Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Abortion is tantamount to a sacrament

Sin makes people do and say crazy (and stupid) things:
The Democrats have removed "safe, legal, and rare" language about abortion from the platform. About time! I was reminded of a speech from last year that never made it onto this site.


And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

I want to thank all of you who protect this blessing – who do this work every day: the health care providers, doctors, nurses, technicians, receptionists, who put your lives on the line to care for others (you are heroes — in my eyes, you are saints); the escorts and the activists; the lobbyists and the clinic defenders; all of you. You’re engaged in holy work.
The woman who said that (in a sermon!) is the new president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, the Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale.

May God have mercy on the Episcopalian community and turn their hearts.

[H/T: Domine, da mihi hanc acquam, by way of the Midwest Conservative Journal]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Power of the Cross: I know I'm behind

I've really fallen behind in reading and posting from The Power of the Cross over the past week. I'll be making up for it over these next few days.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Notre Dame and President Obama

If you haven't already heard, President Obama has been invited by the president of Notre Dame (Fr. Jenkins of the Congregation of the Holy Cross) to give the Commencement Address at this year's graduation. President Obama will also be receiving an honorary degree.

Needless to say, this has caused a bit of an uproar in the Catholic sphere. Here's a lengthy blog roundup of posts on the issue (chronologically).

Friday, March 20th
The University of Notre Dame to Honor Obama (InsideCatholic)

Saturday, March 21st
POTUS at Notre Dame (Young Fogeys)
Archbishop Chaput encourages people to write to Notre Dame president over Obama commencement invitation (Te Deum laudamus!)

Monday, March 23rd
McInerny on Notre Dame’s “vulgar lust” (WDTPRS)
270 per hour (Ten Reasons)
Wha...? (Ignatius Insight Scoop)

Tuesday, March 24th
Fr. Jenkins Plans On Teaching Obama (InsideCatholic)
Obama at Notre Dame: What if? (Young Fogeys)
More from McInerny on UND and Pres. Obama (WDTPRS)
Bishop D'Arcy to boycott Notre Dame commencement (InsideCatholic)
Bp. D’Arcy (where U. Notre Dame is) speaks (WDTPRS)
Notre Dame Scandals: Reactions on March 24th (Te Deum laudamus!)

Solemnity of the Annunciation

Remember to genuflect during the Creed today!

The Creed is sung or recited by the priest together with the people with everyone standing. At the words et incarnatus est (by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . became man) all make a profound bow; but on the Solemnities of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord, all genuflect. (GIRM 137)

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Power of the Cross: Third Week of Lent, Friday - The Cross of Christ Transforms Our Priorities

Ask — How does the cross fit into my stance toward God?

Seek — Acknowledge God's priority in your life, over your heart (all of your emotions), over your understanding (all of your thoughts), and over all of your strength (all of your actions).

Knock — Meditate on 1 John 4:10-12. How does John define "love"? What does the death of Jesus on the cross teach us about God's love? How do we find God's love in all the human suffering that we witness? How can we concretely love one another?

Transform Your Life — Will yourself to love God and everyone else with whom you come into contact today and every day. Think about what it means to truly love other people. Seek to be a sacrificial lover first when it comes to the way you love other people and God.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 119.)

The Power of the Cross: Third Week of Lent, Thursday - The Cross of Christ Transforms Our Lives

Ask — Do I trust God?

Seek — Frequently call upon the Lord for his help throughout the day. Life was not intended to be a solitary venture; recognize that God is always present, and is there for us when we call upon him.

Knock — Meditate on Romans 10:11-13. What strikes you in the passage? Dwell on that part and let it enrich your faith in Jesus Christ.

Transform Your Life — Pay attention to the way you think and act throughout the day. What do your actions and thoughts say about what you really trust in? When given choices between what you know God wants for you and what others are asking of you, who wins out? Radically commit to trusting in God and watch your life be transformed in ways that you can't even imagine at this moment.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 115.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Catechism search tool updated

Update (3/19/09 @ 2:50 PM): The Scripture index has been completed. (Piece of cake. Um, but not during Lent. Piece of bread.)

Update (3/18/09 @ 9:45 PM): I've got all 598 questions loaded. The only thing missing right now is the Scripture index. Maybe I'll have that done by tomorrow night. It's pretty simple, from a programming point of view.

I have been working on a tool which searches the Compendium to the Catechism. I don't have the Scripture-index composed yet, but I have loaded questions 1-299 (out of 598). In the next day or two, I expect to have all 598 questions loaded. Then I will build the Scripture-index. This should all be completed by this weekend.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Power of the Cross: Third Week of Lent, Wednesday - The Cross of Christ Transforms Law and Love

Ask — How much do I love God?

Seek — God's love for us and his plans for us are greater than our minds can conceive. Starting today, acknowledge these realities by undertaking acts of trust in God throughout the day. Ask God to fill you with his love. Share God's love with everyone.

Knock — Meditate on Romans 13:8-10. Think about the love you owe to others. Jesus often present the kingdom of God in terms of parables that speak of a king leaving his servants with talents to share with others. Are you giving of yourself in a way that builds up the kingdom of God?

Transform Your Life — Imitate Christ or one of your favorite saints as you go about your daily activities. Plead with God to enable you to show charity to all you meet. Listen intently to those who speak to you, asking yourself what God might be saying to you through them. Give them, including yourself and God, the benefit of the doubt.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 109-110.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Power of the Cross: Third Week of Lent, Tuesday - The Cross of Christ Transforms How We Forgive

Ask — Do I still harbor past sins for which I have not accepted God's forgiveness?

Seek — Go to confession regularly. As part of your examination of conscience, review how you have accepted God's forgiveness for past sins in your life, and review how well you have forgiven others in God's name.

Knock — Meditate on Ephesians 4:32—5:2. St. Paul speaks of us as "beloved children" of God. What does being a child of God require of you? How does it affect the way you treat others, who are also God's children?

Transform Your Life — Let your life be marked by being a forgiver. Realize that when you hold on to something you are making a "god" of it, which close God out of that part of your life.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 105.)

The three offices of a Bishop

From the Compendium:
326. What is the effect of episcopal ordination?

Episcopal ordination confers [on a bishop] the offices of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling.
I suppose if we were to use politically correct language, those offices would be: dialoguing, empowering, and affirming.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reading the Compendium

I decided, after extolling the virtues of the Compendium of the Catechism, to start reading it, cover to cover. I began this evening with Part One ("The Profession of Faith"), Section One ("I Believe — We Believe"), which is questions 1-32. This covers the ability for us to know God, how God reveals Himself to us, and how we are obliged to respond.

Lectionary search tool updated

The Lectionary search tool now allows you to choose a particular liturgical day from a drop-down box to see the readings for that day.

More homily quotations from Holy Family Parish in Illinois

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fr. Patrick Brennan
Who are the lepers, who are the outcasts in our own day? Well, religious leaders in our own Church have said that gay and lesbian people are seriously disordered. ... We have some bishops and priests — and please hear this well, I am anti-abortion — but we have some bishops and priests refusing Communion to politicians who sometimes speak out on women's rights, [by "women's rights", I think he means the "right" to abortion] while simultaneously the Pope is reconciling with a schismatic group of bishops of the Lefebvrist movement, who are Tridentine in their Church-culture [Fr. Brennan is under the impression that Vatican II radically redesigned the culture (and structure) of the Church; he is opposed to the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy, Latin in general, etc.] and who have announced publicly there was no such thing as the Holocaust. [I don't think Bishop Williamson or another SSPX priest denied the Holocaust as an event, just the scope of the Holocaust] ...

If a woman stands up and says "I feel called and gifted for the priesthood", she is silenced and declared unclean and unfit. [The Church believes and teaches that women are incapable of receiving priestly ordination. When a woman thinks otherwise, she is not "silenced", etc. If she attempts to go through with it, then there are repercussions. But the Church (though various means) is willing to have a dialogue with her so that she might better understand the Church's faith.] If people talk about the ordination of married men to the priesthood, they are silenced and declared unclean and unfit. [I don't think that's the case either. Married men are ordained in the Eastern Church, and sometimes in the Western Church (the "pastoral provision" for married ministers who convert to the Church). But many who advocate ordaining married men are doing so along with, or with the goal of, ordaining women.] Some divorced people have been looked on as unacceptable and unfit; [I don't have experience with that; it shouldn't be the case, though!] and if you're a divorced Catholic and you remarry without an annulment, you are not to receive Communion. [That's because divorce is a social construct, whereas marriage is a divine construct. A valid marriage in the eyes of God cannot be broken off by divorce; decrees of nullity are recognitions that there was no valid marriage to begin with. It is a sin to "divorce" and then have sexual relations with another person.] Religious people can be so harsh and so judgmental toward other people who don't fit the model. [St. Paul also listed behaviors which "don't fit the model" of Christian life: see Romans 1:28-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21]
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Fr. Patrick Brennan
The article was about the resurgence — the return [they never left... Vatican II didn't do anything to them] — of indulgences, first under the papacy John Paul II, and now under the papacy of Benedict XVI. [What about Pope Paul VI? He wrote X and Y shortly after the Second Vatican Council.] ... Indulgences said this: God forgives sin if we repent, God forgives sin through the sacrament of Reconciliation, but God is just and God must, in His justice, give us temporal punishment after death in an experience, in a place, called Purgatory. [The temporal punishment for sin can be undergone either in this life or in Purgatory. An easy way to understand temporal punishment (as opposed to eternal punishment, which is spiritual death and being in Hell) is that it is the "necessary" or "natural" consequence of sin.] Now there's partial indulgences, indulgences that burn off Purgatory time for days, months, years. [That is not true; the use of "time" associated with indulgences (and not in the way Fr. Brennan describes it) was abolished after Vatican II in Indulgentarium Doctrina 12.] And there are plenary indulgences that wipe the slate completely clean; though a person after receiving a plenary indulgence can go out and sin again. [Of course; indulgences don't prevent you from sinning, and a no indulgence is effective against future sins.] ...

I personally find this renewal of indulgences ecumenically insensitive. [Vatican II didn't get rid of them. Denying a truth of the Catholic faith is far more ecumenically insensitive than hiding said truth. See Vatican II's document on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio 11.] We know what a bitter pill this was to the Lutherans and to Protestant groups that have grown out of the whole Lutheran revolution. The New York Times article said "the Church leadership today seems more interested in pointing out what's different about the Roman Catholic Church than seeking unity with other Christian churches." [Why be Catholic if the Catholic Church is just like every other Christian community out there? The Catholic Church is different! Again, false unity (along a lowest common denominator) is not the goal of the ecumenical movement: true unity in the one Church of Christ is.] Indulgences in my estimation are a human device [while on the contrary, the Church believes that "the doctrine and practice of indulgences ... have a solid foundation in divine revelation"] that places the institutional Church in an area that it doesn't belong. Indulgences and Purgatory are pretending to know more than we can know about the afterlife. [Read about myths about indulgences.]
First Sunday of Lent, Fr. George Kane
The Jewish community of faith, [why so verbose? Why not "Jewish people" or "Jews" or "Israel"?] in honing the story through the centuries, put a spin [that crashing sound is divine inspiration is being thrown out the window] on the Flood story. They made it a drama [they changed the story, nothing divine about it I guess] of sin and punishment, of forgiveness and promise.

Before you try to read the Catechism...

I strongly recommend purchasing (or viewing online) the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. My edition of the Catechism has over 900 pages and 2865 articles; my edition of the Compendium has 224 pages and 598 questions and answers; that's one-fourth the size with the content distilled into one-fifth the material. Each of the questions in the Compendium is cross-referenced with the Catechism. The Compendium has the same general arrangement as the Catechism.

The Compendium also has an Appendix with two dozen common prayers (most in vernacular and Latin side-by-side) and a dozen "formulas of Catholic doctrine" (e.g. the Beatitudes, the three theological virtues, the seven corporal works of mercy).

I'm considering making a searchable version of the Compendium just like I've done with the Catechism.

The Power of the Cross: Third Week of Lent, Monday - The Cross of Christ Transforms How We See Jesus

Ask — Am I overly familiar (i.e. too casual) with Christ?

Seek — Read the Gospels every day. Encounter Christ as he is presented and try to imagine him in the world today, doing the same acts, confronting unbelief in the modern world.

Knock — Meditate on 1 Peter 2:4-5. Rocks are inanimate objects. It is because they don't move that they make good building blocks. Why, then, does Peter talk about "living stones"? Think about this metaphor and your faith life. In what way does your faith in Christ make you a living stone? Think also about the life of St. Peter; what about his experience of Christ might have led him to come up with this image?

Transform Your Life — There is nothing that exists that can transform our lives more than a relationship with Jesus Christ as he really is — give your life to Christ. Believe, placing all of your trust in his powerful being, and embrace his power in your weakness.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 99-100.)

News flash: embryos are fertilized

Update: (3/16) I did a Google search this morning for clinton embryos fertilized (and various other permutations of terms), and did not find a single hit for Reuters, CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews, etc. The Catholic News Agency has covered it, though.

Update: (3/12) Creative Minority Report has a fuller transcript. Clinton repeated the "embryos aren't fertilized yet" error over and over!

Perhaps this could have been mentioned in the conversation between Dr. Sanjay Gupta and former president Bill Clinton?
"If it's obvious that we're not taking embryos that under any conceivable scenario would be used for a process that would allow them to be fertilized and become a p... little babies. ... These committees need to make it clear that they're not going to fool with any embryos where there is any possibility, even if it's somewhat remote, that they could be fertilized and become human beings."
Yes, he almost said "a person".

What does he think an embryo is?

Perhaps he meant "implanted"? Let's see if the main-stream media calls attention to this, or if it allows the public to be slowly (?) tricked into thinking that human embryos are somehow unfertilized.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Power of the Cross: Third Week of Lent, Sunday - The Cross of Christ Transforms How We Worship

Ask — What do I do with the life God has "breathed" into me?

Seek — From a prayer posture, concentrate on your breathing. As you inhale, ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit, to animate your every action to do his will. As you exhale, breathe the name from the core of your being: Jesus. Continue to meditate on him.

Knock — Meditate on Galatians 6:7-9. Reflect on the difference between a living person and a corpse. Are most of your actions, actions of sowing in the flesh or sowing to the spirit? Ask God for patience that you might endure in all things by sowing to the spirit.

Transform Your Life — Make it a habit to pray the prayer of Jesus from the cross whenever you find yourself tempted to do something that you know is not of God: "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit." This prayer that Jesus has given us is the key to moving from sowing in the flesh to sowing to the spirit.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 95.)

The Power of the Cross: Second Week of Lent, Saturday - The Cross of Christ Unites God's Mercy and Love

Ask — Have I judged someone wrongly?

Seek — Do you need to be reconciled to someone in your life? It might be someone in your family, a former friend, an enemy, or even God. Go to confession; through the grace of absolution, seek to trust in God more and more.

Knock — Meditate on 2 Corinthians 5:16-18. What does it mean to be a new creation? If you are a new creation, how are you different from those in the world who are not "in Christ"? How do you view others?

Transform Your Life — See the temptation to judge others or even yourself as a personal invitation to take up your cross and to trust in Christ, the friend of sinners. Pray that God will bless both you and those you might judge. Be quick to show the mercy that God shows to you to others.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 87.)

The Power of the Cross: Second Week of Lent, Friday - The Cross of Christ Unites Us in the Work We Have to Do

Ask — How can dying to myself help me to know God's purpose?

Seek — Ask others to describe what your gifts are, and where they see you as being the most authentic in your life. Resolve to see everyone who crosses your path as the servants that God sends to obtain fruit from the harvest.

Knock — Meditate on Revelation 22:1-2. How was your Baptism changed the curse of original sin in your life into the blessing of the mission that God gives you in Christ? When you receive the Eucharist, imagine that Christ is grafting you to himself, so that his life, his healing, his strength flow through you.

Transform Your Life — Ask our Lord to reveal to you any areas of your life where you might be serving false gods. Ask him to help you to abandon yourself to God's will in your life in the same way that he did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Believe in God's providential care for you, no matter what has happened in your life in the past or present.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 82.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pope Benedict's letter refers to the hermeneutic of continuity

Just a few days ago, Pope Benedict wrote a letter to all the bishops of the Church explaining the situation calmly and rationally. He included these important words:
The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lenten Laments in English: Parce, Domine

Here is my attempt at a decent translation of Parce, Domine which retains the melody of the Latin chant.

R. Spare Thy people, Lord; spare us, Lord, we kneel here before Thee: lest Thy anger stay upon us forever.

1. To our knees we fall before Thy wrath, weeping tears of true contrition; crying out in supplication, we call to Thee with sorrowful hearts.

2. By our sins we have offended Thee, transgressing upon Thy mercy; pour down upon us from on high Thy gracious pardon, merciful One.

3. Cleanse the off'ring of our hearts, O Lord, in our tears and Thy charity: now is the day of salvation, now is a most acceptable time.

4. O benign Creator hear our prayers, bend Thine ear to our lamentations, in this season of penitence, this holy Lent of forty days.

5. O, beloved searcher of the heart, Thou Who knowest ev'ry weakness; grant Thy grace of forgiveness to those returning unto Thee.

The Power of the Cross: Second Week of Lent, Thursday - The Cross of Christ Unites Those Who Suffer for Justice

Ask — What does God ask me to do for those who suffer?

Seek — Look for opportunities to help someone who needs it (and who cannot help you back). Stand up for someone who is being brought low.

Knock — Meditate on Romans 8:18. As members of the body of Christ, if one member suffers the entire body suffers. How can you make that suffering redemptive?

Transform Your Life — Read the accounts of the martyrs, those who gave the supreme witness to the gospel with their lives. Many monastic communities read about the lives of the martyrs every day, to inspire those seeking to grow in the Christian life.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 77.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Power of the Cross: Second Week of Lent, Wednesday - The Cross of Christ Unites in Liberty

Ask — What continues to enslave me?

Seek — Ask God to point out areas of slavery that still exist in your life. As you go through your day, catch yourself not being true to who you really are, and ask yourself: Who are you serving now?

Knock — Meditate on Romans 7:22-25. Paul talks about delighting in the law of God but finding himself at war with other parts of himself. Spend time reflecting on what delights you about God's law. Ask Christ to save you.

Transform Your Life — Thomas Merton wrote about what he called a person's True Self. Prayer, Merton argued, helps us to discover our True Self: the person God created us to be, totally free from the expectations and demands of others. By contrast, the False Self is enslaved; he cannot be himself, but only what he thinks others want him to be. Starting today, ask God to redeem you from the slavery of the False Self.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 73.)

Catholic Radio

Please listen to and support Catholic radio. I ask this especially for WFJS 1260 AM (Trenton, NJ).

Pope Benedict's letter concerning the lifting of the excommunication of the SSPX Bishops

Wow! Official translations will be published tomorrow, but The New Liturgical Movement is providing an unofficial English translation of the German-language edition which has already been published in a German newspaper!

Recently Read

I've been doing some reading lately. Here's what I've recently finished; look for book reviews soon.
  • Pope Benedict's The Apostles (a collection of his audiences on the lives of the Apostles and their co-workers)
  • Jeff Cavins' "I'm Not Being Fed!" (about recognizing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist)
  • Eamon Duffy's Faith of our Fathers (a collection of short essays about traditional Catholic beliefs in a modern world)
I have so many books in my "library" yet to read. Don't let Kristin hear me say that, though... she'll laugh mockingly and point to her enormous collection.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Power of the Cross: Second Week of Lent, Tuesday - The Cross of Christ Unites in Humility

Ask — In what areas of my life do I have the most trouble with pride?

Seek — Say the litany of Cardinal Merry del Val (below). What parts of the litany do you find it most difficult to say? Take concrete steps to defer to others throughout the day, to die to yourself in little things.

Knock — Meditate on Philippians 2:5-11 and pray that God will give you the mind of Christ. Try to imagine what it was like for Jesus to take upon himself our humanity, with all its limitations. What must it have been like for him to suffer the humiliations of the cross? Now think about your own situation. Are you more like Christ, or our first parents, seeking to "be like God"?

Transform Your Life — Jesus tells his disciples that those who humble themselves will be exalted! Humility is the surest path to real success in the kingdom of God. Pray for humility throughout every day.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 68.)

The Litany of Humility (by Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope St. Pius X)

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved ...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others ...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised ...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything ...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should ...

Purgatory since Vatican II

I facilitate The Great Adventure Bible Timeline study at my parish on Sunday afternoons. This past Sunday, we read and discussed 1 and 2 Maccabees. Part of the questions and discussion centered around 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, which records Judas Maccabeus and his compatriots praying for the deceased.

I was the youngest Catholic there, and I don't recall learning about Purgatory in CCD growing up, but I was the one answering the questions and explaining the Church's teaching about purification after death.

Purgatory (a state of purging or cleansing or purification of the soul, after death, from the effects of sin) can be supposed from just a single verse of Scripture: "Nothing unclean shall enter it [the Heavenly Jerusalem]" (Revelation 21:27). Are we utterly clean now in life? (That is, are we utterly devoid of imperfection and sin?) If we are to enter Heaven, we must be utterly clean. So unless the very act of death cleanses us (which is supported by neither Scripture nor Tradition), there must be some sort of post-death cleansing of our souls.

The Roman Catechism (warning: big file) published following the Council of Trent, mentions it briefly (since the Catechism was meant as a guide to priests for instruction, rather than for the laity for learning) in the following ways:
... the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted into their eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth (cf. Rev. 21:27). The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy Councils declare, on Scripture, and confirmed by Apostolic tradition, demands exposition from the pastor, all the more diligent and frequent, because we live in times when men endure not sound doctrine.

Prayers for the dead, that they may be liberated from the fire of purgatory, are derived from Apostolic teaching.

We also beg of God ... that we be not sentenced to endure the fire of purgatory, from which we piously and devoutly implore that others may be liberated.
The Baltimore Catechism describes the purpose of Purgatory in questions 184 (Lesson 14) and 424 (Lesson 31), quoting 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 both times:
184. Who are punished in purgatory?

Those are punished for a time in purgatory who die in the state of grace but are guilty of venial sin, or have not fully satisfied for the temporal punishment due to their sins.

424. Where do we pay the debt of our temporal punishment?

We pay the debt of our temporal punishment either in this life or in purgatory.
The Catechism of Pope St. Pius X describes the purpose of Purgatory in question 118 on the Sacrament of Penance:
118 Q. Do those who die after having received absolution but before they have fully satisfied the justice of God, go straight to Heaven?

A. No, they go to Purgatory there to satisfy the justice of God and be perfectly purified.
The modern Catechism of the Catholic Church (technically addressed to bishops) mentions Purgatory, but perhaps too briefly (1030-1032 and 1471-1479,1498).

The Church has not forgotten about Purgatory, although many Catholics may have. I've compiled a few references from documents (Vatican II and later) that refer to Purgatory (whether by name or by the description of "purification after death"). The third one (Indulgentarium Doctrina) is an excellent source to help understand what the Church teaches about the effects of sin.

Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (1964), nn. 49, 51:
Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him, some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are [being] purified, and others are in glory beholding "clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is"; but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. ... This Sacred Council accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who having died are still being purified; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea, the Council of Florence and the Council of Trent.
Pope Paul VI, Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist Mysterium Fidei (1965), n. 29:
Foreshadowed by Malachias, this new oblation of the New Testament has always been offered by the Church, in accordance with the teaching of Our Lord and the Apostles, "not only to atone for the sins and punishments and satisfactions of the living faithful and to appeal for their other needs, but also to help those who have died in Christ but have not yet been completely purified."
Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences Indulgentarium Doctrina (1967), nn. 3, 5:
That punishment or the vestiges of sin may remain to be expiated or cleansed and that they in fact frequently do even after the remission of guilt is clearly demonstrated by the doctrine on purgatory. In purgatory, in fact, the souls of those "who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but before satisfying with worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and for omissions" are cleansed after death with purgatorial punishments. ... For this reason there certainly exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth a perennial link of charity and an abundant exchange of all the goods by which, with the expiation of all the sins of the entire Mystical Body, divine justice is placated.
Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Letter on the Credo of the People of God (1968), nn. 28, 30:
We believe in the life eternal. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ whether they must still be purified in purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies Jesus takes them to paradise as He did for the Good Thief are the People of God in the eternity beyond death, which will be finally conquered on the day of the Resurrection when these souls will be reunited with their bodies. ... We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are attaining their purification, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to Bishops on Communion Communionis Notio (1992), n. 6:
In its invisible elements, this communion exists not only among the members of the pilgrim Church on earth, but also between these and all who, having passed from this world in the grace of the Lord, belong to the heavenly Church or will be incorporated into it after having been fully purified.
Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical on Christian Hope Spe Salvi (2007), nn. 45-48:
The early Church took up these concepts, and in the Western Church they gradually developed into the doctrine of Purgatory. We do not need to examine here the complex historical paths of this development; it is enough to ask what it actually means. ... Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, [writes]: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). ... Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. ... His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. ... [I]f “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. ... So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification.
I also refer you to Nicholas Hardesty's massive compendium of links and resources on Purgatory at Phat Catholic.

Archbishop Ranjith on the reform of the liturgy

Late in February, I posted about Archbishop Ranjith's comments about the state of the post-Vatican II liturgy. I am happy to announce that The New Liturgical Movement blog has the complete foreword, of which the earlier post contained an excerpt.

Humor: Quote from a forum

"Don't Taizé me, bro!"

Monday, March 09, 2009

Resistance and Accommodation: The Catholic Church in Post-Mao China

I'm going to a presentation tonight at Princeton University (at the Aquinas Institute house on Stockton St at Library Pl) about the Catholic Church in China.

The Power of the Cross: Second Week of Lent, Monday - The Cross of Christ Unites Those Divided by Sin

Ask — Whom do I treat as an outsider in God's kingdom?

Seek — As you go about your daily activities, think about how often you see someone else as "one of them" rather than "one of us". Of course, people are all unique and different. However, the gospel calls us to break down artificial barriers that prevent us from expressing the unity God desires.

Knock — Meditate on 1 Peter 2:21-24 while holding a crucifix in your hands. Think of the example of Jesus on the cross. How might you concretely imitate and model your life on Jesus?

Transform Your Life — Make discernment rather than judgment the goal of your life's decisions. Ask yourself, "What does God want me to do at this moment?" and, "What is God trying to teach me through this?" Strive to be open to his guiding presence. Learn from all whom you meet this day and every day.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 61-62.)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Power of the Cross: Second Week of Lent, Sunday - The Cross of Christ Unites the Temporal and the Eternal

Ask — How does the "light" of Christ shine into the darkness of my world?

Seek — At every moment of the day say with St. Peter, "Lord, it is good that we are here!" Realize that when we follow Jesus we see the cross in a new light; we see everything anew where once we could only curse the darkness.

Knock — Meditate on 2 Peter 1:16-19. What is the "power" that St. Peter speaks of as it relates to the Transfiguration? What would happen if you followed his advice to keep the Transfiguration before you as a "lamp shining in a dark place"?

Transform Your Life — May times we think of our lives as a combination of missed opportunities and mistakes with a few good choices. Applying the lesson of the Transfiguration challenges us to not be so quick to judge negatively but to take a more accepting view of the cross in our own lives. "It is good that we are here" right now, where we are — no matter how it might seem to us at the moment.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 57.)

The Power of the Cross: First Week of Lent, Saturday - The Cross of Christ Teaches Us How to Love

Ask — Do I allow God to love through me?

Seek — Keep before you the image of Jesus forgiving those who nailed him on the cross and see everyone with whom you come into contact through Christ. Think about how Christ died for those people and how precious they are as children of God, the same God who loves you.

Knock — Meditate on 1 John 4:11-12. Are there people whom you do not love? Ask God to fill you with his love. What does the Father see in these people that you don't? Ask God to heal you of any painful scars that you still suffer from what others might have done to you. Ask Jesus to touch his wounds from his crucifixion to your own woundedness, that it may become a source of blessing.

Transform Your Life — Put God first in your life. Realize that you can love your spouse, your children, your friends, and your enemies only to the degree that you keep God first. We tend not to expect others to be perfect if we worship the only One who is perfect.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 49.)

The Power of the Cross: First Week of Lent, Friday - The Cross of Christ Teaches Us Reconciliation

Ask — Is there anyone I do not love? In what way can I allow the love of Christ to control me?

Seek — Allow the image of the cross of Christ, the price Jesus paid to redeem all creation, to dominate your thoughts when you find yourself growing angry at someone. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to be reconciled to those who have hurt you.

Knock — Meditate on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. What controls you? What motivates you from the moment of your rising to the point when you take your rest at night? Dwelling on Paul's words, ask the Lord to fill you with his love so that it may be the controlling force in your life.

Transform Your Life — Jesus told his disciples to be reconciled before coming to the altar with their sacrifice. If we carry anger or sin we need to be reconciled to Christ before coming to receive him in the Eucharist. This may mean making contact with people whom we have hurt and asking their forgiveness. We should also go to confession regularly, so that Holy Communion is a true sign of communion with God and all his creatures.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 45.)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lenten Lament: Attende, Domine

R. Attende, Domine, et miserere: quia peccavimus tibi.

(Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy: because we have sinned against You.)

1. Ad te, Rex summe, omnium Redemptor, oculos nostros sublevamus flentes: exaudi, Christe, supplicantum preces.

(To you, Most High King, Redeemer of us all, we lift our eyes, weeping: hear, O Christ, our prayers of supplication.)

2. Dextera Patris, lapis angularis, via salutis, ianua caelestis, ablue nostri maculas delicti.

([You are] at the right hand of the Father, the Corner-stone, the Way of Salvation, the Doorway to Heaven: blot out the stains of our sins.)

3. Rogamus, Deus, tuam maiestatem: auribus sacris gemitus exaudi: crimina nostra placidus indulge.

(We ask Your Majesty, O God: hear [our] groans with [Your] holy ears: graciously pardon our offenses.)

4. Tibi fatemur crimina admissa: contrito corde pandimus occulta: tua Redemptor, pietas ignoscat.

(To You we confess [our] consented sins: we disclose [our] hidden [sins] with contrine heart: O Redeemer, may your mercy forgive [them/us]!)

5. Innocens captus, nec repugnans ductus, testibus falsis pro impiis damnatus: quos redemisti, tu conserva, Christe.

(Innocent, held captive; not fighting back, lead forth; condemned by false witnesses, for [the sake of] the wicked: O Christ, keep safe those whom you have saved.)

In verse 5, the clause testibus falsis pro impiis damnatus can be translated a number of ways, including "condemned by false witnesses in the midst of the wicked" (wicked = Pharisees, etc.) and "condemned as the wicked [are condemned], by false witnesses" (wicked = sinners in general).

Next week, I'll work on producing "nice" translations (i.e. ones that roll of the tongue more easily) of Parce, Domine and Attende, Domine.

The Power of the Cross: First Week of Lent, Thursday - The Cross of Christ Teaches Us How to Trust and Give Thanks

Ask — What do I need from God to follow Jesus more closely?

Seek — As the day progresses, when you find yourself impatient, unloving, judgmental, lustful, or anything that strikes you as against the gospel of Jesus, ask God for the gift that will help you to be more like Christ.

Knock — Meditate on James 1:17. Review the course of your life and try to discern the goodness of God. Spend some time giving thanks to God for how he has led you, even "through the valley of the shadow of death" to this moment.

Transform Your Life — Try to make it a practice to "ask, seek, and knock" in your relationship with God. See that relationship as something that happens with every breath you take. Speak to God often!

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 40.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Homily on Jonah: fact or fiction?

I attended Mass today during my lunch break. The First Reading today was from Jonah. Just as the Gospel was concluded, I was hoping to myself that the priest would not dismiss the book of Jonah as a fable.

He did. The first words out of his mouth were something like: "I hope I don't disappoint any of you, but the book of Jonah isn't true; it's simply impossible."

He said he had "done the math" a year or so ago and figured out that for a whale to have swum from near Spain (which is where Tarshish is believed to be) to near Nineveh (in modern day Iraq), the whale would need to swim at speeds over 200 MPH for three straight days. (Besides, he said, how would Jonah survive? How wouldn't he be digested?) His math argument is based on the assumptions that the boat Jonah was on was traveling around the bottom of Africa and that the boat was most of the way there.

I'd like to examine this argument and its assumptions.

The shortest journey from the southwestern part of Spain, around Africa, and up through the Red Sea to the southern tip of Israel is approximately 12,000 miles. (The journey is about the same if we end in the Persian Gulf, for easier access to Nineveh, which was on the Tigris.) That distance can be traveled in 72 hours at a constant speed of about 170 MPH. Still pretty ambitious for a sea-monster, although if it were expending all its energy to make the journey, perhaps it could not spare any time for digestion! (That's a joke.)

But the Scriptures do not say how far along in the journey the boat was nor that the whale brought Jonah to Nineveh.
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. ... Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. ... And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. (Jonah 1:3-4, 13; 2:10)
We do not know where in the voyage Jonah was thrown overboard nor where the whale finally deposited him, although they tried to "bring the ship back to land", which implies they were reasonably close to Joppa (where they could go back to).

But we do know where Joppa was. Joppa was not a city on the Red Sea, but on the Mediterranean Sea! The first image (on the left) shows the relative geography. Jonah went from Geth-hepher to Joppa, a port city, to flee to Tarshish. Joppa is to the south of Geth-hepher, and Tarshish is to the west. Nineveh is to the north and east of Israel. The trip to Tarshish was over water; the journey to Nineveh would be over land. Jonah stowed away with a crowd; Jonah was called to go to Nineveh alone. Jonah's acts were a sign of direct contradiction to the will of God.

If Tarshish, then, was in southwestern Spain, there would be no need to travel around Africa, but rather between Africa and Europe; the journey from Joppa (near modern Tel Aviv) would have been around 2600 miles. That journey could be made in 72 hours going less than 40 MPH. Again, this assumes the crisis on the boat occurred near Tarshish and that the whale brought Jonah back to Joppa.

Let's assume that the whale did deposit Jonah on the coast of Israel, whether at Joppa or further north near Gath-hepher (about 60 miles north-northeast of Joppa, near Nazareth) where Jonah was originally from. Then, perhaps — if the Scripture can be believed — Jonah was cast into the sea shortly into the journey, somewhere still to the east of Greece. That's the scenario imagined in the second image (on the right).

So what's the point of all this?

Why cast unneeded doubt on Sacred Scripture? What is more believable, that a man could survive in the belly of a whale for three days... or that a virgin could conceive and bear a child by the Holy Spirit, a child who is fully man and fully God, a child who would heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water, turn water into wine, multiply bread and fish, and eventually die on a cross and be raised to new life on the third day, walk through closed doors, disappear from sight, and ascend into heaven and take his place at the right hand of God the Father Almighty?

I can believe both.

The Power of the Cross: First Week of Lent, Wednesday - The Cross of Christ Teaches Us About Repentance

Ask — Where do I need to repent most in my life?

Seek — Monitor your thoughts and hold them up against the standard of the gospel. Do your love and forgiveness have limitations or conditions? Ask the Lord to teach you true repentance of mind and heart.

Knock — Meditate on 1 Corinthians 1:22-24. How might you experience the power and wisdom of God in the cross by embracing the gospel more completely?

Transform Your Life — Make a daily examination of conscience, paying special attention to your attitudes throughout the day, and asking the Holy Spirit to make you more like Christ.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 36.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Power of the Cross: First Week of Lent, Tuesday - The Cross of Christ Teaches Us How to Pray

Ask — How can my prayer better reflect what is going on in my life at the present moment?

Seek — Try praying for ah extended period of time in the orans position. Ask our Lord to teach you this lesson from the cross, so that your prayer might always be heartfelt.

Knock — Meditate on Hebrews 5:7. How might your prayer become more like the prayer of Christ?

Transform Your Life — Foster a sense of God's presence before you begin any prayer. Speak to God from your heart, then listen. God is the most important being with whom you will ever speak.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, pp. 31-32.)

The Power of the Cross: First Week of Lent, Monday - The Cross of Christ Teaches Us to Live the Gospel

Ask — Where have I encountered Christ "in the least of my brethren"?

Seek — Make an effort to see Christ in the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or imprisoned. Try to reach out to those no one else notices.

Knock — Meditate on Romans 2:13-16. What are the secrets of your life that will be brought to judgment? How can you be more of a doer rather than just a listener of the Word of God?

Transform Your Life — Expect to meet Christ daily, first in the bread that is broken at Mass and then in the people who cross your path. See nothing as chance but everything as somehow fitting into the mysterious plan of God.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 27.)

"Tone of voice" in the Papacy

(I haven't done exhaustive research on this, so someone please correct me if I am wrong.)

Papal encyclicals, up until the time of Pope John XXIII (the convener of the Second Vatican Council) were addressed to the clergy of the Church, and usually specifically the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church (whose job it would be to disseminate to his flock the information contained in the Pope's missives).

However, with Pope John XXIII's last encyclical, Pacem in terris, the "tone of voice" of the Papacy changed. Here is how John addressed his encyclical on how "Peace on earth, which all men of every era have most eagerly yearned for, can be firmly established only if the order laid down by God be dutifully observed": "To our Venerable Brothers the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See; to the Clergy and Faithful of the whole world; and to all men of good will."

Not only did the Pope address the whole Church, he addressed "all men of good will".

Pope Paul VI followed this example in his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, which he addressed to the whole Church "and to all men of good will". And Pope John Paul II did the same thing which his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, addressed to the whole Church and "to all men and women of good will".

I think the reason for this change in the "tone of voice" is because of the need for increased vigor in gathering all humanity into the single Church founded by Jesus Christ. These three encyclicals which inaugurated this tone of voice were about peach on earth, Christ's Church, and Christ as the Redeemer of each and every man. These are universal calls, because the Catholic Church is and must be universal. These are universal matters for each and every man.

Now, Pope Benedict's first two encyclicals were not addressed in this way. Before you leap upon this, permit me to explain.

Pope Benedict's encyclicals, Deus caritas est and Spe salvi, deal with love (charity) and hope, two of the three theological virtues (the third being faith). He is addressing the Church on these important virtues so that those who are already in the Church can be recentered on Jesus Christ and the virtues which the Holy Spirit infuses us with so that we can continue this external mission of ours, out in the world. He is not cutting off communication with the world, but is addressing those of us whose mission is in the world.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Paul

I received, from the Adoremus Bulletin, I think, the book Pope Benedict XVI: St. Paul in the "Spiritual Thoughts" series. It's a collection of 159 short excerpts from letters, homilies, addresses, and other documents. It's a very small book, but it's got a topical index. I'm going to write up a Scriptural index (like my Scriptural index for the Catechism and the Lectionary), just in case it is helpful to anyone.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Power of the Cross: First Week of Lent, Sunday - The Cross of Christ Teaches Us Our Mission

Ask — What temptations do I find hardest to resist? How might this reveal God's intended purpose for me?

Seek — Reject sin. Learn to see in your temptations a perversion of God's plan for you. Try to discern what it is that God might be calling you to do by looking at the areas of your life where you are most tempted.

Knock — Meditate on Numbers 22:32-35. How does Balaam's ass differ from the prophet with respect to discerning the path God wanted them to take? Are you more like the donkey or the prophet?

Transform Your Life — Sometimes we live as though God does not see us, yet we know that God is always present, whether or not we acknowledge him. Look over your life and try to see where God has revealed himself at various moments in your life. Then move confidently into the future, assured of God's providential care for you.

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life, p. 23.)

Misconceptions about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Some people think that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (known as the "Tridentine Rite" or the "Traditional Latin Mass") is "meant for those who could not make the transition from Latin to English [or other languages] after the Council." Some state that "there is no participation by the people" in it. And some don't believe it "instills the spirit of Christ among us".

One would wish our Cardinal Archbishops would be more charitable towards (and knowledgeable of) a venerable rite of the Church that is hundreds and hundreds of years old! Fr. Z makes a few reserved comments here.