Friday, March 30, 2007

Relativism

Steven Barr has a great blog entry on relativism. Couldn't have said it better.

Another Reason To Use NFP

Here is just one more great reason to use NFP:
Madrid, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA).- A study by the Billings Foundation has revealed that the use of natural family planning could be a better weapon in combating abortion and sterility among Chinese women.

An article in the Spanish magazine “Alba” presented the amazing results of the study. The use of natural family planning by four million Chinese women reduced the average percentage of abortions from 4.6% to 0.6%, and of 40,000 women who considered themselves unable to bear children, 39,000 achieved conception.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ecumenism

Ecumenism is the quest for unity of all of Christianity. It involves doctrine, dialogue, prayer, and truth. Both JPII and Benedict have a passion for the unity of Christianity. But, it won't come quick or easy.

Recently PBXVI has written and talked extensively on ecumenism. Let me highlight some of it.

-On the prayer for unity that Jesus prays in the high priestly prayer in the Gospel of John, he said:
The task of Christ's disciples, the task of each of us, is therefore to tend toward that unity, in such a way that we become, as Christians, the visible sign of his saving message, addressed to every human being.
-Here is a great reminder of how we should approach our non-Catholic brothers and sisters:
We know very well that it is not we who will heal the wounds of division and re-establish unity; we are simple instruments that God will be able to employ. Unity among Christians will be a gift of God, in his time of grace. Let us humbly tend toward that day, growing in love, in mutual forgiveness and in mutual trust.
In reflecting on the problems we all face, he said:
We note much progress in the field of ecumenism and yet we always await something more. Allow me to draw attention to two questions for today, in somewhat greater detail. The first concerns the charitable service of the churches. There are many brothers and sisters who expect from us the gift of love, of trust, of witness, of spiritual and concrete material help. I referred to this problem in my first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," in which I said: "Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practice love" (No. 20).
He continues:
The second question to which I want to refer concerns married life and family life. We know that among Christian communities, called to witness to love, the family occupies a special place. In today's world, in which international and intercultural relations are multiplying, it happens increasingly often that young people from different traditions, different religions, or different Christian denominations, decide to start a family. For the young people themselves and for those dear to them, it is often a difficult decision that brings with it various dangers concerning both perseverance in the faith and the future structuring of the family, the creation of an atmosphere of unity in the family and of suitable conditions for the spiritual growth of the children.
If you want the full text of his speech. You can get it here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Triduum

Q - What is the Triduum?

A - Thanks for the question. The Triduum is made up of the three days before Easter - Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It is a single prayer of final preparation where we enter into the redemption of humanity and the salvation of the world made present in the Resurrection of our Lord.

This is the holiest part of the year and makes present the mystery of Jesus passion and death before He rises again.

Holy Thursday - The Mass of the Lord's Supper, it is the celebration of the first Eucharist in the upper room. This is when we have the annual washing of feet. Usually there is no other Mass celebrated on this day. Extra hosts are consecrated and then all of the Blessed Sacrament are taken from the Church and the tabernacle is left open to signify our longing for Christ. We have adoration after this mass as our last act of worship before the sorrow of Good Friday.

Good Friday - Celebration of the Lord's Passion. There is no Mass this day. Usually there are Stations of The Cross and a Communion service. This is when we have veneration of the Cross and the entire Passion of Christ is read by several lectors and the priest.

Easter Vigil - This is the high-point of the Church's year. During this celebration of Christ's death and Resurrection we have the RCIA candidates and elect receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist). The vigil must take place after night falls. It starts with an Easter fire outside of the Church. Then the paschal (Easter) candle is lit and processed into the Church. Then we all share the light of Christ with one another. Afterward, we have the Liturgy of the Word, which will have many readings about the story of God's Salvation history (7 Old Testament and 2 New Testament readings). Then after the homily, we celebrate baptism and confirmation. After this we celebrate the Eucharist. It is a long and absolutely beautiful liturgy with many "smells and bells".

We should prayerfully enter into the coming Holy Week in preparation for Christ's rising from the dead.

Christ have mercy on us all!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Annunciation

Blessed Annunciation to all. I hope that we can all continue to learn how to say "yes" to God's will during this day of celebrating Mary's fiat.

We must remember though, that a "yes" to God is a "yes" to all that His will entails. It isn't just for the good things and those things that we want. It is saying to God that we will accept His Divine Providence in each and every circumstance in our lives.

Mary's affirmation of love, which was preceded by God's gift of grace to empower her to abandon herself to His will, led not only to the beautiful birth of God's only Son. It also led to his suffering and death. Mary said "yes" to it all.

May we have such courage.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

GK Chesterton

One of the wisest and most quotable of modern Catholic authors is GK Chesterton. Here is one of his nuggets:
What is education? Properly speaking, there is no such thing as education. Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. ... What we need is to have a culture before we hand it down. In other words, it is a truth, however sad and strange, that we cannot give what we have not got, and cannot teach to other people what we do not know ourselves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism

One of the best books ever written by a Catholic on Protestantism is Louis Bouyer's wonderful book "The Spirit And Forms Of Protestantism". The main thrust of the book is that at the heart of the Protestant reformation lie good intentions and goals that had erred in thinking that reform of the kind needed had to happen by breaking with the Church. In other words, the good things in Protestantism can only be truly fulfilled and attained within the Catholic Church. I highly recommend the book, but with a warning, it isn't light reading.

If you would like to get a good article to whet your appetite, then you can read Mark Brumley's summation of the argument. Brumley is one of my former instructors and is a fan, as am I.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Judge Not?

One of the most misunderstood principles of Scripture is judgment. Many conversations have been brought to a screeching halt by the conversation killers of “Judge not” or “who are you to judge me”. Unfortunately the common interpretation of this passage is that we can make no judgment on whether an action is right or wrong. This is not what the Bible is saying, but rather the Bible tells us not to judge the state of another’s soul and therefore their eternal punishment or reward. This kind of judgment is reserved to God alone.

It never fails that when one of the above phrases is uttered, or one like them, the conversation takes a bad turn. This is due to the modern world-view, which is relativistic, meaning that truth is relative to a person or situation. Simply put, many people are offended by the Catholic Church’s teachings about their sin. These sentiments lead to an improper biblical interpretation of judgment.

Don’t Judge Judgment

Judgment is the act of forming an opinion. When we believe an act to be sinful we are judging the act, not the person who performed the act. When we believe someone is going to heaven or hell, we are judging a person’s soul. In Scripture the former judgment is acceptable (and obligatory in some circumstances) but the latter form is never an acceptable form of judgment for individuals to make. As the saying goes “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

Maybe an example can shed some light on the logical fallacy present in many cases of misjudging judgment:

Joe and Carrie are considering co-habitating. Joe is excited and nervous about the situation and is sharing his plan with co-workers. He decides to ask advice and is pleased to find that most are supportive. Sally Catholic decides to tell Joe that she doesn’t agree it is a good thing, because she thinks it is wrong and that such a decision might actually hurt their relationship. Joe tells Sally that the Bible says to “judge not”. The conversation ends, because Sally has no way to respond.

What should Sally do? She must gently inform Joe that his interpretation of the Bible is faulty.

This kind of situation is a perfect place to plant seeds. In many cases, the person will not agree with your conclusion at that moment, but that should not be your goal. You should tell the truth and then let the Holy Spirit do what He does best – change hearts.

Misjudging Judgment

This perceived injustice (intolerance, judgment, close-mindedness, etc) is what many in our society – and unfortunately many Catholics as well – believe the Catholic Church and her members are constantly guilty of. But, the reality is that those offended by Catholics making statements of belief are really saying that only they have the authority to determine right or wrong. This is simply moral relativism, which is the false idea that morality is relative to themselves, a situation or time. It is a denial that there is an absolute truth, or if there is, then we cannot know it and we certainly shouldn’t “impose” it on others.

It seems if you profess your belief that an action is sinful or a law unjust, then you are committing an even greater sin, that is, believing something another considers good or even worse, pleasurable, to be sinful. In this view, vice and virtue are indistinguishable from each other and therefore determined by each individual as right or wrong for them. This is why so many object to the authority of the Catholic Church, because she dares to say that moral truth is true for everyone – regardless of one’s opinion about it.

Of course Catholics aren’t the only ones that believe we have the truth. Many Catholics have been told we are going to hell or something even more dramatic, we are pawns of Satan by other Christians. Such things can be a harsh reminder there are Christians who sincerely believe they can determine your final destiny just by your religious affiliation. The error of failing to separate the sin from the sinner is what makes another think we are headed for hell. This is the same error the modernist makes in believing Catholics are being judgmental when we say an act is sinful. They are two sides of the same coin. Both fail to make the proper distinction between sin and sinner. The modernist believes that judging the sin is judging the sinner and the condemning Christian believes that we can judge the sinner by the sin.

Many have the experience of walking down the street in a large city and hearing the shouts of Christians that you will “burn in hell” for your sins.

Judge Not!

So, how then do we balance these two errors? The Bible will offer the solution, of course.

Let us start with the favorite of all “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37). To understand what Jesus is saying we must understand the first kind of judgment that we find in the Bible - the ultimate Divine judgment we all will receive when we die. We see this in the Old Testament, including

"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions” (Ezekiel 18:30).

The Old Testament prophets widely spoke of the Divine judgment the Israelites would face if they failed to repent. The prophets leave the Divine judgment of souls for God while speaking the message of repentance. This Divine right to judge our souls’ eternal punishment or reward is echoed by Paul.

“...on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16).

The second kind of judgment we see in the Bible is judging the acts of another person to be good or evil. This kind of judgment must be done in love of others, with prudence, and should be done in order to steer our fellow man to his proper goal, heaven.

Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).

“This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15).

Thus, while we are to avoid the judgment of deciding another’s ultimate fate, sometimes it is necessary and good to direct someone to stop sinning out of love for them. While this isn’t the most politically correct thing to do, Jesus never failed to be politically incorrect when love was at stake. If we truly thirst for the salvation of all men like Jesus did, then in some situations we are obligated to speak the truth about the dangers of another’s sinful actions.

Jesus was also never shy about talking to another about their sin, and taking it a step further, he always told them they should stop. He constantly rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (John the Baptist was even more harsh), and He told the woman caught in adultery in John 8 (as well as others) to “go and sin no more”. While in this passage He says that He does not judge (condemn) the woman, He does judge that she has sinned. Jesus never tolerated sin, and He was quick to show others their sinful actions were wrong, but He only did it out of love and with compassion. He knew eternity was at stake.

From this quick look at the biblical understanding of judgment and tolerance we can easily understand what Jesus means when he tells us not to judge others.

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

This is referring to the ultimate judgment of someone’s soul that is reserved to God alone. If we continue to read, it becomes even clearer how we are supposed to act in these situations.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye” (Luke 6:41-42).

Jesus is saying to rebuke another out of love, with gentleness and kindness, but do not rub their noses in it.

Conclusion

When another person says not to “judge them” it may be that they are saying that you do not have the right to tell them that what they have done is wrong. However, Jesus tells us that as long as we do it out of love and we don’t presume to know their destiny, we can, and sometimes must, help our brothers and sisters see their own sin. If we then get labeled as intolerant hate-mongers or judgmental bigots, we might do just as Jesus did and correct their error. If they still refuse to listen, then we must do what Jesus taught and shake the dust from our sandals and move on.

Paul, who very well could have the greatest thirst for souls of all the apostles, sums it all up for us while writing to Timothy about the balance that must be brought to a Christian who wants to evangelize and preach the truth.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Catholics and Drinking

The most searched (and hit) post we have on the blog answers the question, "is getting drunk a mortal sin"?

Since it is so popular, I thought I might bring it back to the top for another reading.

You can find it here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

New Document from Benedict


Pope Benedict XVI has issued his second document, also on love. His first was Deus Caritas Est, God is Love. Which was a great reflection on the nature of the Trinity.

This new document is a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. In other words, it is a summation of a synod of Bishops that came together in 2005 to examine the issues of the Eucharist, the liturgy and liturgical renewal as it is formulated in Vatican II documents. It is titled, Sacramentum Caritatis, which means Sacrament of Love. I haven't read the entire document yet, but will soon.

Do yourself a favor and open this present from the Church.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Trouble With Pornography?

If you have a problem with pornography, it doesn't just go away on its own, and it will probably not be easy to stop. Here are just a few strategies for stopping.

1 - Get rid of all pornography you own. Destroy movies, magazines and dump all electronic images.

2 - Stay off of the computer if it is a temptation. If you have to get on a computer, then do so when other people are around. DO NOT get on the computer for any reason if you are alone and it is a temptation.

3 - Pray more. You must rely on God to deliver you from the problem. If you are addicted, you will not be able to stop by using your own power.

4 - Frequent the Sacraments. The grace you need to conquer the temptations will be found here.

5 - Find an accountability partner. Check in with each other frequently.

6 - Fast. You have had a problem with self-control sexually, but most men have self-control issues in other areas as well.

7 - Avoid the occasions of sin. Think about when, where and how you are tempted. Then think about strategies to avoid these circumstances.

8 - Use holy images. Your mind has been filled with unholy images; fill it with the image of Christ, Mary and saints.

9 - Ask Mary to intercede. It may sound funny, but it is hard to be tempted when asking the Immaculate Mother of God to give you permission.

10 - If you are addicted, you need to find a support group and/or a trained counselor. You will not be able to stop alone. If you aren’t sure whether you are an addict or not, then you should take a self-assessment test to determine the level of your problem.

11 - Find a priest who will give you spiritual guidance and support in your struggles. Go to confession frequently also.

12 - If you are married and your spouse does not know about your problem, you need to talk about it. The problem must be admitted to before it can stop.

13 - Use blocking software to block access on your computer. Also, software at xxxchurch.com can send an accountability report to your accountability partner.

14 - Read Scripture daily. Let God’s Word penetrate deeply into your life.

15 - Do not suppress the thoughts of temptation, but redeem them. Offer them to Christ through his cross.

16 - Do not drink or use drugs while trying to overcome the temptation.

17 - Don’t beat yourself up after a setback. The devil wants you to give up. Seek forgiveness and start again, no matter how humbling or hard it may be. God always forgives and loves.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Amazing Grace

A new movie - Amazing Grace - has gotten a highly favorable review from the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput.

I haven't seen it yet, but it looks like good viewing. You can view the trailer at the link above.

We need more uplifting and inspiring movies. Too many action / stupid comedy / hedonistic movies will rot the brain.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Quick Thoughts

Every time we attend mass we pray "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But only say the word and I shall be healed." But, do we really believe what we are praying?
Do we really believe that God can heal us?
Has this prayer just become a pious practice and not a true prayer of faith?
When was the last time that we were healed in receiving the Eucharist?
Is the lack of healing a lack of grace or is it a lack of cooperation with grace already received?

Just a few thoughts on this Monday.

Peace.