Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reflections on the Readings for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Yesterday, on July 22nd, the Catholic Church celebrated the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, on of the feasts of the liturgical year that is celebrated on the same day in both forms of the Latin Rite and in the Byzantine Rite. I was lucky enough to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF) after receiving the Sacrament of Confession, and I just  briefly wanted to right down my thoughts after reflecting on the Scripture readings for the Mass in the EF, as well as the Scripture selection in the Liturgy of Hours' Office of Readings.

The First Reading in the Divine Office came from St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians 3:1-17. It was subtitled, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God". As I was reading this, waiting for Mass to start, a particular few verses close to the halfway mark caught my attention. It immediately called to mind the current state of affairs regarding the permissibility of certain sins that have become socially acceptable in the Western world, i.e., fornication, and homosexual activity in particular. Beginning from verse 5:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Feast of Simon the Pharisee- Peter Paul Rubens

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Causes of Unconditional Love

In getting ready to write a new essay tangentially related to contraception, I recalled a dialogue I had with someone regarding an essay I had posted on social media. I thought about just posting my own words since I pretty much dominated the conversation. I regret doing this sometimes, typing so much, but there's always so much on my mind that I want to be able to express it all. I am trying to become more concise in my writing, but as I care for this person, I felt it my Christian duty to get this person introduced to some ideas that they may not have been aware of.  I apologize if anyone tires of the length of my blog posts. Please know that I don't do it because I'm full of myself or like to hear myself "talk". In putting my thoughts here, and in dialoguing with other people, I hope to find answers. I just go about it in a way many millennials would rather not.

In any case, here's the selection of the essay, entitled "The Death of Unconditional Love", I posted on social media: 
"The widespread availability of contraception ushered in an age of sexual intercourse without consequence. Unconditional love was taken out of the equation and replaced with immediate, self-serving gratification. Love became inconsequential to sexual relations. With the possibility of procreation and the need for commitment gone, sex went from being a wonderful gift from God and an active participation in his work of creation to a sterile act, devoid of meaning and transcendence. 
"Likewise, easy, no-fault divorce has played an enormous role in the death of unconditional love. Marriage went from being a permanent, lifelong relationship to a temporary one. Our very high divorce rate signals the fact that as adults, few are capable of unconditional love. By rejecting our wives or husbands, whether we intend to or not, we tear apart our families. What is left is a broken reflection of what once was.
"In essence, without using words and often without even intending to do so, we tell our children 'My personal needs are far more important than your need for a loving home, nurtured by both Mom and Dad.'"
Below is our conversation. Some things have been edited out, but the bulk of it is still here:
The Triumph of Divine Love- Peter Paul Rubens

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Article on "Spiritual Progress" on Catholic Stand

My latest article, replying to a claim made by Evangelical Christian author Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, is now up on Catholic Stand.  Below is a snippet of the article, followed by another link:
From reading some of the work that Ms. Fitzpatrick has produced, her faith squares up pretty evenly with the modern Evangelical movement; a movement that has no room for a visible Church. On her website and in other advertisements, Ms. Fitzpatrick describes her work in this way: “No fluff. No bricks. Just good news of a crucified and risen Savior.” 
Ms. Fitzpatrick probably does not intend it, but these words are insulting and condescending to many Christians. It implies that, for instance, that the Sacrifice of the Mass as celebrated by Catholic and Orthodox Christians is superfluous, that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is just “fluff”, and that asking for the intercession of the saints is part of a man-made building of brick and mortar that has nothing to do with the mystical Body of Christ. As if none of those things I just mentioned don’t preach the Good News of the Christ crucified. How misguided and mistaken a notion she and many other non-denominational Christians have on Christ’s relationship to the Church. Which leads us to the isolated quote I came across … 
Below is the verbatim quote from Mrs. Fitzpatrick as it was presented, with no further context: 
"Real progress in the Christian life is not gauged by our knowledge of Scripture, our church attendance, time in prayer, or even our witnessing (although it isn’t less than these things). Maturity in the Christian life is measured by only one test: how much closer to his character have we become? The result of the Spirit’s work is not more and more activity. No, the results of his work are in in our quality of life, they are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." 
Is this an accurate description of “real progress? There are many issues with this quote, as well as the way the meme is delivered to the masses.
Read the rest here. 
Entry into Jerusalem- Pedro Orrente

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bishop of San Jose's Statement on Bishop Paprocki's Decree on "Same Sex 'Marriage'"

While the news cycle has started to relax it's focus on the controversial (but really, not controversial at all) decree issued by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL on the pastoral care of those homosexual persons in state sanctioned marriages, it seems that there are those within the Church who are still making comments about it. A few days ago, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose released the following statement:
Dear Father/Sister/Brother, 
Recent news reports of policies and practices related to members of the LGBT community in other dioceses can be confusing. 
I take this opportunity to assure you that the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral. We will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith. 
Finally, let us remember and be guided by the words of Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
This is disheartening.

It's extremely sad to see, at almost every turn, bishop against bishop, pastor against pastor, and even Bishops' Conference against Bishops' Conference on several issues.

Frankly, this whole controversy that's erupted around Bishop Paprocki's decree (which is simply a reiteration of Catholic teaching) is ridiculous. As Bishop Paprocki commented in a recent interview, "[T]he decree is a rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law. The Catholic Church has been very clear for two thousand years that we do not accept same-sex “marriage,” yet many people seem to think that the Church must simply cave in to the popular culture now that same-sex “marriage” has been declared legal in civil law."

Friday, June 30, 2017

Separating Brainwashing From Evangelizing Children

I came across an awesome article by soon-to-be-deacon Joe Heschmeyer the other day, where he addressed the following question: "Is teaching children religion brainwashing?" Apparently, as he mentioned in his essay, 86% of respondents to this question on Debate.org thought the answer was "yes". How profoundly sad. Religion, once seen as a virtue (and still seen as one by the Church, see CCC 1807) by virtually all people in the Western world, is now seen as a vice, and has even been called "child abuse" by certain proponents of the new atheism; of which I would argue is a new religion in itself... but I digress.

The entire article is an excellent read, and I urge everyone to read it before continuing. Here's a good sampling from Heschmeyer's essay:
As Christians, we’re called to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world (Matthew 28:19-20), but in a special way, to teach the next generation about the faith. The Shema Yisrael, the core of Jewish morning and evening prayer, comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-7: 
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." 
So you can’t be a faithful Christian (or Jew) and not teach the faith to your children. But it’s more than that. Christianity isn’t just your dad sitting around musing about what the afterlife might or might not be like. The God of the Universe entered history in the Person of Jesus Christ, and He taught, died, and rose from the dead. And Christians don’t just believe in this as as an abstract idea, but have a personal relationship with this same God. So it’s not just speculation on the Christian parents’ part: it’s rationally trusting the expert, the one Person qualified to tell us these things. It’s also sharing the most meaningful relationship you have with your loved ones. 
And finally, not teaching your kids still teaches them something. If you really believed Christianity was the most important truth in the world, if you really believed it was the surest way to knowing God and to happiness in this life and eternity in Heaven, you wouldn’t hesitate to share it with the people you loved most (especially those entrusted to your care for formation: your children).
That same selection from Deuteronomy is something that I often see included in my recitation of Compline (Night Prayer) at the end of each day. It's a beautiful thing to reflect on, and whenever I read it, I think about my own kids. Heschmeyer brings up a great point; why would you hesitate to share the faith that comes from Truth Himself with your own children? This essay is a great answer to the question that was posed on Debate.org, but I'd like to add a couple of points to my own, piggybacking off of what Heschmeyer has written.
Jesus Falling Under the Cross

Friday, June 23, 2017

Decree From Bishop of Springfield Lays Down Directives For Those in Same-Sex "Marriages"

About a week and a half ago, Bishop Thomas Paprocki released a decree "Regarding Same-Sex 'Marriage' and Related Pastoral Issues". The secular media jumped all over this yesterday, with painfully erroneous ways of misrepresenting Church teaching. Dissenters such as New Way Ministry, as well as their supporters such as Fr. James Martin, also denounced the bishop's decree. However, everything seemed to focus specifically on one small section of the decree, namely on funeral rites:
“Unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death, deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites. In case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary [bishop], whose judgment is to be followed (cf. c. 1184).
Fr. Martin replied very quickly on his Facebook page:
If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a "sign of unjust discrimination" (2358).
I would have to conclude, as have others, that Fr. Martin, who echoes what the editors at New Ways Ministry had to say, is way off base here. In all honesty, he's pretty much wrong.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Discussion on Abortion and "Personhood" With a Utilitarian

Recently, the ever-awesome Secular Pro Life posted a guest blog by a woman who suffers from turner Syndrome. An excerpt from the article is below:
"Instead of turning 30 reminding me that I'm getting old, it reminds me I'm living—and it's a wonderful feeling. I will wear every grey hair and every wrinkle as a badge of honour. I get to enjoy a life that's all too often left to 'choice' and deemed 'not worth living'—without even being given a chance. 
"My mom is 'pro-choice' and believes it should have been up to her whether or not to abort me if she had known. I'm so thankful that my diagnosis was safe with me in the womb and that I'm alive—instead of my life being reduced to a statistic."
A heart wrenching reality this woman has to live with, that her mom would actually say these things to her own daughter. But what really disturbed me was one of the commenters on the article. This man, from the UK, was a self-professed utilitarian. This was the first time I really was able to get into a deep conversation with one such person. While his ideas are scary, perhaps even monstrous, my interlocutor was pleasant throughout our discussion, never threw any personal attacks, and explained his point of view in an intelligent manner. But it's his worldview that is problematic. While reading through this dialogue, one will see that not only does he reject the personhood of most life in the womb, but also of some people who may be in a vegetative or comatose state, as can be seen by him saying they "often resume personhood". His comments will be in red, mine in blue, and various other commenters in different colors. My interlocutor's initial reply to the article itself is below:

Tom: This is merely confused counterfactual thinking. She'd never have suffered with the thoughts of having not existed or regretted her missed existence had she have been aborted in the first-trimester do it's a moot point.