Saturday, January 01, 2022

Featured Post: How to Defend the Catholic Faith

The prospect of defending the Catholic faith is daunting for most people. It's scary to put yourself out there, and if someone asks you a difficult question ... what are you going to say?

But, it's really not as hard as you might think. With the right approach, a few key resources, and a healthy dose of practice and prayer, you can become an effective Catholic apologist. Here's what you need to get started, and if you've already started, this will take you well on your way to confidently engaging in Catholic apologetics.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Response to Fr. Altman: Part 3

With this post I am continuing to respond to the critics who left comments on Part 1, where I made my initial analysis of Fr. Altman's video "You Cannot Be Catholic and a Democrat". Also see Part 2.

If I had Discqus for my comments section, then this would be a lot easier. I could just respond to people there, and the reader would know who I was responding to. But I don't, and I think if I implement it now then I'll lose all the comments I've received since I started this blog back in 2006 (!!), and I don't want that. So, I'm stuck with doing it this way. I hope you'll bear with me.

[UPDATE (9/16/20, 5:51PM): I think I fixed my comments section with an option that Blogger had, which will make it easier to see who is replying to who. I think I'll continue this series of posts though, at least for responding to the Part 1 comments, so that the information in support of my position will gain a wider audience. Creating a blog post is also helpful for when a comment requires a longer response than is typically helpful in the comments section.]

Now, let's get to it. The comments I'm responding to will be indented and italicized.

"Anonymous" (9/7/2020, 7:00 AM) said:

The section responding to 3.41 is very silly. It's very easy to say "See, there are x-y-z which aren't bad". Your logic would mean that someone who wanted to criticise Hitler "Absolutely against Catholicism" could be met with a "Not true. Here’s just a few positions from the National Socialist platform that conform to Catholic teaching".
How is it silly? Fr. Altman said, "Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches." That's a false statement. There's no way around it. All I have to do is find ONE item from the Democratic Party platform that aligns with what the Church teaches in order for this statement to be false. I found several. Why can't you just admit that he's wrong about this?

Some of the more confusing things you've said, free college, free healthcare are Catholic teachings. No they are not. These are matters of prudential disagreement about how to achieve a common goal.
"Free" college and "Free" healthcare is not exactly what I wrote, now is it? I said "Every child should have access to a high-quality education" and "Health care is a human right". Now, how we provide a high-quality education and health care is up for debate, but the fact that these should be provided is not. That much is Church teaching. See, for example:
  • "Clearly, this sort of development in social relationships brings many advantages in its train. It makes it possible for the individual to exercise many of his personal rights, especially those which we call economic and social and which pertain to the necessities of life, health care, education on a more extensive and improved basis, a more thorough professional training, housing, work, and suitable leisure and recreation." (Pope St. John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, no. 61)
  • "But first We must speak of man's rights. Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. [. . .] He has the natural right to share in the benefits of culture, and hence to receive a good general education, and a technical or professional training consistent with the degree of educational development in his own country." (Pope St. John XIII, Pacem et Terris, nos. 11-13)
Moving on now ...

The Democrats' plans seem good but are mathematically implausible. "Healthcare is right" this sounds good but you might be forgetting the Catholic principles of subsidiarity which the Democrats ignore while claiming to "solve" the problem by making it free. Even if you confiscated the last penny of every billionaire you'd have only 1/8th of what MfA needs. Similar is the case with free college, the solution will have to involve cutting fees. Because in the US these things are overpriced. You can easily verify that the costs of college and healthcare here are 30 times that of countries like India. The problem is about high prices which will not be solved if you make it free. Countries like the UK struggle to keep their economies afloat while maintaining an NHS.
All of this is beside the point. I didn't make any arguments about how these should be provided. My point is simply that the Democratic Party platform says that they should be provided, and the Church says that, too.

Regarding the other points, the fact that Trump is pro-life only for conservative votes is well noted by most conservatives. But he has produced actual results which other R presidents did not. You now start to now make absolutist statements about being pro-life: pro-life means anti-abortion according to the dictionary. You are doing the work of the pro-choicers ("prolife is hypocrisy so abortion OK") for them when you say "he isn't pro-life because he doesn't support my x policy on healthcare". Also, the (sad) fact that he allows for exceptions doesn't make him anti-life, just as Biden doesn't become an anti-healthcare fascist because he didn't support Medicare-for-All.
If you don't think providing health care for everyone is a pro-life issue, then your beef is with the Church, not with me. This isn't just "my x policy", this is what it means to be pro-life.

It is possible for faithful Catholics to vote Democrat, but they have to rationalise how the things they are seeing as absolute compare, even in orders of magnitude, to the horror of abortion. The Fr. in the video is crazy and reflects a dangerous trend in the US Catholic Church but the space for such figures is only created when the people see the hierarchy offering funeral masses for abortion activist politicians. It is because the bishops show no leadership that people turn to people like Fr. Altman or Vigano or the like.
I think people turn to "Fr. Altman or Vigano or the like" because they villify the other as "the enemy," and people like to think that they are on the right side of a war against a mortal enemy. The problem with this is that such rhetoric practically requires overly-simplistic and ultimately unfair presentations of opposing points of view.

[I'm assuming the following comment is from the same person, since it was posted a minute later and echoes the same sentiments as above.]

You can't make absolutist statements in these matters by vague things like "believe in science" (both sides claim to respect science though it is true that a portion of the grassroots MAGA movement is off the rails), international solidarity (You seem to have a view that unless we take part in the WHO, unless we listen to the UN we can't have solidarity. It is a legitimate position and not contrary to Catholicism to say that the WHO is suspiciously beholden to China and the UN is no longer working for the common good but for progressive political interests like the normalisation of abortion and LGBT ideology). Immigration is not an absolute right. Even Bernie (called it a "Koch Brothers proposal") disagrees. This is once again an area of legitimate disagreement as to how we deal with illegal immigration and mass immigration. Unlike some others, this is not even "Catholic teaching". The mistreatment of immigrants that happens at the border is because they literally have any resources to deal with the huge masses of people because Congressional Democrats keep voting to not fund the systems which deal with illegal immigrants.
You're reading too much into those items I listed. I humbly submit that you also need to spend some time learning more about Catholic social teaching.

Does the Dem platform say that science is a source of truth that should be respected? YES. Does the Church teach this? YES:
  • "Faith and science: 'Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.'" (CCC, no. 159)
Does the Dem platform prioritize international solidarity? YES. Does the Church teach this? YES:
  • "Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this." (CCC, no. 1941)
Does the Dem platform say that human beings have the right to emigrate? YES. Does the Church teach this? YES:
  • "The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially [. . .] the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate;" (CCC, no. 2211)
Note, I never said it was an "absolute right". I said, "Human beings have the right to emigrate." It's a human right, or a "natural right" (CCC, no. 2241).

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"Awaken" said:

Have you heard any of his preaching other than this video? EVERYTHING he says is founded on church teaching. Did you truly hear the gospel last weekend?
EVERYTHING? Really? You capitlized that word, not me. That means if I find one thing that isn't founded on Church teaching, your statement is wrong. Let's count the falsehoods of Fr. Altman (I'll even stick to the items that aren't debatable):
  • By his own admission, He only loves and is inclined to serve the people he personally knows
  • He made a huge deal over Fr. James Martin, SJ being a "premeir speaker" who "spouted off for the Democrats", when Fr. Martin did no such thing.
  • He said the Dem platform was "absolutely" against "everything" the Church teaches
  • He created a false equivalence between direct and indirect support of a candidate/party
  • He thinks voting a certin way can actually make you not Catholic anymore
  • He said DACA "means criminal, illegal aliens" when it clearly doesn't.
  • He denied Fr. James Martin the title of "Father" and Archbishop Wilton Gregory the title of "Archbishop", both more than once
  • He thinks someone who is wrong on an important moral issue suddely becomes "godless"
  • He thinks the end times are approaching
Of course I also think he's wrong when he says a faithful Catholic can't be a Democrat, and I think he's wrong for saying that if you vote Democrat you risk going to Hell, as I've already shown.

Also, is it "Church teaching" to denigrate and name-call the people you disagree with? Abusive language is forbidden by the fifth commandment (CCC, no. 2073) and respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury (CCC, no. 2477).

The complacency you seem to expect of your priests is the reason why we are on the brink of communism in this country. If the democrats win in November it will be here in a short time.
I don't expect complacency from my priests, just truth and charity -- and I find those lacking in Fr. Altman's video.

And we're not on the brink of Communism. Take a chill pill. Obama didn't usher that in like everyone said he would. Biden won't either. We have too many checks and balances in place for something like that to happen. Quit falling for this blatant scare-tactic.

The democrats are the party of peacekeeping?? Staying silent as people are rioting, looting, wanting to abolish the police (KEY step in Marxist takeover)--this is the party you are talking about?
I never mentioned any of this. Try to stick to what I actually write, please. I'm not gonna chase all these red herrings.

I had been a Democrat most my life. I CRIED the day Trump won. But as the democrats continue to indoctrinate gender ideology, abortion, and other things that are COMPLETELY against the Catholic church, i can no longer stand before God with a clean conscience if i vote for another Democrat. This change happened when the riots started at the end of May. I started listening to conservative blacks-- this that the democrats don't even acknowledge their existence-- and saw how there is now than one story to everything, despite what every news media outlet would have you to believe.
Want to know the difference between me and Fr. Altman? I actually think it's your right to vote in accordance with your conscience. If you can't vote for a Democrat anymore, than by all means, don't vote for them. I'm not saying you have to, I'm just saying you can, under the right conditions.

Please don't be complsce in your decisions! Seek out the opposing view point. If you're not even willing to listen to the other side, truly listen, then you're not making an informed choice.
I'm fully informed of the opposing view point. I used to advocate the opposing view point! (see "Obama, Abortion, and Ensoulment" and "McCain and the Pro-Life Movement") But, as I became increasingly disgusted with both parties, more considerate of the moral questions at stake when someone votes, and more aware of the breadth of the Church's social and moral teaching, I have come to the conclusion that neither Party is the "Catholic Party" and that we cannot automatically excommunicate or damn people on one side or the other. Under some circumstances we can say, yes, this person has directly cooperated in a grave evil, but we cannot say that in every case, and so we shouldn't.

Catholics of equally good will and equally formed consciences can come to different conclusions on how best to apply the moral teaching of the Church to the moral act of voting. This is where prudential judgment comes into play. You can disagree with someone's reaosns for applying the teaching of the Church the way they have, but you can't say that person has sinned and you surely can't say he is going to Hell, simply because, based on his prudential judgment and his properly formed conscience, he voted differently from you.

Our political discourse will lose a lot of it's rancor as soon as we quit assuming that everyone on the other side is "godless, ignorant sheeple."

- - - - - - - - - -

"Wake Up" (probably the same as "Awaken" above) said:

If I had not done my own research about the truth of what is going on in the Catholic leadership, I, too, would have found Fr. Altman's words appalling. It was just a few days ago that i discovered the atrocity that took place at the Vatican, allowing a statue of Pachamama, an indigenous idol, to be worshipped on their grounds!!! If the leaders will allow this to happen and will allow churches to close while stores and abortion clinics stay open, how are we to trust them? I don't want to hear that it is our obligation to follow church leaders. If they are leading us astray, and priests like Fr. Altman are telling us so, it is our own fault if we continue to listen to them.
How about we not put our faith in any Church leader? Put your faith in Jesus. "Straight talk" or "telling it like it is" is not the same as truth or virtue.

The devil works so that evil things have a way of appearing to be good and justified. If you subscribe to the falsehood, you won't accept the truth, because doing so requires you to admit you were wrong.
I agree. And I'm perfectly happy to admit when I'm wrong.

We must pray for all our leaders. I believe that the vast majority of people truly want to do good. They can't see how they're being used or misguided by those who want to spread evil because it's being done in the name of the "common good". They don't know better and don't know God or our faith's true teachings, so they fall prey to the whims of the culture. I was there in the recent past. It's hard to have your world view turned upside down, but you realize that the democrats are no longer the same party they once were. They are an arm of the communists now, using "socialism" to hide behind the true power desires of the few pulling the strings that you can't see.
Many people are waking up to the evils of the Republican Party as well. I think they're both despicable, personally. I don't think a Catholic should feel fully at home with either Party.

Fr. Altman is calling us to WAKE UP! Maybe you're not ready to hear his message but you can't say you were never warned.
Fr. Altman as the great prophet of our times? I'm not convinced. I also think it's possible to "wake people up" without resorting to calumny and falsehood. But, if you want to be among his "sheeple", then so be it.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Anonymous" [9/08/2020 12:02 PM] said:

As a Catholic from communist Poland Father Altman is a true Shepherd of his flock.There is only 1 set of rules...10 Comandments.If you really know them than all of you who don’t approve of what he said are not fallowing God’s Teaching.You are not true Catholics, Rules and doctrine don’t change to help you feel better about your life or lifestyle that is not excepted by the church teaching.Watering down teachings of Jesus to fit your agenda is not being Catholic. It was Liberal Ted Kennedy and his liberal Friends and some liberal other members of Catholic Church that gave us abortion on demand as pretext to woman’s health.True Catholics need to read the scriptures,study 10 commandments and remember what Jesus said...the road to salvation is hard and the gate is very narrow.Youwant to to water it down to make feel good and anything goes....it’s not Catholic Faith.
There's only 1 set of rules? I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be a lot slimmer, and Canon Law wouldn't even exist, if that were true! Please show me which of the Commandments I've broken with my analysis. Show me how I've "watered down the faith" when I've backed up all of my faith-based arguments with quotes from the Church's own authoritative documents. Sweeping accusations like this don't convince anyone of anything.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Response to Fr. Altman, Part 2: Answering My Critics

In Part 1, I responded to Fr. Altman's video, "You Cannot Be Catholic and a Democrat." I received a good number of comments objecting to my analysis, so in this post I will be responding to those objections. I'm going to respond to the first few here, and then the rest in a future post. The comments I'm responding to will be indented and italicized. Also see Part 3.

"The truth" said:
Fr. Altman is on fire with God's love and word. Those that find his words harsh may find it easier to examine and criticize his speech than to examine their own conscience.
Why is it that everyone that disagrees with you or with Fr. Altman must have a panged conscience? Mine is clear. His words were easy to criticize because they were so wrong.

No one ever said the truth would be easy or that to follow God would be without challenges. The people that Fr. Altman mentions are those that are following the culture and disregarding God's word. An impostor is a person who claims to be someone they're not. These priests and religious leaders are supposed to be leading us on a path to heaven. By following the whims of the culture rather than God's word?! If that is not an impostor or a pretender than i don't know what satisfies as an example.
I'm not criticizing him because he's delivering "hard truths." I'm criticizing him because he's wrong. Everything he said about Fr. Martin was wrong:
  • "Premeir speaker at the DNC"? Wrong
  • "Spouting off for the Democrats"? Wrong
  • "Prancing up onto the Democrat's national stage"? Wrong.
I would even contend that Fr. Martin is not "hyper confusion-spreading." I haven't meticulously researched everything Fr. Martin has ever said or written, but my sense of his message is that it's all about acknowledging that individuals with a same-sex attraction still have gifts to offer to the Church, and these people should not be marginalized or bullied simply for having that attraction. The sin is not in being tempted in that way, the sin is in acting on it. I'm not sure what is so "hyper confusion-spreading" about that message.

Also, I know what an imposter is. Fr. Altman said that every Catholic who voted for Obama was an "imposter", and that's just an absurd statement. They were real Catholics, made so by their baptism, they just disagreed with Fr. Altman on who to vote for.

I am concerned with how lightly you take the revelations of Our Lady of Fatima. Her revelation came 33 years to the day of Pope Leo XIII composing the St. Michael prayer after having a vision of the devil destroying the church from within.
I don't take it lightly, I'm just not obsessed with it like a certain segment of Catholics seem to be, and I rebuke the use of Mary and her appearances to give false arguments rhetorical flourish. "Mary warned us of this!" DUH-DUH-DUHHHHH. I'm just not going to fall for it.

The path this world has been following has lead us to where we are today. If you cannot see how our country and world are on the brink of communism, I'm not sure what else to share with you to help open your eyes.
I think all this "brink of communism" talk is a scare tactic used to emotionally manipulate people into voting Republican. Our country is not "on the brink of communism." Obama didn't usher that in, like everyone thought he would, and Biden won't either. And, supposing we were, doesn't that mean it happened under Trump's watch? Wouldn't that be his fault?

It is so sad to read this bashing of Fr. Altman, especially on a website that purports itself as Catholic. You criticize him for name calling and harshness, yet your writing is filled with sarcasm, you highlight insignificant pieces to prove your point and fail to give evidence that does exist to support everything he is saying.
My blog "purports to be Catholic" because it is. Show me where I departed from Catholic teaching, if you're so sure I don't deserve the title of "Catholic."

I'll own the sarcasm. Take this as a lesson in what happens when one follows Fr. Altman's example! ;-)

What did I highlight that was "insignificant"? My intent was to respond to all the errors I found, not just a couple of them or only the "big" ones.

Finally, you indict me for "failing to give evidence to support everything he is saying." It's his job to support his statements, not mine. I'm not going to do his work for him! ... and I should hardly be expected to.

Fr. Altman's words are so desperately needed these days to bring us closer to God. There are much darker days ahead and we need leaders like him who are not afraid to speak against the culture and the problems within our own church. May God continue to bless Fr. Altman!
I'm not real sure how name-calling and outright falsehood and lies are what is so "desperately needed" right now. You think people were "brought closer to God" by this video? I think it just riled up the alt-right against "the enemy" that is the ... dreaded Democrat. *GASP*

- - - - - - - - - - - -

"Saddened" said:

I am saddened by your attempt at an astute critique of the words of this servant of the Lord, Fr. Altman. Your piece is another example of how those within the church will be the reason for its demise.
Prove it.

If you truly were following God's word, you would not be threatened by the truth that Fr. Altman is preaching.
I'm not threatened by the truth. I love it. It's my love of the truth that compelled me to point out his errors. Show me where I said something that wasn't true.

Remember the words in the Bible-- Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…"
Show me where I called evil good or good evil.

Heed these words before you publish another piece admonishing the truth that Fr. Altman is trying to make known. Those who have an open heart and are willing to recognize their own erroneous ways can acknowledge his words as things to aspire to and repent from. They do not put blame on Fr. Altman for any poor decisions they have made in their own life.
Yea, as if everyone who disagrees with him must have a closed heart and a lack of humility. It couldn't possibly be because he's wrong.

Also, where did I blame Fr. Altman for my own poor decisions? I'm not even a Democrat, I just happen to think his arguments are wrong.

I pray that Fr. Altman continues to preach without fear.
Me too, I'd just rather he fearlessly preach the truth, instead of blatant falsehoods that take a 1-second Google search to refute (Example: "Ok Google, what is D.A.C.A.?")

You can't stand before God and say you didn't know better. Fr. Altman is making sure of that so that you can change your ways now and not be deceived by those who claim to be church leaders but whose actions will lead us astray if we follow them.
I think that creating guilt and shame in the hearts of people where there shouldn't be any is a serious sin, and I'm not going to stand by and allow him to do it to people.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Unknown" said:

As a Catholic I will vote for life and to protect it that should be very important to save and protect God's children. As a Catholic we have a duty to vote to save a child or the elderly. If you choose to vote otherwise I believe you are going against your faith and you will answer to God. Remember maybe you didn't dothe actually act of killing a baby butor have an abortion if you voted for someone that does you are just as guilty because you knownly know that person is committing murder. Though Shault not kill.
I agree that we should vote for life and to protect life. But, I think you missed that part of my post where I quoted Ratzinger:

“A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” (“Worthiness to Receive Communion: General Principles”)

What this means is that a vote for a Democrat is not always a vote for abortion, specifically when you're not voting for the Democrat because of his permissiveness on the abortion issue. "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" from the USCCB says the same thing:

"35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil."

Now, we can debate what "proportionate reasons" (Ratzinger) or "other morally grave reasons" (USCCB) might be. But, then we fall into the area of prudential judgment. The Church does not tell us who to vote for. She reminds us what we believe about moral issues, and then it's up to us to decide, based on a fully formed conscience guided by the Magisterium, how to apply that understanding to particular situations, and two people of equally good faith can disagree on how best to do that.

- - - - - - - - - -

"George K." said:

The list the critic provided for the Democratic Party and what they are for in accordance with Catholic tenants left out the most important stance -- PRO-CHOICE. This is not one of the tenants the Democrat platform has in common with Catholic teaching.
Yea, I know. It wasn't a list of everything on the platform. I was responding to Fr. Altman's ridiculous claim that the Democratic Party platform "absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches." That is so clearly not true, and to prove my point I listed the issues on their platform that do coincide with Catholic teaching.

For a "practicing" Catholic to vote for a party that is pro-choice is inconceivable. How can a "practicing" Catholic go into a polling booth and mark his/her ballet for a party that condones murder of the most innocent?
I explained how, by quoting Ratzinger. Also see my earlier quote from the USCCB in this post. It's not inconceivable. In fact, Ratzinger and the bishops provide the paramters within which it is actually possible.

God creates life and no man has the authority to end it. Simply put, cutting through a intelligent and intuitive arguments the author presents, the bottom line is a "practicing" Catholic's stance on abortion. If you are a Democrat and vote for the Democratic ticket, you are in effect condoning abortion.
Not true, according to Ratzinger and the USCCB.

Personally I would not want to respond to God's question on my judgment day when He asks me why did you vote for abortion? If very Catholic voted agains aboriton, President Trump would win 50 out of 50 states. I will vote early and often if I could.
A vote explicitly and directly for abortion is a grave sin, as I said in my post. My point is that a vote for a Democrat is not always and necessarily an explicit and direct vote for abortion. I'm glad to know you're willing to commit voter fraud, though!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Response to Fr. James Altman's Video, "You Cannot Be Catholic and a Democrat"



Above is a video from Fr. James Altman from the Diocese of La Crosse, WI on Catholics being Democrats and/or voting for Democrats. It's starting to gain traction on YouTube and Facebook, and more than one person has brought it to my attention. Usually I just scroll on past this stuff, but this one was so unsettling to me that I felt I had to respond.

Before I begin, I should clarify some things: I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I don't feel beholden to any party. I didn’t vote for Obama or Hillary, and I won’t be voting for Biden. I’m a Catholic and, as such, I’m concerned with Catholic teaching and with articulating that teaching as faithfully as possible. This means that when the vote-shaming emerges every election year and people start damning their opponents to hell and wiping their Catholic identity away, I feel compelled to say something.

That said, let’s begin. I’ll be quoting and responding to the portions of the video that I disagree with. I have also provided the timestamp for when the quote begins, so that you can find it in the video and hear it for yourself. I have tried to transcribe his words as faithfully as possible.

[Also see Part 2 and Part 3, where I respond to the critical comments made on this post!]

0:46 - “My dear family, we’re gonna have something right from the very beginning of the Baltimore Catechism, our basic catechism, basic foundation for our whole faith: our purpose in life, which is to know, love, and serve God.”

The Baltimore Catechism is fine and good, but I think, just as a matter of good catechetical practice, we should be using the current Catechism as much as possible. The current Catechism of the Catholic Church is “our basic catechism” now, and it contains the line about our purpose in life:
1721 God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise.
When someone uses an earlier catechism instead of the current one, that can sometimes indicate that something is amiss. As we’ll see, my hunch was right.

1:12 - “So, here’s the thing, I don’t love anyone in Borneo ‘cause I don’t know anyone in Borneo. So, I don’t get up in the morning with any inclination or inspiration to serve anyone in Borneo. But, if I do not wake up in the morning with an inclination and an inspiration to serve Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then, ‘Houston, we got a problem.’”

Houston, I think you already got one. “I don’t love anyone in Borneo” – wow. I couldn’t believe it when he said that. Has he forgotten that, as a priest, he is called to serve all of God’s children?

From the Rite of Ordination of a Priest:
14. “Priests are co-workers of the order of bishops. They are joined to the bishops in the priestly office and are called to serve God’s people

He then addresses the candidate:

“Share with all mankind the word of God you have received with joy.” [. . .] You will celebrate the liturgy and offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world.” (“Homily”)

22. “May he be faithful in working with the order of bishops, so that the words of the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth, and the family of nations [that includes Borneo], made one in Christ, may become God’s one, holy people.” (“Prayer of Consecration”)
I realize that, canonically, he’s primarily responsible for his parish. But, the ministry of priest also has a universal character, and as more and more people all over the world watch his YouTube video, his circle of influence is enlarging. Let’s hope no one from Borneo watches it.

Here’s what the Catechism says about loving and serving them, too:
1939 The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of "friendship" or "social charity," is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.

An error, "today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity."

361 "This law of human solidarity and charity", without excluding the rich variety of persons, cultures and peoples, assures us that all men are truly brethren.
This is only the first instance in in which a lack of love is illustrated.

2:00 - “And so we can see in the many godless politicians out there, and the godless educational system, and the godlessness of so many sheeple, they most definitely are not serving Him, they are not fulfilling their purpose in life: to know, to love, and to serve God.”

I agree that there are many godless politicians, but we’re calling people “sheeple” now? There’s no indication of who that’s a reference to. Anyone who is godless? How is calling them “sheeple” going to inspire them to turn to God? How is this remotely appropriate for what is supposed to take on the feel of a homily?

3:07 - “Guess who was just a premier speaker at the Democratic National Convention: none other than the hyper-confusion spreading heretic James Martin, SJ. I guess it’s okay for James Martin to spout off for Democrats on their national stage, but God-forbid a priest speak out against their godless platform.”

“Spout off for Democrats”? That is a ridiculous calumny. Fr. Martin wasn’t even a “premier speaker.” It’s not like he delivered one of the keynote addresses. He prayed a prayer – and for the unborn, I might add.

Here’s Father James Martin – Fr. Altman refuses to grant him that courtesy – supposedly “spouting off for the Democrats”:
Loving God,
Open our hearts to those most in need:
The unemployed parent worried about feeding his or her children.
The woman who is underpaid, harassed or abused.
The Black man or woman who fear for their lives.
The immigrant at the border, longing for safety.
The homeless person looking for a meal.
The LGBT teen who is bullied.
The unborn child in the womb.
The inmate on death row.
Help us to be a nation where
every life is sacred,
all people are loved,
and all are welcome.
Amen.
What’s wrong with this prayer? Absolutely nothing. Yet, it has enraged Fr. Altman so completely that he mentions it several times in this video.

3:30 - “Here’s a memo to clueless baptized Catholics out there: you cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period.”

There’s so much wrong with this. It’s truly heartbreaking that a priest would say this.

First of all, since when did insult convince anyone of anything? “Clueless baptized Catholics” – wow. You get the sense, not only from his words, but from his tone and even his facial expressions, that Fr. Altman really can’t stand anyone who disagrees with him. This isn’t “speaking the truth with love” (Eph. 4:15), it’s just hatefulness. “Here’s a memo” – that’s not something you say out of loving concern for someone. That’s the sarcasm you use when you want to have your little gotcha moment, when you want to "pwn" someone.

As for the heart of this statement, “You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat” -- not true. Sorry, it’s just not. Show me in any of the documents of the Church where it says you can’t be a Democrat. Find me the paragraph number from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, or the CDF’s Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life where it says a Catholic can’t be a Democrat.

These documents say that Catholics can’t directly support certain issues. But, that’s different from saying a Catholic can’t be a Democrat. And if you can’t back it up with the teaching of the Church, then you should stop saying it.

Furthermore, the implication here is that once you say, “I’m a Democrat” you somehow cease to be Catholic. How exactly does that work? You check the “D” box, and all the sudden the indelible mark placed upon your soul when you were baptized and confirmed is just rubbed out? I don’t think so.

People love to say that this or that belief or action makes the people they disagree with “no longer Catholic.” I think that is imprecise, irresponsible, and offensive language. You can’t just undo someone’s sacramental, ontological identity with a wave of your hand. Certain beliefs or actions may be discordant with the teaching of the Church. Certain beliefs and actions may even excommunicate you. But they can never take your Catholic identity away. Even a Catholic who quits going to Mass, repudiates everything Catholics believe, and starts calling himself a Protestant is, inextricably, still a Catholic.

Stop being so careless with your language.

A final note on this: The Catholics who say this stuff seem to have no problem with someone calling themselves a Republican who doesn't agree with everything on the Republican platform, but as soon as a Democrat does that, they rend their garments and start damning people to hell. It’s hypocritical.

3:41 - “Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches.”

Not true. Here’s just a few positions from the Democratic Party platform that conform to Catholic teaching:
  • All Americans are equal
  • Every child should have access to a high-quality education
  • The resources of the world are for everyone and we should be good stewards of them
  • Health care is a human right
  • Human beings have the right to emigrate
  • Workers have the right to unionize
  • Workers have the right to a living wage
  • International solidarity should be prioritized over isolationism
  • Science is a source of truth that should be respected
  • Every American has the right to vote and to participate in the political process
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. Yes, there are items on the Democratic Party platform that don’t coincide with Catholic teaching. But, there are also many that do. To say that their platform is “absolutely against everything the Catholic Church teaches” is sensationalist and false.

3:46 - “So just quit pretending that you’re Catholic and vote Democrat.”

More erasing ontological identity.

3:51 - “Repent of your support of that Party and its platform or face the fires of Hell.”

If a Catholic actually embraced and supported every item of the Democratic Party platform, including abortion, then they would be guilty of cooperating in a grave evil, and if they did this with full knowledge and free consent of the will, then this support would be a mortal sin. But, this person would only “face the fires of Hell” if he persisted in that state until death. You can’t say that every person who commits a grave, or even a mortal sin, is “going to Hell.” Actually, you can’t say anyone is going to Hell, because you don’t know what transpired in that person’s heart, between him and God, before he died. You don't know anything about that person's level of knowledge or consent. You can state which sins are grave, but you can’t damn people.

Kindly stop it.

Furthermore, while I obviously haven’t polled every Catholic Democrat in the country, my sense is that most Catholic Democrats don’t agree with every item of the Democratic Party platform. They agree with the Democrats on most things, but not all things. So, it’s presumptuous and unfair to treat them as if they do.

I think the path that Fr. Altman is tracing from “Democrat” to “hellfire” is missing a few steps, which he happily leapfrogs in order to deliver a snippy soundbite.

4:17 - “There will be 60 million and counting aborted babies standing at the gates of Heaven barring your Democrat entrance, and nothing you can say will ever excuse you for your direct or indirect support of that diabolical agenda. Period at the end.”

Thank you for telling us how sentences work. *eye roll*

I'll say it again: You. Can’t. Damn. People.

From the Catechism:
1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.
Also, he’s basically saying that, regardless of if your support is direct or indirect, you are barred from Heaven. But, direct support is not the same as indirect support. According to then-Cardinal Ratzinger:
“A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” (“Worthiness to Receive Communion: General Principles”)
Indirect support can be permitted, direct support cannot.

4:47 - “At the end of the day, I do research. And I actually researched and researched all the data, information, I crunched the numbers and finally came up with a pretty close approximate total of how many Catholics voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012: Zero. Wrap your minds around that, dear family. There were a lot of pretenders, a lot of imposters, a lot of people masquerading as Catholics – laity and clergy alike – there were zero faithful Catholics who voted for that godless politician”

He does … wait for it … research! Oh, I’m trembling now!

He’s basically just wiping away ontological realities again. According to him, anyone who votes for a Democrat isn’t a real Catholic. It’s simply not true, at least not as a blanket statement about every person who votes Democrat. And, of course, the name-calling returns: “pretenders”, “imposters”, “people masquerading as Catholics”. He’s not convincing anyone with language like this.

Finally, a note on Obama. To say I'm not a fan is putting it lightly. I disagree with him on many things. But, why exactly is he "godless"? Because he's for abortion? That makes him erroneous, not godless. Even people who commit serious sins are not necessarily godless.

Fr. Altman likes to throw this word around a lot: "godless politicians", "godless educational system", "godless sheeple", "godless platform", "godless organizations." It's his favorite word for anyone or anything that isn't perfectly Catholic and Republican. It's a baseless, smear tactic.

Do Trump supporters really want to start talking about "godless politicians"? With Trump's many affairs, and rating women by their breast size, and grabbing them by the p----, and talking about how hot his daughter is? When's the last time Trump went to church, except for a photo op? If you're a Trump supporter, it's probably better that you don't even go there. You have no ground to stand on once we start talking about "godless politicians."

5:53 - “In addition to thinking it’s a-okay for James Martin to prance up onto the Democrat’s national stage …”

Again, Fr. Altman calls him “James Martin” instead of “Fr. James Martin.” He does it 5 times in this video. One time and you might think, “Ok, simple mistake,” but after 5 times you have a pattern of intentionality. It’s petty not to call him “Father.”

And good grief, Fr. Martin didn’t “prance up onto the Democrat’s national stage.” They pointed the camera at him and he prayed a prayer. Fr. Altman is incensed by Fr. Martin's mere presence there. How is this not the same attitude as the Pharisees, who grumbled and complained as Jesus dined with sinners and tax collectors?

6:00 - “… certain of the hierarchy think nothing of ripping into Donald Trump, because somehow Trump has differing views about national sovereignty and national borders, no problem about stuffing things like the climate change hoax into the political arena, into the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis takes climate change and the environment very seriously. So did Pope Benedict XVI. Just a heads-up.

6:19 - “But, here in the U.S., in addition to James Martin, the St. Anthony Messenger has two major political statements: one against Trump in support of D.A.C.A., which means criminal, illegal aliens, and the other supporting the Southern Poverty Law Center, which seems to be one of the most godless, Communist, anti-American, left-wing, radical organizations in the United States.”

Again with the petty insults towards Fr. Martin. It’s un-Christian what he’s doing.

And good grief, D.A.C.A. doesn’t mean “criminal, illegal aliens.” That’s a scare-tactic and an outright falsehood and insult to the people D.A.C.A. is for.

D.A.C.A. stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” It concerns the undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children in circumstances beyond their control and with no say in the matter. D.A.C.A. recipients aren’t “criminals”, they’re young adults who have grown up as Americans, identify as Americans, often speak only English, and have little to no connection with their country of origin. If you’re a criminal, D.A.C.A. doesn’t even apply to you.

As for the Southern Poverty Law Center, it seems like a stretch to call it “one of the most godless, Communist, anti-American, left-wing, radical organizations in the United States.” SPLC calls out cults and hate groups. Fr. Altman has an obvious axe to grind with them, but I don’t really know where it comes from.

6:40 - “And again, one ripping on Trump and supporting Wilton Gregory’s horrific attack on the one best pro-life president, and his Catholic wife!”

That’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory to you. He’s done that twice now.

Also, Trump as the “one best pro-life president”? I'm not convinced. He's had some gains in that area, but I'm not so sure that it springs from any kind of personal conviction. Trump was pro-choice his whole adult life until he decided to run for president. Then, magically, he had a change of heart.

In 1999, Trump told Tim Russert on Meet the Press, "I'm very pro-choice ... I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject, but still, I just believe in choice. ... I am strongly for choice." When Russert asked him if he would ban partial-birth abortion, Trump said, "No. I am pro-choice in every respect and as far as it goes, but I just hate it".

In 2013, he went on the Howard Stern show, and Howard pressed him on it: "I know you, there is no way that you personally are against abortion. [. . .] Thank God there's abortion. I know you believe it." Trump's response? "Well, it's never been my big issue Howard. Somebody asks me, and I say pro-life, but it's never been an issue that really has been discussed with me in great detail."

Even as recently as 2019, he tweeted that he’s okay with abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. Add this to his support of capital punishment, his attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act without a replacement (which would have instantly deprived millions of people of health care), and the horrors taking place at the border, and it’s difficult for me to see how he’s the “one best pro-life president.”

7:00 - “And still to this day, they [the bishops] don’t say anything about the worst miscreants. Oh, but they sure will get all over a priest instantly who simply speaks the truth.”

Sounds like someone has gotten in trouble before! I think Fr. Altman has a tenuous relationship with the truth. That’s what gets him in trouble.

8:24 - “And, it continues to slap faithful Catholics in the faith [I think he meant “face”] when Notre Dame gives Obama an honorary doctorate, when James Martin takes the national stage for the Democrats, and when a pro-life president gets ripped on by an archbishop of the Catholic Church”

Again, disrespecting Fr. Martin, but at least he called Wilton Gregory an archbishop this time.

9:17 “And the reason we are seeing the signs of the times, the cataclysm that’s approaching, that we have been warned about, our Blessed Mother warned us about it, the reason why we’re seeing this is that way to many people do not know God.”

He needs to stop stoking fear in the hearts of people. Everyone thinks their generation is the worst generation ever. Take a breath. These aren’t the End Times. This isn’t the Tribulation. If it was, the whole world would know it, and we wouldn’t need “truth tellers” like Fr. Altman to warn us. Striving for personal holiness and the holiness of others is always an urgent task. But we shouldn’t talk like Jesus is coming tomorrow.

For some reason, there’s a large segment of Catholics who think the world is ending soon. All you have to do is start talking about hellfire and the 3rd Secret of Fatima and you’re a prophet sent from God.

Don’t fall for it.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Catholic Prayer for Each Day of Lent

Here are 46 common Catholic prayers, which should be enough for you to pray a different prayer every day of the Season of Lent. This practice is a great way to introduce yourself to the Church's rich prayer tradition. Print this list and put a check mark by the ones you enjoy. Then you could add those to your regular prayer routine. Or, use this exercise to start a prayer routine, if you haven't already. Whatever you do, keep praying! And have a blessed Lent!

  1. Our Father
  2. Hail Mary
  3. Glory Be
  4. Angel of God
  5. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
  6. Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
  7. Act of Contrition
  8. Act of Faith
  9. Act of Hope
  10. Act of Love
  11. Memorare
  12. Apostles Creed
  13. Nicene Creed
  14. Hail Holy Queen
  15. Angelus
  16. Magnificat
  17. Canticle of Zechariah
  18. Canticle of Simeon
  19. Divine Mercy Chaplet
  20. Rosary
  21. Breastplate of St. Patrick
  22. Come Holy Spirit
  23. Anima Christi
  24. Te Deum
  25. Fatima Prayer
  26. Jesus Prayer
  27. Litany of Humility
  28. Litany of St. Joseph
  29. Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  30. Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
  31. Litany of the Sacred Heart
  32. Litany of the Saints
  33. Morning Offering
  34. O Salutaris
  35. Tantum Ergo
  36. The Divine Praises
  37. Serenity Prayer
  38. Gloria
  39. Sanctus
  40. Prayer before Communion
  41. Prayer after Communion
  42. Closing Prayer before Sleep
  43. Consecration to the Blessed Virgin
  44. Stations of the Cross
  45. Evening Acts of Thanksgiving
  46. Gaelic Blessing

For many more Catholic prayers besides the ones listed here, see More Catholic Prayers.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Simple Way to Pray Always


St. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Thessalonians to “pray constantly” (1 Thes 5:17). At first, this command seems right up there with “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48) in the category of impossible Christian tasks. After all, if I pray constantly, how will I have time for anything else? I’m not a monk!

St. Francis de Sales gives us a simple solution. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, he says that the key is to foster a conscientious awareness of the presence of God and to make regular aspirations or ejaculatory prayers to God throughout the day. Aspirations are short prayers, sometimes as quick as a thought, that fly up to God like an arrow. In fact, Protestants call them "arrow prayers" for this very reason.

What's nice about aspirations is that they are unobtrusive. You don't have to designate a time to pray and a place to pray. You don't have to stop what you're doing so that you can go and do this. This is the type of prayer you can pray while you're going about your day. While you're working, while you're studying, while you're playing a sport, even while your talking with someone, you can pray in this way. This means you could pray all day if you wanted. Or, as St. Paul says, "pray constantly."

One thing I love about the Bible is that it never proscribes an action without also showing us how to do it. This kind of  praying is not unique to St. Francis. It's in Scripture too, and the biblical characters who pray in this way can be very instructive for us.

The Cup-Bearer before the King

Nehemiah, cup-bearer for King Artaxerxes of Persia, gives us a classic example of effusive prayer:
The king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “For what do you make request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may rebuild it.” (Neh 2:2-5)

Nehemiah was “very much afraid.” The plight of his people rested on his answer to the king’s question. Get it wrong, and the king could very well say no. So, what did Nehemiah do? In the short time between the king’s question and Nehemiah’s response, he sent a quick prayer up to God.

We can imagine what it might have been: “Lord, give me the words to say.” “Lord, make the king receptive to my request.” “Lord, give me courage!” In the midst of his anxious conversation with the king, he prayed. The king probably didn’t even notice, but in that short moment, Nehemiah was able to ask for and receive the strength he needed to intercede for his people.

Peter in Peril

The apostle Peter gives us another example of effusive prayer, during Jesus’ miraculous calming of the storm and walking on water:
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:28-31)

Of course, none of us will be walking on water any time soon, but don’t we often feel like we’re sinking? When we’re overwhelmed, afraid, unsteady, insecure – Peter shows us that it’s precisely in those moments that aspirations to God are the most helpful and the most needed. Peter shows us that a handful of heart-felt words or phrases can make all the difference.

Jesus, Our Model of Prayer

When we look at the prayer life of Jesus, we see that He prayed in many different ways. He was particularly fond of praying in a secluded place (Mt 14:23; Lk 5:16; 9:18, 28-29) and praying out loud for the instruction of others (Mt 6:9-13; 11:25-26; Lk 23:34; Jn 11:41-42; 12:27-28; 17:1-26). But, Jesus also prayed quick prayers to the Father in the course of His ministry and preaching.

For example, at the beginning of Jesus ministry, while He was being baptized:
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (Lk 3:21-22).

Matthew and Mark’s accounts of this event tell us that the Spirit descended just as Jesus was coming out of the water. This means that as Jesus was coming out of the water, He was also praying.

We see another example of Jesus “praying while doing” in the Gospel of Mark:
And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Eph′phatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (Mk 7:33-35)

In the course of the healing, Jesus only had time to vocalize a sigh, but that was all He needed in order to pray for the man’s healing. Even sighing to God can be a prayer!

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says a prayer that consists of only four words:
“Father, glorify your name.” (Jn 12:28)

If Jesus has taught us anything, it’s that it really doesn’t take much to pray to the Father.

The final examples of Jesus praying aspirations come on the Cross. Many of His very last words before He died were quick prayers to the Father in the midst of His suffering:
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Lk 23:33-34)

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Lk 23:44-46)

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, la′ma sabach-tha′ni?” that is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46)

Let’s put these words of Jesus on our own lips. When we hear God’s name taken in vain: “Father, glorify your name.” When someone hurts our feelings: “Father, forgive them.” When we are being tempted, or sense an evil presence, or are even near death: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” When we feel like God is far away: “Why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus shows us that these aspirations can be a powerful way to pray throughout the big and small moments of the day. Aspirations acknowledge His presence. They emphasize our dependence on Him. They are perhaps the best and easiest way to pray always.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Seizing the Moment of Temptation


It's the middle of January. That means we're all well into pursuing our New Year's resolutions. How's it going so far? Don't worry, I get it. It's tough to quit a bad habit and start a good one.

What’s helpful for me is to be more aware of the steps from temptation to giving in. If we know what these steps are, then we can seize any one of them and pursue the good, before it’s too late. After all, we don’t want to just seize the moment to share our faith or to proclaim the gospel. We also want to seize the moment to be holy, to be, as Matthew Kelly says, the best-version-of-ourselves.

I’ll be speaking specifically about the steps from temptation to sin, but this exercise is useful for avoiding any bad habit we want to overcome. Also, I’ll be referring to the devil because he’s a ready foil in the back and forth dialogue between ourselves and what tempts us. But, temptation doesn’t just come from the devil. It also comes from “the flesh” – our own bodily passions and desires – and the world, which is always competing for our time and attention.

Step 1: Recognizing

First, we become aware of a temptation. A voice pipes up: “You could steal that, ya know?” We are tempted to commit certain sins because they speak to a desire we have. But, the fact that we have particular desires or are tempted to heed them in unjust ways does not mean that we have sinned. We sin only when we act on the temptation.

The key is to banish the temptation as soon as we recognize it, to turn around and run in the other direction. If we debate with the devil, then he will almost always win. The best thing to do is to not let him have his say.

Step 2: Approaching

But, let’s say we don’t flee. Instead we say, “Really? Tell me more?” Then we are approaching. In this case, we don’t remove ourselves from the near occasion of sin. Instead, we draw nearer to it. We meet the devil in his chambers. We invite him to make his case. If the bad habit is over-eating, this would be opening the cupboard where the cookies are. If the addiction is alcoholism, this would be stepping into the bar.

Step 3: Listening

Listening means nourishing an interest in that which is sinful. In this step, not only have we invited the devil to make his case, but we are now listening intently and receptively. We may even be delighting in what he has to say.

Of course, once the cupboard is open, then come all the reasons for eating: “No one will know.” “Just this once.” “I deserve this.” “This is the only way I’ll feel better.” “I can’t help it.” “I can just go to Confession later.”

Step 4: Yielding

And with that, we yield. We give in. The reasons are too many and too convincing, even though they are contrary to reason. We accept the lies as the truth and we do what we were tempted to do.

But, just because we’ve yielded, that doesn’t mean the devil is through with us. Once the pleasure fades and we begin to feel disheartened, the tempter likes to fill us with self-loathing and despair so that we’ll abandon ever trying to resist him. “You’re such a wreck.” “You fall every time.” “Why do you even bother?”

Not So Fast

This is why the moment of yielding must also be the moment in which we pick ourselves up and try again. With a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of grace, this step does not have to be the end. Instead, we can seize even this moment of failure, and we can rededicate ourselves to making the next moment a truer and better one.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, November 30, 2018

St. Joseph and Docility of the Spirit


In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales writes that genuine, living devotion exists when a person not only does good, but does it carefully, frequently, and promptly. This kind of instinctive, loving action is also called "docility of the spirit." As Scripture reveals, an excellent role model of this docility is St. Joseph.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was in peril from the start. That the inn was full was only one of their many troubles. But, despite the obstacles that the Holy Family had to overcome, they prevailed. This is due in large part to Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Any time there was confusion or danger that threatened the Holy Family, God needed only to speak to Joseph in a dream and Joseph would immediately do whatever was necessary to care for and protect his family.

The Birth of Jesus

The Holy Family threatened to unravel before it was even fully created! Mary was found to be pregnant while she and Joseph were betrothed, but before Joseph brought her into his home to consummate the marriage. Mary’s pregnancy could have caused tremendous scandal in the community and the shaming of Mary, but “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly” (Mt 1:19) – a noble gesture, and from Joseph’s point-of-view, the only thing he could have done. But, God had something else in mind:
“As [Joseph] considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which his conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’” (Mt 1:20-21)

What did Joseph do? Did he question the dream? Did he wonder if it was really a message from God? Did he put off making a decision, or choose contrary to what he heard in the dream? No. “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1:24).

The Escape to Egypt

The wise men who followed the star to the Holy Family’s house were supposed to return to Herod and report to him where they had found the child. But they didn’t! They too had great docility of spirit and, heeding the warning they received in a dream, decided to depart to their own country by another way (Mt 2:12).
“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the Wise Men, was in furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to that time which he had ascertained from the Wise Men.” (Mt 2:16)

But, God again intervened, and Joseph responded:
“[B]ehold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod” (Mt 2:13-15).

Joseph didn’t wait to make preparations and plans. He didn’t even ask where in Egypt he was to go or how he was going to get there. He rose that very night, gathered up his precious family, and left. It’s alarming to the modern mind to see how singularly focused he was on being obedient to the promptings of God. Nothing else mattered in comparison to that.

The Return from Egypt

After the death of Herod, we see that God told Joseph in a dream that it was safe to return to Israel, and then, on the way there, God told him in another dream exactly where he should settle.
“[W]hen Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archela′us reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (Mt 2:19-23)

It’s interesting that, for this particular mission, God appeared to Joseph twice. Perhaps God did this because Joseph had proven himself keen to respond carefully, frequently, and promptly to the Lord.

Joseph’s life is an example to us that if we readily respond to the guidance and promptings of God’s grace, then we will receive more guidance and more promptings from Him. In other words, in order to know the Will of God, we have to follow the Will of God! That is the message of the life of St. Joseph. That’s what docility of the spirit is, and that’s what true devotion is.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, November 15, 2018

How to Discern the Will of God

How to discern the Will of God

As Catholics we know that anything that aligns with Scripture, Tradition, or the teaching of the Church is the Will of God, since these are sources of truth for us. But, often times, we have to discern the Will of God on matters that don’t pertain to morality or doctrine. There is no Church teaching on whether I should move to another city, buy a particular house, marry a certain person, or become a priest or a nun.

What do we do then?

Discerning the Will of God is all about asking the right questions, living differently, and following your heart (hear me out on that last one!).

Ask the Right Questions

Saints and sages from every age have been pondering this question: “What do you want me to do, Lord?” They have found that the answer to this ultimate question comes by answering a series of smaller questions. These questions can help us discern God’s Will, whether we are concerned with our vocation or state in life, or we’re pondering any type of big, life-changing decision.

Try praying with the following questions:
  • Will this bring me closer to heaven? Does it give God glory?
  • What is the path of greatest love? Am I willing my own good or the good of the other?
  • Will this option help me fulfill the duties of my state in life? What does my current state in life allow?
  • Does it make sense based on my skills and talents?
  • What are the pros and cons of each option?
  • What does my conscience tell me about the morality of each option?

These questions will help filter out the noise of life and dig down to the heart of what God wants for us.

Begin Living Differently

After a couple has been married several years, they don’t have to ask each other what they desire in a given situation. They just know. They’ve shared enough of their lives together to intuit the will of the other.

We can have that same relationship with God, if we are willing to live a little differently. Just by focusing more on our prayer life, receiving the sacraments regularly, and keeping an eye out for the fruits of the Spirit, we can foster the kind of relationship with God that makes it easier to discern His Will.

  • A few minutes a day. Prayer is key. It’s how we enter into dialogue with the Lord. It’s how we listen to Him. It’s how we get to know Him and grow to love Him better. The more we know and love God, the better we are able to discern His Will. Even a few minutes a day can make all the difference (see Dynamic Catholic's "Prayer Process" for a simple method of prayer that anyone can use)

  • Grace for the keeping. Sin darkens the intellect and weakens the will – the two things God gave us to discern His Will and walk in it. The antidote is the divine life of God, and we receive that new life through the Mass and the Sacraments.

    Receiving the sacraments more frequently can feel like a burden at first, especially when there are so many other responsibilities demanding our time and attention. But, going to Confession at least once a month is doable, as long as we schedule it. And maybe there’s a parish nearby that offers a quick Mass during the usual lunch break.

  • Flesh and fruit. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he lists the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit:
    “Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God …”

    “… but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:19-23)
    If we make decisions out of the works of the flesh or when enslaved by them, we will almost always choose wrongly. If we make decisions out of the fruits of the Spirit, or if we see the Spirit bear these fruits in our lives after we make a decision, then we can be sure we have chosen rightly.

Follow Your Heart

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is follow the heart. Of course, our hearts are not infallible. As Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). While it’s not the only guide we use when discerning God’s Will, it can be one of them. After all, God created our “hearts”, our inner-life where our soul, will, and desire are located. He has planted desires within us as a way to draw us to Him. So, it’s worth hearing what the heart has to say.

And at any rate, if we love God and are filled with His love, then our hearts will be worth following. As Augustine said, “Love God, and then do what you will.”

For more on how to discern the Will of God from a Catholic perspective, see the following articles:
Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Church Documents on Catholic Education

The documents listed below are in chronological order. Note that I am making a distinction between "education" and "catechesis" or "evangelization." Although they are all related terms, I am only interested in Catholic education here. Please leave a comment and let me know if there is a document I forgot to add to the list.


Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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