Music and God
Like the excellent Charles Pope in this blog post (and thank God for a priest saying to us that he “joined the church choir to meet the pretty girls who sang there”) I always felt a strong connection between music and God. Not in the sense that I though that there must be a God because I hear beautiful music (I am one of those fortunate being who always had, since childhood, a strong interior feeling of the existence of God; something you can’t explain to those who haven’t it more than you could explain how it is to be in love to those who never were) , but because in my eyes music must tell even to the atheists that man con achieve summits by which one can, even as an atheist, seriously doubt that this is purely the work of man.
I still remember the first time I heard, for the first time, Schubert’s Incompiuta.
I wasn’t the youngest anymore (perhaps thirteen or fourteen), and it literally (as in: no air) took my breath away and sent such shivers down my spine like I had never had before. I still can’t hear the start of this wonderful example of truly divine beauty without having a shiver sent down my spine again, every time.
Much as I admire Schubert as one of the very, very greatest, I simply can’t see in this the unaided work of a human mind. No doubt, Heaven came down to give us a glimpse of Its glory and majesty and stunning, aching beauty. And the same impression happens, by the chap in question, rather often to me (for example by listening to this and this, pieces by which you wonder how humanity coped before having them). If you consider that he himself declared that his Ave Maria was composed in a period of “overpowering devotion to the Blessed Virgin”, you get my drift.
Music truly catapults us in another dimension, throws away all our reasoning and rationalising and takes control of us in such a way that, with such an instant immediacy, really should let us think .
The problem with the atheists is that in their fantasy of omnipotence they think that man can do everything. Therefore, they will not recognise God’s work when they are put squarely in front of it.
Beethoven used to say (can’t find the citation anymore) something on the lines that his music (not only sacred music, of course; but also glimpses of Divinity like this one) was able to led people to God more than many priests would. Whilst a composer certainly can’t effect the consecration, I think we get his drift, too.
Amy And Mary
Surprisingly, there is no trace on the Catholic blogosphere of the event that has surprised and – as it is always said, though in this case with less reason – shocked Britain on Saturday afternoon: the death of Amy Winehouse.
This is surprising because it is in my eyes not entirely consequential to condemn the perfectly a-religious (in the best of cases), booze-and-drugs lifestyle more or less directly propagated by too much of the modern pop culture, and not stop to reflect – and to admonish – when this culture actually leads to such a death.
Besides being an undoubted talent, a beautiful singing voice and a remarkably free-thinking artist in many respects, Amy Winehouse was in my eyes remarkable in another respect: a rather total lack of orientation in life. She was not one of those focused people who steel their determination in long years of obscurity until success comes to them; success had happened to her, so to speak, very early in life, and in such a casual way that she even maintained not to have a record of her first album at home. This was not a story of dogged determination, for sure.
Her famous “I don’t give a f**k” to Bono seemed rather her life motto, a motto to which she has remained faithful until it has become her undoing; a motto the more remarkable in these times where the talents of the music industry are rather strictly kept under observation, I assume for a sense of humanity besides the obvious “asset protection” reasoning.
They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “No, no, no”
are the opening verses of a – actually, rather beautiful – song of her. In the same song, we hear
I don’t ever wanna drink again
I just, ooh, I just need a friend
In thinking of the tragedy of the late Amy Winehouse, what I think the experts and the rehab clinics and the music industry managers and even the fans couldn’t give her, a sensible prayer life would have given. I do not want to say that if you pray your addiction will automatically disappear, or that you will transform yourself overnight in the embodiment of fighting spirit; but it is fair to say that even a small prayer goes a long way to avoid the worst excesses, and that when one collaborates with grace then more energy is given to tackle one’s problem, and so on.
Amy Winehouse was born in a Jewish family, but it doesn’t seem that faith ever played a role in her life. I wonder whether she ever stopped for a moment to think of the Blessed Virgin, or if she knew Her at all, or if she had any religious life at all. You see, how one can send people to rehabilitation clinics without talking to them about God is beyond me. It’s like trying to produce water without the oxygen.
Talking about Catholic oxygen, one of the most beautiful aspects of Catholicism is to be able to see the Blessed Virgin as our Heavenly Mother. Even if I were hated by my parents, or had a very troubled relationship with them, the love and respect for my Mother in Heaven would certainly encourage me to stop harming myself. This thought has been in the past the guide and consolation for innumerable orphans, or people with difficult parents. I dare to think that what has failed here was not the attention of her agents, or of her production company, but her prayer life. The first prayer leads to the second, and then comes the third. At some point, you have enough self-esteem and self-love to not appear on stage drunk like a lord, because you know that you are loved.
We know that the Blessed Virgin suffered for her every day. We know that she would have been able to intercede for her more effectively, if properly asked for. We know that it is impossible to feel loved and valuable and willingly go forth toward self-destruction; that no matter how hard the trial – and her trial, if undoubtedly self-inflicted, must have been very hard at the end – we can’t blindly abandon ourself to self-harm when we feel embraced by Her tender love. Now, Winehouse being Jewish the recourse to Mary would have been (perhaps) not in the cards; but this shows once again the beauty, wisdom, love and Truth of our wonderful Catholic religion.
Therapists, consultants, more or less loving parents, the usual entourage of officially disinterested friends: was there among them someone who just suggested to Amy Winehouse that she prays, and then prays again, and then prays some more? I haven’t found any mention anywhere. It doesn’t seem to have been part of the picture. But fame, money, an army of consultants cannot do much against one’s own ghosts, unless supernatural help is asked and received. And what are we without prayer, other than little vessels lost in the storm of life…
Therefore, when the official reason for her death is made public, we are not very likely to read what was rather probably an important part of it: lack of proper spiritual life, lack of knowledge of being an infinitely beloved soul, and lack of knowledge of the Blessed Virgin as her Heavenly Mother.
I hope that she has avoided the worst, though frankly who can say… I have prayed for her not because I think that she was more deserving than all those unknown souls who died on saturday afternoon, but because of the sadness of such a waste of life and talent, and the suffering she must have caused to her poor guardian angel, and to Mary in Heaven.
Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
No Christianity In The Cemetery, Please
You’d think that a soldier who has served (or even died for) his country would have the right of having words like “God” or “Jesus” in his funeral service.
But this doesn’t seem to be the case in the military cemetery in Houston, where you simply can’t say the words.
This is a very interesting development, mainly because it shows all the intolerance and stupidity of its proponents. It goes not only against the most elementary sense of religious liberty, but against liberty tout court.
As such, this exercise in intolerance and dictatorship must certainly come from…. liberals. It is as if they’d say “Jesus must stay outside”, as you’d do with dogs. Even worse than that, it is some cretin telling you what to tell and not to tell when you remember a beloved one. And this cannot be an incident or a misunderstanding as several organisations have reported the news. One would wonder what would be the practice with Allah & Co, but by this level of ideological blindness and pure hatred it would not be surprising to know that the same rules apply.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has already stated that it ““respects every veteran and their family’s right to burial service that honors their faith tradition.” It is therefore an easy prediction not only that this scandal will soon end, but that this might well cause a couple of liberal heads of the Department of Veteran Affairs – the cemetery director being a prime candidate – to silently roll on the green cemetery grounds. Still, this episode goes to show the extent of the intolerance of modern “liberals”, probably the most illiberal people remained on the planet after the North Koreans.
These people are a true menace for freedom and must be stopped until they ban us from pronouncing every word not pleasant to them.
Patriarch Of Lisbon Tired And Emotional, Or Openly Heretical
The news about the extraordinary interview given from the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Policarpo, has already gone around the internet for a couple of days. The news was, I must admit, too incredible to dedicate to it a blog post until further news from a reliable source are available.
Now Rorate Caeli publishes an ample excerpt of his interview. I allow myself to mention here some of the more enlightening parts.
It was not by fortune that Jesus chose men to be apostles and gave women another kind of attention… [sic]
“Another kind of attention”. This is, I have to say, more than vaguely creepy. It sounds as if the Cardinal had given the interview after a good meal, with good wine and a glass of port, or three. Very unfortunate choice of words, for sure.
Once I was here in the Diocese and, when we had a discussion, there was a young women who asked the question: why can’t women be priests? And I decided to risk it. I said: you are right, but, in order that others study this matter, it is necessary to know if there are candidates…[sic]
Besides the extreme lack of intelligence of the argumentation – “would you want to do it?” is certainly not a logical argument; I mean, in Kindergarten perhaps, followed by “nananananananaaa”, but not between adults; and yes, the deluded candidates for such “jobs” are not missing, for sure – the Cardinal dares to answer to the feminists: “you are right”.
This is a man whose tongue is not properly under control, or not well-connected with his brains.
All kept their heads down.
Good Lord. That’s the argument! The women kept their heads down! Even if he had just said that ….. they were right! What a formidable debater we have here. A true Prince of the Church.
Once, in the context of an international meeting on the new evangelization, in Vienna, this question was posed, and I said that there is not, at this moment, any Pope who has the power to do that.
This calls for a tranquilliser. Let us repeat this verbatim: “There is not, at the moment, any Pope who…..”. Is the good Cardinal looking for a suitable one? Has he already advertised to fill the vacancy? “Pope sought. Power to ordain women is an absolute requirement. Send your CV to Card. Policarpo, Lisbon.” Or should there, in fact, be one, but he has missed the train and couldn’t make it to the ordination of priestesses? Or is the good Cardinal waiting for a new Pope from Mars, who will be able to do it? Questions, questions……
You gotta love that Port wine, though.
It goes on.
This would create tensions, and it will happen only when God wants it to happen and, if it is in His plans, it will happen
Ah, now we know it! Male priesthood is not a matter of infallible (in-fal-li-ble; I-N-F-A-L-L-I-B-L-E) Ordinary and universal Magisterium. It is something that God might simply change! God changes His mind pretty regularly, didn’t you know? Just as the Twelve Commandment became Ten and the Sixteen Apostles (at least two of them, very probably, women; we don’t know for certain) were reduced to Twelve we might, one day, have women priests! Simples! Be patient though, will you?
Yes, you know what I’m thinking….
It goes on.
The Holy Father John Paul II, at one point, seemed to settle the matter. I believe that the matter is not settled like this; theologically, there is no fundamental obstacle; there is this tradition, let us say it this way… [sic] it was never different. (Emphases mine)
(Your humble correspondent stops here, because he feels unable to keep composure and write about the matter in a way acceptable for polite ears).
(Well, Wimbledon is good to calm yourself down. Now, where was I….)
Note the words. Pope John Paul “seemed to settle the matter”, but then he apparently forgot to. Or Cardinal Policarpo was just not there. Or he just can’t read. Apparently, then, according to our hero “there is no theological obstacle”. It’s not a theological matter, you know. It’s just that, hey, it just happened to never be otherwise. As they say, “shit happens”! But you never know, one day the Vatican might find a letter from Heaven saying to do it differently! It has happened already, don’t ya know? It’s called the “Ordinary, Universal and Disposable Magisterium”. Yes, a bit like Kleenex. We love that thing here in Lisbon! We use it all the time! No, not the Kleenex…
At this point, I do not even think that Port wine can do this. Not the one I know, at least, unless Portuguese Cardinals have access to some very, very strong stuff.
It goes on….
The problem is on another level, in a strong tradition, which comes from Jesus, and in the ease with which the reformed churches went that way. This did not make the solution of the problem any easier, if this problem has a solution.
So, you know what the Cardinal thinks it has happened? Jesus has created a problem! Instead of doing Cardinal Policarpo the favour of having a couple of token women as every serious, “equality sensitive” multinational would do, he just goes on stubbornly appointing an all-male, chauvinistic team; one where women can’t even find a place as reserves to be inserted in the last fifteen minutes, when you’re winning 3-0 and are playing 11 against 10. Oh well, it is what it is, we’ll have to live with the problem now…. And look, Jesus, we look even worse now, because the Protestant teams ( I’ll call them “churches”, of course; “reformed churches”. I know it sounds heretical, but hey, we can’t say “there’s only one Church”, right?) have inserted women in their teams with such… ease! Good Satan, this is embarrassing! What do we say to the customers now! This is going to give us a serious marketing problem! We need to change the product, Jesus; we truly do!
And now, dear readers, is the time for some serious, sad reflection.
The hypothesis that the Cardinal might have drunk too much, and might have lost control during the interview, is in my eyes not entirely unfounded. If you read the interview, he loses his thread several times, once at the very beginning; he sounds confused and creepy; he seems not to reflect on the huge heresies he goes on spitting. In short, he looks like one surprised at a very bad time, and who didn’t have the presence of spirit to call it a headache and leave the thing for another day. It happens more often than you think, Ken Livingstone is just the last example.
This would be the charitable explanation. Let me stress this: the charitable one; the one which considers human frailties; the one which tries to discount the open heresy and to find an explanation for his inexplicable words, a halfway understandable excuse for his inexcusable blabber.
On the other hand – and sad as it is to have to say so – Rorate Caeli informs us that this is the same man who has overseen the Portuguese church in a time of legalisation of abortion on demand and of same sex marriages without opposing more than some obligatory meowing; the one who has presided over a collapse of church attendance but is still the owner of the very telling privilege of presiding over the only capital in Europe still without a Tridentine Mass.
A coincidence is a coincidence, but….. you know the rest…
Once again, this shows that the Liturgy is so closely intertwined with the theology, that you can’t separate the two. Where you have bad liturgy, this will create bad theology. Where you have stubborn opposition to Catholic liturgical orthodoxy, you will have the ideal ground for the spreading of heresy.
The Liturgy is the Church. When you use violence to the Liturgy, you use violence to the Church. The rest follows automatically.
I truly hope that in the next days the Cardinal will offer to the press a strong refutation of his words. But as this has not yet been the case, I can’t imagine that there is a realistic chance for this and that we must face the reality of an openly heretical Cardinal. Nothing new under the sun of course, but sad nevertheless.
Therefore, unless this man was “tired and emotional” at the moment of giving the interview, the only possible conclusion is that the Patriarch of Lisbon is openly heretical, and has the gut to clearly and openly defy the Pope’s and the Church’s authority in matters clearly pertaining to the Ordinary and universal Magisterium.
When such a challenge to the Church’s teaching authority is moved, and from such an elevated position, it is the duty of the Pope to correct, admonish and if necessary punish the person responsible.
If the Pope lets this provocation pass without correction, his authority and prestige will be irrevocably damaged and after the Patriarch of Lisbon, other heretical senior churchmen will come out of the wood and start expressing their more or less veiled approval for heretical theories. This must be stopped now, as it has already gone far enough.
The days of the Popes who limit themselves to administer some nice words of guidance and counselling should have ended long ago. As Romano Amerio beautifully pointed out, the role of the Pope has traditionally been one of both direction and prescription. If the Holy Father only focuses on the first aspect and neglects the second, heresy, anarchy and schism will be the result. It will be Pope Paul VI all over again!
The Cardinal needs our prayer. But just as surely, he needs to be kicked out, sharpish. There can be no excuse, no reason of opportunity, no fear of schism that can justify the permanence of such openly heretical cardinal at his place. Souls are at stake. Those who have the duty to act will have to anwer for these souls.
The place where to address your righteous indignation are as follows:
Congregation for the Clergy: email@example.com
Congregation for Bishops: Palazzo della Congregazioni, Piazza Pio XII, 10, 00193 Roma, Italy (email address not found)
Holy Father: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please try to be much more moderate than I was here. There’s a time for the sword and a time for the floret. You’ll be addressing Princes of the Church or even – at least officially – the Holy Father himself. I’ll do it as soon as I can.
Frankly, at the moment I can’t.
Capuchin “Flash Mob”. Of Sort.
The Capuchins made the headlines with something authentically Christian, and your humble correspondent can’t avoid reporting on the matter.
This video is a beautiful testimony of the Catholic faith, and particularly fitting in the weeks leading to the Corpus Domini. So much so, that Father Z has made a poll on it, and the conservative readership is, on the whole, delighted (I have voted “5”, too).
Note the reverence of the Capuchin friar/priest (very good arms, by the way), and the way he holds the monstrance all the time and looks at it without pause. The text (read by a second friar) repeatedly invites those present to “come and kneel before Him now“. This some people slowly begin to do, some old and some young, and stay there whilst the Eucharist in front of them reminds them (and the passers-by) of a couple of Catholic truths.
Tim Drake at the page linked above has made the beautiful effort of creating an almost complete transcript of what the second friar says. I’ll repeat the text below for your convenience. There is nothing wishy-washy there, and some very polemic references to new age and “Oprah” are delightful.
My only reservations (not a criticism; just a suggestion of how this excellent idea could be further improved) are as follows:
1) the protection of the Eucharist. OK, England is not a place where people start to mob or assault a priest, and the camera was certainly seen as security enough. But I did have some discomfort.
2) at times, the lack of reverence. Perhaps the text should be modified stressing in several points the absolute reverence due to the Body of Christ. The applause to the friar in front of the Blessed Sacrament was, in my eyes, completely out of line, though the clappers probably didn’t even noticed it. What is next, choirs of approbation in football-stadion style?
All in all, I found this beautiful. I hope this initiative founds imitators among conservative priests and religious orders.
Text. With many thanks to Tim Drake.
“Jesus Christ is in every book of the Bible.
In Genesis, Jesus is the Seed of the Woman.
In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus, He is the Priest, the Altar, and the Lamb of Sacrifice.
In Numbers, He is a Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by Night.
In Deuteronomy, Jesus is the Prophet, like Moses.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Joshua, Jesus is the Captain of Our Salvation.
In Judges, He is our Judge and Lawgiver.
In Ruth, He is our Kinsman and Redeemer.
In 1 and 2 Samuel, He is our Trusted Prophet.
In Kings and Chronicles, He is our Reigning King.
In Ezra, He is the rebuilder of the broken down walls of human life.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Nehemiah, Jesus is our Restorer.
In Tobit, He is the Messenger of New Life.
In Judith, He is Weakness Turned into Victory.
In Esther, He is our Advocate.
In 1 and 2 Maccabees, He is the Leader who dies for God’s law.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Job, Jesus is our Everliving Redeemer.
In Psalms, He is our Shepherd.
In Proverbs, He is our Wisdom.
In Ecclesiastes, He is our Hope of Resurrection.
In the Song of Songs, He is our Loving Bridegroom.
In Wisdom, He is the emanation of God’s thought.
In Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Jesus is our security.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Isaiah, Jesus is the Suffering Servant.
In Jeremiah, He is the Righteous Branch.
In Lamentations, He is our Weeping Prophet.
In Baruch, He is the Mercy from the Eternal One.
In Ezekiel, He is the One with the Right to Rule.
In Daniel, Jesus is the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Hosea, Jesus is the Faithful Husband forever married to the sinner.
In Joel, He is the One who Baptizes with the Holy Spirit of Fire.
In Amos, He is the Restorer of Justice.
In Obadiah, He is Mighty to Save.
In Jonah, He is our great foreign missionary.
In Micah, He is the feet of one who brings Good News.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Nahum, Jesus is our stronghold in the day of trouble.
In Habakkuk, He is God my Savior.
In Zephaniah, He is the King of Israel.
In Haggai, He is the signet ring.
In Zechariah, He is our Humble King riding on a colt.
In Malachi, Jesus is the Son of Righteousness.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Matthew, Jesus is God with us.
In Mark, He is the Son of God.
In Luke, He is the Son of Mary, feeling what you feel.
In John, He is the Bread of Life.
In Acts, Jesus is the Savior of the World.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Romans, Jesus is the Righteousness of God.
In 1 Corinthians, He is the Resurrection.
In 2 Corinthians, He is the God of all comfort.
In Galatians, He is your liberty. He sets you free.
In Ephesians, Jesus is the Head of the Church.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Philippians, Jesus is your Joy.
In Colossians, He is your Completeness.
In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, He is your Hope.
In 1 Timothy, He is your Faith.
In 2 Timothy, Jesus is your Stability.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Titus, Jesus is Truth.
In Philemon, He is your Benefactor.
In Hebrews, He is your Perfection.
In James, He is the Power behind your Faith.
In 1 Peter, He is your Example.
In 2 Peter, Jesus is your Purity.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In 1 John, Jesus is your Life.
In 2 John, He is your Pattern.
In 3 John, He is your Motivation.
In Jude, He is the Foundation of your Faith.
In Revelation, Jesus is your Coming King.
The First and the Last.
The Beginning and the End.
He is the Keeper of Creation and the Creator of All.
He is the Architect of the Universe and the Manager of All Time.
He Always Was, He Always Is, and He Always Will Be Unmoved, Unchanged, Undefeated, and Never Undone.
He was bruised and brought healing.
He was pierced and eased pain.
He was persecuted and brought freedom.
He was dead and brought life.
He is risen and brings power.
He reigns and brings peace.
The world can’t understand Him.
The armys can’t defeat Him.
Schools can’t explain Him and the leaders can’t ignore Him.
Herod couldn’t kill Him.
The Pharisees couldn’t confuse Him.
The people couldn’t hold him. [This is where the clapping begins]
Nero couldn’t crush Him.
Hitler couldn’t silence Him.
The New Age can’t replace Him.
And Oprah can’t explain Him away.
He is Life, Love, Longevity, and Lord.
He is Goodness, Kindness, Gentleness and God.
He is Holy, Righteous, Mighty, Powerful, [missing word]
His Ways our Right, His Words Eternal, His Rules Unchanging, and His
Might [missing phrase]
He is My Redeemer, He is My Savior, He is My God, He is My Priest, He is My Joy, He is My Comfort, He is My Lord, and He rules my life.”
“Litany Of Lament”: When The Nursing Home Gets Angry
You may think that “Litany of Lament” is an invention of mine to mock the deluded geriatric potheads recently responsible for the heresy fest in Detroit. Well this is not the case and the “Litany of Lament” was, in fact, an official part of the proceedings.
Without repeating this piece of comedy in its entirety, let me explain for you some revealing points:
“2. Angered by church leaders who protect pedophiles and persecute prophets, we cry…”
It is, of course, not forbidden to be angry at bad shepherds. But it is decidedly forbidden to aspire to so-called female priesthood. Now make no mistake, when they say “persecute prophets”, they mean “punish women stupid enough to think they can be priests”. They even had huge posters about this at the conference. What claim these ladies have to be “prophetic” is not clear to me; neither it is, I think, to them….
“3 Denied Eucharist because of the failure to address the priest shortage, we cry.”
This is very, very funny. I mean, if they were in the middle of the Australian Outback one would understand a certain difficulty in finding a Catholic church; but what the old potheads are saying is “we must have wymmyn priest because now they are so rare we can’t find a church”. Beside the obvious heresy of wanting wymmyn priest, this is just plain stupid.
“4. Aching for the Eucharist to be celebrated as nourishment for sinners, not a reward for good behavior, we cry…”
This is rather difficult to understand. I never thought (and was never taught) that I can get communion only if I have been oh such a good boy. Being free of mortal sin and well disposed to receive the Eucharist is, in fact, all that is required. On the contrary, it is receiving a good communion that will wash out my sins, provided they are not mortal.
Moreover, the distinction between “people who behave well” on the one side and “sinners” on the other is wrong. We are all sinners of course, so the expression doesn’t make sense. But substitute with “aching for the eucharist to be given to everyone even if an unrepentant pervert” and I think you’ll get at the root of what they meant….
“5. Wondering why we are closing parishes rather than opening ordination, we cry…”
Heresy again. “Opening ordination” (to wymyn, it is meant here) is just not allowed. It is Church doctrine. Even if there’d be only, say, twelve priest left on the face of earth, Church doctrine would not change. “Closing parishes” is, therefore, neither here nor there and oh, have I said that asking for wymyn priest is heretical?
“6. Longing to celebrate creative theologians rather than mourn their marginalization, we cry…”
Buzzword alert: “celebrate”. The “creative” theologian is the heretical Hans Kueng, not allowed to teach anymore and not defrocked merely to avoid doing him a favour, but applauded by the marijuana-crowd.
“7. Oppressed by rigid structures of racism, we cry…”
Buzzword alert: racism. This is very, very funny. The Church who sets black men very high in the hierarchy (think of Cardinal Arinze) and has priests and bishops of every possible skin colour or shade would be “racist”. I think the word just had to be there. The old fools are so accustomed to using it….
“8. Blind to the beauty of God’s image in gay and lesbian people we cry…”
This is outright blasphemous. The beauty of God’s image is in the person, not in his being a pervert.
God doesn’t do perversion, God doesn’t create perverts, God doesn’t want one to be a pervert.
“12. Amidst the shattered images of godliness and ministry, we cry…”
It is difficult to understand what was meant here as probably the joint had already gone around for long enough. What I think this might mean is that without wymmyn priest the ministry of priesthood is “shattered” (read: God was fooled by a bunch of chauvis, these two thousand years) and that – I think; bear with me though, I am just trying to give some meaning to the words – therefore the Church is not reflective of, or representative of, any “godliness”.
Fun reading, I know.
It reminds me of those liberal teachers asking the young pupils at elementary schools “how they imagine God”.
These are the typical old people acting like children.
With the added brain damage from the drugs.
Niceness, The New Religion
From Father Z’s blog, a barely believable – if we lived in normal times – story about a canadian Catholic school. In said Catholic school the idea of having a crucifix in every classroom was in the past considered – for reasons I do not even want to think about – not really necessary. I know, I know…..
This year, this state of things changed and every classroom was equipped with his crucifix.
Thinking that this would make some explanation necessary (a crucifix: what will then that be, one wonders….), a teacher (and principal of the school) decided to give some “explanations” to every class in the school.
The explanation centered about Jesus not having physically risen from the dead. Not only Easter, but the entire concept of divinity of Christ, and with that of Trinity, goes herewith out of the window as I can’t understand why God would decide that he can resurrect, but prefers not to and tells us a lie about it instead, clearly allowing this lie to be believed for some 20 centuries before a Canadian minus habens comes along.
Because this is, according to one brave girl who immediately challenged him, what is all about: Jesus “never resurrected”, the whole thing is “like a metaphor that you follow” and, you know, “people have taken the Bible too literally”.
In the view of this “enlightened” teacher in a Catholic school, the “moral” that Jesus died is right but hey, “the story is wrong”. The man is, at this point, launched toward the creation of a completely new religion and dutifully delivers: “Because He died in our honour we should be nice to each other,” or if you prefer to put it another way “the crucifix represents helping others” and when the students look at it “that’s all it’s supposed to mean”.
And there, a new religion is born. This new religion, “BeNiceAnity”, has a vague flavour of Christianity and actually can even tolerate a Crucifix, but not without an explanation that says: “hey, don’t take it all too literally with this Christ: the chap is still six feet under (at which Mundabor would have asked: “where’s the body? Who has stolen it? Who has lied about it? Why?”) and you must just relax, be nice to each other and try to be helpful” (and, no doubt, inclusive).
I don’t want to think what private issues a man can have to want to blasphemously offend Christ in this way, in his role as teacher, in a Catholic school, but one doesn’t have to be a genius to see that they must be huge.
One would wish the chap all the best in his chosen new professional path. Whatever that is, I’m sure he’ll be better at that than he was at teaching.
One Day At The National Catholic Reporter
Below are some of the comments in the comment box of the National Catholic Reporter. Let us see what kind of deluded humanity we find there.
There is the one who has decided that 2000 years of Tradition are just wrong, whereas he himself is, of course, right:
The whole system of leadership appointment needs change and should come from the bottom up not the top down.
Then there is the one who doesn’t need the Church, because the Church doesn’t serve him and doesn’t accommodate his needs:
I answer to God not to any priest, bishop, or pope. I find less need everyday for a non-responsive, self-serving hierarchy.
Interesting is also the one who thinks that God himself has been conned these last 2000 years. Thankfully, we now have him to tell us what God always wanted:
The “Way” that Jesus showed us and invited us to follow had no hierarchs, not even the Temple priests
Amuse yourself with the one who says himself a Catholic, whilst also saying that being Catholic is bad (hey, his ex-Lutheran wife, but rather still Lutheran wife, “taught” him so). One wonders who has converted whom:
I was raised as a Catholic (Big C) and married a Lutheran, who converted to the big C. She has taught me that the word ‘catholic’ should never have the big C. The day we accept that we are catholic, and not Roman Catholic, we will all be better off.
Or do you prefer the obsessed trendy with nightmares of Trent restoration:
Benedict is doing a more disgusting job than John Paul II in trying to drag Catholics back to Trent.
What about the Pentecostal “the Holy Spirit directs us” chap, who at the same time is obviously not directed by the Holy Spirit to write in proper English (emphases mine):
Since Vatican Council II—the People of God have implemented what the Council was directing them to do. It was JP II (the Grate) and Benedict the Panzar Pope, who were/are trying to drag people back to where THEY were comfortable—a Church of subserviant people—who are “little people, simple (read stupid) who need their bishops to point out the way for them (this is a synopsis of Benedict’s thoughts)
Finally, there’s the anarchist revolutionary, believing in Revelation through the Internet. Unfortunately he misses the signs of the times, big time. He also seems to believe that higher education is a modern invention:
When all is said and done, I think point #4 in your critique is the bedrock of the revolution that is now happening in the modern church. The current so-called leaders are still living in the ages where only members of the clergy could read and only members of the hierarchy could make spiritual decisions. Now, in the modern age, vast numbers of people are thinking for themselves because of the effects of institutions of higher learning and the availability of research and documentation.
This is just the result of a couple of minutes of browsing, and all the comments are taken from merely two blog posts.
You’d never say this come from the site of a magazine calling itself “Catholic”.
About The Priest Turning His Back At Mass
Next time you hear someone complaining that in the Tridentine Mass the priests gives his back to the faithful, you may want to ask him the following questions:
1) Is he offended that the people sitting in front of them in the pews turn their back to him?
2) Shouldn’t the Mass, then, be held with the faithful in a nice half circle of one row only?
3) Does he know what a Tabernacle really is? You might have to explain this I’m afraid. When you have explained, you may ask:
4) Has he noticed how the priest is placed relative to the Tabernacle during the New Mass?
5) So who should the priest face: God or the faithful?
Of course you always run the chance of someone answering “the faithful, as God is not offended but the faithful are”.
But at least you’ll know whom you are talking to.
Distance Between Vatican and SSPX Greatly Reduced?
Rorate Caeli has a very interesting double post, in which a recent interview of Bishop Fellay is linked to an interview given by Mgr Pozzo of Ecclesia Dei. Both interviews contain what in my eyes are very interesting points.
Looking first at the interview with Pozzo, there is an expression that will probably make some waves (emphasis mine):
It does not seem conceivable that a call into question of the Second Vatican Council may happen. Therefore, where do these discussions might lead? To a better understanding of this?
Mgr Pozzo’s Answer:
They concern a clarification of points that detail the exact meaning of the teaching of the Council. It is what the Holy Father started to do on December 22, 2005, by interpreting the Council within a hermeneutic of renewal in continuity. Nevertheless, there are certain objections of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X that do make sense, because there has been an interpretation of rupture. The goal is to show that it is necessary to interpret the Council in the continuity of the Tradition of the Church.
Note that Mgr Pozzo says that SSPX and CDF are working together at seeing whether a shared understanding of V II can be achieved. It will not be a dismissal of V II as a cretinous thing to do in itself (shame, ndr), but it might lead to the same thing, that is: the rigorous exam of V II so that every interpretation not in rigorous continuity with the pre-V II Church is clearly and unequivocally rejected. This would lead, in a word, not to a formal dismissal of the V II documents, but to their thorough re-interpretation in light of Catholic orthodoxy. Basically, it means exposing all their shortcomings, misleading formulations and wrong interpretations by still saying that, apart from the shortcomings and the misleading formulations, they were never meant to be interpreted wrongly in the first place.
This seems to me a clear indication that the distances are reducing, as the explicit words of Mgr Pozzo about the SSPX’s objections “making sense” further underscore. In a situation where no word is said casually, I think this is worth noticing.
Even more worth noticing is the interview given some days ago by Bishop Fellay, which Rorate Caeli reports under the same link. Fellay allows himself very interesting words (emphasis mine):
I believe that, at some level, the Good Lord linked us with this crisis, because we work for the restoration of the Church, but this may still last for a decade, maybe two. It is necessary to have lots of courage and perseverance. This can be resolved tomorrow, this may be resolved the day after tomorrow. All is in the hands of the Good Lord.
Unless I am totally mistaken, there are two important points here:
1) Fellay sees something like one or two papacies as the maximum wait before a full reconciliation. He talks like one who can see from the development of the talks that time is on his side. Basically, he seems to imply that there are some toads that have been clearly recognised, but that the Vatican will not be ready to swallow until the Council has been pushed further into a historic (and less emotional) dimension and the generation who has lived it has proceeded to – hopefully – greener pastures.
2) The first point seems to me further stressed by the revealing words that I have emphasised. I do not know about you, but to me these words seem an extremely emphatic assertion that the distance has now become very small, and the Vatican must decide not the if, but merely the when of the formal steps leading to a full reconciliation. At any rate, I can’t imagine Fellay using such words unless he is persuaded that every big obstacle has been removed from the way.
Not for the first time, I get the impression that the only thing now necessary before the SSPX is in full communion again is the death of the generation who has lived the Second Vatican Council, and the possibility to put things straight from a more relaxed, less controversial historical perspective.
Three Cheers For Mario Grech And The Maltese Bishops
Malta is a Catholic fortress.
No divorce, no abortion, no cremation, no condoms in grocery stores.
This tiny country in the middle of the Mediterranean is now voting about divorce. It is one of only two countries which still get it right.
The vote seemed to assure victory to the divorce faction; but in the last days, the Catholic front has been advancing. The three Maltese bishops are – God bless them – firing from all cannons. Of the three, the most warly seems to be Mario Grech.
Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And the wolf is now saying he is Catholic. This is a falsity, this is deceit
You cannot not be loyal to Christ and say you are a Christian or a Catholic
If you are not in communion with Christ’s teachings, you are not in communion with the Church and you cannot receive communion
to be politically correct and not tell things as they are will lead us to be sorry. There are the brigands among us who are utilizing every means possible to lead the flock astray. They are going after marriage and then other things will follow.
The vote is now too close to call. But if the catholic side loses it will certainly not have been for lack of action of these bishops, fighting with such energy in the last days before the vote.
Oh for English bishops with one tenth of the faith of these brave men!
Man Bites Dog
You might remember a blog post about Fr Pfleger, one of those ueber-liberal priests desirous to worship social ideals and, of course, themselves.
To what kind of madness this “homemade Catholicism” can lead is showed by the news, now reported by the Chicago Tribune , that Fr Pfleger has, no less, given an ultimatum to his bishop to reintegrate him within this weekend, or else he will start preaching on his own wherever he is invited…. .
Now, we fully understand that Fr Pfleger wants to leave the Church anyway and, apart from the consequences for his soul, I can’t say that the event saddens me so much.
What surprises me is that Pfleger descends to such a level of infantilism as to give an ultimatum to his bishop as to his disciplinary measure, as if he had any control over what the bishop can (or more probably: will) do to him.
In the article you will also notice that the man, preparing himself for his new audience, has adopted clearly Protestant tones: he will, he says, leaves the church (and with that, clearly, the Church) “if he believes God wants him to go”. This statement sounds pure Pentecostalism to me, with the chap in question justifying his obviously unChristian (and rebellious) decision with what he thinks “God wants him to do”. One is also reminded of Terry Jones, the pastor who has been already entertaining us with his clear attempts to receive phoine calls from heaven, and then deciding their content themselves. Most of all, it reminds one of those “man bites dog” headlines…..
Pfleger remains, then , utterly rebellious and his behaviour increasingly more childish (he “needs to get back to preaching”; vanitas vanitatum…).
I think, therefore, that he will soon be asked to go.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Father….
Rosary and Salvation
Those who have read me for some times know that whilst my attitude toward salvation is probably – in line with my Mediterranean upbringing – more relaxed than the apocalyptic concept of some, particularly Northern European, hard-liners, I still do not indulge in complacency as far as salvation is concerned.
I obviously do not subscribe to any of the childish heresies of Medjugorje (not recognised by the Church as worthy of belief), but I am not a fan of the devotion of the Divine Mercy (recognised as worthy of belief) either. I love to think that the faciloneria of so much post V-II thinking (= the departed was such a fun chap, therefore God certainly called him to Himself to enjoy the jokes and it is well-known that in Hell Stalin, Hitler and Pol-Pot need Satan if they want to play a hand of poker) has not polluted me.
Still, in order to avoid you thinking me too harsh or tinged with unforgiving puritanism I’d like to spend some words about something that might be of interest for some reader: what I personally see the proper understanding of the Rosary in the economy of salvation in the light of the Marian promises. In doing so, I will remain (as far as I know) within the path of the strictest traditional (that is: pre-VII) understanding of them.
It is well-known that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St Dominic and Blessed Alan de la Roche giving (or confirming) the famous fifteen promises to those who faithfully and devoutly pray the rosary. It is not my intent to examine in detail the circumstances of such revelations, as the fact that they have been traditionally considered perfectly in line with Catholic teaching is sufficient to me. What is important to note here is that the Blessed Virgin clearly wanted to point out to the great advantages that faithful, devout, daily (as we know beyond doubt from the Fatima apparition) recitation of the Rosary carry with them.
I will here examine only those among the promises which I consider most strictly linked to the only real aim we have in life: salvation. I invite the reader to – if they feel so inclined – give their alternative interpretation and explain why they would give a more restrictive (or more lenient) interpretation than the one I give.
a) Promise #5:
The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
This is very strong, and the presence of such a limited number of words in the phrase doesn’t leave much space for alternative interpretations: if you recommend yourself to the Blessed Virgin by your daily effort, you are going to make it. This clearly requires that the rosary is prayed well. This also requires a contrition and consciousness of one’s own sinfulness implicit in the perceived necessity of recommending one’s soul to the Blessed Virgin. Therefore, the promise doesn’t apply to people like:
1) those who pray a distracted, shallow, rushed Rosary, whose main aim is to “get done with it”.
2) those who are not faithful in their recitation (“oh well, I pray the rosary in principle every day, but in the last months I had (fill here excuse) to do and therefore it was perhaps three times a month” would, methinks, not qualify).
3) those who do not see that they are in need of any recommendation because they are so “inclusive”, “modern” and otherwise “tolerant” and “non violent”.
Still, promise #5 is a very powerful promise and I am very glad that it was given, and in such powerful terms.
b) Promise #6:
Whosoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its Sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of Eternal Life.
This I interpret in the sense that those who pray the Rosary well (you will notice the insistence on this point) will: 1) not be driven to despair and in the end to the ultimate blasphemy, suicide, by the difficulties and crosses of life, 2) nor will they, as the saying once went, be surprised by death by being caught by the Reaper in the state of mortal sin.
This obviously doesn’t mean that the one who prays the rosary will not sin mortally – as the “if” of the last sentence makes abundantly clear – . This merely means that the sincere intention to obtain a happy death will, in this case, be helped by the Blessed Virgin with such a powerful intercession, that she will obtain for the faithful who perseveres in devoutly praying the Rosary the grace of a happy death.
c) promise #7:
Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
This echoes what has been said before. “Sacraments” here doesn’t mean “Last Rites”, and therefore the meaning is not that, a contrario, if one is knocked by a bus and dies instantly he hasn’t been praying the rosary faithfully. Confession and communion are, I think, rather meant here.
d) Promise #8:
Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary […….] at the moment of death […] shall participate in the Merits of the Saints in Paradise.
Note once again: 1) the Rosary must be recited faithfully, and 2) the promise only applies to the moment of death.
e) Promise #15:
Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
This is a bit complicated.
“Predestination” means, for a Catholic, that whilst every human being is perfectly free to make his own choices, God already knows what choices each and everyone of us will make. This, mind, does not limit our freedom more than the freedom of the football players is limited just because I happen to know, after the fact, how their match ended.
Therefore, God already knows whether each one of us is going to achieve salvation or not; but this doesn’t make us any less free in every decision we make. This promise is therefore there to give the faithful great comfort in the fact that his devotion makes it pretty likely (but not certain!) that he will, in fact, persevere in his faith, obtain a happy death and be among those whose salvation had been foreseen by God from all eternity.
These are the promises. Let us now try to put them into a practical, everyday context.
1) A person prays the rosary without devotion, just as a habit.
The promise of Mary doesn’t apply to him, because the point of praying devotedly, faithfully etc. is stressed on several occasions. Let’s not try to cheat here, as we’ll not get away with it.
2) A person prays the rosary every day, but is manifestly evil or a great sinner.
This is not in contradiction with the promises as they do not refer to saintliness in life, but to salvation at the end of it. Whilst the Rosary will be a great help (if recited properly) to one’s spiritual improvement, the recitation of the rosary is no automatic means to saintly behaviour in life.
Such a person will, therefore: a) stop praying the rosary, or b) stop praying it devoutly, thus losing the protection afforded by the heavenly promises, or c) insist in his devout recitation and in the end – and I am sorry here for you, puritan supporter of the fire and brimstone faction 😉 – still manage to get a happy death by the special intercession of Mary.
Notice here that the Blessed virgin doesn’t even promise that those who devoutly pray the rosary will refrain from evil doings. The rosary works slowly, imperceptibly as Pius XII says in his encyclical letter on the matter. It doesn’t create an immediate either/or situation; on the contrary, the either/or only applies at death.
Please also notice that this doesn’t mean that a person can plan on praying the rosary, so to speak, as one pays an insurance premium and think that he can, after paying his dues, willfully go on living an evil life with the certainty of final salvation. It is obvious that such an evil intention is not compatible with the devout and faithful recitation of the rosary.
3) A person prays the rosary every day as devoutly as he can, but he is assailed by recurring doubts as the whether he will be saved, and the fact that God already knows whether he will be saved or not is, to him, not in the least reassuring.
This person can greatly benefit by the recitation of the rosary because he will know that he can have a tangible sign of his working toward his salvation one day at a time. In other words, he knows a) that as long as he perseveres there is no cause for scruples, and b) that he only has to persevere to avoid the scruples assailing him. If you suffer from scrupulosity, I doubt that there is a better cure around than your daily medicine, the Rosary.
In my eyes, this is pretty much the interpretation of the effect of praying the rosary that would have been given to a quisque de populo in – as the Italians love to say – tempi non sospetti. It seems to me that it adheres strictly to the tenor of the promises without indulging in dangerous complacency, but without losing sight of the wonderful weapon that has been put in our hands.
I can’t stress enough (and will regularly insist on this point as long as I blog) how important the Rosary is in the life of the Catholic. So much so, that it seems to me that the faithful who willingly decides not to take the habit of the daily recitation of the rosary is like the stuntman offered helmet and body protection and refusing them on the ground that he believes himself to be professional enough to escape harm.
The Rosary And Pope Pius XII: “Ingruentium Malorum”
It is very well-known that Pope Pius XII, Pastor Angelicus, was a great supporter of the Fatima apparitions; so much so, that one of the names with which he is remembered is the Pope of Fatima.
An important issue of the Fatima apparitions is the great importance put by Our Blessed Virgin on the daily recitation of the Rosary. It is therefore no surprise that this great Pope would at some point address the importance of the rosary in an encyclical letter.
It is particularly indicative that this happened in 1951, in the middle of the Cold War. The Holy Father chose the day of the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, the 15th September, to address the entire Catholic world with Ingruentium Malorum.
Let us see some of the – in my eyes – most relevant and instructive passages of this work.
We well know the Rosary’s powerful efficacy to obtain the maternal aid of the Virgin. By no means is there only one way to pray to obtain this aid. However, We consider the Holy Rosary the most convenient and most fruitful means, as is clearly suggested by the very origin of this practice, heavenly rather than human, and by its nature.
The most convenient and the most fruitful means. This is an important reminder both of the power of the Rosary (that Padre Pio didn’t hesitate in calling “weapon”) and his “convenience”. What this holy Pope means by this is explained a bit later, when he says that through the Rosary
[….all, even the most simple and least educated, have in this a prompt and easy way to nourish and preserve their own faith.]
The Rosary is so beautifully simple, that everyone can profit from it, no matter how simple or uneducated. This simplicity is one of his greatest beauties, because it makes it so accessible.
The simple structure of the Rosary is also extolled by the Pastor Angelicus from a different angle, namely that:
The recitation of identical formulas repeated so many times, rather than rendering the prayer sterile and boring, has on the contrary the admirable quality of infusing confidence in him who prays and brings to bear a gentle compulsion on the motherly Heart of Mary.
This is not a new form of prayer (think of the endless affirmations and repetition of sacred words used in the Eastern religions), but it is a point that is still not less valid and also followed by the most elementary common sense and by the wisdom of the ages: repetita iuvant.
How does it work, concretely? The Holy Father writes beautifully about this that:
from the frequent meditation on the Mysteries, the soul little by little and imperceptibly draws and absorbs the virtues they contain, and is wondrously enkindled with a longing for things immortal, and becomes strongly and easily impelled to follow the path which Christ Himself and His Mother have followed.
Little by little, imperceptibly. One doesn’t have to expect miracles from the Rosary (or from any other form of prayer or devotion, by the way). Praying the Rosary is the work of a lifetime, not a specific event with a before and an after. It is like the habit of living a healthy life, not the injection which cures the disease. I would say that the The recitation of the Rosary is, in a sense, as much a way of living than it is a way of praying.
So much so, that Pope Pius XII stresses the importance of the recitation of the Rosary in the daily life of the family; he does so with extremely beautiful words:
What a sweet sight – most pleasing to God – when, at eventide, the Christian home resounds with the frequent repetition of praises in honor of the august Queen of Heaven! Then the Rosary, recited in common, assembles before the image of the Virgin, in an admirable union of hearts, the parents and their children, who come back from their daily work. It unites them piously with those absent and those dead. It links all more tightly in a sweet bond of love, with the most Holy Virgin, who, like a loving mother, in the circle of her children, will be there bestowing upon them an abundance of the gifts of concord and family peace.
In this fashion, the Rosary will help both the adults and the children:
This meditation on the Divine Mysteries of the Redemption will teach the adults to live, admiring daily the shining examples of Jesus and Mary, and to draw from these examples comfort in adversity, striving towards those heavenly treasures “where neither thief draws near, nor moth destroys” (Luke 12, 33). This meditation will bring to the knowledge of the little ones the main truths of the Christian Faith, making love for the Redeemer blossom almost spontaneously in their innocent hearts, while, seeing, their parents kneeling before the majesty of God, they will learn from their very early years how great before the throne of God is the value of prayers said in common.
Please note here a point rarely stressed this day, but extremely important in any age: as a child naturally sees in his parents the source of authority, seeing their parents kneeling before the majesty of God will readily impress itself in the child’s receptive mind.
Pope Pius XII spoke to Catholicism during the cold war, with the Communist monster reigning over half of Europe, and threatening the other half. This is what Pope Pius had to say about the way to destroy the evil menace:
We do not hesitate to affirm again publicly that We put great confidence in the Holy Rosary for the healing of evils which afflict our times. Not with force, not with arms, not with human power, but with Divine help obtained through the means of this prayer, strong like David with his sling, the Church undaunted shall be able to confront the infernal enemy, repeating to him the words of the young shepherd: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of armies . . . and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, for this is his battle, and he will deliver you into our hands” (I Kings 17, 45-47)
“Not with force, not with arms, not with human power” was Communism defeated, but with the determination of staunchly Christian people (Ronald Reagan very probably the most important single person); the prayer of millions of Christians and, of course, countless shoots from that most powerful weapon, the Rosary.
This great Pope had the misfortune to become Pope in the most grievous of times, and to have to absolve his role in possibly the most dangerous situation a Pope personally – and Catholicism collectively – were ever called to confront.
It will be a comfort to you to know that the Rosary was always in his mind and in his prayers.
Osama’s Death Is Worth Celebrating
Listening around to the various radio and video comments (with the usual pattern: European broadcasters cowardly fearing reprisals, American ones proudly extolling the military prowess of the operation) one element has attracted my attention: the subdued, almost shameful satisfaction of the European mood against the open rejoicing – in the street, or even with a marching band on the studio of a famous conservative commenter – experienced the other side of the pond.
Let me first point out to the fact that from a religious point of view you don’t wish death to anyone, let alone hell. You wish their repentance and conversion instead. But this is merely, so to speak, the starting position. From a practical point of view, we must deal with people who do not wish to repent, much less convert and that are in total military opposition to us.
Now I can pray for the conversion of the mad Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new number one of Al Qaeda, as much as I wish, but as long as this doesn’t happen (and frankly: don’t hold your breath, either) the chap is an enemy and a military objective and must be treated accordingly.
This is nothing irreligious, let alone un-Catholic. Catholics don’t “do” pacifism, nor are they ready to treat their enemies as if they were friends. When you are an enemy I can pray for you if I can, but I’ll treat you as such.
We are at war with terrorists. War means that military operations will be put in place, which are aimed at having the enemy either surrender or die. Osama was no exception. This being undoubtedly the case, it is not clear to me why the achieving of such a momentous military objective as the elimination of the commander-in-chief of the enemy camp should be welcomed with less than strong and vocal rejoicing.
On the 7th october 1571, the Christian Armies inflicted an utter defeat to the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto. The rejoicing and public celebrations were, notwithstanding the heavy tribute of blood on both sides, immense. This is right so.
What has happened in the early hours of Monday morning in a residential compound in Pakistan does, admittedly, not reach the scale of the victory in Lepanto, but still has the same character: a clear military success over the main enemy of the time. In addition, the complete success of the operation – with no casualties to be lamented on the American side – makes the event even more worth rejoicing.
Is there not rejoicing when, in war-time, the sinking of a prestigious enemy ship is announced, or when the conquest of an important military post is achieved? In both cases blood has flown, but in both cases the accent is not on a kind of sadistic joy for sufferance inflicted, but rather a patriotic joy for a victory obtained. It is not unChristian in the least; on the contrary, it is the way a Christian lives the battle and supports his side.
Osama Bin Laden’s elimination is – I do not think anyone can doubt this – an extremely important symbolic victory for the West. It’s the enemy flag now symbolically planted in front of the Western military camp, and a loud and clear reminder of what happens to the enemies of the West. There’s nothing wrong or irreligious in that, nothing whatever.
It is right to rejoice. Of course it is. I envy the spontaneousness and youthful energy of a country able to get on the streets, some of them in the night and in their pyjamas, to celebrate such a momentous event.
Of course in Europe there wasn’t so much to celebrate. It being clear to everyone that Europe has cowardly chosen to depend on the US military effort in order to have more money to waste in bureaucracy and unChristian socialist policies, there was no way we could see this feat as, in some way, belonging to us too. Still, I can’t avoid thinking that old and weary Europe was more absorbed with the worry about possible future attacks, whilst the youthful and enthusiastic US citizens were bravely defying every enemy, ready for combat and certain of victory.
Ask yourself now which continent is undoubtedly the more Christian, and you’ll have all the answers you need.
Father Garrigou-Lagrange On Deathbed Conversion
Some time ago I read a book from the great theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, called Life Everlasting.
I have found on the Internet the following excerpt from this book and I remember being as struck now as when I first read it directly from the book.
I copy the passage here in its entirety.
Deathbed conversion, however difficult, is still possible. Even when we see no sign of contrition, we can still not affirm that, at the last moment, just before the separation of soul from body, the soul is definitively obstinate. A sinner may be converted at that last-minute in such fashion that God alone can know it. The holy Cure of Ars, Divinely enlightened, said to a weeping widow: “Your prayer, Madame, has been heard. Your husband is saved. When he threw himself into the Rhone, the Blessed Virgin obtained for him the grace of conversion just before he died. Recall how, a month before, in your garden, he plucked the most beautiful rose and said to you, ‘Carry this to the altar of the Blessed Virgin.’ She has not forgotten.”
Other souls, too, have been converted in extremis, souls that could barely recall a few religious acts in the course of their life. A sailor, for example, preserved the practice of uncovering his head when he passed before a church. He did not know even the Our Father or the Hail Mary, but the lifting of his hat kept him from departing definitively from God.
In the life of the saintly Bishop Bertau of Tulle, friend of Louis Veuillot, a poor girl in that city, who had once been chanter in the cathedral, fell first into misery, then into misconduct, and finally became a public sinner. She was assassinated at night, in one of the streets of Tulle. Police found her dying and carried her to a hospital. While she was dying, she cried out: “Jesus, Jesus.” Could she be granted Church burial? The Bishop answered: “Yes, because she died pronouncing the name of Jesus. But bury her early in the morning without incense.” In the room of this poor woman was found a portrait of the holy Bishop, on the back of which was written: “The best of Fathers.” Fallen though she was, she still recognized the holiness of her bishop and preserved in her heart the memory of the goodness of Our Lord.
A certain licentious writer, Armand Sylvestre, promised his mother when she was dying to say a Hail Mary every day. He kept his promise. Out of the swamp in which he lived, he daily lifted up to God this one little flower. Pneumonia brought him to the hospital, served by religious, who said to him: “Do you wish a priest?” “Certainly,” he answered. And he received absolution, probably with sufficient attrition [imperfect contrition], through a special grace obtained for him by the Blessed Mother, though we can hardly doubt he underwent a long and heavy Purgatory.
Another French writer, Adolphe Rette, shortly after his conversion, which was sincere and profound, was struck by a sentence he read in the visitors’ book of the Carmelite Convent: “Pray for those who will die during the Mass at which you are going to assist.” He did so. Some days later he fell grievously ill, and was confined to bed in the hospital at Beaune, for many years, up to his death. Each morning he offered all his sufferings for those who would die during the day. Thus he obtained many deathbed conversions. We shall see in Heaven how many conversions there are in the world, owing to such prayers.
In the life of St. Catherine of Siena we read of the conversion of two great criminals. The Saint had gone to visit one of her friends. As they heard, in the street below, a loud noise, her friend looked through the window. Two condemned men were being led to execution. Their jailers were tormenting them with nails heated red-hot, while the condemned men blasphemed and cried. St. Catherine, inside the house, fell to prayer, with her arms extended in the form of a cross. At once the wicked men ceased to blaspheme and asked for a confessor. People in the street could not understand this sudden change. They did not know that a nearby Saint had obtained this double conversion.
Several years ago the chaplain in a prison in Nancy had the reputation of converting all criminals whom he had accompanied to the guillotine. On one occasion he found himself alone, shut up with an assassin who refused to go to Confession before death. The cart, with the condemned man, passed before the sanctuary of Our Lady of Refuge. The old chaplain prayed: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who had recourse to thy intercession was abandoned. Convert this criminal of mine: otherwise I will say that it has been heard that you have not heard.” At once the criminal was converted.
Return to God is always possible, up to the time of death, but it becomes more and more difficult as hard-heartedness grows. Let us not put off our conversion. Let us say every day a Hail Mary for the grace of a happy death.
This beautiful passage is, I think, instructive in many ways.
1) Please note how fast the conversion process can be. The episode mentioned by the Cure d’Ars recalls another one in the life of Padre Pio, with the great saint assuring a mother that her son has repented and asked the Blessed Virgin for forgiveness after throwing himself from a bridge.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that such a conversion should be assumed, as it is the scandalous praxis of too many priests nowadays. To do so means to play down the extreme gravity of suicide, and to indirectly cause further ones.
2) Please also note Father Garrigou-Lagranges insistence on these being extreme cases, with the sailor who didn’t even know the Hail mary of Our Father being, in my eyes, the most striking. Powerful, consoling stuff.
3) Particularly notable, please note how strongly the prayer of third parties can, with Mary’s assistance, move the sinner to repentance. The cases of St. Catharine of Siena and of the Nancy chaplain are in my eyes – and someone please correct me if I am wrong – to be interpreted not in the sense that conversion will impose itself on the sinner against his will, but that the prompting to conversion can, through heavenly intervention, become strong enough to reach, together with the collaboration of the sinner, the desired result.
I liked the chuzpah of the chaplain, though….
4) You see here a typical example of what I am tempted to call “South European Catholicism”, to distinguish it from the rigid, protestantised attitude tinged with Puritanism I happen to see in the northern part of the Continent. Once again, we see an approach that whilst doesn’t play down the gravity of the sin, points out to the relative ease with which the direst consequences can be avoided and allows the faithful to live his faith with confidence – the typical attitude in Catholic countries – rather than with fear. I can’t avoid thinking that this confidence is the single most important reason why traditional Catholic countries have – collectively speaking – that striking joy of life that I, alas, never noticed in the north.
5) These examples taken together point out to the absolutely vital necessity of daily prayer. Prayer is what gives us the best cards in our hope to be given final perseverance, and the same Blessed Virgin who helped the sinning sailor just for uncovering his head will very probably take care in her mercy of those who pray to her daily and daily ask her to pray for them in the hour of their death.
As a corollary to this, the great importance of the practice of praying the Rosary and the extremely powerful promises attached to it can never be stressed strongly enough.
I do hope that this little gem of Father Garrigou-Lagrange’s wisdom will help the one or other among the readers; particularly if – as I suppose must happen not infrequently in those parts of Europe, still polluted by Puritan influences – they tend to labour under scrupulosity.
Fr Michael Pfleger And The Thinking Of Liberal Priests
Father Michael Pfleger is one of the stupidest liberal nutters in the Land of the Free, a fact of which you can easily persuade yourself by watching the video above. His speciality seems to be an extreme form of “white guilt complex” and if you look at the video above you will see the extremes to which this chap can go to. He is like a very pale Farrakhan. I’m sure Michelle Obama likes him a lot, though I doubt that he is Muslim enough for her husband.
You will in the video also note the personal show set up by the man; the studied, extreme gesture, the “protestant preacher” attitude, the over-the-top tones.
You would be forgiven for thinking that such a priest is, well, not very priestly. You would be right.
Father Pfleger has just been suspended by his bishop. The reason for this is that, being requested to be transferred to another position – in a role which, from what I can see, can in no way be seen as a deminutio, which considering the fanaticism of the man might be a scandal in itself – he not only refused to obey, but declared publicly on the radio that, if forced to be transferred, he would consider leaving the Church altogether. Methinks, he hasn’t read the job description properly.
Father Pfleger shows the self-centeredness of the liberal would-be prophets like him; he shows that not Christ is at the centre of what he does, but his own pride and convenience; he shows that the notoriety given to him by his pandering to the most aggressive black revanchist attitude has gone to his head, big time.
Please compare this to a Father Corapi, suspended because of one letter and who disagrees with the decision – as he is certainly allowed to do – but still obeys to the order of his superior.
These are the occasions where you can see who is interested in serving God and who is interested in the promoting of political ideology and of himself.
Father Pfleger has been given some week for prayer and recollection – whilst being suspended – and he is now in front of the choice whether to admit that he has been an ass (again) or show to everyone what a fake catholic he has always been.
I do not doubt that he can make a more than decent living as a defrocked preacher, touring resentful black America as the white liberal poster boy. But at least he won’t be allowed to go on with his madness whilst being a Catholic priest anymore.
On The Father Corapi Affair.
I have already written about Father Corapi. I truly like the man. I think he is one of the finest preachers around. In my “The Quotable Catholic” section he is rather well represented, though probably much less than he deserves.
Father Corapi has now been put on administrative leave. At this point (and this is what makes it rather difficult to write about it) we don’t know much about the exact circumstances. What we know, though, from Father Corapi himself is that a former employee has written a letter to several bishops accusing him of misconduct on a vast series of accounts (drugs and women seem to be prominent, though) and that as a result he has been suspended pending investigation.
Just for the record, please note that:
1) No misconduct on minor is involved in any way and 2) no criminal offences are involved in any way (which sound strange to me, considering that drug use from the former drug addict Corapi would seem to be part of the accusations).
I would like to point out, here, a very important concept that, it seems to me, is too often lost when such events are discussed. A man is a good Catholic preacher when he succeeds in properly communicating the Catholic Truth and thus helps others on their way to God. Whether he is a saint or a sinner (better said: in what degree he is a sinner, as we all are) is something which will impact his own soul at the moment of death, but certainly does not impact the Truth he goes around preaching, nor the good he spreads around by doing it.
I don’t need to believe that a person is a saint to feel encouraged to do as he says. If he is able to encourage and motivate me, this is enough. If he is also a saint, good for him, but this doesn’t make the truths he says any more true.
Corapi is – as a preacher – a fine pearl of Catholicism. Besides his life being a beautiful witness of Catholic courage (a fact that, as I have said, is not in the first line here), his way of explaining the Catholic teaching is what makes him so rare and such an effective help to Catholic evangelisation.
We must always separate the Truths a preacher talks about, from the degree in which he is able to adhere to them. First of all no one will ever be able to completely adhere to them, and secondly the truths would become not one iota less true even if the preacher should, say, turn out to be a homosexual child rapist who earned a second income in a brothel whilst selling crack to fund his alcoholism.
If your excellent history teacher at school turned out to be an alcoholic, this didn’t make him any less good at teaching history, nor history any less true because he drank.
Having said that, we don’t know and pending an investigation, I think that even Father Corapi wouldn’t be angry at us for saying “I like you a lot but as I don’t know you personally, I can’t start screaming your innocence right now”.
Others have made a comparison with Maciel, but as I like Corapi a lot I prefer to make a comparison with Padre Pio, more or less horribly slandered (and certainly seriously damaged in his reputation) not for days or months, but for years. A famous episode concerned his being accused of profiting of his role as confessor to get sexual favours from a certain woman; it turned out that the accusation had been motivated by the jealousy of another lady, who subsequently confessed her grievous sin.
Frankly, I do see some parallels here, but again: I wasn’t there.
Corapi might be more Padre Pio or more Maciel (come on, we know the first hypothesis is by far the more probable and he is innocent until proven guilty anyway). Still, my admiration for Corapi (whose sincere inspiration I do not doubt for an instant, however little or however big his faults and private sins may be) as a fine preacher is undiminished whatever the outcome of this affair.
I didn’t want to write about Father Corapi as I don’t like to use this blog to speculate about things I don’t know, but I have read things whose general tone (and possibly general spirit) I didn’t like and thought it fitting to express my admiration for the man’s sincerity and ability once again.
Here is wishing him all the best; he is in my prayers and, I do hope, in yours.
I hope to see him roaring from the pulpit again very soon.
Stanford Nutting strikes again
I have already written about Stanford Nutting in the past (try here and here).
This time, we have an added fun factor as our Mr. Nutting debates against… GK Chesterton, who at least to these foreign ears has been even provided with an admirable, very posh English accent.
Mr. Nutting is, as always, pure Nutting and Mr. Chesterton is, well …… 100% authentic GK Chesterton.
Enjoy this short video and let us hope that others, hopefully on the GK theme, will follow.
I have received some time ago from the Catholic Truth Society some of their newest booklets. Among these one has caught my attention: “Pentecostalism”.
The booklet is very interesting because it explain to a Catholic in simple words and in rather concise form what Pentecostalism is, why it has so much success and where the danger of the approach lie. In particular, the aspect of the direct relationship with God attracted my attention.
You see, for us Europeans (let alone: Italians) people saying things like “The Lord directed me to do so and so” really sound arrogant to the point of blasphemy and therefore such expressions are, in the Old Continent, unheard of. One is tempted to ask whether the Lord has sent an email, or perhaps a text message, and whether the broadband connection is rather expensive.
It turns out that such expressions derive from a sincere, if naive, desire to really have a “direct line” with God. Not one in the Catholic sense (the relationship with God developed through faithful prayer, Mass attendance, submission to the rules of Holy Mother Church and prayerful carrying of the crosses God decides to give us), but one in the literal one: do this, don’t do that. Therefore it can happen that when one questions some decisions which to one appears rush, but which to the person in question have clearly come via Divine Broadband (say: a man marries a woman he has known only for two weeks because “the Lord directed him to do it”) the reaction can be rather harsh and unable to comprehend how a third party may put in question what the Holy Ghost himself has clearly directed him to do. By reading the booklet I suddenly understood the logic behind the assassination of Marvin Gay from his preaching father: no idea whether he was a Pentecostals but hey, if the Holy Ghost has directed him to do so….
I am frankly glad never to have met a Pentecostal, because by all my admiration for religiously fervent people (even if, alas, heretics) I can’t imagine a discussion with them being anything else than a ridiculous barrage of “the Holy Ghost Himself has given me the Truth, so shut up”. I can also easily imagine what consequences such mentality may engender; the Lord has directed me to ask from you for so and so much money, might the pastor say; the Lord has directed me to file for divorce, will the bored husband (in perfect good faith, probably) soon declare, and so on.
And in fact, the entire exercise seems to be strongly based on a personal relationship with God which is – and cannot but be – highly emotionally charged. Now, emotions can play very dirty tricks to us. Particularly when we proceed to brainwashing ourselves every day; particularly when we ardently desire to be “directed” in some way; particularly when all this happens in religious matters, with their explosive emotional potential.
Emotions are like a faithful dog. If we train them every day they’ll do exactly what we want them to. Nazis, commies and all other nut cases have successfully manipulated themselves to utter stupidity by just picking highly emotional themes and fully delivering themselves to them. Che Guevara could kill in cold blood a couple of dozen prisoners at a time without any big perturbation. Dr. Goebbels understood the power of emotional self-suggestion with great lucidity, it is surprising that the devastating potential of such purely emotion-driven approach is not yet fully recognised.
Please compare this with Catholicism. A rigid, coherent system of rules valid in all situations and at all times. A complicated, but universally applicable system of criteria to resolve moral dilemmas and difficult situations (think of the doctrine of war; or of the “double effect”). A link to the Lord which doesn’t need (though it may have) an “emotional relationship” at all, but on the contrary asks for worship and submission even from those not graced with mystical experiences or with a strong feeling of God’s presence. A closely knit system of moral rules to which even the Pope is bound and which are therefore guaranteed not to be abused under the pretence of an “inspiration from the Holy Ghost”. The resulting impossibility of the absurd consequences of such “direct line” mentality (husband says that the Holy Ghost has directed him to move to California; wife thinks that the Holy Ghost has directed her to keep her husband in Arizona; I wouldn’t want to be in that kitchen….).
The desire of a direct line with Heaven, of an intimate contact with God is an understandable one and I do not doubt that many of these Christians are sincerely devout.
But between desiring something and being let free to believe that our conviction is the fruit of Divine inspiration the step is very short, and very dangerous. It is the deification of whatever we feel strongly enough about, a life spent listening to gut feelings rather than solid common sense; the constant danger of having solid moral rules polluted by individual preferences and the constant abuse of the Holy Ghost, forcibly hijacked as the inspiring force behind – say – both the marriage and the divorce.
Thank God for Holy Mother Church, asking us to submit to rules which not only make a lot of sense, but are immutable and not at the mercy of the whim of religious leaders or, unavoidably, of our own fantasies of broadband connection with Heaven.
Hell And Christ Or: Time To Face Reality.
Interesting article on Catholic Culture about Hell. It is a pleasure to see that the invasion of the blogosphere from intelligent Catholics is slowly but surely bringing to the attention of discerning Catholic readers what a disgraceful clergy wanted them to forget or ignore. In this case the article is certainly not new (1995), but the internet is the way to make it better known.
Mr. Young doesn’t try to sweeten the pill; he is very clear on the unpleasant part, the one that in these days – when it is considered rude to say unpleasant things – is so often ignored. But at the same time – and with that mixture of common sense and good-natured optimism that is so typical of the best Catholic attitude – he sends a clear message of hope to those who may either be prone to scruples or thinking that if there is a Hell they are hopeless anyway.
In fact, negation of Hell (which in itself might well send one there) is rather common among those who don’t know the Gospels and prefer to fantasise about alleged Church conspiracies rather than to examine the facts. Jesus himself talks of Hell in a very clear manner, insistently, and nowhere more than in the Gospels do we see Hell mentioned. If one is able to read the Gospel without getting this message loud and clear he must simply re-learn to read.
Secondly and regarding the “conspiracy theorists”, it would appear rather extraordinary that the “conspirators” would be ready to die for Christ in such big numbers (and very often in such atrocious ways) because bent on creating – a couple of centuries after their horrible, humiliating death – some big organisation able to forbid one to eat meat on a Friday, & Co.
I have never seen conspirators so ready to die in order that their lie may triumph a couple of hundreds year later. I bet you never did, either.
Thirdly, Jesus’ clear insistence on Hell should make clear to everyone that Hell has not been created to allow Satan to play poker with Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin. Hell is a clear, concrete possibility, a fundamental choice every one of us can make, a choice about which Jesus reminds us constantly.
“Oh Well” – you might say – “they aren’t three then, and perhaps not even three hundred; but compared to the world population…….. very few, surely?”
“The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
These words come from the alleged First Conspirator Himself and frankly, the idea that his words might have been wilfully distorted in a gigantic effort to cheat God Himself of the message he wanted to send is more than blasphemous, it is outright stupid. Rather a few people, then, “find the hard way that leads to life”. It doesn’t mean that only those few will be saved, but it certainly means that there is no ground whatsoever for complacency.
But this the problem of modern times: people talking of Christianity without knowing the first thing of Christ, or talking of an alleged “betrayal” of Christ’s message without stopping to think of the absurdity of the concept.
Aut Deus, aut homo malus. Excluding the obviously absurd hypothesis of clinical insanity (that you never hear espoused by any critic of Hell’s existence anyway), Jesus was either a fraudster and a con man, or he was God. No intelligent, thoughtful reading of the Gospel allows any other possibility. How people who claim a vague belief in Jesus may reconcile their belief with the extraordinary denial of what he said strikes me as so arrogantly stupid as to not even deserve a serious conversation.
Jesus couldn’t have possibly been ” a nice chap”, or ” a man of God” duped by scheming apostles, or “the Son of God who was conned in the end by scheming martyrs”. It just doesn’t square, because this nice chap did say that He is God in thousand different ways and nice men don’t go around making such claims. Therefore, every DIY Christian and every Christian by hearsay must simply face the fact that unless He was God, He was not nice and not a man of God, but the most tragically cruel liar Himself; a man whose schemes not only led to His own death, but who preferred to continue the lie up to the cross, thus causing countless others to be killed because of His lie.
If one does as much as to believe that Jesus was not positively insane and not a scheming fraudster, then he must deal with the clear intellectual evidence of His being God. One of the first consequences of this actually rather easy to achieve conclusion is that Jesus has given us so many warnings about Hell for a reason. Or is there anyone ready to believe that God Himself would need to lie to us about Hell in order to save us from it?
It is time to face reality. Atheism may be logically linked to the absence of belief in the existence of Hell, but any form of credit given to Christ is utterly incompatible with it.
Therefore, Jesus is God and Hell exists, but where does this leave us in our matter? To put it with the author’s robust common sense,
“I think we should say it is not unlikely that many are lost. We should definitely not hold the opinion that few are lost.”
At the same time,
we must avoid generating a morbid fear of hell or an obsession with it. It is not a fate that can overwhelm us against our will; any who go there have chosen evil deliberately.
Hell is therefore very real and certainly not very sparsely inhabited; but it is avoidable all right if one as much as takes care that he does not embrace it.
To close with the powerful statement closing the article (emphases mine),
The doctrine should be seen in the light of God’s greatness and our dignity as free beings. He is so great that hell is a just punishment for rebelling against him; our dignity as responsible beings is so great that we can deserve that fate.
Memento Mori, Or Damnation And Repentance
Interesting blog post on the Domine, Da Mihi Hanc Aquam blog. The blog post makes clear that, whilst Catholics avoid the noisy excess of screaming Protestant preachers, repentance for our sins is still – bar a Divine mercy that we have no right to expect – mandatory to avoid Hell.
The author of the blog post puts it in simple and very clear terms:
…refusing to repent of one’s sins constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and such a refusal will not be forgiven. In fact, refusing to repent cannot be forgiven. God will not save us against our will. He will love us right into hell.
Foreseeing the scandal of the liberal crowd, the author hastens to add:
This sounds harsh, I know. But this a truth of the Catholic faith that cannot be spiced up or sugar-coated or hidden away.
Everytime I read phrases like this I think of the many priests who have made of “sugar-coating” and “hiding away” an accomplished art – nay, a new religion! – and shiver.
The concept – so difficult to understand for some atheist – is brilliantly explained in more detail:
We have two truths in balance here. First, God wills that all His people return to Him through Christ. Second, He wills that we do so freely. So that all may return to Him through Christ, the invitation to salvation is made unconditionally, without limits, to everyone
Note here that the invitation is made to everyone (that is: even to non-Christians), but the return must be through Christ, with Allah & Co. not giving any entry rights, nor will a generic “I have been such a good chap” be of much use. Salvation is – bar an act of extraordinary mercy, on whose odds no one should ever stake his salvation – the result of a free decision to make the right choice.
Still another perspective is given by making clear that:
….. we send ourselves to hell by stubbornly refusing to repent. Our final refusal, our last rejection of God’s invitation to join Him in love is called “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”
When your friend or colleague or relative says to you (with the shamelessness of our times) that “there is no God”, you can calmly tell him that he is being blasphemous and endangering his soul; when he replies that he doesn’t care as he doesn’t believe in any God, feel free to point out that the fact that he doesn’t believe in God doesn’t make him any less blasphemous, nor his soul any less endangered.
He’ll probably still not agree with you; but it is still a free choice that he makes. Put in front of a clear hypothesis of damnation, he can’t say that by not believing in damnation he has not chosen it.
Given the choice whether to believe, he has chosen not to; given the choice whether to be blasphemous, he has chosen to be; given the choice whether to choose Christ, he has chosen to ignore Him. Therefore, “but I truly, truly didn’t think that you existed!” will, one day, not go very far.
Until the last moment before death, there is still time. Until the last moment before death, Christ may still fish a soul out of his self-inflicted destiny. But if one really insists in refusing His help, then it is not logical to demand from Christ that help that one has always refused, nor can it be reasonable to demand that Christ saves one against one’s own free will, after one’s free will has been given God’s rank.
At death, rien ne va plus.
Nick Clegg And The Edwardians
Glad of having saved his political career (largely, courtesy of his bosom buddy Dave) Nick Clegg now tries to gain some points making himself beautiful among his more “progressive” voters.
As you probably know, Nick Clegg is one of those new-breed politicians without any notion of the fact that God made two sexes for a reason. He may be partially excused because he doesn’t believe in God (insofar as one can be excused for non believing in God), but one would have thought that at his age and with three children it would have occurred to him that men and women are wired somewhat differently.
In Mr. Clegg’s world, the concept that a mother would stay at home and accompany her children in the first phase of their life is not something natural, but an option at best. In Mr. Clegg’s world a woman who has just had a child and wants to go back to conquer the world (?) leaving her child alone with her husband is not only not what Italians would call (and Italians know about happy families a bit more than Clegg) una madre snaturata, but she has even the right to feel persecuted if she is “judged” by what he calls “Edwardian” mentality (and we call thinking).
Therefore, in Mr. Clegg’s world a mother should be free to dump her child to the care of her husband (a person, well, not naturally hardwired to be mother and I hope that Clegg will agree on this, though on reflection I am not entirely certain) and, on her warpath to emancipation, get out to win the bread for the family whilst her baby stays at home with his certainly not so impressively manly but oh so caring surrogate mother. I’m sure Clegg likes the concept of surrogate mother, by the way. It’s so not Edwardian.
In Mundabor’s world, on the other hand, it is a rather indisputable fact that women are the ones naturally hardwired to be mothers, and men are the ones naturally hardwired to be breadwinners. I do not know whether this is Edwardian; I for myself would say that this is most elementary common sense and if Mr. Clegg had cared to think about it, he would have realised that this is the same thinking used by pretty much the entire humanity, before and after Edward VII and with the exception of a tiny minority of, well, madri snaturate.
Whenever I hear such politicians, I wonder whether they live in the same planet of plain facts and common sense as most of us, or whether the relentless search for sellable soundbites has long removed even the last trace of sensible thinking.
Clegg’s great-grandmother would have considered him not merely a retard, but positively insane if he had uttered such opinions in, say, 1909. But we are in 2011, when insanity is in power and using one’s brain “Edwardian”.
Bye the bye, I’d like to know how long Clegg took paternity leave when he had each of his three children.
Taking Up The Cross, Part I
In these times of “Christianity by hearsay” it is all too frequent to find people whose concept of Christianity is rooted in deep error; or better said, in ignorance leading to error. We see them around us all the time in form of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. This post is devoted to saying a couple of words on the concepts of “taking up the Cross”.
It is a sad reality of our day that either vaguely “new age” ideas or analogous “prosperity Gospel” concepts find their way to the minds of Catholics through popular books. Which is no surprise if you consider that upon entering every “Waterstone’s” in London you will be confronted with a “gay and lesbian” section but the “Christianity” section will be underdeveloped, mainly filled with popular let-us-make-things-easy-for-ourselves, so-called “self-help” book and a sad joke as far as Catholicism is concerned.
The casual client browsing through a modern bookstore’s shelves will not easily find books who properly explain the Catholic view of “taking up the cross”. Rather, they will easily find books that subscribe either to one of the many “law of attraction” variations or to some variant of the so-called “prosperity Gospel”. Both of them (particularly the former) have a fundamental concept in common: that God is willing to make your sojourn on earth pretty much of a paradise, if you but allow him to do it. Here we see the clear desire to expunge the uncomfortable news and focus only on the good part. Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t work in this way.
Firstly, the idea that God wants everyone to be healthy and prosperous (and prosperous, and prosperous to boot; and did I mention prosperous?) is in marked contrast with the most obvious experience of the human condition, filled with people who were extremely saintly without ever being healthy, let alone prosperous. Saint Padre Pio or St. Therese of Lisieux come to mind, but you’ll certainly have many other examples. Therefore, this theory implies that these saintly people had it all wrong and – what is worse – just couldn’t see how wrong they were so that they could help others. Ah, they reason, if only padre Pio had come to the conclusion that he only had to attract health! How many people he would have been able to help, and a saintly man like him would have been given the most wonderful clinical record ever, just for the asking! Alas, these people should read a bit about Padre Pio, or St. Therese. If they did, they would know what bearing the cross means.
Secondly, the theory is an obvious post hoc, ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. Let us say that one thousand people dream of becoming, one day, a billion-dollar-heavy TV presenter and producer. They all try with the same passion, positive energy and unrelenting optimism. They are all equally persuaded that they will succeed. In time, nine hundred and ninety-nine fail to achieve the objective and their lives go along different rails, in which by the way they may find their true happiness. The one-thousandth is a lady called Oprah Winfrey who, after the fact, starts to subscribe to the idea that the simple fact that she wanted to be extremely successful and accepted this as a given started a chain of events which then led her to the “attracted” result of becoming a billionaire. This is the same as the one winning the jackpot at the lottery maintaining that he did so because he drunk skinny caramel latte at Starbuck’s every second Tuesday of the months ending with “er”.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we must go around expecting disgraces, or even wishing them. It is good to have a fundamentally healthy outlook on life and joy, and enthusiasm and faith in the Lord will – if this is God’s will, and with the assistence of our Guardian Angels and of all those in Heaven we will ask to help us – clear a great deal of obstacles from our way and open the way to all the graces God will deem fit to bestow on us (the one or the other might, by her effort and the grace of God, even become a billion-dollar-heavy Tv presenter and producer….). But this doesn’t mean becoming a Pollyanna, or rationalising every problem a posteriori by saying ourselves that in some strange way – and unknown to us?! – we must, truly must have attracted that truck coming straight against our bonnet….
END OF PART ONE…..
……And They Had Big Tasty Menu Ever After….
I must always cringe at those american films with a Protestant marriage. You know what I’m talking about. The last one I saw was in the last movie with Catherine Heigl. Movie’s name already forgotten, but you know what I mean anyway.
Generally, the ceremony happens in a prosaic place (like a garden; what if it rains; oh well…); the ladies are dressed in the same way as if they were at the stadion, or as if they found the event such a great fun; the individualised marriage formulae are so unbearably sugary that I am reminded of the “dickus biggus” scene in “Life of Brian”; and then the hopeless kitsch of the entire apparatus; the prepared speeches; the meetings to rehearse the prepared speeches, and the tired jokes. How embarrassing.
I look at those movies and hope that in real life, people over there marry in a different way. Solemn, dignified, spiritual. Fitting to the sacrament they are celebrating. And, hopefully, in a church, which is where sacraments are supposed to be administered: in God’s house, not in your garden.
But then I stop and wonder. Is it really that way that the see a marriage? Do they really see it as a sacrament? I mean literally, do Protestant consider marriage a sacrament? I don’t know but if yes, why divorce and why are people free to choose the formulas? They aren’t free to choose the formulas for baptism, surely?
If, on the other hand, they don’t, then I begin to understand a couple of things. If it’s not sacred, then it’s better be fun. If it’s not a solemn promise made in front of God, then why should it be made in a church. You don’t buy cars in churches after all. Even if they often last longer than a marriage.
If this is how things are, then one understands how marriage becomes something which must be fun and rather practical. To this effect, may I suggest McDonald’s. You can have the reception together with the ceremony. Catering & Co. all very sensibly arranged. No hassle of choosing menues, either. Your friends don’t feel obliged to abandon their usual shorts and flip flops; hey, it’s supposed to be fun!
Apparently, it all works very well in Hong Kong. As the company spokeswoman(1) noticed, many couples had their first dates, fell in love and even had their marriage proposals take place at McDonald’s, so “it makes it particularly meaningful and memorable to hold a wedding party there”. A proposal at McDonald’s. How romantic. Yes, I understand that in such circumstances a marriage elsewhere would be unconceivable. Burger King is, clearly, out of the question.
I am not peeved at McDonald’s. Laugh at me as much as you please, but I do like the Big Tasty and their fries are, I must say, always excellent. I merely wonder what has become of a world once built on important choices, made after very careful reflection; of commitments that could resist the strain of disagreements and the unavoidable difficult times; of the idea of solemnity, and of the idea of sacredness.
Sacredness, this is the word. Sacralità.
Not much en vogue now, is it?
The flip flop generation marries at McDonald’s.
Or if you’re lucky, in a garden.
(1) Thank God they still don’t have the “spokesperson” over there.
“How to Avoid Purgatory”: A Vintage Catholic booklet
I started reading this booklet, How to avoid Purgatory, with not a little measure of scepticism. Grown in an environment where the non practising Catholics were rather indifferent (my parents) and the practising Catholics were rather stern (most notably: my rather steely grandmother) I grew up believing that Purgatory is something you grow to expect, hoping that it will be as little unpleasant as possible; that it is difficult enough to avoid Hell to have the presumption of thinking of even planning to avoid Purgatory; that this idea of asking for oneself something reserved for the most saintly Christians smells of arrogance or, as I would have put it in my childhood, of being a spoiled child.
Add to this that this booklet is clearly dated. The measuring of purgatory in terms of earthly days (so and so many days of indulgence for such and such prayers, or measuring purgatory in “years”) would have been considered extremely questionable even in 1936 and acceptable only as a way of explanation for the uneducated, and of encouragement for the very young.
Still: when one has read the entire booklet, has absorbed its meaning and has pondered a bit over the general tone and message of this little but very intelligent work (and, most importantly, has noticed the continuous effort of the author to explain that the desired behaviour will, in many cases, not be enough to avoid purgatory altogether, to which even my grandmother would have gravely nodded), one understands what blessings this little booklet can bring to the faithful.
If I were allowed to make a politically incorrect comparison, I’d say that the leitmotiv of the booklet reminds one of the typical behaviour of one of the two sexes. What it boils down to is: ruthless nagging of God, The Blessed Virgin and the Saints for what we desire; a countless number of little efforts and little prayers; an unceasing pushing made in little things, but repeated a huge numbers of time. The following of the practices suggested in the booklet (there are several of them; no one of them unpleasant; all of them rather easy; almost all repeatable at will; some rather daring and not frequently heard) is most fitting for those not strong enough for the heroic effort, but clever enough to recognise a deal on very favourable terms when they see one.
Gutta cavat lapidem, non vi, sed saepe cadendo. The drop hollows out the stone; not by force, but by frequent dropping. In our case, the stone is so willing to be hollowed out by our drops! And yes, without heroic virtue one will probably not attain avoidance of Purgatory anyway and not many are those who bring to the deal the necessary strenght. But very many of us can – if they but apply themselves to the acquiring of a limited number of not very uncomfortable, but very good habits – obtain such favours as to avoid that Purgatory – so it is not spared to us – is at least devoid of its harshest sting.
Come on, boys’ n girls….. Let’s start nagging!
The Erroneous Belief in Reincarnation, Part II
This is rather easy, as the belief in reincarnation can only be (erroneously) held if no attentive and systematic reading of Scriptures has taken place. What generally happens is that a “hearsay Christian” (vast majority nowadays, I’m afraid) reads or receives from some friend some information about verses of the Gospel in which Jesus would seem to endorse the theory of reincarnation. Also rather spread are legends about the bible having been “manipulated” (an old dish of heresy, this one), but I am going to discard those for their evident absurdity.
One verse often cited is the one in which Jesus asks the Apostles who they think He is and they answer ” Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Mt. 16, 13-14). To an attentive reader it is evident here that Jesus could not possibly have been the reincarnation of John the Baptist, who lived in the same time as Jesus. Therefore, in order not to make the entire construct absurd the phrase must be read as “some believe you have in you the spiritual strength and power of John The Baptist (who had been executed already), some of Elijah, etc.).” This reading makes much more sense than reincarnation, which is in light of the pure historical event of St. John’s life utterly absurd. Also note that Jesus here does not say that what people believe is right. He says instead, emphatically so, that what Peter says is right. Peter doesn’t say anything at all about reincarnation. What he says is: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”. There can be no more powerful evidence that Jesus, by so emphatically endorsing Peter’s claim, utterly disregards all the claims formerly made.
Another rather difficult part is John 9: 2 where Jesus is asked: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” If the man was born blind, goes the reasoning, then he can only have sinned in another life, which would prove at least that belief in reincarnation was spread in Jesus’ time. By answering “neither this man nor his parents sinned”, Jesus would thus implicitly accept the theory as he doesn’t explicitly correct it. Against such interpretation can be said: 1) that some Jews believed that a baby could sin in the womb, a theory known to Jesus and all present. 2) that there is no evidence in jewish sources that a belief in reincarnation was spread; 3) that Jesus does not endorse everything which he does not explicitly refuse, as we have seen in the former passage in which he doesn’t waste time in explicitly saying that he is not ” a new Elijah”, etc. When Jesus wants to teach, he always takes care to make the point.
Which last point takes us neatly to, well, the point. It is utterly illogical to give an adventurous interpretation to one or two Gospel passages, by at he same time disregarding the entire New Testament. Jesus alone talks of Hell, eternal punishment, Gehenna, fire everlasting & Co. more than any other in the Bible. The examples are too numerous and too well-known to limit ourselves to individual examples. If there is one leitmotiv in the Gospel, it is atonement, redemption, hell and heaven. It is immediately obvious on serious reflection that Christ’s death on the Cross doesn’t make any sense if reincarnation operates anyway; nor does His continuous, insisted mentioning of hell and eternal punishment. Here we see another sign of the times: that Jesus spoke so often of hell is nowadays completely disregarded; it has just disappeared from the radar screen to make place for platitudes entirely devoid of context a’ la “do not judge”, the rhetoric of peaaace and the like.
The concept of atonement is so elementary to a practising Catholic that it would barely be worth the mentioning. But in non-practising Catholics, and in non-Catholic Christians, the concept of atonement and redemption opening the way to everlasting life in God can be extremely diluted or even forgotten, with Jesus reduced to the task of spreading some rather good news and telling everyone to behave and be “inclusive” and “tolerant”. Just ask every non churchgoer to tell you in few words why Jesus came to Earth and stun in disbelief at the answers you hear.
Further difficulties for such interpretative “adventures” arise if we read further in the New Testament. “It is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment”, says in Hebrew 9, 27. The author of this (be he St. Paul or not) is one of the first Christians. He lived in close contact with many of the (other) Apostles. This is real, first hand evidence of what the First Christians were ready to die for. Would Jesus ever accept reincarnation “by implication” but allow His disciples to be, in such an important matter, so tragically and completely wrong? Thought not…
In short, the belief in reincarnation is totally unscriptural not only because Jesus never endorsed it; not only because Jesus himself was extremely clear in his warning about eternal punishment; not only because the belief in eternal damnation was obviously commonly accepted among his disciples, but because if one accepts the theory, the entire mission and sacrifice of Jesus loses its meaning.
The Erroneous Belief In Reincarnation, Part I
I am rather sure that it has happened to you too at some point: some friend or colleague or acquaintance of yours not only believes in reincarnation (perfectly possible, if he’s not a Christian), but sometimes even considers this compatible with Christianity; perhaps he even calls himself a Christian with utter conviction and in perfect good faith and will still say that he believes in reincarnation.
In such errors we must see another result of the disgraceful catechesis of these last decades; when such things happen I would invite you to be gracefully firm with the person in question and simply point out to the incompatibility of reincarnation with Christianity, and explain why. Sadly, though, we live in such times that new age infiltrations (or Buddhistic ones, or such like) are allowed to dilute the message of Christianity because no effort whatsoever is made by the Clergy to maintain the integrity of the Teaching. When the Archbishop of Westminster bows in front of an Hindu altar himself, how can you blame the generic (often lapsed; not always!) Christian for being confused themselves and for trying to reconcile apparent contradictions in a way that seems rational to them? When gatherings in Assisi-style take place and Buddhas are placed on Catholic altars, how can you blame laypeople for thinking they can “improve” on the received religious wisdom? This is when we, the orthodox and informed, come to the rescue.
First of all, let us agree some terms (which are used in various ways, and engender confusion) about what is meant with reincarnation. I have, up to now, met two families of thought that I will call: 1) metempsychosis and 2) reincarnation proper.
Metempsicosis is the idea that there is no individual soul, only a life energy. This life energy continuously reforms itself into new forms of actual life; but there is no continuity, no A dying and becoming B, then C and then D. You must imagine life force as a huge water reservoir, from which some water is taken when a human (or a dog, or an insect, or a tree) is born. When this form of life dies, the relevant life force comes back into the reservoir, mixing itself with the rest of the water; from this reservoir, some water will be taken away to create new trees, new insects, new humans etc. As there is no continuity of water (it is not the same molecules being used to create a new man after the death of the first, as the water mixes in the reservoir) there is no re-incarnation in the proper sense. No one is re-born, but rather a huge living force continuously takes new forms. This would explain why no one remembers former lives (there aren’t any, individually speaking) and why the same life energy of a man, once he is dead, comes into the great circle of life as, say, an insect. It is not that the man was re-born as an insect. Rather, the “water” of his life has been put into the big reservoir again, out of which further plants and insects and human beings are going to be born.
There can be no place for a biblical God in all this. There is a huge life force, whose occupation is to live through all living things and continuously mixing this living energies into new forms. This has been explained to me in extremely clear terms from a buddhist acquaintance who also was, as you can imagine, as atheist as Stalin. “Ice-cold!”, I said to him. “Wonderful!”, he answered. No merciful God, no hope of salvation in whatever form, no expectation of living as an individual. Instead, the participation in a huge machine continuously re-making itself, life as the vision of a huge living energy that lives in me, and will take other forms when I die; forms that are still expression of the same life, but not I in any recognisable form anymore.
Reincarnation proper is the idea that one starts life as a lowly life, say, an insect or an arachnids or even lower. Slowly, he evolves into higher forms of intelligence (say: cat, dog, horse) until he will finally be reincarnated as a human. The individual is always the same, taking new bodies. The higher he goes in the scala of intelligence, the more is he able to sin. When he becomes a human, he’ll start at the lower end of the scala (as a pariah, say) and then, in principle, gradually evolve. Unless he is a great sinner, in which case he’ll be punished with re-birth in a lower forms of human being: of a lower rank than his later reincarnation, or plagued by various troubles (say: sick; ugly; stupid; poor). The desire of God to see him evolve and come to Him fights with the creature’s inherent sinful tendencies a fight which goes on for possibly an immense number of incarnations, marked by “promotions” and “demotions”, until liberation is achieved and the soul is allowed to enter Heaven. In this conception, once one is born as a human he’ll always be born as a human (because when he is able to sin seriously, he must be able to pay serious consequences of his sin), but every life will bear the mark of the sins (or virtues) of preceding lives. Some will be born oh high caste, beautiful, witty and rich; other of low caste, ugly, dumb and poor, etc.
This conception is much more similar to the Christian one than metempsychosis and one understands why poor formed Christians (led to believe that Jesus just didn’t want to go into the matter, but this will be the subject of another entry) may find it credible. In this conception, a compassionate God works on our salvation but punishes us for our sins; his infinite justice lets us pay everything, but his infinite love leads, in the end, everyone to his heavenly destination. In this conception, not only purgatory but also hell take place here on Earth and even the most atrocious life conditions and individual destinies are but the reflection of God’s justice, working in him at the same time as God’s mercy assures to him, as to everyone else, eventual salvation. At the same time, the apparent inequalities are resolved in a cosmic justice, where everyone has at any one time what (good or bad) he has himself worked for.
This hindu and new age belief is much nearer to Western thinking than metempsychosis and it has, one must admit, the appeal of trying to explain some aspects of the human condition allegedly not explained by Christianity: eg, why some people are born with apparently cruel disadvantages compared to others; why life is a bunch of inequalities; how one can reconcile infinite mercy and infinite justice, etc. If you hear someone saying “if there is a God, why the earthquake in Haiti?” (rather fashionable among Christians, nowadays), it is rather probable that at some point he’ll subscribe to some new age tenet.
Of this two theories (I do not doubt that there are a lot of variations, I’d say these two represent the situation rather well, though) the first bears no resemblance whatever to Christianity and can be discarded as not dangerous. The second, though, is the most dangerous to Christian orthodoxy, as the superficial Christian may easily be led into finding here “answers” to apparent contradictions of life and thinking this, in the new Assisi-world, perfectly OK.
Fundamentals of Faith
On the upper list of links of this page, under “Catholic vademecum”, you will find a more detailed explanation of Faith in the traditional understanding of the Church.
In times of discussion about “aggressive secularisation”, it is perhaps fitting to repeat a concept or two in reduced form.
The Faith required of every Christian is not a feeling. No atheist can excuse himself by saying that he is very sorry, but he just doesn’t feel the existence of any God; nor can he say that if an omnipotent God existed he could cause him to believe and that would be that, but alas…..
Faith is something we are expected to work towards. To do this, two things are necessary: will and intellect. Without the will to believe we’ll go along believing what we find comfortable to believe; without the intellect we will not be able to grasp the Truth.
God can be “known with certainty by the natural light of human reason” (Vatican I). By reason we discover 1) the historical truth of the existence of Jesus; 2) that this Jesus is, by a great number of prophecies realised in Him, beyond doubt the Messiah the Jews were waiting for; 3) that therefore his claim to be God must perforce be as authentic as His authentically being the Messiah.
The fundamental concept here is twofold:
1) God can be known with certainty, if one cares to do his homework;
2) no one is excused from doing this homework.
“Not believing” is neither here nor there. It is not about “believing” as in “feeling that there is a God”, it is about working on the historical and theological sources, reading the prophesies about the Messiah and register as a matter of pure facts the astonishing number of correspondences between what the Messiah was supposed to be, and what Jesus came to be. Faith is about realising 1) that the Christian Messiah was, uniquely, announced; 2) that when he came he showed that he was the One who had been announced, and that he was God.
Jesus is the only one who proved His identity, who proved that he was the one whom the world was waiting for. No amount of uninformed “but I do not believe in God, so I do not care” can ever go beyond this simple fact.
Faith (in this meaning) is not about angels visiting one and giving him assured proof of the existence of God, nor is it about explosive inner voices shouting until reason gets the message.
Faith is an assent to a truth believed because known from a source one has examined intellectually and has considered beyond doubt. If someone tells me that the Earth rotates around the sun, or that water is made out of hydrogen and oxygen, I believe this pretty much in the same way: I believe the authority on which the assertion rests, because this authority stands the exam of my intellect.
Faith is about doing one’s own homework. As it has to do with eternal salvation, there’s no work more important than this.
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