Nota Bene

Humble (oh really...?) opinions on matters of faith
Email me!

Please note: All correspondence is blogable unless you specifically request otherwise.


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

  This page is powered by Blogger, the easy way to update your web site.  
Thursday, October 30, 2003

Ending Nota Bene

A couple of days ago I announced that I had accepted a writing job at The Criterion, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and that this job change would take effect sometime in the next three months. At the time that I announced this I noted that Nota Bene would be coming to an end at the time that the job change actually occurred.

In the time since I posted that announcement, I have decided to bring this weblog to an end sooner rather than later. This, therefore, will be the last post of Nota Bene.

I thank all of my readers who have come here either purposefully or simply by accident. I hope that it has provided, as its title suggests, a 'good word.'

May the grace of Almighty God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with all of you forever. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

On Baby Patrol

My wife Cindy is working today, so I'm at home taking care of Michael. Expect little blogging.

Monday, October 27, 2003

An Announcement

Last week I was asked to become a full-time writer for The Criterion, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. After speaking about this opportunity with my wife Cindy, I decided to accept it. I will therefore be leaving my current position as the director of religious education in the parish where I currently work. This will happen sometime in the next three months.

I also suspect that at the time of this change I may bring this weblog to a close. I have enjoyed posting my writing in it. But then I will be working as a full-time writer and so will want to devote my energies to that.

This is something that I have been thinking about for a while and something that, in practice, has been slowly taking effect over the past several months. I do much less blogging now than I did, say, a year ago. And many of the things that I post now were not written first for the blog but for another purpose.

In the final analysis, I chose to accept the writing position so that I could be a better husband and father, the real vocation to which God has called me. Being a writer will provide me with much better hours than being a DRE. Wow--I'll actually be able to drive to Mass with my family on a Sunday and spend the entire day with them.

Ending my blogging is also, in the final analysis, directed to this purpose as well--being a better husband and father.

But until the job change officially occurs, I will continue to do my regular posts. And, in the end, I will continue to lurk at other blogs and their comment boxes after this humble one has come to an end.


Catholic Reasons for Hope--1 Pt 3:15

Q: We in the Catholic Church celebrate the Feast of All Souls on November 2. I know that this is a day when we are especially encouraged to pray for the souls in purgatory. Please help me to understand why we believe it is important to do this. Other Christians don’t believe it is necessary.

Before explaining why it is important to pray for souls in purgatory, I think that purgatory itself should be discussed.

The Catholic Church believes that in order to see God face to face in heaven one must be totally pure (Rev 21:27). Each of us who are baptized are made pure by God’s grace through baptism. But afterwards we can reject this purity by choosing to sin.

Sin (mortal sin in particular) has two effects: an eternal effect and temporal effects (CCC 1472). The eternal effect is total separation from God. This is taken away from us when we become sorry for our sins, confess them in the sacrament of reconciliation, and receive absolution from God through the priest.

The temporal effects of sin can include penance that is due for our sins and our attachment to sin.

When our sins are forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation, the eternal effect of sin may be removed, but we still have temporal penances to accomplish and we may still have an attachment to the sin.

If we die in a state of grace but still have penances or have attachment to sin, we do not yet have that purity that that we need in order to experience the total blessedness of heaven. We believe that we will eventually be there because we died in God’s grace, but that we aren’t ready yet for it because of the remaining temporal effects of sin.

Therefore we believe that those who die in this way will experience purgatory after death (CCC 1030-1032). Among the passages from the Bible that lend support to this belief are the following: Rev 21:27, 1 Pt 3:19, 1 Cor 15:29-30, 2 Macc 12:43-45. This has been a belief of the Church from its earliest days and only began to be rejected by the leaders of the Reformation in the 16th century.

Having established the Catholic Church’s belief about purgatory, it is fairly simple to understand the validity of praying for the souls in purgatory. In principle it is no different than our praying or for a friend or relative who is still living here on earth.

Our intercessory prayers, penances, Masses that are offered, etc. for the souls in purgatory are ways that we can apply the merit that God freely gives to us through our prayers to them.

In essence, our belief about our prayers for the dead are tied to our belief about the nature of the Church. We believe, along with St. Paul, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ (Rom 12:4-5, 1 Cor 12:12-31, Eph 5:23-27, Col 1:18). It extends from the body of believers here on earth all through purgatory to heaven where it is united with Christ himself and all of his holy ones who surround his throne for all time.

When members of the faithful die in a state of grace none of us who are still living are ever spiritually separated from them. We can pray for them and even do penance for them while we are still living.

Do we know with certainty that a friend or loved one who has passed away is either in purgatory or in heaven? No. But even if we pray for a person who may already be in heaven, we can believe that God will be pleased with such prayers and apply for the good of those who still need them.

Therefore on this November 2, the Feast of All Souls, I encourage all parishioners to pray for the souls of all of the faithful departed and perhaps especially for your friends and loved ones who have passed away. Not only will God bless them because of your prayers, you yourself will surely be blessed as well.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Taking a short break

I'll be taking a short break from blogging, probaby four or five days. I'm always interested to read your comments, though, especially on my column on Terri Schiavo (a few posts back).


Catholic Reasons for Hope--1 Pt 3:15

Q: Does the Bible require priests not to marry?

The Bible does not require priests to live as celibates. On the other hand, it does not forbid celibacy either. Indeed, celibacy is praised in the New Testament, even by Christ himself: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Mt 19:11).

Later on in that same chapter Jesus again praises those who freely give up the goods of family life: "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).

A bit further in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus states that there are no marriages in heaven: “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30). This is not to say, of course, that marriage is not a good and holy thing. Nor does it say that the love that binds a husband and wife will be forgotten in heaven.

What our Lord does say here indirectly is that the love of God that joins a husband and wife exclusively on earth will apply to all people in heaven. In the Church on earth, when a priest chooses a life of celibacy in order to give of himself in loving service to all of God’s people given to his care, he becomes, through God’s grace, a living sign of that life in heaven where ‘they neither marry nor are given in marriage.’

St. Paul lived a life of celibacy and wrote of its value in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another...I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife…” (1 Cor 7:7, 32-33).

Later on in his writings, St. Paul seems to contradict himself in counseling St. Timothy on how to select the proper man for the office of bishop: “a bishop must be...married only once…” (1 Tm 3:2). However, St. Paul is not requiring that a man who would be a bishop must be married. Instead, he is teaching that a widower who aspired to the office could not remarry or that a man who was married at the time of their selection for the office could not remarry if his wife then died at a later date.

In the next chapter of the same letter, St. Paul seems to reject celibacy in principle when he condemns those who “forbid marriage” (1 Tm 4:3). However St. Paul here does not condemn celibacy in and of itself but only the total rejection of marriage in all cases. There were indeed many religious groups in St. Paul’s day that were very dualistic, affirming only what was spiritual and rejecting anything to do with matter and the body—including marriage. St. Paul condemned such groups and their beliefs.

In contrast to such dualistic groups, the Catholic Church has always placed a high value on marriage. At the same time, it also has valued celibacy as well. Either are ways of life that the Lord calls individuals to and so should not be rejected in principle.

As we can see from the various passages of Sacred Scripture that I have laid out here (as well as others to which I could have appealed), the Bible praises celibacy and encourages those who would give themselves to God’s service to live this way.

In being in accord with the teachings of the Bible, the Catholic Church has never taught that celibacy is an essential part of the priesthood. Yet over the course of its history it has come to require it nonetheless in ordinary circumstances because of the biblical and sacramental principles that I have laid out here and because of the practical openness that it allows for men who would serve the faithful.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Prince? A Jehovah's Witness?

Yeah, you heard it correctly. And apparently he's hitting the pavement and knocking on doors too. I guess the Kingdom Hall now has a prince or, rather the Prince.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Pope, Terry Schiavo, and the Gospel of Life

The following is a column that I have submitted to the local newspaper for which I write a weekly column. Hopefully it will get published.

Pope John Paul II, along with Catholics around the world, celebrates today the twenty-fifth anniversary of his papal election. When he was elected on October 16, 1978 (when this writer was only eight years old), he was a robust 58-year-old man whose pastimes were skiing and mountain climbing. The boldness of his body was matched by the courage of his soul and the challenging words that flowed forth from it, words of eternal meaning that ultimately played a vital role in the collapse of communism.

Today, a quarter of a century after that Polish priest appeared before the faithful in St. Peter’s Square for the first time as pope, his body is no longer robust. Now it is wracked by the effects of an assassination attempt, hip replacement surgery, severe arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. But the power of his papacy endures.

In every country to which he has traveled he has trumpeted the eternal message of the Gospel of life, defending the inherent and sacred dignity of every human person. Now this message flows forth from his entire body and not simply through his words. For no physical infirmity, no matter how challenging, can destroy the dignity of the person who bears them. We are not ultimately defined by the changeable condition of our bodies but the unchanging dignity of our God-given souls. This is the powerful message that Pope John Paul now proclaims to the world in the twilight of his life.

How odd, then, that during this week of the Pope’s anniversary when he reminds the world once again of the Gospel of life that it seems to have been tragically ignored in Pinellas Park, FL where the feeding tube of Terry Schiavo was removed by a court order.

Terry had been severely disabled in both mind and body as the result of a heart attack that she suffered when she was 26, some thirteen years ago. However, she is not totally comatose or in a vegative state as some have claimed. She is able to breath on her own, look directly at the visitors to her room and express emotions, if not through words. It was a sad dispute between Terry’s husband and her family over the possibility of her physical recovery and her wishes regarding her life that led to the court decision that ordered the removal of her feeding tube.

Should a person’s life be preserved in all cases, at all costs? No. This is not a part of the Gospel of life that Pope John Paul has proclaimed. But there is a difference between using ordinary and extraordinary means to preserve life. In dire circumstances when extraordinary means to preserve life (such as a ventilator) are removed, the person in question will die naturally in a relatively short amount of time.

But Terry Schiavo’s case is not dire. Her life, until yesterday, was not being preserved by extraordinary means. Only an ordinary feeding tube was keeping her alive. When it was removed she slowly began to starve to death—an unnatural process that will only be complete over the course of an agonizing and pain-filled ten to fourteen days.

I can understand why Terry’s husband was distraught over his wife’s long-term condition. But she had no less dignity on the day that her feeding tube was removed than she had when she was a robust young woman of 26. In the same way, Pope John Paul still maintains his God-given human dignity despite the ravages of age that he is experiencing. His grace-inspired perseverance in the face of his many infirmities powerfully proclaims the Gospel of life. May we in the United States, in the face of the tragic case of Terry Schiavo, be attentive to this message and take it to heart.


Taking care of Michael

My wife is working today, so I'm at home taking care of Michael who is, at present, making quite a mess in the kitchen. I'd better go check it out...

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A Prayer Request and a Short Reflection

Please pray for 23 teenagers from the parish where I serve as DRE. Tonight they will receive the sacrament of confirmation from Archbishop Daniel Buechlein at S.S. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Pray for whatever specific intention for them that you think is appropriate. But consider praying that the Holy Spirit fill their hearts and form them into disciples of Jesus.

I find it interesting that these young people are being confirmed on the evening before the 25th anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul II. Most of them are 16 years old. That means that when they were born the Holy Father had been in his office for almost ten years already.

I myself who have overseen the catechists who formed them for this sacrament was only eight when Karol Wotyla succeeded Pope John Paul I. Although I have memories of his immediate predecessor, I really only became conscious of the leadership of the Pope during Pope John Paul II's pontificate.

In reality, then, there is an entire generation of young Catholics around the world who are coming to maturity in their faith solely under the ultimate leadership of the current Holy Father.

It will be interesting to note in the coming years the nature of the impact that his long span of powerful leadership will have on their lives of faith. I pray that the impact will be a positive one. If the various powerful messages which John Paul has proclaimed over the past 25 years sink into the hearts of the young Catholics who were born and matured in the faith during the period of his leadership, then I believe that the future of the Church is very bright indeed.