Category Archives: apologetics

ecumenism v. orthodoxy

C. S. Lewis observes of ecumenism, even in his day, that those who speak most of being “ecumenical” are more likely to fight, while those who speak of being orthodox relative to their specific denominations are more likely to actually find agreement with one another and discuss things.  (John snippet)

How Considering Sedevacantism led me back to the Novus Ordo

I have recently “come out of the closet,” so to speak, that after 5 years of wavering I cannot accept the notion that Jorge Bergoglio is or ever has been the Vicar of Christ.
So that leaves the question: “What now?”
Many people have attempted to provide “plans” or “predictions” for worldly processes of “purifying” the Catholic Church–but that is only going to happen with direct, obvious intervention by God, whether it’s in the form of the actual Second Coming or the time period variously called the “new Pentecost,” the “Triumph of the Immaculate Heart,” “Eucharistic Reign of Christ,” etc.
As I have also been very open about sharing, I’ve been deeply shaken to my core not just by recent news headlines, which really aren’t that surprising to me except the depth to which we have been lied to by the hierarchy, but by personal events.  I was diagnosed with epilepsy, and since that diagnosis have read some very convincing arguments that most of the Bible and most of the apparitions and miracles that have given me confidence in Christ may have just been epileptic seizures.
And they make a good case. And every “But what about–” I think about comes from the Church, which has been lying to us  about all sorts of basic things.
So, trying to get my mind around all this stuff, I was reading a sedevacantist page last night, and much like C. S. Lewis applied the arguments atheists made against Christianity and applied them to atheism, I took home a few key points:
On the one hand, much of what sedevacantists see as heresy in the Vatican II era is really based on their own Jansenism and/or the Tridentine and Vatican I rejection of all but a few specific theological traditions and emphasis on Papal supremacy.
In spite of their own arguments for Jansenism, the sedes seem to hold that if they are wrong about the Papacy being vacant or the Mass being invalid, we’re saved by faith, so doing what they think is faithful to the True Church, even if they’re wrong, is better in their view than attending the Novus Ordo.  They do not seem to give the same benefit of the doubt to those who go to the so-called “Vatican II sect” in good conscience.
Then there was this point, which basically seems to be what sedes do to begin with:

Do not spend too much time trying to figure things out — it can lead to pride, vain curiosity, dangerous ideas, and a misplaced reliance on self rather than on God. In general, we are well-advised to seek after virtue rather than knowledge. Certainly we may suppose that living a holy prayerful life and seeking to be pleasing to God, cannot but hasten the day of Restoration.

So, if I should be relying totally on God, then shouldn’t I just do the basics in the most practical way possible?

“With zeal, I have been zealous”

I took “OCDS” off my Facebook profile.
But I feel more Carmelite than ever.

I just don’t know how I can be “Catholic” anymore.  And the questions I have are so deep and existential that no one can answer them but God.

Kindly people are answering with platitudes and apologetics.  Folks, I was reading Catholic Answers when I was 12.  I read the entire New American Bible, with footnotes, from ages 12-14 because at the time as a Catholic among Protestant kids in the South, “Have you read the whole Bible yet?” was a kind of a status question I wanted to be able to answer affirmatively.  I spent most of 1990 and 1991 reading Lewis, Merton, St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. JP2, etc.

St. John of the Cross wrote Dark Night of the Soul while he was imprisoned by his “brothers in Carmel.”  The Dark Night is when one is cut off from “the Church” by the wolves in shepherds’ clothing.The Carmelite motto comes from 1 Kings (3 Kings in the traditional naming) 19:14:

[14] With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant: they have destroyed thy altars, they have slain thy prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away.

coat_of_arms_ocd_discalcedcarmelites

 

Juridically, one must be a “Catholic in good standing” to be OCDS.  I do not believe that the man posing in white robes in the Vatican is the Vicar of Christ.  I believe the true Vicar of Christ has been forced into hiding for the past 5 1/2 years, per numerous prophecies, some of which have come to us through Carmelite mystics.

I believe that, in order to truly be a good Catholic, one cannot at this point even pretend to be loyal to a man who:
a) As Archbishop actively covered up sexual abuse
b) Was a Jesuit but broke their Rule by accepting ecclesiastical preferment
c)-zzz) Do I really need to list them?
At this point, anyone who supports “Pope Francis” is either a raging liberal, poorly catechized or so blinded by an oddly inconsistent popalotry that they are willing to say that a cube is round if the “Pope of Humility” says so.
So until this mess is cleared up–and one way or another–I’m tired of playing “undercover Catholic” within the Church, though ironically, it is now the “Vatican II Catholics” who are demanding Ultramontanism.

But I’m going through a deep spiritual crisis, and it’s not one anyone has an answer to, or can answer, except God Himself.  And if and when He does answer, whatever it is, I know I’m not going to like the experience:
1) I’m wrong and Francis is legitimate, and I have to completely rethink my understanding of everything
2) I’m right, and we’re in for some pretty drastic Chastisements before either the Second Coming or whatever the “Era of Peace”/”New Springtime” is
3) The immediate future of the Catholic Church will be more the long, arduous persecution that then Fr. Ratzinger predicted in the late 60s
4) The Orthodox are right, Roman Catholicism is and always has been a vast conspiracy of homosexuals, and I have to rethink several fundamental aspects of my spirituality and theology.
5) The notion that there’s one, “True” Church is wrong and God doesn’t care as much as we’re told He does.
6) Then there’s always the fear of C. S. Lewis and St. Francis de Sales that God’s just the Cosmic Vivisectionist.

I was diagnosed with Epilepsy last month and while researching it, found all these articles with convincing explanations that the Bible is nothing but a series of stories about epileptics having seizures, and I have to admit they’re pretty convincing.

The only thing I cannot accept is that God doesn’t exist, because His intervention is too obvious in my life.

For example, He worked an amazing miracle this weekend, dissipating Hurricane Florence, though most people are chalking it up to “unpredictable weather” and “the media got it wrong,” which means the next time there’s a hurricane they won’t prepare and it will get worse.

I keep asking Him to intervene, and He seems to remain silent while things keep getting worse.

Life is always “One step forward; two steps back,” and us “Older Brothers on the Porch,” begging for the Father to show us some love, get maligned, while His vicars don’t just greet the Prodigal siblings returning (which we’re more than happy to do): they go out to them in the mud and tell them to stay in the mud because God loves them just the way they are, and God made them that way, and we’re the wrong ones for being so judgmental.

At what point does one give up trying?  Which “trying” should I give up?

If God doesn’t care, why should I?

But He remains silent.

I was going to quote Holy Father John, but I decided to quote Eliot’s Ash Wednesday, instead:

“Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.”

“The Weight of Glory” and the Weight of the Church

Probably one of the most bottom-line important pieces of Christian thought outside the Bible was the famous paragraph of C. S. Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory”:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations.  It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

I get the argument that the kinds of sexual abuse, physical abuse, corruption and cover-ups in the Catholic Church occur in any institution, and are often objectively worse.  For example, as my dear friend Jen Fitz has pointed out, no one is legally obligated to go to Catholic anything, but they are legally obligated to go to public schools (barring the resources for private or home schooling).

However, in an institution which is supposedly founded by God Himself, which supposedly exists to train people up to be Saints, and which supposedly believes every individual is of infinite worth, shouldn’t there be a Higher Standard?

If the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, then just one priest abusing his authority to spiritually or psychologically abuse one person should be a matter of grave horror to every member of the Church–did not Ven John Henry Newman say that it would be better for all the stars to fall than one person ever commit even a venial sin?

If we’re going to compare the Catholic Church, statistically, to other religions, government institutions, or businesses, aren’t we thereby saying that the Catholic Church is just another human institution?

And if the Catholic Church is just another human institution, with networks of predatory behavior, actions like wearing a Crucifix being used as signs of “grooming” by homosexual priests, bishops being reprimanded by the Vatican or dying mysterious deaths for trying to laicize homosexual and pedophile priests, and everything else that people like Fr. Malachi Martin and Fr. James Haley sacrificed their own priesthoods by trying to expose, but now the world believes because the state of Pennsylvania has validated its existence–then if the Church is just another human institution, then that makes the anti-Catholics right, and it’s just a gigantic network of people unwittingly and sometimes wittingly providing various sexual predators, narcissists and/or sociopaths a steady supply of victims and proteges.

But if the Church is the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ (as well as the Whore of Babylon), then She must be held to a higher standard.  It shouldn’t be about PR.  It shouldn’t be about statistics.  It shouldn’t be about minimal legal requirements.  It should be about saving the immortal souls of the victims and of the guilty.  It should be about fasting and prayer and penance.  It should be about sacrificing wealth and privilege and social status for the sake of souls.

And that applies to just about every issue you can think of: sex abuse, abortion, poverty, people with disabilities.  “Everyone who has two cloaks must share with the one who has none.”  We hear of St. Martin of Tours giving his military cloak to a beggar.  We don’t often hear of him being nearly rejected as a bishop because many priests and bishops didn’t like the fact that he dressed as a beggar.
St. Vincent de Paul is known for his service of the poor later in his life but he originally became a priest because he was born into a very poor family and, at the time, the priesthood was the best avenue for upward mobility.
Bl. Pier Giorgio was known for rarely coming home at the end of the day wearing the same clothes he put on in the morning, or  more than the most basic clothes decency required, because throughout the day he’d give away his clothes to the poor or trade clothes with them.  “Oh, but health.”  Yes, he died at a relatively young age because he gave his life in service to the poor.

In America, we have a “vocations crisis” because young men don’t want to give up their lives of pleasure, or more usually because they learn very quickly–as I did, as one of my childhood best friends did, as my wife’s uncle did–that if you want to pursue holiness the priesthood as it exists in America is not the place to be.
In the Middle East and Africa, by contrast, they have a vocations crisis because so many priests are being martyred.

My wife recently posted a “rant” on Facebook about how the two “ideological camps” of Catholicism are mutually inconsistent about respecting Life and supporting people.  She meant that, whatever our political views, we’re still obligated to help one another when and where we need it, and we should do so in a manner that treats people with respect.  This post was inspired not just by need but by the wonderful example of some local Catholics who’ve recently not only provided us with great material blessings but done so in a manner that was loving and respectful.

Of course, the post degraded into a political argument.

If each of us reminded ourselves every day of the infinite worth of every individual we meet, how different would our world be?  What if, as Lewis depicts in _The Great Divorce_ and as the Orthodox teach in the Tollhouse theory of personal judgement, the person I find most annoying, intolerable, disgusting, hateful, ugly or unforgiveable, ends up as a Saint in Heaven, whom I must love in order to get to Heaven?  What if the person I find most admirable, pleasant, enjoyable, beautiful, lovable and tolerable ends up in Hell?  What if someone ends up in Hell because of my sin?

We all sin, of course, but there’s a reason the Church and society distinguish degrees of sin and evil.

And no one who truly respects the infinite worth of every individual could sexually, physically, psychologically or worse, spiritually abuse another person.
No one who truly respects the infinite value of every soul could shrug their shoulders when a homebound or hospital-bound parishioners begs for Sacraments.
No one who truly respects the infinite value of every soul could decline to even make an attempt at helping anyone else in need.
No one who truly respects the infinite worth of every individual could say, “Well, I obeyed the reporting laws as I understood them.”
I could go on, but if you’ve read this far, you get the point.

Each of us, as always, needs to do a better job of acting like we actually believe in God.
If we want to win people to Christ, acting like Christ is the way, not comparing His Church to other earthly institutions.

To the individual who used my information to open a Belk Account

Since you tried to steal my identity, I’m here to reclaim it.  My name is John Hathaway.
You obviously know my address as well as SSN because the card was sent to my home.  If you want my identity, I think you should know what goes along with it.

You’ll probably never see this, but hopefully it will go viral.

I have Marfan syndrome 
(Regular readers should know this)
If you want my name and my “credit,” would you like the dissected and twice-grafted aorta that goes with it?  How about the brain aneurysm? The scarred lung? The leaking heart valves?  The bleeding and bruising from Coumadin?  The joint and rib pain?  Would you like to share in those?
Would you like to share in wondering any  time you have a sharp pain if it will be your last, in genuinely being aware–every day of your life–that you have no idea when you will die?  Many people live that way, of course.  Maybe you do, but most do because of the threat of violence from people who care more about $200 watches than they do about other human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God.

I am Catholic
I have a deep love for Jesus Christ, and the Church He established, particularly His Mother and His Saints in Heaven.  If you want to share in my “identity,” I invite you to share in the love of Christ.
I wish I could afford to be as generous as the Bishop in Les Miserables.
But I do forgive you, and I do call you my brother.

You need to know that your action has violated three of God’s Ten Commandments,

The seventh, eighth, and tenth, specifically.
7.  You have obviously stolen my legal “identity,” and you have stolen two expensive watches from Belk.
8.  You have also born false witness against me by performing an act in my name that I never would have done.
10. You have done this out of covetousness.

For my part, I forgive you, and God is willing to forgive you, too.  If you are not baptized, please seek out any Christian, but ideally a Catholic priest or deacon, and request to be baptized.  If you are baptized, please find a priest and confess your sins and sin no more.

You need to know that your action has done in my name something that I find morally repugnant

I can’t remember the last time I bought anything at Belk.  I don’t even wear a watch, and if I did it would be the least expensive, most practical watch I could find.  I think it’s wrong to pay more than $30 for shoes without a good medical reason or more than $30 for a watch for the same.  The most expensive items of clothing I have ever bought myself were the blazer for my wedding, which I still wear; the overcoat I bought at Penney’s in 2005 to wear over my blazers when I worked outside the home; and a few other blazers for when I worked, which I gave away to charity because I believe and do a very poor job of practicing the teaching of St. John the Baptist that anyone with two coats should share with the one who has none.

My family spends way more than we should, but most of that is on fast food.  With six people with various physical impairments and on the autism spectrum, we have  a lot of medical appointments.  Other than that, our incomes goes to housing, utilities, food, and a bit of technology.  We enjoy way too many luxuries yet far less than most Americans.

I would never spend $200 for a watch, much less $400 for 2!  And these days I’d buy a $30 cell phone rather
We don’t even have enough to regularly donate to the Church.  Usually, when we do plan to give something to the Church, we find some person in urgent need first.  I don’t say this to brag, but to make an appeal to you not to be materialistic and greedy, and to think about others.

I once dropped a credit card at a gas station.  The person who found it used it to buy gas someplace else.  While I disputed the charge, I also thought “At least they did something practical.”

We are just getting our credit up to where we might be able to get a loan to make repairs on our home without appealing to charities for help in making them.

It is cosmically unjust that if I apply for credit at a store I actually shop at — and not because I need it but just to take advantage of one of those offers and then pay it off — I get denied, but you, my brother, have managed to get credit at a store that I rarely even enter to buy products that I not only would never buy but whose very existence I consider mortally sinful per the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

For those reasons this hurts me deeply, but I seek the grace in my pain.  I pray that, like St. Stephen and St. Paul, my prayers will inspire your conversion and we can be together in Heaven where we will both share the identity of Christ.

THE WHISPERING ROOM Review

(My wife, Mary Hathaway, was given a free e advanced reader copy of THE WHISPERING ROOM, by Dean Koontz, but due to health and other issues, she could not finish the novel until now.  This is written from her point of view and shared on Amazon as well. The links go to Amazon, but we are NOT getting any money for it.  You can find the books elsewhere and even some are free for download.  They just enrich the meaning if you have read them.)

Many read Dean Koontz for his horror and suspense. I read him because he makes me laugh, brings me hope in our very fallen world, and his plot twists and character development serve as an amazing examination of conscience, one that usually leaves me squirming and landing on my knees in repentance. The higher, anagogical meaning is what I look for and am never disappointed.

In her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” found in the collection, Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor writes, “I think the way to read a book is always to see what happens, but in a good novel, more always happens than we are able to take in at once, more happens than meets the eye. The mind is led on by what it sees into the greater depths that the book’s symbols naturally suggest. This is what is meant when critics say that a novel operates on several levels. The truer the symbol, the deeper it leads you, the more meaning it opens up.”

O’Connor could have been predicting the work of one of her biggest fans, Dean Koontz, in this essay. He may be known as the “Master of Suspense,” and aptly so, but it’s his use of symbols and their anagogical meaning that has me pondering his works long after I finish them and brings me back to them again. The “suspense” of what happens after earthly life is what he wants his readers to consider and I do, with every novel of his I have read.

THE WHISPERING ROOM, the second novel in what is promised to be a 7-book series features the intrepid and determined Jane Hawk, a rogue FBI agent on the run, investigating a series of deaths while attempting to guard herself and those she loves against the unseen enemies. Having been startled, enthralled and moved to tears by the end of THE SILENT CORNER, the first book in the series, I was anxious to see where Mrs. Hawk would land next in her quest to bring justice for her husband and safety for her son and others imperiled by “them.”

While THE SILENT CORNER is meticulously crafted to introduce the Jane Hawk universe, THE WHISPERING ROOM immediately draws the reader into an intimate scene of the slowly unveiling iniquitous underground. The pace is fast and the mood sinister. Jane’s quest for justice introduces her to some of the most foul and disgusting people one can imagine, as well as some of the bravest and kind. One’s conscience is pricked and left mourning for evil and its web in which we are all entangled. Its end left me puzzling and wondering where Jane was headed next in the quest for justice, an answer that is coming in May 2018, in THE CROOKED STAIRCASE. If you have not read The Silent Corner: A Novel of Suspense yet, I strongly recommend reading it first and then reading the sequel, THE WHISPERING ROOM.

I also suggest reading T.S. Eliot’s Collected Poems, 1909-1962 or read this excellent analysis of “The Hollow Men,”  as well as reading Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories (FSG Classics). A look at CS Lewis and his book The Four Loves will also provide more insight into the deeper meaning of the fantastic Jane Hawk series and the other works of Dean Koontz.

In closing, I would strongly recommend reading a novel by his apprentice of sorts, Frank RedmanELIJAH: A Suspense Novel and reading Redman’s publisher web site for his Koontz story.   Redman’s influence on Koontz’s writing and his life cannot be exaggerated, as once again, Redman’s integrity, bravery, faith, and health battle are featured in the Jane Hawk series, hidden in the characters’ names, words and actions, just as he served as the inspiration for ASHLEY BELL.

Like most adults, my spare time is limited, so I can cover all my reading needs in one of Koontz’s amazing novels– a spiritual work, a fantastic suspense, a deep romance, a political critique, a futuristic sci-fi thriller, and an examination of conscience, all in one incredible work of art.

quote from THE FOUR LOVES

Is God a Cosmic Sadist?

Question: “Why would a loving God send people to Hell?”
Answer: People choose Hell over God.
Question: “Why would anyone choose Hell over God?”
Answer: Because they’ve spent their lives preparing themselves to make that choice.”
Question: “How could a Christian make that choice?
Answer: By formulating and clinging to a false notion of God that makes us recoil when we see the reality, or by allowing ourselves to be so attached to sin that we don’t want to be relieved of the attachment even in Purgatory.
Question: “Well, why did God make it so hard.  Doesn’t that make Him some kind of Cosmic Sadist who just wants to torture us?”
Answer: That’s a mystery.  The Old Testament basically says that’s what God is, at least from our perspective, and we just have to accept it because He’s God and we’re not.  New Testament atonement theology doesn’t help much, and there are many interpretations that try to get us out of that trap.

The simple answer is love, and the personalism of St. John Paul II.  Yes, God could have made us differently than He did. He could have made the angels differently than He did.  Maybe He has made other life-forms that are different–He certainly seems to love diversity and possibility.  But the fact is, He made us, and He made us such that, just as each specific kind of plant or animal needs certain nutrients and environmental factors to thrive, so people function to our fullest potential when we live according to God’s design and intention for us.


The New Testament tells us over and over that God has “imprisoned all in disobedience” that He might show Mercy to all, that He prizes the sheep who stray and come back more highly, and so on.  Again, it might seem like a weird way to set things up, but the more we understand it as a relationship of love, the more sense it makes.

To be free to love we must be free to reject, and I believe strongly that Christ gives us the freedom to reject Him. I believe that we have to pray to Christ to shape our understanding and our will to accept Him, just as spouses must both try themselves and pray for the grace to improve ourselves to be better people and to love our spouses for who they are, not who they want them to be.

I believe we set ourselves up for rejecting Christ when we form images of Him that conflict with Who He really is and refuse to allow those images to grow. In marriage, we start off with an idealized Other whom we love. As we grow, we realize the Other doesn’t always match that Ideal. The Ideal gives way to the Real, we try to make ourselves more like the Other’s Ideal, and one day hope that we will be together, perfected, in Heaven, where the truly Ideal and the truly Real meet.
The same is true of our relationships with Christ, but the difference is that He is unchanging.  We are mutable and weak, and blessed with the gifts of ignorance and unknowing that He gave us to give us the opportunity to grow.  However, we start with an “ideal” of Christ that we tend to cling to.  If we take our mistaken view of Christ, whatever its basis, without trying to grow in our understanding, we end up like Javert, confronted with the reality of Christ and too proud to admit we were wrong.
In this sense, the ancient Christian tradition, reflected in both Catholic and Orthodox sources, tells us that it might sometimes be easier for a pagan or an atheist who has gone through life with an attitude of sincerely seeking God, to embrace Jesus when she meets Him than for a self-proclaimed Christian who is too self-confident to admit being wrong.
This is also why we must caution ourselves against the extreme of presumption–we use the rather extreme example of someone who has lived a life of erstwhile holiness potentially “snapping” and committing a murder-suicide, but the far more realistic example is that we are too attached to *something* to let it go for Christ when called to do so.
Paradoxically, one of those attachments can itself be scrupulosity.  We can often be the worst Javert’s to ourselves–indeed, in the book, Javert resigns his position, writes a confession, and commits suicide because he has broken the Law by not arresting Valjean on sight.  He cannot forgive himself for being forgiving–the ultimate paradox of the damned.
The possibility of damnation does not make God a Cosmic Sadist–though, as C. S. Lewis, St. Francis de Sales and the Book of Job all tell us, even if God *is* a Cosmic Sadist, we don’t have any choice in the matter so we might as well play by His rules.
At judgement, we put God in the Dock, as Lewis says–we judge Him.  We say, “I can’t accept Your Mercy,” or “I can’t accept Your Justice,” or both.  In Lewis’s Great Divorce, souls are first tempted — not with the more obvious ones but tests of pride, impatience, etc.–and then greeted by Saints they have the biggest grudges against.  This is similar to the Orthodox theory of the “toll booths”—that personal judgement is a journey, where we must stop and confront different temptations that plagued us in life, and if we don’t built up the resistance to them now, we won’t be able to resist them then.  As well as the tollbooths, like in Lewis’s story, the soul is called to both by the Damned and the Saved, and if the soul has kept bad company in this life, she will be drawn to the appeal of the Damned to join them.
It’s like the joke about the millionaire who is told he can decide between Heaven and Hell and after seeing Heaven, he is taken to Hell for his three day preview.  He spends three days at a luxury resort, with every pleasure imaginable, and all his friends and family are having a big party.  So he decides that Hell has been misrepresented and tells the angel he wants to stay in Hell.  He finds himself in torment, with his friends and family chained nearby, cursing him and each other, and the handsome concierge now revealed as Satan, and he asks what happened.  “That was sales pitch.  You purchased.”
The other mistake we can make with every conception of judgement, even the “tollbooths,” is that we think, “Christ forgives everyone.  He will forgive me.”  We presume that we haven’t bought into Satan’s sales pitch.  We presume we will be able to withstand any temptation in our final journey or that we won’t find ourselves agreeing with all the celebrities and internet combox atheists who say that they’d rather be in Hell because all the interesting people are there.
We have to shape our minds, our lives, our desires to make God, as He has revealed Himself to be, desirable to us, and to recognize when the World is trying to make us think differently of Him.

Vegetables and Grace

intro_cream_of_crop

Grace is received according to the mode of the receiver.

So are vegetables.

Some people naturally love vegetables. Most people don’t.

Most people love a few particular vegetables. For me, my favorites are broccoli and spinach, which I’d eat an entire package of on my own if I could but I take Coumadin so I’m only allowed to eat small amounts of them. Ironically, a few months ago I ate a whole bag of broccoli by myself and sent myself to the ER with a clot.

If we don’t have any desire to eat vegetables, we need to have our desires adjusted before we can eat them.

If we grow up eating vegetables, it is easier to love them as an adult. Often, if we grow up eating both, or having our vegetables coated in twinkies, as someone recently suggested, then we are really being taught that vegetables are not desirable.

If we have a desire to eat vegetables but a greater desire to eat junk food, we might eat *some* vegetables but not all the vegetables that are being served to us because we spoiled our dinner by filling up on junk food.

If we fill up completely on junk food, we have no room for vegetables.

So it is with grace.

Our Father in Heaven is offering us a smorgasbord of spiritual vegetables. Our Lady of Victory told St. Catherine Laboure that the precious stones falling from her hands on the Miraculous Medal–the stones which Mel Gibson symbolically has her casting to the earth in The Passion of the Christ, are the graces that go to waste because people aren’t willing to receive them.

Original sin and concupiscence are such that most of us are disinclined to accept His Grace.

Some people are born more naturally receptive to grace.

Some people are born with an inclination to particular graces from God, rather than having a well-balanced spiritual diet, gorge themselves on one kind of grace to the detriment of their overall spiritual life (such as a preference for Scripture or a particular devotion, a scrupulous devotion to COnfession, fasting excessively, doing charitable works without prayer, etc.).

Some people are raised in holy homes and taught to shun the world.

Some people are raised by holy parents who try to teach them the right way, but the enemy sows his seeds of spiritual junk food anyway, and the parents themselves don’t realize the subtle ways they’re teaching that God is second in their lives or that faith is not desirable in itself.

Most people don’t even try to accept God’s grace, and if they try, they get their souls so full of sin that they can’t, and they need to get that out of their systems, one way or the other, before they can take in the graces God is trying to offer them.

The Four Questions 99% of Protestants can’t answer

After a few discussions in the past 24 hours, I am revisiting the Socratic questions that always seem to stymie our separated brethren.

Preface: St. Paul tells us to hold fast to all the Apostle’s teachings, whether by “letter” or “word of mouth” (2 Thess 2:15). Our Lord speaks of the Church having the power to Loose and Bind (Matthew 16:18-19) and frequently speaks of giving us a Church but never speaks of Scriptures as anything other than the Hebrew Scriptures. St. John tells us Jesus said and did many other things that are not recorded in the Bible (21:25). St Peter says that nothing in Scripture is personal interpretation but is to be guided by the Church (2 Peter 1:18-21).
1) So where, in Scripture, is Sola Scriptura? The usual response is some verse about how important Scripture is, but never one that proves it is *exclusive*.
2) Where does the Bible say one must specifically have not just a general foundation for an idea but a specific chapter and verse citation? (Answer, nowhere, since chapters and verses were a Medieval addition and aren’t even consistent among Medieval texts)
3) If one truly believes in “sola Scriptura,” why quote any books or ministers? Is it not really just picking and choosing the Tradition one prefers and calling it Scriptural?
4) Last, but not least, if you are opposed to “secular knowledge,” “images,” etc., what are you doing on the Internet?

On “Belief” and “Believing”

“It’s that time of year . . . ”
If you tell me you’re going to go win a marathon, and I say, “I believe in you,” what am I saying?
Am I saying, “Yes, I do believe you’re real.  You go on existing”?
Or am I saying, “I have confidence that you can achieve this difficult feat”?

Why do we do the same with God?

Scripture takes for granted that God exists.  Belief in God is, rather, about confidence that He would do what He says.

This problem is compounded by the “Santa Claus” question.  My kids were smarter than I was.  They could tell from all the disparate accounts–even in Rankin and Bass specials–that something was amiss in the pop culture narrative.  My wife always worried about people who equate “belief in God” with “belief in Santa,” so we told them the truth from the beginning: St. Nicholas is a real person who lived on earth, and performed many acts of charity and many miracles in his earthly and heavenly lives.

He saved three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by tossing three bags of money into their home at night to pay off their father’s debts.  For this, he is the patron saint of pawnbrokers (the pawn broker symbol is the three bags of coins from St. Nicholas).

He is said to have miraculously flown to a sinking ship.  Thus he is associated with flight and is a patron of sailors.

In the middle ages, people would commemorate his feast by anonymously giving to the poor and saying the gifts were from St. Nicholas.

Ironically, Protestants who thought devotion to Saints was “too pagan” changed it to the Christ Child bringing gifts of Christmas (Krist Kinder, or Kris Kringle), or else the very pagan figure of Father Christmas, all of which got merged in the US to the figure of “Santa Claus,” greed and commercialism personified in the guise of generosity.

Contrary to Peter Pan, simply insisting you believe doesn’t make something happen-that’s Gnosticism. Something is either real, or it isn’t.  You can “believe” the Earth is flat, or that the moon is made of green cheese.  Insisting otherwise isn’t going to change the facts of what the earth and the moon really are.

You can “believe” that God doesn’t exist.  You can “believe” God exists.  However, your belief has no bearing on reality.  Either He does, or He doesn’t.  Belief if it applies to questions of objective truth at all, applies to our assent to the truth, not to whether it *is* true.

“What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do: Truth Himself speaks truly, else there’s nothing true.”

It annoys me when we say things like, “For us, the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ” or “We believe that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception,” and mean, “For us, Santa Claus is a magical being who lives at the North Pole,” or “We believe that the Easter Bunny brings eggs.”

Yes, it is “for” us, teleologically speaking, but it is not “for us” versus “for you.”  The Eucharist *is* the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.  It’s not “just a symbol.”  It doesn’t *stop* being the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ because you think otherwise.

The Immaculate Conception is a question of historical reality.  I can believe or not believe in the testimony, the evidence and the logical arguments that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin.  It does not cease to be an historical fact if I choose not to “believe it.”  Similarly, my belief doesn’t make it real if it didn’t actually occur.

 

A Feminist Weights in on The Annual “Mary Did You Know” Debate.

I’ve previously blogged about this atrocious “Christmas” song, film critic and recently ordained deacon Steven D. Greydanus wrote a far more eloquent line-by-line response.  However, a new feminist, Protestant response adds a different dimension to the song.  A Presbyterian going by “pulpitshenanigans” published a blog post abou thow “Mary Did You Know?” is “Everything Wrong with American Christians.”  While her post is about 75% correct, she starts off on the wrong foot by essentially granting the song’s central premise.  She asserts that

From day one [Mark Lowry] was taught that women in the bible are evil, maybe Mary was an exception to the evil, I mean she and her “purity” is what all woman should subscribe to.

More likely, as a Liberty University grad fundamentalist, Lowry was taught that Mary was the most sinful woman in history.

We’ve missed the fact that the news that Mary gets through this angel is that her body is about to be violated, she will become pregnant without her consent. She is to carry the child and she is to name him Jesus. She has no choice over her body or even his name.

Uhh, no. She is one of only four human persons in history who ever made a truly free choice.

Adam and Eve were “immaculately conceived,” so to speak. They were created without sin. Faced with the cosmos-shattering decision of following God or themselves, they chose themselves.  They committed the Original Sin that each of us has had since conception (Psalm 51:5).

In Catholic teaching, there are four kinds of “real Presence” of Jesus Christ.  The first is “wherever two or three are gathered in My Name” (Matthew 18:20).  The second is in the Sacred Scripture, the Word of God.  The third is in icons or crucifixes.  The highest, though, is His Presence–Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity–in the Eucharist.

In the Israelite tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was the Presence of God in a similar way, containing in itself the Law (Scripture), the staff of Aaron (foreshadowing the Cross) and manna (foreshadowing the Eucharist).  Anyone who touched the Ark with any sin on his conscience, Scripture tells us, would die.

Gabriel said Mary was “full of grace.”  How can anyone with sin be “full of grace”?  How can anyone with sin truly be “at enmity” with the Devil, as God describes in Gen 3:15?  If a creature with sin cannot touch the Ark of the Covenant, how could a creature with sin bear in her very body God Incarnate?

Here is Mary, greeted by Gabriel, with the message that she’s been chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah.  She knows the Scriptures.  She knows what it will entail.  She knows she will be potentially accused of adultery and stoned.

Almost every other figure in Scripture who gets visited by an angel, usually with news of a coming miraculous answer to a prayer, including Zechariah, questions the angel out of doubt, even legitimate doubt, and is given either a punishment or a sign.  Mary questions the angel out of concern for her virginity.  She says, aware of the risks, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done unto me as you say.”

Eve had no sin, yet faced with obeying God or potentially dying from self-service, she chose death.  How would we expect Mary to have chosen the hard way of obeying God, when she knew it might mean death, unless Mary *at least* had the same grace that Eve did to start out with?

On Reading “Bad Books”

A question: you have a series of hugely popular books and movies. Some people say they’re demonic. Others say they’re deeply Christian. Some in the first group have actually read them and claim the seemingly Christian symbolism is meant to steer people away from Christ rather than lead them to Him.
While this is specifically inspired by the perpetual Harry Potter controversy, reignited by recent sequels and locally by a parish study, it should be noted that it could apply to lots of contemporary literature, not to mention anything that was on the Index, from Machiavelli to the King James translation to Marx to Victor Hugo.
Now, among readers, you have several sets of people:
1) Those who are not well formed and have no interest in the books or the genre, no reason to read them, and very little need to discuss them. Fine. If that’s the case, go on your merry way and live and let live.
2) Those who are well formed, *do* have interest in the books or genre, *do* encounter lots of people who have interest in them, and can read and analyze and discuss them intelligently. (Noting that, even when the Index was in force, people in this group were permitted to read books on the Index, and noting that many books that were on the Index are considered acceptable today)
3) Those who are students or children of people in Group 2. (Noting that, even when the Index was in force, people in this group under guidance of Group 2 could read the books on the Index).
4) Those who are poorly formed and otherwise weak in the area the books deal with, whom any reasonable Catholic would say probably shouldn’t read the books.
5) Those who are not Catholic or even Christian.
6) Those who are convinced the books are evil and want to condemn them.
If someone in Group 6 encounters someone in Group 2, is there really any point in crying, “You shouldn’t read this book!  It’s evil!” Or condemning Group 2 for trying to educate Groups 3, 4 and 5?
If the person in Group 6 confronts the person in Group 5 with his or her concerns, it’s like when a Baptist randomly shows up at your door and tells you you’re going to Hell.  Why would an atheist care?  So why would someone who is already a non Christian care if a book is going to steer him away from Christ?

Didn’t St. Francis de Sales say something about honey and vinegar?

*However*, let’s say that the person in Group 2 encounters someone in Group d5, and says, “Hey!  Those books you love!  I like them too!  Let’s talk about them!”  Then the person in Group 3 helps the person in Group 5 see how the books point to Christ.  This is how J.R. R. Tolkien influenced the conversion of C. S. Lewis.  Lewis had rejected the notion that “everyone else in the world is a sinner going to Hell for not believing in the true God.”  Tolkien taught him how all religions, not just Judaism, point to Christianity.  He showed Lewis how Christ was the historical fulfillment of all those pagan myths Lewis loved, which was a more satisfying explanation than “Those myths are all lies of demons.”

So the person in Group 2 thinks that the books have merit for fellow Christians if read with guidance.  The person in Group 6 thinks they have no merit, but if Group 6 could get a lot more leverage in dealing with Groups 3 and 5 if he at least adopts the approach of Group 2.

On Van Gogh, Lewis, Koontz, Autism and the Afterlife

Here’s a thought process: I’ve long believed that part of what we take to be “mental illness” is the brain perceiving reality differently, particularly in the case of schizophrenic disorders, hallucinations, etc.: that whatever connection there is between the soul and the mind is overactive, so the person is extra-ordinarily aware of the ordinary spiritual activity that surrounds us. St Anthony of the Desert was once given a view of the angels and demons simply fighting at that moment over his soul, and asked not to be shown it again lest he go insane.
Now, I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple days about sensory overload. If you dare, here are a couple videos that simulate sensory overload experiences:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oe7yNPyf2c
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcS2VUoe12M
Tonight, I saw an interesting video on Vincent van Gogh and physics. The article and video can be found here.  Van Gogh’s painting’s, particularly Starry Night, accurately depict the motion of the stars according to the phenomenon called “turbulence,” and Hubble Telescope researchers found that patterns from the Hubble telescope match van Gogh’s work.  That’s the nutshell version of the physics: the articles leave open the question of *how*, but at one point the video touches on the neurological side of things, and that’s what inspired this blog post.  Now, if I understand what they’re saying, all the Impressionists depicted light in a way that’s revolutionary and matches with things scientists discovered later.  They all seemed to intuit or access perceptions of light that most people aren’t aware of, but our brains can still process.
Van Gogh, however, was the only one to do it with such detail and scientific/mathematical precision.    He did all this during the same period of  “mental chaos” that led to both cutting off his own ear and painting his greatest works.  They’re stopping at “apparently, by depicting the chaos in his mind, he accurately depicted the chaos in nature.”
What if the chaos in his mind was caused by perceiving the chaos in nature?
What if van Gogh was what  we call “severely autistic,” and hyper-perception turned to sensory overload?  If you have no idea what “sensory overload” means or is like, and think it means “ate too much sugar” or something, please watch (and listen to) the videos I posted above. The closest possible experience is migraine, and that’s not even half of it.
Imagine: for some reason, van Gogh went into complete sensory overload.  He could see light so well he was seeing turbulence.  He could hear every sound around him in a deafening cacophony.  That’s why he cut off his ear-to try and stop the sound.  He channeled the visual overload by painting things the way he actually saw them.
Now, the theological side of this discussion.  My wife has been reading Dean Koontz‘s books, particularly the Odd Thomas series.  If you don’t know Koontz, and are looking for someone other than the usual litany of ChestertonEliotLewisTolkienO’Connor, read him.  I started with Brother Odd, and was hooked when, within a page, he referred to Batman, Odysseus, and nuns who think they’re “social workers who don’t date.”  Anyway, as she’s told me about different Koontz books, we’ve discussed what things struck me as reminiscent of Lewis, Eliot and O’Connor.  I suggested she read The Great Divorce next, so while she’s read that, we’ve been discussing how Lewis depicts part of Purgatory being the soul’s adjustment to the sheer Reality of Heaven: grass, for example, that feels like walking on knives because it’s so REAL.  St. John Bosco had a dream where he saw a stage of the afterlife that wasn’t even the beginning of the farthest outskirts of what we call “Heaven.”  St. Dominic Savio, who greeted him there having already died years before his teacher, said that “No one can see Heaven and live.”
Perhaps it’s because Heaven is so overwhelmingly real.
Now, if you haven’t, go back and look at the sensory overload videos.
If the phenomenon/symptom that was originally called “autism”–catatonia, retreating into oneself, etc.,–stems from a brain that is so aware and so full of information that the person can’t handle it, and has to find some way of dealing with all that information that shoots in and out constantly–if Vincent van Gogh, as I’m speculating, had such an experience and was so overwhelmed he cut off his ear–if my son can have a meltdown because he suddenly keenly remembers some incident from when he was 2 or 3 years old like it just happened–imagine being suddenly confronted with the ability to instantly remember everything that happened in your life: every good memory, every bad memory.
Imagine being suddenly able to, if you and God will, see or hear anyone, anything, anywhere in time or space, at a level of detail that you cannot possibly imagine now.  That’s to say nothing of the Beatific Vision.
If you were to die after reading this, do you think your psyche (both in the modern and original senses of the word) would be truly prepared for such an overwhelming crash of reality?   It’s what Plato described with his allegorical man from the cave who suddenly goes from seeing nothing but 2D shadows his entire  life to seeing three dimensional people and objects in full color, in the sunlight.  Do you not think that you’d need to at least let your eyes adjust?  Like jumping into a swimming pool, you’d need to adjust a moment to the drastic change in your surroundings.
That adjustment is Purgatory.

Small Miracles

On Saturday night, we went to a “Healing Service,” the third time I went to what I’d call a “Charismatic” healing service, with a fellow named Damian Stayne, and the first with a laymen and no sacramental aspect. I went because, though I accept my just suffering and try not to test God or seek out consolations, I so desperately want to sing again. I made the usual promise to seek the diaconate if God granted me my voice back, or for greater healing for Mary and me so we could bear another child. Of course, nothing dramatic happened. There were some apparent healings that took place–I saw many leaving very downcast, though.

I was deeply troubled–not by God. I understand how God works. I was troubled by the event. The fellow was deeply admired and recommended by people I admire. I was invited the last time he came through Augusta, and I declined.

What bothers me about Charismatic spirituality besides the consolation hunting that goes against the recommendations of the Carmelite Doctors–yet I also know some amazing Carmelites who are also Charismatics–is that they never make room for the importance of suffering, or the fact that God answers prayers in His own time. One thing that really impressed me was how Mr. Stayne pointed out that the man Sts. Peter and John heal in Acts (the chronologically last mention of the Beloved Disciple in Acts) has been laying outside the temple *his whole life*, and Jesus passed him by. At the same time as insisting that God has this “big bowl of healing” or some such and that He doesn’t pick and choose whom to heal, Stayne touched on the most important point.

Little Therese says that one of the reasons Jesus says “faith the size of a mustard seed” is that He works miracles to nourish small faith–people with no faith will ignore miracles (“your doctor was an idiot and read the test wrong,” “we mixed up the records,” etc.) For a person with a seed of faith, a miracle will water it. But for a person with a lot of faith, God tests them. She points out that Our Lord allows one of His best friends to die so He can work a greater miracle because He is testing the faith of Sts. Mary and Martha, and showing everyone else God’s glory.

Think about Mother Angelica: first, she was told she’d never walk. Then she prayed that if God let her walk, she’d start a monastery in the deep South–and she walked again *but with braces*. Forty years in braces. Then the time she was speaking in Florida, and a woman came up and said “Mother, your talk changed my life.”
“Really? What did I say that touched you?”
“I didn’t hear a word you said.”
“Uh, then how did my talk change your life?”
“Your braces. I have to wear leg braces, too, and all my friends tell me it’s because I don’t have enough faith. I saw you in leg braces, and I know you’re a woman of faith, so I know my friends are wrong.”
Of course, a few years later, she was healed of needing her braces. Then a couple years after that she had a massive stroke.

To someone with a fully formed understanding of suffering, and God’s purpose in showing His glory through miracles, Mother Angelica is a perfect example.

I wish a “healing service” would include those insights, so that people aren’t left with their faith devastated by empty promises.

It is wonderful when people are healded, and I believe Mr. Stayne is sincere and filling a role God has made for him. He said sometimes people come out of his services and something good happens days later. Maybe tomorrow morning will be that morning I’ve prayed for for as long as I can remember that I wake up and don’t need my glasses. However, in the meantime, I accept God’s will. I felt sorry for people who left seeming discouraged. I feel sorry for the fellow who prayed for me–he was really desperate to get me “total healing.” He was worried about *my* faith, and I tried to say how God has worked many healings in my life.

So, we were concerned about our kids’ reactions to the whole thing, and we were talking to them, and our son said, with a big smile, “He cured my asthma!” We were more concerned about the “big things,” and here he was joyful that, when he got bored with the 3+ hour service, and went running around in the front hall of the convention center, he could run without gasping for air.

Those are the little miracles that we need to see.

I hate “stewardship talks”

They’re usually given by older couples, by people in upper middle class careers, or by people whose careers provide room for a higher paying contract, more money for more hours, etc., not by young families on fixed incomes who run a deficit every month.

It seems like, when I set about actually tithing, the car breaks down, or there’s some other emergency that comes up.

After rent, utilities, monthly medications and supplies, and whatever breaks down, etc., we basically have to divide my disability check for the month’s food, gasoline and entertainment: $40 per day for six people in a 15 year old handicapped accessible van that gets 12-15 mpg, all with dietary needs. 

We have finally found the faith community we’ve been seeking our entire marriage: traditional in liturgy, orthodox in theology, but welcoming and active.  I’ve been drawn to it for many years, actually. It’s one of the reasons I even moved to the Augusta area, but various issues prevented us becoming active members till this past year.

We want St. Ignatios of Antioch Melkite Catholic Church to be our parish for life, but the small parish is struggling.  It’s a small church with about twelve pews and a small attached hall.  There are some who attend because it’s their neighborhood Catholic church.  There are some families, like ours, and many older parishioners.  It has the internal tension and politics of any parish, but for the most part, people work past that stuff.

Nevertheless, because of the size and location, only so many people can attend Divine Liturgy at the present location.  Our pastor has been talking about trying to find a bigger church, to hopefully attract more people and give space for those who want to come but can’t find parking, but the parish is running a deficit as it is.

On an average Sunday, we get as many as 80 people, if you count folding chairs.  Reduced to heads of households or single adults, though, that’s probably more like 20 people, at most, who can give.

So, even if it means reducing my personal food budget to $2 a day instead of $3, I’m going to figure out how my family can do better with our contributions.  And we’re trying to figure out ways we can help raise money for the parish.

If you regularly or occasionally attend St. Ignatios, please consider offering a bit more of your proverbial “time, talent or treasure.”  If you don’t live in the area but are concerned about preserving traditional liturgies in general or Eastern Catholicism in particular, please donate.

If you live in the Augusta area, and you’re looking for a church community, or are curious, whether you’re Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or non-Christian, please come visit us  on Sunday morning: Orthros (Morning Prayer) is 9-10 AM.  Divine Liturgy is 10 AM till usually about 11:30, after which is a potluck brunch and fellowship.

You can donate via the Eparchy (Diocese) of Newton’s website, or mail a check to the parish.

1003 Merry St., Augusta, GA, 30904

706-738-9388

http://www.melkite.net

How can anyone accept the Gospels and not be Catholic?

How can anyone read the Gospels and not be a Catholic?
Where does “The BIble” come from? The Catholic Church.
Where do the titles of the Biblical books and authorship assignation come from? The Catholic Church.
Where do Bible verses come from? Medieval Catholic monks.
Matthew 7:21 kills “sola fide”
John 20:30-31 and 21:24-25 not only kill “sola Scriptura” but tell us that the things John tells us about Jesus are particularly important.
Matthew 16:18, Luke 22:32 and John 21:15-19 establish the role of Simon Peter (Greek “Petros,” Aramaic “Cephas,” meaning “bedrock”; first recorded use of Petra/Petros or the gender neutral Cephas as a proper noun in either language).
Genesis 3:15: God promises “enmity” between Satan and the Woman, whose seed will destroy him.
Luke 1:28: Gabriel greets Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant (Rev 11:19-12:1; remember how those pesky chapters and verses were inserted by medieval Catholic scholars? The original Greek runs together) as “full of grace,” something impossible if she had the stain of sin. Until a few centuries ago, all Christians agreed that Mary was free from personal sin; they only disagreed on questions of original sin, when the soul is created, and whether Mary was free from original sin. Under the Old Law, anyone with sin who touched the Ark of the Covenant would die. If Mary had sin, how could she bear God Incarnate in her own body?
Luke 1:43: Elizabeth calls Mary ‘Mother of my LORD,” “Mother of God.”
Luke 1:45: Elizabeth says Mary is blessed for trusting in God’s word, a blessing Our Lord repeats in Luke 11:28, saying that Mary’s blessing is more than just biological
Luke 1:48: Mary predicts that all generations will call her blessed
Luke 2:35: Simeon predicts that Mary will participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering “that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”
John 2:4-5: Jesus, echoing Gen 3:15, calls His Mother Woman, and says His time has not come, referring both to her need to act first and to His “time” in John being His glorification on the Cross.
John 19:26: Echoing His earlier statement (cf. Luke 8:21) that anyone who hears His Word is His “Mother and Brother”, He assigns His Mother to John, in front of John’s biological mother, making John His Brother and Mary the Mother of all who believe in Him, ,so that those who were “servants” and “friends” (Jn 15:15) can now be “brothers” (Jn 20:17).
Thus, when He asks Peter, in the Greek translation, if Peter has the Agape love of a Servant (Jn 21:15) Peter replies that he has the philos love of a brother, and after asking three times to help Peter repent of his sin, Jesus tells Peter that if he loves Jesus as a brother, he will die for him (Jn 21:18).
At the Resurrection, Jesus commissions the Apostles to forgive sins (Jn 20:23).
Then there’s John 6, 1 Cor 11; Mt 26; Mk 14 and Lk 22. As someone put it, when Jesus says, “This is the New Testament,” He isn’t holding a book; He’s holding a Chalice. 1 Cor 11, by the way, is the only time St. Paul in any of his letters tells a Gospel story in detail.

I just don’t know what “I believe in” anymore

Growing up, it was tough enough keeping straight the Nicene Creed (1971 translation):

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
[bow during the next two lines:]
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

and Apostles Creed:

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell [or “the dead”];
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
{from there [thence?]} he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.

Then I tried to learn the Nicene Creed in Latin:

Credo in unum Deum,
Patrem omnipoténtem,
Factórem cæli et terræ,
Visibílium ómnium et invisibílium.
Et in unum Dóminum Iesum Christum,
Fílium Dei Unigénitum,
Et ex Patre natum ante ómnia sæcula.
Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine, Deum verum de Deo vero,
Génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri:
Per quem ómnia facta sunt.
Qui propter nos hómines et propter nostram salútem
Descéndit de cælis.
Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto
Ex María Vírgine, et homo factus est.
Crucifíxus étiam pro nobis sub Póntio Piláto;
Passus, et sepúltus est,
Et resurréxit tértia die, secúndum Scriptúras,
Et ascéndit in cælum, sedet ad déxteram Patris.
Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória,
Iudicáre vivos et mórtuos,
Cuius regni non erit finis.
Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum et vivificántem:
Qui ex Patre Filióque procédit.
Qui cum Patre et Fílio simul adorátur et conglorificátur:
Qui locútus est per prophétas.
Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
Confíteor unum baptísma in remissiónem peccatorum.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum,
Et vitam ventúri sæculi. Amen.

I was still getting that memorized when the translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal (aka the “new” translation) came out:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 
Then, more recently, we’ve been periodically attending an Anglican Use Mass, which has this translation:

I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven,
Genuflect
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man;
Stand
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried;
and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
and he shall come again, with glory,
to judge both the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life,
who proceedeth from the Father and the Son;
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped
and glorified;
who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins;
and I look for the resurrection of the dead,
 and the life of the world to come. Amen.

However, we’re now regularly attending the Melkite Divine Liturgy:

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven
and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in
one Lord Jesus Christ, the OnlyVBegotten Son of God,
begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light, true
God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with
the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us
men and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and
became man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
suffered, and was buried. He rose again on the third day in
accordance with the Scriptures, ascended into Heaven, and
is enthroned at the right hand of the Father. He will come
again with glory to judge the living and the dead and of
His Kingdom there shall be no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who
proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father
and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke
through the prophets. And in one, holy, catholic, and
apostolic Church. I profess one baptism for the remission
of sins. I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and
the life of the world to come. Amen.

Then, every now and then in personal devotion I pray the Creed of Paul VI or the Athanasian Creed.
But the moral of the story is that, while standardization of words (and language) is a strong symbol of the unity of the Faith and of the One Liturgy, it also helps sometimes to not take words for granted because we have them memorized.

To Hipster Dad and Trad Dad

A few days ago, Aleteia started the latest round of parents-at-mass wars by reprinting a CatholicMom.com column from last June, by one Thomas Tighe, a self-described “hipster dad,” who writes about one of those incidents I’ve blogged about before where people come up and say rude comments to parents trying their best to teach their kids how to behave at Mass.  Now, whether Mr. Tighe’s description of his attempts really qualifies as “his best” is a matter for debate but of prudential judgement.  I know, though, that when our kids were little, one of the major reasons we shunned the cry room as often as possible was to avoid the bad example of parents who brought snacks and non-relevant toys (we would always try to get the kids to bring religious books and sometimes religious toys).

Sometimes, a cry room is necessary.  Sometimes, a vestibule or a trip outside church is necessary.  Indeed, I got so used to taking my autistic son out of church that I realized at one point last year I preferred being outside, listening on the speaker.

I like the anecdote about Ven. Fulton Sheen, when a lady took a crying baby out of Mass during his homily: “Madame, you needn’t take the baby out on my account.  He isn’t bothering me.”
“No,” the lady replied, “but you’re  bothering the baby!”

Yes, parents of young or disabled children have no Mass obligation, but that is precisely why attending at all is an act of heroic virtue.

Nevertheless, I’m inclined to agree with Tighe, especially given the absolute vitriol that people were spewing in response to his column.  For example, Steve Skojec weighed in with the perspective of a “certain kind of traditionalist.”

Skojec takes the “absolute silence” perspective, including suggesting that it’s a sin to drop a book.  I’m sure he’d be deeply offended by the sound of my wheelchair or the number of times I drop things at Mass!

I wish I could get people like you to stop quoting Mark 10 as a justification for irresponsible parenting. I have always brought my children to Mass, letting the little children come unto Him…but I’ve also always reminded them that the Mass is a supreme act of worship of Our Lord on the Cross, not a friendly gathering where Jesus told the little guys cute parables. . . .

Yes, when the Apostles were complaining about children, they were mad that the children were being perfectly well behaved and wearing their blue blazers with brass buttons.  And when Jesus said you can’t get into Heaven unless you learn to be like children, He meant perfectly silent and well-dressed.

When people have offered actual help, or talked to our kids helpfully, I’ve welcomed it.  Once, when my kids got distracted by the Christmas Tree at the Christmas Eve vigil, the pastor gently said, “I realize you’re excited because it’s Christmas, but please wait till after Mass to look at the tree.” Another time, as my eldest daughter loudly proclaimed her responses at our parish, a lady behind us kept whispering in her ear.  I braced myself when the lady approached me after Mass.
“How old is she?” she asked.
“Five,” I said.
“You must have taken her to Mass since she was a baby.  I kept leaning over and telling her how impressed I was that she knew her responses.  I have a daughter who’s a nun now, and she knew her responses when she was 5, too.”
A few times, we went to Sunday evening Mass at my alma mater’s campus chapel.  We were flabbergasted when the young priest pointed to our kids as an example of how to behave at Mass!   “Those little children know how to behave at Mass better than you college students!” Then when the baby woke up and started crying, he said, “Now, see?  You’ve woken up the baby!”
I went to daily Mass there once with my son, when he was 2 or 3 but not yet diagnosed autistic.  Father asked if I wanted to lector.  I said, “What about him?”  “He’ll be fine!”   I shrugged my shoulders, got up to read, and my son started following.  I gestured to return to the seat, and he did.
My eldest daughter once got up and laid prostrate in front of the altar after a homily about kids at Mass.
She had grown up attending a monthly “Reform of the Reform” Latin Ordinary Form liturgy in Northern Virginia, and the occasional High Mass Extraordinary Form in Richmond.  When she was 2, she sang her Latin Mass parts well enough to impress a Juilliard-trained composer and choral director.
After we moved to SC, there was a monthly EF low Mass we would try to attend.  Once, when she was 5 or 6, confused by everyone being silent during the liturgy of the Eucharist, she began singing the “Salve Regina,” perfectly.  She was sitting a few rows behind me, with her godfather.  I turned to shush her, but almost everyone smiled and gestured as if to say, “she’s fine.”

A few years later, at another parish, I was sitting up front with the younger two, and an elderly couple behind us kept leaning over and whispering what I sensed were gentle admonitions to my son.  After Mass, they asked, “He’s autistic, right?”  I said, “Yes.  They both are.”  They said, “We have an autistic grandson.  We know how it is!”

But we’ve had enough nasty comments to know some people will never be satisfied.
One of the times I tried to bring my son to the low Mass, he whispered some questions but was relatively well-behaved.  Nevertheless, this older gentleman came up and yelled at me, saying, “I raised nine children, and I taught them to behave themselves at Mass!”  I really got the impression that he was as mad about my daughter’s devotion as about my son’s curiosity.  Two other ladies followed him and said, “Don’t listen to him, you’re doing great!”

I often tell the story of taking all four kids to a “Holy Hour” by myself. They’d been to Benediction many times, and knew some of Evening Prayer from my saying it at home.  I was holding the baby.  The then 6 and 4 year old were focusing on the prayers. My son was walking up and down the pews, but being quiet, as he’d done at the aforementioned college mass, which was a huge improvement for him.
They used illicit, barely recognizable, texts for Vespers and Benediction, politically correct, Charismatic and “interfaith friendly.”  At Benediction, they “voted” on which hymn to sing instead of “Tantum Ergo,” and sang “Amazing Grace.”
At the Magnificat, Divine Praises and other points, my kids said the correct translation with me.  Afterwards, the deacon who led it came up and told me how distracting my family was, and children shouldn’t be present at such a “solemn event.”

The last time we had a direct encounter, my wife was in the back with the younger two, who were both sleepy, as they often are, from their meds.  These two old ladies told my wife that our kids were distracting them by sleeping!

So, whether they’re actually being bad, or they’re actually participating, or they’re being quiet but sleeping, we’ve gotten both positive and negative feedback from strangers and clergy.

Yes, there are some people who are blessed with peaceful, well-behaved children, and like other people blessed with particular virtues, they shouldn’t lord it over others.  But there are also some whose kids’ perfect behavior can be a bit scary to the rest of us.

For the past several months, we’ve been regularly attending a Byzantine church that we have visited from time to time over the past 5 years, and I always found the kids seemed to be better behaved and attentive there.  In Advent, I suggested going to the OF Vigil Mass (it didn’t work out because we all got sick), and the kids said, “Do we have to?!”  They find the chanting both soothing and easy to participate in. They love having the icons to pray with. Like me, they find incense bothers them allergy-wise, but they also find it calming (even when they were smaller, they seemed to settle a bit at Vespers as soon as the Censer passed).  They like the community meal after Liturgy.  When there are a lot of children, the DRE gathers them and brings them up to sit in front of Father during the homily.

On Sunday, we were a bit late as usual.  It was Theophany, so there was an especially long liturgy.  I brought three because our middle daughter was sick, and my wife stayed home since I’m the one who usually does.

We stood/sat in the back.  In the second to last row, there was a visiting family–very obviously Latin Rite traditionalists.  The father and sons were all in suits.  The wife and daughters, all in dresses and veils (while veiling is traditional in the East, it’s not an “obligation,” and from my research veiling is usually avoided in the Melkite Church to avoid confusion with Muslims).   My two youngest ended up right behind them.  I was across the aisle.  My teenager was at the other end.  We’d been told to take empty holy water bottles when we came in.  So my son kept playing with his holy water bottle.  After a while, he came over and told me that he realized we had forgotten to get his morning pills before we left the house! I thanked him for holding it together so well, and took him out to the car to take his pills.  I was happy he was holding it together so well, but still trying to keep him in control.  He kept bugging his younger sister, and she kept shushing him.  The lady in the veil in front of her kept turning around and admonishing *her*.

Later in the afternoon, since I didn’t recognize the family, my wife asked our daughter if she recognized the lady.
“Which lady?”
“The lady who kept turning around and correcting you,” I said.
“Oh, *that* lady,” she sighed.  I should note that, of our four children, she’s the most resistant in matters of faith and has already developed the impression that God is a dictator Who just has a bunch of rules and wants to “get” people, in spite of our efforts to teach a balanced view of the faith.  If she grew up in one of these, “children should be seen and not heard” families, what would her faith be like?

I want to talk about Star Wars Theories

Not about spoilers for Episode VII: The Force Awakens, mind you: the theories themselves, their existence.

It now seems a long time ago (for some of us, it was) that Disney bought LucasFilm  and announced not only a new “trilogy,” but a set of tied in one-off films in the manner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so there will be at least one Star Wars movie a year for the foreseeable future.

Even before that, though, Star Wars was, of course, a very popular topic online, generally of course why the “original trilogy” was good, why Empire Strikes Back was great, why the prequel trilogy was bad, or else how the original trilogy has some weaknesses and the prequels have strength.

A common theme that shows up is that the “Dark Side” of the Force are actually the good guys.  The prequels show the Republic and its Jedi secret police to be corrupt and incompetent.  The Empire just wants to bring order and governance.  The destruction of Alderaan was, in the galactic perspective, a legitimate military target.
The Rebellion wants to restore the chaos.

More importantly, Yoda, the “oldest and wisest of the Jedi” allows a Sith Lord to not only escape his notice but to work closely with him for *years* without getting a hint.  Yoda and Obi-wan are a couple of  liars who deceive Luke about his father *and* his sister (spoiler alert!).   Almost everything Obi-wan says in the “first” movie is revealed to be a lie by the end of Return of the Jedi and definitely by the end of Revenge of the Sith:
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lukes-lightsaber

Are these moral ambiguities merely plot holes?

Or is there a deeper problem with the series’ Gnosticism?

C. S. Lewis, after St. Augustine and many others, argues that the inherent flaw of a Dualistic worldview is that we’re told that “good” and “evil” are equal, opposing forces, and there’s no reason to say, “this side is good” and “this side is bad,” other than subjective perspective.

The same Obi-Wan Kenobi who described Vader as “Twisted and evil” earlier told Vader, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” (itself one of the statements used in evidence against the Jedi as the “good guys”).

On the other hand, when Darth Tyrannus is talking to Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones, he is telling the truth: the Republic is under the control of a Sith Lord; the Republic is riddled with corruption.

Many Star Wars fans argue that the terms “good” and “evil” should not be applied, that it’s “light” and “dark,” because the Force is not even dualistic: there is one Force, not a “Good Force” and a “Bad Force”; just one Force with two sides.  The Force can be accessed using different emotions, like the Lanterns in the DC universe.  The “light” side uses emotions generally considered “positive,” and the “dark” side is fueled by anger, revenge, hate, etc.

Watching The Force Awakens, while I enjoyed it and believe it has many strengths, I tended to agree with the L’Osservatore Romano review that evil is not clear in the film.  It’s kind of gloomy and pessimistic–which makes sense in a movie that’s supposed to be the inversion of “A New Hope,” but there’s also an even greater sense of that lack of clear lines of what is good and what is evil, because the characters lack a clear motivation or guideline.

The “Force” does not give moral laws; it just gives powers.  In real life, this is the problem of a dualistic worldview.  As soon as you say, “That is evil,” unless you mean it as, “I find that unpleasant,” you’re really saying there has to be one God who tells us what is evil.

The Greatest Discount There is

Once again, people have died from being stampeded by people shopping for gifts to nominally celebrate the Mass of the Nativity of Our Lord, and to comemmorate the charity of Sts. Nicholas and Basil the Great.

The Fatima visionaries described seeing souls falling into Hell like snowflakes.  Things like this show why: a nation engaging in an orgy of greed and violence.

It used to be that Thanksgiving, a Protestant holiday that grew as an alternative to “Papist” Christmas but centers around the Catholic Native American Squanto, marked the beginning of secular Christmas decorations and gift-buying, which is why the “Day After Thanksgiving” was supposedly a big shopping day.  It was the first day of the “Christmas shopping season,” many people were still on Thanksgiving break, and those who weren’t watching football would go shopping.

Now it’s got to the point where, as Sue Heck put it on this week’s _The Middle_, “It’s no longer ‘Thanksgiving.’  It’s ‘Black Friday Eve.'”

It’s horrifying that people are willing to put a few hundred dollars in savings above other people’s lives, but that’s the Culture of Death in a nutshell.

Meanwhile, the greatest “discount” in history is waiting, and do people line up and wait to experience the infinite graces offered every day at Holy Mass?  The normal price of sin is everlasting torment in Hell, yet we are offered infinite forgiveness and everlasting paradise by Christ just for giving Him our love.

I’d call that a discount.