Thursday, January 31, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 1/31/08

The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, the Odyssey because all life is a journey, the Book of Job because all life is a riddle.
-- G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant

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Our exalted Savior lost nothing by his humility, but we gained very much. By it the Most High was not lowered, but the lowly were exalted. In order to carry out perfectly the work of our redemption, the Son of God, Creator of all flesh, condescended to be born of the Virgin's flesh in the way all true flesh is born.

God, our Maker, became a real human being born of a human being. He was wrapped in swaddling bands, confined in a narrow manger, circumcised on the eighth day, and carried by human hands to his own temple.

How gracious is the kindliness of God! How sublime the humility of God most high! As a tiny baby he was nursed by his mother, he the boundless God who had created her. As a little child he was carried to his own temple by his parents, he the great God who was prayed to in that temple by his holy people. And he also ordained the offering of a sacrifice for himself, he who had come sinless to be immolated for our betrayals. Reflect, then, on what you owe to the Most High who was humbled for your sake, your exalted Creator and humbled Redeemer.
-- Fulgentius of Ruspe (attributed), In Circumcisione Domini 1-2: PL 65, 834-835.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Topical Index Page: Salvation

Quick Blog Update

I just want to take the time real quick to let you know about a few updates:That's all for now.

Pax Christi,

Topical Index Page: Prayer, Devotion, and Spirituality

Topical Index Page: Mary

Daily Dose of Discernment: 1/30/08


The face of the King's servants grew greater than the King.
He tricked them and they trapped him and drew round him in a ring;
The new grave lords closed round him that had eaten the abbey's fruits,
And the men of the new religion with their Bibles in their boots,
We saw their shoulders moving to menace and discuss.
And some were pure and some were vile, but none took heed of us
We saw the King when they killed him, and his face was proud and pale,
And a few men talked of freedom while England talked of ale.
-- G. K. Chesterton, The Silent People
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The purpose of prayer is nothing other than to manifest God and self. And this manifestation of God and self leads to a state of perfect and true humility. For this humility is attained when the soul sees God and self. It is in this profound state of humility, and from it, that divine grace deepens and grows in the soul. The more divine grace deepens humility in the soul, the more divine grace can grow in this depth of humility. The more divine grace grows, the deeper the soul is grounded, and the more it is settled in a state of true humility. Through perseverance in true prayer, divine light and grace increase, and these always make the soul grow deep in humility as it reads, as has been said, the life of Jesus Christ, God and man. I cannot conceive anything greater than the manifestation of God and self. But this discovery, that is, this manifestation of God and self, is the lot only of those legitimate sons and daughters of God who have devoted themselves to true prayer.
-- Angela of Foligno, Instructions, from Complete Works, Paul Lachance, O.F.M., Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, 1993, 236.

Holy Water Debate: Concluding Statement

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Holy Water debate is now complete. Here is my concluding statement. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Also, don't forget that you have until the end of the day tomorrow to email me any questions you may have for Turretinfan.

Pax Christi,
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Let's begin by listing the various holes and omissions that weaken tfan's defense of the negative position:
  • No response to my proof that he exagerated when he said, "the passage cited by PC does not appear in several versions of the Apostolic Constitutions."

  • No response to my argument that the anonymity of the author of the Apostolic Constitutions does not itself discredit the statements found therein.

  • Nowhere in our cross-examination did he show that the casting out of devils that Bede reports was due to the soil instead of water. Tfan asserted that they were cast out by soil, I told him why they weren't, and he simply repeated his position instead of refuting my answer.

  • No response to me when I said that the way in which the water became holy was irrelevant.
We see from this that tfan has done nothing to discredit either the Apostolic Constitutions or Bede's Ecclesiastical History as witnesses from the early Church of the effectiveness of holy water against demons. Keep this in mind whenever you read from him that I didn't provide any evidence from the early Church.

The holes don't stop there:
  • No Scripture passage provided that either explicitly or implicitly rejects the use of holy water against demons.

  • No response to the proof I provided against his assertion that "special miracles" ceased after the Apostolic period.

  • In his haste to disagree with me he contradicted himself on this point, denying that holy things can be effective against demons (here) after he had affirmed the effectivneness of soil (here).

  • When I pointed out the irrelevancy of his statement, "'unclean' is simply a figure of speech for the fact that they are evil," I again received no response.

  • When I showed that it could just as easily be the holiness of Jesus' name that expels demons as it could be the authority of guessed it, nothing.

  • When I explained the exceptions in which the devil and his demons are allowed to be in the presence of holiness, he simply called this a "fall-back position" without actually refuting it.
Note, regarding that last point, that when I said, "Demons are rightly repulsed by anything that is holy," I was speaking normatively, which is just common sense. If we tried to include every single exception whenever we spoke affirmatively, it would take us forever to actually say anything. So, my later statements regarding the examples he provided were hardly a "fall-back position" or an admission that he was right.

What these lists reveal is that tfan has not successfully defended his position on a variety of points. The few arguments that he did actually follow-up on and that I haven't responded to yet will be answered below.

From his rebuttal post:
Using Holy Water to counter demonic forces is undeniably innovative [. . .] and we have seen silence from the Early Church Fathers [. . .]
Noting that the Apostolic Constitutions and Bede's Ecclesiastical History have not been sufficiently discredited, there is also the following testimony from the early Church:
  • Under the subheading "Miracles by Holy Water" we read:
    "Sts. Chrysostom, Fortunatus, Theodore, Luthbert, Hegesippus, Anno, Anselm, Bernard, Malachy, Columba, and Edmond healed many afflicted persons from evils both of soul and body" [emphasis mine]. -- Richard Brennan, LL.D, The Means of Grace: A Complete Exposition of the Seven Sacraments, Their Institution, Meaning, Requirements, Ceremonies, and Efficacy (2nd ed., Benziger Brothers, 1894, p. 367)

  • "St. Achard [A.D. 687], abbot of Jumieges, in the diocese of Rouen, used to go over his abbey every night when the inmates had retired to their cells, and visit the dormitories with cross and holy water to drive away evil spirits, which often hid themselves in these places to scare the sleepers in their sleep." -- Surius, "Lives of the Saints"; as quoted in A Dictionary of Miracles: Imitative, Realistic, and Dogmatic by Ebenezer Cobham (Chatto and Windus, 1901, p. 505/605)

  • "A visitor to St. Sophia in sixth-century Constantinople described water 'gurgling noisily into the air' from a bronze pipe 'with a force that banishes all evils'" [emphasis mine]. -- Ann Wroe, "Holy Water", in America Magazine

  • The article on Holy Water from the New Advent Encyclopedia mentions "the Pontifical of Scrapion of Thumis, a fourth-century bishop, and likewise the 'testamentum Domini', a Syriac composition dating from the fifth to the sixth century" [emphasis mine], which contain a blessing of oil and water for the "putting to flight" of "every evil spirit." The article also mentions of a Joseph of Tiberias who blessed some water, and, pouring it on a man, healed him of his "infernal spirit."
It should be obvious by now that the use of holy water is far from "innovative", nor is it an invention of the Middle Ages.

B. Likewise, demons can be cast out by those who are not holy, for a variety of reasons. Chapter II of the Apostolic Constitutions states, “nor will those who cast demons be sanctified by the demons being made subject to them: for they only mock one another, as they do who play childish tricks for mirth, and destroy those who give heed to them.”
But that's not what that quotation means. Just because an exorcist is not sanctified by the act of expelling a demon, that doesn't mean that he was not already holy to begin with.

C. Similarly, canon 79 of the Apostolic Constitutions prohibits ordination of demoniacs, and even prohibits demoniacs from praying “with the faithful.” This would seem to be an utterly unnecessary prohibition if it was believed at that time that demons are repulsed by anything that is holy.
This is not an unnecessary prohibition. You wouldn't want someone ordained who is susceptible to possession by the devil. As for the prohibition from praying with the faithful, there are always sinners in the Church who could be negatively influenced by the demoniac, were the demon to return.

2. It has not been established that “Holy Water” is, in fact, holy.
There's holy water in Scripture (cf. Exo 23:25; Num 5:17; 19:9,13-20; 2 Ki 2:19-22). There's also the examples from the early Church that I have already provided, in which water is blessed and made holy. Water can definitely be made holy, just like oil can (cf. Exo 30:25,31; 37:29; Num 35:25; Psa 89:20).

B. The infidels and pagans also consecrate water, but it should not be deemed “Holy.” Thus, merely consecrating water is not enough to make it holy.
It is when Christians are involved.

Finally, from tfan's Conclusion:

It’s a classic example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy [. . .] It’s also a class example of self-reinforcement [. . .] Finally, to complete the superstitious stool, there is the leg of the statistical fallacy of filtering
There are no logical fallacies involved here. We are both operating under the assumption that if a belief and/or practice is found in the early Church, it is a valid one. That's why tfan has made that a requirement of me. I am simply fulfilling his requirement.

- Unclean Spirits: If we were trying to make unclean spirits clean, sprinkling holy water on them might make sense. But we are not, so it doesn’t. Ritual uncleanness for which the OT prescribed washing is unlike spiritual uncleanness, for which the OT prescribed sacrifice.
This is not true. Scripture specifically said that the "water for impurity" was used "for the removal of sin" (Num 19:9).

PC says that he is not willing to take John Paul Perrin’s word for the fact that the use of holy water against demons was simply a medieval superstition. Perrin however, documented his claim with an appeal to a Roman Catholic doctor (physician) who testified to that fact.
Physicians do not have authority in theological matters.

Furthermore, we have the testimony of other Catholics, such as Erasmus (who was offered the position of cardinal by Paul III), who acknowledge that the medieval era was awash with superstitions (see, for example, “In praise of folly,” pp. 85-87 (link)). One can even find admissions of the extent of superstitions in Europe from Cardinal Newman, who was certainly accepting of a continuity of miracles (see, Lives of the English Saints, Section 3 “Hermit Saints,” p. 57 (link)).
That doesn't mean that holy water was one such superstition.

In closing, I had several quotes from the ECF’s on holy oil that I promised to provide, but the word limit confines me to this single quotation:
  • "I know that a young woman of Hippo was immediately dispossessed of a devil, on anointing herself with oil, mixed with the tears of the prebsyter who had been praying for her." --St. Augustine, City of God (413-427 A.D.), Bk. 22

If there was every a doubt that holy things can be used to cast away demons, that should expel it.

Pax Christi,

The Holy Water Debate Needs Your Help!

The main part of the Holy Water debate is finally complete. Here are all the links you need to follow it from start to finish:

But, I still need your help. Now that the debate is over, we're opening the floor for questions from the audience. Right now, all of the questions are for me. So, in order to even the score a bit, I need you to send me an email with any questions that you may have for Turretinfan. Not satisfied with his answers? Want to challenge him on a particular point? Here is your chance....but you have to hurry. You only have until the end of the day tomorrow to email me your questions for him.

My email address is:

phatcatholicapologetics [at] gmail [dot] com
Don't leave your questions in the combox b/c they are supposed to be a surprise. I thank you all for your help with this.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Q&A Potpourri

A reader recently emailed me the following questions:

Why has a woman to keep the baby after her rape? Will that remind her of a painful experience that she faced?
The pregnancy and the resultant child that is born probably will remind her of the painful experience that she had to go through. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to carry with you for nine months a constant reminder of something you would rather forget. But, that is no reason to abort the baby.

It's not the baby's fault that the mother was raped. Death is an unjust punishment for the innocent, and the baby certainly did nothing wrong. Of course, beyond that, we all have a right to life in virtue of being made in the image and likeness of the Living God. To take that child's life is to deny him/her a most basic and fundamental right, and it is to basically say that the mother's life is more important than the child's.

Remember that the mother can always give the child up for adoption if she has to. There are also many right-to-life organizations that are available to help a woman with an unplanned pregnancy. Abortion is not the only option, and if the mother will just allow her child to come into the world she may even discover, to her surprise, that she wants to keep her child after all. Children are a blessing and a gift from God. We never know what blessings God can bring out of a difficult situation, if we will only persevere and do what is right.

Regarding the 5th commandment: Why can we allow to kill a person who intrudes into our house? Will we commint a sin regarding the 5th commandment?
Well, the morality of killing an intruder depends on if he is a threat to your life or to that of your loved ones. If he is, and if killing him is the only way to defend yourself and your family, then it is just and even required of you to kill that man.

An extension of our right to life is our right to defend ourselves against anything that would take that life from us. Here's what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about self-defense:
  • 2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art).

    2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
    • If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's (ibid.).

    2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.
Note that if you can defend your life by not killing the intruder, you should do so. For example, just the sight of your gun will make most robbers run away. Killing is always a last resort.

How can we navigate around your website for effectively? Best websites for Catholics or trustful blogs like yours?
I'm not really sure if I understand your question. There are several ways that you can navigate my website:
  1. Type a word in the very top, left corner of my blog and blog posts will appear that contain that word
  2. If you click on the "Categories" button in my sidebar, a list will drop down with several categories that I have grouped my posts into. So, if you click "Questions and Answers" you will be able to read as many of my Q&A's as will fit on one page. It won't be all of my Q&A's, but it will be a start.
  3. If you click on the "Previous Posts" button in my sidebar, a list will drop down that contains links to my last 10 posts.
  4. If you click on the "Archive" button, a list will drop down with links to previous months. So, for example, if you click on "July 2006", you will be able to read all the posts that I made in July of 2006
Right now, those are all of the ways that you can navigate my blog. I'm working on making index pages as well, but that's not finished yet. As soon as it is, I will let everyone know.

If you want to read the work of other authors besides myself and check out other great websites besides this blog, just click on the various other buttons in the sidebar.

I hope that answers your question! For more on abortion, see the Catholic Defense Directory: Abortion. For more on self-defense, see New Advent: Self-Defense.

Pax Christi,

Poll-Release Mon...err, I mean Tuesday! (#42)

Always better late than never, here is this week's poll question:

  • "What is your opinion on the new 'Daily Dose of Discernemt' series that I have been posting on this blog?"
    • Yay
    • Nay
    • "Daily with De Sales" was better
    • Get rid of the G. K. Chesterton portion
    • Get rid of the Great Catholic Writers portion
Since "Daily Dose of Discernment" has been up and running for about a week now, I thought it would be good to gage everyone's opinion. Personally, I dig it, but one of my readers said it was "insulting," so who knows. Let me know what you think by voting in the poll in the sidebar.

That said, here are the results from last week's poll:
  • "What is your favorite sacramental?"
    • rosary: 21 (50%)
    • making the sign of the cross: 12 (29%)
    • icons: 2 (5%)
    • holy water: 2 (5%)
    • scapular: 2 (5%)
    • incense: 1 (2%)
    • statues: 1 (2%)
    • blessed medals: 1 (2%)
    • blessed palms: 0 (0%)
    • bells: 0 (0%)
    • ashes: 0 (0%)
    • holy oil: 0 (0%)
    • TOTAL VOTES: 42
It's good to see that everyone is praying their rosary! Also, I realized later that there is a glaring....and I mean GLARING omission: the crucifix (am I a moron, or what?). I love the crucifix, and I wish I would have thought to include it in the poll. Almost every time I gaze upon it I am reminded of a keen observation by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen:

"Keep your eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without the cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever."

Truer words have never been said. Jesus' mission was to mount that cross to achieve the forgiveness of our sins, and without Him perched there, accepting the burden of all man's sins, the cross becomes simply one of many forms of capital punishment in Jesus' day.

Sacred Heart of Jesus....have mercy on us!

Pax Christi,

Daily Dose of Discernment: 1/29/08

Tis the very difference between the artistic mind and the mathematical that the former sees things as they are in a picture, some nearer and larger, some smaller and farther away while to the mathematical mind everything, every inch in a million, every fact in a cosmos, must be of equal value. That is why mathematicians go mad, and poets scarcely ever do. A man may have as wide a view of life as he likes, the wider the better: a distant view, a bird's-eye view, but still a view and not a map. The one thing he cannot attempt in his version of the universe is to draw things to scale.
-- G. K. Chesterton, G. F. Watts
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Faith seeks understanding; so you may now say to me: "We know from whom our Lord Jesus Christ took his flesh—it was from the Virgin Mary. As a baby, he was suckled, he was fed, he developed, he came to young man's estate. He was slain on the cross, he was taken down from it, he was buried, he rose again on the third day. On the day of his own choosing, he ascended to heaven, taking his body with him; and it is from heaven that he will come to judge the living and the dead. But now that he is there, seated at the right hand of the Father, how can bread be his body? And the cup, or rather what is in the cup, how can that be his blood?"

These things, my friends, are called sacraments, because our eyes see in them one thing, our understanding another. Our eyes see the material form; our understanding, its spiritual effect. If, then, you want to know what the body of Christ is, you must listen to what the apostle tells the faithful: Now you are the body of Christ, and individually you are members of it.

If that is so, it is the sacrament of yourselves that is placed on the Lord's altar, and it is the sacrament of yourselves that you receive. You reply "amen" to what you are, and thereby agree that such you are. You hear the words "the body of Christ," and you reply "amen." Be, then, a member of Christ's body, so that your "amen" may accord with the truth.
-- Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 272

Monday, January 28, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 1/28/08

On bright blue days I do not want anything to happen; the world is complete and beautiful -- a thing for contemplation. I no more ask for adventures under that turquoise dome than I ask for adventures in church. But when the background of man's life is a grey background, then, in the name of man's sacred supremacy, I desire to paint on it in fire and gore. When the heavens fail man refuses to fail; when the sky seems to have written on it, in letters of lead and pale silver, the decree that nothing shall happen, then the immortal soul, the prince of all creatures, rises up and decrees that something shall happen, if it be only the slaughter of a policeman.
G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
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Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on the account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.
-- Thomas Aquinas, O.P., Conferences on the Creed

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 1/27/08

I gravely doubt whether women ever were married by capture. I think they pretended to be; as they do still.
-- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World

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The Good Shepherd lost none of his sheep when he laid down his life for them; he did not desert them, but kept them safe; he did not abandon them but called them to follow him, leading them by the way of death through the lowlands of this passing world to the pastures of life.

Listen to the shepherd's words: My sheep hear my voice and follow me. Those who have followed him to death will inevitably also follow him to life; his companions in shame will be his companions in honor, just as those who have shared his suffering will share his glory. Where I am, he says, there shall my servant be also. And where is that? Surely in heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Do not be troubled, then, because you must live by faith, nor grow weary because hope is deferred. Your reward is certain; it is preserved for you in him who created all things. You are dead, scripture says, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, you too will appear with him in glory. What was concealed from the farmer at seedtime he will see as he gathers in the sheaves, and the man who plows in sorrow will harvest his crop in gladness.
-- Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 40: PL 52, 314

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Topical Index Page: God - Trinity and Christology

Our Trinitarian God
Jesus Christ

Topical Index Page: Eschatology and the Last Things

For more on eschatology and the last things, see the Catholic Defense Directory: End Times / Last Things.

Topical Index Page: Evangelization and Catechesis

For more on evangelization and catechesis, see the "Catechetical Materials" tab at the top of the page.

Topical Index Page: Church History and the Early Church Fathers

Topical Index Page: Sacraments and Sacramentals



Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass


Holy Matrimony

Holy Orders and the Priesthood

Anointing of the Sick


For more on the seven Sacraments and sacramentals, see the Catholic Defense Directory: Sacraments and Sacramentals.

Daily Dose of Discernment: 1/26/08

I am staring," said MacIan at last, "at that which shall judge us both."

"Oh yes," said Turnbull in a tired way; "I suppose you mean God."

"No, I don't," said MacIan, shaking his head, "I mean him." And he pointed to the half-tipsy yokel who was ploughing, down the road. "I mean him. He goes out in the early dawn; he digs or he ploughs a field. Then he comes back and drinks ale, and then he sings a song. All your philosophies and political systems are young compared to him. All your hoary cathedrals -- yes, even the Eternal Church on earth is new compared to him. The most mouldering gods in the British Museum are new facts beside him. It is he who in the end shall judge us all. I am going to ask him which of us is right."

"Ask that intoxicated turnip-eater?"

"Yes -- which of us is right. Oh, you have long words and I have long words; and I talk of every man being the image of God; and you talk of every man being a citizen and enlightened enough to govern. But, if every man typifies God, there is God. If every man is an enlightened citizen, there is your enlightened citizen. The first man one meets is always man. Let us catch him up."
-- G. K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross
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It is up to us to use the freedom we have been given to choose life or death. So I beg you as lovingly and tenderly as I can to be the sort of flower that breathes out a fragrance before God and for those in your care. Be a true shepherd, ready to give your life for your sheep. Correct vice and strengthen the virtuous in doing good. The failure to correct causes decay just as surely as does a gangrenous organ in the human body. Keep a watchful eye on yourself and on those in your care. Don't think it harsh to root out the thorns; the fruit will be far sweeter than the effort is bitter.

Consider God's ineffable love for your salvation; open your eyes and you see his boundless blessings and gifts. Is there a greater love than to give one's life for one's friends? How much more deserving of praise is the one who gave his life for his enemies! So let our hearts be on the defensive no longer, but let hardness be driven out and let these hearts not be stone forever. Let that binding chain be broken with which the devil so often keeps us bound. The power of holy desire, scorn for vice, and love for virtue will break all these bonds. Fall in love with virtue; its effect is the opposite of that of vice, because sin brings bitterness while virtue brings sweetness and even in this life a foretaste of the next.
-- Catherine of Siena, "Letter 10", from The Letters of Saint Catherine of Siena, Suzanne Noffke, O.P., volume 1, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1988, 57-58
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