Friday, March 30, 2007

"Haight" Speech: Part 3

This is Part 3 in my series listing some of the more noteworthy statements in Roger Haight's book Jesus Symbol of God. Also see Part 1 and Part 2.


p. 58: The historian seeks to interpret Jesus within the context of the relationships that constituted the world of Jesus during his lifetime. [. . .] The historian seeks to transcend his or her present context in order to grasp Jesus precisely as having existed in another context. [. . .] The theologian, by contrast, seeks to draw Jesus forward and understand him within the context of the present situation.

p. 63: A symbol, it was said, is something that communicates by pointing to something else. In a religious symbol, like the kingdom of God, that "something else" is transcendent or other-worldly, is not known directly or objectively, but only by faith and hope, and always through some historical symbol. The symbol mediates the object of faith. The kingdom of God as used by Jesus was such a symbol, and one should understand Jesus' language here as religious and symbolic language.

p. 64: Jesus is not therefore to be understood as predicting an event of which he had direct knowledge, and which would happen at a certain time or in a certain way. Rather he is expressing the conviction that God will act for human salvationa nd that God's action is even now ready to occur, however it will happen concretely.

p. 66: In sum, the centering characteristic of Jesus as a religious figure in first-century Palestine was his prophetic preaching of the kingdom of God for the restoration of Israel. This provides the framework for interpreting him; other aspects of his story would be integrated into this one.

p. 79: Instead of making first-century Palestine the horizon of interpretation, this presentation is influenced by today's situation and the question of salvation and human liberation as it is experienced today. But at the same time it deals with Jesus.

p. 81: The New Testament says that Jesus spoke with authority. One could infer this from the emergence of the Jesus movement. Jesus made an impact on people; he was remembered as one who had authority. But authority in religious matters is ultimately mediational; it is the ability to disclose and mediate the authority of God or ultimate reality in one way or another.

p. 82: It is most difficult to determine what exactly the events behind any given miracle story were. They are undoubtedly embellished, and in some cases created later to make a point about how Jesus was perceived by faith. The particular historicity of the events behind the miracle stories is simply not known. But this is not really important.

p. 86: The quest for the historical Jesus is not and will never be conclusive. Despite this historical inconclusiveness, the quest is important as a corrective of manifestly false interpretations of Jesus, and as a stimulus of a concrete historical imagination relative to his person. But the theologian must move beyond the quest, because, after the most adequate historical reconstruction has been accomplished, the theologian still must interpret Jesus for our time.

More to come as I find the time...

Pax Christi,

"Haight" Speech: Part 2

You may recall from an earlier post that Roger Haight's book Jesus Symbol of God was one of the books we were scheduled to read in my Christology class (by way of critique, of course). Well, we've been reading it for a few weeks now, and I thought it would be helpful to make a series of posts with some of the juicier statements from the book. For those who, for whatever reason, can't read the book, this series will at least give you some idea of what we are dealing with here.


p. xii: The apologetic intention of this christology leads to a method that is frequently characterized as "from below."

p. xiii: Because this is a christology from below, Jesus is called "Symbol of God," for although this symbol is a sacrament and never "merely" a symbol, "symbol" is the broader and more recognized interdisciplinary category.


p. 6: Negatively, the final criterion for Christian theological interpretation cannot lie in another theological interpretation. The "orthodoxy" of a particular theological position cannot be another theology, because all such interpretations are human projects, historically conditioned, and in themselves relative to the encounter with God's presence that they express and mediate. Positively, however, the measure of orthodoxy must be said to lie in the faith of the community.

p. 7: One may assume the negative stipulation that scripture cannot be used in such a way that the mere citation of a pasage is enough to establish a theological position.

p. 11: From different perspectives faith both changes and remains constant in history, across time and cultures; belifs, too, may change and still consistently reflect a perduring faith. Existential faith gives beliefs their realism; changing beliefs give faith a flexibility to engage new cultures.

p. 14: In the light of these two premises, that all faith and revelation are historically mediated, and that symbols can be divided into conscious and concrete symbols, we can state in a straightforward way the place of Jesus Christ in the Christian religion: for Christians, Jesus is the concrete symbol of God.


p. 30: If the term "valid" were used ina more practical sense to connote apologetically sensitive, communicative, engaging, credible, and successful, it might well be argued that christology from above is precisely not valid today.

p. 35: The logic governing this hermeneutical theory intends that interpetation be faithful to the intrinsic meaning of the past, in its particularity and circumscribed by its situation. At the same time interpretation breaks open that particularity and grasps its universal relevance in an expanded meaning that has a bearing on life today and is accompanied by a claim to truth.

p. 39: But it is becoming increasingly clear through Jesus research that some later New Testament interpretations and, afortiori, dogmatic interpretations were not part of Jesus' self-understanding. [. . .] History appears to undercut the imaginative portrait of Jesus that has accompanied certain dogmatic conceptions of him.

p. 40: Jesus continues to mediate the presence and consciousness of God to the Christian community for its salvation. Thus one can see repeated in the life of the community, and in its understanding of who Jesus Christ is, this formal genetic structure of Jesus being the historical mediation of God to human existence.

p. 49: This christology will attend to the data about Jesus proposed by Jesus research.

More to come in Part 3...

Pax Christi,

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Material Sin: Part 2

You may recall from my first post on this topic that "BV" officially stumped me regarding whether or not material sin results in a moral evil. My initial thought was to say yes to this question, based on the objective "rightness" or "wrongness" of every action. After all, it is true that certain actions are sinful regardless of our knowledge of their sinfulness. But, "BV" pointed out some information in the very sources I used to support my position that seemed to say that moral evil need not result from such actions, despite their objectively sinful nature (see his comments to my original post). Today I was finally able to talk to a professor about this, and I think I understand things a little better, although I admit that my thoughts still need more definition.

Basically, from what I gather, I was wrong. A moral evil results when we willfully do something that we know to be wrong. If our conscience informs us that an action is wrong and we do it anyway, we sin. Note that moral evil results from a sin knowingly and willfully committed.

Now, in the case of someone who performs an action without knowledge of it's sinfulness--although objectively speaking, or at the level of the abstract, his action is morally wrong--the result of his action will not be a moral evil because of the absense of knowledge that was present. Conversely, if, objectively speaking, an action is morally permissible but a person's conscience is so formed that he is certain the action is morally wrong, then if he performs this act he sins, and moral evil results.

Keep in mind the definition of moral evil: the willful performance of an action to which the conscience objects. Even though in all reality his action was permissible, we must not forget that malice is the motive behind any action performed in the face of knowledge, however faulty, that an action is wrong. Such a response is always sinful and results in moral evil.

I'm pretty sure that this is the gist of what my professor told me. If I discover later that corrections need to be made, I will let you know. Perhaps I'll email him and see if he agrees with what I have written here. What do you think about this? Let me know.

Pax Christi,

One Step Closer to World Domination

I have some good news today! I now have my own column at Catholic Daily.

This is still a relatively new website, sort of like Catholic Exchange but not as cumbersome. I dig it, and I think it will become increasingly popular as more and more people discover the site. A few other bloggers are contributing writers as well, including David Jackson, Denise Hunnell, Sarah Reinhard, and the man, the myth, the legend that is Carl Olson.

With my column I'll basically answer a new question related to Catholicism each day. Until I start receiving questions from visitors to the site, we'll just be posting questions that I have already answered on my blog. To be honest, I don't always feel qualified to do something like this. I feel like someone more knowledgeable than me, like Carl Olson or Jimmy Akin, should be fielding questions from people. But, if I don't know the answer to the question, I certainly know where to go to find it. The last thing anyone could say about me is that I lack the resources (Exhibit A). So, I think we'll be alright.

Pray for me that I will always do justice to our Lord and His Church.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Popular Quotations from Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

I found these quotes in a Facebook group and I wanted to post them on my blog so that more people can benefit from them. Plus, I've recently become obsessed with Catholic quotations.

According to the group, most of the following quotations can be found in the book Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian, by Maria Di Lorenzo.
  • "I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharist Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles."
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  • “Our life, in order to be Christian, has to be a continual renunciation, a continual sacrifice. But this is not difficult, if one thinks what these few years passed in suffering are, compared with eternal happiness where joy will have no measure or end, and where we shall have unimaginable peace.”
  • - - - - - -
  • "All around the sick and all around the poor I see a special light which we do not have."
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  • “What wealth it is to be in good health, as we are! But we have the duty of putting our health at the service of those who do not have it. To act otherwise would be to betray that gift of God.”
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  • "You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be so? As long as Faith gives me strength I will always be joyful!"
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  • "Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves... With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God's law."
  • - - - - - -
  • "Come, and your every sacrifice will be repaid in heaven, because Jesus Christ promises that everything we do for the poor in His name, we do for Him. You do not want to deny Christ this love, He whose infinite love for humanity gave Himself to us in the sacrament of the Eucharist, as our Comforter and the Bread of Life."
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  • "A Catholic cannot help but be happy; sadness should be banished from their souls. Suffering is not sadness, which is the worst disease. This disease is almost always caused by atheism, but the end for which we are created guides us along life's pathway, which may be strewn with thorns, but is not sad. It is happy even through suffering."
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  • "May peace reign in your soul... any other gift we possess in this life is vanity, just as all the things of this world are vain."
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  • "In order to be Christian, our lives must be a continual renunciation and sacrifice. However, we know that the difficulties of this world are nothing compared to the eternal happiness that awaits us, where there will be no limit to our joy, no end to our happiness, and we shall enjoy unimaginable peace. And so, young people, learn from our Lord Jesus Christ the meaning of sacrifice."
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  • "We who, by the grace of God, are Catholics, must not squander the best years of our lives as so many unhappy young people do, who worry about enjoying the good things in life, things that do not in fact bring any good, but rather the fruit of immorality in today's world. We must prepare ourselves to be ready and able to handle the struggles we will have to endure to fulfill our goals, and, in so doing, to give our country happier and morally healthier days in the near future. But in order for this to happen we need the following: constant prayer to obtain God's grace, without which all our efforts are in vain; organization and discipline to be ready for action at the right moment; and finally, we need to sacrifice our own passions, indeed our very selves, because without this sacrifice we will never achieve our goal."
  • - - - - - -
  • "When you are totally consumed by the Eucharistic fire, then you will be able more consciously to thank God, who has called you to become part of His family. Then you will enjoy the peace that those who are happy in this world have never experienced, because true happiness, oh young people, does not consist in the pleasures of this world, or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we only have if we are pure of heart and mind."
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  • "In God's marvelous plan, Divine Providence often uses the tiniest twigs to do good works... What would life be without acts of charity?"
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  • "Foolish is he who follows the pleasures of this world, because these are always fleeting and bring much pain. The only true pleasure is that which comes to us through faith."
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  • "We are living through difficullt days because the persecution against the Church is raging more than ever, but this should not frighten you, brave and good young people. Always remember that the Church is a divine institution and it cannot come to an end."
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  • "I ask you to pray a lot for me, because I desperately need from God the grace to carry out my projects to good effect... Only prayers can obtain from God the desired improvement."
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  • "The faith given to me in baptism suggests to me surely: by yourself you will do nothing, but if you have God as the center of all your action, then you will reach the goal."
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  • "In a world gone astray from God there is no peace, but it also lacks charity, which is true and perfect love... Nothing is more beautiful than love. Indeed, faith and hope will end when we die, whereas love, that is, charity, will last for eternity; if anything, I think it will be even more alive in the next life!"
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  • "With every day that passes, I grow more and more convinced how ugly the world is, of how much suffering there is, and, unfortunately, of how it is the good who suffer the most. Meanwhile, we who have been given so many of God's blessings have repaid Him poorly. This is an awful reality that racks my brain; while I'm studying, every so often I ask myself: will I continue on the right path? Will I have the strength to persevere all the way? In the face of this pang of doubt, the faith given to me in Baptism reassures me of this: by yourself, you will accomplish nothing, but if you place God at the center of all your actions, then you will reach the goal."
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  • "To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live but to 'get along'; we must never just 'get along'."
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  • "By drawing closer to the poor, little by little we become their confidants and counselors in the worst moments of this earthly pilgrimage. We can give them the comforting words of faith and often we succeed, not by our own merit, in putting on the right road people who have strayed without meaning to. Witnessing daily the faith with which some families often bear the worst suffering, their constant sacrifices, and that they do all this for the love of God, often makes us ask why we, who have received so many things from God, have been so neglectful, so bad, while they, who have not been as priviledged, are so much better? And so we resolve in our conscience to follow the Way of the Cross, the only way that leads to eternal life."
  • - - - - - -
  • "It is a difficult battle, but we must strive to win it and to rediscover our small road to Damascus in order to walk toward the destination to which we all must arrive... What is clear is that faith is the only anchor of salvation and we must hold tightly to it: without it, what would our lives be? Nothing, or rather, wasted, because in life there is only suffering, and suffering without faith is unbearable. But suffering that is nourished by the flame of faith becomes something beautiful, because it tempers the soul to deal with suffering."
  • - - - - - -
  • "I hope that by the grace of God I will continue to follow these Catholic ideals so that one day, in the way God wishes, I will be able to preserve and promote these truths."
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  • “One ought to go and one goes. It is not those who suffer violence that should fear, but those who practice it. When God is with us, we do not need to be afraid.”
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  • "Charity is not enough: we need social reform."
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  • "My dearest little daddy. I love you so much and to make you happy, I won't hit Luciana anymore. Happy holiday. I will pray to Baby Jesus for you. Kisses, your Dodo." [Pier's first letter, at age 6, to his father]
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  • "Verso l'alto!" ("Toward the Heights!")
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  • "When God is with us, we do not need to be afraid."
Pax Christi,

On the Eucharist as Memorial and Sacrifice

In light of my previous post, the following paper from my twin brother Matt seems particularly appropriate. Please leave him some words of encouragement on his blog, and pray for him as he marches slowly but surely towards the priesthood.
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And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”... And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
-- CCC, #1339; cf. Lk 22: 14-15, 19[1]

With this excerpt from Luke’s Gospel, the Catechism, in its treatment of the Institution of the Eucharist, reveals not only the first of the most important words of consecration but also the roots and the meaning of this Mystery that our Lord celebrated at the Last Supper. We see first in its reference to the Passover the important context in which it was celebrated, a context rich with history and significance. Second, in our Lord’s words, “given for you,” we find a pointer to the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist and in his command to “Do this in remembrance of me,” its memorial aspect. In this essay we will look at the Jewish Passover and these words of our Lord to see how they can guide us toward the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as memorial and sacrifice.

First it is important to have an adequate understanding of the Passover, what it is, and how the Jews approached its celebration. For 400 years, the Israelites were in the bondage of slavery in Egypt under the despotic rule of Pharaoh until the Lord initiated his final plague and Passover to set them free. So we see in the Book of Exodus that the Israelites – commanded by God through the detailed instructions of Moses and Aaron – were to sacrifice a lamb, and “take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them” (Exodus 12:7). And the Lord said to the Israelites, “the blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (v. 13).

This set in motion their freedom, the most significant event in their history. Therefore the Lord repeatedly insisted that the Israelites never forget what he had done for them. In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, verse 14, we see that “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.” And in verse 24: “You shall observe this rite as an ordinance for you and for your sons for ever.” He even anticipates their children some day questioning their parents of the significance of this ritual. Therefore its meaning must be ever in place, “for ever” in their minds and in their practice, so that they can give their children a ready answer: “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he slew the Egyptians but spared our houses” (v. 27). Notice here another clue: their response is to refer to “our houses” rather than the expected “their houses.” Finally, in verse 42, the Passover must always be “a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.”

These instructions are important because they empower the Israelites and their descendents to celebrate the Passover not merely as a nostalgic remembrance of God’s saving hand but as a present reality of the same. When they celebrate the Passover, they do not merely reminisce of their release from the bondage of slavery but they re-call it in a way that makes it present and effective in their own time and place throughout salvation history: “[The Lord] spared our houses.” Scott Hahn and Mark Shea, in their study of the book of Exodus, make the following point:
The Passover event is inaugurated with the Passover liturgy itself and the Feast of Passover is commanded in the very hour that the Passover and the Exodus begin. The liturgy of the Passover is precisely the way in which the nation, throughout history, is to participate in the events of the Exodus itself. This is why the Passover liturgy, to this day, teaches Jews to say that “we” were slaves in Egypt. Mystically, Jews in all times and places are to see themselves as being present at the events of the Exodus. (p. 115)[2]
Here we see what the Passover meant to the Israelites as a whole: the memorial of their freedom from slavery. Let us take a closer look now at what was memorialized in each element of the ritual, continuing toward an adequate understanding of the Passover and looking forward to the Eucharist as memorial and sacrifice.

First, the lamb to be sacrificed must be “without blemish” because, quite simply, it is God to whom it is offered and God demands and deserves only the best offering. This is witnessed throughout the Old Testament. God did not accept Cain’s sacrifice “because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:11-12)[3] Also, “David refused to offer a sacrifice that cost him nothing” (cf. 1 Chron 21:22-25).[4] And the prophet Malachi addresses the abuse of offering impure sacrifice (Mal 1:6-9):
…O priests, who despise my name. You say, ‘How have we despised thy name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted it?’ By thinking that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that no evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that no evil?... And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us.’ With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you?”
This and other examples reminded the Jews, then and now, that they must always offer only the best sacrifices to God.

But not only does God demand and deserve pure sacrifice he also demands and deserves singular worship; to Him alone is sacrifice made. The prophet Ezekiel writes:
Thus says the Lord God:… Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me… “Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them… But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they dwelt... So I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. (Ezek 20:5-10)
Hahn and Shea add that one of the reasons the slaughter of the lamb is so important is that it “symbolizes the rejection of Banebdjedet (Ba-neb-Tetet), a ram-headed Egyptian god who supposedly created mankind and even other gods on his potter’s wheel.”[5] Therefore the unblemished lamb also reminds the Jews of their single-heartedness for God. Finally the bitter herbs reminded them of the bitterness of bondage in Egypt and the unleavened bread, “loins girded,” “sandals on feet,” and “staff in hand” of the haste with which they left Egypt when Pharaoh drove them out (Ex 12:8, 11).

“But, in addition to the memorial aspect of the Passover, there is also a deeply prophetic aspect. For the Passover looks forward in a profound way to the coming of Christ and of the establishment of the New Covenant in Christ’s body and blood.”[6] Here, Hahn and Shea make the connection between the memorial aspect of the Passover and the memorial aspect of the Eucharist, the former prefiguring the latter and the latter fulfilling the former. Let us now look at how Sacred Scripture makes this connection as well.

Our introductory passage from Luke showed us that the Lord’s Last Supper, his institution of the Eucharist, was in the context of a celebration of the Passover.[7] Hahn, in A Father Who Keeps His Promises, also sees a connection in the very structure of the Passover ritual, divided into four parts or four cups. First, there is a blessing over the first cup of wine followed by the dish of bitter herbs. Second, the Passover narrative from Exodus 12 is recited and a psalm is sung followed by the drinking of the second cup. Third, the meal of lamb and unleavened bread is served followed by the drinking of the third cup, the “cup of blessing.” Finally, the climax of the Passover came with the singing of another hymn and the drinking of the fourth cup of wine, the ‘cup of consummation.’” (pp. 228-229)[8]

Many New Testament scholars see this pattern reflected in the Gospel narratives of the Last Supper. In particular, the cup that Jesus blessed and distributed is identified as the third cup of the Passover Haggadah. This is apparent from the singing of the “Great Hallel” which immediately follows: “And when they had sung a hymn” (Mk 14:26). Paul identifies this “cup of blessing” with the cup of the Eucharist (see 1 Cor 10:16).

We also see a connection made in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, in the “Bread of Life” discourse. In the beginning of the chapter, in verse four, we are told that “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.”

John shows how Jesus miraculously provided bread for five thousand after “he had given thanks (eucharistesas),” (v. 11) evoking eucharistic imagery. Jesus then identified himself as the “true bread from heaven” (v. 32) and the “bread of life” (v. 35), drawing the parallel with Moses, through whom God supernaturally fed manna to the Israelites while forming a covenant with them after the first Passover (Ex 16:4ff.).

Indeed, St. Paul concludes, in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven… but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:7-8).

Before we enter into our discussion on the sacrificial aspect of the Passover and the Eucharist we too must finally conclude, with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, what it is the Eucharist of the Last Supper memorializes: “In order to leave them a pledge of his love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return”[9] or as St. Paul stated it, “until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words “until he comes” does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.” (CCC, 1341)

And here too with the Eucharist, as with the Passover’s sense of “presence” that we established above, “both Jews and Christians enter into and participate in the great drama of God’s saving work in the world.”[10]

This mystical awareness of our eternal presence at God’s saving acts is only accentuated when [the Lamb of God][11], at the Passover Feast known as the Last Supper, takes the bread and the cup of the Passover and transforms it into his Body and Blood, becoming Really Present to us and making the one historical event of his Passion and Resurrection eternally present to us in the Sacrifice of the Mass.[12]

At this point, Fr. James T. O’Connor, in his comprehensive work on the Eucharist, The Hidden Manna, offers the following caution that leads us nicely into our discussion of the Passover and the Eucharist as sacrifice.

There is much [in the above discussion] that enriches the theology of the Eucharist, but it must be remembered that there is a uniqueness to the Eucharist that goes far beyond the Old Testament concept of memorial. The Eucharist is an effective memorial of Christ’s saving action because the Priest-Victim is himself actually and corporeally present, thus memorializing his own work in a manner not possible for other memorial celebrations (p. 243).[13]

The memorial aspect of both the Passover and the Eucharist, as discussed above, is distinct from their sacrificial aspect but not separate. Indeed, they are one in the same – both the Passover and the Eucharist – both memorial and sacrifice. As Fr. O’Connor alluded, Christ is the Priest-Victim in the sacrifice of His “New Passover,” the “new covenant,”[14] the Last Supper, the Eucharist. But how does the “Old Passover” point us to this reality? The Navarre Bible Commentary, commenting on the account of it in Exodus 12, says: “The victim will be a lamb, without blemish (v. 5) because it is to be offered to God. Smearing the doorposts and lintel with the blood of the victim (vv. 7, 13), an essential part of the rite, signifies protection from dangers. The Passover is essentially sacrificial from the very start.” But, this sacrifice and our connection of the Passover with the Eucharist would not be complete without the cross. Otherwise how could it be a memorial of his “death and Resurrection” as stated above?

At the inaugural Passover of the Israelites, the unblemished lamb was sacrificed for the salvation of their nation from the final plague and for their freedom from the bondage of slavery. But the sacrifice is such in both the object, the lamb, and the subject, the nation, because they had to make a sacrifice; they had to take from their own flocks, and the best at that. And if a family was too small to consume all of the lamb, as they were directed, then they shared a lamb with their neighbor. The nation made a collective sacrifice to provide the sacrifice offered for their salvation and freedom.

But just as the memorial aspect of the Passover points too and is expanded and fulfilled in the Eucharist, as indicated by Fr. O’Connor above, so too is the sacrificial aspect. In the Eucharist of the “New Passover” the subject and the object, the sacrifice and the offerer, the Priest and the Victim are one in the same Person of Christ. In describing the Mass, the Catechism explains, “The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, ‘sacrifice of praise,’ spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.” (CCC, 1330)

Also from our introductory passage, are the words of institution, “This is my body given for you.” In the Eucharist Christ gives us his very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (1365) The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit. (1366) The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” (1367) The Catechism summarizes nicely what we have said:
“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, Our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’” (1323)
Fr. O’Connor also presents three “tendencies” in theology following the Council of Trent in explaining exactly how the Eucharist was a sacrifice or, to be more precise, how the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Mass were related. The first tendency is exhibited by St. Robert Bellarmine. According to him, for the Mass to be a true sacrifice there must be an offering and some destruction of the victim. As we have said above, Christ is both the Priest and the Victim. And through the consumption of the Eucharist by the priest, the victim is destroyed when the form of his sacramental existence is destroyed. Thus reception by at least the priest was necessary for the existence of the sacrifice. (p. 237-239)[15]

The second tendency is held by one of the most preeminent scholars of the Eucharist as sacrifice, Maurice de la Taille, S.J. (1872-1933)[16]. Here it is believed that there does not need to be a destruction for there to be a true sacrifice but rather a new offering is required. “At the Last Supper, Christ made the offering of himself as the Victim ‘to be immolated’; on Calvary he offered himself by immolation; in the Mass, the Church offers him ‘as immolated’. (p. 240) The latter is seen in light of the eternity of Christ’s sacrifice. As the letter to the Hebrews says, Christ is our high priest at the right hand of God in heaven (cf. 8:1-2). If “every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices” (8:3) then Christ’s “once and for all” (7:27) sacrifice must be that very thing, but a never-ending or “perpetual” self-offering to the Father in heaven. And in this we participate on our altars on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The third tendency is one we have used above when citing the Catechism and is most common in modern theology of the Eucharist as sacrifice. Its most prominent proponents are Pope Pius XII, A. Vonier, O.S.B.,[17]and Matthias Scheeben (1835-1888)[18] Here, “the Mass is a sacrifice because, in it, in a sacramental and mystical manner, Christ’s offering, immolation, and priestly activity in heaven become effectively present for us, while he simultaneously subsumes into his unique sacrifice the sacrificial offerings of the Church.” Thus, “the Mass is therefore neither a new sacrifice [nor] a part of the one sacrifice; it is the one sacrifice in its totality, present under a sign.”(p. 241)

Thus far, we have looked at the Jewish Passover and how it was understood by the ancient Israelites and Jews today as a present, effective celebration of God’s saving hand from the bondage of slavery, never to be forgotten. We then looked at the memorial aspect of the Passover and what each element of the ritual brought to mind for he who celebrated it. In this memorial aspect the Passover looks ahead to Christ’s New Passover of the Eucharist that has a similar but unique and fulfilled memorial aspect. Therefore, guided as we were by the Passover, we looked at how the Eucharist is a memorial. Finally, we looked at the sacrificial aspect of the Passover and how this too directed us toward and was fulfilled by the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. And we explored briefly how this sacrificial aspect has been explained through Tradition, modern theology, the Catechism and Scripture. In so doing we give glory to God who from all time planned to share his superabundant love by making man in time and then preparing for him from his very beginning the most August Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, God made Man so that Man could be made “little less than God.” (Psalm 8:5)
- - - - - -
[1] All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition
[2] Exodus Study, Lesson 11, “Passover,” Catholic Scripture Study International, © copyright 2004, emphasis mine. See also
[3] The Navarre Bible Commentary on the Pentateuch adds for Gen 4:3-8: “Assuming that Cain was ill-intentioned in his offerings, St. Bede the Venerable comments that ‘men often are placated by gifts from those who have offended them; but God, who ‘discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Heb 4:12), lets himself be placated by no gift as much as by the pious devotion of the offerer. Once he has seen the purity of our heart, he will then also accept our prayers and our works” (Hexaemeron 2: in Gen, 4:4-5).”
[4] Exodus Study, p. 116
[5] Exodus Study, p. 117
[6] Exodus Study, p. 117
[7] Luke 22:7-15. See also, Matthew 26:17-19 and Mark 14:12-16
[8] A Father Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture, by Scott Hahn, Servant Publications, ©1998. Hahn continues with an explanation of the problem of the fourth cup: “Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mk 14:25-26). But, this problem is beyond the scope of the present essay.
[9] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1337
[10] Exodus Study, p. 115
[11] Cf. John 1:29, Rev 5:6, etc. It is interesting to note that the latter reference is the first of 28 times among the first 22 chapters of Revelation in which Christ is referred to as “the lamb.”
[12] Exodus Study, p. 115. Here, Hahn and Shea actually refer to “God Incarnate” but I chose the title “the Lamb of God” in brackets in order to further our point.
[13] The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist, by James T. O’Connor, Ignatius Press, ©2005, 2nd ed.
[14] Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24 (note, in Matthew and Mark: “Other ancient authorities insert new”); Luke 22:20; and 1 Cor 11:25
[15] The Hidden Manna
[16] The Mystery of Faith, vol I and II
[17] A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist
[18] The Mysteries of Christianity

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Profaning Communion for the Sake of "Communion": A Partial Response

Someone alerted me via email to a Catholic blogger, Dr. Chris Anthony, who recently made a post about the reception of Holy Communion. Suffice it to say that his suggested policy is very........liberal. I would like to make some corrections to what he presented, since what is at stake here is the profanation of the Body and Blood of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 11:27).
Is the Eucharist only for Catholics?
Is Christ for all or an exclusive few?
The title and subtitle for his post says a lot. Most of the time, you'll find that the people who defend "inter-communion," or the sharing of the Eucharist with non-Catholic Christians, have the false notion that forbidding certain people to receive the Eucharist is a denial of the all-inclusive intention that Jesus Christ has for it. This is incorrect. It is true that God offers his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to every man. But, it is also true that every man must approach the altar with a particular disposition before he can receive it. Just as Jesus died so that all might be saved but some aren't, Jesus wishes for all men to feed on Him but some can't.

Paul outlines for us the requirements of any man who wishes to approach the Lord's table:

1 Cor 10:20b-22
20 I do not want you to be partners with demons.
21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

1 Cor 11:26-29
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.
30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

Now, when Paul refers to the "table of demons," his first reference is probably to pagan sacrifices. But, I think that this is also a reference to sin. Whenever we eat of the forbidden tree, whenever we allow ourselves to be enticed by the devil's fruit instead of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we sin and we partake of "the table of demons." But Paul says we can't partake of the table of demons and the table of the Lord. This means that we must approach the Lord's table with a clear conscience and no attachment to sin that separates us from Him.

That is our first requirement.

The second requirement comes in chapter 11. In it, Paul says that we must receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner and we must discern in this Eucharist the very Body of the Lord. If we do not, then we will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord and we will eat and drink judgment upon ourselves.

So, just as certain requirements must be met before we can partake of the Lord's all-encompassing salvation, there are certain requirements that must be met before we can partake of the Lord's bountiful table. It will be helpful to keep these requirements in mind as we continue.
Recently I came across a report in a Catholic weekly trying to explain in detail why Protestants cannot receive Holy Communion at a Catholic liturgy. In fact of late in many of our Churches there are announcements and LCD projections reminding the congregation that Holy Communion is reserved only for baptized and practicing Catholics. To me this is quite disturbing as I see it as a discriminating act.
Indeed, it is quite discriminating. But, this is not always a bad thing. Shall we take God to task for saying that sinners aren't fit for heaven? That is certainly a "discriminating" act. Perhaps Jesus is too "discriminating" when he says, "Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53). The fact is that sometimes God requires us to be discriminating: to discern right from wrong, to admit certain individuals to the ministerial priesthood and not others, to pronounce certain doctrines as true and others false, to require that men receive the Eucharist with the proper disposition.

Everyone knows that without these rules there is anarchy. Surely you would not have the Church allow her members to do whatever they wanted. We need rules, so that man can be free to follow God and live up to his full potential. But, rules naturally discriminate. G. K. Chesterton says: "Morality, like art, consists in drawing the line somewhere." This is necessary for the right order of the Church. Paul has given us the requirements for reception of the Eucharist. Those who do not meet these requirements simply cannot receive it.
Who is a practicing catholic – one who observes strictly all the rituals of the Church at any cost or one who genuinely carries Jesus into his daily living and in the process ignores some of the rituals?
How can someone both "genuinely carry Jesus into his daily living" and ignore the rituals of the Church? First of all, you betray an ignorance of the Church by calling them "rituals." What we are talking about here are laws, not "rituals." Secondly, bringing Jesus into daily living naturally entails obedience to His laws, and to the laws of the His Church.

Paul in particular has much to say about how important it is to respect and obey those in positions of authority in the Church:

1 Thes 5:12-13
12 But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,
13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

1 Tim 5: 17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching;

Heb 13:7,17
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Likewise, Peter and Jude warn us of what will happen to those who reject authority:

2 Pet 2:9-10
9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones

Jude 1:8, 10
8 Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones.
10 But these men revile whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as irrational animals do, they are destroyed.

The Christian life calls for obedience. I don't see how anyone could claim otherwise.

[At this point, IE encountered a problem and decided that it needed to close, so I lost the rest of my response. Hours of work down the drain. I don't have the time or the energy to write it over again, so this post will have to stand as it is. I hate Bill Gates. I'm gonna go cry now.....]

Pax Christi,

The Result of Sin

Monday, March 26, 2007

Poll-Release Monday #8

Here is the new poll for this week:
  • Which of the four Gospels is your favorite?
    • Matthew
    • Mark
    • Luke
    • John
To vote, see the poll in the sidebar.

This is an easy one, as far as I'm concerned, but some of you who are less familiar with the Bible may have trouble deciding. To inform your decision, here are the New Advent entries for each Gospel: As for last weeks poll ("Who is your favorite Catholic author?"), we had our own little version of March Madness! It was close until the final minute, when G. K. Chesterton finally eeked out a win. Here are the results:

All those LOTR fans didn't show up nearly as much as I thought they would. Honestly, I was expecting this poll to be a blowout. But that's ok, I like the results. It's good to see that more people are reading Chesterton and being exposed to his thought (assuming this poll be any indicator). He is the master of common sense, and I dare say it's good for every human being to get a good dose of him. Tolkien's trilogy has always been somewhat intimidating to me. I find Chesterton to be much more accessible (Amy is gonna kill me for saying that....).

For more on G. K. Chesterton, go here.

Pax Christi,

In the House of the Lord Forever

On Friday night, I somewhat begrudgingly attended a poetry reading on campus. You never know how these things are going to turn out. Nowadays, it seems that the more obscure and abstract a poem is, the greater it is praised (what happened to poetry that actually speaks to people?). So, I expected to sit there with a "What the hell?" look on my face for about an hour and then go home. But, I was pleasantly surprised. The poetry that was presented that night was very articulate and engaging, clear but without being too simple. Happily, many of the poems were of Christian interest too.

One of the two presenters was Dr. Eric A. Potter (no relation to Harry), Associate Professor of English at Grove City College. Of the many poems that he presented, one in particular seemed to resonate with everyone in the room. In this poem, entitled "In the House of the Lord Forever," he expresses a sentiment that I think a lot of us feel when we read the Psalms. King David is often very easy to relate to through his psalms. After all, he expresses the whole range of emotions of man in relationship with God: sorrow, frustration, hope, joy, anger, repentance, love.

But, what happens when we don't feel as he feels? What if I have never felt the hope in the Lord that David posesses? What if I have never languished over my sin, never felt sorrow and repentance for my sin to the degree that David does? What if I have never felt David's courage, or David's love of the Lord? Am I too a man after God's own heart? David's psalms can comfort us, but they can also convict us. David is our example, and if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we do not always live up to it.

Dr. Potter's poem is an expression of this honesty, and he has graciously allowed me to share it here. Let me know what you think.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - -

In the House of the Lord Forever
Dr. Eric A. Potter -- Grove City College
The Lord is (supposed to be) my shepherd;
I should not want, though I often do.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside still waters,
yet my heart still longs to run the rapids.

He restoreth my soul,
over and over because I keep defacing it;
he leadeth me--stiff-legged and halting--in the paths
of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I may fear no evil, but I will worry chronically,
although thou art with me.
Thy rod and thy staff they confine me.

Thou preparest a table before me,
still I turn up my nose at the menu,
and the presence of my enemies distracts me.
Thou anointest my head with oil,
which drips in my eyes and runs down my back
while I dab at the spill from my over-full cup.

Surely goodness and mercy should
abandon me for my ingratitude,
but they shall hound me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell (in spite of my self)
in the house of the Lord forever.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Apostle to the Jews: Part 2

Can the apostle to the Jews be the Bishop of Rome? "Selaplana" doesn't think so. Here is part 2 in our debate. You can read part 1 here.
- - - - -
Thanks for your respond on the issue regarding Peter.

However, I want to make it clear, that it’s the Bible who said that Peter is the Apostle assigned to the Jews. I agree that Peter was instrumental to the convertion of gentiles to Christian. But the truth is that the Bible doesn’t introduced Peter as the Pope of the church rather an Apostle of the Jews.
Oh, I have no doubt that Scripture calls Peter the "apostle to the Jews." But, this only pertains to the specific mission of spreading the gospel. As far as his position of authority in the Church is concerned, he is specific to no demographic. It doesn't matter that he spread the gospel among the circumcised. The topic of this debate is his larger role as the pre-eminent apostle in the Church. If you read the early documents, Rome always held a place of unique honor and authority in the Christian world because Peter lived and died there. He is first among the twelve (cf. Mt 10:2). As soon as he rode in to town, the Romans would have immediately considered him the most authoritative figure there. It is in virtue of this that he is considered the Bishop of Rome.

History kept by the Roman Catholic Church might prove that Peter became bishop of Rome but the Bible didn’t said so, because what the Bible attested is that Peter like Paul was an Apostle not a Bishop.
First of all, why is it necessary to find this in the Bible? Peter as "bishop of Rome" is not a faith statement, it's an item of history. "Was Peter considered the leader of the Church in Rome?"....that is what we are asking. The Bible doesn't answer that question because it was never intended to. The Bible is not a history book. Although we do find in it true historical accounts, this was not it's main purpose. There are many events in history that are not recorded in the Bible. But, that does not mean they didn't happen. When we want to know historical facts of Biblical times, we consult the documents of the time period. The Bible is one, but there are also others. When the facts we are looking for are not recorded in the Bible, we have to consult these other historical documents. That's just how you do history.

Secondly, the positions of "apostle" and "bishop" should not be set against each other so that if you are one you can't be the other. After all, James was both an apostle (cf. Mt 10:3; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19) and the bishop of Jerusalem (see here). Also, in Acts 1:20, the position of Judas, another one of the 12, is described as the "bishoprick" (cf. KJV, TML, DRV, and Webster translations. See also NRSV: "position of overseer" and Darby: "overseership")? I think this shows that apostles can in fact also be bishops.

Finally, you say history "as kept by the Church" if there could be some type of alternative history that would say something different. But, the fact is that the only Christian documents of the time were by Catholics, since the Catholic Church was the only Christian body in existence. If you can find a historical document that rejects Peter's residence in Rome, I'd love to see it.

Then I also want to make it clear that it is not Peter whom the Church was built upon. Peter might be a rock but not as foundation rock of the church but as rock which built upon the rock…. seee
Peter as the rock upon whom Jesus built his Church is a fact pertaining to his status as the first pope. Although this is related to his status as Bishop of Rome, it is also an entirely different debate. I would rather we stay on topic. If you are interested in reading articles about this alternative debate, see the following collections: Those should effectively refute any argument you have against Peter as the Rock of Mt. 16:18.
okay, let say the pope is the rock upon whom the church was built (but not to concede), then it wouldn’t be peter who would become pope because the church was not built upon him but upon Christ (the rock) himself…. seee
You basically just repeated yourself, so see my last comment. For more on Peter's Roman residency, go here.

Pax Christi,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Periucundum Est Catholicum Esse

Check out these wristbands, brought to you by Tom Hall and his non-profit Catholic organization Catholici Sumus ("We Are Catholic"):

[click image for more information]

Allow me to share with you his vision:
As a devout Catholic I am incensed and hurt by the endless attacks on the Church and unfair treatment in the media. It is outrageous that our society mocks Christian values. Fortunately, through the love of God there is hope.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit and motivated by John Paul's vision for a new missionary age, I am forming a non-profit Catholic organization called Catholici Sumus. The name is Latin for "We Are Catholic." Our mission is simply to be an advocate for the Catholic Faith, and in doing so, help bring people into a closer relationship with Jesus. We aim to be innovative in our approach, among other things supporting Catholic media and using the Internet to reach people.

Our first initiative is to sell wristbands embossed with "Periucundum est Catholicum esse". That's Latin for "It's cool to be Catholic." It is my hope that these wristbands will become a way for Catholics to evangelize. Wearing the bracelet makes a statement. More importantly, every time someone inquires about the purple (the color of penance) band on a friend's wrist it opens the door for dialogue. This can be a welcoming opportunity and unassuming way for people to talk about their Catholic faith. Our vision is to distribute thousands of these wristbands, leading to millions of daily opportunities to share the faith.

All profits will go to support our mission and the Church.

My first question when I read this was, "What will make your organization any different from groups like Catholic League and Catholics United for the Faith, who are already doing the type of work that Tom wishes to do? So, I asked him. Here was his reply:
First, the Catholic League and Catholics United for the Faith are terrific organizations. We do not aim to compete but rather compliment and support these types of groups. If I can differentiate our strategy, we plan to focus on technology and innovation to encourage grass-roots dialogue and build Catholic Faith communities.

Yesterday I listened to Drew Mariani on Relevant Radio speak about the need for Catholics to be more innovative in how we use the media to get the ‘message out.’ His discussion hit squarely at our vision. Why isn’t anyone building YouTube or MySpace for Catholics, or developing effective tools that help keep those addicted to porn from viewing it? Well, we want to do so.

Romans 12:6-8 God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Currently, I work with a group of Kellogg professors in advising Global 1000 firms on innovation and business strategy. My background includes serving as Strategy Director at a global Internet marketing firm and I also ran my own web design shop. It is my wish to leverage these skills and knowledge in business innovation, web marketing, and the Internet, to help evangelize our Faith.

God has given me a terrific life. By the grace of God, I intend to do his work and give something back. That is why I recently founded Catholici Sumus, a non-for-profit organization. Our ultimate mission is to develop safe online communities and web sites for Catholics to celebrate, share, and experience their faith. Our first initiative is to distribute purple wristbands embossed the words: Periucundum est Catholicum esse (Latin for “Its cool …terrific…great…to be Catholic.”). Hopefully, by selling these wristbands two things will happen. They will encourage dialogue about Faith. Also, if we sell enough, then we can move on to developing our Catholic web sites. I am excited about the mission and look forward to many good things as the organization evolves and grows.

I can dig it. Tom looks very well-suited and qualified for the job, and I look forward to seeing what type of contribution he will be able to make towards the defense of our Catholic faith. Let's show everyone why it's cool to be Catholic.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another Jesuit Misses the Mark

Maaan, everything happened while I was on spring break....

On March 14, 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public a Notification regarding two writings by Fr Jon Sobrino, S.J.: Jesucristo liberador. Lectura histórico-teológica de Jesús de Nazaret and La fe en Jesucristo. Ensayo desde las víctimas. The CDF started a careful study of these works in October 2001, "because of certain imprecisions and errors found in them" and gave urgent priority to the process of examination because of the wide diffusion of these writings (particularly in Latin America) and their use in seminaries and various other institutes of study.

You can read the Notification here. You may also wish to read the attached explanatory note.

What do they feed these Jesuits anyway? There must be something in the water....

Pax Christi,

The Apostle to the Jews as the Bishop of Rome

I was looking through my old posts yesterday and I found a draft that I had written a while ago in response to a blog post on Peter as the Apostle to the Jews. Now is as good a time as any to publish my thoughts on this post. It reads as follows:
From the article on the Wikipedia “Pope”, it was stated that the Pope is the successor of St. Peter as bishop of Rome.

The Pope (from Greek: pappas, father; from Latin: papa, Papa, father1) is the head of the Catholic Church. He is the Successor of St. Peter as the Bishop of Rome. (link)

It made me wonder if the St. Peter mentioned here is Apostle Peter, because the Peter in the Bible who was an Apostle of Christ was not assigned to be the Apostle in Rome but in Jews. In Galatians 2:8, Apostle Paul clearly stated:

8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. (NIV)

The Apostle who was assigned to the Gentiles, including Rome, was not Peter but Apostle Paul.

If Peter was assigned to be the Apostle to the Jews and Apostle Paul as the Apostle to the Gentile, how could it be that the Roman Catholic Church claimed that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome? I think, it is more believable if they will say that Apostle Paul is the first Bishop of Rome because it was he who was assigned to the Gentile nations including Rome.
Even though Peter was the Apostle to the Jews, he can still be considered the Bishop of Rome.

First of all, it's helpful to note that, even though Peter's evangelistic efforts were perhaps directed primarily to the Jews, his ministry was not exclusively to them. After all, he was the one who spoke with the Spirit at Pentecost to men of all nations (cf. Acts 2:14-41). Also, it was to Peter that God gave the vision validating the Gentiles as men worthy of the Gospel (cf. Acts 10:9-16,28; 11:5-10), and it was Peter who converted the household of Cornelius, the first Gentile converts (cf. Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18). Finally, Peter himself says, at the Council of Jersualem: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe" (Acts 15:7).

So, Peter's ministry was certainly for the Gentiles too.

Secondly, Peter is considered the bishop of Rome, because he, the pre-eminent apostle, lived there (at least for a short time) and was martyred there. This is a historical fact attested to by many early documents (see this link).

Ultimately, Peter is the Pope because he is the Rock upon whom Jesus founded his Church and he was the one given the keys of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 16:16-20). Jesus prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail (cf. Lk 22:32) and it was to Peter that Jesus gave the mission to feed and tend the sheep, including the other apostles (cf. Jn 21:15-19).

I hope that answers your question.

Pax Christi,

Is Material Sin a Moral Evil?

"BV" emailed me the following question:
I recently became involved in an online discussion, and was wondering if you may be able to provide me some insight (I searched your blog, and didn't see where it may have been discussed before). The key question we're disagreed on is whether material sin involves a moral evil.

I've been arguing from the position that it does--that it still offends God, that it still constitutes the privation of moral goodness, but that the individual is not culpable for the moral evil. My interlocutor has been arguing that it does not--that because the person does not know the action is wrong and does not consciously choose the wrong, that therefore there is no moral evil.

Although in a way academic, I think this distinction is important and material sin is not all that infrequent. Can you maybe provide some insight, or point me towards some resources that could help me understand this better?
Good question.

Assuming that the act in question contravenes a moral norm, it would be a sin and a moral evil. This is regardless of whether or not the person who commits the act is aware of it's sinful nature. A moral evil exists whenever God's law is broken. Period.

When a person commits a material sin, they break God's law without knowledge that their action had such an effect. But, regardless of their knowledge, God's law is still broken, it is just that the guilt of this action is not imputed to them. They are not culpable or held accountable for it.

So, the question here is really not whether or not a moral evil exists but whether or not the person in question is to be held accountable for it. The objective immorality of an action does not depend on our awareness of this immorality.

I hope that helps. Here are some links where you can learn more: Pax Christi,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Widget Unveiled!

It's alive! It's aliiiiive!! (queue fog and flash of lightening)

I have finally completed the blog widget I have been working on for a couple of weeks now. This widget presents a different Catholic quotation for each day of the year. Quotations were taken from saints, early Church Fathers, priests, bishops, cardinals, and authors of the Catholic Church. I am really pleased with it.

To put this widget on your blog or website, simply follow these steps:
  1. Download the javascript file by right-clicking this link and selecting "Save Target As."
  2. Upload the javascript file to your own server/web space.
  3. Add the following code to your blog/website:
  4. Make sure you replace "" with the direct url of the javascript file on your server/web space.
If you decide to put this on your blog, credit for the widget and a link back to my blog would be most appreciated. My bandwidth is limited, but if you don't have any webspace to host the script, let me know and I may be able to host it for you. I proofread everything as best as I could, but there may still be a spelling or punctuation error that I didn't catch. If you find an error, let me know.


Pax Christi,

New Catholic Quotations Widget Coming Soon.....

Last night, I finally finished finding good, solid, profound, witty Catholic quotations for each day of the year. It's pretty hard finding 366 quotations that match that criteria. But, I wanted them to be truly meaningful quotations that made you think, or that gave you a new understanding of reality that you had never considered before. That's what a good quotation does: it wakes you up to the true nature of the world that we live in. I think I have found some of the best ones out there. I hope you all enjoy it. All I have left to do is proofread everything, do some slight formatting changes, and then host the java script somewhere. It should be ready within the next day or two.

Pax Christi,

Poll-Release Mon...err, Tuesday (#7)

Yea, I'm late unveiling the poll for this week. I was too busy, and tired, and braindead yesterday to post, so this week's poll had to start today. All last week was Spring Break for me, so I was only able to post sparingly. But, I should be able to pick up the pace now. Here is this week's poll:
  • Who is your favorite Catholic author?
    • J. R. R. Tolkien
    • Hillaire Belloc
    • G. K. Chesterton
    • Ronald Knox
    • Evelyn Waugh
    • Joseph Pearce
To vote, see the poll in the sidebar.

I couldn't decide if I should do "Who is your favorite Catholic author?" or "Who is the best Catholic author?" Finally, I just went with the former question because I figured that most people have not read enough works by each other to be able to determine with of them is the "best," but everyone has their favorite. My guess is that Tolkien will win, but I guess we'll see.

As for last week's poll (Which "Lady" do you love the most?), here are the results:

There wasn't as much of a turn-out for this poll as there has been for previous ones. I don't know if there is necessarily anything to read into that, it was just something I noticed. Perhaps some of my visitors have yet to foster a love of Mary in any particular role that she plays in the lives of men. Why didn't you vote in the poll? Leave a comment and let me know.

"Our Lady of Guadalupe" won easily, and this is perhaps no surprise. The apparition of our Lady to St. Juan Diego is one of the most beloved of all the Marian apparitions. Thousands of indians were converted by her presence. In 1910 Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of Latin America, and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared Her to be the Empress of all the Americas. Her impact upon the Catholic world has always been substantial.

I chose "Our Lady of Sorrows" because the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross have helped me to develop at special love for Mary at this stage in her life, and because her status as Co-redemptrix flows from the unity of her will to that of Jesus and her unique participation in the suffering that He endured in His Passion. So much can be gained from meditation upon Mary at the foot of the Cross!! It is indescribable.

For more on Mary as Co-redemptrix, go here. For more on Our Lady of Guadalupe, go here.

Pax Christi,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Eucharist: Sacrament of Love

I just found out about B16's new Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission). Yea, I know I'm a little late with this, but I leave it to Whispers to stay on the cutting edge of Catholic news. Anyway, I'm pretty psyched about it. It's cool to read papal documents as they come out (instead of much after the fact) and to look forward to what our wise and faithful Father will write next. I suggest that everyone read it. If you don't have the time (I don't see how you wouldn't...), check out Dr. Philip Blosser's quick sampling with remarks.

Pax Christi,

More on Our Lady

I thought it would be helpful to provide some information about Our Lady in her various roles so as to inform your vote in the poll (that is, if you do not already have your favorite). Some of the apparitions of our Lady in particular may be foreign to some of you. I hope these links are helpful: Blessed Virgin Mary.... pray for us.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Honor Your Mother

David left the following comment on my post on the scapular:
For your non-Catholic readers, perhaps it would be helpful to write up a piece (or direct us to a resource) clarifying how devotion to Mary (or the other saints) does not compete with devotion to Jesus, but flows from it.

Thomas Howard writes of Franciscan University that it is a place "where the word Catholic takes on all the vitality and ardor and articulateness for which I longed, and where Marian piety, far from detracting from the Christocentric nature of the Faith, is the very handmaiden of true Christocentrism" (Lead Kind Light, p57).

I wish he had filled this out! Could you explain what you think Howard means (or suggest some resource that speaks to this)?
Well, I certainly have plenty of resources! For answers to common objections to Marian devotion, go here. For general articles on Marian devotion, go here. For articles explaining Mary's role in salvation history (in comparison to that of Jesus), go here. For general articles explaining Mary's role as mediatrix and coredemptrix, go here. All of these entries from the Directory explain the role of Mary in our lives and are thus helpful in one way or another.

As for my own explanation, we must note that Marian devotion not only flows from devotion to Christ, but it also leads to devotion to Christ. Mary is always saying, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5). When we devote ourselves to Mary, we strive to follow her example, to love Jesus the way she loved Him, to unite our will to His the way her's was. When we pray the Rosary, we walk with the Mother of Sorrows along the Way of Jesus' Passion. At the center of the "Hail Mary" is the Name of Jesus, at which "every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Phil 2:10).

Now, many Protestants scoff at the idea that we should depend on something to lead us to Jesus. "Too many mediators," they say. But, how many of them can actually say that they approached Jesus Christ and grew in love of Him entirely on their own, without any help or encouragement from anyone or anything? It simply does not work that way. At one time or another something led them to Christ, be it their pastor's preaching, or the Bible, or the Christian witness of a friend. Until we see God face to face in heaven, our relationship with God will always be mediated in some way.

So, we should not be ashamed to admit that Mary leads us to her Son, and that we love His mother with all our heart. How could one not love a woman who gave Jesus to the world and led us to Him with a most tender act of love? I say: love as Jesus loved. Love His mother.

Pax Christi,

Monday, March 12, 2007

May the Force Be with You

Eve emailed me the following question:
I just read a post on another blog about scapulars and their "powers". I have always had trouble as a Catholic myself, acknowledging the apparent superstitious nature of things such as this. How can I possibly justify them to Protestant inquirers? I realize the power inludes prayer, but just wearing a scapular and then you will not go to hell? That just sounds like the very thing the Church tells us to stay away from. Could you explain to me where the line is drawn between superstition and wearing "saving" scapulars or burying statues in the front yard to sell the house?
First, it is necessary to define what "superstition" is. The Catechism says the following:
2110 The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.

2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition (cf.
Mt 23:16-22).

2138 Superstition is a departure from the worship that we give to the true God. It is manifested in idolatry, as well as in various forms of divination and magic.
We see from this that superstition is more than granting a magical quality to an otherwise normmal object. It is also present whenever you "attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand." This is important as we discuss what makes a scapular efficacious.

Now, the scapular would be magical or superstitious if we believed that the mere ownership of the scapular or it's mere presence on one's person was enough to ensure that person a place in heaven. But, the scapular is not a good luck charm and it is not enough to simply have it around your neck when judgment comes. It is what is implied by the wearing of the scapular that makes all the difference.

The promise of Mary to St. Simon Stock that "Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire" extends only to those who wear the scapular as a sign of their devotion to the Blessed Mother and to living a good, Christian life of prayer and holiness. When you put on the scapular, you set yourself apart as someone who wishes to live as Mary lived, and as someone who humbly places himself under her patronage. When we pray the "Hail Mary" we say at the end: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." That becomes the petition of every person who faithfully wears the scapular. He wears it with faith that Mary will pray for his soul at the time of Judgment. And if he has lead a good life, he will not suffer eternal fire.

The scapular also works as a reminder to live with the devotion that it's presence is supposed to symbolize. We feel it throughout the day, when the front or the back drops down too far, when the squares gently scratch us or pat against our bodies as we run. We show our love to Mary by kissing the scapular, and we implore her intercession every time we clutch it in fear or sorrow.

So, as long as we attribute the efficacy of the scapular to the interior disposition that it demands, then we simply cannot be accused of magic or superstition. The same thing goes for burying a statue of St. Joseph in your yard. My impression is that most people seem to do this out of superstition and without the requisite disposition. But, I think there is a good and Christian way to do it.

When St. Teresa of Avila had her nuns bury St. Joseph medals this was out of devotion to St. Joseph. She knew that St. Joseph was a man who knew what it was like to have housing troubles ("Any room in the inn?"), to provide a home for his family, and to have to move his family from one place to the next. So, in buring these medals (today, we commonly bury statues) we place ourselves under his patronage. The efficacy comes not in the burying of a figurine, but in the devotion to St. Joseph that the practice symbolizes. Prayer is always powerful, and anything that compels us to pray or to grow in love of the saints is well and good.

I hope that helps. For more on the scapular, go here. For more on burying statues of St. Joseph, go here or here.

Pax Christi,
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