they felt that its sharp points had always pierced there; they understood that the Passion was the crucifixion of a heart” (The Heart of the Gospel: Traits of the Sacred Heart by Francis Patrick Donnelly, published in 1911 by the Apostleship of Prayer). In other words, wrapping the crown around the heart emphasizes the fact that Christ felt His wounds to the depths of His heart.

Moreover, after the resurrection, the crown of thorns becomes a crown of victory. Donnelly hints at this as well: “From the weapons of His enemy, from cross and crown and opened Heart, our conquering leader fashioned a trophy which was the best testimony of His love.” In ancient gladiatorial contests, the victor was crowned. In the Revelation 19:12, Christ wears “many crowns” and believers who are victorious over sin and Satan will receive the “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Finally, according to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the seventeenth French nun who helped start (continued the tradition) the devotion, the points of the thorns are the many individual sins of people, pricking the heart of Jesus. As she put it in a letter, recounting the personal vision she had received, “I saw this divine Heart as on a throne of flames, more brilliant than the sun and transparent as crystal. It had Its adorable wound and was encircled with a crown of thorns, which signified the pricks our sins caused Him.”

The cross

Like the thorns, the cross is both rooted in the gospels but also displayed in a way that does not follow them in every detail. There is almost an inversion of the crucifixion. In the gospels, Christ hung on the cross, His heart correspondingly dwarfed by its beams. But in images of the Sacred Heart, it is now enlarged and the cross has shrunk. Moreover, rather than the heart being nailed to the cross, the cross now seems ‘planted’ in the heart—as St. Margaret Mary Alacoque put it—if to say to us that the entire reality of the crucifixion derives its meaning from and—cannot be understood apart from—the heart of Jesus. As Donnelly wrote, “The Heart [is] … forever supporting the weight of a Cross.” Truly, it is the heart of Jesus that makes the cross meaningful for us today.”

His love,
Matthew

Sacred Heart: Hos 11:8-9 & Ezek 36:26

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not a man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.
—Hosea 11:8–9

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
—Ezekiel 36:26


Erin Cain

“The Heart of Jesus, pure and tender, feels all human emotions more intensely and yet is not ruled by them. His Sacred Heart is not hardened or cold like our own, and so the feelings He experiences are powerful and raw: love, anger, joy, pity, solace, grief.

When Jesus faced His crucifixion and brutal death, He knew that this was the Father’s will for the salvation of the world, but that doesn’t mean that He didn’t feel distressed or afraid or angry about what was to come—in fact, He felt all those things even more acutely than you or I would. His perfect Heart felt everything more distinctly, and yet He was able to feel those emotions without allowing them to dictate His actions. Jesus stayed the course and persevered for our sake, even as His Heart was filled with dread.

Sometimes, when our emotions distract us from carrying out our plans, we try to numb our hearts and stop feeling anything at all. But our hearts are a gift, to be nurtured and cherished, and if we lose touch with them we will find ourselves without meaning or purpose. So how can we persevere in God’s will as Jesus did without making ourselves numb to those inner cries of joy and anguish?

Only when we are connected to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will we perceive the immense graces that come from being in tune with our emotions and aware of how God formed our hearts. They are a compass for us as we discern His plans and seek to understand who He created us to be. We will see the beauty of our human emotions, even when they make it harder for us to do what is right. We will find the mysterious grace of sharing in Jesus’s sorrow, knowing that He walks alongside us in our pain. We will remember His Passion amidst our greatest joys and His Resurrection amid our deepest sorrows, and everything will be offered up to Him. Jesus will grant us the heavenly perspective that will allow us to press onward through all the ups and downs of this life, knowing that this is not the end.

Jesus invites each of us into His Sacred Heart. He has sacrificed for our redemption and cleansed us through Baptism, that we might enter into His Love and not be destroyed by the flames. May we offer Him our whole heart, holding nothing back, so that He might transform it like unto His own.”

Love, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!,
Matthew

Sacred Heart – Returning love for love

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, You have loved me so much; enable me to repay Your love.

MEDITATION

In the Encyclical Annum Sacrum, Leo XIII declares, “The Sacred Heart is the symbol and image of the infinite charity of Jesus Christ, the charity which urges us to give Him love in return.” Indeed, nothing is more able to arouse love than love itself. “Love is repaid by love alone,” the saints have repeatedly said. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “Whenever we think of Christ, we should remember with what love He has bestowed all these favors upon us … for love begets love. And though we may be only beginners … let us strive ever to bear this in mind and awaken our own love” (Book of Her Life, 22).

The Church offers us the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to stir up our love. After reminding us, in the Divine Office proper to this feast, of the measureless proofs of Christ’s love, this good Mother asks us anxiously, “Who would not love Him Who has loved us so much? Who among His redeemed would not love Him dearly?” (Roman Breviary). And in order to urge us more and more to repay love with love, she puts on the lips of Jesus the beautiful words of Holy Scripture: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee”; and again, “Fili, praebe mihi cor tuum,” Son, give Me thy heart (Roman Breviary). This, then, is the substance of true devotion to the Sacred Heart: to return love for love, “to repay love with love,” as St. Margaret Mary, the great disciple of the Sacred Heart, expresses it; “to return love unceasingly to Him who has so loved us,” in the words of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus, the hidden but no less ardent disciple of the divine Heart.

COLLOQUY

“Awake, O my soul. How long will you remain asleep? Beyond the sky there is a King Who wishes to possess you; He loves you immeasurably, with all His Heart. He loves you with so much kindness and faithfulness that He left His kingdom and humbled Himself for you, permitting Himself to be bound like a malefactor in order to find you. He loves you so strongly and tenderly, He is so jealous of you and has given you so many proofs of this, that He willingly gave up His Body to death. He bathed you in His Blood and redeemed you by His death. How long will you wait to love Him in return? Make haste, then, to answer Him.

“Behold, O loving Jesus, I come to You. I come, drawn by Your meekness, Your mercy, Your charity; I come with my whole heart and soul, and all my strength. Who will give me to be entirely conformed to Your Heart, in order that You may find in me everything You desire?

“O Jesus, my King and my God, take me into the sweet shelter of Your divine Heart and there unite me to Yourself in such a way that I shall live totally for You. Permit me to submerge myself henceforth in that vast sea of Your mercy, abandoning myself entirely to Your goodness, plunging into the burning furnace of Your love, and remaining there forever ….

“But what am I, O my God, I, so unlike You, the outcast of all creatures? But You are my supreme confidence because in You can be found the supplement or rather, the abundance of all the favors I have lost. Enclose me, O Lord, in the sanctuary of Your Heart opened by the spear, establish me there, guarded by Your gentle glance, so that I may be confided to Your care forever: under the shadow of Your paternal love I shall find rest in the everlasting remembrance of Your most precious love” (St. Gertrude).

His love,
Matthew

Sacred Heart & Jn 19:34 – June is the month of the Sacred Heart


-by Rev. Dr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, PhD

“The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated this past Friday, but the entire month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. This devotion deserves much wider exposure because it gets to the core of the mystery of our redemption. The overflowing of God’s love through the humanity of Jesus Christ, represented by the sacred heart of Jesus, is a mystery – which by definition means a reality that exceeds our ability to explain – but that shines brightly in our faith.

In his encyclical “On Devotion to the Sacred Heart” (Haurietis aquas), Pope Pius XII pointed to the moment in Jesus’ life where He says: “If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and let him drink he who believes in Me. As the Scripture says: ‘Out of His heart there shall flow rivers of living waters.’ Now this He said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in Him.” (John 7:37-39) The pope specifically focused on the fact that Jesus describes himself as the source of living water, a symbol of the fountain of life that is the Holy Spirit.

This wondrous phenomenon has renewed importance just now because our current mood resembles the pessimistic and agitated mood in the 1950s during the Cold War when the encyclical was promulgated. The pandemic, the violent protests, and the social polarization are exerting pressure on us all. Yet in the midst of everything – even as many all over the world are dealing with serious illness and death – Christ stands as the infinite source of comfort, love, and peace.

The words that most touched me in the encyclical were Pius XII’s use of a passage from Saint Paul: “Now to Him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

In other words, in their devotion to the Sacred Heart, the faithful are not living merely within their own limitations. The prayer to the Sacred Heart calls upon the Spirit of God, which moves us in ways we would not discover solely on our own: “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” (Romans 8:26)

So, whatever we are feeling because of what is happening around us, if we can gather ourselves enough to actually form a prayer in our hearts, God does the rest in His providential care. Or as Pius XII put it: “The Sacred Heart of Jesus shares in a most intimate way in the life of the Incarnate Word and has been thus assumed as a kind of instrument of the Divinity.”

This is not just some pious thought or theological abstraction. The pope hearkens back to another specific moment in Jesus’ life: “What is here written of the side of Christ, opened by the wound from the soldier, should also be said of the heart which was certainly reached by the stab of the lance, since the soldier pierced it precisely to make certain that Jesus Christ crucified was really dead.”

What are the effects of the wounding of Jesus’ sacred heart? It fired up the apostles and the martyrs to witness to their faith right to the end. It inspired the doctors of the Church with tireless zeal to teach the faith. It drove the “confessors” to develop virtues both for themselves and as an example to others. It motivated virgins “to a free and joyful withdrawal from the pleasures of the senses and to the complete dedication of themselves to the love of their heavenly Spouse.”

The marvelous focus of our adoration on the Sacred Heart shows it to be the source of divine love but also the example of all of the virtues. He is the living presence of our salvation radiating from the heart of the Church, which after all is His Body. (Romans 12:5)

That was the main point of the encyclical: because the wounded Sacred Heart achieves so much as its divine charity overflows into the world, it should be paid due honor. It is something far beyond anything that we can imagine: “The Heart of Christ is overflowing with love both human and divine and rich with the treasure of all graces which our Redeemer acquired by His life, sufferings, and death, it is, therefore, the enduring source of that charity which His Spirit pours forth on all the members of His Mystical Body.”

As a result, we may be confident that there will be more apostles, martyrs, doctors, confessors, and virgins. This glorious tradition will continue until the end of time. Perhaps some of us may even be inspired to join their ranks.”

Love, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!! (favorite McCormick family prayer)
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