Monday, October 20, 2014

A Day In the Life of a Seminarian


After some thoughts about the foundational principles of the seminary, you get to see what the daily life of a Catholic seminarian is like.

The video was done by seminarians at Holy Trinity Seminary, in Irving, TX.

Another fun thing to do while watching this video is to try and pick out all the Aggies you see!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Cognitive Dissonance of Tolerance


Words have meaning.
Thoughts have consequences.

Unfortunately, these are important concepts that have escaped some.

Take, for instance, the word "tolerance". In modern use, it has a unique meaning to some and a completely different meaning to others. The result behind the differing definitions of the word, mean that by subscribing to one definition above-and-over another will lead to different consequences.

True tolerance means we need not accept an idea which is false or an action which is wrong, but it should accept the full dignity of other human persons and their basic human rights. Thus we should always uphold another's dignity and human rights (true rights, not made-up ones), because this is how we are bound together. We do all of this, because it conforms to what is true and good. In other words, we accept and "tolerate" the person at all times, even when their actions are offensive or immoral.

As a consequence of true tolerance, we must accept the freedom of others to believe as they wish, speak as they wish, and act (within the bounds of natural and civil law) as they wish. Thus, we should strive to live in peace and we should try to understand one another as much as possible. THAT is true tolerance.

Many who have a social agenda have used a much different understanding of tolerance to further their agenda. It holds the following ideas out as both true - at the same time:
  1. We must be tolerant of other people's ideas, lifestyle, choices, etc.
  2. You must agree with certain modern ideas, lifestyle, choices, etc or you are a bigot and we will not tolerate you.
This is the definition of modern cognitive dissonance and we have bought it - hook, line, and sinker. How?
It has been done in five steps:
  1. Separate tolerance from truth.
  2. Expand the definition of "tolerance".
  3. Placing tolerance among the highest of the "virtues" of a Western democratic society.
  4. Ignore the logical inconsistencies.
  5. Malign those who hold-out against this idea of tolerance as prejudiced and bigoted.

Step #1 - Separate tolerance from truth.
Our culture, as is the case in many other things, has bought the lies about what tolerance should be and it goes well beyond the definition of true tolerance given above.

If we do not know the truth, then we can accept almost anything. But, if we know the truth and act in accord with the truth, then we are limited to what we can accept, because the truth is, by definition, not tolerant of that which is not true. It creates boundaries and is exclusive.

G.K. Chesterton said
"Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions."
As I said at the beginning. Thoughts have consequences. If we have true thoughts, then the consequence is we ought to live according to that which is true. When we don't live according to the truth, we face natural consequences to those actions. For instance, if a woman chooses to ignore the truth an affair could ruin a marriage, then she must live with the consequences if her husband leaves her.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - All proponents of the modern idea of tolerance will reject some traditional understanding of morality. It might be on issues of abortion, same-sex relationships, etc. but they all have a relativistic understanding of truth.

Thus, the truth is merely anything you want it to be in the cafeteria of choices.

Take for example the reaction to what Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, said a while back.
NOTE - he didn't speak words of gentleness or tact, nor did he make an important distinction. Those who have same-sex attraction are not sinning unless they act on their sexual desires in a sinful way (which would be sinful for anyone). Merely having a same-sex attraction is not sinful. Nonetheless, the backlash is telling. Here is a comment from one opponent:
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe."
So, here we have one person being intolerant of another's perceived intolerance, which then leads to a divorce from truth and the decision to be able to determine who is Christian and who is not.

BTW - some are saying the big issue is lumping homosexuality alongside bestiality, but if you read his entire comment, he also lumped heterosexual sex outside of marriage in there too. But nobody was outraged about that. Notice the cognitive dissonance?

Step #2 - Expanding the definition of "tolerance".
The modern idea of tolerance = you must not "judge" another person's actions as wrong. You should accept (plus approval of and permission to) whatever lifestyle they live and choice they make. Even if the choice is sinful or harmful to their mental or physical health, we still must tolerate (e.g. accept) it.

If you don't agree to this kind of tolerance, then you are intolerant. we should "live and let live". Of course, this kind of idea false apart quickly when we oppose someone's views.

Other say that tolerance is "open-mindedness". The problem is that most who say they are "open-minded" have very set beliefs about a lot of things and when you disagree with them, their minds seem to close very quickly. Once again, GK Chesterton said it best:
"Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."
EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - No Catholic I know would think that harming a person with same-sex orientation was good. In fact, it is wrong to do so and this is what the Church clearly teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph #2358). But, it only takes one act of violence (which no Catholic should ever think is OK) against a student who is same-sex attracted in a public school to give license to teach that we all have to accept the gay lifestyle by implementing tolerance programming into the schools.

This is the modern idea of tolerance is being taught in public schools today and trumpeted to our culture.

Step #3 - Placing tolerance among the highest of the "virtues" of a Western democratic society.
A generally accepted definition of the word "virtue" = the habitual and firm disposition to do the good. This means that I do what is good easily and frequently.

The modern idea of tolerance is said to be a virtue. The problem with this idea is that it then leads to the conclusion that if it is a virtue, then it is morally "required" of all sane people in society and we are "obliged to cultivate the virtue of tolerance" (note - pdf in link).

Tolerance by intolerant demands has become a false virtue.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - Studies within Academia prove that there is a conscious effort to change the view of modern tolerance into a virtue, and thus an obligation. Here is a quote from the abstract of one such study (emphasis added):
Some political theorists argue for a view of political tolerance that requires more from people. These theorists define positive tolerance as peoples’ beliefs that they have a duty or obligation to take action to protect people’s freedom to be different. Such an obligation should lead people to take action to help people who belong to disliked groups so they can “lead the good life” and share in society’s benefits. Employing undergraduates in a study at a metropolitan Midwestern university, we develop the first such scale to measure positive tolerance. We demonstrate it is reliable with exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. We also find that among those prejudiced against gays and lesbians, positive tolerance leads to some support for the rights of gays and lesbians to both marry and adopt children. We conclude with a discussion of how some of the positively tolerant overlook their negative group affect to support gays and lesbians in “living the good life.”

Step #4 - Ignore the logical inconsistencies.
This radical understanding of tolerance is only useful if we ignore the logical inconsistencies inherent in it.

**We must be tolerant. Except when we are intolerant of intolerance.
**We must be open-minded. Except when we are close-minded about close-mindedness.

If you say that tolerance is accepting everything about others, then you should never have a problem with another disagreeing with you. If one thinks tolerance means acceptance of all actions (even actions another considers wrong), then the "tolerant" one must accept that others do not accept certain actions or those who are "tolerant" are being intolerant.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - Catholics who say that marriage should only be between one man and one woman are charged with bigotry and intolerance. The fact is that Catholics are limiting themselves as well with this idea, not just others. No person can marry another person of the same sex. So, it isn't about picking on one group, because the rule applies to all.

Some say it is about the "right to marry someone you love". But, as we have discussed in other posts, it is never loving to have ANY sexual act which might cause harm to the other, and a same-sex sexual act is, by nature, harmful to the both persons. Thus, it can't be about love.

It also isn't about "equality" either. The purpose of the state recognizing marriage and giving certain rights to married couples is because the state depends on the family to raise the children that naturally come from the family, so the state can survive and thrive. Same-sex couples, by nature, cannot have kids. Thus, they should not get legal recognition of their relationships or preferential treatment. I won't even get into the other reasons why gay marriage is a bad idea, but you can read about it here.

The logical inconsistency is that those who support same-sex marriages are intolerant of the Catholic Church's intolerance of same-sex marriage.

Step #5 - Malign those who hold-out against this idea of tolerance as prejudiced and bigoted.
The examples for this step are too numerous to give, though I have posted a few above.

It is obvious that this step is very important, because most people do not like to be told they are being mean, exclusive, or rejecting others. But, the problem is that the Church isn't doing this. They reject certain actions, because we believe they are harmful to others. This isn't mean - it is a LOVING ACT. If I think you are doing something bad and don't tell you - then I am acting cruel toward you.

But, if I am looking out for your best interests, then I am acting out of love.

CONCLUSION

Christianity IS INTOLERANT of :
  • sin
  • immorality
  • scandal
  • injury to another persons dignity
  • etc.
But, the Church is NOT intolerant of people.

We must fight against this false understanding of modern tolerance as a virtue and obligation. We must fight against sin. But, we must also tolerate other human beings and their human rights.

Words have meaning.
Thoughts have consequences.
"Are tolerance and belief in revealed truth opposites? Putting it another way: Are Christian faith and modernity compatible? If tolerance is one of the foundations of the modern age, then is not the claim to have recognized the essential truth an obsolete piece of presumption that has to be rejected if the spiral of violence that runs through the history of religions is to be broken? Today, in the encounter of Christianity with the world, this question arises ever more dramatically, and ever more widespread becomes the persuasion that renouncing the claim to truth in the Christian faith is the fundamental condition for a new universal peace, the fundamental condition for any reconciliation of Christianity with modernity."
-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
One more:
"We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty - these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it’s never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square — peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.”
-Archbishop Charles Chaput
Fr. Barron on the limits of tolerance:


More from Fr. Barron:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Patience With The Process of #Synod14

As I wrote yesterday, there is a big picture that is being missed in the news from the Synod in Rome. Fr. Robert Barron helps provide more perspective on the situation:
Having Patience for the Sausage-Making Synod
By Very Rev. Robert Barron

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, "Catholicism" and "Catholicism:The New Evangelization." Learn more at www.WordonFire.org

The midterm report on the deliberations of the Synod on the Family has appeared and there is a fair amount of hysteria all around. John Thavis, a veteran Vatican reporter who should know better, has declared this statement “an earthquake, the big one that hit after months of smaller tremors.” Certain commentators on the right have been wringing their hands and bewailing a deep betrayal of the Church’s teaching. One even opined that this report is the “silliest document ever issued by the Catholic Church,” and some have said that the interim document flaunts the teaching of St. John Paul II. Meanwhile the New York Times confidently announced that the Church has moved from “condemnation of unconventional family situations and toward understanding, openness, and mercy.” I think everyone should take a deep breath.

What has just appeared is not even close to a definitive, formal teaching of the Catholic Church. It is a report on what has been discussed so far in a synod of some two hundred bishops from around the world. It conveys, to be sure, a certain consensus around major themes, trends that have been evident in the conversations, dominant emphases in the debates, etc., but it decidedly does not represent “the teaching” of the Pope or the bishops.

One of the great mysteries enshrined in the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is that Christ speaks through the rather messy and unpredictable process of ecclesiastical argument. The Holy Spirit guides the process of course, but he doesn’t undermine or circumvent it. It is precisely in the long, laborious sifting of ideas across time and through disciplined conversation that the truth that God wants to communicate gradually emerges. If you want evidence of this, simply look at the accounts of the deliberations of the major councils of the Church, beginning with the so-called Council of Jerusalem in the first century right through to the Second Vatican Council of the twentieth century. In every such gathering, argument was front and center, and consensus evolved only after lengthy and often acrimonious debate among the interested parties. Read John Henry Newman’s colorful history of the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, and you’ll find stories of riots in the streets and the mutually pulling of beards among the disputants. Or pick up Yves Congar’s very entertaining diary of his years at Vatican II, and you’ll learn of his own withering critiques of the interventions of prominent Cardinals and rival theologians. Or peruse John O’Malley’s history of the Council of Trent, and you’ll see that early draft statements on the key doctrines of original sin and justification were presented, debated, and dismissed—long before final versions were approved.

Until Vatican II, these preliminary arguments and conversations were known only to the participants themselves and to certain specialist historians who eventually sifted through the records. The great teachings of the Councils became widely known and celebrated, but the process that produced them was, happily enough, consigned to the shadows. If I might quote the great Newman, who had a rather unsatisfying experience of official ecclesial life in Rome: “those who love the barque of Peter ought to stay out of the engine room!” This is a somewhat more refined version of “those who enjoy sausage ought never to watch how it is made.” The interim report on the Synod represents a very early stage of the sausage-making process and, unsurprisingly, it isn’t pretty. Two more weeks of discussion will follow; then a full year during which the findings of the Synod will be further refined, argued about, and clarified; then the Ordinary Synod on the Family will take place (the one going on now is the Extraordinary Synod), and many more arguments and counter-arguments will be made; finally, some months, perhaps even a year or so, after that, the Pope will write a post-Synodal exhortation summing up the entire process and offering a definitive take on the matter. At that point, I would suggest, something resembling edible sausage will be available for our consumption; until then, we should all be patient and refrain from bloviating.

The historian and theologian Martin Marty commented that our debates today about sex and authority are analogous to the arguments in the early centuries of the Church’s life concerning Christology and to the disputes about anthropology and salvation around the time of the Reformation. Those two previous dust-ups took several centuries to resolve, and Marty suggests that we might be in the midst of another centuries long controversy. I’m glad that Pope Francis, at the outset of this Synod, urged the participating bishops to speak their minds clearly and fearlessly. He didn’t want a self-censorship that would unduly hamper the conversation and thereby prevent the truth from emerging. This does not imply for a moment that Pope Francis will agree with every point of view expressed, and indeed he can’t possibly, since many are mutually exclusive. But it does indeed mean that he has the confidence and the patience required to allow the Holy Spirit to work in his preferred fashion.

Monday, October 13, 2014

10 Issues With The Media's Narrative About Catholicism & The Synod on Marriage & Family

Let us be clear, the narrative about the Catholic Church from the mainstream media is rarely accurate about the reality of the situation. So, when you see headlines which are like these below, it is natural to doubt them:
So, what is going on? Some background to set the scene:

Currently, there is a synod meeting in Rome about marriage and family issues. A synod is a gathering of Bishops (and some others) from all over the world. They gather with the Pope to reflect upon certain topics which are relevant to the entire Church.

The Synod is half over, so they released a report on some of the discussions. The media has taken what they believe are the highlights of the report and fashioned attention-grabbing headlines. But, there are many issues with the way they frame the issues, as we will see below.

Here are some of the problems with how the media is framing the narrative.


10 Issues With The Media's Narrative About Catholicism & The Synod on Marriage & Family

  1. The media frames all the synod's discussions in terms of politics. The usual narrative is progressive vs conservative and too often Catholics get caught in this game as well. We have to learn that these are political terms and don't really apply to The Church
  2. The media only sees the human element of the Church, not the divine element. There is more to the Catholic Church than just humans who have agendas, play political games, and are trying to get their way. But, since all the media sees are these human elements, the divine elements are not part of the story.
  3. A discussion on issues doesn't mean the Church is adopting every aspect of the discussion. Pope Francis has asked the Bishops in attendance to be honest and open. In other words, he is hoping that all options are thrown on the table. That doesn't mean the Catholic Church will be adopting every idea thrown into the mix. I have a feeling a lot of media will be disappointed at the end of it all.
  4. The Church is in the process of getting back to her primary mission (evangelization) and is examining everything she does in light of this mission, including marriage and family. Too often the Church has merely proclaimed the teachings of Jesus, rather than learning how to communicate them with charity and love of the those who she is speaking to. In understanding how we communicate is important, just as what we teach, there might be a change in tone but not content. Francis is particularly concerned with how Catholicism is perceived.
  5. The media is currently more about selling a product than fairness / truth in reporting. When most reporters write articles today, they are thinking in terms of making money for their employer, getting name recognition, and having readers pay attention. News media is rarely about accuracy, nuance, complexity, and getting the story straight. Remember all the major news outlets are now owned by mega-corporations who have investors that expect to make money. 
  6. The Church is still terrible about managing the media and working with the issues discussed above. Almost every major organization now has internal experts that help manage marketing, communications, and advertising. The Catholic Church does not and it shows. From the outdated design on the Vatican's website to the way they hold press conferences to the press releases they put out, most understand we are woefully deficient in this area. We don't manage media, marketing, and the press well, which means we don't get to set the story lines they print.
  7. Some folks in the media do not like the Catholic Church and will use every opportunity they can to put us in a bad light. Sometimes the "we are persecuted" line gets rolled out too much. But, the truth is there are still a good number of decision-makers in the media who have no love for Catholicism. Knowing this and doing something about it are two different things however.
  8. The Church has been discussing these issues for a while, but they didn't hit the press until Pope Francis started to change the perception of the Papal office. The problem with waging a "culture war" is someone seems to be an "enemy" and not very amenable to hearing the other side. Yet, look at the quote below. It appears very similar to what Francis is saying, but Francis is the one who is credited with shaking things up. Well, not necessarily: "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs." -Benedict XVI
  9. The issue is confused because of the failure to separate the action with the person, in regards to persons with same-sex attraction. Many people identify themselves as "gay" or "homosexual". This is unique, because they are identifying themselves with an action or desire. The issue is the Church separates each person from the things they do or desire. We are ALL children of God and precious. But, sometimes we do things that aren't good for us and sometimes we all do things that are wrong. This separation of act and person is a fundamental split between Catholicism and the media which reflects our wider modern culture.
  10. The Catholic Church doesn't have the power to change her doctrines, but how she communicates them is something else. Both these statements are true: (a) stealing is wrong and can have eternal consequences. (b) God's mercy can forgive anything we do wrong, if we are truly sorry. Which is more attractive? Most would say (b) is the more attractive option. The same goes for all the issues above. We can't change the teaching of Jesus, but how we communicate the truth is another thing.

Is the Catholic Church out of touch, out of date, and does it need to change? Well, some say so, but is that the reality?

The Church has suffered a great deal from clashing with modern cultural trends. Some have left the practice of the faith. Many criticize the Church as behind the times when it comes to sexuality, contraception, abortion, the role of women, bureaucracy, the scandals of individual Catholics (including leaders) who shame The Church, and issues with family / marriage.

It is true that when we look at the Church through the lens of modern western culture, that the Church is not trendy. Church leaders are not interested in changing doctrine to keep up with the times. It seems the Church is too old and stuck in her ways.

To be quite honest, this is a good thing. But, the Church isn't behind the times, she is above them.

What has our culture brought us:
  • Abortion on-demand
  • Hyper-sexualization
  • Addiction
  • Culture of death
  • More wars (in the 20th Century) than any other time in history
  • More slavery TODAY than any other time in history.
  • Divorce and broken families.
  • Pornography and selfishness.
  • etc.
Why would we ever think this culture is healthy or good enough to be a model for the Catholic Church to follow?
Why would we ever believe the modern way of thinking is really true?
Where is the beauty in this modern culture?

Here are just a few of the problems with believing the Church just needs to be updated to keep up with the culture:
  1. with this mindset we jettison all of the teachings of Christ, believing they are not applicable to us today.
  2. we make ourselves smarter than God. If we believe that the Church needs to change her ways, to line up with our thinking, then we are making ourselves the final judge of what is true and good = making ourselves a god.
The world needs the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has the answer for all the world's problems in the fullness of truth and the fullness of grace she offers to the world. The Church gives us a moral anchor, an answer to broken families, addiction, sin, war, violence, abuse, and all the other issues in our culture. More than ever the world needs the Catholic Church, if our society is to last. This answer is the personal relationship with Jesus that the Catholic Church offers to us all through the Sacramental grace, teachings of the Church, and in our own personal prayer we all need.

Jesus created one Church. We are that Church, the Catholic Church and if the world needs the Catholic Church, then the Church needs saints. We need to be holy if we are to change the world.

NOTE - Comments are welcome, but discussion MUST remain charitable at all times. Comments are strictly monitored.

How Much Money Should I Give To My Church?


Q - I feel a call to give more money to the Church, but I don't know where to start? How much do I give? To whom? Help me out here!

A - Thanks for the questions. Stewardship (care and supervision of something another owns) of our resources is something that many struggle with. Let me start with some principles that may help:
  1. All of our gifts, talents, objects, relationships, etc. are gifts from God that we are given for a short time to take care of. This comes with a serious responsibility.
  2. We will be held accountable for our stewardship by God.
  3. Tithing and stewardship are about faith not money.
  4. Our perception of our needs may not match the reality of them.
  5. We can be either tippers or tithers with God. Tippers believe God exists to serve us. Tithers believe we exist to serve God.
  6. Prayer and discernment should always accompany such decisions.
These principles can help us to rightly order our giving.

First, there is no mandate by the Church that we have to give a certain percentage. Still, the Biblical model is 10% of gross income as demonstrated by the following passage (as well as others):
"Speak to the Levites and say to them: 'When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering." -Numbers 18:26
Second, it isn't so much about the percent of our gift as much as what is happening in the heart. Paul tells us:
"On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made." -1 Cor 16:2
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." - 2 Cor 9:7
My own recommendation is that you start with a certain percent (say 5%) of whatever gross income you receive (include any money you receive in support of your expenses). Then set up a different account as a tithing account. Do nothing with this money but give it away. Give half of the % you are putting away to the church you attend and the other half to your diocese, other charities, and mission groups.

Continue to up the percent as long as you can do so until you (at least) reach the Biblical model of 10%.

Remember that faith is certainly required and that prayer should always accompany all of these acts of charity and that all these recommendations are merely guidelines. Some give away much more than 10%, some less. In fact, some give away a majority of their income, but these are the exceptions, not the rule.

God is always pleased with a good steward of his gifts. The Catechism even defines a Christian based on the principle of stewardship.
“A Christian is a steward of the Lord's goods.” (CCC, 952)
Finally, think of the whole issue this way. God gives us everything we have and only asks for a small portion back.

I hope this helps.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How Can We Be Both Equal & Yet Different?


Many define equality based on our actions. So, you could say that equality, as defined by modernity, is being able to perform the same functions as everyone else. But, there is something missing if we define equality as mere "sameness" in action. The Scriptures and Church teaching tell us more about what true equality is.

Being made in God's image and likeness teaches us all of these things below and more:
  • We all share in a magnificent gift of God - our creation.
  • We each have an equal dignity (worth) given by God.
  • Our equality with one another is based on this dignity.
  • Being different from one another does not affect our equality or dignity.
  • We are not God.
  • Our individual uniqueness has meaning and goodness.
  • Our uniqueness tells us something about God.
  • Our differences should compliment one another.
  • Our differences are gifts from God and are part of God's plan for creation.
Remember this - God is three persons in one Divine nature - a Trinity of persons. Thus, he is a family and community of persons. The three persons do not differ in action or nature, but by relationship with one another. Therefore, when we were created, we were made with a share in God's image and likeness in 2 ways:
  1. Each individual human reflects God's image in likeness - just as God has a divine intellect (knows things) and a divine will (freedom to make choices) so each individual human has a human intellect and will. 
  2. We are also made in the image and likeness of God as a community of persons. Just as there is a Divine Father and Son + the love between them, so we are called to image God by being in communion with others, especially our families.
The Catechism says this:
 "1704 The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection "in seeking and loving what is true and good."
and:
1702 The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves
In the communion of persons we live out the image of God not only through our own individual gift of humanity, but also through the communion with others.

Thus, we are called to see how God is reflected in our own selves as well as in others, even though they are different. Each of us reveals, in a mysterious way, a truth about the nature of God, which was given to us in our creation. Part of our purpose in life is to find God's presence within. Our humanity is connected to our individual giftedness and in the differences we each live out the image and likeness of the Trinity in a different way.

What we need to avoid is the idea that equality = "sameness". This is wrong. We can never be truly equal if this is true, because there is no way to achieve "sameness", due to our innate differences.

We must ask how our differences complement each other, and how we are tied to one another and to God. If we side with the view of sameness and the world-view that humanity is defined by what we do, then, for example, the unborn child has no rights since it cannot "do" anything (nor is it the "same" as a fully developed human). But if we side with the Church and the sacramental, sign-value, view of humanity, then our dignity is tied to the fulfilment of our beings as found in each other and in the relationships God created between us.

True equality acknowledges our differences and then finds that which transcends them and is shared by all - our human dignity. Thus, we are "different but equal" while still being made in God's image and likeness.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

25 Things We Can't Control

Here is the authoritative list of things You and I can't control.
Indirectly it is also a list of things we shouldn't control.


25 Things We Can't Control
  1. What others say
  2. What others do
  3. What others think
  4. What others feel
  5. God's will
  6. Natural Disasters
  7. The International Economy
  8. Gas Prices
  9. Traffic
  10. War
  11. Famine
  12. Who is in my family
  13. The reality of death
  14. Being created
  15. Weather
  16. Balding
  17. Growing old (time)
  18. Physical / Mental limitations
  19. The Catholic Church's teachings
  20. The future
  21. Cats
  22. Getting a disease
  23. The past
  24. What someone will think about me
  25. Most of life
Of course this doesn't mean we don't try to control some of these things sometimes.
Nor does it mean that we can't control the most important thing  of all - choosing Christ as Lord.

What it does mean is we can stop worrying so much and abandon ourselves to God now. That would help.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why Do Catholics Pray to Mary?


To understand why Catholics pray to Mary, you must first know that Catholics do not worship or adore Mary or the other Saints. We worship God alone. To pray to a Saint is to ask them to intercede on our behalf, just as we would a friend on earth. 

The book of James says this:
"The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." - James 5:16
Now, who is more righteous than those perfected in heaven? Thus, we ask the Saints to pray for us, because the Bible tells us they have powerful prayers.

The next question is then - can they hear us?
The answer is yes. Jesus says:
“And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” -Matthew 22:31-32
--Note that Jesus is telling us that those in heaven are alive. But, they now have a new and higher way of living. They have been glorified in Christ once they enter into heaven. In fact, it could be said that they are much more alive than those of us still on earth.
“And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” -Matthew 17:3-5
--Here, during the Transfiguration, Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah, who are very aware of what has been happening on earth. So, from this we can come to the conclusion that death does not separate those in heaven from those on earth.

Remember Paul teaches that we are all members of Christ’s body, the Church. The Book of Hebrews echoes this when it teaches that those who have gone before us into heaven still witness what happens on earth.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us” -Hebrews 12:1
Since we are all made members of Christ's mystical body, we are all connected to one another and even death cannot separate us from Christ. Christ could have told us that praying for one another didn't matter, but he did the opposite. He told us (as did Paul and many others in Scripture) to pray for one another, because God acts through his Church on earth, and in heaven, to give us grace through the prayers of others.

What I believe is the most amazing evidence from the Bible of the Saints in heaven hearing our prayers is from the book of Revelation.
“When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.” -Revelations 5:8
--We see that the elders and four living creatures (who represent the Saints and Angels in heaven) are offering the prayers of those on earth before Jesus. I don’t think it could get much clearer. In Revelation 8 there is another incident of heavenly intercession.
“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it down to the earth. There were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” -Revelations 8:3-5
Lastly, we have evidence from Christ himself.
“I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. "Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, `Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.' In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” -Luke 15:7-10
----Those in heaven could not rejoice over a sinner repenting on earth unless they knew about it.
One more reference of Christ talking about this subject is found in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. Those who have suffered bodily death, still are asking for help for those on earth (intercession) with knowledge of what is happening.

Getting to the question outside the Biblical evidence, we can support the fact that those in heaven can hear our prayers because it fits with what we know about God and humans. Just as no person can achieve heaven on their own power, so a Saint in heaven cannot hear prayers of those on earth from their own power. But, being glorified in Christ they now have a share in God's divine nature, because they are in perfect union with Him. This means they participate in the grace of God to a greater degree than we can even imagine. While God is the only one who by nature is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent – the Saints in heaven can in some way share in these traits. The number of prayers offered is finite, so to be able to “hear” all prayers wouldn’t take the gift of omniscience, but rather just raising our nature to a higher level.

We must also remember that the heavenly existence is no longer bound by time. There is no time but eternity in heaven. Therefore, we must not try and answer a question of this nature by using our own limited understanding of how things work in this life.

Based on the overwhelming evidence from Scripture, the constant Tradition of the Church as well as the fact that it is theologically acceptable, we can be assured that the Saints in heaven can hear our prayers and are praying for us.

This is why we pray to Saints.

Remember that prayer to Saints is not the same idea as prayer to God. There is no worship, adoration, or praise of the Saints. Rather, just like we would ask someone on earth to pray for us, we do the same with our heavenly friends. Mary is the most blessed of all people to have lived on earth. We ought not downplay the important role she played in the life of Jesus. Nobody, except Jesus, ever got to pick who their mother was going to be. Based on that alone, we should honor Mary, just as Jesus did. If we are Jesus' brothers and sisters, then we also have a spiritual mother in Mary.

To ask her to pray for us is therefore biblical, logical, and good.

Mary pray for us!



Monday, October 6, 2014

What Confirmation Is & Is Not


Because the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are so closely tied together, the best place to start exploring Confirmation is to begin by exploring what both the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are and are not.

Baptism is the first of the Sacraments of Initiation, that is, a Sacrament which cleanses our souls of the guilt (not the stain) of original sin, makes us partakers of the Divine Nature, brings us into the family of God (the Church), makes us sons and daughters of the Father & brothers and sisters of Christ, and it gives us sanctifying and actual grace. It is not complete in the sense that it doesn't give us every grace we need to have a mature Christian faith. Rather, it is the gateway into a Christian and Sacramental life.

The Catechism describes Baptism in this way:
1213 “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”
Baptism is not intended by Christ to do everything for us in the spiritual life, but to begin a process of living a life bound to Him and the Church.

Confirmation is the strengthening process of the graces we already received in baptism. It is NOT just an affirmation of the person getting confirmed, as if it is about what we do – but more about what Christ does for us. Most Catholics believe it to be the other way around. They incorrectly view Confirmation as our “choosing Christ” and about our desire to be Catholic.

In reality, the traditional ordering of the Sacraments is Baptism – Confirmation – Eucharist. Only in the last 100 years or so has the process changed to have Confirmation come after Eucharist. But, there is a trend, in some areas of the Church, to reverse this.

In Vatican II, the Church taught the following:
“They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ” (LG, 11)
This teaching about how we become evangelists, full of the Holy Spirit, who go out into the world to preach and live the Gospel comes straight from the Bible:
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 8:14-17
We see here that Baptism isn't complete nor is it all there is. The laying on of hands (Confirmation) was needed for the completion of the Sacrament and the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what happens in Confirmation. It is the same thing that happened to the Apostles at Pentecost. Once they received the Holy Spirit they immediately went out and preached.

Furthermore, we see in Acts 19:5-6 that there are baptized Christians in Ephesus who Paul lays hands on so they receive the Holy Spirit.

The Church Fathers echo these understandings of Confirmation:
"And about your laughing at me and calling me "Christian," you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first anointed? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God."
-Theophilus of Antioch (AD 181)
and
"After coming from the place of washing we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction, from the ancient discipline by which those in the priesthood...were accustomed to be anointed with a horn of oil, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses. So also with us, the unction runs on the body and profits us spiritually, in the same way that baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged in water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from sins. After this, the hand is imposed for a blessing, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit."
-Tertullian (AD 203).
The Catechism states:
CCC, 1303 “From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!";
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:”
So, in the sense that our Baptism isn’t enough to complete (but rather begin) our initiation into Christ, it isn’t enough. In the sense that Baptism does what Christ intended it to do (begin the life of grace) – it is enough.

Fr. Barron tells us even more -



You might also check out the 35 Saints Names Rarely Picked For Confirmation!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Study Shows Porn Users Are More Narcissistic


A study led by Thomas Kasper, a Former Student of Texas A&M and St. Mary's (he was an intern here at St. Mary's also), shows porn users measure significantly higher when tested for narcissism. it was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy and was entitled, "Narcissism and Internet Pornography Use". The abstract of the study states:
This study examined the relation between Internet pornography use and narcissism. Participants (N=257) completed an online survey that included questions on Internet pornography use and 3 narcissism measures (i.e., Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Pathological Narcissistic Inventory, and the Index of Sexual Narcissism). The hours spent viewing Internet pornography was positively correlated to participants’ narcissism level. In addition, those who have ever used Internet pornography endorsed higher levels of all 3 measures of narcissism than did those who have never used Internet pornography.
Slate has already picked up the study and said the following:
Thomas Kasper of the University of Houston – Clear Lake, one of the authors of the article, explains that theory. At the core is the fact that narcissists are fundamentally selfish. He reasons that watching more pornography may change our view of sexual partners.“Pornography is limited to just pleasure or pleasure for ourselves. When it is limited to these conditions, it feeds our narcissism. Individuals may begin to view others [as] less whole and use them for their own needs/wants/desires.”

Certainly, pornography objectifies women (and sometimes men) and minimizes the emotional components of sex. It is interesting to contemplate if that watching it might, in turn, make us more selfish as human beings.
CONTINUE READING.
Congratulations to Thomas for getting published and for doing this important work in helping the culture see the dange pornography is to relationships, individuals, and our world.

---------------------------

FURTHER READING:
**What is Wrong With Porn?
**Porn Hurts Others
**The Science Of Internet Porn - What Happens To The Brain & The Body
**The Cost of Porn
**Pornography Research
**Porn Is More Addictive Than Cocaine or Heroin!
**Porn & Support For Same-Sex Marriage
**If You Aren't Convinced Porn Is Destroying Our Culture - Read This!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How To Understand Predestination From A Catholic Perspective

Q - I was having a discussion about free will and the concept of predestination with a Catholic friend. Now, I am thoroughly confused as to if and how the concept of predestination fits into our faith. The idea put forth by my friend was that through efficacious grace alone can we accept God. Also, this grace is offered only to some and that it is not within us to reject it. I do not see how free will fits with this idea. Will you straighten me out – should I believe in predestination as a Catholic?

A - Thanks for the question.  This is a common question and many Catholics wrestle with it. Predestination can be understood in many different ways and considering how you define it we can say the simple answer is, yes, the Catholic Church teaches predestination as part of the doctrine of the Church. But, what exactly does that mean?

A definition of predestination can be taken from the Catechism:
"To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness." - CCC, 600
Notice how predestination is defined. God knows all who will accept His gift of saving grace.  So, for all time, the knowledge of God being unlimited, God has known whom would say "yes" to His grace. This is the plan of salvation offered to us from the Father, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The confusion about this doctrine arises when theologians attempt to explain how the mystery of free will, grace, and the fore-knowledge of God all fit together. There are several options for Catholics to choose from and we are free to do so.  But, there are also some positions the Church rejects.

The first position the Church rejects is one called Pelagianism.  This originated from a man called Pelagius who taught we choose free will apart from God's grace. In other words, Pelagius taught that we don't need God's assistance to save ourselves, it is all an act of our own will. This has always been rejected by the Church, because it makes salvation a work of man. We certainly can't choose to save ourselves by any act of the will alone, apart from God's gift of grace first acting on us.

The second position the Church rejects is sometimes called double predestination. This is the position of some who follow the Calvinist/Reformed tradition. This is the teaching which says God actively chooses some to go to heaven and damns others to hell. This would mean we have no free will to choose salvation at all, but all the work is from God alone and we cannot change our destiny, but it is predetermined no matter what. It also means God is the cause damnation, which the Church has always rejected.

Notice the first error removes God as the prime actor and second removes any cooperation from man. So, where does that leave us?  It leaves us with several options.

The first option is built from both St. Augustine and then St. Thomas Aquinas. Others come from Molina and other scholars. I won't go into the details here, but let me sum up the positions by saying that the Thomists emphasize grace and the Molinists emphasize free will. But, neither camp rejects the other side they do not emphasize.

Here are the things the Catholic Church teaches about predestination and the doctrines surrounding it:
  • God is the source of all good.  God does not create evil (which isn't really a "thing", but rather an absence of a good).  God cannot do an evil act.
  • God allows humans to choose to do good or evil.  We have free will.  It is possible to reject God's grace.
  • God's knowledge is infinite. There is nothing He does not know.
  • God wills (desires) that all be saved.
  • God always acts first. His grace comes and then we are empowered by it to be able to respond.
  • Even after saving grace is received, we can reject it later.
Within the framework of this discussion about predestination, a Catholic has the freedom to formulate how it all works out.  Thus the different opinions from Thomists, Molinists, etc.

I hope this helps.

Here are some other posts that relate to this subject that might be of use:
-Salvation and Catholics
-"Faith Alone"
-Am I Saved?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Aggie Catholic Who Died Recently Wants You To Know Something

I got an email from John, a former student, recently.
It read:
Danny Manthei died on August 10 of colon cancer. He was 41, and left behind a young wife and four children, ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 months.

A few days before he died, he recorded a series of videos about why he loves being Catholic. He talks about his drifting away from the faith as a college student, and about how St. Mary's helped him come back.

Danny deeply wanted to inspire others to love their faith. I thought you might want to post one or more of these videos to the St. Mary's blog.

P.S. The Friday 5:30 pm Mass and Sunday 10:00 am Mass at St. Mary's will be offered for him this week.
Thanks John! You are correct, I do want others to know about Danny's message.


Other videos from Danny can be found here.
Please join us in praying for Danny's soul and his family.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Is There Really a Universal Moral Law???


The basics of any morality is "do good, avoid evil". But, if we change the definition of "good", then we can't help but act in a way which isn't truly good. So, the problems we see are really found in a morality which comes from an individuals' faulty determination of what is "good" (i.e. relativism).

Goodness must transcend us, if it is to have a moral obligation on us all. C.S. Lewis explains it well and I believe you will truly learn something if you watch the video below.
"The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

10 Defective Images of God


When I was a child, I had a very child-like image of God, which came with both positives and negatives.

I remember thinking of God as a wise old man, with a long white beard. He sat on clouds and looked quite sour most of the time. He was a judge who saw everything I did and waited for me to do wrong. When I sinned, He would get me back - one way or another. It was like a childhood idea of karma tha I had projected upon God.

On the other hand, God also forgave anything I asked Him to. He had all the answers and was all-powerful. This gave me some peace and comfort.

Once I took on an adult faith, I had to deal with other defective images of God I had taken on through the years. These faulty images have implications in how I act, how I see others, how I view the world, etc.

The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"There are three images in my mind which I must continually forsake and replace by better ones: the false image of God, the false image of my neighbours, and the false image of myself."
All of us must deal, at some point or another, with our disordered views of God. Below are a few of the most common and the problems they may present.

10 Defective Images of God

1 - The Multiple Personality God - God is the same for all religions and beliefs. He/She/It takes on different forms, but is the same. So, it really doesn't matter if you are a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Pagan, an atheist, or a Christian. We all worship the same God, just in different ways and all of them are equally valid.

2 - The Divine Yet Disconnected Watchmaker. This view of God is Deistic (God is creator of the universe, but not involved in it personally anymore), but it is more common than you might think. Less than 50% of Catholics believe in a "personal God"! If God does not care about each of us individually, then the implications are enormous - What does faith matter? How ought I act? Who am I?

3 - The All-Powerful Cop. This understanding of God tends to see Him as a cop, hiding behind a cloud, waiting to pull us over and give us a ticket for our bad behavior. It is the same understanding I had as a child - that God merely cared about what we did wrong. If God loves us, we are more than our sins! This image of God is based in guilt, not mercy. Many folks who struggle with self-image and guilt will have to overcome this idea of God.

4 - The Non-Judgmental Drinking Buddy. If we see God as someone who really doesn't care how we act, then our actions don't matter at all. He is then reduced to a drinking buddy, who doesn't really want what is best for us or care to challenge us to live a great life - rather He just wants us to "feel" good about everything (even sinful & unhealthy ones) we do and ultimately he is an enabler, not God. This God is irrelevant in our daily lives.

5 - The Teddy Bear God. Sometimes we limit God to a nice easy list of concepts we can understand and therefore deal with. It may be that God is powerful - but not ALL-powerful. God might be merciful - but not mercy itself! This comforts many people, because then God is "safer" for them to deal with. These limitations on God are actually limitations on our understanding of God, not on the nature of God Himself. This would make God powerless to change us and one who never "judges" us.
6 - The Me, Myself, and I God. We project God into an image of what we want him to be. In other words, instead of humanity being made in the "image and likeness" of God, we make God into our own image and likeness. This means we can make a God who thinks, acts, and lives just like we would like him to. This kind of God is neutered, even if personal in som way.

7 - The Uncle Joe God. This kind of God is handed down to us from ages past. We follow him because our parents, grandparents, and anscestors did. Far from being a God who we know personally, He is like our long-lost Uncle Joe who is disconnected from the present, but we have fond memories of from our childhood.

8 - The Puppeteer God. This image of God is one who controls the actions of everything and makes no sense in how he orchestrates things. He lets natural disasters happen, lets kids die, gives us cancer, etc. Yet we are never able to figure out the reasons for it all. This God is cruel and doesn't relate to our human suffering.

9 - The Party-Pooper God. God is merely out to suck fun out of your life. You can't do what you want, you can't have fun, you can't... Rather, you have to just follow a strict list of rules. If you don't, then God is goingo to see you singing, having fun, etc and come take away all your goodies - just like the Grinch did to Whoville.

10 - The Cosmic Vending Machine In The Sky. Many people believe God is merely there to serve their needs. As long as the put in their good deeds, prayers, etc. they can "pay" God to do their bidding. This isn't the way a relationship works. If we see prayer and our relationship with God as a mere service in exchange for a payment, we have a vending machine (or a butler) in the sky - not a living God who may not answer our prayers just as we want. Furthermore, we aren't able to do enough to save ourselves. It is only through God's grace that we attain salvation.

--

These are only 10 of the many ways we can misunderstand God's nature. The way we fix these problems (and others) is by continued conversion in faith, that is, we constantly seek to allow God to reveal Himself to us, through:
  • Sacred Scripture
  • prayer
  • The Sacraments
  • other people
  • nature
  • etc.
To be attentive to how God speaks to us and reveals Himself to us, we have to make ourselves available to Him and once we receive such grace, we must allow our minds and hearts to be transformed. Thus, we have to choose to act on His grace. In this, our hearts can be attuned to understand Him more deeply. Which is why the discovery of God's nature is a never-ending task, even in heaven.

Yet, these revelations of God to our hearts can transform us deeply, just as when God revealed Himself to St. Augustine:
“Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. These things kept me far from thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in thee. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace.” -St. Augustine

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

3 Myths About Catholics and The Bible


Many non-Catholic Christians still hold the common misconception that Catholics are discouraged from reading the Bible. Below is some background and more.

3 Myths About Catholics and The Bible

The first thing we need to do is shed ourselves of our preconceived ideas. We take for granted now that anyone can have a Bible if they want one. Yet not only has this not been the case through most of Christian history, but it isn't the case in many parts of the world still today (North Korea, Middle Eastern countries, etc). Remember that a majority of people during Christian history couldn't read well, if at all. Most didn't have access until books, even after the printing press, because of the high costs.

With all of this background, we can see that throughout most of the 2,000 years of history of Christianity, Bibles were not an everyday possession of most common people. So, the way they learned about the Bible was through other means - Mass, fine art (think stained glass windows, murals, paintings, music, etc), stories, and oral tradition. With this being said there are a number of "myths" surrounding the Catholic Church and the Bible. Here are 3 of them:

1 - The Catholic Church chained Bibles to keep the from the people.
-more accurately, they were chained because they were so valuable and a church might have only one copy. For most of the Church's history the Bible was transcribed by hand (many by monks) and they were very expensive. This was not to keep Bibles from the people but rather to keep them from being stolen.

2 - The Catholic Church discourages personal Bible reading because they know that if you read the Bible for yourself you will find the truth behind their lies.
-This one sounds silly, but many believe it to be true. The problem is that the Catholic Church has always maintained that Scripture is indispensable to a Christian. In fact, the Church even compiled the canon of the Bible.

3 - The Catholic Church banned early translations of the Bible because they didn't want common people to read it and know the truth.
-Rather, the Church banned early translations because they were done "unofficially" and without proper Church oversight. Most contained errors and the Church banned them because they were bad translations - just as the Jehovah's Witnesses have a bad translation today, filled with many errors, some of the deliberate (if only we were protected from some of the bad translations we have today).

There are many more myths, but what happened is that they worked there way into the consciousness of many people, even today.

Another factor in perpetuating the myth is the confusion that ensued after Vatican II in the 60's. If you want to read about some of that, you can in previous posts I have made here and here. Suffice it to say that many problems in the Church were amplified after Vatican II, including Biblical teaching.

So, are Catholics discouraged from reading the Bible? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
In fact, here are a few pertinent quotes from through the ages about the Bible:
"Flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures."
-Irenaeus, 2nd Cent.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ"
-St. Jerome, 5th Cent.

"The church of believers is great, and its bosom most ample; it embraces the fullness of the two Testaments."
-Ephraem, 4th Cent.

"If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."
-St. Augustine, 4th Cent.

"Holy Scripture is a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade."
-Pope St. Gregory, 6th Cent.

"Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful."
-Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 20th Cent.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

10 Things To Know About Marian Apparitions


10 Things To Know About Marian Apparitions

10 - A Marian apparition = when Mary is reportedly appearing to a person (or several people) in order to give a supernatural message from God. Generally, the apparitions are given names based on the location of the appearances (e.g. Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal)

9 - No person is required to believe in any Marian apparitions. They are considered "private revelations", even if approved by the Church as authentic. We are only bound to believe in public revelation that came from Jesus Christ and has been passed down to us through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition - preserved by the Magisterium of the Church.

8 - Catholics are still free to believe in Marian apparitions, even though not required to. The Church may decide that an apparition is worthy of belief, but whether an individual truly does so or not, is left up to the individual.

7 - An authentic Marian apparition will never add or detract anything from the deposit of faith. Part of how an apparition is judged to be authentic or not is dependent on the content of the reported teaching - does it maintain orthodoxy with the teaching handed down from the Apostles?

6 - Generally speaking it takes many years for the Church to make a decision on an authentic apparition. Many non-authentic apparitions are easier to spot, but the Church sees no rush to approve any apparition. The process normally starts at the Diocesan level and may never even make it to the Vatican.

5 - Millions of pilgrims visit apparition sites annually. The most visited site is Guadalupe, which receives over 10 million visits a year. Lourdes and Fatima are the next most-visited.

4 - Stoking the fires of devotion to a non-approved apparition might not be a prudent thing to do. Many good Catholics have a devotion to non-approved apparitions. There is a chance they might not be approved after the investigation is complete. If that happens, there are few good outcomes for the devotees. Some may believe either they believe the Church's decision is wrong or their faith in the apparition isn't valid.

3 - The purposes of apparitions is to enliven faith, for the purpose of conversion, and to give a needed message to God's people. Mary is the great facilitator for the one mediator (her son).

2 - False reports of apparitions can be for a number of reasons. They might be because of hoaxes, a mentally-ill person, or someone might fool themselves into believing they are truly seeing/hearing something they are not.

1 - Devotion to Marian apparitions may help strengthen your faith. Millions of people have come to a deeper love of Christ through devotion to his Blessed Mother's appearances around the world. They are great signs of God's loving care for his people and can emphasize a point of faith the world needs to hear at this time.


MARY PRAY FOR US!

LINKS OF INTEREST:
**Why do Catholics Pray To Saints?
**Can The Saints Hear Us?
**What is The Immaculate Conception?

Monday, September 22, 2014

8 Dos and Don’ts When Reading the Bible

We live in a world of dos and don’ts. We use them every day: Do brush your teeth. Don’t drive too fast. They seem to impact our lives from minute to minute. Our consciences, our faith, and our knowledge of the world help us manage all the dos and don’ts we encounter. This goes for our relationship with God as well. When reading and applying the Bible to our daily lives, a few simple dos and don’ts will help us bring the Bible more clearly into our daily lives.
8 Dos and Don’ts When Reading the Bible

1 - DO: Read the Bible frequently, daily if possible. DON'T: Let your Bible go unread today.
–This one is simple in principle and difficult in practice for many of us. An analogy may help. The Bible is commonly referred to as a love letter from God to his people, the church. But, what good is a love letter when it is rarely opened, read with anticipation, and absorbed into one’s heart and mind? We, as members of the church, as God’s beloved, should relish the opportunity to read God’s love letter one more time.

2 - DO: Focus on the big-picture of the Bible. DON'T: Get caught up in too many details.
–There is no doubt that some details are important. But, they can become distractions when we fail to see the bigger story of God coming to us. When we are able to zoom out and see the big picture of the Bible, we can really see God wooing his people and the love story within Scripture.

3 - DO: Read the Bible expecting to encounter God. DON'T: Read the Bible to prove someone wrong.
–Reading the Bible is an opportunity to commune with God, who made us. It is a chance to find out about who we are made to be and to learn about the one who made us. It is not supposed to be a book of arguments that can be used against someone with whom we disagree. I know from first-hand experience the turmoil that can occur when we use the Bible as a weapon in an argument.

4 - DO: Read the Bible slowly and prayerfully. DON'T: Read the Bible for dos and don’ts.
–The Bible is not just a book of what we are to do and not do. It is a book about a relationship that God forms with each of us and His pursuit and forgiveness of us. So do read the Bible slowly and prayerfully seek to understand God’s word and live it in your everyday life.

5 - DO: Stop reading when you are struck by a word or phrase. DON'T: Chug right through until you reach the end.
–The first to reach the end of the next chapter doesn’t get a gold medal. If something affects you when reading Scripture, then stop and reflect on why it moved you. Don't think of reading the Bible as a project to get completed.

6 - DO: Use good solid Bible commentaries. DON'T: Neglect reading the text of the Bible in favor of them.
–The point of using commentaries is to supplement one’s reading of the Bible, not to take the place of it. While a good commentary can certianly help you have a deeper understanding of the Bible, head knowledge isn't the goal - loving Jesus more is.

7 - DO: Get a good Bible. DON'T: Get caught up in which translation is best.
–One of the more common questions Catholics ask is “which translation is best?For most people, the best translation of the Bible is the one you read. However, there are different translations to explore, if that is your choice, with a range of choices. If you want a specific recommendation, I would recommend the RSV-Catholic Edition, and even more specific - the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (although only the Old Testament isn't completed yet).

8 - DO: Make changes in your life when challenged by Scripture. DON'T: Put the changes off for another time.
–Christ is the Great Doctor. Christ’s grace is the medicine He offers us. One avenue of receiving that grace is through reading and applying Scripture to our lives. If we fail to apply it, then it is as if we went to the doctor and were diagnosed with a disease (realized our need for God’s grace); were given a prescription and bought it (read the Bible); but then never took the medicine that could make us healthy again (failed to apply the Bible to our lives).

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The Bible is a great gift from God to His people. May all of us take the time to unwrap the gift and share it with others by living it out.

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