Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Eucharist and the Thanksgiving Holiday

As the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaches and you are busily cooking food, preparing your home for family and friends, and outlining your plan of attack for the Black Friday craziness, I suggest another, more sublime occupation: receiving the Eucharist.

Now, you may be asking yourself, "What does the Eucharist have to do with Thanksgiving?" Well, the word "eucharist" come from the Greek word that means, "thanksgiving." In Jn 6:11, before Christ multiplied the loaves and the fishes (an act that prefigures the Eucharistic feast), He "gave thanks" (eucharisteo). At the Last Supper, when He instituted the Eucharist, He "gave thanks" (eucharisteo) before He turned the bread and wine into His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity (cf. Mt 26:27; Mk 14:23; Lk 22:17,19).

We use this word to refer to the Body of Christ that we receive in Holy Communion because it is in every way a moment of thanksgiving: It is Jesus thanking the Father:
  • for those of us who the Father has given Him to be united to Him through reception of the Eucharist, and
  • for the opportunity to perform the miracle that brings Him glory.

It is with a spirit of thanksgiving for all that God has given us that we offer the bread and wine that will become the Eucharist. Of course, we can't help but also thank Him for coming to dwell within us in such a profound way. That our Lord and Savior would come to be in our presence, veiled by bread and wine, and abide in us in a substantial way is a gift unlike any other. And so, on Thanksgiving, when we are to call to mind all that we are thankful for, we should not forget that which is the very meaning of "thanksgiving."

The Catechism is clear on the connection between the Eucharist and the virtue of thanksgiving:
1350 The presentation of the offerings (the Offertory). Then, sometimes in procession, the bread and wine are brought to the altar; they will be offered by the priest in the name of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice in which they will become his body and blood. It is the very action of Christ at the Last Supper - "taking the bread and a cup." "The Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, when she offers what comes forth from his creation with thanksgiving" (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,18,4; cf. Mal 1:11). The presentation of the offerings at the altar takes up the gesture of Melchizedek and commits the Creator's gifts into the hands of Christ who, in his sacrifice, brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifices.

1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:

- thanksgiving and praise to the Father;
- the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
- the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.

Thanksgiving and praise to the Father

1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity.

1360 The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving."

1361 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him.

To summarize, again from the Catechism:
1407 The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church's life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body which is the Church.

1408 The Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord's body and blood. These elements constitute one single act of worship.

I realize that the secular holiday has Protestant roots (at least by the popular reckoning), but there's no reason why Catholics can't use this day to call to mind what they are the most thankful for: our Eucharistic Lord.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, November 22, 2015

For the Solemnity of Christ the King

In honor of Jesus Christ our King and Savior, upon the conclusion of the liturgical year, I present the following articles:



Also see my blog posts:

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What Is the Catholic Understanding of the Gospel?

Or, to put it another way: What is the message of the gospel? What exactly are we supposed to be preaching to people?

This is a very important question! After all, how can we “preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15) or “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15) if we don’t know what it is? “It is the power of God for salvation” ... yet many of us are entirely ignorant of it! I think it’s time we change that.

The best way to answer this question is to consult Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Let's begin with the Bible. There are 93 references to the “gospel” in the New Testament, but most of these assume that the reader already knows what the gospel is and so they aren’t very helpful for determining the content of the gospel.

However, 15 of these passages say that the gospel is of something in a manner that indicates the content of it (instead of indicating the source of the gospel or the effects of the gospel). The gospel is a message that concerns Jesus Christ (cf. Mk 1:1; Rom 1:9; 15:19; 1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 2:12; 4:4; 9:13; 10:14; Gal 1:7; Phil 1:27; 1 Thes 3:2; 2 Thes 1:8) and His Kingdom (cf. Mt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). The context of these passages will typically flesh this out even more, especially the opening passages to Paul's letter to the Romans and the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians:
Rom 1:1-4 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

1 Cor 15:1-4 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures

We see in Scripture that the notion of “salvation” is also closely linked with the gospel. Forms of the words “save” and “salvation” appear 129 times in the New Testament and hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Also, if we consider the immediate context of the “gospel” passages, these save/salvation words appear much more frequently than other terms that refer to Jesus’ work, such as “justification”, "sanctification", or “redemption”.

In other words, the way the New Testament speaks of the gospel, Christ is its central content and salvation is what he came to bring. So, we might state the gospel message this way:

Jesus Christ died and rose for our sins
so that we may be saved.

If you look up the words “gospel” and “Good News” in the Catechism, then you find affirmation of what we have discovered in Scripture. For example:
333 Again, it is the angels who "evangelize" by proclaiming the Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection (cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7).

389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Him

422 "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). This is "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mk 1:1): God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation - he has sent his own "beloved Son" (Mk 1:11; cf. Lk 1:5,68).

571 The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all" (Heb 9:26) by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.

638 "We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus" (Acts 13:32-33). The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross:
"Christ is risen from the dead!
Dying, he conquered death;
To the dead, he has given life." (Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion of Easter)

763 It was the Son's task to accomplish the Father's plan of salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason for his being sent (cf. Lumen Gentium 3, Ad Gentes 3). "The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures" (LG 5).

1086 "Accordingly, just as Christ was sent by the Father so also he sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This he did so that they might preach the Gospel to every creature and proclaim that the Son of God by his death and resurrection had freed us from the power of Satan and from death and brought us into the Kingdom of his Father. But he also willed that the work of salvation which they preached should be set in train through the sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 6).

1391 "On the feasts of the Lord, when the faithful receive the Body of the Son, they proclaim to one another the Good News that the first fruits of life have been given, as when the angel said to Mary Magdalene, 'Christ is risen!' Now too are life and resurrection conferred on whoever receives Christ" (Fanqith, Syriac Office of Antioch, Vol. I, Commun., 237a-b).

1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God's mercy to sinners (cf. Lk 15). The angel announced to Joseph: "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21).

2763 All the Scriptures - the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms - are fulfilled in Christ (cf. Lk 24:44). The Gospel is this "Good News." Its first proclamation is summarized by St. Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5-7); the prayer to our Father is at the center of this proclamation.

Also, from the Glossary in the back of the Catechism:
GOSPEL: The “good news” of God’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is this Gospel or good news that the Apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the entire world (571, 1964). The Gospel is handed on in the apostolic tradition of the Church as the source of all–saving truth and moral discipline (75). The four Gospels are the books written by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which have for their central object Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son: his life, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church’s beginnings under the Spirit’s guidance (124, 514).

Now that you know what the gospel message is, go out and proclaim it by your words and your life! Memorize it so that it comes from the heart as a conviction, as a truth at the very core of your life. We should be able to proclaim to anyone, and at a moment's notice, the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done for us.

For more information, see the following articles:

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Catholic Q&A: Part 39

This post continues my series of short answers to common (and not so common) questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

My pastor said that during the Easter season we should say the Regina Coeli prayer instead of the usual Angelus. When did that become the required practice?

I wasn't able to discover when it was decided that the Regina Coeli would replace the Angelus during the Easter Season, but I can say that this has been the practice for a long time. The Catholic Encyclopedia from 1910 mentions it, so the practice is at least that old, and I would say probably much older, since both prayers are from the 12th century.

I think the reason for the change makes sense once you consider the words of each prayer. The Angelus is all about the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Regina Coeli, however, is very much about the resurrection of Jesus, which is what we celebrate during the Easter Season. Here is the Regina Coeli:
V. Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For he whom you did merit to bear, alleluia,
V. Has risen as he said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia,
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia,
R. For the Lord is truely risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we beseech you, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

It is also filled with alleluia's, which is the great Easter word of praise. So, the change is very good and fitting.

I am in a debate with someone who thinks that Catholics contradict themselves by saying that Jesus is the foundation of the Church while also believing in the authority of the pope. How should I respond?

This does seem like a contradiction at first. But, Scripture provides the answer.

If there can only be one foundation to the Church, or if the Church is only built on the work of one person, then St. Paul must be entirely confused. After all, in 1 Cor 3:11 he says that the foundation is Christ, but in Eph 2:20 he says that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone). In Rev 21:14, we see that the "New Jerusalem", which is an image of the Church, has twelve foundations, each one representing a different apostle.

So, which one is it? Is the Church built on Christ or is it built on the apostles and prophets? It’s both. The foundation of the Church was first laid back in the Old Testament, with the covenants that God established with man and in the words of the prophets, who spoke of a great gathering of all mankind around the Messiah (cf. Gen 12:2-3; Exo 19:6; Ezek 20:41; Dan 7:14; etc.). When Jesus came, He chose 12 apostles and they worked together to further lay the foundation of the Church and to build upon it.

This is what the pope, as the successor of St. Peter, continues to do today. He works with Jesus -- or, to put it another way, Jesus works through the ministry of the pope -- to ensure the continued stability of the Church. Jesus Himself said that He would build His Church on Peter (cf. Mt 16:18), so it is quite logical that we would consider his successor to be a foundational figure.

He also says that Catholics aren’t Christians because the bible only refers to “Christians”, not to individual denominations.

Well, there is a sense in which he is right. Scripture does not envision the denominationalism that currently exists within Christendom. Christ did not build His Church with the hope that it would one day splinter and divide into thousands of different denominations. He built His Church to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

So, the only way to find His Church among the thousands of competing ecclesial communions is to ask oneself: Which of these has unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity as marks of its very nature? Only one does.

Another way to answer this question is to go back before the splintering began, look at the belief and practice of that Christian community, and see if any church exists today that has maintained continuity of belief and practice with that community. Only one has. It is a historical fact that, before groups began breaking off, to be Christian was to be Catholic.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

For the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo
"When Saint Charles was dying he had the picture of the dead Christ brought to him, so that he could die happily in the thought of his Savior's death. And this is really the remedy for all those who fear death: to think often of Him Who is our life, and never to think of one without the other."
-- St. Francis de Sales
(Letters 512; O. XIV, pp. 119-120)

As the patron saint of catechists, St. Charles Borromeo is very special to me. The Pictorial Lives of the Saints provides this short biography:
About fifty years after the Protestant heresy had broken out, our Lord raised up a mere youth to renew the face of His Church. In 1560 Charles Borromeo, then twenty-two years of age, was created cardinal, and by the side of his uncle, Pius IV, administered the affairs of the Holy See. His first care was the direction of the Council of Trent. He urged forward its sessions, guided its deliberations by continual correspondence from Rome, and by his firmness carried it to its conclusion. Then he entered upon a still more arduous work - the execution of its decrees. As Archbishop of Milan, he enforced their observance, and thoroughly restored the discipline of his see. He founded schools for the poor, seminaries for the clerics, and by his community of Oblates trained his priests to perfection. Inflexible in maintaining discipline, to his flock he was a most tender father. He would sit by the road-side to teach a poor man the Pater and Ave, and would enter hovels the stench of which drove his attendants from the door. During the great plague, he refused to leave Milan, and was ever by the sick and dying, and sold even his bed for their support. So he lived, and so he died, a faithful image of the Good Shepherd, up to his last hour giving his life for his sheep.

The entry in the New Advent Encyclopedia says much of him specifically regarding his influence in religious education:
"After the Council of Trent he was much occupied with the production of the catechism embodying the teaching of the council, the revision of the Missal and Breviary."
[. . .]
"the education of the young, even down to minute details, was foremost in his thoughts."
[. . .]
"Another great work which was begun at this time was that of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, in order that the children might be carefully and systematically instructed. This work was really the beginning of what is now known as the Sunday school."
[. . .]
"In November he began a visitation as Apostolic visitor of all the cantons of Switzerland and the Grisons, leaving the affairs of his diocese in the hands of Monsignor Owen Lewis, his vicar-general. He began in the Mesoleina Valley; here not only was there heresy to be fought, but also witchcraft and sorcery, and at Roveredo it was discovered that the provost, or rector, was the foremost in sorceries. Charles spent considerable time in setting right this terrible state of things."
[. . .]
"Next he visited Bellinzona and Ascona, working strenuously to extirpate heresy."

Article no. 9 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges his contribution to catechesis in the wake of the Council of Trent:
"The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church's catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St. Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo, or St. Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous catechisms."

St. Charles Borromeo was indeed one of the great Catholic Counter-Reformation saints, taking the decrees of the Council of Trent and employing them in the Diocese of Milan and throughout Italy with the utmost tenacity and vigilance.

Interestingly, he was surrounded by saintly people throughout his life. He consulted St. Philip Neri when constructing the rule for the Oblates of St. Ambrose, and gave First Communion to St. Aloysius Gonzaga. He counted as friends St. Edmund Campion, St. Francis Borgia, and St. Andrew of Avellino.

His last words were "Ecce venio" (Behold I come).

I have a holy card of St. Charles Borromeo with the following prayer on the back:
O saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspre all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the teacher who was divine. Give me the ability to teach this faith to others without pride, without ostentation, and without personal gain. Let me realize that I am simply an instrument for bringing others to the knowledge of the wonderful things God has done for all His creatures. Help me to be faithful to this task that has been entrusted to me. Amen.

For more information on the life of this great saint, see the following links:

St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of catechists ... ora pro nobis!

Pax Christi,

Monday, November 02, 2015

Resources on Purgatory for All Souls Day

Since today is All Souls Day and the month of November is the month when we remember the souls in Purgatory and make a special effort to pray for their speedy entrance into heaven, I thought it would be helpful to provide some resources that explain what Purgatory is.

If anyone has any questions about this topic, just leave me a comment.

May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -
General Articles:
From the Early Church Fathers:
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
My Blog Posts on Purgatory:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Resources on Halloween and All Saints/Souls Day

There is much confusion about the origins of Halloween, and about what the Church celebrates on and around this day. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to make sense of it all. As a result, I offer the following links to articles and other resources that will help you to learn more about these holidays, and to defend them against the oh-so-typical charge that Catholics are pagans. I say Protestants just don't know how to throw a party like we do! (evidence here)

I repost this every year around this time with additional links, so if you are a regular here see the bottom of the list for some material that you might not have read yet.

Have fun everyone! Be holy!

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Quick Explanation of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace

In this month of Mary and the rosary, I thought it would be fitting to provide a short explanation of the fifth Marian doctrine, which proclaims that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Grace. This is a profound mystery, and difficult to explain simply, but after much thought -- and much practice presenting this teaching in RCIA every year -- I have come upon what I hope is the best way to go about it.

First of all, there is no doubt that this is a doctrine of the Church. As Pope Pius XI exhorted us in his encyclical on the Sacred Heart, "Let [the faithful] pray to Him, interposing likewise the powerful patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of all graces, for themselves and for their families, for their country, for the Church" (Caritate Christi Compulsi, no. 31). But, what does this title mean? When we say that Mary is the “Mediatrix of All Grace”, we mean that Mary cooperated and continues to cooperate in an extraordinary way in the saving mission of Christ, who alone is the unique mediator between God and man.

It may seem peculiar at first to think of a human being working with God to bring us grace, but Scripture says that all Christians are called to contribute to this vital work. Jesus alone is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. Yet, He also wishes to give us some participation in it.

For example, St. Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22). He considered himself a steward of God’s grace that was given to him for others (Eph 3:2; cf. Rom 11:13-14; 1 Cor 7:16; 1 Tim 4:16; 2 Tim 2:10). We are "God’s fellow workers" (1 Cor 3:9), “working together with Him” (2 Cor 6:1).

Now, Mary played her part just as Paul did, but her cooperation was and is uniquely exemplary. Essentially, there are three stages or events in her life in which we see her exercise this role.

First, in her fiat: Mary’s “yes” to God was the occasion for the Son to enter human history and take on our human nature. She gave Him the flesh that He nailed to the Cross for our salvation. In a very real way, she brought salvation to the world.

Secondly, at the foot of the Cross: Since she was sinless, she was able to stand with Jesus and unite her will and her suffering perfectly with the will and the suffering of her Son. This was undoubtedly rewarded with a tremendous outpouring of grace for the Church. How do we know this? Because we see from Scripture that whenever someone suffers for the sake of the Church, the Church is rewarded with an application of the grace of the Cross.

St. Paul said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and … for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). Paul is showing us that the Church benefits whenever we unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. This is what he did (cf. 2 Cor 1:6; 4:8-15; Phil 2:17; 3:10; Col 1:24), this is what he encouraged others to do, and this is what Mary did.

Finally, in heaven: Once Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, she was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth. She sits at the right hand of the King, as mothers always did in the Davidic Kingdom (cf. 1 Ki 2:19; Psa 45:9), and she intercedes on our behalf. Since “the prayers of the righteous are very powerful in their effects” (Jas 5:16), we can be sure that if anyone turns to Christ or does any good thing, it is because she intensely desired it and prayed for it.

If you would like to learn more about the fifth Marian doctrine, check out Dr. Mark Miravalle’s book Meet Your Mother. It is an excellent read.

Pax Christi,

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Christopher Behind Columbus

So, as I'm sure you know, today is Columbus Day in the US. As you may also know, Christopher Columbus is a very controversial figure. I spent a good part of the day trying to learn more about the man and discern for myself whether he's a villain, a hero, or some mysterious mixture of both. I must say, I'm still undecided.

Nowadays, he appears to be more vilified than anything, although I noticed a trend in recent conservative scholarship to make a reappraisal of the man. As a Catholic, I'm not sure if I should be proud of this great Catholic discoverer of "The New World" or disgusted by him. Should I mount a defense of my brother in the faith, or count him among the other embarrassing moments in Church history?

Below, you'll find some articles that attempt to address the issue from a Catholic perspective. I'm not sure if any of them really resolve this issue in my mind. But, I did find them to be very informative, and perhaps you will too:

I would like to close by quoting from Samuel Eliot Morison, a renowned American historian and biographer of Columbus. In his book Admiral of the Ocean Sea, he presents an image of Christopher Columbus that would certainly appeal to any Catholic. He notes a similarity between the mariner and the saint who bears the same name:
"Why the parents of Columbus chose the name Christofaro for their son, born in 1451, we do not know, but in so doing, they furthered the natural bent of the boy's mind.

"Saint Christopher was a tall, stout pagan who yearned to know Christ but could not seem to do anything about it. He dwelt on the bank of a river in Asia Minor where there was a dangerous ford and by reason of his great stature and strength helped many a traveler to cross.

"One day when he was asleep in his cabin he heard a Child's voice cry out, 'Christopher, Christopher. Come and set me across the river!' So out he came, staff in hand and took the infant on his shoulders. As he waded across, the Child's weight so increased that it was all he could do to keep from stumbling and falling, but he reached the other bank safely. 'Well, now my lad,' said he, 'thou hast put me in great danger, for thy burden waxed so great that had I borne the whole world on my back it could have weighed no more than thee.' To which the child replied, 'Marvel not, for thou hast borne upon thy back the whole world and Him who created it. I am the Child whom thou servest in doing good for mankind. Plant thy staff near yonder cabin, and tomorrow it shall put forth flowers and fruit -- proof that I am indeed thy Lord and Savior.' Christopher did as he was bid, and sure enough, next morning, his staff had become a beautiful date-palm.

"From that day forth Christopher has been the patron saint of all who travel by land, sea, or air. In his name, Christopher Columbus saw a sign that he was destined to bring Christ across the sea to men who knew Him not. Indeed, the oldest known map of the New World, dated A.D. 1500, dedicated to Columbus by his shipmate, Juan de la Cosa, is ornamented by a vignette of Saint Christopher carrying the Infant Jesus on his shoulders.

"We may fairly say that the first step toward the discovery of America was taken by the parents of Columbus when they caused him to be baptized Christofaro in some ancient church of Genoa, one day in the late summer or early fall of 1451."

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

October: Month of the Rosary

In honor of the most Holy Rosary, which we take up as our sword and shield particularly during this month of October, I have collected the following resources for your edification:

General Articles

The Rosary Encyclicals (go here for a summary of the Rosary encyclicals)

Rosary Apologetics

I also have two blog posts on the rosary:
Pax Christi,

Sunday, October 04, 2015

For Respect Life Sunday: The Catholic Church and the Death Penalty

What does the Catholic Church teach about capital punishment and the death penalty?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers this question just as well as I could. See the following paragraphs from its treatment on the Fifth Commandment ("Thou shalt not kill"):
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party (cf. Lk 23:40-43).

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent" (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, no. 56).

What this means is that the death penalty is not always wrong. If the only way to protect communities is to take the life of the aggressor, then states have a right to do so.

The debate then centers around the question of when the death penalty is ever actually necessary. More and more it seems that we seek the death penalty out of revenge rather than from a real desire to protect society. The fact that many on death row are innocent also makes the death penalty a tragic and potentially unjust reality. But, it is also true that from time to time a criminal emerges who would remain a threat to the common good even from behind bars.

Since Catholics are allowed to disagree on the appropriate application of the death penalty, we should not demonize each other as we engage in this debate. Instead, we must follow our consciences and Church teaching.

Since today is "Respect Life Sunday", our thoughts and activism is naturally focused on the unborn, and rightly so. But, we might also say a prayer or offer up the Mass today for those who are on death row, for those who have incurred the death penalty, and for those judges and politicians who decide how it is implemented. We desire, as with any moral issue, that the dignity of the human person be always respected.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, October 01, 2015

For the Memorial of "the Little Flower"

In more recent times, St. Therese of Lisieux shows us the courageous way of abandonment into the hands of God to whom she entrusts her littleness. And yet it is not that she has no experience of the feeling of God's absence, a feeling which our century is harshly experiencing: "Sometimes it seems that the little bird (to which she compared herself) cannot believe that anything else exists except the clouds that envelop it.... This is the moment of perfect joy for the poor, weak little thing.... What happiness for it to remain there nevertheless, and to gaze at the invisible light that hides from its faith" (Letter 175. Manuscrits autobiographiques, Lisieux. 1956, p. 52).
-- Pope Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino (On Christian Joy)

For more information about St. Therese of the Child Jesus, see the following links:
Pax Christi,

Saturday, September 26, 2015

For the Optional Memorial of Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Today is the feast day of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. Since they are twin brothers and I have a twin brother, I've always had an appreciation for these two.

Cosmas and Damian were both doctors and surgeons in their day (the third century), and were called "the moneyless" b/c they never ceased to aid the sick without pay. They were loved and revered by all. This made their patients docile to the Gospel of Christ, which they always preached to those who sought their care. When Diocletian began his persecution of Christians, they were the first to be sought and captured. They died as martyrs, never forsaking their faith in Jesus Christ.

Today I pray that, like them, my twin brother and I will be able to do God's will in all things and to hold tight to our faith in Jesus Christ. I certainly know what it's like to be "moneyless"!

For more information about Sts. Cosmas and Damian, see the following links:
Sts. Cosmas and Damian ... ora pro nobis.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

For the Optional Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Saint Robert Bellarmine is perhaps one of the greatest Jesuits who ever lived. He was one of the Counter-Reformation saints of the Church, who defended Her with the utmost skill and fidelity when a host of heresies attempted to overtake Her. His catechisms for children and teachers were widely read and utilized well into the twentieth century (for more on the importance of his catechisms, see my paper, "The Church's Constant Preoccupation"). He is the patron saint of catechists.

Take some time today to learn more about this great man of faith:
St. Robert Bellarmine ... ora pro nobis.

Pax Christi,
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