Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Eucharist and the Thanksgiving Holiday

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

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

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

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

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

1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:

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

Thanksgiving and praise to the Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What Is the Catholic Understanding of the Gospel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, see the following articles:

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Catholic Q&A: Part 39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Quick Explanation of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, October 04, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, August 28, 2015

Reclaiming Augustine

Protestant apologists, especially of the Reformed/Calvinistic variety, love to claim Augustine as an early Church Father who professed their unique beliefs on grace, predestination, authority, and many other topics. I personally think such an exercise is an ahistorical grasping at straws and a false reading of a very Catholic man.

Since today is St. Augustine's feast day, it is as good a day as any to reclaim Augustine and plant his theology firmly within the mind of the Church. Dave Armstrong has a post on his blog that goes a long way towards achieving that end. On all of the following doctrines, Dave has provided quotes from the works of Augustine that show the Catholicity of his thinking:
  • Apostolic succession
  • Baptism
  • "Catholic" Church
  • Church authority
  • Contraception
  • Deuterocanonical books
  • Eternal security
  • Eucharistic adoration
  • Real Presence in the Eucharist
  • Faith Alone
  • Irresistible grace
  • Mary: Mother of God, perpetual virgin, sinless
  • Sacrifice of the Mass
  • Merit
  • Mortal and venial sin
  • The papacy and the Roman See
  • Penance
  • Primacy and preeminence of Peter
  • Prayers for the dead
  • Purgatory
  • Relics
  • Invocation/intercession/veneration of the saints
  • Scripture alone
  • Sacred Tradition

It really is an amazingly helpful post! He has several other articles on the thought of St. Augustine as well:
For my part, I have a small post that answers the question, "Did Augustine Invent Original Sin?" What do you think?

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, May 01, 2015

St. Joseph the Worker

May 1st is the optional memorial of St. Joseph the Worker. It is interesting that the "most chaste spouse" of Mary is distinguished from the many other "St. Joseph's" by his reputation as a worker. He is the symbol of the "hard-working man," the man who does his job well and with diligence because he hopes to serve the Lord and to support his family with it. Pope Pius XII created this feast day for the very purpose of emphasizing this noble purpose of work and to place all who labor under the patronage of St. Joseph.

For more on St. Joseph and this feast day, see the Catholic Culture Liturgical Calendar for May 1st, or see my previous post, In the Hands of St. Joseph, which is an extensive compilation of articles on this wonderful husband, father, and saint.

Also, check out the following video. It's a homily by Fr. Liam Cary, Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Medord, OR:

St. Joseph: Devoted Father, Man of Pure Faith


St. Joseph the Worker and Mary's Most Chaste Spouse ... ora pro nobis.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Catholic Q&A: Part 38

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

What is the difference between the 6th and 9th commandments?

In Old Testament times, it was easier to see the distinction between the two commandments. The sixth commandment ("Thou shall not commit adultery") condemned the specific act of having sex with a married person, whereas the ninth commandment ("Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's wife") condemned covetousness, the desire to have what someone else possessed. This is evident in the fact that a man's wife was listed with his house, servants, and animals as things that a person should not covet.

But, once Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount, where He explained that one commits adultery even by looking lustfully at a woman, then the line was blurred between the two commandments. In the Catechism, the article on the sixth commandment addresses human sexuality, chastity, spousal love, and sins against chastity and the dignity of marriage. The article on the ninth commandment addresses covetousness, concupiscence, purity of heart, and modesty.

Would the priest be in the wrong if he said a warning to the congregation about receiving the Eucharist unworthily and telling non catholics they cant receive before the distribution?

No, but I also think that, with the typical Sunday Mass, it is not necessary. But, at Masses where it is likely that there are a number of Protestants in attendance, such as a wedding Mass or a funeral Mass, I personally think such warnings should be made as a matter of course.

The men of the old testament had circumcision, was there anything the women had to do as a mark of the covenant?

Not that I'm aware of. My educated guess is that women were considered part of the covenant people as long as they were married to or the daughter of a circumcised male.

I know a person who's step son and his step sons wife are not practicing catholics. They did not have either of their children baptized so this guy was babysitting the kids one night and baptized them in the bathtub without the parents knowledge. Would this baptism stand?

No, it would not. A lay person is only permitted to baptize in the case of an emergency, such as when the child is near death or if the child was from a village or some remote area where there were no priests or deacons available. It would also be invalid because a baptism cannot be performed without a well-founded hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith. As you said, the parents aren't Catholic, so that hope is not present unless someone presents himself and says that he/she will bear that responsibility.

I listened to a Fulton Sheen cd a while back and i remember him saying that a husband or a wife can save their spouse through their own prayer and sacrifice. For some reason I'm having trouble finding that in the Bible. Can you help me out?

You are probably referring to 1 Cor 7:14-16:
"For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?"

Uzzah laid hands on the arc of the covenant and was struck down. Why?

Because the Ark of the Covenant was so holy that no one was allowed to touch it. That's why it was constructed with rings along the edge, so they could run a pole through the rings and carry it that way.

How was David a man of Gods own heart yet he committed adultery an murder. How can he retain that title?

David was a man after God's heart, that doesn't mean he was perfect. He sinned grievously, but he also admitted his sin to the Lord and did penance for it. In the accounts of the life of David and in the psalms that he wrote, we see that David was a great man of faith who loved God's law and never ceased to praise Him.

How can Ezekiel and Jesus both have the title of Son of Man?

"Son of man" is a phrase that simply means that someone is a human being. It is repeated so often in Ezekiel in order to show that, even though the prophet was God's spokesman, he was still an ordinary man. He is a human being just like his fellow men. It also shows the great disparity between him and God. God is the Almighty, Ezekiel is the creature, the son of man.

In reference to Jesus, the title reinforces the fact that while Jesus is fully divine, He is also fully human. Jesus probably also used this title for Himself in order to indicate that He was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel, who said, "I saw in the night visions,and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." (Dan 7:13-14)

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Resources for Ash Wednesday and Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. So as to enrich your mind and answer any questions you may have about this season, I have constructed the following Q&A, as well as a list of resources with which you can learn more.

I will be updating this post often as I find more articles to add. If anyone has any questions, just let me know.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q #1: What is Ash Wednesday?
A: From the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, we read:
  • ASH WEDNESDAY. The first day of Lent. Named from the custom of signing the foreheads of the faithful with blessed ashes. Its date depends on the date of Easter. In the early Church, public penitents were liturgically admitted to begin their penance on this day. And when this fell into disuse, from the eighth to the tenth centuries, the general penance of the whole community took place. This was symbolized by the imposition of ashes on the heads of the clergy and laity alike.

Q #2: Why put ashes on your forehead?
A: From the EWTN liturgical calendar, we read:
  • The liturgical use of ashes originated in the Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1). Job repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). Jesus made reference to ashes, "If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago" (Matthew 11:21).

    In the Middle Ages, the priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, "Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." The Church adapted the use of ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins. In our present liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we use ashes made from the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross and saying, "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return," or "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

    As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven.

Q #3: When we put a cross of ashes on our head, aren't we disobeying the words of Christ when he said, "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven"?
A: These words of Christ come from His advice on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (the three duties of Lent) in Mt 6:1-18. His main point is that these forms of piety should not be done so as to receive glory from men. The purpose, instead, is to give glory to God and to grow closer to Him.

It is true that when we put ashes on our head, we will definitely "be seen by men." But, that is not why we do it. We do it because it is a reminder to us and to the world that we come from dust, and to dust we shall return (cf. Gen 3:19). We should always keep the fact of our mortality and our contingency at the forefront of our mind. We live holier lives when we inform all of our decisions by the simple truth that we all must die. The cross itself is a symbol of the death of Jesus Christ and of our own necessity to die to self so that we may rise with Him to new life. As the answer to Q #4 has already stated, we also put ashes on our forehead because ashes are a symbol of mourning and penance.

Basically, we do not do our deeds to be seen by men, like the scribes and Pharisees did (cf. Mt 23:1-7). Our boast is not in ourselves, but in the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 1:31).


Q #4: Why is there no holy water on Ash Wednesday (or throughout Lent)?
A: While many parishes are known to remove holy water during Lent, this is in fact not allowed. From the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith we have the following correspondance:
  • Prot. N. 569/00/L
    March 14, 2000

    Dear Father:

    This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

    This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:

    1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
    2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

    Hoping that this resolves the question and with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    [signed]
    Mons. Mario Marini
    Undersecretary


Question #5: What is Lent?
Answer: From the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, we read:
  • LENT. The season of prayer and penance before Easter. Its purpose is to better prepare the faithful for the feast of the Resurrection, and dispose them for a more fruitful reception of the graces that Christ merited by his passion and death.

    In the Latin Rite, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for forty days, besides Sundays, until Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday occurs on any day from February 4 to March 11, depending on the date of Easter.

    Originally the period of fasting in preparation for Easter did not, as a rule, exceed two or three days. But by the time of the Council of Nicaea (325) forty days were already customary. And ever since, this length of time has been associated with Christ's forty-day fast in the desert before beginning his public life.

    According to the prescription of Pope Paul VI, in revising the Church's laws of fast and abstinence, "The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation throughout the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of Great Lent, according to the diversity of rites. Their substantial observance binds gravely" (Paenitemini, III, norm II).

    Besides fast and abstinence on specified days, the whole Lenten season is to be penitential, with stress on prayer, reception of the sacraments, almsgiving, and the practice of charity. (Etym. Anglo-Saxon lengten, lencten, spring, Lent.)

Q #6: Where did we get the word "Lent"?
A: From the Online Etymology Dictionary, we read:
  • Lent: short for Lenten, from Old English lencten "spring," the season, from West Germanic *langa-tinaz (cf. Old Saxon lentin, Middle Dutch lenten, Old High German lengizin manoth), from *lanngaz (root of Old English lang "long") + *tina-, a root meaning "day" (cf. Gothic sin-teins "daily"), cognate with Old Church Slavonic dini, Lithuanian diena, Classical Latin dies "day." The compound probably refers to the increasing daylight. Church sense of "period between Ash Wednesday and Easter" is peculiar to English.

Q#7: Why is Lent 40 days?
A: Lent is 40 weekdays because in Scripture we see that a time of 40 typically precludes a new birth or renewal of some kind. Noah was in the ark 40 days before life could begin again on earth. Moses was on Mt. Sinai 40 days before he brought the people the 10 Commandments. The Israelites wondered in the desert 40 years before entering the Promised Land. And, of course, Jesus fasted in the desert 40 days before beginning His ministry. So, following in their footsteps, we spend 40 days in preparation for the resurrection and the life that Easter brings.

Q#8:
Why do Catholics "give something up" for Lent? Is this something I'm required to do?

Beyond fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence on every Friday during Lent, Catholics will often choose something to give up, or refrain from doing. While not strictly required, this is a good way to embrace the penitential character of the season.

Some people take this opportunity to overcome bad habits, like biting your nails, or smoking, or cursing. Others will give up something they enjoy (like ice cream, or television, or Facebook) in order to have a small sacrifice to offer to the Lord. Whatever you do during Lent to unite yourself to the “Suffering Servant” is a good and laudable thing. One should also keep in mind that Lent is just as much about taking on positive actions (like prayer, alms giving, works of mercy, etc.) then it is about the negative actions of avoiding things.

Q #9: What does it mean to "fast"?
A: From the Online Etymology Dictionary, we read:
  • fast (v.): Old English f├Žstan "to fast" (as a religious duty), from Proto-Germanic *fastejan (cf. Old Frisian festia, Old High German fasten, Old Norse fasta), from the same root as fast (adj.). The original meaning was "hold firmly," and the sense evolution is via "firm control of oneself," to "holding to observance" (cf. Gothic fastan "to keep, observe," also "to fast"). Presumably the whole group is a Germanic translation of Medieval Latin observare "to fast."
From Colin B. Donovan, STL, we read:
  • Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Q #10: What does it mean to "abstain"?
A: From Colin B. Donovan, STL, we read:
  • The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Moral theologians have traditionally considered this also to forbid soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

    On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. Since this was not stated as binding under pain of sin, not to do so on a single occasion would not in itself be sinful. However, since penance is a divine command, the general refusal to do penance is certainly gravely sinful. For most people the easiest way to consistently fulfill this command is the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year which are not liturgical solemnities. When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, we neither abstain or fast.

    During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere, and it is sinful not to observe this discipline without a serious reason (physical labor, pregnancy, sickness etc.).

For more on fasting and abstinence, see Life in the "Fast" Lane.


RESOURCES

Ash Wednesday:

Lent:

Stations of the Cross (a popular devotion during Lent):

My Blog Posts

Some of these posts were not originally written for the season of Lent, but they still pertain to the spirit and themes of the season and what we struggle with as we prepare for the Resurrection of the Lord.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

For the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor

[The following list is far from comprehensive]

About Him and His Works:
Works by St. Thomas Aquinas
For more works by St. Thomas Aquinas, see Thomas Aquinas' Works in English and Bibliography

I leave you with Fr. Barron's words on this towering figure of Catholic philosophy and theology:



St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor and the Church's greatest theologian ... pray for us.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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