Nota Bene

Humble (oh really...?) opinions on matters of faith
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What I'm Reading
(The Bible should always be assumed...)

The New Faithful
by Colleen Carroll

by Fr. Francis Sullivan, SJ

Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism
by Irene Lape

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Thursday, October 31, 2002

Mark Shea has commented on locdog's "thoughts"

And, wonder of wonders, he basically agrees with him.


We WILL pray over you whether you like it or not!

A Nebraskan pastor and his wife were each fined $100 after being found guilty of false imprisonment for holding a teenage visitor to their church against his will while they and members of the congregation prayed for him.

Also in this article:

Elsewhere, testimony continued yesterday in the trial of a Detroit-area minister accused of fondling two women who came to him to cast out evil spirits, "The Detroit News" reported. Gennaro Joseph Piscopo, pastor of Evangel Christian Church in Roseville, faces two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Sounds like stuff out of a Flannery O'Connor story or, rather, a bad imitation of one of her stories.


A Sermon of John Henry Newman on the Solemnity of All Saints

This sermon was published in volume two of his Plain and Parochial Sermons, written and delivered while he was still in the Church of England. Much of this sermon is rather stern, condemning in sharp tones the unwillingness of the men of his age to inconvenience themselves to observe a solemn feast that falls on a weekday:

...I say, on the whole, that state of society must be defective, which renders it necessary for the Ordinances of religion to be neglected. There must be a fault somewhere; and it is the duty of every one of us to clear himself of his own portion of the fault, to avoid partaking in other men's sins, and to do his utmost that others may extricate themselves from the blame too.

I say this neglect of religious Ordinances is an especial fault of these latter ages. There was a time when men openly honoured the Gospel; and when, consequently, they had each of them more means of becoming religious. The institutions of the Church were impressed upon the face of society. Dates were reckoned not so much by months and seasons, as by sacred Festivals. The world kept pace with the Gospel; the arrangements of legal and commercial business were regulated by a Christian rule. Something of this still remains among us; but such customs are fast vanishing. Mere grounds of utility are considered sufficient for re-arranging the order of secular engagements.

That last sentence is rather prophetic, is it not, considering the that we Catholics in the United States have set up a rather byzantine system by which an obligatory feast is made optional?

At other points in his sermon Newman was not so severe, focusing his attention less on the evils of the day and more on the glories God accomplished through his saints:

So many were the wonderful works which our Saviour did on earth, that not even the world itself could have contained the books recording them. Nor have His marvels been less since He ascended on high;—those works of higher grace and more abiding fruit, wrought in the souls of men, from the first hour till now,—the captives of His power, the ransomed heirs of His kingdom, whom He has called by His Spirit working in due season, and led on from strength to strength till they appear before His face in Zion.

Surely not even the world itself could contain the records of His love, the history of those many Saints, that "cloud of Witnesses," whom we today celebrate, His purchased possession in every age! We crowd these all up into one day; we mingle together in the brief remembrance of an hour all the choicest deeds, the holiest lives, the noblest labours, the most precious sufferings, which the sun ever saw. Even the least of those Saints were the contemplation of many days,—even the names of them, if read in our Service, would outrun many settings and risings of the light...

In the end, Newman called his audience, and us as well, to strive under God's grace to emulate the example of the saints of previous ages. Although he is quick to point out the evils committed by many in his own age, Newman is also quick to pray for them and to call us to pray for them as well:

Our duty then is, to wait for the Lord's coming, to prepare His way before Him, to pray that when He comes we may be found watching; to pray for our country, for our King and all in authority under him, that God would vouchsafe to enlighten the understandings and change the hearts of men in power, and make them act in His faith and fear, for all orders and conditions of men, and especially for that branch of His Church which He has planted here.

Let us not forget, in our lawful and fitting horror at evil men, that they have souls, and that they know not what they do, when they oppose the Truth. Let us not forget, that we are sons of sinful Adam as well as they, and have had advantages to aid our faith and obedience above other men.

Let us not forget, that, as we are called to be Saints, so we are, by that very calling, called to suffer; and, if we suffer, must not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try us, nor be puffed up by our privilege of suffering, nor bring suffering needlessly upon us, nor be eager to make out we have suffered for Christ, when we have but suffered for our faults, or not at all. May God give us grace to act upon these rules, as well as to adopt and admire them; and to say nothing for saying's sake, but to do much and say little!


Fr. Shawn O'Neal's Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints

Please note: This is a homily that Fr. Shawn will be delivering before the students of the school that the parish sponors where he serves as associate pastor.

If all of you have not heard many explanations about what makes a person a saint, then be prepared to hear many explanations if you are blessed with a long life. You are going to hear many explanations about saints each time we celebrate this holy day. I hope that the explanation that I am about to give will help you to understand more about saints.

There is a short prayer that can be found in another part of the Gospel of Matthew aside from what we have heard today within that Gospel. We have prayed this prayer many times. Unfortunately, we have also said this prayer so quickly at times that its words have not had the chance to take root in our hearts. One line from this prayer goes as follows: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

On this day, we celebrate all the people who have taken this prayer – and especially this line within the prayer – very seriously. Saints know that we have been born in order to do what God wants us to do. Saints always ask for God’s help so that they can understand what God wants them to do. They ask God for his help because they know that they do not understand everything the first time that they hear it, but they trust that God will teach them what they truly need to know. This might seem strange to believe, but saints do not always do what they should do, but it is because they trust God that they ask God to forgive them.

Saints take the time to ask God how things are in Heaven. They do not ask about the size of the houses or how the weather is up there today; they trust that they will be happy and that every day will be beautiful. Saints take the time to ask God how things are in Heaven so that they can try to make this world more like it. In other words, they take that one line from that one prayer so seriously that they spend their whole lives trying to make earth as things are in heaven. It is not an easy job. Many saints think about forgetting about this prayer. Many saints become either sad or angry sometimes because the people around them do not want to make the earth as things are in heaven. As mad or as sad as a saint can get, the saint lets go of their bad feelings because they know that God loves them and gives them the strength to be the people that God wants them to be. God gives a saint renewed hope that the day is going to come soon that other people will listen to God just as they are trying to listen to God.

We thank these heroes today. We thank them for not giving up hope even when they had many reasons to do it. The reason that they continued to do what they did was because they said a line from a prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The time is here for all of us to pray these words and to act on them.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Comments on locdog’s “some thoughts on roman catholics” (sic)

Recently an evangelical blogger who identifies himself as “locdog” (for the purpose of convenience I’ll refer to this blogger in the masculine gender, although I have no way of knowing this person’s gender) had a bit of a debate with Catholic blogger Mark Shea over the issue of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Many folks read locdog’s various posts on the matter. Much of his views centered around the issue of biblical interpretation. He has promised to post his views on this more basic issue. But, as a kind of preface to this, he has first posted “some thoughts on roman catholics” (sic).

Before listing his “thoughts” he tells us that he doesn’t mind respectful debate, even if it does mean that someone’s feelings will be hurt. Fair enough. He goes on to tell us how he feels that attitudes of “bipartisanship” and “ecumenicism” which lead some to want to avoid debate are wrong.

Well, regarding the latter, I thing that an authentic ecumenical dialogue will be characterized by some vigorous debating. Whether or not what has been and will be going on among locdog and his Catholic counterparts could be labeled as an “authentic ecumenical dialogue” is an entirely different matter.

At any rate, here are the titles of his various thoughts:

1. being catholic doesn’t mean you aren’t saved

Locdog points out that it is necessary to express this thought explicitly because of the belief of a good number of evangelicals who would question it from the start. Maybe such conclusions by some evangelicals is a reason that some Catholics can react very defensively toward critiques of our beliefs by these Christians.

2. being catholic doesn’t mean that you are saved

I would agree with this in part because I believe that Catholics and many evangelical Christians have two very different understandings of what it means ‘to be saved.’ It seems that man evangelical Christians feel that one is saved at one particular point in time whereas Catholics would believe that it is an ongoing process, begun in the past in the waters of baptism, continuing in the present in the life of the Catholic as he or she strives to cooperate with the grace given him or her in baptism and the sacraments, and will continue into the future until the death of that same person as he she, strengthened by solely by divine grace, seeks to complete that life in that state of grace.

Locdog ends his explanation of this thought by stating, “…going to a particular church doesn’t get you into heaven. Jesus does.” I agree with locdog in so far as I am unwilling to “place Jesus in a box.” Jesus can save anyone whom he wishes through the grace opened to all of humanity through his death and resurrection. This can even include a person in the farthest reaches of Siberia who has never even heard of Jesus. Anyone who is saved is saved through the grace of Jesus Christ.

However, his statement seems to imply either that Jesus didn’t found any one particular Church or that the Church which he did establish is somehow invisible to us here on earth and is not bound by the seemingly artificial borders drawn up by the various denominations and non-denominational churches. I’m not sure which of these possibilities locdog would affirm.

In either case, I do know that, as a Catholic, I cannot affirm either of them. I hold to what the bishops taught at the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (paragraph 8), that the visible, hierarchical Church is not separated and distinct from the invisible Church, the “Mystical Body of Christ”, rather…

they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.

This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.

3. not being catholic doesn’t mean you aren’t saved

while locdog acknowledges that the Catholic Church does in fact teach that those who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church can be saved, he still holds that many Catholics have a “theological bias” which seems to go counter to this teaching, that says that “heaven would be full of Catholics.”

Undoubtedly there are some Catholics out there who are biased and feel this way. Undoubtedly there are others that are simply misinformed as to the Church’s true teaching. There are still others that know the Church’s teaching but willfully deny it, thus by their own choice taking themselves out of its full communion. An example of this would be the Feeneyites, condemned in the 1940s (well before Vatican II) for gravely misunderstanding “no salvation outside the Church”, publicizing their beliefs, and holding to them consistently after they had been corrected.

This last point leads us to see that, despite the errors of some its members, the Catholic has taught all along that those who are not in full communion in it can still be saved. What the bishops of Vatican II said in the above quote that “many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible structure” was not a new teaching when it was promulgated on November 21, 1964. Vatican II simply reaffirmed a very ancient teaching.

4. rome isn’t the great whore of Babylon

Well I’m glad that he clarified that for all of us. Its sad, however, that he felt the necessity of clarifying it expressly. What does that say about what many Christians feel about Catholics?

5. free worship and liturgical services have their pros and cons

It would seem that locdog hasn’t been to the wide variety of celebrations of the Eucharist that could be found in the various parishes of any large city. There are charismatic Masses that would make any Pentecostal want to raise their hands and shout. There are Tridentine Masses full of smells and bells. And then there are a lot of ‘average’ Masses which blend the two together. This legitimate diversity within the Catholic Church is simply an expression of von Bathasar’s belief that “Truth is Symphonic.” (hey, I think that Mark Shea recommended that book to locdog…).

6. some things I like about rome

Locdog quickly lists various aspects of Catholicism: its pro-life stance, its value of intellectualism, the devotion of many of its members, its missionary work and relief of the poor and infirmed. Ok, that’s swell that he likes that…

7. some things that I don’t like about rome

Here he lists the following: “marian dogma, birth control, transubstantiation, the concept of a priesthood, confession to said priests, intercessory prayer through saints, the dry emotionless environment which contributes so readily to spiritual apathy, in other words, the emphasis on intellectualism comes at the price of emotion and they, like evangelicals, need to find a happy medium. legalism, legalism, legalism…

Much of these things that he doesn’t like are the common objections to the Church that many evangelicals have.

I won’t deny that there can be some folks within the Church who can be inordinately intellectual, who can be inordinately legalistic. The Church is a mystery. It is, at one and the same time, both a pure and holy divine institution, and a human one needing constant reform and purfication.

All of us in the Catholic Church need this purification to one degree or another because we’re all sinners, we weren’t saved at one particular moment and we are, to varying degrees, striving with the sole aid of God’s grace to be conformed more and more to the image of Jesus Christ.

The perception that some sinful Catholics have about it are just that, perceptions. But perception is not reality. All of us together in the Church need to strive with God’s grace to shape this perception more and more into the reality that Christ created when he established the Church. This is what Pope John Paul’s “new evangelization” is all about. When all of us come closer to the reality of the Church that Christ created, then all of us will embrace our own relationship with him. But this will be strengthened and enlivened by the visible structures and sacraments that we believe Christ established in his Church.

All Catholics are responsible for carrying forth the work of this new evangelizaiton. We need to have it happen in our own individual lives, in the lives of those sitting in the pews next to us, and, truly, throughout our world.

So, in the end, I agree at some level with much of what locdog has to say. I just think that it isn’t a complete picture of the Catholic Church.


High Security for Catholics in the Philippines

With various attacks allegedly by Abu Sayef and other Moslem groups against Catholic institutions in the island nation, the Philippine government has deployed over 100,000 police and soldiers to protect the faithful throughout the nation as they gather in various places to observe All Saints Day and All Souls Day.


Cindy is working... I'm taking care of Michael today. We'll see how the blogging goes. In the meantime, you might go over to locdog's blog to get his evangelical take on Roman Catholics. Hopefully, if Michael takes a good nap, I'll be able to add my own comments on what he had to say.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

The effects of religious affiliation on "paternal involvement" in the raising of children

This was the topic of a recent article by W. Bradford Wilcox (a professor at the University of Virginia) in the Journal of Family and Marriage. To get a more summarized description of his results, go here. I don't have the time right now to give a lot of attention to it. But I wasn't surprised to learn that men who identify themselves as Catholics or evangelicals are more involved in the raising of their children.


A portrait of religion in Sonoma County, CA, "Wine Country"

When I was in seminary, a philosophy professor would often point to California as being the center of various non-traditional, non-Western, or pop philosophies that he derided so much. Of course he would often make his California jokes with a decided tongue in his cheek, but they still didn't go down well with a particular student from California who is now a member of a Trappist community near Sacramento, not far from "Wine Country."

The statistics used in this article were drawn from the 2000 Religious Congregations and Membership study. Whereas nationally about 50% of the population identify themselves with a specific faith tradition, only about 33% of the residents of Sonoma County do so. The congregations with the largest amount of growth were among Catholics (which rose 43%, mainly among Latinos) and Evangelicals.

However, as my old philosphy prof would have expected, there is a good bit of religious diversity there. Although the 21 Catholic churches lead the way in the number of congregations, the Mormons are close behind with 20. And there are no less than 10 Buddhist temples in the county.

Although the overall identification with one congregation or another is considerably less than the national average, the trends in growth or reduction in them fit the overall national pattern, with much growth among Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons, etc. and decline in the mainline Protestant churches.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Catholic Reasons for Hope

Q: Why do we hold our hands up during the “Our Father”? And why do we raise them higher at the close of the prayer?

A: In the past few years many Catholics in our area of the world have begun a practice of raising their hands during the praying of the Lord’s Prayer which follows the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. Many often hold the hands of their family members or other parishioners standing next to them.

This is not a practice that has been written into law by the bishops of the Church. Instead, it is one that seems to have developed among some of the faithful. Since it is not a formal part of the Mass, no one is obligated to do it.

Since it isn’t a formal part of the Mass, it is difficult to speak for the motivations of the people who choose to practice it. Some might do it to show a sign of the loving unity that binds the faithful together. It could be a sign of unity that anticipates its most important sign: our common reception of the body and blood of our Lord in the holy communion. This, of course, happens just a few moments after the praying of the Lord’s prayer.

Likewise, a reason why some choose to raise their hands higher during the close of the prayer might be a sign of our common giving glory to God through the words of that part of the prayer: “for the kingdom, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.”

Q: What does the Bible say about tithing? How much money should I really be giving to the Church?

A: Before delving into Sacred Scripture, it is important to look at the word “tithe” that you used in your question. The English word “tithe” comes to us from the ancient Anglo-Saxon word “teotha”, meaning “tenth.”

We have generally come to associate it with giving a tenth of the wealth that we earn to God through the Church. We find the basis for this tradition in Sacred Scripture in Genesis where we see Abraham and Jacob giving a tenth of their wealth to the Lord. This practice became obligatory for all of the Israelites in the Law of Moses (Lev 27:30, Dt 14:22).

This tradition was adopted by the first Christians as a way to support the work of apostles like St. Paul and to relieve the burdens of the poor. St. Paul alluded to the importance of such charitable giving in many of his letters in the New Testament.

It followed Jesus’ call to us to recognize his presence in the least among us (Mt 25:40). It became a more formalized practice during some periods of the history when the Church was the only organization working for the relief of the poor.

In our own day, when our tax dollars are used to support many social service programs, we often unconsciously tend to see the work of the Church as being superfluous, something that is not always needed since the government does so much of that work.

But remember the principle at the basis of our giving to the Church. The wealth with which God has blessed our families is not ours in any way. It all belongs to God. Tithing, then, is a way for us to show God our thanks for those blessings.

I cannot answer your second question. That is one that you must answer for yourself. We as Christians are not bound by the specific demands of the Law of Moses. However, Jesus gave us a new law, to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself (Mt 22:37-39). We love God by showing our thanks to him for all that he has given us. And we love our neighbor by using the wealth that God has given us for the good of others.

Consider this new law of love and gratitude when considering how much you should give to the Church. Am I truly showing my loving thanks to God by what I give to the Church which he founded through his Son? And am I truly showing a godly love of my neighbor through my contribution to the charitable work of the Church?


Family Ties:

A Reflection on Today's Mass Readings

Feast of Saints Simon & Jude, apostles

Eph 2:19-22
Ps 19:2-3, 4-5
Lk 6:12-16

A family finds its essential unity in the biological connection of one generation to the next. Various family members will have very distinct personalities, different interests, and their own unique qualities. And yet each of them can trace the fact that they are alive and that their distingusihing marks exist all to the fact that all of them together were born of a particular man and woman.

It is much more difficult to find a biological basis for the unity of the Church. St. Paul tells us today that all of us who believe are members of a family, the "household of God." But it is difficult to see this as a "household" when one celebrates the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's.

I was given the opportunity to do that when I was a junior in high school. And I saw men and women from every continent being baptized, confirmed, and celebrating the Eucharist with the rest of the faithful and being led by the Pope, himself a man from faraway Poland.

A natural family, despite the unique features of each of its individual members, have similar physical traits all traced to the same parents. When I saw all the people to be baptized at the Vigil, processing down the center aisle of St. Peter's, al dressed in their native garb, they couldn't have looked any more different from me.

And yet somehow through the waters of baptism, the oil of confirmation, and the bread and wine of the Eucharist all of these people, unknown to me and seemingly so different from me, were being born into the great family of God of which I was and am blessed to call myself a member. They entered that basilica wearing the clothes of their natural family. They left wearing the same white garment of the household of god that I wore when I was baptized.

No biological ties bind this family together. But just because this is so does not mean that there are no physical ties. For ultimately it is through the body and blood of the Word made flesh that the "whole structure" of the household of God, with all of its unfathomable diversity, is "fitted together."

This happens for us today in the Eucharist. In the days when Jesus walked the earth, it happened through him in a different way. In today's Gospel we see him choosing twelve very dstinct men to be his apostles, those men of his whom he "sent out" to proclaim his Good News and to draw more and more into the family that he created.

Today we honor two of those men: Saints Simon and Jude. They who were brought together by and in our Lord themselves brought countless others together as a spiritual family in a way not unlike what I experienced in Rome in 1988. All of these people were ultimately bound together in the love that filled them inthe Eucharist, the body and blood of Him who fits the whole structure together.

Saints Simon and Jude continue their work this very day through the prayers that they make to our common Lord on our behalf. May our heavenly Father continue to give us his grace through their intercession so that we may carry on this work of building up his family.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Ok, I haven't mentioned them at all on my blog...

...but after the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame beat Florida State (in Tallahassee no less) to go 8-0, I have to say that they are for real.

However, nine years ago I saw Notre Dame (then #2 in the nation) beat Florida State (then #1 in the nation) up at Notre Dame. At the time I said that the Irish were for real and would win the national chamionship. The next week, however, I stood stunned in the student section as I saw a last-second field goal go through the uprights to allow Boston College beat my team.

So who does Notre Dame play next week? BC. We'll see what happens...


The latest installment of mt column "Spiritual Reflections"

Go to the website of The Shelbyville News to read it. This week I refect upon the spiritual meaning of Michael's "grabbing stage." I'd appreciate any feedback. Thanks!


Woman sues Costco over firing, claims religious discrimination

Costco claims that Kimberly Cloutier refused to remove her eyebrow ring. The company has a dress code policy that bans, among other things, facial jewelery. Cloutier, on the other hand, claims that her eyebrow ring is an expression of her religious beliefs. You see, Cloutier is an adherent of the Church of Body Modification.

I wonder what they think of stigmata?

Maybe they could have an ecumenical meeting with the Rastafarians and have a great time, ya mon!

Friday, October 25, 2002

Fr. Shawn O'Neal's Sunday Homily

Please note: The website for the USCCB appears to have down now for the past few days. The link that I would normally provide for the readings is thus unavailable. Therefore I can only provide a list of the readings that will be proclaimed on Sunday.

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Ex 22:20-26
Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
1 Thes 1:5-10
Mt 22:34-40

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Would you agree that those two commandments are rather easy to remember? People can make the simplest of commandments rather complicated to follow for no better reason than because people have a strange desire to make their lives more complicated than they need to be.

Rather than dwell upon numerous laws and instructions, dwell upon the uncomplicated commandments that the Lord has said to each of us:

“Follow me.”

“Remain in my love.”

Free yourself from having to remember many commandments. Let all of your actions flow from what we have heard today. Ask God constantly for his help to follow these commandments that we have heard today. If only Adam had done that – and as much as we know God gave him only one commandment to follow.


The Church in Mexico to receive permission to own mass media outlets

A few weeks back some Mexican evangelicals raised concerns that the government was to close to the Catholic Church. I wonder what they'll think about this latest move? I wonder if they'll note that Cardinal Rivera, archbishop of Mexico City, called for freedom of expression "for all religions, all social groups, all persons."


Church covers floor with Bible verses

They claim that they will be "standing on God's promises." Somehow, I don't know how walking all over different lines from Sacred Scripture shows any reverence...


Today is my day off...

I had hoped to play some golf, but its rather rainy here in Indiana. Haven't played for months and on the one that I have the chance to, it rains. Oh well...

Thursday, October 24, 2002

On Being Anti-Catholic or Anti-Protestant

Recently I spent some time exploring some message boards on the Left Behind website. I thought that I would have the opportunity to have some interesting dialogues with non-Catholic Christians about various matters of faith and discipline. In the end, I simply did not have the time to give to it and wanted to use my limited resources elsewhere (frankly, I don't know where the folks who post constantly on there find the time to do so).

However, in the midst of a post on sola scriptura one evangelical fellow who identified himself as “A. Believer” wondered why some Catholic apologists use the term “anti-Catholic” to describe some Protestant apologists while the latter rarely if never use the term “anti-Protestant” when describing the former. Here is what he had to say on the topic:

do you have any problem with the kind of rhetoric RC apologists so often resort to when they call those who oppose their teachings "anti-Catholics." Certainly in a strictly literal sense, James White is an anti-Roman Catholic (although not anti-catholic). He spends a good deal of time refuting RC teachings with the same motivation that the early Christians had in refuting heresy. He sees it as a threat to the gospel.

Of course, by this token, RC apologists could also be referred to as "anti-Protestant," as well. Yet I never hear RC apologists referring to themselves that way. Could it be because they're aware of the connotations of this kind of label, and they're trying to promote a kind of emotional response from their readers with the implication that people like James White and Eric Svendsen and William Webster, et al, have some kind of irrational, hateful attitude towards RCs? What do you think?

I suppose that I haven’t read enough of the literature of these fellows to be able to determine if their attitudes toward Catholics are “irrational” or “hateful.” I certainly do see such traits in the writings of professional Catholic apologists (Robert Sungenis excepted, although I have a hard time placing him in the category of professional Catholic apologists). Perhaps this why their Protestant

At any rate, this is how I, in an off-the-cuff manner, responded to A. Believer’s question:

As to Catholic apologists’ sometimes use of the term ‘anti-Catholic’, I would have to judge the use from one occasion to the next. What would be my criteria for a proper use of the term? I’m not sure in large part because I myself have hardly ever used it or considered the question at any length.

But, writing on the fly, I would tend to think that it is appropriate when a person makes repeated claims about the Catholic Church’s official beliefs or practices that simply do not jive with the explanation for those beliefs or practices, not by lay apologist, but by the leadership of the Church in current definitive magisterial documents (e.g., the documents Dei Verbum or Dominus Jesus to which I have referred) when those documents are readily available to the person making the claim and when he or she refuses either to look at the document(s) at all or refuses from the start to consider that what is said in them might be true.

This is what I might call intellectual anti-Catholicism. While this can be found among some non-Catholic Christians, I think that it is certainly to be found among many secular academics, representatives of mass media, etc.

I think that there is another kind of anti-Catholicism that is more focused on personal arguments, trying to discredit the Church by showing how one person or even a group of persons might have engaged in bad moral behavior. That Catholics now and throughout the ages have sinned evilly is beyond doubt. Pope John Paul II, to the bewilderment of some radical traditionalists, admitted as much on numerous occasions in his ‘public confessions’ during the Jubilee year. Such sad facts, however, do not prove the invalidity of a specific teaching or practice.

In the last part of our dialogue (I’m sure your thinking, “Thank goodness”), A. Believer responded to my point about anti-Catholic can be one who refuses from the start to consider the possibility that what the Church teaches might be true. In response he asked me, “…would you call Patrick Madrid (who’s involved in refuting Mormonism and evangelizing Mormons) an “anti-Mormon” for refusing to consider that what Mormon documents say might be true?

In my connecting this kind of anti-Catholicism with some representatives of the secular academy and the mass media, A. Believer had this to say: “So you’re thinking more here of people who hold an entirely non-Christian worldview who refuse to consider the possibility of the truth claims of Christianity in general? I consider this a very different issue, but nevertheless, I’ve never heard of these people referred to as “anti-Catholics.”

In response to my comments on how other anti-Catholics can attempt to discredit the Church through focusing on personal sinfulness of various Catholics through the ages, A. Believer wrote this:

I know of no Christian who tries to discredit “the church,” although many expose the fallacies of the Roman communion’s truth claims. Remember that evangelicals believe that the RCC propogates a false gospel, so just like the apostles and the early church fathers, who were concerned about people being led astray by false teachers, we believe the same. And remember that you and I are presupposing entirely different views of what constitutes “the church,” so please keep that in mind when saying that we’re trying to discredit “the church,” because we consider ourselves to be part of the church…

These situations
[personal sinfulness of some Catholics] may not prove what some have tried to make them prove, but they certain are problematic for some of the RC claims, but perhaps we can discuss those later.

I’d be interested in your comments on the use of the terms “anti-Catholic” and “anti-Protestant.” I’d also be interested to read your take on my hastily written comments on the use of the former and on my dialogue with A. Believer.


If you have several minutes to spare...

then go and read Mark Shea's long post on the perpetual virginity of Mary and the relationship of scritpure and tradition.


Diocese of Pittsburgh issues a guide to help priests and deacons develop their homilies

Its a 228-page book that cross references the three year cycle of Sunday readings with the Catechism. Sounds interesting to me. I wouldn't mind having a copy.


Cindy is taking the day off from being a mom...

So I'm doing full-time duty being a dad. But Michael is sleeping right now so I'll try to get some blogging done.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

locdog & Mark Shea continue their debate regarding Mary

here and here. Readers throw in their points in the comment boxes. Check them out.


A Reflection on Today's Mass Readings

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Eph 3:2-12
Lk 12:39-48

Jesus' words in today's Gospel are very challenging. He tells us that the man to whom much has been given, much will be expected. I believe that he has indeed given each of us many gifts. For myself, I believe that he has filled my heart with a desire to live out and proclaim his Gospel in my life as a husband and father, a DRE and a writer. He has filled my mind with a drive to learn more and more about him, his Gospel, and his Church and to share what I learn and discern with those in my day-to-day life and through my writing with many others unknown to me.

At times this feels like a great burden. At times it seems that my will to satisfy my God-given desires does not have much strength. I feel conflicted, being drawn to God by the grace with which he has filled my soul, being drawn away from him by my own selfish and sinful desires and choices. So it sometimes seems that the gifts with which he has blessed me are balanced out my own tendency to work against them.

In practical ways this happens through my sins. And one of sins that works most effectively against our God-given gifts is the thought that these gifts are our own, to disconnect them somehow from Christ. But St. Paul tells us in today's first reading that the gifts that are within each one of us are parts of the "unfathomable riches of Christ," that any wisdom within us is only a small part of "God's manifold wisdom made known ... through the Church."

If, through God's grace, we keep this perspective in mind, then the anxieties we sometimes feel when being drawn one way by sin and another way by grace will be dispersed. The conflicts will always remain. But in the face of it we will know that we can rely on God's grace to raise us above them, closer to him.

This, indeed, is the mystery that Paul wrote about, the one "which for ages was hidden in God." So much of all of human history, including my own, is the story of the doomed attempts to create the Kingdom of God here on earth through human efforts alone. But in the mystery that was revealed in Christ we can learn that, while the desire to see the coming of the Kingdom is a good one, the more that we work for it by ourselves alone, the further away will we be led from it. We will only be drawn closer to it when we, in the face of choices for either God's will or our own, we take the risk and choose God's.

We are faced with this choice countless times everyday. But this should not be a source of anxiety but of joy-filled anticipation. Remember, Jesus' unfathomable riches lay open to us if we but chose his Father's will. And that will is nothing other than this: to use those gifts with which we have been blessed for the good of others and for the glory of God.


More on Protestants & Mary

Over at Disputations, Tom Kreitzberg has written a memo to all Protestants who would like to challenge Catholics on our various Marian beliefs. Check it out.


Good things Catholics are doing

I've spent part of this morning delivering over 1,000 food items to Shelby County Human Service's food pantry. This is what the students in our Religious Education Program, our School, and our parishioners in general collected for our parish's participation in national "Make a Difference Day." We also delivered several boxes of baby wipes, diapers, baby soap, etc. to Hope's Door, an agency in town that helps women in crisis pregnancies.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

While Michael is taking a nap...

I thought I'd explore some of what is going on in St. Blog's today. I found an interesting discussion going on among the readers of Mark Shea's Catholic and Loving It regarding the perpetual virginity of Christ. It came about in reaction to the announcement of the possible discovery of the ossuary of James.

For Mark's original post, go here and read the comments.

It was among the dozens of comments on that original post that led Mark to make this post in which he reflects on why so many Protestants oppose the perpetual virginity of Mary. Check out the comment box to this post. Comment #5 is from our old evangelical friend locdog.

Mark, who sometimes responds to his readers in the comment boxes themselves, chose to respond the locdog in an entirely new post. You can find it here.

Interesting stuff. Check it out. Uh oh...the baby's crying...better go after him.


Good News!

Former blogger and writer/editor extraordinaire Tim Drake is now the father of Peter Timothy Drake. Here are the vitals

Born: October 19, 9:12pm
Weight: 10 lbs., 9 oz.
Height: 22 inches
Hair: Dark brown - lots of it.
Eyes: Blue - very dark.

I guess I won't be the only one on baby patrol

Blessings to Peter, Tim, his wife and family on this happy occasion!


If its Tuesday...

...then I'm on baby patrol. Nuf said.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Catholic Reasons for Hope

Q: Why can’t we confess our sins to God alone?

A: Actually, in the sacrament of Reconciliation we do confess our sins to God alone. We simply confess our sins to God through the ministry of a priest. And we believe that this was a sacrament that the Gospels show that Jesus himself established and commanded us to carry on.

Jesus himself forgave the sins of people in a face-to-face manner (Jn 8:1-11, Lk 7:48). After he rose from the dead and prepared to ascend to heaven, he sent his apostles out into the world and gave them a commission to forgive sins, just as he had done: “ ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (Jn 20:21-23).

Jesus connected the forgiveness of sins that the apostles would do to the gift of the Holy Spirit. It would be God who would be forgiving sins through them. When the apostles appointed successors for themselves, just as Jesus had appointed them, they also commissioned them to forgive sins. This has continued on to our own day with our own bishops and priests.

This continuation of the forgiveness of sins by God through our bishops and priests is one of the ways that Jesus has fulfilled the promise that he made to the apostles just before he ascended into heaven: “...behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Mt 28:20)."

Finally, to see how the first Christians understood the sacrament of reconciliation that Jesus had established and commanded us to carry on in his name, look at this passage from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians:

“...if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Cor 5:17-20

An “ambassador for Christ” was a very specific title in St. Paul’s day. It referred specifically to the apostles and those who succeeded them. Jesus calls all of us to forgive each other. But, by looking at the scriptures, that when we confess our sins to God through a priest, that they are eternally forgiven.

Q: Why does it say in Scripture that when we go to heaven we will judge angels? Gabriel is an angel and he’s very well respected.

A: The archangel Gabriel is indeed very well respected. God gave him the great privilege of announcing to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus.

The verse to which you are referring is from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Cor 6:3). This question comes in a passage where St. Paul was teaching the Corinthians that they shouldn’t be fighting amongst themselves and taking each other to courts that are run by people that aren’t even Christians.

Through the grace given to us in the waters of Baptism, each one of us is conformed to the image of Christ. God originally created the human race in his image and likeness, but our sin had marred that image.

Through the Son of God’s becoming a human being like us and dying for us on the Cross, he redeemed us and restored us to that original state. In Jesus each of us has a great dignity, one that is based on the fact that we were created in God’s image and likeness. That is a dignity that is higher even than that of the angels. That is why St. Paul tells us that we will be their judges, whether they were good angels, like Gabriel, or fallen angels like Satan.


Prayers Requested

Joan Coffell, the mother of Relapsed Catholic writer, Kathy Shaidle, has passed away. Please pray for that God may give rest to Joan's soul and comfort to Kathy and her family.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Praying for Life, praying with Baptists

Cindy, Michael, and I left early on this crisp Saturday to attend a pro-life Mass at a parish on the west side of Indianapolis. A newly ordained priest of the Archdiocese, Fr. Rob Hanke, presided. There was a large crowd, probably between 200-300. Not bad for 8:30 on a Saturday morning. It was neat for me to attend a Mass at which he presided. He and I were in seminary together.

Fr. Rob and about 100-150 of us then went over to an abortion clinic on 16th St. and prayed the rosary (and, no, we didn't do the luminous mysteries but the sorrowful ones). Although it was closed today, I think that it was still a good witness on our part. And it was an ecumenical one as well. There were some representatives there from "Freedom Temple", an African-American church in Indianapolis of a decidedly Baptist bent.

After we finished the rosary one of their ministers offered a prayer through a megaphone. It was a long, vigorous prayer, with nearly every phrase ending with "God", or "in the name of Jesus." I was happy to see that he called all of us "ambassadors for Christ." I would certainly give the same title to him.

In many respects I would describe his prayer as a "beautiful Baptist prayer." I use that phrase because it was used to describe a prayer that I once offered when I was a student chaplain at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

In our speaking with our supervisors, us student chaplains were often discouraged about talking about matters of faith early on in a conversation with patients. There are many good reasons for their advice, but it often led us to difficult situations when we wanted to introduce faith into the conversation. How were we going to fit it in?

One such situation came upon me when I was meeting with an elderly gentleman and his wife as he was preparing to go into surgery to have a defective pacemaker removed that had just been installed the day before. Toward the end of the conversation I awkwardly asked if the gentleman was a man of faith. He looked at me with a rather shocked face and told me, "Of course I am. I am a retired Baptist minister."

They were rather polite when I told them that I was (at the time) a Catholic and a monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey. I explained a little bit about that but didn't get into much detail on it. One thing that we were told again and again in training was that we shouldn't focus hte conversations on ourselves.

We talked for a while about his and his wife's experiences in ministry and how it gave him perspective on his current situation. As I prepared to leave the room, I asked if I might be able to pray with them. They told me that they would be happy to do so and then bowed their heads.

Well, as I paused before speaking I kind knew that I wanted to pray in such a way that would be meaningful for those with whom I would be praying. And so I launched into a prayer that included many repetitions of "We just ask you Lord...", "In the name of Jesus", and "We just thank you God...", but excluded anything that I could not affirm in my Catholic faith.

As we all concluded and said our 'Amens", I received from the gentleman's wife the best compliment that I received during my twelve weeks in the program. She told me that what I offered up was a "very beautiful Baptist prayer."

I left the room with a smile from ear to ear.


The latest installment of my column, "Spiritual Reflections"

Go to the website of The Shelbyville News and read the latest installment of my column, "Spiritual Reflections." I'd appreciate any feedback that you might give me on it. Thanks.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Maybe the judge just hasn't been baptized in the Holy Spirit

An Australian judge determined that a Sydney Christian Life Centre Church was not to blame when Lorraine Daly collapsed and hit her head on a pew after a preacher at the church prayed over her. She had come to the front of the congregation hoping to be prayed over and receive "an infusion of the Holy Spirit."

Usually when this happens, someone with the church is there to catch her. When it happened to Ms. Daly, all there was behind her was the pew. In his decision, the judge stated that "there was no evidence to suggest people normally collapsed before they were prayed over."


Fr. Shawn O'Neal's Sunday Homily

Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

The earliest Christian communities who read from this Gospel passage encountered great conflict in regard to the question of citizenship and its responsibilities. They had just witnessed whole Jewish communities being ravaged by the Romans. They saw a people who were granted a certain level of religious tolerance within the empire reduced to almost nothing. They saw the Temple destroyed except for one wall that was allowed to remain standing. The early Christians feared that they would soon be persecuted. So what was a believer to do? Would it best serve the Christians to be either overtly militant or covertly revolutionary? As Jesus answered both the Pharisees and the Herodians with, “Neither,” so the Christians both then and now are called to answer in the same way.

Paul wrote to the people of Philippi that the true citizenship of a Christian disciple is in heaven. Peter wrote to the churches of Asia Minor that a Christian does good work if he or she obeys and honors a human authority figure, including the emperor. A good Christian is supposed to be a good imitator of Christ as stated within today’s Gospel. A Christian both had and has a duty to pay taxes because to be a Christian both was and is to be a member of a society. To be a member of a society is to agree to assist in meeting both the basic and the greater needs of all people within the society. For example, within the United States, a true disciple takes seriously the idea of government being “of the people, by the people, and for the people” but only so that government may be led by servants of God given permission to lead by other servants of God for the sake of serving God and for bringing God’s kingdom more to life in the world.

Jesus reminds us also that we have a greater responsibility than simply to be good citizens; we have the duty to use any and all means and/or opportunities in order to proclaim the Good News. If we can do it through political means, then all for the greater glory of God, as Jesuits like to say. If we can proclaim through an ordinary means, then in all things may God be glorified, as Benedictines like to say. If any means appears too mean, then we must remember that we are to proclaim by any means necessary, as Malcolm X liked to say, provided that it fits within a certain order and serves a good purpose. Malcolm X called at times for people to use violence. To paraphrase the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, the violence that we are called to preach is the violence of love, of brotherhood, of beating weapons into sickles for work.

We have a duty to be good and law-abiding citizens. Most of all, we have the duty to share all that we have been given so that all people may prosper. God’s justice must be our code of justice; God’s way of love and providence must be our Constitution. It is good that we live in a nation that allows us to gather without fear of persecution. Yet more than this, it is good when we use the talents that God has given us so that all people can gather before the throne that will always be greater than that of any worldly ruler.


The Reign of God at Hand in a Jail Cell:

A Reflection on Today's Mass Readings

Feast of St. Luke, evangelist

2 Tm 4:9-17
Ps 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
Lk 10:1-9

There he was, sitting alone with St. Paul in the middle of Asia Minor, probably in a jail cell, very likely far away from his home. Some time earlier he had been convinced by the preaching of some apostle, perhaps St. Paul, that the reign of God was indeed at hand.

And so St. Luke gave up his somewhat sedentary practice of doctoring and eventually took to the road with St. Paul. Sitting alone with his companion, in a strange place, in a jail cell, abandoned by all his new friends must have been difficult, surely not what he envisioned as the reign of God when he left all behind for the Gospel.

He probably had a lot of time on his hands sitting in that cell. And so he may have served as St. Paul's secretary, writing the second letter to St. Timothy, an excerpt of which we read today.

But he must have stopped in incredulity when St. Paul told him to write that the Lord was giving him strength to complete the task of preachingthe Gospel to all the Gentiles, all the nations..

"Is this man mad?," he may have asked himself. After all, St. Paul was abandoned, he was being tried in court, and the towns where he had successfully preached the Gospel were very often turning to other beliefs. How was it that he believed that he was being given the strength to complete such a great task?

Little did St. Luke know, however, that he himself was helping St. Paul complete that task by his simple work in writing down that letter. The words of his companion that he may have written almost 2000 years ago have endured to this day and play an important role in the proclamation of the reign of God in our own day to those ends of the earth that were thoroughly unknown and unimaginable to him.

In that jail cell he may have also been working, compiling his Gospel. I can just imagine him sitting there, writing down the passage that we read today, where Jesus sends out the seventy-two to proclaim the Good News that the reign of God was at hand. Jesus spoke then of a great harvest. Those men to whom he was speaking surely had no idea of how great a harvest there was.

St. Luke, working for the Gospel in a faraway land, had a better understanding of it. But he also knew the reality of the scarcity of the laborers as he sat, confined in a cell, abandoned by his co-workers.

It may have been there that he first wrote down the words that Jesus gave the seventy-two to preach: "The Kingdom of God is at hand for you." Did he write these words with confidence or with questions in his mind? Althugh he could not have foreseen and probably not desired the situation in which he found himself, when he wrote words like those, he knew what was going to happen at the end of the story.

He knew that Jesus ended up alone, abandoned by his friends, and brutally crucified. But he also knew that Jesus rose gloriously from the dead and gathered back together his disciples and apostles, sending them out to the ends of the earth. St. Luke was now a part of their number. Such knowledge would surely have given him the strength to endure so many trials and to complete, with his co-worker St. Paul, the preaching of that same Gospel to all the nations. He is still doing that work this very day.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Amateur Baptist archaeologists in Georgia uncover baptismal pool "lost in the mists of time", well, at least since 1828

Funny, seeing the headline, "1828 in-ground baptistry uncovered, being used anew", I thought of the baptistry at St. John Lateran in Rome, the mosaics of which date back probably a good 1000 years or so before that baptistry in Georgia was established... I would be interested to know if it is still being used. I would suspect that it is.

There are others that have been uncovered that date back to the second and third centuries. Ah, the different perspectives on history...


Catholic students from Indiana to take a nervous trip to Washington, D.C.

Over 100 seventh and eighth graders from Our Lady of the Greenwood School, Greenwood, IN are going on with their trip (that has been planned for over two years) to the nation's capital. Only four of the original 111 registered have backed out out of concerns related to the sniper shootings.

Maybe this could be an occasion where they, and all the terrified residents of that region could learn the power of praying the Psalms. I think that Psalm 90 (91) would be especially appropriate at this time.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: "My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!"

It is he who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
he will conceal you with his pinions
and under his wings you will find refuge.

You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand fall at your right,
you, it will never approach;
his faithfulness is buckler and shield.

Your eyes have only to look
to see how the wicked are repaid,
you who have said, "Lord, my refuge!"
and have made the Most High your dwelling.

Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways.

They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion and the dragon.

Since he clings to me in love, I will free him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer, "I am with you,"
I will save him in distress andgive him glory.
With length of life I will content him;
I shall let him see my saving power.


On Baby Patrol

Cindy is working today, so I'm home taking care of Michael. Right now he's taking a nap. I'll try to get some blogging done (among other things) during those 'down times.'

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Exploring some message boards

I've been exploring some message boards to look through some discussions on matters of faith. Well, I ran accross an interesting one at the Debates boards at the website for the Left Behind industry. I read some of those books a while back but haven't touched them in a long time.

At any rate, there is an interesting debate going on there about the nature of the rosary. It was brought up in light of the Pope's announcement of the new mysteries. I've been participating in it. I've been going back and forth with a serious believer, presumably a woman, who identifies herself (himself?) as "Deb4Jesus". She basically believes that the Catholic Church has made the rosary into an idol and that it has no scriptural basis at all.

If you're interested in looking at the point in the thread where I enter into the debate, take this link. I identify myself there as 'Catholic Christian.'


Mother claims defense of unborn child leads to the overturning of a manslaughter charge

The Michigan Court of Appeals says a pregnant woman has a right to use deadly force to protect the life of her unborn baby -- even if her own life is not threatened.

In making the unanimous ruling, the appeals court overturned the manslaughter conviction of Jacklyn Kurr. The case stemmed from a quarrel involving Kurr and her boyfriend, Antonio Pena, the father of the baby. Kurr testified that when he punched her in the stomach, she responded by stabbing him in the chest, killing him. At the time, she was 16 to 17 weeks pregnant. She eventually miscarried.


Is the Devil in the Details?:

A Reflection on Today's Mass Readings

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Gal 5:18-25
Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
Lk 11:42-46

Usually we don't like to think of Jesus as he appears to us in today's Gospel: sharply condemning one group of people after another. No, Jesus is supposed to be our friend, or, at least, one of those kind of friends that never really challenges us. We don't want to hear his rebukes. And if, by chance, we do hear them, then very often we conclude that he is criticizing those that we already do not like and not ourselves. Surely we aren't like the Pharisees and lawyers that he takes to task today.

But the people to whom Jesus directed his woes probably weren't, in most cases, being maliciously evil in their actions. The Pharisees probably felt in their hearts that they were doing God's will by paying close attention to the small details of the Law. And surely the lawyers felt that they were doing the same in idealistically carrying out God's Law to the final letter, despite the pain it might cause others.

These people are necessarily evil and neither are we when we tend to be like them. Now Jesus is indeed saddenned by them and us when all of us together define God's will too narrowly and try to place it only within a merely human perspective.

Jesus is trying to tell the Pharisees and us that God's will is to be found both in the small details and in the big picture: "You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others." And he is trying to tell the lawyers to be both consistent and compassionate in their interpretation of the Law.

The advice that Jesus gives to them and to us is impossible to carry out merely by ourselves. We tend to pay attention only to either the big picture or the minutiae of small details. Those who tend toward the latter might be inclined to look scornfully on the former and say, "Get out of your ivory tower and do some work." Those who tend toward the former might be inclined to look scornfully on the latter and say, "You can't see the forest for the trees."

At times in viewing the ideals of our faith, we often want them to be applied with a cold consistency to all comers or chucked out altogether in the name of pastoral compassion.

These are the easy perspectives to take. They are the merely human perspectives. Jesus, however, calls us to rise above them and somehow join them together. We should practice one without overlooking the other. But how can we do this? It seems impossible.

Well, it is, for us. But it is not for the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit about which Paul wrote in today's first reading are those that embrace the ideals of our faith in their fullness. But they do so for our own good, for the good of others, and do so in a way that attracts others to them. In the face of such gifts, the ideals of our faith seem to lose their coldness. In the face of such gifts, the details and the big picture are brought together as one. This is the life of the Kingdom of God that we who are in the Spirit will inherit.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Fr. Shawn O'Neal's Sunday homily from last Sunday

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Welcome to another day of choices. As those of you who use the missalette might have noticed, we had two choices today. The choice aside from the Gospel reading that was proclaimed eliminated the last four verses – that is, it eliminated the final scene involving the king, the man not dressed in a wedding garment, and the king calling for the man to be bound and cast into the darkness. I hope that no church eliminated those verses from the Gospel reading today. I agree that the verses are rather stark. I agree that at first glance it would seem unfair that someone invited into the feast would then be removed in an unfair manner. But there must be something more to this than what we see at first glance.

Here’s a small excerpt from Aunt Miriam’s Guide to Good Jewish Etiquette (Roman occupation era edition): “The host of a banquet is responsible for providing all of the things necessary for the comfort of all invited guests. These include perfumed water for footwashing and a nice robe so that the guest does not have to wear their normal daily garment while the feast is taking place. As a special courtesy, have the guests’ original robes cleaned while the banquet is taking place so that when they change into their normal dress before they leave, they feel as wonderful after the feast as they did during the feast.” A good host did not merely greet his or her guests with a cup of wine; the host’s task was to pamper the guests. Feasts were meant to be a joyous diversion from the daily grind.

So imagine how the king felt when he saw that a man was in the grand banquet hall wearing the garment he wore as he came in from outside. This would not have been an accident. If a king told servants to invite anyone and everyone, then the servants would have known to treat all those invited to the same level of courtesy and respect as the most dignified guest would expect to receive. The king became angry because the guest openly ignored the king’s generous act. The king had gone out of his way to make sure that total strangers were given the same treatment as close friends and political allies – and this man – this man caught wearing his own regular garment had the audacity to think that he could come in and eat the king’s food yet not truly seek to be part of the general feast and all the activities therein.

The man who was removed from the feast shared a common bond with the people who either refused the king’s invitation or killed those who did the inviting: he did not have any room in his heart for receiving a gift. Some people believe that they must be their own best entertainment. If not that, then they believe that they are responsible for their own happiness.

Those who refused to take part in the feast at all – or those such as the man who was removed – forgot about what made feasts special: the host gave gifts to everyone who attended and joined in the celebration. In this case, the king’s gift was that of a feast that was not going to stop any time soon. All the guests’ needs would be met before a guest would need to be concerned. The laughter, the music, and the dancing would continue for many days to come. It would be as if people checked into the good version of the Hotel California – for those who need an explanation, consult a member of the congregation between the ages of 25 and 45.

We have all been invited to join a great, joyous, and long-lasting feast. We have many things on our minds and many tasks on our schedules, but there is neither thing nor event that should keep us from accepting the invitation. If we choose to accept the invitation, then we should also accept all that comes with the feast. Do not worry about how the garments might look because all of us will look lovely wearing them. Do not worry about whether everything will be taken care of; believe me, it will be. The host of this feast wrote the book on taking care of his people.


I did it on a whim...

Yesterday afternoon I came back to my office at about 5:00 after having gone to the gym. I realized that Catholic Answers Live was then on so I started listening to it on Real Audio (there aren't any radio stations around here that broadcast it). On a whim, I decided to call in when I learned that they were doing their "Who Wants to Be an Apologist" gameshow.

On the show, they ask callers five questions. If you get the first one correct, you receive a $25.00 gift certificate for their products. If you get the first three correct you get a $50.00 gift certificate. And if you get all five correct, you receive a $100.00 gift certificate. The game ends when you get any question incorrect.

Well, I got on to the show (you can listen to it here, I come on about thirty minutes into it). I answered the first four questions correctly, but got tripped up on the last one. It asked what heresy Blaise Pascal subscribed to late in his life. I was able to describe almost everything about it but its name: Jansenism. Oh well...

It was fun time for me however. I did feel a little bit embarrassed to be on there, being a DRE with a couple of degrees in theology. But obviously that embarrassment was a disguise for disordered pride, considering that I missed the last question...


A revival of public confession in the Church?

An alleged murderer confessed his crime before a congregation gathered for Mass in St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in Fairview Park, OH. Oh, by the way, he also identified himself as "Satan."


Cleaning both the Inside and the Outside:

A Reflection on Today's Mass Readings

Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, virgin and doctor of the Church

Gal 5:1-6
Ps 119:41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48
Lk 11:37-41

Jesus wants us all to be whole. For him it is not enough either to do only exterior works to honor him or to only trust him in one's heart. Somehow the two must be brought together. He wants us to be both clean on the outside and on the inside.

For the Pharisee who was his host in today's Gospel, his exterior works were the ritual ablutions, cleaning various utensils before their use. But Jesus knew that this was not consistent with what he valued in his heart. He knew that this Pharisee did not value those utensils but the possession of the wealth that allowed him to purchase them in the first place.

Jesus wanted his exterior actions to be consistent with the things he held dear in his heart. That is why he told him, " to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you." If the Pharisee gave what he valued in his heart to others, God would make that heart clean. The cleansing of his exterior actions was tied very closely to the cleansing of his heart by God.

Such an action is not easy for those who find their security in material things. But perhaps when we take the risk of giving them away we can discover that placing our trust in Christ is so more certain and dependable. This is a process, however, that will take our whole lives. On this side of the resurrection our hearts will always be drawn to one degree or another to things or people who are not Christ.

This process of concretely giving up our faith in things other than Christ and placing our trust more and more in him is what Paul describes in today's first reading as "faith working through love." As we cooperate with God's grace in this process we await with Paul, "through the Spirit, by faith, ... the hope of righteousness."

It is our growing faith in Christ that allows us to use for others' good what we had selfishly held for ourselves. This is the grace of Christ working in us, ourselves cooperating with it. And the more and more that we allow that grace to direct both our heart and our actions, the more of a whole person we will become. THat grace will truly be making us clean both on the inside and the outside, leaving only the gleam of holiness.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Catholic Reasons for Hope

Please Note: The following is the latest installment in a weekly column that I write in the bulletin of the parish where I serve as DRE. Parishioners submit basic questions about the Catholic faith in a box in the back of Church and I respond to them in the bulletin.

Q: We genuflect when entering the pew before Mass. However, should we genuflect after Mass before or right after leaving the pew?

A: The word “genuflect” comes from a Latin word that literally means “bend the knee.” And that is simply what we do when we genuflect. We bend a knee (traditionally the right knee) and touch it to the ground.

But why do we do it? “Bending the knee” has been for thousands of years and continues to be a physical sign of honor. The person who genuflects is showing a high amount of respect and honor to another person.

We Catholics genuflect to honor not just any person, but to give honor and adoration to our Savior, Jesus Christ. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, “...we expres our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. (CCC 1378)”

Genuflecting has been and continues to be the usual way that we Catholics show that honor and adoration of our Lord. Bowing deeply is another way of doing it, especially for those among us who are physically unable to show the honor and adoration that they have for Jesus in their hearts.

Therefore, to answer your question, I think that it is quite appropriate for us to genuflect not only upon entering the church for Mass but also upon leaving it. But I encourage you to genuflect with the reason for that action clearly in mind.

That way, when we leave we are not only showing due respect, honor, and adoration for Jesus, but we will be leaving with his greatness in our hearts and minds. In this way, we will be best prepared to share Jesus’ Good News with others through our words and deeds.

Q: Why are priests unable to be married?

A: Priests are, in a sense, able to be married. Priests weren’t born priests. They were baptized just like you and I. And as baptized Catholic Christians, they were able to receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

But they discerned that God was calling them to serve him and his people with their entire lives. They heard and responded generously to Jesus’ call in the Gospel of Matthew where he tells his disciples that some choose to remain unmarried and celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it. (Mt 19-12)”

It has been the tradition of the Catholic Church for much of its history that men who respond to God’s call to the priesthood are to remain unmarried and celibate. Some will say that it was only made a law in the Church in the 11th century, over 1000 years after the time of Christ. But that was only because that was the time when the Church’s traditions in general were written into laws. The Church’s priests practiced celibacy for many centuries before then.

And there are many reasons for this scripturally-based tradition. An important one is that the priest is a sacrament to all of us of Jesus. Just as he received the sacrament of Holy Orders when he was ordained, he is a sacrament to us. A priest is a living and effective sign to us of the presence of Christ in the Church. We believe that Christ himself remained unmarried throughout his time on earth. There is no real evidence in any of the Gospels of him having been married.

We believe that he remained unmarried so that he could give his entire self to us for our good. He did this to such an extent that he died for us. Men who respond to God’s call to be a priest give of themselves to us for our good in choosing, like Jesus, to remain unmarried. They can be powerful signs for us of Jesus.

But please also be aware that, while there are important reasons for our practice that priests are to remain unmarried, it is still just a practice of the Church and not any kind of dogma. Other churches that have a valid priesthood, like the Eastern Orthodox and even some Eastern Rites within the Catholic Church, have chosen for centuries to ordain married men to the priesthood but only celibate men to be bishops.


In addition to being Columbus Day, today is also International Standards Day

The International Standards Organization, based in Geneva, is encouraging the observation of this day so that people around the world might come to appreciate how standards have a positive impact on all of our lives. This organization claims that it is the source for more than "13,000 international standards for business, government, and society."

There are standards for screws, plugs, plug-in receptacles, screws, bolts, nuts, washers, and any number of other countless items. All of this makes life so simple from one country to the next.

I wonder if the International Standards Organization has anything to say about moral standards? Maybe not.

A spokesperson for the ISO claims that "standards are all around us but nobody sees them." How true.


Signs for This Generation:

A Reflection on Today's Mass Readings

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1
Ps 113:1b-2, 3-4, 5a and 6-7
Lk 11:29-32

In the parish where I serve as DRE there will be a meeting tonight of the parents of those second graders who will be celebrating their First Reconciliation. We celebrate this as a family-centered event, where parents and siblings come and are encouraged to give themselves to the sacrament as well. We hope, then, that our parish's celebration of First Reconciliation will have a positive effect on more than just the second graders.

Many in the Church have lamented the fact that so few among us avail ourselves of the wonderful gift of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope John Paul II himself took up this topic recently.

Whatever the cause may be for the lonely state of our confessionals, we seem to be limiting Jesus by the choices we are making. Too often nowadays many people want to see Jesus only as a friend or as some sort of spiritual guide. He indeed can and wants to be these for us. But he wants to be so much more.

In today's Gospel he tells us that he is the sign of Jonah, calling us to repentance. Underneath all of our pride I do believe that there is a fear that keeps us from acknowledging that sign, that closes our eyes to our sins and prevents us from repenting.

So many of us simply do not believe the truth of that offer of unending mercy from our God. Somehow we believe that we only deserve and will only receive condemnation and punishment if we admit our sins. We cannot fathom a God that would forgive us if we admit and repent of our sins.

But if we only read more of the Scrptures and see how God forgives his people again and again, our fears would be reduced. If we only would read the Scriptures and hear Jesus' commission to his apostles to bind and loose, we would come to know that God's heavenly mercy can be experienced here and now. The sign of Jonah would dispel our fears and we would repent.

Yet so many of us look at Sacred Scripture, look at the Church, and see nothing but tired and worn out ideas. Too many of us see our Christian faith as having little or no answers (or, at least, the answers that we would like to hear) to life's questions. We see the Church only as an agent of oppression, not as the source of true liberation that Jesus created it to be and which it is.

So many people, like the queen of the South that we read about in today's Gospel, travel across the world (at least in their minds) to seek out spiritual truths in faraway places like Tibet, India, or Japan. Little do people realize the great source of wisdom that we have in our traditional Christian faith. It is not a well that has run dry but simply one to which so many people refuse to come with their empty buckets.

The wisdom of Christ that calls us to repentance is not a gavel coming down in judgment but a doorway to freedom. I am concerned that this truth is lost on many people. I suspect that it may not have touched the hearts of many of the parents who will be coming to this meeting tonight. But, thanks only to the grace of God, it has begun to touch my heart. I know that I cannot keep the light of this wisdom hid underneath a bushel basket.

May the same grace which planted this wisdom in my heart now allow it to shine forth through me for these people with whom I will be meeting tonight.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

The latest installment of my column, "Spiritual Reflections"

Go to the website of The Shelbyville News to read the latest installment of my column, "Spiritual Reflections." I'd appreciate any feedback on it.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Quote of the day...ok, well, it was written five years ago...

In this article in Christianity Today, Dr. Timothy George, an evangelical Christian and founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, told his fellow evangelicals that "for all our differences, Bible-believing evangelicals stand much closer to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger than to Bishop John Spong!"

Amen brother.


A Kingdom Divided:

A Reflection on Today's Mass Readings

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Gal 3:7-14
Ps 111:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6
Kl 11:15-26

It is sad to see that such a beautiful writing as we have in today's first reading can be the occasion for bitter and contentious division among Christians. In this passage from the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul tells us how Gentiles are justified by faith according to the example of Abraham. The curse of not following the Law of the Torah is taken away from them by Jesus through his death on the cross.

Now it is not my intention to work through the different interpretations of this passage. Let it be enough to say that all Christians take the meaning of this passage seriously even if they discern different meanings from it.

Some, by they Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, will be so beholden to their own interpretation of this one passage that they conclude that those who interpret it differently are not truly Christians.

If this is the case, then I wonder how they would account for the many good works that all of these various groups do. It is a similar case to what we find in today's Gospel. Some claimed that Jesus casted out devils through the prince of devils. In answering that claim Jesus first said that "every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste." But then he said, "if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you."

Some, on various sides of Christian divisions, have discerned the work of Satan in the groups on the other side of these rifts. And yet if Satan is doing going through them, then his kingdom should have fallen by now. Such a house could not have stood for the two thousand year history of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. And I dare to say that his house could not have stood for the several centuries of Protestantism either.

That tells me that the enduring good works of all of these groups is a sign of the work of the finger of God, that the reign of God is upon us all to one degree or another.

Now in saying this am I claiming that the current state of division among Christians is God's will? By no means. Jesus implied as much today when he told us that a kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, that it will not stand. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom, one that will last for all time, one that the gates of Hell will fail to conquer. It is, then, only by the grace of God that the presence of his kingdom here on earth has endured despite its divisions.

In showing the futility of such disharmony I believe that Jesus is inviting us to that unity for which he prayed in during the Last Supper as recorded by St. John. Now in the face of such acrimonious division as we have at present I do not know how this unity will be brought about. But I do feel certain that it will happen, for I believe that no prayer of Jesus could every be found to be void.

I also feel certain that it will not happen through our efforts alone. The unity of Christians is the work of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the Holy Spirit is unity. And we who are Christians are able to receive that promise through Christ and his cross, as St. Paul tells us today: Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree, that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."

Let us all, then, in humility and in unison recognize that our unity will be found in Christ and his cross through the Spirit. And so let us ask the Father to pour that Spirit uon us all the more fully in this time of division.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Defining the Differences: ECT on what separates Catholics and Evangelicals

The following is another excerpt from "The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium," a statement issued by Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) in 1994.

· The church as an integral part of the Gospel or the church as a communal consequence of the Gospel.
· The church as visible communion or invisible fellowship of true believers.
· The sole authority of Scripture (sola scriptura) or Scripture as authoritatively interpreted in the church.
· The "soul freedom" of the individual Christian or the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the community.
· The church as local congregation or universal communion.
· Ministry ordered in apostolic succession or the priesthood of all believers.
· Sacraments and ordinances as symbols of grace or means of grace.
· The Lord's Supper as eucharistic sacrifice or memorial meal.
· Remembrance of Mary and the saints or devotion to Mary and the saints.
· Baptism as sacrament of regeneration or testimony to regeneration.

This account of differences is by no means complete. Nor is the disparity between positions always so sharp as to warrant the "or" in the above formulations. Moreover, among those recognized as Evangelical Protestants there are significant differences between, for example, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Calvinists on these questions.

But the differences mentioned above reflect disputes that are deep and long standing. In at least some instances, they reflect authentic disagreements that have been in the past and are at present barriers to full communion between Christians. On these questions, and other questions implied by them, Evangelicals hold that the Catholic Church has gone beyond Scripture, adding teachings and practices that detract from or compromise the Gospel of God's saving grace in Christ.

Catholics, in turn, hold that such teachings and practices are grounded in Scripture and belong to the fullness of God's revelation. Their rejection, Catholics say, results in a truncated and reduced understanding of the Christian reality.


Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) on Evangelization, Proselytization, and Baptism:

The following are excerpts from "The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium" a statement issued by Evangelicals and Catholics Together in 1994.

…Where Evangelicals and Catholics are in severe and sometimes violent conflict, such as parts of Latin America, we urge Christians to embrace and act upon the imperative of religious freedom. Religious freedom will not be respected by the state if it is not respected by Christians or, even worse, if Christians attempt to recruit the state in repressing religious freedom…

…Today, in this country and elsewhere, Evangelicals and Catholics attempt to win "converts" from one another's folds. In some ways, this is perfectly understandable and perhaps inevitable. In many instances, however, such efforts at recruitment undermine the Christian mission by which we are bound by God's Word and to which we have recommitted ourselves in this statement.

It should be clearly understood between Catholics and Evangelicals that Christian witness is of necessity aimed at conversion. Authentic conversion is-in its beginning, in its end, and all along the way-conversion to God in Christ by the power of the Spirit….

…There is a necessary distinction between evangelizing and what is today commonly called proselytizing or "sheep stealing." We condemn the practice of recruiting people from another community for purposes of denominational or institutional aggrandizement…

…Three observations are in order in connection with proselytizing. First, as much as we might believe one community is more fully in accord with the Gospel than another, we as Evangelicals and Catholics affirm that opportunity and means for growth in Christian discipleship are available in our several communities.

Second, the decision of the committed Christian with respect to his communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected.

Third, in view of the large number of non- Christians in the world and the enormous challenge of our common evangelistic task, it is neither theologically legitimate nor a prudent use of resources for one Christian community to proselytize among active adherents of another Christian community…

…. In the context of evangelization and "reevangelization," we encounter a major difference in our understanding of the relationship between baptism and the new birth in Christ. For Catholics, all who are validly baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion with Christ. That baptismal grace is to be continuingly reawakened and revivified through conversion.

For most Evangelicals, but not all, the experience of conversion is to be followed by baptism as a sign of new birth.

For Catholics, all the baptized are already members of the church, however dormant their faith and life; for many Evangelicals, the new birth requires baptismal initiation into the community of the born again.

These differing beliefs about the relationship between baptism, new birth, and membership in the church should be honestly presented to the Christian who has undergone conversion. But again, his decision regarding communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected…