Daily Archives: March 5, 2010

Two Everyday Saints

Today, I listened to two friends cry on the phone. The first, I called to say hello, and he told me of a brother from the Knights who died this week. The fellow was very involved with the youth of the parish, and boys came from all over town to the funeral. They had the maximum altar servers, and numerous other boys who had volunteered. They all lined up after Mass to process with the coffin, standing in the rain when no one else had left yet.

The other was one of my oldest friends in the world, whom I’ve known since I was Allie’s age, talking of the death of his father. He informed me last week of his father’s death, by e-mail. I told him I’d wait till things calmed down a bit and give him a call this week.

He told me of his father’s extreme generosity and forgiveness. His father’s lifelong best friend was arrested for a Ponzi scheme, of which his father was himself a victim, and his father actually wrote a statement asking the judge for leniency. He said that he and his brothers agreed that, compared to that example of Christian forgiveness, battling over the estate would dishonor their father (as they’re having some issues with other family members).

It was very moving. One area where the liberals are right is that, back in the Middle Ages, canonization was as much a matter of popular appeal as Papal investigation. The people would recognize the outstanding holiness of a person and rise up, often on the day of the funeral, calling for the Church to recognize that person as a saint.

We often, myself included, criticize the modern tendency to “canonize” everyone at their funerals, especially the canonically illicit practice of eulogies at Catholic funerals. However, one of the very reasons that is bad is that it detracts from the heroic virtues shown by those who really deserve our praise after their deaths.

It’s Official: Baptists do not believe in Jesus Christ!

Pastor Jonathan Hatcher of Conner Heights Baptist Church in Pigeon Forge, TN, has made national headlines and sparked outrage from his Catholic neighbors by distributing an anti-Catholic tract called “The Death Cookie”, which depicts Satan planning the Eucharist to deceive people.

I don’t really know if it should be called “anti-Catholicism” (in a bigotry sense) for criticizing what we actually believe, and if they sincerely believe the Eucharist is of the Devil, they should say so.

However, if they say that, then they call Jesus Christ a liar: “Truth Himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true,” said St. Thomas Aquinas of the Eucharist, as translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Note that, in the cartoon, the Devil says, “all we need is a God for the people, one they can see and touch and pray to.”

Huh, isn’t that called JESUS?? Isn’t that the point of the Incarnation???

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life– for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us– what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:1-4, NAB).

Let’s not also forget that the purpose of the Dogma of Theotokos is to emphasize the Incarnation. I have come to the conclusoin, after many arguments over the years, that Evangelicals preach a new heresy. They believe taht Jesus “was” truly God and truly Man” on earth, but that He lost His body after the resurrection, that He is pure spirit in Heaven, no longer incarnate, and therefore, Mary is no longer His Mother.

Of course, they emphasize calling her “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” for that reason.

So something similar is at work here. Not unlike the Pharisees, these people are scandalized at a God that can be seen.

St. Teresa of Avila says to beware of those who discourage the use of images in prayer, since the whole point of the Incarnation is to give us an image of God, and those who refuse images refuse to acknowledge the Incarnation.

Why the priest shortage is a farce

Somewhere around 20 years ago, I decided that we didn’t have a shortage of priests so much as an overabundance of false Catholics. I made this observation for two reasons. One reason was that, if families were doing their jobs, then there would be more young men pursuing the priesthood. The other was that we have lots of people who just come to mass out of some sense of ritual or habit or family obligation, without actually putting Catholicism into practice in their lives, that if those who really had no interest in trying to get to Heaven just stopped coming just for show, we’d have plenty of priests to go around.

The United States actually has one of the highest per capita rates of priests to laity in the world. Many have argued that the lack of priests in parishes could be mitigated by the number of priests who are working at universities and other venues instead of parish ministry. A priest could very easily teach a few classes during the week and come into parishes to say mass on Sunday, and occasionally visit the sick or whatever. This is apparently an old problem, as St. Francis Xavier famously laments in a letter to St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!”

I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.

This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like – even to India.

Commentators have also noted that the vocations crisis is deeper than just the celibacy issue, since many aspects of pastoral work can be performed by deacons, yet the restored diaconate is hardly thriving, either. Now, the diaconate has other issues. For example, if Ed Peters is correct about the interpretation of Canon 277, and the original discipline of married clerics in the Roman Church still applies, it would seem to be much more challenging to live in continence as a married cleric than to be outright celibate. Also, deacons are chosen by the pastors, so many commentators have argued that the number of deacons is intentionally kept unnecessarily low.

In any case, there is another aspect to the issue of priest shortage which confirms how a big aspect of it is “cultural Catholicism.”

Here in Columbia, we have several Catholic churches. Most of them are brimming at the walls on Sundays. Yet, less than five minutes from my house is a perfectly good Catholic church. I must admit I haven’t been there for Sunday Mass myself, except when they were hosting Tridentine Mass, because it’s not a very convenient building for families. Yet for older Catholics or singles, it should be great: a mostly elderly congregation, a small chapel, and two perfectly good Sunday Masses — in the Anglican Usage. Good Shepherd has been a Catholic church since the mid-1980s, but still exists on the fringes of Catholicism in Columbia.

Back in Virginia, the Maronite church St. Anthony’s in Richmond was always packed, but the Traditional Latin mass parish, St. Joseph’s, had plenty of room at every Mass.

In short, how many churches out there use the liturgy of St. James, the Tridentine liturgy or the Anglican Use Liturgy, all of which are completely valid ways of receiving the sacraments–and darn more reverent than the Novus Ordo at most churches–yet, while they thrive well on their own, they hardly have the packed congregations of your average hippie mass?

Thus, I am quite excited by the news circulating the ‘Net that, earlier this week, the “Anglican Church in America,” the US branch of the “Traditional Anglican Communion,” has unanimously voted to join the Catholic Church. This will reportedly give us about 100 priests and bishops, along with their facilities and however many parishioners.

This *should* be a boon to our Catholic faith, not just in the quest for reunion, not just increasing the number of theologically orthodox priests, but in providing us with more priests to minister to *all* Catholics. Will the laity who complain of a “priest shortage” avail themselves of these new pastors? Will the laity who proclaim “diversity” in their liturgies be will to attend a liturgy which is truly diverse yet licit?

The problem of censorship

I’ve often wondered what, exactly, Victor Hugo’s religious views were. Apparently, he started off very conservative and devout, but shifted to being more politically liberal as time went on. His ultimate beliefs were anti-religious deism.

So, apparently, like Tolstoy and Dickens, he advocated belief in God without the Church, condemning the entirety of Chrsitanity just for the corruption of his day.

However, what’s interesting is tha ta major catalyst for Hugo’s conversion from Catohlic to anti-Catholic was the reception of Les Miserables by the Church! It is surprising today to think that a book which is about Christian forgiveness, where the protagonist is a criminal turned saint by the action of a saintly bishop, could be banned on the Index.

Many Catholics today want a kind of modern day Index. ” Ban everything but EWTN and Ignatius Press,” they’d tell us. “Don’t try to engage the culture! Don’t try to uphold positive works of art/entertaniment that promote Christian values! Censor, censor, censor! And you’ll go straight to Hell if you read a “Harry Potter” book!”

Not everything about Vatican II was bad. The Index, while an advisable guideline, was often exagerated in its importance. After all, the Index only meant those works could not be read casually: they could be read under proper spiritual or academic direction.

Flannery O’Connor died before the Index was abolished, yet she identified the banned Madame Bovary as her favorite novel. Yet O’Connor also acknowledged the right and duty of the Church to tell us what works are morally safe to read. Indeed, Madame Bovary was the basis of the VeggieTale Madame Blueberry (swapping out conspicuous consumption for adultery). One could say that _Madame Bovary_ is about the oppression of traditional society, *or* one could see in _Madame Bovary_ an illustration of the wages of sin.

It is also interesting that it was Cardinal Ottoviani who, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, declared the cessation of the Index. Ottaviani was one of the greatest criticss of Vatican II. The “Ottaviani Intervention” is one of the seminal documents of the Traditionalist Movement. I’ve long maintained that the elimination of the Index happened to give us laity greater freedom to criticize the “smoke of Satan” in its various manifestations.