Daily Archives: June 15, 2009

When the shoes on the other foot, Focus on the Family sounds like Planned Parenthood.

A group called “American Right to Life” protested at Focus on the Family’s headquarters in Denver to oppose James Dobson’s endorsement of John McCain.

Jill Stanek reports that Rev. Bob Enyart and Kenneth Scott have been sentced to jail time (about a week and a half each), and Brian Enyart has been fined $100.

What strikes me is what Focus on the Family said:

Prior to the sentencing, Lisa Anderson, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family asked the judge to consider the organization’s concern over safety for its employees and visitors.


Safety?  They really think these guys are dangerous?  Doesn’t that play right into the hands of abortuaries?   They’ve just given a great soundbite for the entire pro-abortion left to use when talking about prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling.

“You don’t have a degree, so you don’t know what you’re talking about”

Whether we’re talking about the medical side or the theological side (or any other issue), a popular dismissal of opposition voices is “You don’t have a degree.”

Well, a 17 year old high school senior correctly diagnosed herself with Crohn’s Disease by examining slides of her own intestinal tissue in a microscope.

The article does not explain how she *got* the tissue.

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you”

“I’ll probably forget.”

Dinner Sunday evening was a long lesson in the Golden Rule.  It permutated into the thoughts I posted below about how Jesus could have annihilated His tormentors.

But, in addition to posting this reminder to our human frailty, I wanted to post the separate train of thought.

If the Commandments are summed up as “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself,” then the Natural Law is summed up in the Golden Rule.  It is the most basic ethical principle, found in almost the exact phrasing (save for a negative versus positive approach) in Confucius and Christ.  Found in an unnecessarily complicated phrasing in Kant.  Probably found in other cultures, as well.

But the basic principle of  Natural Law is “don’t hurt other people; be nice to people; treat others as you would be treated.”

The problem is, that like Christians who try to say that “love thy neighbor” can be interpreted as an open-ended justification for anything done for “love,” people take this most basic standard of Natural law as the *only* standard, leading to the idea of “victimless crimes”: “It’s OK for me to do this, because it’s not hurting anybody.”

Of course, the real issue is whether that’s true.  Every sin hurts somebody: it hurts you.  And if the law of Christ is “love your neighbor as yourself,” then you can’t love your neighbor if you’re willing to hurt yourself with sin.

And we also know that, when we hurt our souls and our psychological well being with sin, we hurt the *way* we interact with others.  We also hurt others with the consequences of our sins, even the unseen ones.

So, allow me to introduce a new formulation of the Golden Rule:
“Do unto yourself only as you would do before others.”

Pilgrimage at the Mall

I took the kids to the Mall Friday night.  I’ve complained frequently over the past several years about how increasingly hard it is to find a Nativity scene in the “Christmas”/”Holiday” decoration sections at stores anymore.  Most department stores don’t even carry them.  Oddly enough, Hallmark carries them year round.

We hardly ever go into Hallmark, and I had the whim to do so.  So we were all impressed by the Nativity scene (another devotion St. Francis started to provide people with a chance for mini-pilgrimages to the Holy Land).  

Well, you know how something always happens just when you’re afraid of it?  You say, “I’m going to put this where I won’t lose it,” then you forget where you put it? 

Well, we only have one key to our spare car.  We’d been using the Pontiac most of last week to save gas because there was a problem with my motorized chair.  So I had to move stuff back into the Chevy on Friday evening, and brought out both sets of keys.  I went back in to deposit the keys with the Pontiac key.  When I got back to the car, I realized I’d dropped the wrong set of keys on the desk, but I had all the kids in the car and thought, “Oh, Mary won’t need the car, anyway,” and went off to the Mall.

Two hours later, I got out to the car to find that I’d locked my keys in the car.

Skipping around the timeline, it turned out to be the usual scenario: somebody did somethign to distract me while I was getting Clara out of her carseat, and the keys were right under it.

However, at 8 PM, all I knew was I was locked out of my car.  I called Mary to call Triple A and took the kids back in.  We retraced our footsteps. Went around JC Penney.  Then went to Hallmark.  Reason I bring this up is that, shortly after we arrived back at Hallmark, I realized that Gianna wasn’t with the group.

I turned around, and, about 5 feet behind me, Gianna was at the display of Nativity scenes.

More precisely, she was *kneeling* at the display.  Had her hands folded in the “proper” pointing-up style that gave me so much grief in CCD, and her head bowed.

“What are you doing?” I asked, guessing already.

“I’m praying to Baby Jesus that you’ll find your keys.”

Well, it took about 2 hours.  We had to wait for Popalock to come, but, providentially in response to Gigi’s prayers, a police officer drove by (mall security had already declined to help) at 9 PM and said he’d wait with us.  I had gotten the kids some Chick-Fil-A, and they ate it on the grass as we waited . The officer radioed another officer nearby, and he came over.  They tried to use Officer 2’s “jimmy”, but it didn’t work.

Allie asked, “Why don’t you call a car thief?”

Officer #2 laughed and said, “They just break in the windows, dear.”

After the two officers proved my Chevy Express is a virtually impregnable fortress, Officer #1 left, and Officer #2 kept us company till Popalock got there. 

It was an adventure.  We had fun.  It was all quite providential.

And it gave me the chance to see the powerful image of Gianna in prayer at Hallmark.

He could have annihilated them

I have a prayer book somewhere that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate put out many years ago.  It’s boxed away, so I can’t get the exact text, but there’s a passage from its Sorrowful Mysteries that has always struck me.  I forget if it’s from the Scourging or the Crowning.  Referring to those who tortured Jesus, it says,
“Jesus could have annihilated every one of those men, but He sat there in the dirty purple robe and took it.”

Think about that: annihilated.  Not just “killed.”  Not just “beat”.  Not just “blown away.”

He’s God.  He could have annihilated them. He could have made them into nothing.  Their bodies would have just ceased to exist.  Vanished.  Technically, their immortal souls, too.  There’s really nothing, but God’s own will, deciding that Joel Osteen is right and He should just terminate the souls of the damned.

There’s an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation called “Who Watches the Watchers” where the Enterprise crew encounter one of those godlike beings they’re wont to meet up with.  In this case, it’s this planet that’s been decimated by war, and there’s this strange old couple living there, and not wanting to evacuate.  And it turns out the wife is dead.  The husband is some kind of being with amazing preternatural powers.  The wife died with the rest of the colonists, and he was so grief-stricken that he recreated their home and his wife.  He was also grief stricken that he destroyed the invaders (I forget their names).  Picard comments, for clarity, that he destroyed the ship.  He said, “No.  I destroyed every last one of them.” Complete genocide.

You know, God could do that, if He wanted to.

If God wanted to destroy the abortionists, He could annihilate them. 
If God wanted to destroy the terrorists, He could annihilate them.

But no.  God set a higher standard.  Yes, before Christ, things were different, because we didn’t have His grace.  So back then, just as a parent has to be more restrictive about a preschooler’s exposure to the world than a teenager’s, and just as an adult can be exposed to things a teenager cannot, so too God had to protect His people before Christ with the execution and genocide of pagans.

Yet, even when St. Elijah the Prophet killed the 300 prophets of Ba’al, God still reminded Elijah, on Mt. Carmel, that He is not found in the earthquake or the storm but in the “still, soft wind.”

Christ came to set a higher standard: lay down your life.  Don’t retaliate.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains but a grain of wheat,” said Jesus.  Fulton Sheen notes that, in the context, Jesus was speaking to an audience that included Greeks.  He was reformulating the Natural Law and showing how even the Christian principle of self-sacrifice was part of the Natural Law.  Of course it is, a knowledgeable Greek might reply, Socrates taught it:
“It is better to suffer evil than to do it,” says Socrates in the Gorgias.

The Buddhists understand it, too, to some extent, though they think the goal is to annihilate oneself in Nirvana, not to fulfill oneself.

God could have annihilated us so many times, and He hasn’t done it yet.

I was telling the kids this at dinnner tonight.  I said, “Think of that next time your sibling does something you don’t like, and you want to retaliate.”

Gianna looked up at me with her bright, knowing eyes, and said,

“I’ll probably forget.”

Don’t we all, Gi.

I love Plenary Indulgences!

You hear a lot of different things in apologetics and “Q&A” pieces about what exactly the theory behind indulgences is.  Some say that, back in the Middle Ages, when penances were things like carrying your armor up a mountain over and over and over again, indulgences were “easy alternatives.”

Then there’s the question of “time”.  In the old days, partial indulgences had certain numbers of “days” attached, like, “300 Days’ Indulgence.”  The common understanding was that this pertained to “days in purgatory.”  The popular criticism was that “there’s no time in Purgatory.”  But that doesn’t make sense, since Purgatory will end with the end of time.   Purgatory really is “time served.”  However, I’ve also read that the “days” really means that the grace is equivalent to X number of days on pilgrimage or X number of days living a monastic lifestyle.  But that doesn’t make much sense, either.

A popular maxim of liberal Catholics (TM) is, “Vatican II got rid of indulgences because they used to sell them.”  Uh, no.  The “sale of indulgences”, per se, has always been considered a form of simony.  There *were* priests who would, on their own, assign indulgences and penances to penitents that amounted to “give me $100 and your sins will be forgiven.”  That’s Simony (i.e., Simon the Magus in Acts), and has always been condemned by Holy Mother Church.  There have been, historically, certain indulgences attached to particular charitable donations, including contributing to the building of the Sistine Chapel.  Since this was so easily abused, it was ended at the Council of Trent.

What Vatican II “got rid of” was the days thing, reducing it to simply “partial” and “plenary” indulgences.  Now, the cool thing there is that we can see partial and plenary indulgences as paralleling another concept Protestants have a hard time with (even though it’s biblical): mortal and venial sins.  Venial sins harm our relationship with God, but do not sever it.  Conversely, partial indulgences help to build our relationship with God, but do not necessarily solidify it.

Similarly, while mortal sins sever our relationship with God, and, unrepented, guarantee we’ll go to Hell, plenary indulgences, so long as we are detached from sin and don’t backslide after earning them, guarantee we’ll go straight to Heaven, with no time served in Purgatory.

Now, here’s the trick: we can’t be certain we’ve “earned” a Plenary Indulgence ,and we definitely don’t know for certain that we”ll keep  it (that would be “Eternal Security”).  There’s a story about St. Philip Neri preaching about a special indulgence the Pope had granted for that day, and receiving the awareness that only two people in the congregation were actually deserving of that indulgence: himself and one old lady. 

You see, to truly earn a plenary indulgence, you have to be free from all attachment to sin, and that’s a tough qualification to achieve. 

You can earn up to 14 or 15 plenary indulgences per confession (up to seven days before or after the time of Confession).  So, if you go to Communion *every* day during those two weeks before and after Confession, and make sure you perform some devotion with a plenary indulgence attached, *and pray for the Pope*, you can earn potentially up to 15.  Now, what to do with them?  Give them away.  You can pray that any indulgences you earn on a particular day be assigned to a soul in Purgatory.  I’ve found it very efficacious to offer indulgences for certain deceased relatives and then get them into Heaven.

You wanna get Clarence Oddbody into Heaven?  That’s the way (forget all that “angel” and “getting his wings” junk).

Now, the best way to explain the *theory* of indulgences is to look for their origin.  I believe I”ve blogged this before, but the very first indulgence granted by the Church is the Portiuncula Indulgence.

St. Francis of Assisi, like many Catholics, especially during the Crusades, was very concerned with making pilgrimages to the Holy Land . Since he knew how hard it was to actually get there, he started several devotions which, through the Church’s approval, are intended to help give the same graces as one would get from such a pilgrimage.  One such devotion is the Stations of the Cross.

Another is the Portincula Indulgence.  The “Portiuncula” is a nickname of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, the church that St. Francis literally “rebuilt” at the beginning of his career and served as his base of operations.

Aug. 2 is the feast of Our Lady of the Angels.  On that day, there is a plenary indulgence for going to *any* parish church, but particularly a Franciscan church or any named “Our Lady of the Angels.”  It’s considered as if you’ve gone on pilgrimage.  The indulgence also extends to visiting any church on its patronal feast.

So, yesterday (at this blogging) was the Feast of Corpus Christi, and we went to Corpus Christi Church in Lexington.  We were too late for mass, but we had been invited to the parish picnic.  Had a great time.  Four families we’re friends with from the homeschool group were there.  Then, before we left, Mary and I both went into the church individually to pray (all you have to do is say some prayers for the Holy Father).  Then we went to Mass somewhere else.

Isn’t that cool?

I once got in trouble for giving Mary’s religion class a pre-approved guest lecture on indulgences–during the Jubilee Year 2000–talking about the Jubilee Indulgence.   “We teach love and forgiveness here,” said the principal (I thought that’s what indulgences were, but she meant “forgiveness of sins without a confessional”).

We have a few weeks left in the Year of St. Paul: the special indulgence this year applies to any time one visits a church dedicated to St. Paul or St. Peter, or another church that has been assigned by the bishop.  I’ve already blogged about the new indulgence for the coming Year of Priests that starts on the Feast of St. John Vianney.

Of course, when you know the disparate ways you can get a plenary indulgence, some of them seem kind of redundant or overkill compared to others.  In addition to the Portiuncula Indulgence, common methods include 1) saying the rosary, with reflections on the mysteries, either with a group of people or in front of the Blessed Sacrament; 2) reading the Bible for a half an hour prayerfully; 3) spending a half an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament; 4) praying the Stations of the Cross in Church (always forget if this is exclusive to Lent, but I think it’s all year round); 5) reflecting on the Passion on a Friday in Lent (including the Prayer before a Crucifix; 6) going to Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday; 7) saying the Franciscan Crown Rosary (7 decades, a few different mysteries, but meditations aren’t required); 8) going on a three day retreat; 9) praying for the Dead, particularly at a cemetary, during the first week of November; 10) Saying the Office of the Dead (I think both morning and evening prayer; again, not sure if this is anytime or just first week of Nov).

You can only “earn” one plenary indulgence a day, but I dare you to try reading the Bible in front of the Blessed Sacrament for a half an hour, preferably using the Bible readings as Rosary meditations, while in a state of grace!!