Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Free Countdown to the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards

You can get your countdown in 2 easy steps:

1. Go here
2. Follow the directions [it's really easy]

Enjoy! You can see what the counter looks like in my sidebar. Also, if you know CSS you can modify it to look however you want it to.

The nomination process will begin on Sunday, February 4 at noon CST and end on Friday, February 9 at noon CST. Voting will be held the week of February 12-16. For more details, click on the pic.

Pax Christi,

Real Presence vs. "Do This in Memory of Me"

"Didacus" asked the following question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
There is one aspect of transubstantiation that I have difficulty explaining.

I know that in the french version of the bible, Jesus, at the last supper, when He distributed the bread and wine, said "Vous ferez cela en memoire de moi." which means "You shall do this in memory of me.".

I have trouble consolidating the fact that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ when He Himself siad this would be done in memory of Him. I am obviously missing an element somewhere in my thinking and understanding.

A little help please?
Doing this "in memory of Him" does not preclude His Real Presence in the Eucharist. It is not an either/or proposition, where doing this in memory of Him must logically mean He is not substantially present. Instead, it is a both/and proposition, in which our participation in the Last Supper is both a reminder of His sacrifice for us AND the reception of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Sacrifice of the Mass is reminiscent of many things. However, it is also a very REAL sacrifice, and a very REAL reception of our Lord and Savior. We must avoid the either/or mindset that utterly plagues protestant theology.

Also, to take this from another angle, when the Jews celebrated the Passover, it wasn't just for them a time of remembering what happened so long ago. They believed that the Passover they celebrated was a mystical re-presentation of the first Passover of their ancestors. And so, by instituting the Eucharist on the feast of the Passover, we have the old meal and the new meal literally coming together in the person of Jesus. He has infused his very self into the celebration replacing the old flesh and blood with His own Flesh and Blood.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

What Is Justification?

Martin Luther's "snow-covered dunghill"
"theculturewarrior" asked the following 3-part question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
What does it mean to be "justified?"
Here are some definitions from a few Catholic reference works:

1910 New Catholic Dictionary:
"That process in the soul of a sinner by which he is transferred from the state of enmity with God to the friendship of God."

New Advent Encyclopedia:
A biblio-ecclesiastical term; which denotes the transforming of the sinner from the state of unrighteousness to the state of holiness and sonship of God.

Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Almanac Online: Glossary:
The act by which God makes a person just, and the consequent change in the spiritual status of a person, from sin to grace; the remission of sin and the infusion of sanctifying grace through the merits of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit.

Pocket Catholic Dictionary: "Justification, Theology of":
The process of a sinner becoming justified or made right with God. As defined by the Council of Trent. “Justification is the change from the condition in which a person is born as a child of the first Adam into a state of grace and adoption among the children of God through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior” (Denzinger 1524). On the negative side, justification is a true removal of sin, and not merely having one’s sins ignored or no longer held against the sinner by God. On the positive side it is the supernatural sanctification and renewal of a person who thus becomes holy and pleasing to God and an heir of heaven.

Pocket Catholic Dictionary: "Justifying Grace":
The grace by which a person is restored to God’s friendship, either for the first time, as in baptism, or after baptism, as in the sacrament of penance.

Also see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1987-1995.

Here's is a helpful way that I have found to define justification as it relates to sanctification:
"Justification" seems to refer more to your standing before the Lord, your relationship with Him. "Sanctification" seems to refer more to the state of your soul, its "cleaniless" if you will. A soul that has been sanctified is without the stain of sin. One may also say that we are justified through sanctification by God's grace. In other words, once we have been cleansed ("sanctified") we can be said to be in right relationship with the Lord ("justified"). Justification could also be defined as "the state of being considered innocent; not indebted to anyone."
Now, on to your next question:
What is "justification by Faith?"
Well, most protestants believe that "justification by faith" means "an assurance of salvation that is granted to a person once he acknowledges that he is a sinful being, repents of his sin, and confesses that Jesus Christ is his personal Lord and Savior." Also, this assurance of salvation usually comes via imputed righteousness, or "the state of being declared righteous, in a judicial sense, even though we are in fact filthy."

However, as Catholics, we believe that "justification by faith" means "being truly made righteous via an infused grace that we receive through the sacraments, and of which we were compelled to seek because of our faith in Christ and His Church." In other words, the cognitive assent, in and of itself does not justify. Instead, faith justifies because it compels us to receive the sacraments, which justify us through the grace that they impart to us. Furthermore, this justification actually makes us clean, instead of merely declaring us clean when we aren't.

For more on this, see "Justification by Faith" in Galatians and Romans
What does it mean when I do that which I ought not to do, and do not do that which I ought to do?
This is from Rom 7, either vs. 15 or 19. Here are the verses in context:

Rom 7:14-25 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

With that, here are a few Catholic commentaries on this passage:

Navarre Bible Commentary:
14-25. As can be seen from the use of the present tense, the "I" in vv. 14-25 is no longer Paul before his conversion, but rather after it: and it also stands for all mankind redeemed by Christ's grace. Here we have a vivid description of the interior struggle which everyone experiences, Christians included. These words are in line with something we are all well aware of : in our bodies there is a "law", an inclination, which fights against the law of our spirit (cf. v. 23), that is, against the spiritual good which God's grace causes us to desire. The very expression "the law of sin which dwells in my members" emphasizes how strenuously our senses, appetites and passions try to reject the dictates of the spirit; however, the spirit can gain the upper hand. The Church's teaching is that Baptism does not take away a person's inclination to sin (fomes peccati), concupiscence: he or she still experiences a strong desire for earthly or sensual pleasure. "Since it [concupiscence] is left to provide a trial, it has no power to injure those who do not consent and who, by the grace of Christ Jesus, manfully resist" (Council of Trent, De peccato originali, can. 5).

The Jews were able to keep the Law of Moses only through the help of divine grace granted them in anticipation of the merits of Christ. Without grace they were like slaves "sold under sin" (v. 14). After Christ, a person who rejects the Redemption is in a similar position, for "in the state of corrupt nature man needs grace to heal his nature and enable him to avoid sin entirely. In this present life this healing is brought about in his mind [the spiritual part of man]: the carnal appetite is not completely healed. Hence the Apostle (Rom 7:25) says of the person healed by grace, 'I serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.' In this state a person can avoid mortal sin [. . .] but he cannot avoid all venial sin, due to corruption of his sensual appetite" (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 109, a. 8).

Hence our need for God's help if we are to persevere in virtue; hence also our need to make a genuine personal effort to be faithful. The St. Pius V Catechism, when dealing with the fact that even after Baptism man is subject to various disabilities, including concupiscence, explains that God has willed that death and suffering, which originate in sin, remain part of our lot, thereby enabling us to attain mystical and real union with Christ, who chose to undergo suffering and death; and, likewise, we still have concupiscence, and experience bodily weakness etc. "that in them we may have the seed and material of virtue from which we shall hereafter receive a more abundant harvest of glory and more ample rewards" (II, 2, 48). "'Infelix ego homo!, quis me liberabit de corpore mortis huius? Unhappy man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?' The cry is St. Paul's. --Courage: he too had to fight" (Bl. J. Escriva, The Way, 138).

14. After original sin, man was subject to his passions and exposed to the continuous assault of concupiscence--"sold under sin". Healed by Christ's grace in Baptism, he is free of this slavery, but not totally so: there is still this inclination to sin, and his enslavement grows the more he sins. On the other hand, if he responds to grace, he becomes ever more free." Just think: the Almighty, who through his providence rules the whole universe, does not want the force service of slaves; he prefers to have children who are free. Although we are born proni ad peccatum, inclined to sin, due to the fall of our first parents, he has placed in the soul of each and every one of us a spark of infinite intelligence, an attraction towards the good, a yearning for everlasting peace. And he brings us to understand that we will attain truth, happiness and freedom if we strive to make this seed of eternal life grow in our hearts" (Bl. J. Escriva, Friends of God, 33).

Igantius Study Bible:
7:15-20 On his own, man is unable to rise above his fallen condition or to close the distance between what he ought to do and what he actually does. This leads to the overwhelming sense of helplessness that Paul verbalizes in these verses (CCC 2542).

7:23 the law of sin: Traditionally called concupiscence, which is the inclination of fallen man to misuse his free will in sinful and selfish ways. It manifests itself as an unremitting desire for pleasure, power, and possessions. Even the baptized have to wrestle with this inner force, although Paul insists that the Spirit can igve us victory over its unmanageable urges (
8:2, 13). So concupiscence remains in the believer, but it need not rule us like a tyrant (6:12-14) (CCC 405, 1426, 2520).

7:24 who will deliver me . . . ?: The desperate cry of humanity apart from Christ.

7:25 I serve . . . sin: Insinuates that believers will continue to struggle with sin throughout their lives. There is thus an ongoing need for confession (
1 Jn 1:9) and forgiveness (Mt 6:12).

Fr. William G. Most, Commentary on the Pauline Epistles (The Thought of St. Paul): "Chapter 8. Letter to the Romans":
Summary of Romans 7:14-25

Paul [so no one will misunderstand his remarks about the law] says he knows that the law is spiritual. But he is fleshy. He has been sold under sin. He does not understand the way he acts. For he does what he does not wish, and hates what he does. In that case, since he does what he does not want to do, he agrees that the law is good. But it is no longer he who does such things, but the sin dwelling in him. He knows that good is not in him, in his flesh. For he can wish to do good, but cannot do good. For he does not do the good he wants to do, but he does the evil he does not want to do. In that case, not doing what he wants, it is no longer he who does it, but the power of sin dwelling in him. So he notices a pattern [law] in himself: when he wants to do good, evil is at hand. He is pleased with the law of God in his heart. But he sees a different pattern [law] in his body, making war against the pattern [law] of his mind, taking him captive in the law of sin, the law that is in his body. He exclaims: Oh! I am a wretched man! Who will rescue me from this death? [It will be grace, in chapter 8]. Praise to God through Jesus Christ! In his mind he wants to fully follow the law of God, but his flesh follows the law of sin.

Comments on 7:14-25

In the lines above, verses 7-13, Paul gave a historical -- theological picture of a person who is faced with the law, but does not have grace. This is, briefly, a focused picture. Of course, to be under a heavy demand, with no strength, means a fall. In these lines, verses 14-25, he repeats the same picture, but now in a psychological instead of an historical-theological perspective. So he says, more than once: I see the law is good. I want to obey it. But I cannot. So it is the power of sin in me that makes me fail. I am wretched! What will rescue me? It will be the regime of the grace of Jesus Christ, explained in a focused way in chapter 8. If one did not know about the focused perspective, he would probably take these lines as a factual picture of Paul, or any Christian. That cannot be true. Paul said in Philippians 3:6 that he even before his conversion had kept the law perfectly. And we notice the shift in verb times or tenses. In 6:17; 20-22 he said they formerly were slaves of sin: but no more. Yet here he says I am fleshy, as if still under sin. This makes sense only if the picture in chapter 6 was a focused picture of the regime of grace, but here we see a focused picture of the regime of the flesh. No wonder Luther wrote a book, The Bondage of the Will. He simply did not understand.

Fr. William G. Most, Basic Scripture: "Chapter 23. St. Paul's Epistles":
7:14-25: Paul repeats the ideas of 7-13, but in a psychological presentation. Within a focused picture, he can see what is right, but has no strength. So he is wretched. But Jesus, in chapter 8, will rescue him. If we did not understand the focusing here, we would seem to see the total corruption Luther imagined: we can see what is good, but cannot do it.

I know that all of this is a lot to digest. Just take your time with it, and pray about it. If you have any more questions about this, just let me know.

Pax Christi,

Monday, January 29, 2007

God's Will and Our Rejection of Him

"littlewilli" asked the following question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
Considering that I am correct in stating God's Will is perfect and the things that happen in our day-to-day lives are all a part of God's Will, how does that include the people the reject God?

How can people reject God but yet God's Will is still done through them, due to everything is a part of God's Will, or is God's Will still done through them?
It is important first to distinguish between the "active" and the "passive" will of the Lord. Those things that come as a direct result of the action of the Lord are the product of his active will. God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. Those things that come as an indirect result of His action are the product of his passive will. The rejection and subsequent eternal damnation of some men is the result of God's passive will.

God wills that man have the free choice to accept Him. Thus, the ability of man to freely choose God (as opposed to being forced to choose Him) is a product of the Lord's active will. However, a consequence of this ability to freely choose Him is the reality that some men may end up in hell for freely rejecting Him. This is still a part of His will because it exists within a paradigm that He willfully created.

Furthermore, theologians make a distinction between what the Lord wants or desires, and what he wills. As it pertains to this topic, although the Lord may desire that all men be saved, He wills that some may not. This is because He wills that man have the ability to freely choose Him, and the consequence of that is that some may reject Him. An every day example of "want" vs. "will" is a father who desires never to have to spank his child but who still does so when it is in the best interest of the child.

To this some may wonder, "If it is obviously better for man that he end up in heaven, why doesn't the Lord just force every man to accept Him?" To that I say, "Because that is not Love." God IS love, and love, by its very nature, implies free assent. Any relationship that is forced upon another person is not a loving relationship. And so, it is because He loves us and because He wills, for our sake, that we love Him too, that He has given us the ability to freely choose (or reject) Him.

Finally, note that, while Catholics rightfully acknowledge that eternal damnation is an object of the Lord's passive will, we also assert that God actively damns no man (as "double predestination" would hold). God gives to every man the opportunity for salvation. For more on predestination, go here.

I hope that answers your question.

Pax Christi,

No More Snap

Yea, I got rid of the Snap Preview Anywhere™ enhancement. It was kind of annoying, huh.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Scripture Commentary by Fr. William G. Most

According to the Catholic Culture website, Fr. William G. Most was "one of the most distinguished Catholic teachers, theologians and Scripture scholars of our time. His long teaching career, extending well over 50 years, was marked by unswerving fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, theological brilliance, and an ability to communicate clearly to layman and professional alike." At Catholic Culture, you can read all of Most's theological works (more than 230).

This is an amazing service, but, if you are only interested in his commentary on Scripture, you'll have to do some wading through this vast collection in order to find what you are looking for. Since truly orthodox Catholic commentary on Scripture is difficult to find online, I felt it would be most beneficial to pull from the Most Theological Collection all of the Scripture commentary that he has written and organize it in canonical order. That's what I have done here.

Note that if an individual book is not hyperlinked, this is because a commentary was not devoted solely to this book. Instead, you can read a summary of the book in the section heading, which is hyperlinked. For example, there is no commentary for the letter of James, but if you click on "Catholic Epistles and Revelation" you can read a few paragraphs on that letter.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -
OLD TESTAMENT *For commentary on Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Jonah see also Pre-exilic Prophets. For commentary on Ezekiel, Obadiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachai see also Exilic and Post-exilic Prophets.

  • Gospels and Acts [two commentaries: A -- B]
  • Pauline Epistles [four commentaries: A -- B -- C -- D]
    • Romans
    • 1 Corinthians
    • 2 Corinthians
    • Galatians
    • Ephesians
    • Philippians
    • Colossians
    • 1 Thessalonians
    • 2 Thessalonians
    • 1 Timothy
    • 2 Timothy
    • Titus
    • Philemon
    • Hebrews [two commentaries: A -- B]
  • Catholic Epistles and Revelation

Hans Urs von Balthasar Reading Group

I just received the following email from Adam Janke, my good friend and webmaster of Catechetics Online. He is hoping to form an online group to read and discuss Balthasar's great "Trilogy" of theological works on God and man. Here are the details:
We are now forming a group which will read and discuss the "Trilogy" (16 volumes) of the man who has been considered the greatest theologian since Karl Barth and the premier theologian of the 20th century. Since most of us are busy our reading plan will cover either 4 or 5 years. It will be conducted over the Internet on either a dedicated forum just for this purpose or through an email group. If you know anyone that might be interested in this reading group, please pass the word along and have them email me. We are hoping to get together at least 10 people who are interested in the reading group, and at least a couple of people who are familiar with Balthasar's thought and can help guide us. We want to start sometime in the next month.

For more information on what we will be reading, I have included a summary of each book:

Part I: The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics
Probably the most important sustained piece of theological writing to appear since Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, von Balthasar's work restores aesthetics and contemplation to their rightful place in Christian theology. Armed with a remarkable knowledge of the theological and metaphysical traditions as well as of Western letters, von Balthasar shows how the Biblical vision of the divine glory, revealed in the crucified and risen Christ and reflected in the great theologies of the Christian tradition, fulfills and transcends the perception of Being in Western Metaphysics.
Volume I - Seeing The Form
The work opens with a critical review of developments in Protestant and Catholic Theology since the Reformation which have led to the steady neglect of aesthetics in Christian theology. From here, von Balthasar turns to the central theme of the volume: the question of theological knowledge. He re-examines the nature of Christian believing (here he draws widely on such theological figures as Anselm, Pascal, and Newman) which gives due place to the particular kind of 'knowing' which develops within the personal relationship of the believer to the God mediated through the revelation-form of Jesus Christ.

Volume II - Clerical Styles
What von Balthasar offers here is a typology of the relationship between beauty and revelation which shows that there neither has been nor could be any truly great and historically fruitful theology which was not expressly conceived and born under the constellation of beauty and grace. This volume specifically offers a series of studies of representative figures from the earlier period of Christian theology - Irenaeus, Augustine, Denys, Anselm and Bonaventure.

Volume III - Lay Styles
This volume specifically offers a series of representative figures from the later period of Christian theology - Dante, John of the Cross, Pascal, Hamann, Soloviev, Hopkins and Peguy.

Volume IV - The Realm of Metaphysics in Antiquity
This fourth volume considers the metaphysical tradition of the contemplation of Being. He provides major studies of Homer, the Greek Tragedians, Plato and Plotinus and the development of this tradition in the Middle Ages. He then explores the analogy between the metaphysical vision of Being and the Christian vision of the divine glory of the Trinity.

Volume V - The Realm of Metaphysics in the Modern Age
This volume presents a series of studies of representative mystics, theologians, philosophers and poets and explores the three main streams of metaphysics which have developed since the catastrophe of Nominalism. the way of self-abandonment to the divine glory is traced through figures like Ekhart, Julian of Norwich, Ignatius, de Sales; the attempt to relocate theology and beauty through figures like Nicholas of Cusa, Holderlin, Goethe, Heidegger; the metaphysics of spirit through Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Idealists. The strengths and weaknesses of these ways are relentlessly exposed. This volume ends with the search for the Christian contribution to metaphysics.

Volume VI - Theology: The Old Covenant
This volume initiates von Balthasar's study of the biblical vision and understanding of God's glory. Starting with the theophanies of the Patriarchal period, it shows how such glory is most fully expressed in the graciousness of the Covenant relationship between God and Israel. But the breaking of that relationship by Israel means that in the later books of the Old testament, the divine glory is seen in God's willingness to bear with his people in the dark side of their history. There is no final version of God's glory in the Old Testament. In the 500 years before Christ the Covenant relation is more idea than reality. The vision of the transcendent glory of God which is developed in the later writings, is only fragmentary. It will find its strange and unexpected fulfillment in the new Covenant.

Volume VII - Theology: The New Covenant
In this final volume of part one, von Balthasar reflects on the New Testament vision of God's revelation of his glory in Christ. This divine 'appearing' is grounded in the self-emptying of the eternal logos in the incarnation, cross and descent into hell. Christ is the man who represents God and is also God; he is a symbol of the world and is also the world. He dies, but in dying rises into the eternal life of God. It is in Christ's incarnation and resurrection that the Christian vision is truly expressed and the joining of God and the world in the new and eternal covenant is realized.
Part II: Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory
Here it is "the good" which provides the key. Here being as splendid, to be contemplated (beauty) now appears as the goal of our striving (the good). Von Balthasar maintains that it is in the theatre that "man attempts a kind of transcendence endeavoring both to observe and to judge his own truth, in virtue of a transformation...by which he tries to gain clarity about himself". Von Balthasar sees the phenomenon of theatre, the sheer fact that there is such a thing as structured performance, as a virtually untapped source of fruitfulness for theological reflection. His aim will be "to show how theology underlies it all, how all the elements of the drama can be rendered fruitful for theology."
Volume I - Prolegomena
In this volume von Balthasar shows how many of the trends of modern theology point to an understanding of human and cosmic reality as divine drama. He will then consider objections to such theological dramatic theory and also the relationship between the Church and the theatre. This volume assembles the materials and the themes that will make it possible in subsequent volumes to develop this theological dramatic theory.

Volume II - Dramatis Personae: Man in God
Where the first volume surveyed the great world dramatists to gather concepts and ideas to apply to the real stage, which is the universe God has made and entered into himself as an actor. This volume describes the actors, the dramatis personae. This is his theological anthropology concerning man, his freedom and destiny in light of the biblical revelation. Von Balthasar is concerned here with the dramatic character of existence as a whole, approaching the topic through a consideration of the various conditions and situations of mankind as a drama that involves both the Creator and his creatures.

Volume III - Dramatis Personae: Persons in Christ
This is considered the most central book of the entire trilogy. It contains von Balthasar's synthetic treatment of the central mysteries of the Catholic Faith: Christ, Mary, the Church, man and the Trinity.

Volume IV - The Action
Von Balthasar now turns to the action of the divine drama itself. Here we find his soteriology, where time, freedom, history, power, sin, conflict are seen in the light of the Cross, the culmination of the action and passion of God and man.

"Here we discern the unity of 'glory' and the 'dramatic'. God's glory, as it appears in the world- supremely in Christ- is not something static that could be observed by a neutral investigator. It manifests itself only through the personal involvement whereby God himself comes forth to do battle and is both victor and vanquished. If this glory is to come within our range at all, an analogous initiative is called for on our part. Revelation is a battlefield. Those who do battle on it can only be believers and theologians, provided they have equipped themselves with the whole armor of God."

Volume V - The Last Act
This volume is trinitarian, focusing on the mystery of God. He draws heavily on scripture and many passages from the works of the mystic Adrienne von Spyer. Some of the topics covered include "A Christian Eschatology", "The World is from the Trinity", "Earth Moves Heavenward", "The Final Act: A Trinitarian Drama."
Part III: Theo-Logic
Theo-logic is the crowning part of the great trilogy of the masterwork of von Balthasar. Theo-logic is a variation in theology, is being about not so much what man says about God, but what God speaks about himself. Balthasar does not address the truth about God until he first reflects on the beauty of God (The Glory of the Lord). Then he follows with his reflections on the great drama of our salvation and the goodness and mercy of the God who saves us (Theo-Drama). Now, in this work, he is ready to reflect on the truth that God reveals about himself, which is not something abstract or theoretical, but rather concrete and mysterious richness of God's being as a personal and loving God.
Volume I - The Truth of the World
Explored in this volume are the topics:
  • Truth as Nature
  • Truth as Freedom
  • Truth as Mystery
  • Truth as Participation
Volume II - The Truth of God
Topics include:
  • Divine and Human Logic
  • The Possibility of Christology
  • Logos and Logic in God
  • Kata-logical Aspects
  • The Word Was Made Flesh
Volume III - The Spirit of Truth
Topics Include:
  • The Holy Spirit as Person
  • The Father's Two Hands
  • The Role of the Spirit in the Work of Salvation
  • The Spirit and the Church
  • Spirit and World
  • Upward and Onward to the Father!
A summary of the whole series divided into the following aptly named sections: Forecourt, Threshold, and Cathedral.

Adam also provided the following short bio on Balthasar:
About Hans Urs von Balthasar
Born in Lucerne in 1905, after studying at the universities of Vienna, Berlin and Zurich von Balthasar completed a Ph.d. at Zurich in 1929 and continued his theological and philosophical studies in Munich, Lyon and Basel. He has won several academic prizes and has been awarded honorary doctorates at Edinburgh, Munster and Fribourg universities and the Catholic University of America. A Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, he was also a Foreign Associate of the Institut de France. He died in July, 1988.

If you are interested in joining this group, email Adam at:
  • adam4jmj at gmail dot com
Pax Christi,

The Morality of "Burning" CD's

"Totus Tuus" asked the following question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
For my going away party, I was going to give a CD of my favorite songs as gifts to my friends. I am wondering if anyone knows if that would be morally acceptable, because I would be burning the CDs and giving them away. I know it’s legal for you to burn CDs for your own use, but is it moral to give them away? Thanks for the input.
I'm not an expert on copyright law, but I believe that if you make the CD with songs that you rightfully own (as in, you are ripping the songs off of CD's that you purchased) and you give the CD to someone as a gift instead of selling it to them, then that is permissible. Downloading songs to make a CD would be permissible as well, as long as you use a subscription service like Yahoo Music or Napster that has permission from record companies to provide their music. Be careful with this though, because some downloading programs require you to pay for the service, but they are still providing the songs illegally.

Pax Christi,

Friday, January 26, 2007

The History of Apologetic Theology and Its Contemporary Role

My twin brother Matt, a seminarian at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore and the man in charge of the School of Mary blog, just posted a great but oh-so-short paper on apologetics. Well, that's right up my alley, so I'm posting it here too.

Pray for Him, that the Lord will make him a shepherd for His people, if it be His will.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -

The History of Apologetic Theology and Its Contemporary Role

Though it has recently been absorbed by many into “fundamental theology,"[1] apologetics has been a distinct practice as long as man has had hope and the need to give a reason for it. Indeed he has never been at a loss for an occasion to do so. Whether it was in establishing God’s self-revelation through his Son in the New Testament, or defending against the errors of the Reformation, or more recently standing athwart relativism and modernism, apologetics has undergone a long and complicated history of change in method and purpose. Here we will take a brief look at this history of apologetic theology and then examine its contemporary role.

For our purposes here we will take as our guide, Avery Cardinal Dulles who has masterfully presented a history of apologetics broken up into seven periods: the New Testament, the Patristic Era, the Middle Ages, the sixteenth century through the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century, the twentieth century before the Second Vatican Council, and the twentieth century after the Second Vatican Council.[2]

In the gospels and letters of the New Testament, Cardinal Dulles argues that we do not find apologetics texts, per se. What we find are gospels and letters “primarily concerned with telling the story of Jesus and with drawing the consequences of that story for belief, for worship, and for the practical conduct of human life."[3] But this certainly does not mean that the New Testament is bereft of any elements commonly associated with apologetics. For example, St. Paul defends the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by presenting as evidence first Christ’s appearance to Cephas and the twelve (an appeal to authority), then to the “five hundred brethren at one time” (an appeal to sheer number of witnesses), and finally to his own first-hand experience. He then continues to explain the consequences if there is indeed no resurrection of the dead, as some are arguing, and the logic behind Christ’s resurrection.

In the Patristic Era, of the second century through St. Augustine, we find the first master of a concerted effort and discipline of apologetics, St. Justin Martyr. In his apology to the emperor Antoninus Pius, St. Justin describes the faith of the early Christians as essentially reasonable. “This reasonableness supports everything they practice and profess and is (or should be) their defense against unjust persecutions and accusations."[4] This purpose sets the tone of apologetics for the Patristic Era, one that moves from explanation to brave defense against both persecution and the influence of Jewish and pagan teachings. “Against the Jews they still urge, most of all, the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies, interpreting them in the light of the new fact of Christ.[5] With the fourth century onward, Cardinal Dulles draws attention to the markedly positive accommodation of Hellenistic elements into Christian apologetics. Giants of this period like Clement, Origen, Athanasius, and Augustine were quick to take the goods of “Greek and Roman antiquity” and show how they shined in a Christian framework.

Moving to the Middle Ages, we find the Doctor of the “greatest century,” St. Thomas Aquinas. His Summa contra gentiles marks the pinnacle of medieval apologetics whose role was to respond to “the failure of the Crusading movement, together with the incursion of Arabic philosophy into the West.” But, before him came St. Anselm and his reflections on the relationship between faith and reason especially in his Monologion, his Prosologion, and his Cur Deus homo.[6] Many other works of the period from Peter Alphonsi, Hermann of Cologne, Rupert of Deutz, and Peter the Venerable (who Cardinal Dulles calls “the most eminent twelfth-century apologist”) are works against Muslims and Jews but were also at times for them, i.e. for their salvation. Indeed, Peter approaches the Muslims not “as our people often do, by arms, but by words; not by force, but by reason; not in hatred, but in love."[7] The most influential lead to St. Thomas though is Peter Abelard.
His “Quaestio” method of theology, in which a question was raised, a defense was made, an opposing argument was given, and then a conclusion was drawn, became the form for theology and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. This theology benefited greatly from the goldmine of Aristotle’s works preserved by Islam. His works were soon translated into both Latin and Arabic and had a lasting effect on theology and apologetics up to the present day.[8]
Our next period in the history of apologetics is the sixteenth century through the eighteenth century, a period marked heavily by the Protestant Reformation. Here we find apologetics from Protestants against certain abuses in the Church, against the Magesterium and Tradition, and in support of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The Church in turn tried in her apologetics to bring the Reformers and their followers back into the fold but made little progress.
Finally a council was called, one that would influence the Church and her apologetics until the Second Vatican Council. This was the Council of Trent which ran from 1545 to 1563(4). In the Council, and in response to the Reformation, the Church was very defensive and scholastic and condemned Luther and the Reformers. Here the role of apologetics, as blessed by the Council, was to explain her decrees, clarify dogma proposed by the Reformation, correct abuses, and condemn the Protestant Reformers.[9]
Apart from the influence of the Reformation, Cardinal Dulles explains that the apologetics of this period was also heavily influenced by the break from religious unity that characterized the Middle Ages. The sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries saw “hostile religious camps”, religious literature of which “controversy became the dominant form”, “inter-Christian polemics”, “skepticism and religious indifferentism,” and the blatant attack from “forces of the Enlightenment."[10] For the first time its role was to respond to direct rejection and attack. Cardinal Dulles observes that
the initiative in this period no longer lies with the protagonists of the Christian cause but rather with the adversaries… [the former] seem unable to turn the tables on the adversaries by mastering and correcting the new currents of thought – as Origen had done for middle Platonism, Augustine for Neoplatonism, and Aquinas for Averroistic Aristotelianism.[11]
This brings us to the fifth of Cardinal Dulles’ seven periods of the history of apologetics, the nineteenth century. In this century, the role of apologetics was to answer the rapidly increasing notions of “an inward apologetic of the heart”: individualism, subjectivism, feeling and movements of the heart, and faith resting “not simply on external authority but rather on personal motives that are subjectively compelling though objectively insufficient."[12] Other challenges included the progress of natural and historical knowledge (i.e. Darwinism), biblical criticism, and comparative religion. But, alas, due to all of this, Cardinal Dulles states that the nineteenth century is “unquestionably one of the most fruitful in the entire history of Christian apologetics” because it had so much to respond to and with such intense complexity. This period also saw a master in John Henry Cardinal Newman, the “leading Catholic apologist of the nineteenth century and one of the greatest of all time."[13] He was most concerned with the criteria of religious knowledge, the problem of faith and reason, the apostolicity of the Catholic Church, and the “history of his religious opinions” (via Apologia pro vita sua).

Finally, we come to the twentieth century, first looking at the period before the Second Vatican Council. Here apologetics was faced with a new challenge. Cardinal Dulles explains that before,
The apologist, speaking from the stable platform of official Christianity, whether Protestant or Catholic, had only to refute the adversaries and convince them of their errors. With the rise of deism, and even more, under idealism and liberalism, the lines between defense and attack became increasingly blurred.[14]
For the first time, apologists were not so sure they were defending the same faith. Here, inter-church apologetics became increasingly important. There was competition between a defensive type and a revisionist type of apologetics. Important and still very popular figures from this period are Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Henri de Lubac, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis.

Following the Second Vatican Council, the status of apologetics was criticized and put into question partly out of reaction to its association with the earlier manuals, based on the “neo-Scholastic analysis fidei.” Cardinal Dulles presents what Claude Geffre, O.P. wrote in The Development of Fundamental Theology:
[T]he term “fundamental theology” is now preferred to describe Christian apologetics. It is not simply that in an age of dialogue the word “apologetics” is discredited. It is rather, and more profoundly, that we have become conscious of the weakness of apologetics when it pretends to be able to prove the fact of revelation on historical grounds. We can only be sure of divine revelation within the experience of faith.[15]
Henri Bouillard concludes that apologetics and fundamental theology cannot be separated.

Today though, we still see the traditional practice of apologetics as a reasoned defense of faith distinct from serving as a foundational/fundamental instrument or function (though, to be sure, it is that too). This is most vivid in the revival of Catholic apologetics in the United States. Figures such as Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Peter Kreeft, Sheldon Vanauken, Thomas Howard, Dale Vree, Ronald K. Tacelli, and Scott and Kimberly Hahn[16] are at the forefront of this resurgence that has provided much revitalization and confidence to the Catholic Church in America, a Church beaten down in many ways by priestly scandals, false allegations, and bankruptcies. Their success in large part can be attributed to their return to the “stable platform of official Christianity” after American Catholics for four decades have been doubting and wondering exactly where and what that platform is.[17] Finally, two more popular figures have also satisfied this hunger: the beloved Pope John Paul II and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Both have “lifted up the radiant beauty of Jesus Christ as grounds for adhering to Him in a loving submission of faith. For them, the figure of Christ as given in Scripture and in the liturgy is its own evidence. No complicated arguments from history or source criticism, they believe, are needed."[18] And as Pope John Paul II has said, “Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently."[19]
- - - - - - - - - -

[1] We will see later how and why this occurred.
[2] See A History of Apologetics, by Avery Cardinal Dulles, Ignatius Press, ©2005, revised edition
[3] Dulles, p. 1
[4] “On St. Justin Martyr’s Apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and the Contemporary Work of the Church,” by Matthew Hardesty for HS 500, Ancient and Medieval Christianity
[5] Dulles, p. 88
[6] Cf. Dulles, p. 99
[7] Dulles, p. 106 quoting Peter the Venerable’s A Book against the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens.
[8] See lecture summary, “Fundamental Theology Notes on the History of Theology,” by Matthew Hardesty on notes given by Fr. Hy Nguyen in SL 500, Fundamental Theology
[9] See second lecture summary, “Fundamental Theology Notes on the History of Theology, Continued”
[10] Dulles, p. 145
[11] Dulles, p. 206
[12] Dulles, p. 210
[13] Dulles, p. 245
[14] Dulles, p. 271
[15] Dulles, p. 326-327
[16] See Dulles, p. 343
[17] Dulles has a helpful comment: “In such a time as our own, when many Christians find it especially difficult to articulate the reasonableness of their faith, it can be particularly profitable to review the record of the past”, p. xxi
[18] Dulles, p. 366
[19] Dulles, p. xiii quoting Pope John Paul II on the mystery of revelation

Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Snap Preview Enhancement

I added the Snap Preview Anywhere™ enhancement to my blog so that now, when you hover your mouse pointer over a link, a small window pops up that allows you to preview the site before you click on it's link. I think it's pretty dope. What do you think? Let me know.

Pax Christi,

Expanding My Reach

I want my apologetical work, and all the resources I have collected in my sidebar and in the Catholic Defense Directory to be available to every single person alive.....not because I need the ego boost, or the popularity, or the money (well, I do need the money, but that's not why I'm doing this). I do it because I feel that I can be of use to people in the propogation of God's Word and of the Truth of His Holy Church.

I accomplished one small step towards that end today. I am now the blog editor of the Catholic apologetics blog sponsored by Stblogs.com. I consider this an honor because they only have one apologetics blog that is sponsored by the site and meant to represent the site, and you have to be invited to be an editor of a topical blog. Other editors may be added, but until then, it's just me.

Basically, the content of that blog will come from this blog. So, anything I have ever posted or will in the future post that is specifically apologetical in nature will also be posted at the Stblogs apologetics blog. This is good because Stblogs gets quality content, and you get to have all of my apologetics in one place, instead of mixed in with the Q&A's, theological papers, and other miscellaneous posts and updates that I publish on this blog from time to time. The design is pretty dope too.

Praise be to God for allowing me to reach more people with his Word.

Pax Christi,

More on Sinning Against the Holy Spirit

In response to my previous post on sinning against the Holy Spirit, "Jon" made the following comment:
Using Hebrews as the exegetical point; Couldnt the argument be that apostacy is the unforgivable sin. Not despair? Despair, as an emotion. Is temporary in nature. Depression is a horrible thing, but I would not consider it a sin, rather a fault in a fallen world.
I believe the Hebrews passage you are referring to is from Ch. 6:

Heb 6:4-8
4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.
7 For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.

Seeing this (and also Heb 10:26-39), I think one could rightly add "apostasy" to the list of sins that are unforiveable insofar as they lead one to final impenitence. However, I would not include it with final impenitence as a sin that is absolutely unforgiveable.

Yes, Paul does say that "it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened....if they then commit apostasy," but what he has in mind is the state of the apostate for as long as he remains separated from the Church. As long as a man remains in a state of apostasy, he cannot be forgiven because he is willfully living a life in rejection of the Church and her teaching. Such a man surely cannot be forgiven for the simple fact that he is not seeking forgiveness, and he has separated himself from the very Sacraments that insure his forgiveness. But, if he turns away from apostasy and embraces the Church again, he will be surely taken in and forgiven. Paul has in mind the obstinant man, not the contrite one.

As for despair, it is much more than an "emotion" or a part of our fallen world. It is a sin against hope. This is what the Catechism says about despair:
2091 The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption:
By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God's goodness, to his justice - for the Lord is faithful to his promises - and to his mercy.
A few Catholic reference works are also helpful here:

1910 New Catholic Dictionary:
Despair -- (Latin: desperare; to lose hope) Psychologically, the passion contrary to hope; morally, the abandonment of all hope of salvation or of the means required for it; not merely an anxiety about one's future state, or fear that one may be lost, but a deliberate yielding to the conviction that human nature cannot cooperate with God's grace, that one's sins are unpardonable, or that Almighty God has cast one away. It is an offense against God's goodness and mercy, temptation to which should be resisted not only for moral but for physiological reasons also, since it commonly results in melancholy, or in sinful indulgence.
Catholic Glossary:
Despair -- Abandonment of hope for salvation arising from the conviction that God will not provide the necessary means for attaining it, that following God’s way of life for salvation is impossible, or that one’s sins are unforgivable; a serious sin against the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues of hope and faith, involving distrust in the mercy and goodness of God and a denial of the truths that God wills the salvation of all persons and provides sufficient grace for it. Real despair is distinguished from unreasonable fear with respect to the difficulties of attaining salvation, from morbid anxiety over the demands of divine justice, and from feelings of despair.
Pocket Catholic Dictionary:
Despair -- The sin by which a person gives up all hope of salvation or of the means necessary to reach heaven. It is therefore not mere anxiety about the future or fear that one may be lost. It is rather a deliberate yielding to the idea that human nature cannot co-operate with God's grace, or that the despairing person is too wicked to be saved, or that God has cast one away. It is a grave crime against God's goodness. Experience also shows that a tendency to despair can seriously injure one's physical and mental health, and ironically can lead to all kinds of sinful indulgence. (Etym. Latin de, the opposite of + sperare, to hope: desperatio, hopelessness, despair.)
As you can see, despair is a very serious matter. It is more than just depression, or sadness, or perhaps some lingering doubts about God's love for you (we are all inclined to such feelings at one time or another). Despair has an element of persistence, and a dogged refusal to believe that God can do anything to save you, help you, heal you, etc. It is a denial of the goodness and power of God. As such, it is most certainly sinful.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

ps: for the sake of clarification, I also slightly modified my descriptions of "obstinancy" and "impenitence" in my previous post.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sinning Against the Holy Spirit

"PadrePioOfPietrelcino" asked the following question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
The Bible tells us (I can't find the verse right now) that the only unforgivable sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I have never really heard an explination as to what this entails. Could you help?
Well, first of all, here is the verse in question:

Mk 3:28-30
28 "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;
29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" --
30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

Now, theologians identify six sins as being "against the Holy Spirit." They are:

1. despair
2. presumption
3. final impenitence
4. obstinacy in sin
5. resisting the known truth
6. envy of another's spiritual welfare.

Final impenitence is the only one among them that is unforgiveable in the absolute sense. This is because final impenitence means dying without remorse for the sin you have committed. With your very last breath you can pray for forgiveness. But, if you waste those precious seconds, if you persist in sin to the very end, then there is no longer any hope for forgiveness. Even Purgatory only cleanses us of the temporal punishment due to sin and our various attachments to sin.

All the other sins are "unforgiveable" insofar as they lead a person towards final impenitence. Despair can cause us to think to ourselves, "God won't forgive me" or "God can't forgive me." This, of course, leads us to reject the forgiveness of the Spirit because it would all be "pointless" or "meaningless" or "ineffective" if God didn't care. Presumption leads to impenitence because it causes us to assume that we are in right relationship with the Lord and thus do not need forgivness, when we really do. Obstinancy in sin certainly leads us down the road of final impenitence because it is a stubborn refusal to turn away from sin and seek forgiveness. Resisting the known truth would lead to unforgivness because it consists of a person denying that the Holy Spirit forgives sin through the Sacrament of Penance or through a prayer made in perfect contrition. Why repent if the Spirit does not actually work through our instruments for repentance? Finally, envy does this by causing us to reject the Spirit because we are bitter that another person has been blessed so abundantly and we seemingly have not. This would thus cause contempt towards the Spirit for not blessing us as equally as our neighbor.

The Pocket Catholic Dictionary summarizes this rather nicely:
SINS AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT. Major offenses that carry a stubborn resistance to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and a contempt of his gifts. They are despair of one's salvation, envy of another's spiritual good, opposing known truths of faith, obstinacy in sin, presumption of God's mercy, and final impenitence. Because those who sin in this way, resisting grace, do not wish to repent, we say that their sins cannot be forgiven them.
The Navarre Bible Commentary is also very helpful:
28-30. Jesus has just worked a miracle but the scribes refuse to recognize it "for they had said `He has an unclean spirit'" (verse 30). They do not want to admit that God is the author of the miracle. In this attitude lies the special gravity of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit--attributing to the prince of evil, to Satan, the good works performed by God Himself. Anyone acting in this way will become like the sick person who has so lost confidence in the doctor that he rejects him as if an enemy and regards as poison the medicine that can save his life. That is why our Lord says that he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not forgiven: not because God cannot forgive all sins, but because that person, in his blindness towards God, rejects Jesus Christ, His teaching and His miracles, and despises the graces of the Holy Spirit as if they were designed to trap him (cf. "St. Pius V Catechism", II, 5, 19; St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa theologiae", II-II, q. 14, a. 3).
For more on sinning against the Holy Spirit, see Section VIII "Sins Against the Holy Ghost" in the New Advent article on the Holy Ghost.

Pax Christi,

Updated Profession of Faith

You may remember that when I made my profession of faith for the new year, I used the profession required under the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Lat., Codex Iuris Canonici, or CIC). Well, I have since found the profession required under the 1983 CIC, which supercedes the 1917 CIC. Consequently, I have updated my profession of faith to be in conformity to the 1983 CIC (and John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem). You can read it here.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa and the Redeeming Value of Sickness and Suffering

Someone left a comment on my earlier post on "Patron Saints for Victims of Sexual Assult" and recommended that I add Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904-1955) to the list. Whoever left this comment also provided a link to a short biography of Alexandrina. This woman's story is.....well.....words cannot describe it. I updated my post to include her. Here is her bio [You can also view a photo of Alexandrina, and read JPII's homily for the mass celebrating her beatification]:
  • Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born on 30 March 1904 in Balasar, Portugal. She received a solid Christian education from her mother and her sister, Deolinda, and her lively, well-mannered nature made her likeable to everyone.

    Her unusual physical strength and stamina also enabled her to do long hours of heavy farm work in the fields, thus helping the family income.

    When she was 12, Alexandrina became sick with an infection and nearly died; the consequences of this infection would remain with her as she grew up and would become the "first sign" of what God was asking of her: to suffer as a "victim soul".

    The consequences of sin

    When Alexandrina was 14, something happened that left a permanent imprint on her, both physically and spiritually: it gave her a face-to-face look at the horror and consequences of sin.

    On Holy Saturday of 1918, while Alexandrina, Deolinda and a young apprentice were busily sewing, three men violently entered their home and attempted to sexually violate them. To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling four metres to the ground.

    Her injuries were many, and the doctors diagnosed her condition as "irreversible": it was predicted the paralysis she suffered would only get worse.

    Until age 19, Alexandrina was still able to "drag herself" to church where, hunched over, she would remain in prayer, to the great amazement of the parishioners. With her paralysis and pain worsening, however, she was forced to remain immobile, and from 14 April 1925 until her death - approximately 30 years - she would remain bedridden, completely paralyzed.

    Alexandrina continued to ask the Blessed Mother for the grace of a miraculous healing, promising to become a missionary if she were healed.

    Little by little, however, God helped her to see that suffering was her vocation and that she had a special call to be the Lord's "victim". The more Alexandrina "understood" that this was her mission, the more willingly she embraced it.

    She said: "Our Lady has given me an even greater grace: first, abandonment; then, complete conformity to God's will; finally, the thirst for suffering".

    Mission to suffer with Christ

    The desire to suffer continued to grow in her the more her vocation became clear: she understood that she was called to open the eyes of others to the effects of sin, inviting them to conversion, and to offer a living witness of Christ's passion, contributing to the redemption of humanity.

    And so it was that from 3 October 1938 until 24 March 1942, Alexandrina lived the three-hour "passion" of Jesus every Friday, having received the mystical grace to live in body and soul Christ's suffering in his final hours. During these three hours, her paralysis was "overcome", and she would relive the Stations of the Cross, her movements and gestures accompanied by excruciating physical and spiritual pain. She was also diabolically assaulted and tormented with temptations against the faith and with injuries inflicted on her body.

    Human misunderstanding and incredulity were also a great cross for her, especially when those she most expected would "assist" her - members and leaders of the Church - were adding to her crucifixion.

    An investigation conducted by the Curia of Braga resulted in a circular letter written by the Archbishop which contained a series of "prohibitions" regarding Alexandrina's case. It was the result of a negative verdict made by a commission of priests.

    In addition and by way of spiritual comfort, after her spiritual director, a Jesuit priest who had helped her from 1934 to 1941, stopped assisting her, a Salesian priest, Fr Umberto Pasquale, came to her aid in 1944.

    Nourished only by the Eucharist

    On 27 March 1942, a new phase began for Alexandrina which would continue for 13 years and seven months until her death. She received no nourishment of any kind except the Holy Eucharist, at one point weighing as few as 33 kilos (approximately 73 pounds).

    Medical doctors remained baffled by this phenomenon and began to conduct various tests on Alexandrina, acting in a very cold and hostile way towards her. This increased her suffering and humiliation, but she remembered the words that Jesus himself spoke to her one day: "You will very rarely receive consolation... I want that while your heart is filled with suffering, on your lips there is a smile".

    As a result, those who visited or came into contact with Alexandrina always found a woman who, although in apparent physical discomfort, was always outwardly joyful and smiling, transmitting to all a profound peace. Few understood what she was deeply suffering and how real was her interior desolation.

    Fr Pasquale, who stayed close to Alexandrina throughout these years, ordered Alexandrina's sister to keep a diary of her words and her mystical experiences.

    In 1944, Alexandrina became a member of the "Union of Salesian Cooperators" and offered her suffering for the salvation of souls and for the sanctification of youth. She kept a lively interest in the poor as well as in the spiritual health of those who sought out her counsel.

    "Do not offend Jesus anymore!'

    As a "testimony" to the mission to which God had called her, Alexandrina desired the following words written on her tombstone: "Sinners, if the dust of my body can be of help to save you, come close, walk over it, kick it around until it disappears. But never sin again: do not offend Jesus anymore! Sinners, how much I want to tell you.... Do not risk losing Jesus for all eternity, for he is so good. Enough with sin. Love Jesus, love him!".

    Alexandrina died on 13 October 1955. Her last words: "I am happy, because I am going to Heaven".
"God helped her to see that suffering was her vocation...." Suffering as a vocation?!?! Such a thing is nearly unfathomable, yet Paul would ensure "that no one be moved by these afflictions. You yourselves know that this is to be our lot" (1 Thes 3:3). Indeed, the vocation of suffering is one to which every Christian is called:

Lk 9:23 And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Rom 8:16-17 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

2 Tim 3:12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

I pray that Jesus Christ will grant me the grace to respond to suffering the way that Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa did. She is an amazing patron for those who have been sexually assulted, and for anyone who endures intense suffering in this life. Praise God that "this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Cor 4:17). For more on the redeeming value of sickness and suffering, go here.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, January 21, 2007

See You at the March!

I'm headed off to the March for Life! This is my first time going, so I'm really excited. I'll be gone all day Monday, of course, so I won't be posting again until Tuesday. In the meantime, you can go here and read 56 articles on the scourge of the planet that is abortion.

Pray for me that I don't get lost or mugged.

Pax Christi,

On Infallibility and Choosing the Successor of Peter

"Philippe" asked the following question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
I was telling my friend about the Papal infallibility and i was telling him about how the Holy Spirit is speaking through the Pope....
Well, first of all, you need to refine your terminology here. Infallibility does not mean that the Holy Spirit "speaks through" the pope, like the Holy Spirit did with the authors of the Bible. That is called inspiration. Infallibility is a passive act of the Holy Spirit in which He ensures that what the pope says is true, not by actively giving him the true words, but by ensuring that whatever conclusions the pope draws with his own human abilities will be protected from error.
....and then he asked me how the Holy Spirit guides the Cardinals when they are selecting a new Pope. I wasnt really sure how to answer this for him since its hard for me to explain many things since he is a Muslim and so definitions are a lil different. Your help on this topic would be greatly appreciated.
I think we find an excellent example of this in how the apostles chose the successor of Judas (cf. Acts 1:15-26). The apostles came together as a group, prayed to the Holy Spirit that He would guide them to make the right decision, and then the successor was chosen.

Note however that it is possible that a group of cardinals, who's hearts are not open to the promptings of the Spirit, may not choose the best man for the job. In the past, men have been chosen to succeed Peter who have caused much scandal to the faithful. But, we can still rest easy knowing that the perfect doctrine of the Church will never be corrupted. One way the Church remains holy is through the gift of infallibility, even though she be comprised of both saints and sinners.

For the particulars regarding the election of a pope, go here.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Isa 24:5 and the "Great Apostacy"

"zunshynn" asked the following question in the Q&A board at Phatmass:
My friend used Isaiah 24.5 to justify the Mormon doctrine of the Great Apostasy. "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." She says that when people started changing ordinances, which they believe are basically the sacraments... marriage, baptism, communion, confirmation, etc, they fell into apostasy and God took the Church to heaven. But so, what are ordinances in the Catholic Church?
I hope you'll excuse me if I offer a better question instead: What is Isaiah referring to here and how does it apply to Catholic Christianity?

The Navarre commentary is very helpful:
24:1-27:13. This third section of part one of the book of Isaiah contains texts of different sorts, but mainly visions and eschatological oracles. Many scholars call this section the "Apocalypse of Isaiah", or the "Great Apocalypse" as distinct from a later, shorter section (34:1-35:10) of a similar type, usually called the "Little Apocalypse". The "Great Apocalypse" is made up of a collection of eschatological oracles that was given its present form after the Babylonian exile. They announce the sentence that the Lord will pass on the whole world, describing in great detail the cataclysms of the "day of the Lord". At the very end, after a catastrophe of cosmic proportions, God will reward the righteous with the messianic banquet that marks the definitive victory of the righteous scattered throughout the nations. Interspersed among these oracles are lyrical poems in praise of God's special providence towards his people and their victory over enemies and oppressors.

24:1-23. The oracles addressed to the nations (13:1-23:18) revealed God's judgment against each nation; now, this terrible oracle announces a chastisement that will affect the whole cosmos. It speaks of the entire population of the world being destroyed (vv. 1-3); of the effects of this on all living things (vv. 4-16;); and of the ultimate destruction of the earth and all that it contains (vv. 16b-23).

The oracle speaks of a cosmic catastrophe affecting the entire earth and even the heavens (v. 4)--all because men have transgressed the laws and broken the "everlasting covenant" (v. 5). This latter probably means the covenant with Noah (Gen 9:8-17); because men have failed to keep it, it weighs as a curse that will bring down upon them all kinds of misfortune, from which only a small remnant will escape (v. 6).

As we already saw (in the accounts of the origins of the world), when mankind went about its business without reference to God, it was scattered across the face of the earth (cf. Gen 11:1-9). Here, too, the city is emptied and left desolate (vv. 8-12). Even so, in the midst of universal desolation, there are those who joyfully sing of their deliverance (vv. 13-20), as happened in the exodus after the crossing of the Red Sea. On "that day", too, as at the time of the Flood, the Lord will reveal his power by punishing sinners, while also manifesting his glory as he reigns from Jerusalem (vv. 21-23).

The "west" (v. 14), in Hebrew the "Sea", means the Mediterranean and by extension the west. The "host of heaven" (v. 21) refers to the stars, regarded as gods in the Assyrian-Babylonian myths.
Now, here's what I think we take from all of this. Since Isaiah 24 is part of his "Great Apocalypse" about the end of time, the description of those who break the covenant (v. 5) is a foreshadowing of those who will be found transgressors of the New Covenant when Jesus comes again.

With this understanding, we find that your friend is wrong on two counts: one, because Isaiah is referring to the end of time, not to a "Great Apostacy" in the early Church, and two, even if this were referring to a falling away of the true faith early in the history of the church, your friend is begging the question by saying that this applies to Catholicism. In other words, you have to believe that the Catholic Church has contradicted the true faith before you can claim that this verse applies. This your friend has yet to prove.

So, the task of your friend is to prove that the Church has really fallen away. This he will be hard-pressed to do. For one, no matter what date he assigns for when the Church apparently fell away, you'll be able to find testimony from Christians before that date that attests to Catholic beliefs. Secondly, to say that the Church has ever fallen into doctrinal error is to basically call our Lord a liar when he said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (cf. Mt 16:18) and that He will always be with the Church, until the end of the age (cf. Mt 28:20).

I hope that helps

Pax Christi,
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