Friday, November 30, 2007

By Hope We Are Saved

The pope's new encyclical, Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) was released today. American Papist has links to other hosts of the encyclical (in case the Vatican site is slow) as well as commentary.

The title comes from Sacred Scripture:

Rom 8:22-25 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

For more on the virtue of hope, see the following articles: Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Welcome to the Latest Utter Abomination

The following video from the American Life League reports on one of the most appalling things I have seen in a very long time. I exclaimed out loud several times while I was watching this. If this doesn't rouse within you a healthy dose of righteous indignation, then you're dead already.



We MUST keep this garbage out of the hands of our children.

Beware of the millstone.....

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Daily with De Sales: 11/30/07

The cross is the royal gate by which we enter the temple of sanctity. He who looks for it elsewhere will not find even a trace. Do not look upon crosses except in the light of the great cross of Christ, and you will find them so small and so welcome that you will begin to love suffering because you will find in it more consolation than in any pleasure...Have a great love for the cross, which, if you look upon it with the eyes of love, will seem to be made of gold.
-- Letters 1983; O. XXI, p. 22

Daily Catholic Quotation Is Back

Yay! I told you it would fix itelf :D Check out the Daily Catholic Quotation at the top of my sidebar, and follow these instructions to put it on your blog or website!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/29/07

When we are troubled with bodily ailments or are suffering from poor health, there is no need to ask any more of our soul than acts of submission and acceptance of sickness and a holy union of our will with the divine pleasure--all acts that are formed in the innermost regions of the soul. As far as external actions are concerned, we must do the best we can, satisfied even if performing them reluctantly, languidly and with difficulty. Thus the lead of sickness changes into the finest gold by the practice of joyfulness of heart.
-- Letters 1704; O. XIX, pp. 340-341

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sidebar Update

I updated the poll question so that it's easier to know what I'm referring to without having to go look up the passage. Also, I realize that the "Daily Catholic Quotation" isn't loading, but I don't really know how to fix it. I guess I'm just kinda hoping that it will fix itself....

Daily with De Sales: 11/28/07

You ask me why it is that we receive the Holy Spirit and with Him all His gifts when we receive the sacraments with the right dispositions, and yet we fall so often into sin? We go to confession, in which we receive the Holy Spirit with the remission of our sins, and yet it so often happens that we fall back into the same sins after our confession. This is because we lack courage; we are too weak.
-- Sermons 70; O. X, pp. 425-426

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Catholic Reform: It's Not All About Luther!

Below is a paper I recently completed for Dr. Alan Schreck's class on Church renewal. It is a summary and review of Chapter 3 from Christopher M. Bellitto's book Renewing Christianity: A History of Church Reform from Day One to Vatican II. As a Word document, my paper is 9 full pages.

I was particularly interested in Chapter 3 because it deals with the events that lead up to the Council of Trent, and opinions on this time period of Church history are particularly contentious. By highlighting a continuity of Catholic reform, I think Bellitto has contributed some valuable insights to this period. He certainly increased my understanding of the "Catholic Reformation," and hopefully you will similarly benefit from my short paper on his work.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
Renewing Christianity: A History of Church Reform from Day 1 to Vatican II
Chapter 3, “From Avignon to Trent: The Era of Multiple Reforms”
Christopher M. Bellitto
Paulist Press, Copyright 2001, 233 pgs.


Like his later book, The General Councils, Christopher Bellitto’s book Renewing Christianity is a fair and balanced look at the history of the Church. Bellitto has the uncanny ability to admit the faults of the Catholic Church and acknowledge the elements of truth of her detractors while still maintaining a faithful, Catholic position. His books are also very helpful in providing much-needed perspective to events in the Church’s history that are often subject to “preconceptions and caricatures” (102). As such, I was particularly interested in Chapter 3, “From Avignon to Trent: The Era of Multiple Reforms.” The events that led up to the Council of Trent are the topic of such heated debate that it seems nearly impossible to come to an objective assessment. If any period in the Church could benefit from a scholarly approach that provides perspective, it is this one. Bellitto’s treatment of the late medieval and reformation years (from about 1300 to 1600) will be the focus of this paper.

We tend to think of two monolithic reforms during this period: Luther’s “Protestant Reformation” and Trent’s “Catholic Reformation” or “Counter Reformation.” Furthermore, the common perception is that the Catholics reformed only in reaction to Luther (104). However, Bellitto challenges these views. He states that there were in fact many reforms, both Protestant and Catholic, during this period. The Catholic reforms in particular are of interest because little has been written about the continuity of Catholic reform during the late medieval and reformation years. Because this was an “era of multiple reforms,” Bellitto informs us that it is better to speak of reformations, in the plural and with a lower-case r, instead of the Protestant “Reformation”, or the Catholic “Reformation” (102). It is also interesting to note that, while many historians only see the greed and corruption of the Catholic Church during this time, there were in fact, both in the head and the body of the Church, voices that cried out for personal reform and accountability on the part of the papacy.

“The very fact that at least a handful of the pope’s inner circle advocated reform indicates a number of well-placed Catholics before Luther recognized the need for it” (103). These figures begin to appear in the late Middle Ages (ca. 1300-1450) in reaction to the Avignon Papacy (1305-77) and the Great Western Schism (1378-1417). This period of about 150 years was a time of much confusion and corruption in the hierarchy of the Church. For various political, military, and geographic reasons, the papacy moved from its traditional seat in Rome to Avignon, France (105). Entrenched there, it expanded its bureaucracy and grew in opulence. Simony and greed plagued the Church in capite. However, “while some Avignon popes certainly promoted bureaucratic greed and malaise, others were genuine reformers” (107).

Benedict XII (ca. 1334-42) fought absenteeism, reduced the numbers and amounts of fees for documents and procedures, and fought the practice of bribing for major offices. He also reorganized the administration of the papacy and required more rigorous examinations for candidates to the priesthood or the bishopric (170). Innocent VI (1352-62) and Urban V (1362-70) continued many of these reforms. However, all of this was stalled by the Great Western Schism (107-108).

The Catholic Dictionary, Revised Edition gives us the following concise summary of the events that surrounded the schism:
  • A disruption in Catholic unity lasting from 1378 until 1417, resulting from rival claims to the papacy. After the election of Urban VI in 1378, thirteen of the cardinal electors challenged him, and then chose Clement VII, who returned to Avignon in France. In an attempt to correct the situation, a third Pope, Alexander V, was elected at the Council of Pisa. After a time of great confusion and bitter politics, the schism was ended when the Council of Constance (1414-18) elected Pope Martin V. The rivals either resigned or eventually died (“Western Schism, The Great”, p. 762).
How could any reforms take place when no one even knew who the real pope was? This made the actual implementation of reform in the life of the Church very difficult, if not impossible. Yet, even during this turbulent period, attempts at reform were made.

For example, the Council of Constance, the very one that was so fixated on finally unifying the papacy, also discussed possible reforms both in membris and in capite. Reform in membris focused on the personal morality, pastoral care, and qualifications for service of the clergy (110). Clergy should be well-educated, sufficiently paid for their work, and faithful to priestly celibacy. They also debated a proposal whereby a priest would be required to give up his concubine within one month or face rejection by the people. Yet, because of the turmoil from above, these reforms never made it down into the populace (110). However, there were some reforms in capite that were successful.

Starting at the top, the Council focused on simony and the decrease of papal taxes and other fees that had become inordinate. Some also proposed a more efficient and learned curia (110). Of course, changes like this take time, especially when the course of reform is being thwarted by power struggles within and by the papacy. Ever since Martin V was elected in 1417 by the Council of Constance to end the Western Schism, conciliarism was a threat to the authority of the papacy. Many of the popes were more concerned with this power struggle than with reforming their own conduct or the body of the Church as a whole (110-111).

What is interesting is that even though reform largely failed to be implemented at the higher level, there was a great surge of reform in the Church’s body. In particular, the emphasis on humanism and the devotio moderna movement reveals that reform does not always require an impetus and direction from above in order to grow and survive. “The spirit of reform lived in the church’s body with tremendous popular enthusiasm, optimism, and hope that these difficult times would soon improve” (112). Among the laity there was indeed a great vitality of faith and an honest quest for personal reform.

“Late medieval religious practice is distinguished by several characteristics tied to personal reform: interior piety, self-knowledge in solitude that often led to very active lay spirituality (the marriage of action and contemplation), a personal identification with the suffering Christ, and humanism” (112-113). By humanism, of course, is meant the Christian kind, which placed an emphasis on the good that could be taken from the works of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as those of the early Church fathers. Humanism also “championed the partnership between humanity and divinity, reminded people of their dignity as made in the imago Dei, and emphasized human beings’ God-given potential to act on the principles of Christian faith” (113). This meant striving to live a moral life in one’s everyday circumstances, to confront the world and transform it with one’s witness, instead of withdrawing from it.

Alongside this increased interest in Christian humanism grew the devotio moderna movement, spearheaded by Dutch religious leader Gerard Gote (1340-84, cf. pg. 114). This movement was an “inside-out reform” that focused on a person’s interior life and the spiritual exercises he performed so as to conform his will to God’s and to experience more fully God’s presence in his life. This meant attempting to live a devout life in a materialistic society (115). It also meant truly informing one’s actions by charity and virtue instead of merely accumulating works without purpose or feeling, which was characteristic of the arithmetical piety of the time. “As reformers, they opposed overuse of statues, vigils, pilgrimages, relics, the rote exercise of prayers and devotions, and a mathematical approach to totaling up indulgences” (116). Devotio moderna followers also focused on the human, historical, suffering Jesus, and with trying to identify with him in their daily trials and mortifications (115).

Through these two movements, the Church in membris was able to experience substantial reform in their personal lives, despite the fact that the Church at the highest levels was filled with corruption and provided little spiritual direction. “While three popes and a variety of conciliarists in capite fought themselves and rendered reform stillborn, the spirit and practice of reform was alive and well in membris in the late medieval church” (118).

One of the childhood students of the devotio moderna grew up to become perhaps the most famous reformer in all of Church history: Martin Luther. While his reform and the various reforms that anticipated and came after him are beyond the scope of this paper, there is room to briefly mention two of his contemporaries: Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto and Erasmus. The interventions of these two men help continue the thread of Catholic reform during this period that ultimately leads to the Council of Trent

When John Calvin started propagating his more radical reform ideas, Cardinal Sadoleto stepped in to confront him. What is noteworthy about this intervention is that Sadoleto was able to admit that there were several abuses in the Church that needed correction. If Calvin would have restricted his attention to cleaning up these abuses in practice (such as the bureaucracy of the papacy and the arithmetical piety of the people), then he would have actually found himself in agreement with Sadoleto. But, Calvin widened his attack to include the very doctrine, sacramental life, and authority of the Catholic Church. This set him at odds with the Cardinal, as evidenced by a letter he wrote to Calvin concerning his doctrine on justification by faith alone:
  • The point in dispute is whether [it is] more expedient for your salvation, and whether you think you will do what is more pleasing to God, by believing and following what the Catholic church throughout the whole world, now for more than fifteen hundred years, or (if we require clear and certain recorded notice of the facts) for more than thirteen hundred years approves with general consent; or innovations introduced within these twenty-five years, by crafty or, as they think themselves, acute men; but men certainly who are not themselves the Catholic church? (130)
Of course, Calvin was not to be swayed, and Sadoleto was ultimately unable to reconcile Geneva with Rome. However, despite this failure, the Cardinal continued to play an important role in Catholic reform efforts for the next two decades (129).

Another important Catholic figure during this reformation period is Erasmus. This famous humanist is a complicated character, and he succeeded in having friends and enemies on both sides of the Protestant-Catholic divide. To some he was too Lutheran, to others he was too Catholic. However you looked at him, it was obvious that he was an influential and outspoken voice of reform. As a humanist infused with devotio moderna spirituality, he rejected religious formalism and urged the laity to pursue “an active spiritual life of inward piety and outward service” (141). He criticized ambition, greed and power in the church’s hierarchy and repeatedly singled out Pope Julius II for his neglect of pastoral service and humility. “Erasmus also criticized empty monastic vows, clerical ignorance, arithmetical piety, spiritual superstition, and scholastic theology that was more sophistic than pastoral” (141).

Always faithful to the humanist and devotio moderna schools, he also emphasized a return to the sources of the Christian tradition (the early Church fathers, the Bible in its original languages, etc.), an inner reform and education based on living according to Christian principles, and an embracing of the original image and likeness of God (141-142). “By contrasting the way things are with the way things should be in the church, Erasmus indicated that the hierarchy must be divested of its worldliness and all Christians must work continuously on their individual goodness” (142). It is no wonder that Catholics of his day often viewed him as the one who opened the door for Luther’s more sweeping reforms.

This brings us to the final link between the first stirrings of reform during the “Babylonian captivity” of the papacy and the close of the 16th century. Backing up a bit to a time before Calvin we find “four specific calls for reform in a twenty-five year period surrounding Luther, which, while stillborn, paved the way to the Council of Trent” (144). The first took place at the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17).

At the council, Giles of Viterbo was the dominant reform voice. He was tired of all of this talk of reform never amounting to anything. He wanted to see action! He saw this as the only way to reform the Church. Like Luther, Calvin, and Erasmus, he sought to bring the Church “back to its old purity, its ancient brilliance, its original splendor, and its own sources” (144). He thought that the present council could very well be the impetus for such reform, if only Pope Julius II and the rest of the hierarchy would get behind it. He bravely proclaimed to the pope, “God commands you to tear down, root up, and destroy errors, luxury, and vice, and to build, establish, and plant moderation, virtue, and holiness” (144).

The second call for reform came in the form of a Libellus written by two monks to Pope Leo X (1513-21). The authors laid the blame squarely at his feet, and demanded of him a long list of changes:
  • The papacy should lead the way to reform via inner spiritual progress and oversee reform through the church’s hierarchy. Popes should call general councils every five years; bishops should hold synods in their dioceses and provinces to police compliance. They must also carefully examine candidates for ordination, especially inquiring whether they knew scripture and specifically requiring that they had read the entire Bible (145).
They also recommended translating the Bible into the vernacular and called for a new missal, breviary, and church calendar so as to unify all of Catholicism. Unfortunately, the Church would have to wait 30 years later to see these reforms finally taken seriously at the Council of Trent (144-145).

The third abandoned call for reform was a set of guidelines written by Leo’s successor, Adrian VI (1522-1523). Like Sadoletto (who would come after him), Adrian too was willing to admit the failures of the papacy. He assigned blame at the highest level and encouraged a reform starting at the very top and then working its way down to the people. His words to Francesco Chieregati, his legate to the Diet of Nurembur, show just how frank and honest he was willing to be in order to persuade the German princes there to remain Catholic and oppose Luther. I find his words so remarkable that they are worth substantial quotation:
  • You will also say that we frankly confess that God permits this persecution to afflict this church because of the sins of men, especially of the priests and prelates of the church…We know that for many years many abominable things have occurred in this holy see, abuses in spiritual matters, transgressions of the commandments, and finally in everything a change for the worse. No wonder that the illness has spread from the head to the members, from the supreme pontiffs to the prelates below them. All of us (that is, prelates and clergy), each one of us have strayed from our paths; nor for a long time has anyone done good; no, not even one… (145-146).
Adrian was one of the few, if not the only pope since St. Gregory the Great to truly and seriously take on the mantle of Church reform. Unfortunately his pontificate lasted just twenty months. One wonders what would have become of the Church if Adrian had been able to pursue his reformation platform (146).

Catholic reform in the period from 1300 to Trent finds its final attempt in the initiatives of Pope Paul III (1534-49), fifteen years after the death of Adrian. Interested in calling a general council, Paul III first called a number of leading reformers to Rome and charged them with drawing up a reform program for the council. The result was the Consilium de emendanda ecclesia, or “Counsel on Reforming the Church” (146). This document, like the Libellus sent to Leo X, was very forthright and recommended ways to correct a whole host of wrongs. “The [Consilium] advised, among other measures, reforms in the training and examination of candidates for the priesthood. Pastors should be appointed who desire and know how to care for their flocks. Bishops and parish priests should never be absent from their posts unless for serious reasons. Even the most basic education must be addressed, especially in religious and philosophical matters, and books should be inspected for their suitability” (147).

The Consilium seems to have had the potential to effect some real change. Unfortunately, it was sabotaged by Martin Luther, who was able to get his hands on a leaked copy of the report and quickly translate it into German for mass production. But that’s not all. In the report he also included his own remarks in the margins, infecting it with his usual polemical style (147-148). In this, Luther succeeded in bringing ridicule and embarrassment to this noble step towards reform by Paul III. As such, the Consilium, like the many reforms efforts that preceded it, ultimately failed. Reform would not finally take hold in the Church until the Council of Trent nearly a decade later.

And so we have finally come to that great and lasting reform of the Church that has been, in the minds of many Catholics, the singular image of Catholic reform in the 300-year span between 1300 and 1600 AD. While it is true that the Council of Trent deserves credit for the momentous reforms that it implemented, Bellitto has shown in his chapter on this period that the other Catholic reform efforts that led up to Trent deserve attention as well. What these reform efforts reveal is that the history of the Catholic Church has always been about reform, a task that was not simply abandoned after the high Middle Ages only to be resurrected when Luther arrived and changed Christendom forever. Even with great scandal in the hierarchy of the Church, the laity were passionate about growing in personal holiness and changing the world from the inside-out. Voices among the hierarchy called for accountability as well. When the laity and the hierarchy were finally able to work together, the result was a true and lasting reform that enriched the Church for the next 400 years and continued the quest for reform that the Church has been pursuing since its very inception.

On Ending Your Own Life

A couple of weeks ago someone requested that I make a post on the moral implications of committing suicide. I regret that I was unable to address this sooner, and even now, my post will have to be brief. Things have been pretty hectic with the semester approaching it's end, but I want to at least say something about sucide while I have a couple of minutes to spare.

Suicide falls under the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," or perhaps better translated, "Thou shalt not murder". The distinction between "kill" and "murder" is important. It's actually somewhat imprecise to say "Thou shalt not kill" b/c there are some circumstances in which taking the life of another is justifiable (for example, in the case of self-defense, or in the killing of animals for food). But, "murder" is the taking of innocent human life, and this is always wrong.

At any rate, in the Catechism, suicide is listed with intentional homicide, abortion, and euthanasia as actions that show a disrespect for human life. Four articles and a line from the "In Brief" at the end are devoted to suicide:
  • 2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

    2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

    2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

    Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

    2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

    2325 Suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment.
It's important to note that, while "grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide" (no. 2282), since only that person and God know exactly how culpible the person is for committing suicide, we can (and I think we must) hold out hope that salvation is still possible for that person. That is also why we are encouraged to pray for the souls of those who commit suicide. Such prayers would be pointless if we believed that every single person who committed suicide went straight to hell.

Of course, even though there is always hope, a person still puts his soul in a very precarious position whenever he takes his life, since suicide is such a violent act against the legitimate love of self that we are all required to maintain. As such, suicide should be avoided at all cost. Life is a gift to be cherished!

For more on suicide, see the following articles: The entry in the Directory on euthanasia applies to this topic, as does the entry on the redeeming value of sickness and suffering. God can bring good out of even the most intense pain.

May the Archangel Michael and the Blessed Virgin Mary fight for us in our final hour, and may God grant us the grace of final perseverence.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Daily with De Sales: 11/27/07

Prayer is the means by which we ascend to God; the sacraments are the channels by which God descends to us. But what dispositions are required to receive them with profit? The first is purity of intention, which is absolutely necessary not only to receive the sacraments but in all that we do. A pure intention is union with God without any mixture of self-interest...The second disposition is attention to the grandeur of the act we are about to undertake...The third is humility, and indispensable virtue if we are to receive with abundance the graces that flow from the channel of the sacraments.
-- Spiritual Treatises XVIII; O. VI, pp. 337-339

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poll-Release Monday #36

To close out the month of November and it's focus on Purgatory and souls who reside there, I offer this week's poll question: "Is Lk 16:19-31 a reference to Purgatory?"

I have some thoughts on this passage, but I'll wait and share them after the results are in. What do you think? Vote in the poll (in my sidebar) and let me know. Also, don't forget to click the "Explain your vote" link underneath the poll and tell me why you voted the way you did.

That said, here are the results from the previous poll:

"If someone challenged you on the doctrine of Purgatory, could you defend it?"




I was pleasantly surprised by these results! My experience has been that Purgatory is one of the more difficult doctrines for most Catholics to defend, but it looks like most of you are able to say at least something in it's defense. Of course, that doesn't mean you're all experts, especially since 36% of you answered "Kinda sorta" and that could mean a lot of things!

If you want to beef up your knowledge on Purgatory, make sure you check out my previous post "In Honor of the Souls in Purgatory." Also, if poetry speaks to you more than theological or apologetical works do, there is an amazing poem by John Henry Cardinal Newman that is very illustrative of the doctrine of Purgatory.

I've always known about this poem, but it just dawned on me today that Newman's The Dream of Gerontius is an excellent indirect apologetic that might appeal to a person's love of prose and placate his disdain for debate or a more direct apologetical approach.

Basically, The Dream of Gerontius is about a soul's journey from this mortal world to the feet of the Just Judge, where the soul will receive it's purgation. An angel accompanies the soul on his journey, and it is in their conversation that the poem becomes truly edifying. The entire poem is worth your read (it is not very long), but I will provide here the portion that most directly bears upon the doctrine of Purgatory.

As the month of November comes to an end, be sure to give the souls in Purgatory your most heart-felt intercession.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

ps: I know the poll results are kinda hard to see, but that's the best I can do.
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The Dream of Gerontius
by John Henry Cardinal Newman

The Fifth Phase
[. . .]
ANGEL: They sing of thy approaching agony,
Which thou so eagerly didst question of:
It is the face of the Incarnate God
Shall smite thee with that keen and subtle pain;
And yet the memory which it leaves will be
A sovereign febrifuge to heal the wound;
And yet withal it will the wound provoke,
And aggravate and widen it the more.

SOUL: Thou speakest mysteries; still methinks I know
To disengage the tangle of thy words:
Yet rather would I hear thy angel voice,
Than for myself be thy interpreter.

ANGEL: When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,
The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart,
All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.
Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,
And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,
That one so sweet should e’er have placed Himself
At disadvantage such, as to be used
So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes
Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.
And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though
Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinned,
As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire
To slink away, and hide thee from His sight;
And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell
Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—
The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—
Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.
[. . .]

The Sixth Phase
[. . .]
SOUL: Go before my Judge, Angel.

ANGEL: Praise to His name!
The eager spirit has darted from my hold,
And, with the intemperate energy of love,
Flies to the dear feet of Emmanuel;
But, ere it reached them, the keen sanctity,
Which with its effluence, like a glory, clothes
And circles round the Crucified, has seized,
And scorched, and shrivelled it; and now it lies
Passive and still before the awful Throne.
O happy, suffering soul! for it is safe,
Consumed, yet quickened, by the glance of God.

SOUL: Take me away, and in the lowest deep
There let me be,
And there in hope the lone night-watches keep,
Told out for me.
There, motionless and happy in my pain,
Lone, not forlorn,—
There will I sing my sad perpetual strain,
Until the morn.
There will I sing, and soothe my stricken breast,
Which ne’er can cease
To throb, and pine, and languish, till possest
Of its Sole Peace.
There will I sing my absent Lord and Love:—
Take me away,
That sooner I may rise, and go above,
And see Him in the truth of everlasting day.

Daily with De Sales: 11/26/07

God in His goodness is not satisfied with giving us many graces and favor. He further repays the services we render Him with such excessive generosity that the person who corresponds to a grace disposes himself to receive another; he who corresponds to the second disposes himself to receive the third, and so on. God never fails too do His part. If the soul is faithful in accepting His graces, He gives it more and more. Thus it is an ongoing process. Advancing in this way by faithfully responding to grace, the soul becomes worthy of receiving outstanding graces and of accomplishing great things.
-- Sermons 40; O. IX, p. 439

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/25/07

This life is short but is very valuable, for by means of it we are able to acquire eternal life. Happy are those who know how to use it for this purpose and how to apply these passing moments to gain a happy eternity. Nothing is so pleasing to the heart of God than to see us persevering in the exercise of small virtues. It is just these very virtues that can make us perfect if we persevere in them to the end, rather than the big virtues that we can exercise only from time to time.
-- Letters 1997; O. XII, pp. 37-38

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Did Mary Need a Savior Too?

Glen Lamont asked the following question in my message box. It's a common question that a lot of people ask.

Hey Phat, hope you can help me. My question is this: was our Holy Mother Mary in need of redemption like everyone else but through our lords crucufixion in advance she was concieved without sin?
That is true! You pretty much nailed it. Mary was not some special type of creature that was impervious to the stain of original sin. She was a human being conceived in the natural way. Thus, she was due to receive the stain of original sin just like the rest of us, and divine intervention was the only thing that could keep this from happening.

The pre-existant Son, being beyond the bounds of time, is able to take the grace from the Cross, grace that the rest of us receive after the work is "finished" (Jn 19:30) and apply it to Mary, which in time appears as a retroactive endeavor. This grace protected her from the sin of Adam, which caused her to be immaculately conceived, or conceived without sin. Mary was saved from sin by this special act of God, which is why she is able to rejoice in God her "Savior" (Lk 1:47).

I hope that answers your question. I have addressed the Immaculate Conception in other blog posts, which may be helpful as well:Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Daily with De Sales: 11/24/07

It is not enough to say, "I want to save my soul." It is not enough to say, "I want to embrace the means suitable to arrive at eternal salvation." With absolute resolve we must will and embrace the graces God presents to us. God gives us the means of salvation; we must receive them just as we must desire salvation as God desires it for us and because His will desires it.
-- T.L.G. Book 8, Ch. 4; O. V, p. 70

Friday, November 23, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/23/07

Above everything else, you must procure tranquility of spirit, not only because it is the mother of contentment but because it is the daughter of the love of God. Occasions to practice this virtue crop up daily; wherever we are, we will never be free of contradictions, and when they do no come fro others we initiate them ourselves. Oh, how holy and pleasing in the eyes of the Lord we will be if only we know how to make good use of the occasions of mortifying ourselves, using all that our vocation presents us with!
-- Letters 469; O. XIV, p. 53

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/21 and 11/22

November 21:
The greatest happiness of the glorious virgin derives, as a privilege, from her being perfectly obedient to God, not only in the observance of the divine commandments and the manifest will of God, but also in the execution of divine aspirations. Imitate her in this; it will be easy to do so if you have the intention of pleasing God and being acceptable to Him.
-- Sermons 26; O. IX, p. 138

November 22:
It is often we ourselves who are the cause of our own sterile, arid state. God holds back consolations from us when we have a foolish complacency in them. He departs from us as a punishment for our laziness when we are negligent in seizing the opportune time to make use of the richness and delights of divine love. The heavenly Spouse knocks at the door of our heart and urges us to take up our spiritual exercises once more, but we do not wish to have anything to do with Him because it costs us too much to give up our vain occupations and separate ourselves from false pleasures. Then He passes us by and leaves us to our own devices. When we desperately go searching for Him, we have no one to blame except ourselves.
-- INT. Part IV, Ch. 14; O. III, p. 326

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/20/07

In the course of this our earthly pilgrimage, the Lord leads us in His ways; either He gives us His hand to have us walk with Him or He carries us in the arms of His Divine Providence. He holds us by the hand when He enables us to walk by the exercise of virtue; if He did not, we would not be able to walk at all on this blessed way. There is plenty of evidence that those who let go of His fatherly hand cannot take one step without falling and hitting their nose on the ground! Without doubt the good God wants to lead us, wants to help us on our way, but also wants us to do our part by taking small steps in cooperation with His grace.
-- Sermons 16; O. IX, pp. 133-134

Monday, November 19, 2007

Poll-Release Monday Needs Your Help!

First off, I'm going let last week's poll run for another week. To vote, see the poll in my sidebar.

The reason I'm letting it run for another week is because....well....I honestly can't think of a new one. I'm hoping that you all can help me. If you have an idea for a poll question, click the "Suggest a poll question" link underneath the poll and let me know. Also, please encourage your friends to vote in the poll and to visit here regularly. That way, the poll results can more adequately reflect the opinions of the Catholic blogosphere.

Have a blog? Send people my way! I'd really appreciate it.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Daily with De Sales: 11/18 and 11/19

November 18:
Keep correcting some fault in yourself, but do not do this through coercion but through love, just as those who delight in in going camping bring with them trees from their own garden. Without doubt the Lord will supply what is missing to keep you close to Him, so long as for your part you love Him alone and seek to follow Him alone.
-- Letters 837; O. XV, pp. 319-320

November 19:
Let us make a firm decision to serve God with all our heart and with all our life, but let us not worry about tomorrow. Let us concentrate on doing good today. When tomorrow comes, it will also be called today, and so we will have to think of it as such. In all this, however, it is necessary to have great confidence and resignation in the Providence of God. We must provide ourselves with manna for today and nothing more. We must have no doubts; God will make it rain tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and so on, for all the days of our life.
-- Letters 190; O. XII, pp. 205-206

Friday, November 16, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/17/07

The small crosses of obedience, affability and docility in following the will of someone else, especially that of superiors, have great value, as the wonderful example of the saint we honor today shows. Because she looked so pale, Saint Gertrude was treated more delicately than the others by the superior of the convent, who do not allow her to practice the austerities of religious life. What do you think the holy woman did then to become a saint? Nothing else but submit her will to the abbess. Although her piety urged her to do more and suffer more, she never expressed this. She acquired such a spirit of peace and tranquility that the Lord revealed to Saint Matilda, her companion, "If anyone wants to find Me on this earth, let him first see Me in the Blessed Sacrament and then in the heart of Gertrude." In fact, in the heart of this great saint there did not exist even a shadow of her own will; therefore, God willingly took delight in possessing it. Obedience is the salt that gives taste and flavor to all our actions and renders them meritorious for eternal life.
-- Spiritual Treatises XV; O. VI, pp. 273-274

Criticizing the Lord's Prayer

Fr. Raymond E. BrownSince I finished my paper yesterday (praise God!!), I decided to go through my inbox and catch up on some old emails. About a month ago I received this question:

How would you apply the historical critical method to The Lord's Prayer (both Mt 6:9-13 and Lk 11:2-4)? Can you point me in the direction you think would be most helpful?
If I were you, I'd look at some Scripture commentaries that rely heavily on the historical-critical method and see what they say. Such commentaries would include the Jerome Biblical Commentary (and the New JBC), the New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, and really anything by Raymond Brown, Roland Murphy, or Joseph Fitzmyer. Once you've read what these works say about the Lord's Prayer, then you'll have a better idea of what it means to do a historical-critical study of Scripture.

Basically, a historical-critical Scripture scholar has certain questions in mind when he approaches the Bible:
  1. What is the author of this passage intending to assert with the words he has written here?
  2. What is the genre of this passage and how does that affect the meaning?
  3. What did this passage mean to the original community for whom it was written?
  4. How does the form in which we have this passage today compare to the form of the passage as found in the various manuscripts of the NT that are available to us today?
  5. How does this passage compare to parallel passages in the other Gospels?
Of course, this isn't a definitive list, just some questions off the top of my head that I know are important to historical-critical bible scholars. These are difficult questions to answer, and even the experts are undecided on various points. If you just synthesize what these works and authors say about the Lord's Prayer and use the information they provide to answer some of the popular questions that they ask, then you should be ok.

I also have a collection of articles on the historical-critical method and on how to intepret Scripture that you may wish to peruse. I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Why Doesn't the Church Recognize My Marriage?

About a month ago, I received the following question from Paul via email. Me being the absent-minded person that I am, I am just now getting around to responding. Sorry about that Paul!

Here is his question:

Several years ago my dad decided to come back to the Church (he had been Protestant ever since his family left the Church when he was a teenager) but my mother remained Protestant. Because they were married outside of the Catholic Church, their marriage had to be validated within the Church, since it was not completely valid in Her eyes. This is what aggravates my mom; she has always been faithful to her marriage and four children and then the Church says that it was never really valid because it wasn't a Catholic marriage, while my mom believes that it was completely valid.
Yes, I can understand why she would be aggravated about that. Hopefully, my thoughts on this will be helpful.

The way I tried to explain this to her was comparing this teaching to the Church's teaching on the Sacrament of Confession. I told her that just as the Church believes you can't confess your sins directly to God but must confess them to an ordained Catholic priest who has been given the power by God to be His instrument and forgive the sins of the people, so too do you have to be married in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony by an ordained priest who acts as God's instrument in establishing this marriage before God; that's why it had to be validated by the Church when my dad came back to the faith. This still doesn't convince her, of course, but I was wondering if this was the right way to explain it. Is there anything I missed, or is there something more to this teaching?
Well, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure how to respond to her either. But, I do have some thoughts and maybe those will help.

Regarding the explanation that you gave your mom for why she would have to have her marriage validated by the Church, what you said was not quite right. As I understand it, the minister of the Sacrament of Matrimony is not actually the priest, it's the bride and the groom. In other words, the sacramental grace does not come from the priest. Instead, the grace comes from the bride and groom to each other, who have been empowered by God to be a source of strength for each other on their journey to heaven.

[someone please tell me if I'm wrong or if there is a better way to explain that]

The reason they need to be remarried in the Church is b/c it is only through the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church that a covenant is made between man and wife that seals them together for all time. Sure, protestants receive grace too, and God was present at their marriage ceremony insofar as he is present in every place. But, through the Sacrament of Matrimony, you specifically call upon God to be a witness to your union, and you make a covenant oath to him and to your significant other that you will be faithful to this marriage for the rest of your life.

Also, it is only through the Sacrament of Matrimony that you receive the special grace (a grace particular to the sacrament) that God desires to give a couple so as to strengthen them to live long, faithful lives with each other. Marriage is not just a civil union proper to the state. It is a sacramental union and since a sacramental union did not take place, the Church cannot recognize it.

But, that does not invalidate the commitment that your parents have made to each other and to their children all these years. No one denies that they have been faithful in their marriage. All these years of commitment are not just down the drain. Your parents really are husband and wife (as far as the state is concerned). The Church simply wants to bring God and his grace into the picture in a more profound way (again, we acknowledge that God was present at their ceremony) so that their marriage can be blessed by God and the Church.

It's a good thing to be blessed by God and the Church! You can never have too much grace!

That's how I would begin to explain it to your mom. Again, these are just my thoughts and I guess I'm not 100% confident in what I have written here, but I think I'm on the right track. You can read some articles on the Sacrament of Matrimony for more information. Mark Curley's comment on this post is also helpful.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Defending Priestly Celibacy: Part 7

Hhere is Part 7 in my debate on priestly celibacy. Unless "Devin" responds back again, this will be the last installment in the debate. Thanks everyone for hangin in there with me. Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (or just peep the original thread for yourself).

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
doesnt your Church have a requirement that all their priests MUST be Celibant?
Well, the Latin (or "Roman") Rite of the Church has that requirement, normatively speaking. The pope has made a concession for married Anglican pastors who convert to Catholicism and become priests. They aren't required to forsake their families. In the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, a man who is already married may become a priest, but if he is single when he becomes a priest, he can't marry someone afterwards. Bishops however cannot be married either before or after becoming bishop. I think it is noteworthy that, even in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, where it is technically allowed for a married man to become a priest, the very vast majority of them live celibate lifestyles like their brothers in the Latin Rite. They seem to just inherently know that celibacy is the preferrable state.

What all of this shows is that celibacy isn't unchangeable dogma. It's a discipline that the Church in the Latin Rite has adopted from ancient times b/c She, like Paul, views celibacy to be the preferrable state of the clergy. After all, "The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided" (1 Cor 7:32-34).

Finally, note that the requirement that a priest be celibate is not actually a restriction when you're choosing people for the priesthood who have been given the gift of celibacy anyway. All it is really is a call for these men to live according to the gift they have been given. It would be unfaithful to the Lord for a man with the gift of celibacy to become a priest and then try to get married. He wouldn't be living according to the gift he has been given. See what I mean?

will you tell a man who wants to get married that he cannot be a priest?
Yes. Why? Well, for one, b/c the Church (in the Latin Rite) normally only chooses men for the priesthood who have been given the gift of celibacy. So, if God has called you to be married, the Church won't choose you. Secondly, if a man is called to be married then it will be difficult, if not impossible for him to live a celibate lifestyle. So, he won't be able to be a priest in the sense that he hasn't been given power by God to live out that lifestyle.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Defending Priestly Celibacy: Part 6

Here is Part 6 in my debate on priestly celibacy. I realize that this debate probably has too many parts too it, but if I make my posts too long then nobody reads them. I hope that this has been easy to follow so far and that it has been helpful. With Part 6 we pick back up with "Devin" again. Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (or just peep the original thread for yourself).

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
how can you judge rather or not someone is best suited for the role?
Ask Paul that. He did the same thing in 1 Cor 7. Have you read that chapter yet?

theres no scriptural mandate saying that the man MUST be celibate.
I never said that men must be celibate, at least not how I think you understand it. You need to read my words carefully here b/c my position is nuanced.

The Church isn't forcing anyone to do anything. You make it sound like the Jesuits are kidnapping people who are called to be married and forcing them to refrain from sex for the rest of their lives. That's not what is going on here. All the Church is doing is choosing for the priesthood those men who have been given the gift of celibacy, and then asking them to live according to that gift. Would you rather the Church encourage people to be unfaithful to God and the calling he has upon their lives? It's actually loving and charitable to ask men who haven't been given this gift to step down. The Church isn't in the habit of forcing people into a lifestyle that they haven't been called to live.

Also, if you have the gift of celibacy and you answer God's call to the priesthood, then you're going to want to live a celibate lifestyle. We find fulfillment in life when we live according to the gifts we have been given and the calling that God has for us. So, to require a man w/ the gift of celibacy to live a celibate lifestyle isn't actually a requirement or a restriction at all. What's interesting is that most men who enter the seminary have already been living lives of celibacy for several years, before it was ever an actual requirement for them.

All the Church wants people to do is live out there vocation.

neither does it mention it being "better" than marriage.
It does to, dude. Did you read the specific verses from 1 Cor 7 that I cited? Here they are again:

1 Cor 7:1,7-8,17,26-28,32-35,38 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. 17 Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. 38 So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

You may want to read that whole chapter again. Paul even says that it is only "by way of concession, not of command" that he allows marriage (cf. vs. 6).

its only a wish to Paul but he knows not everybody has that kind of gift. thats not the same as saying celibacy is better. am i wrong here?
Yes, I think you are. The very fact that he would rather people be as he is then to be married shows that he considers his lifestyle to be the more preferrable one. There are many other verses that express that same sentiment. Also, I know that Paul realizes that not everyone has that gift. The Church realizes that too, which is why she doesn't require men to be celibate if they haven't been given that gift.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

PS: Also see Part 7.

Daily with De Sales: 11/16/07

Happy are those whom God can direct as He wishes and who are submissive to His will, whether it be in time of tribulation or of consolation. However, the true servants of God have more love for the path of adversity as being more conformable to that of our Head. In fact, Christ did not want to work out our salvation and His glory except by means of the cross and opprobrium...and it along this path that He has always led His greatest and dearest servants.
-- Letters 1999;O. XXI, p. 41

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/15/07

We have no way of knowing whether the good which animates us at present will last for all our life. There is reason to doubt this, as nothing is so weak and subject to change as our will. However, we should not get unduly upset about all this but often present our will to the Lord, placing everything in His hands. Certainly He will keep renewing it as many times as is necessary for the course of our mortal life.
-- Sermons 61; O. X, p. 310

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Defending Priestly Celibacy: Part 5

Here is Part 5 in my debate on priestly celibacy. After I made my last response to "Devin," someone else by the name of "fromdeathtolife" chimed in. So, this post is my response to him. Part 6 is another response to Devin, who was reacting to what I had written to "fromdeathtolife." I hope that makes sense. Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 (or just peep the original thread for yourself).

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
I'm not sure why the Catholic church only chooses celibate men for the priesthood.
Read 1 Cor 7.

Phatcatholic, I appreciate your dialog on this issue very much. I think the Catholic church should reconsider this extreme requirement for the priesthood. With the gift of singleness not being very common among believers I think it is unwise to have such a strict requirement for the priesthood.
While it is true that marriage is the common vocation, men are being called to the priesthood every day. We shoudn't simply do away with celibacy simply b/c it is not as common as marriage, especially since Jesus specifically said that God calls certain men to live that life (cf. Mt 19:11-12) and Paul considers it the preferrable state (cf. 1 Cor 7, particularly vs. 1, 7-8, 17, 26-28, 32-35, and 38).

If a priest decided to get married to another believer because he did not have the gift of singleness I do not know why that should be grounds to remove him from the priesthood.
Well, there is no need to remove anyone of anything as long as the priest goes through the proper channels with which to remove himself.

The Church chooses as priests those individuals who are the most suited for the task, since it involves a life-long commitment to the Church (and to Her alone) and the responsibilities are many. The tradition in the Roman Rite is to side w/ Paul and decide that those most suited are the ones who are single. If a priest discerns that he was not given this "gift of singleness" like he thought he was then this means that he was not the most suited for the task after all. The honest, responsible thing for him to do then is to step down from the priesthood, instead of living a double life and forcing the Church to step in.

I hope that makes sense.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

PS: Also see Part 6.

Daily with De Sales: 11/14/07

Let us set out to practice certain virtues that are adapted to our weakness and that have more to do with descending than climbing. They are patience, tolerance, the service of others, humility, gentleness of soul, affinity, putting up with one's imperfections and similar small virtues. I do no say, of course, that at times it is not a good things to elevate ourselves by means of prayers, but this must be done slowly, slowly.
-- Letters 190; O. XII, p. 205

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Defending Priestly Celibacy: Part 4

Hhere is Part 4 in my debate with "Devin" on priestly celibacy. Mad props to anyone who has been keeping up with this debate so far. I hope it is helpful. Also see Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
does the Catholic church have the Biblical right to only choose Celebate men for their priesthood?
I would say so. After all, the Church is simply following the advice of St. Paul, who clearly says in 1 Cor 7 that it is more preferrable for pastors to be single, as Paul himself is. Of course, if he is single then he is consequently celibate, since sex outside of marriage is a sin (as I'm sure we all agree on).

and what if a priest decides to get married? would he be asked to resign from his position? is that biblical?
He would be laicized, which means that he would no longer be able to function as a priest. This is biblical for two reasons: one, b/c Jesus and Paul say that we must faithfully live out the vocation we have been given (cf. Mt 19:11-12; 1 Cor 7:17,20,24,26-27); and two, b/c we are called to obey those in the Church who are in charge of us (cf. 1 Thes 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 12:9; 13:7,17; 1 Pet 5:5). Indeed, we are looked down upon and judged harshly when we don't (cf. 2 Pet 2:10-12; 1 Jn 4:6; 3 Jn 1:9-11; Jude 1:8-11).

Regarding the first reason, if you have been called by God to live the life of celibacy, then you can't just turn your back on that later on. That would be unfaithful, both to God and to the Church, who you have devoted yourself to.

Now, to be fair, in rare cases it does happen that priests realize after being ordained that they were not called to the priesthood like they originally thought, and there is a process they can go through to leave the priesthood. But this is a very serious matter, and the priest has to be absolutely certain that he is truly called to some other way of life and not just giving in to sin and temptation.

If he goes through all the proper channels, he can leave the priesthood and still be in good standing with the Church. But, if he just marries someone in secret, while he's still a priest, then this is a very grave act of disobedience against the Church and the cause of much scandal of the faithful. This leads in to the second reason: respecting the elders.

The command to obey those in the Church who are in charge of us applies to all the faithful, including priests. There are Church laws that govern a priest's way of life and he is called as a faithful member of the Church to abide by those laws. He can't just live a double life and expect the Church not to care.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

PS: Also see Part 5.

Daily with De Sales: 11/13/07

One of the most important lessons for the spiritual life is that we must try to maintain unaltered evenness of spirit. We need to remain constantly fixed in our desire to seek God alone, no matter if everything within us and around us is confused. Our heart must unceasingly lean on the love of God, its Creator, whether our soul is overwhelmed with sorrow or with joy, with peace of with anxiety, with temptation or with repose.
-- INT. Part 4, Ch. 13; O. III, pp. 316-317

Monday, November 12, 2007

Poll-Release Monday #35

The new poll for this week is up. See the sidebar to vote. Here are the results from last week's poll:


No time for commentary today. Thanks everyone for your votes. Feel free to encourage other people to stop by and vote as well.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Did I Lose Some Brain Cells?

Apparently, this is my blog's reading level:



Of course, that was my reading level a couple of days ago. When I checked it again just now, it changed to "College: Undergrad." Who knows, maybe I'm getting dumber....

Anyway, don't forget that if you ever come across a word on my blog that you don't understand, just double-click it and a balloon will appear with the definition.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Daily with De Sales: 11/12/07

It is the evil spirit, deprived forever of sacred love, who would like to stop us from enjoying the fruits of that which the Holy Spirit wants us to practice. In holy relations between us, we find a means of more perfectly carrying out the heavenly will.
-- Letters 1519; O. XVIII, pp. 378-379

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can I Pray to My Grandmother?

Devin, from the HCR forum, recently asked the following question:

phat im confused. would you say its biblical to pray to my dead grandmother? or to ask for her to pray for me? i havent been in this thread for a minute. lol.
As a personal devotion, that would be ok. In other words, you can pray to her yourself, but you can't encourage or advertise prayers to her as a devotion for the whole Church. Then it becomes public devotion, or "popular piety", and that is regulated by the Magisterium.

Once the Church beatifies a person, the group of Catholics that propagated that person's cause for sainthood, or who have a particularly strong connection to him (usually b/c they are from the same country/region/religous order as he is) are allowed to pray to him. Once that person is canonized, the universal Church is permitted to do the same.

This regulation is meant to safeguard the piety of the Church's members and to ensure that this piety is always properly ordered (which is a very good and pastoral thing to do). You don't want Catholics praying to someone who did not exhibit true, heroic virtue, or, even worse, who lived a life of faithlessness.

I hope that answers your question.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

ps: To anticipate a possible misunderstanding, the Catholic Church does not "make" people saints, as if they weren't in heaven w/ God until the Church said so. Instead, She simply confirms what was already made so by God, as soon as He judged that person fit for heaven.

Daily with De Sales: 11/11/07

Do not be surprised at having distractions or at being cold and weary at prayer, as these are the effects of the sensitive and emotional part of our being and of the heart, over which we have little control. For this we should not give up going to Holy Communion, because no one can better recollect our spirit than its King; nothing can better warm it than the Sun; nothing can better sweeten it than such balm.
-- Letters 1382; O. XVIII, pp. 135-136

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/10/07

If we want to be saved, we must cling to the cross of our Savior, meditate upon it frequently and carry in us its mortification, there being no other path to Heaven. Our Lord was the first to tread it; so have as many ecstasies and raptures as you like... but if with these you do not remain attached to the cross and they do not help you to practice mortification, I tell you quite clearly that all this is vanity. Indeed, there is no other path nor any other gate through which you can enter Heaven except that of humility and mortification.
-- Sermons 38; O. IX, p. 412

Friday, November 09, 2007

Daily with De Sales: 11/9/07

God's will lies in exercising restraint amid consolations and in practicing patience in tribulations. Hearts that are resigned prefer the second because it contains more of God's will. To sum up, God's good pleasure is the supreme object of the soul. Wherever it sees it, it runs after it. It always searches for the place where there is more of it, without any other consideration. This soul is led on by God's will as by a beloved chain, and wherever His will goes, the soul follows. Yes, it would prefer hell to paradise if it knew that it would find a little more of God's good pleasure in hell than in Heaven.
-- T.L.G. Book 9, Ch. 4; O. V, pp. 121-122

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Defending Priestly Celibacy: Part 3

When asked why we couldn't use Paul as an example, Devin simply reiterated his position. Here is my response to that reiteration. Also see Parts 1 and 2.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
because Paul wasnt a bishop or deacon.he did not serve in that office. that is why we cant use him as an example.
On the contrary, all of the apostles (including Paul) were also bishops. James was the bishop of Jerusalem, yet he is an apostle. The position of Judas, another apostle, is described as "the bishoprick" in Acts 1:20 (KJV).

What's interesting is that the word for shepherd in the NT, poimen, is translated as "pastor" in Eph 4:11, and the KJV Greek Lexicon says that the word can be applied to "the overseers of the Christian assemblies." Our English word "pastor" comes from the Latin pastorem, which means "shepherd." This shows that the bishops were shepherds and pastors.

The role of the bishop, or "overseer," is compared to that of a shepherd in Acts 20:28, and Jesus gave Peter the task of shepherding in Jn 21:15-17. Peter is also traditionally considered the first bishop of the Church at Antioch, and the bishop of Rome shortly before his death. So, this too shows the pastorship of an apostle.

Finally, Paul, at the end of his life, is seen passing on a ministry to Timothy (cf. 2 Tim 4:1-6), and that ministry is "the office of bishop" (cf. 1 Tim 3:1). Paul also calls his position an "office" in Col 1:25. What's interesting is that, in this same verse, he applies the Greek word diakonos to himself, which is where we get "deacon" in the Bible.

Now, I do realize that there was some fluidity to the hierarchical positions in the early Church. They were not always as concretely defined as we have them today. But, that Paul was a part of this ministerial structure and a true pastor/shepherd of the churches is readily apparent. So, when we are trying to determine how pastors should live today, we can't simply ignore Paul when he says, "I wish that all were as I myself am" (1 Cor 7:7) and "he who refrains from marriage will do better" (1 Cor 7:38).

now maybe im wrong on rather or not deacons and bishops MUST be married. maybe its refering to them not having multiple wives. BUT i still think it would be wise for them to be married.
Well, from Paul's words in 1 Cor 7, it appears that the wiser of the two positions is the celibate one.

today alot of Pastors give marriage counseling. i certaintly wouldnt want advice on marriage from a guy that isnt even married himself. LOL.
I honestly mean no offense by this, but that is just an ignorant statement. I don't have to be a married man to provide marriage counseling anymore than I need to be addicted to drugs to do substance abuse counseling, or a wild teenager to counsel teens.

I counseled couples in a professional setting for 2 years before I went back to school for theology and I had relative success at it. Of course, experience is always helpful, but it's not necessary and you can certainly be just as successful without it.

For marriage counseling, you need to know what a good marriage looks like. You need to have a grasp of gender differences, how men and women typically communicate and handle their thoughts/feelings. You also need to know what the Church teaches about human sexuality and what a properly-ordered sex life looks like. Finally, you need a general understanding of sin and of the human condition. If you know these things you will do very well as a marriage counselor, and you can acquire the necessary knowledge w/o being married at all. I certainly did.

Often times, priests make the best marriage counselors b/c they are on the outside looking in. They gain much from their objective standpoint, by being able to observe what makes good marriages good and bad marriages bad. If I ever need marriage counseling, the first person I'm going to is a priest.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

PS: Also see Part 4.
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