Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reclaiming Our Faith and Our Tradition

This has been bugging me for a while, and I guess now I finally feel the need to verbalize it (or at least type it, I suppose). Does anyone else grow tired of the fact that Roman Catholics (that is, Catholics of the Latin Rite) have been out of touch with their particular traditions, devotions and overall demeanor and expression of their faith? Now my current parish is pretty good for the most part, except for instances when a visiting priest who is not our pastor comes in, giving eyebrow raising homilies. However, I feel that everything is watered down in a lot of Latin parishes, especially here in the United States where I reside.

Few parishes make use of incense. Our priests often do not have the beautiful vestments that our Latin Rite permits, or, show a disregard for (or were never taught in the first place) the correct vestments to be used, i.e. wearing blue for Marian feasts is not permitted in the Latin Rite. Often, liturgies are truncated because it "takes to much time" to do all the extra things that make the Roman liturgy beautiful. Too often, devotions such as benediction or adoration are pushed into the background, and novenas which used to be said throughout churches (including my parish were I grew up at) are now unfortunately forgotten by the laity. Instead, we now have a decent chance, in the US, of walking into a Roman Catholic church and finding that the liturgy is quasi-Protestant where the Propers for Mass aren't used, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are plentiful, the dress of the laity is not becoming of a wedding banquet (which the Mass actually is; the Bridegroom has come to consummate His covenant [His death on the Cross] with His Bride, the Church), and the homilies are banal and often forget to mention, expound, or even acknowledge true Catholic teaching on a myriad of subjects. As the 20th century theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand said, "The new liturgy [can] threaten to frustrate the confrontation with Christ, for it discourages reverence in the face of mystery, precludes awe, and all but extinguishes a sense of sacredness."

Divine Liturgy celebrated at a Ukrainian Catholic Church

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Spiritual" Baptism of Aborted Babies?

With the March for Life a pretty big success yesterday despite the impending blizzard along the Northeast, there was plenty of buzz from my pro-life friends and family on Facebook. One post in particular caught my attention, but not in the most positive way. The post contained two prayers, and the second one really caught my eye. I'm sure it'll catch yours too. Read below:

Heavenly Father, Your love is eternal. In Your ocean of love You saved the world through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Now look at Your Son on the Cross who is constantly bleeding for love of His people and forgive Your world. Purify and baptize aborted children with the Precious Blood and Water from the Sacred Side of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who hung dead on the Cross for their salvation in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May they, through His wounds be healed and through His Precious Blood be freed; there to rejoice with the Saints in Heaven. Amen

I believe in God (Here you should recite the Apostles Creed, continuing with...)that all who were born this day dead may reach everlasting life through Jesus Christ, Mary, Joseph, John and the Saint of the day ______. (I looked it up and here are 2-St. Vincent Pallotti and Bl. Laura Vinuna)
I Baptize you -(Sprinkle Holy Water to the North, South, East and West of your home or church) "IN THE NAME OF THE FTHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY GHOST"
One our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father.

St. Nicholas Mystikos Baptizes Constantine VII

Friday, January 22, 2016

Discussion With Pro-Choice Advocates on the Beginning of Life

As many are probably aware, today was the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. Even with the impending blizzard coming upon the Northeast, thousands of people from all over the nation came together calling for an end to the horrors of abortion. I even heard that popular stars such as Kelsey Grammer made an appearance. Anyways, I recently had the opportunity to have a bit of dialogue with someone who calls herself pro-choice in a Facebook com-box post. 

I jumped into the conversation a little late, where a few pro-lifers were already responding to this woman's objections. The main objection among them, was that life did not begin at conception, and when pressed, it was really hard to find out when exactly life does begin... that is, objectively and not subjectively. The discussion began from a meme talking about how a mother was showing her daughter her own pre-natal photos, while the mother referred to the daughter as a "clump of cells" Until she decided at birth she was a "human being". So the question of the whole meme was "When does life begin?" Our conversation starts with the pro-choice woman's answer. I've edited the conversation for brevity and have changed names (except my own, still Nicholas) and have also labeled each person by color. My posts will be in blue, Jo's will be in red, Mary's in green, Tom's in orange, and Anne's in purple.

March for Life 2013

Friday, January 15, 2016

Some "Slick" Answers for Opponents of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence

About a month ago, a friend approached me with an idea to get a kind of "Theology on Tap" thing going before poker nights at a local bar. I thought it was a good idea, and what started out as inviting just Catholics to talk on various theological issues, soon grew into inviting people from other Christian denominations. While the first "conversation" has yet to happen, my friend made a nice resource online where we could all interact with each other and post sources that we could look over before our discussion.

Our first topic was going to be on the Eucharist, and after some people, including myself, posted some sources for the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and for the teaching of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, a Baptist posted some articles that were critical of Catholic theology. A couple of his papers were actually well-reasoned, and shed some insight on Calvanistic thinking towards the Eucahrist. However, one of the articles posted came from the ever dubious Matt Slick, writer for the Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry (CARM). If you haven't heard of him before, then you're one of the lucky ones. While some of the articles on his website have some merit, especially the ones against atheism and misunderstandings of Old Testament Laws, Slick has an anti-Catholic streak, and you can see it here on his article on transubstantiation.

Now in a few instances in this article, he accurately reflects what Catholic theology teaches in some place. Then in others, he offers a completely inaccurate portrayal of Catholic thought, giving a complete misrepresentation of the theology behind transubstantiation; thus Slick is attacking a complete caricature of Catholic beliefs instead of interacting with what Catholics actually believe. Now, I want to get relevant and helpful information to as many people as possible through this little blog. I come across a lot of very helpful essays, websites and blog postings that I want to share with people. While I do write some original apologetic essays, I want to give Catholics and other non-Catholic Christians alike access to these helpful sources that they might not have found otherwise. Therefore, I offer the following rebuttals (point by point) to Slick's article on transubstantiation, and in these rebuttals I will post links to various Catholic websites/blogs that can articulate this information much better than I can, and will summarize in my own words some of these other sources to help explain what you will find once you click on the links.
The Defenders of the Eucharist- Peter Paul Rubens

Monday, January 11, 2016

Another Reason Why Surrogacy Objectifies Women... and Denies Personhood to Children

Sometimes I have the urge to look around secular news sites. I know, it's an urge I shouldn't give into as much as I do; there's only so much drivel from Yahoo! News a person can take. Usually something catches my eye that disgusts me as I try to keep abreast of current affairs in our country and across the world, but this story in particular made me absolutely sick. Apparently, as publications such as the Washington Post and Time Magazine report, a surrogate mother carrying the triplets of a single father was threatened to abort one of the fetuses growing inside her, or else suffer the consequences of legal, monetary damages. How sad is this?!

To think, in a world where we often hear cries of "My body, my choice!"... we know have a woman who realizes what's inside her is a life. A human life. And she does not want to extinguish that life. Save me the notes about how she may have "signed a contract" and now she's "legally obligated" to have one of the babies aborted. Is someone really going to force this woman to have an abortion? Is that really what our country has come to? Fortunately, in this case, the father has decided to respect the surrogate mother's wishes after threatening legal action, and at least for the time being claims that he will raise all three children. But how sad is that? Let it sink in a minute... this dad wanted to kill one of his children. Specifically the one that was not a twin, because one of the embryos split into two, making identical twins next to their fraternal triplet sibling.

Saint Joseph and Child Jesus- Robert la Longe
But has that sunk in? How will that father look at his child? What will happen if that child learns that their father wanted to kill them in the womb? Or perhaps the more important question is, how can any father arbitrarily decide which of his three children are murdered? This has happened in cases where all the fetuses are fraternal siblings as well, and this is where we get the PC term of "embryo reduction. It's like we're living in some dystopian sci-fi novel... but even authors like Ray Bradbury and Walter Miller could have never predicted the sheer inhumanity of people in what was their near future.

And then this all brigns up the thorny issue of surrogacy in the United States. Obviously, I think it should be illegal in all cases, but we have to be realistic here in a society that often sees nothing wrong with "helping" a couple. But then again many countries, including some from Europe, have actually banned all surrogacy, such as Pakistan, Iceland, Finland, France and Italy. At the very least, the wombs of our women should not be for sale. Many countries only permit "altruistic surrogacy", meaning that the surrogate mother cannot be paid for her services. Some countries that allow ONLY altruistic surrogacy include Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Countries like India and the US are the most liberal. Even though some states in the US ban surrogacy (such as Michigan), many states are safe havens. Why can so many other countries realize what a bad idea surrogacy for pay is, yet the US just keeps on trucking, even with horrible cases like the one in question? Perhaps prayers for conversion are our best bet. But maybe if more stories like this keep coming up in the news, our lawmakers will have to take action sooner rather than later. One can only hope, because the lives and dignity of both women and children are at stake.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Get Your Blessed Chalk! Your Epiphany Water! And Your Theophany Water!

So even though I've been a Catholic all my life, it wasn't until yesterday when I finally realized just how AWESOME yesterday, January 6th, is. In the Western Church, we call this day the Feast of the Epiphany. In the Eastern Church, we call this day the Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord. Basically, they're both celebrating the same thing. And we as Catholic Christians get a LOT from Holy Mother Church on this day. Sitting in the pew yesterday, I felt like I was almost at a baseball game, the way we were just getting free sacramentals, blessings, and most importantly of course, the Eucharist! Apparently, the Church, both East and West, have very rich traditions regarding this feast. And you may even be surprised to know what we are actually celebrating on this Holy Day... because it's just not the arrival of Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar.
The Adoration of the Magi- Abraham Bloemaert

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

We're All Mothers, According to Blessed Isaac of Stella

A happy Epiphany/Theophany to all today! I had hoped to get a nice little post up about this great feast today, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. However, as I mentioned in my previous post, I added at the end how I recalled hearing somewhere that we are all called to be "mothers" to people. Well, I found the source of that thought I had, and it comes from a great saint who has had one of his homilies recorded in the Office of Readings in the last month: Blessed Isaac of Stella.

Blessed Isaac was a Cistercian who lived in the tenth century, and was a student of St. Augustine's neoplatonism. He has many surviving works, but I must say I'm partial to the selection from this particular sermon. I think this is something we should all reflect on, especially as we are still celebrating the Christmas season. Christ is now present to us, and we as the Church in turn should present Christ to others in our daily lives:
Although by nature he is the only- begotten, by grace he has joined many to himself and made them one with him. For to those who receive him he has given the power to become the sons of God. He became the Son of man and made many men sons of God, uniting them to himself by his love and power, so that they became as one. In themselves they are many by reason of their human descent, but in him they are one by divine rebirth.
The whole Christ and the unique Christ – the body and the head – are one: one because born of the same God in heaven, and of the same mother on earth. They are many sons, yet one son. Head and members are one son, yet, many sons. In the same way, Mary and the Church are one mother, yet more than one mother; one virgin, yet more than one virgin. Both are mothers, both are virgins.Each conceives of the same Spirit, without concupiscence. Each gives birth to a child of God the Father, without sin. Without any sin, Mary gave birth to Christ the head for the sake of his body.
By the forgiveness of every sin, the Church gave birth to the body, for the sake of its head.Each is Christ’s mother, but neither gives birth to the whole Christ without the cooperation of the other. In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary. And what is said in a particular sense of the virgin mother Mary is rightly understood in a general sense of the virgin mother, the Church. When either is spoken of, the meaning can be understood of both, almost without qualification. In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful.These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, in a special sense of Mary, in a particular sense of the individual Christian. They are used by God’s Wisdom in person, the Word of the Father.
This is why Scripture says: I will dwell in the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Who's More "Blessed": The Theotokos or Those Who Hear the Word of God?

With 2016 finally off the ground, the Church today celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. It's fitting that our first Holy Day of the year celebrates she who brought Christ into the world, setting the process of our salvation into action. But there's always been this one quote from the Gospels that I had a hard time understanding, and fortunately, it was clarified today at Mass by the priest in his homily. The passage I'm talking about is found in the Gospel of Luke:
...a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to [Jesus], “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts that nursed You!” But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it!” (Lk 11: 27-28)
In my mind, when I hear this read aloud, it almost seems like Christ is dismissing the importance of His mother. But of course, I know much better than that due to the various titles Mary has been given throughout the ages, and he special role as the most prominent intercessor for us before God. I knew I was probably missing something, and would often forget to delve into the matter more deeply, mainly because I knew it wasn't something to be worried about or taken in the context that many Protestants view it today. So what exactly is Christ saying then?

Icon of the Theotokos outside Hajdudorog, Hungary