“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Another Blog Post in Support of Msgr. Steenson

Thanks for all of you who looked at yesterday's post.  Until I saw Shane Schaetzel's post on his Catholic In the Ozarks blog, I thought I was all alone in defense of Msgr. Steenson's statement.  Shane does a great job. I encourage all you to read it.
Catholic In The Ozarks: The Latin Mass and the Anglican Ordinariate: A typical mass celebrated according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Those of you outside of the Anglican ordinariate, or the...

Monday, July 30, 2012

On Msgr. Steenson's Statement on the Traditional Latin Mass

Those of you who are members, like me, of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, established for former Anglicans as a means of entering into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining elements of our liturgy, have no doubt heard of sharp criticisms of Monsignor Steenson over on the Anglo-Catholic blog.  Specifically, these criticisms surround remarks supposedly made by the Ordinary about the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the "Traditional Latin Mass."  In response to questions concerning the statements, the Ordinary issued a statement clarifying his position.  You can read it on the Ordinariate website.

One of my favorite websites, the New Liturgical Movement, reprinted the statement.  I felt compelled to respond to some comments, which I've reprinted here.  You can read the comments I'm responding to here:  Statement by the U.S. Ordinariate Around the Extraordinary Form.
 I am quite astonished by the responses to Msgr. Steenson's statement.  There is nothing here that indicates that he has an "unreasonable prejudice" against the Extraordinary Form; in fact, the last sentence of the statement clearly states,   "We also are pleased that the Church has provided for the continuing use of the Extraordinary Form, particularly as a pastoral response to traditional Catholics, and regard all of this as a well-ordered symphony of praise to the Blessed Trinity."  There is also no categorical prohibition against Ordinariate priests learning the Extraordinary Form or even offering it in an Ordinariate community.  He states, "But as the Extraordinary Form is not integral to the Anglican patrimony, it is not properly used in our communities;"  in this context, properly should be read to mean that it is not suitable or appropriate for use in our communities.  And he is right in that sense; the Anglican patrimony, as he states earlier, is based on (1)vernacular worship, and (2)sacral language.  To my knowledge, there is not a history in Anglo-Catholicism calling for a return to the Latin in worship.  While there is nothing in the Monsignor's statement that would prohibit an Ordinariate priest from offering the Extraordinary Form as an option or on occasion, for an Anglican Use parish it should not be the primary form of worship.

But aside from the specific issue of the Extraordinary Form, I have a greater concern as a member of the Ordinariate.  In our short history, there has been a great deal of criticism by laity (most who are not actually members of the Ordinariate) of the actions of Msgr. Steenson in particular and the Ordinariate in general.  These criticisms have included statements casting aspersions on the character of the Ordinary; claiming that the USCCB had highjacked the formation of the Ordinariate; that a small number of bishops were running the process.   Such statements can only do damage to the work of unity.  Does the Catholic Church in America need another group within it that is critical of the actions of it's leaders?  Don't we have enough trouble from the liberals in the Church?  At a time when the Church in America is under assault by its own government, do we want to be among those who wound it from within?
Let's remember that the Ordinariates were a gift from our Holy Father, one he was under no obligation whatsoever to offer former Anglicans.  With the continual move of ECUSA away from any resemblance to orthodox Christianity, and the slow death by attrition and fragmentation of the Continuing Anglican Movement, His Holiness offered a way onto the Barque of St. Peter that let us bring our liturgical baggage with us in order to preserve a style of worship that was integral to English-speaking culture, literature, music, and art.  But why did we leave churches we had known for years to venture into the unknown of the Ordinariate?  Was it primarily to preserve Anglican liturgical forms?  Or (as it was for me and others I know), because we had become convinced that the Catholic Church was the Church Christ established?  If it was the former, then we will become an "Anglican ghetto."  If the latter, then the Ordinariate can become a vibrant part of the Church in America.  But to do so, we must stop criticizing our leaders and their decisions; it is a waste of time.  We have too much work to do.
After writing this on NLM, I became aware of a response to the statement from the Anglo-Catholic blog.  The author makes the following statement:

 I have it on unimpeachable authority that there is on ongoing crackdown on those AU/Ordinariate priests who would dare to learn or celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite on the part of Steenson, Hurd, and Chalmers. The affected priests are naturally frightened, and unwilling to go on record, but make no mistake, the leadership of the U.S. Ordinariate at present has set itself against both Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus. I have it on good authority that this intimidation, an abuse of power, is being reporting directly to the Roman Authorities. And the contention that the traditional Latin Mass has no bearing on the Anglican Patrimony — this simply has me flabbergasted. Is there just a shortsightedness on the part of the Ordinary, or is he ignorant of the history of English Catholicism?
 I am astonished by this.  Why would a layperson post such an attack on men who are laboring tirelessly, with little income, to establish the Ordinariate?  This is filled with innuendo and hearsay.  If this is really going on, why don't the affected priests come forward?  I echo Steve Cavanaugh (who does great work over at http://anglicanusenews.blogspot.com/) in his response:
I question the value of posting it at all; if [the author] has had reports such as he says, he is well within his rights to assist those priests who are being intimidated to seek help from the authorities in Rome, but if those priests are not willing to speak publicly, then it would be better to not publicize this via second- and third-hand reports. It leads to a vast amount of speculation that does no one any good.
I also agree with his statement concerning the Extraordinary Form:
Any community of Anglicans entering the full communion of the Catholic Church who feel led by the Holy Spirit to worship via the Extraordinary Form on a regular basis can certainly do so, but why would they then enter the Ordinariate? Would it not make more sense to enter via the Pastoral Provision and then so order their worship. When I travel to St. Athanasius in Boston, I would not want to find that we were not using the Book of Divine Worship, but instead were using the 1962 Missal. I could travel 2 miles down the road and assist at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes or go downtown to the Cathedral to worship with the EF, and chant, etc. I say this as someone who leads a Latin schola.

Friday, July 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes

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James is busy working on a biography of J. Edgar Hoover, so he's letting me do 7 Quick Takes this week. In addition to his extensive knowledge of Catholic culture, he is also something of an expert on FBI records.
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Speaking of biographies, I have had the opportunity to write a few myself lately.  My very favorite was on Dolley Madison, the fourth First Lady of the United States and hands down the coolest woman in history (other than the obvious).
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I also got to write of poor Mary Todd Lincoln, who historians now believe was either bipolar or addicted to opiates because of her migraine headaches. I'm afraid my cousin, who is also a historian, would say she was just crazy as a sprayed roach.
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As much as I am committed to my undying love for Dolly Madison, I truly loved writing about Abigail Adams, mainly because of her wonderful letters the still exist between her and her husband, second president John Adams.  I'm just saying, you look at those old paintings of those two and you'd never believe some of the stuff they wrote each other in private.  Oh, and by the way, she was not an early feminist, in spite of nasty rumors spread about her.  She was a devoted wife and mother who was, like most of us, also very intelligent and, yes, opinionated.
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Another woman I got to write about was Amelia Earhart.  I have to say, while she was interesting, she was not anything close to my favorite.
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Ditto Eleanor Roosevelt.
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Have a great week everybody.  James will be back next Friday.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shepherds and Sheep

A Sermon for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  Delivered by Fr. Mark Lewis, St. Luke's Ordinariate Catholic Church, Bladensburg Maryland on July 22, 2012.  St. Luke's is a Church in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, established by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to bring former Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church.

In our Gospel story today the twelve apostles return to Jesus after being sent out by Him on their first missionary trip. Jesus takes His disciples into a secluded area for rest and refreshment, but there was no seclusion to be found.  The crowds followed and in some cases were already at the place where Jesus was taking His disciples. The Scripture tells us when Jesus saw the crowds, “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” I will come back to disciples later in the sermon, but for now I want to focus on Jesus’ compassion on the crowd, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

In ancient Israel, as in other ancient cultures of the Near East, the figures of king and shepherd were closely associated. The Hebrew word for shepherd also means “to rule.” Thus the ancient image of a king/shepherd is one who protects, provides and rules, (governs).  A shepherd of a flock was to protect the flock from danger and provide for the flock; this included feeding them in green pastures. Therefore a king of Israel or Judah, a king of God’s people was to protect, provide and rule His people according to His command.

In our first reading today, Jeremiah is prophesying around the end of the reign of King Zedekiah just before the final captivity in 587BC.  Jeremiah is looking back over the recent history of the reign of  the Kings of Judah and condemns them as shepherds who have misguided their flock. Jeremiah prophesied: “ ‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil doings.’ ” Thus unfaithful kings/shepherds lead to a flock without a shepherd-the flock is left on its own. 

We find elsewhere in Scripture the imagery of sheep without a shepherd. In the 27th chapter of the book Numbers we read of Moses interceding on behalf of the Hebrew people. As we all know, Moses was not allowed to enter the promise land with his people; therefore he prayed, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh appoint a man over the congregation, who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep which have no shepherd.” The Lord answered his prayers and appointed Joshua.

Ezekiel prophesied in the 34th chapter, “The word of the Lord came to me. Son of man, prophesy, and say to them even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not round up, the strayed you have  not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and hardness you have ruled them. So, they were scattered because there was not a shepherd and they became food for all the wild beast.”

Through these Scripture readings we can clearly see God’s plan for the men He appoints as a shepherd. They are to protect, provide, and rule His people; not by force or hardness, but in love, teaching and guiding the flock to holiness-- to God.

God continues to call men to be shepherds. Our Holy Father is the chief shepherd of the Church. Bishops are called to be shepherds; priests are called to be shepherds; and we have the same calling as did the shepherds of old: to protect the flock, to provide for them, (feeding them), and to rule them (guiding them and teaching them). The Church has teachings on all matters of faith and morals that shepherds are to teach to their flock. There are some shepherds who may believe, or worse teach others, that the Church is out of step with society. Therefore, they do not strongly encourage the flock in their care to conform their lives to all the teachings of the Church.  Such a shepherd is placing his thoughts and beliefs above those of the Church and thus places his flock in danger. Without a strong shepherd the flock will stray out of the Promised Land and into the wilderness. In other words, without the strong guidance of a shepherd leading his flock, the flock will stray into sin, and not just stray but begin to question, doubt, and then reject the teachings of the Church. Thus the words of the prophet Ezekiel hold true today, “They were scattered because there was not a shepherd and they became food for all the wild beast.”  That wild beast is none other than the evil one. Shepherds are called not to lead the flock as they see fit, but rather as God has commanded. As a shepherd of God’s people I am to reflect Him and bring the flock to Him by the means He has set forth.

Now I must say a word about the flock.  The flock must be willing to submit to the guidance of the shepherd.  I am certain we have all heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” The same is true of you; but we might say, “You can lead a sheep in the way to the pearly gates, but you cannot make him enter.” You can have a strong shepherd teaching all that the Church teaches, and strongly encouraging in love that you conform your lives to her teachings, but you must be willing to obey and conform. You must conform your mind, heart, and life to the teachings of the Church.  Otherwise you will be choosing to walk away from the protection of the shepherd, where instead of being fed you become feed for another. Do not allow yourselves to be swayed by the by the whims of society, even when, as it is now, unpopular to walk in the light of Christ.

Shepherd and sheep do well to follow Jesus, laying aside personal beliefs that may differ from that of the Church. For in Jesus, our perfect King and Shepherd we are truly protected and fed when we willingly submit to His rule; in doing so we participate in His life and ministry.

In the Ezekiel reading I mentioned earlier the Lord said, “You do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not round up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and hardness you have ruled them.”

And that brings us back to our Gospel lesson. Last week we read that Jesus sent His disciples out to participate in His ministry, to overcome the works of the evil one: feed the sheep, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, round up the crippled, and to do so in love, the same love with which Jesus loved them. Now they return and cannot wait to share with the Good Shepherd all that they had done and taught. Of course their mission was successful--Jesus sent them. He was with them. He had charged them. By participating in His life their mission could not fail. The same holds true for you and me. We cannot fail if we remain true to Him and His Church. We may experience hardships, loss, and even persecution, but we will know the peace and joy of participating in the life of Jesus.

You and I are called to be both a shepherd and a sheep. I am your shepherd, and I am a sheep of my superiors. You are my sheep, but you too have been called to be a shepherd: husbands to wives, parents to children, brothers to sisters and vise-a-versa. We are to be leading all God’s people to holiness; that is accomplished in and through His Church. Jeremiah prophesied, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king.” Jesus is the righteous Branch, and we encounter that righteous Branch in His Church. We cannot live in Him or participate in His life by being an offshoot that is broken away from the Branch or is just barely hanging on. Both shepherd and sheep must be obedient to the Good Shepherd’s voice. His voice, through the faithful shepherds of His Church will lead us to green pastures, where He will protect, provide, and rule His kingdom for eternity.

Come, let us listen to the voice of our Lord, the Shepherd, for He is calling us and His Church to holiness.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: The Four Freedoms Revisited, Part 4--Freedom from Fear


She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.  Proverbs 31:21

Let’s face it ladies, we live in scary times.  We all know nice children from good families who somehow still end up in trouble.  Everyday there’s a new missive from the bishops warning us about further government encroachments on our religious freedoms.  Many of us don’t know who’s going to be the next person in our circle to lose their job.  But we need not be afraid.  Consider the following reasons why:
  •  God is enough.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times this simple truth has kept me going through everything from a broken girlish heart to a mother’s heart broken by my own children’s misdeeds.  I think it is best captured in the following verses:  
    Psalm 46: 1-5

    God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.  There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
  • God is ultimately responsible for how our children turn out.  While we are responsible for doing our very best as parents, God has given our offspring their own wills.  We need to remember that He is their God, too.  At some point they are responsible to Him, and not to us, for their behavior.
  • The gates of hell cannot prevail against us.  Sure, the current administration seems to be out to get us, but this not the first government to be anti-Christian.  In fact, the Church was born within the context of persecution and has never been without it for even a day since.  Consider this:  when Jesus spoke these words, he was only months from going to the cross at the hands of Roman soldiers.  So, did he lie?  I don’t think so, and you know you don’t either.
Matthew 16:15-19
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.   And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
  • God’s people will never be left hopeless.  No matter what, God will always provide what’s best for us.  That means that even if what we think is the worst thing possible happens to us, it is in fact the best because it passed through the hands of a loving God.
 Psalm 37:  23-27 
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.  I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.  He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.  Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
Susan Mathis is delighted to be a daughter of the Church, the wife of James and the mother of Chris, Josh and Maggie.  In addition to homeschooling and homemaking, she also blogs for freestuffandsamples.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Problem of Liberal Catholics, and the Solution

Many of you have probably heard the news reports about the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, requiring teachers in parish faith formation programs and in their schools to sign an oath of fidelity to Catholic teaching.  You would think that no-one who calls themselves a Catholic and has committed themselves to teaching others, particularly young people, the faith would have a problem with this.  But of course there were some who objected, as this Washington Post article shows.  I had considered doing a detailed response, but tmatt over at getreligion.org beat me to the punch:

Modern loyalty oaths vs. all those ancient doctrines? 

This whole episode, along with the continuing controversies surrounding the Leadership Council of Women Religious, once again highlights the problem of liberal Catholics.  I wonder why people who so openly disagree with the Magisterium on significant issues continue to call themselves Catholics.  Further, I wonder why they would spend the time and energy teaching others a faith they disagree with.  It's not like the Catholic Church is the only game in town.  You favor the ordination of women to the priesthood, abortion, artificial contraception, same-sex marriage, an end to clerical celibacy, but you want the outward trappings of liturgical worship?  Fine.  Join the Episcopal Church.  Considering their declining numbers and  dwindling coffers, I'm sure they would love your bodies and your offerings.

Yet liberal Catholics remain in our Churches, staffing our schools and teaching our young people.  They seek every opportunity to subvert Church teaching.  They provide the enemies of the Church in the mainstream media and secular culture with willing accomplices.  The are, whether they know it or not, a secularist Fifth Column in the heart of Christ's Church.  The forces of radical secularism in our society can always rely on liberal Catholic organizations (such as the odious "Catholics" for Choice) to support them in their constant battles against the influence of the Church.  The latest episode concerning the Obama Administration's contraceptive mandate has seen the usual suspects being trotted out by the media, protesting the bishop's Fortnight for Freedom (albeit in pitifully small numbers) and lecturing them about how out of touch they are, that they don't speak for the vast majority of Catholics in the United States.  They would remake the Church into their own image, a monstrous combination of left-wing politics and a veneer of Christianity that would replace the collective wisdom of 2000 years with whatever strikes the popular mood of the times.

The phenomenon of the liberal Catholic, however, was not imposed on the Church in America by an outside force.  Rather it is the bitter fruit of several factors:
  • an entire generation of poor catechesis
  • weak-willed priests and bishops
  • a twisting of the meaning of the Second Vatican Council
But perhaps the strongest factor is the infiltration into the Church of the American Protestant ethos.  As well documented by Nathan O. Hatch in his work The Democratization of American Christianity, in the late 18th and early 19th century American protestant faith communities took the ideals of political democracy and popular sovereignty that formed the foundation of political life and applied them to their churches.  They rejected traditional hierarchy and creeds in favor of loose congregational structures and doctrinal statements.  A common slogan was "no authority but the Bible, no creed but Christ."  Individual opinion became the standard of truth.  They took the Reformation doctrines to their logical conclusion; not only did it result in a proliferation of sects and denominations in the young nation, but it also fed into the rise of heretical groups such as Joseph Smith's Mormons.  These various movements transmitted to American Protestant Christianity a distinct anti-authoritarian ethos hat manifests itself today among evangelicals (with it's many non-denominational megachurches and theologies focused on individual health and wealth) and mainstream/liberals (with their wholesale rejection of orthodox Christianity).

This anti-authoritarian perspective has affected the Church in America, particularly since the Second Vatican Council.  Many Catholics, lay and religious, took the statements of the Council and drew from them a ethos that reflected more their desires than the actual teachings of the fathers of the Council.  This is the so-called "spirit of the Second Vatican Council" that led liberal Catholics to liturgical practices that border the blasphemous (or, in the case of music, are just plain silly); to claim that individual Catholics could exercise their consciences in the use of artificial contraceptives; to confuse socialism with Catholic social teaching; and to push for changes in the Church's teachings on clerical celebacy, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality.  The damage to the Church in America caused by their influence has been grave;  it is damage that Pope John Paul II spent much of his pontificate trying to correct, a mission continued by Pope Benedict XVI.

Fortunately, the tide is turning.  There has been a strong reaction in this country against liberalism in the Church.  The conservative influence of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), authors such as Stephen Hahn and Peter Kreeft, and the rise of more traditional religious orders has lessened the liberal's influence in our Churches.  Bishops and priests who stand with the Magisterium and defend the faith have led the way.  Better catechetical materials that conform to the teachings of the Magisterium give authoritative sources for teaching children and adults the faith.  Liturgical reforms (including the new translation of the Roman Missal and more widespread use of the Extraordinary Rite, along with the establishment of the ordinariate for former Anglicans) have restored a sense of  the sacred to Catholic worship.

But much more work remains left to be done.  What can we as lay Catholics do to counter liberal influences in our parishes?
  1. Be Humble.  We who try to be faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium and hold to the authority of the Church need to recognize that we have often failed in our attempts.  We are Americans, too, and anti-authoritarianism is part of our cultural DNA; we were a nation born in rebellion, and sometimes it seems we never stop.  Every day we need to submit ourselves humbly to Christ in the person of our priest, our bishops, and the Holy Father.  Every day we need to remind ourselves that we do not know more than the Church; that it has 2000 years on us; and it is our sins of pride and arrogance that keep us from following the authoritative teachings of the Church.
  2. Be Knowledgeable.  We cannot follow what we do not know.  We must take every opportunity to learn more about the faith.  We should always be reading Scripture and the Catechism.  We should read good books by authors faithful to the Magisterium, and take advantage of videos and online courses that are available (sometimes very inexpensively) that teach the faith.  We can no longer call ourselves Catholic and not know what we're supposed to believe; the stakes are too high.
  3. Be Unafraid.  Ordinary lay Catholics who are faithful to the teachings of the Church have been quiet for too long.  We must make our voices heard.  We must take every opportunity to defend the Church and its teachings--even in our own parishes.  We must have the courage to confront the liberal Catholic religious education teacher concerning their views and, if they don't correct themselves, have the additional courage to go to the parish priest.  Even more importantly, we must be willing to talk to our fellow Catholics if we know areas of their lives in which they don't follow the teachings of the church--including birth control.  If we lose a friend, we lose a friend; but we might just gain their soul.
  4. Be Charitable.  Everything we do under 3 must be done with love.  We cannot be mean, angry, hateful, overbearing.  After all, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ--wayward and in error, yes, but our brothers and sisters none the less.  We must be gentle and humble in our approach, leading them to the truth rather than forcing it down their throats.  At the same time, we must constantly be in prayer for them.  In rebelling against the authority of the Church, they are putting their very souls in peril; that fact should make us weep for the liberals.  No one who really believes the teachings of Christ can feel anything but sadness for people in their condition.
  5. Be Catholic.  This is the most important.  If we are going to call ourselves Catholic and defend the Church, we must be thoroughly and unapologetically Catholic. We must adhere to the precepts of the Church and then some.  We should attend mass often (daily if possible) and receive the Holy Eucharist; partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently; pray daily; and perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  If we are married and of child bearing age, we should educate ourselves about and use Natural Family Planning.  We should defend life from conception to natural death. 
[Note:  after posting this I ran across a great posting on Shameless Popery by Joe Heschmeyer. Five Ways to Defend the Faith Against Unexpected Attacks.  He provides a good guide to dealing with challenges from anyone, including dissenting Catholics.]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Celebrate the Joy of Organic Sex!

This is Natural Family Planning Awareness week.  Every year at this time, around the July 25 anniversary of Pope Paul VI's earthshaking encyclical Humanae Vitae, diocese and parishes take the opportunity to spread the message about NFP, a method that is completely in accord with the teachings of the Church on responsible parenting.  This year, with the question of artificial contraception once again in the forefront because of the HHS mandate, looking at what the church really teaches about family planning is important for all Catholics and non-Catholics to counter the distortions of the mainstream media.  For a direct example of what I'm talking about, look at this article which has the following opening paragraph:
Amid a battle with President Obama over a new contraception mandate, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops are promoting natural family planning -- but will their flock take heed?
For information about NFP, I've already talked about 1FLESH.org in a previous blog post.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website has a page about Natural Family Planning Awareness Week with links to information about NFP.  Our Sunday Visitor has several online articles in its July 22 issue that give good information about NFP.

Any Catholic (or non-Catholic) who wants to know more about this 100 percent organic, safe, and highly effective method of family planning is going to have to do the research themselves.  Unless they have a committed Catholic OB-GYN, a woman may not find their doctor knowledgeable about modern NFP, or may have a prejudice against it.  This lack of knowledge is well documented in secular sources.

The best way to change our culture is to stop acting in lock-step with it.  We must do this in every area of our lives--including in the bedroom.

Bearing One Another's Burdens as an Alternative to the HHS Mandate

Baring a change in the White House, a legislative remedy, or a favorable court decision, Catholics of conscience face either having to participate in health insurance plans in which their premiums cover the costs for contraceptives, abortifacients, sterilization, and abortions for others, or paying the fines that come from not carrying health insurance.  For many (including myself) it's a choice between following my conscience or providing for my family's health care.

Fortunately, in the spirit of American free enterprise and the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity, someone has come up with a solution:  

Catholic health share plan offers alternative to contraception mandate

Health share plans have been around for a long time; some of the first ones were created by evangelical Christians for families who could not afford traditional insurance as an expression of the biblical admonition to bear one another's burdens.  Joining such a plan would not only allow someone to provide for their family's needs while preserving their conscience; it would put this principle into action, a principle at the very core of Catholic social teaching. 

For too long, the Church in America has relied on large bureaucratic, professional institutions to carry out it's mission of caring for the poor and vulnerable.  These have morphed into institutions that, as is increasingly evident, are much less Catholic as a result.  Much of their reliance has been on the mechanisms of the State.  With the HHS mandate, hopefully the dangers inherent in this approach is becoming clearer.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Something to show your atheist friends

Atheism has seen a resurgence over the last several years.  The so-called "new atheism" represented by the best-selling works of Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens is more militant and more evangelical than the "old atheism".  No doubt you've encountered at school or in your office an atheist who makes no bones about his lack of belief and challenges you at every turn.

If you want a good way to get them to think through their position, show them this video from "Fr. Pontifex", aka Fr. Claude Burns.  Fr. Pontifex is known for his cutting edge use of videos to spread Gospel.  You can see other examples of his work at http://www.frpontifex.com/

Friday, July 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday: And Now, a Few Words

To round out the week and prepare us for Sunday, a few thoughts to ponder.  
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Blessed John Paul II
We thus come to the very heart of the Gospel truth about freedom. The person realizes himself by the exercise of freedom in truth. Freedom cannot be understood as a license to do absolutely anything: it means a gift of self. Even more: it means an interior discipline of the gift. The idea of gift contains not only the free initiative of the subject, but also the aspect of duty. All this is made real in the ‘communion of persons.’ We find ourselves again at the very heart of each family.  Letter to Families, no. 14, emphasis original

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Pope Benedict XVI

Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic. Truth and Tolerence (writing as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

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Another Quote from the Holy Father:

The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces. Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)

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G. K. Chesterton

The man of the true religious tradition understands two things: liberty and obedience. The first means knowing what you really want. The second means knowing what you really trust. – G.K.’s Weekly, August 18, 1928
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St, Josemaria Escriva

If you wish, you will spread God's word, which is a thousand times blessed and can never fail. If you are generous..., if you respond, with your personal sanctification you will help to bring about the sanctification of others; the kingdom of Christ: omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam — 'all with Peter to Jesus through Mary.' The Way, 833
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Sir.Thomas More
Heretics be they that obstinately hold any self-minded opinion contrary to the doctrine that the common known Catholic Church teacheth and holdeth for necessary to salvation.   Debellation of Salem and Bizance (1533)

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And Finally, if you haven't seen this, watch this video from Fr. Andrew Kemberling, a priest at Saint Thomas More Catholic Church, Centennial, Colorado.  He is delivering the invocation to the 2012 Colorado State Republican Assembly and Convention.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Authority, Christ's Gift to the Church

A sermon from Fr. Mark Lewis, Pastor of St. Luke's Ordinariate Catholic Community in Bladensburg, Maryland.  Delivered on the July 15, 2012, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

I am sure all of you have heard the saying, “A man is only as good as his word.” Of a man who is totally trusted it is said, “His word is as good as gold.”  If we have this saying for humans, who are fallen sinful creatures, how much more accurate can this saying be for an all perfect, holy, creator-God?

Let’s take a minute to review some biblical texts.  God spoke the world into being. After the fall of man evil and sin entered the world.   God promised He would redeem the fallen state of man; He promised to defeat the evil forces that had entered His creation and sought to destroy His plan for creation. He sent prophets such as Amos and spoke through them to His people to repent. He spoke to His servants Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, promising that a descendant would rise to the throne of Israel whose reign would last forever. He spoke to Moses, telling Him that He would raise up a prophet like him to lead His people. He spoke to Mary, informing her she was going to conceive a child through the power of the Holy Spirit; and in the fullness of time, Mary bore a child, and God became man. What we learn from this review is God is faithful to His word. We can trust in God’s word.  He cannot renege on His word, nor can His word change.  This is the consistent message throughout Scripture.

Do we understand this? Do we believe we can trust in what God has said and done?

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus called the twelve to Him and after teaching them, both by his actions and instructions, He sent them out to overcome the evil of the world as   precursor to what His death, resurrection and ascension would fully accomplish. He sent them out to bring order back to chaos.  He charged them not to take any extra items with them-any extra weight in their backpacks to slow them down. There is an urgency to go out into the world to call people to repentance, just like the prophets of old.  Even more so He charged them to bring God’s order back into the world by overcoming the works of the evil one. How are these men to accomplish this task? After all, the world had gotten into this condition because of man; how can we overcome it? This sounds like a job for the Son of God, not man; yet Jesus sent out His disciples. How are they to accomplish this task? They cannot on their own.  Jesus gave them his authority to do so.  That we can count on.

Jesus gave His disciples, the first bishops of the Church, His authority to continue His ministry in the world even after His ascension.   Before Jesus ascended into heaven He did not give His disciples a Bible to use as a weapon to continue His ministry.  He gave them His authority to teach; authority to proclaim; authority over unclean spirits; authority through the power of His spirit to continue to restore order and to bring all men back to a relationship with God the Father.

The whole structure of the Church rests on the authority of Jesus. What authority does Jesus possess? In the 28th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, just before His ascension Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” All authority-and Jesus gave His authority to His disciples. Through the power of the Holy Spirit they participated in His ministry of redemption. With this same authority the disciples when nearing their deaths passed along to their successors the authority that had been given unto them. They could do this because Jesus promised them He would be with them in their ministry forever, even unto the end of time. This is how much God loves us; He sent His Son into the world to redeem our fallen state.  Even after His ascension He remains present to us in His Church, in our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ; in His bishops; and by extension of their ministry His priests. And that is not all.  Jesus is not just present; He is still redeeming and sanctifying, bringing order to chaos, overcoming sin, death and evil.

On the night before he was betrayed he took bread, gave thanks and said, “Take eat, this is my body, do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus instructed His disciples to continue in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup.   He promised that in doing so bread and wine would become His Body and Blood.  He instructed His disciples to baptize all people and all nations in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He promised the Disciples the keys to the kingdom of heaven and that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.  God shows His love for us not just by being present with us, but through Sacramental graces. He continues to forgive, redeem and restore; He continues to overcome evil and strengthens us through the power of His Holy Spirit for His kingdom.

Holy Mother Church is where we find comfort, peace and joy; through her clergy we receive instruction on how to live and are fed by Christ Himself. The Church is where we are strengthened and empowered to go out into the world, with urgency to proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ-in season and out, to family members, friends and co-workers.  We must bring them into the Church to meet Jesus and to receive His saving graces.

Now, I must admit there have been some pretty rotten fellows in the Church throughout the years, and some very sinful acts have occurred.  But thanks be to God, the holiness of the Church does not depend upon the holiness of its clergy or its people; it depends on the Holiness of its Head and Founder, Jesus Christ. He is the Faithful and Holy One, in whom we can trust, thus we can trust in His Church and in His Sacraments.

We stand at a very exciting time in history.   Our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, has encouraged us to re-evangelize the world.   He has provided former Anglicans the means tobe reunited to Holy Mother Church and all the grace she possesses. We have been given a special mission to go out to all those who are separated from the Church to bring them home. Home to where Jesus promised to be with us, to heal us, to redeem us, to restore us and fed us. Let us do so with sense of urgency, for Behold, the Kingdom of God is at hand!