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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the RNC

Is the man a rock star or what? I wonder what kind of reception he'll get at the Democratic National Convention next week? Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes--Just Random Musings

This week for your reading pleasure, a few bits of randomness.

--- 1 ---
In the "Wise as Serpents and Harmless as Doves" department, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has certainly silenced some of his critics by scoring the closing benedictions of both the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions.  The invitation from the Democrats came (1) after initially snubbing his offer to appear and (2) recent polling showing that the recent controversies over the HHS Mandate have cut into their support among Catholics.  They seem to believe that Americans will be fooled by having the good Cardinal speak at the end of a Convention that is going to be an abortion-fest.  In all, Cardinal Dolan once again has shown himself to be surprisingly politically astute for a member of the Church hierarchy.  Rather than appearing to favor one candidate or party over another, most Americans will see him as an honest broker who places principle over party. His appearance at the conventions, when combined with his support of the Knights of Columbus' Civility Campaign, seems to indicate that Cardinal Dolan is trying to fill the role of the Nation's Pastor, a role that has been vacant since the end of Billy Graham's public ministry.
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If you want an easy way of reading the best in Catholic blogging, go over to The Big Pulpit.  Every day, Tito Edwards lists articles of note (and I'm not just saying that because he's been kind enough to list three of mine) from a variety of blogs.  There's enough reading there everyday to give you a good perspective on what's going on in the Catholic blogosphere.
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Mark your calendars for September 28 at 10:00 pm.  That is the night of the Season 3 premier of Blue Bloods on CBS.  As I've said before, it's the most pro-Catholic show on television. Not to mention one of the best shows overall.
--- 4 ---
Our daughter, Maggie, has started her Senior year.  It's our last year of homeschooling (cheers and sighs all around) and the end of an era.  To complete her English credit, she's learning the fine art of blogging.  Please check out her blog, "Blue Denim Skirts and Red High Heels."
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Some of you may have noticed that I've started an online Amazon affiliate bookstore.  Check it out!
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This Saturday Susan and I are going to Emmitsburg. Maryland for the day.  We're planning on visiting the Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton and the Lourdes Grotto at Mt. St. Mary's University.  We're really nerdy Catholics;  this is our idea of a great date!  Our ultimate vacation idea is visiting EWTN  and Mother Angelica's nuns.  Anyone else enjoy visiting Catholic sites?
--- 7 ---
If you're looking for a movie to go to this weekend, go see The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  I went last weekend with Maggie, somewhat against my will (it had been a while since we had had a daddy-daughter date).  I have to admit I loved it.  A fantastic, inspirational, pro-family and pro-life movie.  I'm giving you fair warning, however:  take tissues.  I cried five times in 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Next week I hope to have a longer blog post reviewing the movie.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: The Secret Life of the Woman in the Mantilla, Part 1

It's Wednesday, so you know what that means.  A few words from Susan...

Next week I hope to write something more about my journey into head covering, and how it reflects my journey into the Catholic Church, but for now I just want to give anyone out there a brief look into the kind of mind that the lace on my head is covering up (warning:  this may be shocking).
  • I am NOT thinking, “Look at me!  I am soooooo holy with my head completely covered during mass.  Shame on that naked headed woman in front of me with her eight clean, well behaved children.  If only she were as holy as me.”
  • I am thinking (much of the time, “Man, I’m glad I actually remembered to bring my mantilla today because my hair is a mess.”
  • Sometimes I pull the lace forward so it frames my face and reminds me of the veil that, in this life, separates me from the face of God.
  • Sometimes I pull the lace forward so I can ignore what one of my children is doing that is bugging me.
  • For years, I thought the veil was a symbol of my holiness.
  • Now, I know that it is a symbol for my need.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Words for Our Time from Henry David Thoreau

With the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions over the next several weeks, the long-running 2012 Election season is entering the home stretch.  This year we are faced with clear--some would say--stark choices in our candidates.  I have made little secret of my preferences.  I believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the best choices for this election.  Are they perfect?  No, of course not--they are men, and men are by definition imperfect.  We do not seek a messiah in this election, aside from He who came 2000 years ago--and I seek Him every day.  We seek good and decent men who will try to serve the American people with justice, honesty, and humility.

But ultimately, what happens to our county does not depend on what happens this November 6.  At best all that will happen is there will be new occupants at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who will not actively encourage the taking of innocent human life and attempt the wholesale enslavement of our populace to an omnipotent government.  Abortion will still be legal, as will pornography and contraception;  we will continue to celebrate sexual ethic that would make Caligula blush; we will still have broken homes, single parent families, and denigrate marriage.  For those to change, we need more than a mere shuffling of the political deck.  We need what Henry David Thoreau pointed to 150 years ago:

Will mankind never learn that policy is not morality-- that it never secures any moral right, but considers merely what is expedient? chooses the available candidate-- who is invariably the Devil-- and what right have his constituents to be surprised, because the Devil does not behave like an angel of light? What is wanted is men, not of policy, but of probity-- who recognize a higher law than the Constitution, or the decision of the majority. The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls-- the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning.--July 4, 1854, address Anti-Slavery Celebration, Framingham, Massachusetts.
More pointedly, I would say it depends on what kind of man drops to his knees with a Rosary in his hands every morning...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

St. Louis de Montfort on the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Eucharist

Last week, I posted some meditations I had concerning approaching the Mass with the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I thought I would post a practical method of doing so, that of St. Louis de Montfort in his True Devotion to Mary.

If you have not read True Devotion to Mary, you have missed a spiritual treasure by a spiritual giant.  If you have not gone through the 33 day preparation for consecration to Jesus through Mary, you are depriving yourself of great spiritual fruit.  I made my consecration to Mary on the Solemnity of the Assumption using the  formula prescribed by another giant of Marian spirituality, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and can honestly say it has been a spiritual booster shot for me.  Already in the 10 days since consecrating myself to the Blessed Virgin, I have been more resolute in my prayer life and more at peace in the face of some pretty bad situations.  So, I can recommend it wholeheartedly.

As an appendix to True Devotion, St. de Montfort produced a method for receiving the Holy Eucharist in communion with Mary.  I reproduce it here for your edification. (Note:  The numbers correspond to paragraphs in True Devotion).

Before Holy Communion

266. 1) Place yourself humbly in the presence of God.

  2) Renounce your corrupt nature and dispositions, no matter how good self-love makes them appear to you.

  3) Renew your consecration saying, "I belong entirely to you, dear Mother, and all that I have is yours."

  4) Implore Mary to lend you her heart so that you may receive her Son with her dispositions. Remind her that her Son's glory requires that he should not come into a heart so sullied and fickle as your own, which could not fail to diminish his glory and might cause him to leave. Tell her that if she will take up her abode in you to receive her Son - which she can do because of the sovereignty she has over all hearts - he will be received by her in a perfect manner without danger of being affronted or being forced to depart.  "God is in the midst of her. She shall not be moved." 

Tell her with confidence that all you have given her of your possessions is little enough to honour her, but that in Holy Communion you wish to give her the same gifts as the eternal Father gave her. Thus she will feel more honoured than if you gave her all the wealth in the world. Tell her, finally, that Jesus, whose love for her is unique, still wishes to take his delight and his repose in her even in your soul, even though it is poorer and less clean than the stable which he readily entered because she was there. Beg her to lend you her heart, saying, "O Mary, I take you for my all; give me your heart."

During Holy Communion

267. After the Our Father, when you are about to receive our Lord, say to him three times the prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy." Say it the first time as if you were telling the eternal Father that because of your evil thoughts and your ingratitude to such a good Father, you are unworthy to receive his only-begotten Son, but that here is Mary, his handmaid, who acts for you and whose presence gives you a special confidence and hope in him.

268. Say to God the Son, "Lord, I am not worthy", meaning that you are not worthy to receive him because of your useless and evil words and your carelessness in his service, but nevertheless you ask him to have pity on you because you are going to usher him into the house of his Mother and yours, and you will not let him go until he has made it his home. Implore him to rise and come to the place of his repose and the ark of his sanctification. Tell him that you have no faith in your own merits, strength and preparedness, like Esau, but only in Mary, your Mother, just as Jacob had trust in Rebecca his mother. Tell him that although you are a great sinner you still presume to approach him, supported by his holy Mother and adorned with her merits and virtues.

269. Say to the Holy Spirit, "Lord, I am not worthy". Tell him that you are not worthy to receive the masterpiece of his love because of your luke-warmness, wickedness and resistance to his inspirations. But, nonetheless, you put all your confidence in Mary, his faithful Spouse, and say with St. Bernard, "She is my greatest safeguard, the whole foundation of my hope." Beg him to overshadow Mary, his inseparable Spouse, once again. Her womb is as pure and her heart as ardent as ever. Tell him that if he does not enter your soul neither Jesus nor Mary will be formed there nor will it be a worthy dwelling for them.

After Holy Communion

270. After Holy Communion, close your eyes and recollect yourself. Then usher Jesus into the heart of Mary: you are giving him to his Mother who will receive him with great love and give him the place of honour, adore him profoundly, show him perfect love, embrace him intimately in spirit and in truth, and perform many offices for him of which we, in our ignorance, would know nothing.

271. Or, maintain a profoundly humble heart in the presence of Jesus dwelling in Mary. Or be in attendance like a slave at the gate of the royal palace, where the King is speaking with the Queen. While they are talking to each other, with no need of you, go in spirit to heaven and to the whole world, and call upon all creatures to thank, adore and love Jesus and Mary for you. "Come, let us adore."

272. Or, ask Jesus living in Mary that his kingdom may come upon earth through his holy Mother. Ask for divine Wisdom, divine love, the forgiveness of your sins, or any other grace, but always through Mary and in Mary. Cast a look of reproach upon yourself and say, "Lord, do not look at my sins, let your eyes see nothing in me but the virtues and merits of Mary.  "Remembering your sins, you may add, "I am my own worst enemy and I am guilty of all these sins." Or, "Deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man." Or again, "Dear Jesus, you must increase in my soul and I must decrease." "Mary, you must increase in me and I must always go on decreasing."  "O Jesus and Mary, increase in me and increase in others around me."

273. There are innumerable other thoughts with which the Holy Spirit will inspire you, which he will make yours if you are thoroughly recollected and mortified, and constantly faithful to the great and sublime devotion which I have been teaching you. But remember, the more you let Mary act in your Communion the more Jesus will be glorified. The more you humble yourself and listen to Jesus and Mary in peace and silence - with no desire to see, taste or feel - then the more freedom you will give to Mary to act in Jesus' name and the more Jesus will act in Mary. For the just man lives everywhere by faith, but especially in Holy Communion, which is an action of faith.

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Catholic Books for Friday

To say I love to read may be an understatement.  If I have a spare few minutes, I usually have a book in my hand (well, nowdays it's usually my Kindle, the one electronic gadget I don't think I could live without).  And usually, that book is about my favorite subject--the faith.  It was reading Thomas Merton's Seven Story Mountain that led me to Christ twenty years ago;  it was hundreds of books that helped me grow as a Christian; and dozens more that have formed me as a Catholic revert.  I don't think I can even remember every book I've read, but here are seven (really, you had to ask how many--what day is it?) that have influenced me the most.

--- 1 ---
The Bible.  Obviously, everything begins and ends with Sacred Scripture.  I've read Scripture from the time I first came to Christ; it was a constant companion while I was a Protestants.  As a Protestant, that's all I had.  But now that I'm back in the Church,  my love of Scripture has grown.  Now I see throughout its pages  a depth and a richness I didn't see before.  I still read Scripture everyday, as every good Catholic should; remember, we had it first--we wrote the table of contents.
--- 2 ---
The Catechism.  In my post the 5 Joys of Being Catholic, I said having the Catechism was one of the things I loved most about being Catholic.  In one relatively compact place are all the teachings of the Church about almost every subject.  I try to read some from it every day.  Marcus Grodi's Coming Home Network offers a reading plan that will take you through the Scriptures and the Catechism in a year.
--- 3 ---
The Story of a Soul, by St. Therese of Liseaux.  One of the great spiritual classics, and one I've read several times.  Her simple spirituality of doing even the smallest thing for the love of God has had a great impact on me.  If you tend to be more intellectual in your approach to faith, like I do, then this book with remind you that our Lord is honored by the simplest thing done in his name.  As important as knowledge is, without love, as St. Paul reminds us, our faith is nothing.
--- 4 ---
Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Jean-Pierre de Caussade.  Another work I've read several times, this slim volume deserves to be better known than it is.  The concept of accepting whatever God brings you is very liberating; de Caussade's example of the Blessed Virgin is a model for us.
--- 5 ---
The True Devotion to Mary, by Louis de Montfort.  I've only read this recently, but it's had a profound effect on my spiritual life.  I'll admit that the entire concept of consecration to Mary made me uncomfortable; I thought in the beginning that it was raising Mary to too high a level.  But about half way through I realized the power of what de Montfort was saying.  I went through the 33 day preparation and made my consecration on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption.  I can recommend not only the book, but consecration to Mary as well.
--- 6 ---
Catholicism, by Father Robert Barron.  As good as the series was, the book is better.  Fr. Barron manages to pack a lot of information in a compact, beautifully written volume.  The chapter on Mary alone is worth the cost.  This is destined to become a Catholic classic.
--- 7 ---
In this House of Brede, by Rummer Goden.  This is actually Susan's favorite, and the one that had more influence on her becoming Catholic than any other.  She read the book the first time when she was 11 and read it at least once a year from that time, committing whole passages to memory in the process.  The story revolves around a career woman in London who gives up everything to enter an English Benedictine convent.    Interestingly enough, Goden also brings in the stresses between the old and the new brought about in the Church by the Second Vatican Council.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

With Mary at Mass

Sunday morning I was serving at the altar, something I have the opportunity to do all too infrequently.  It’s one of my favorite things to do; my prayer life and spirituality have for the last several years been centered around the liturgy, even before I returned to the Catholic Church.  The Anglican liturgy is beautiful, with prayers and praises made in the language of Shakespeare.  It is a liturgy that is preserved in the Anglican Use service at my parish, St. Luke’s in Bladensburg, Maryland.  The cadences and movements of the service are second nature to me, and sometimes I must say I find myself “going through the motions” as my mind wanders from what’s going on in the service to what the afternoon will bring—often, a relaxing afternoon watching NASCAR.

This Sunday was different.  I was paying closer attention to the service, but mainly out of necessity; as I said, I hadn’t served in a while and was a little rusty.  I didn’t want to miss my cue, particularly during the elevations as I had responsibility for ringing the bells.  As I knelt on the epistle side of the altar and waited for Father to get to the point of the service when I needed to ring the first bell, something occurred to me that I hadn’t thought of before.  Not in all the times I had served.

I’m waiting for Jesus to be sacrificed.  Just like Mary did.

Almost as soon as the thought went through my head, Father said the words:

Vouchsafe, O God, we beseech thee, in all things to make this oblation blessed, approved and accepted, a perfect and worthy offering: that it may become for us the body and blood of thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

I rang the bell to signal the beginning of the holiest part of the Mass, when the bread and wine would become Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity.  Father recited the familiar words of Jesus from the Last Supper (“this is my body…this is my blood”); with each elevation I rang the bell, signaling to the congregation in prayer to look towards the altar and behold the body and blood of our Savior.  This is what they called in medieval times “the gaze that saves.”  It’s the same every Sunday.  But this Sunday as I looked at the host, I heard the words of Jesus from the cross:

Woman, behold your Son…Son, behold your mother.

I knew that every Sunday in the Mass Jesus offers Himself to the Father as he did on the Cross.  When the Priest elevates the Host, Jesus is raised on the Cross again; when he elevates the Chalice, the blood and water from His side pours forth from His Sacred Heart.  But I now knew something deeper.  It’s not just the consecration of the bread and wine that reenact the Crucifixion.  The entire Mass recreates Calvary.  When we are waiting for the bread to be consecrated, we are like Mary waiting at the foot of the cross, alone but for John the beloved.

Woman, behold your Son…We are with Mary, and Mary is with us.  Our Lady is standing before the Cross on Calvary; she is in the Holy of Holies in Heaven; and she is kneeling right next to us, worshiping with us every Sunday at every Mass.  Every Sunday at every Mass throughout the whole world, she joins her sacrifice with that of her Son's, as she did that Friday 2000 years ago.  And every Sunday, she again experiences the sword piercing her own Immaculate Heart.  

Son, behold your mother…As she was Jesus’ mother, she is our mother.  His mother is our mother; her son is our brother, our Lord, and our Savior.  We approach her Son with her, through her, in her, and for her. We join our sufferings, our pain, our struggles, and our fears to her's as she joins her's with those of her Son.  The sword that pierces our mother’s heart pierces our own heart, also.

With this in mind, we should approach every Mass with the intention of presenting ourselves, with our Blessed Mother, to our crucified and risen Lord.  We love Jesus in Mary, through Mary, with Mary, and for Mary; and Jesus loves us in His Mother, through His Mother, with His Mother, and for His Mother.  To Him, we need to bring all of our cares and concerns, all of our sufferings and pain, and that of those we love.  Our sufferings are meaningless without the Cross, just as Mary's would have been.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: What Susan B. and Elizabeth C. Might Say to Women of Today

And now, some words from Susan...

I have had the dubious privilege over the past week to write about the lives of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for a client.  Rest assured nothing short of the love of filthy lucre could attract me to these two proto-feminists.  However, now that I have completed the task, I have to say that I’m glad I did.  For, though neither woman was a Christian, much less a Catholic, I think they would still be appalled at much of what had become of the movement they started over 150 years ago.  In fact, since both were pretty outspoken, I think they’d have some very surprising words for their feminist progeny.

Here are some things they might say:

·         Homemaking can be a delightful career.  In her memoir, Stanton records her early days as a housewife.

I had all the most approved cook books, and spent half my time preserving, pickling, and experimenting in new dishes. I felt the same ambition to excel in all departments of the culinary art that I did at school in the different branches of learning. My love of order and cleanliness was carried throughout, from parlor to kitchen, from the front door to the back. I gave a man an extra shilling to pile the logs of firewood with their smooth ends outward, though I did not have them scoured white, as did our Dutch grandmothers. I tried, too, to give an artistic touch to everything–the dress of my children and servants included. My dining table was round, always covered with a clean cloth of a pretty pattern and a centerpiece of flowers in their season, pretty dishes, clean silver, and set with neatness and care. I put my soul into everything, and hence enjoyed it.

·         Motherhood is a high calling, worthy of respect and training.  Stanton wrote:

Though motherhood is the most important of all the professions,–requiring more knowledge than any other department in human affairs,–yet there is not sufficient attention given to the preparation for this office. If we buy a plant of a horticulturist we ask him many questions as to its needs, whether it thrives best in sunshine or in shade, whether it needs much or little water, what degrees of heat or cold; but when we hold in our arms for the first time, a being of infinite possibilities, in whose wisdom may rest the destiny of a nation, we take it for granted that the laws governing its life, health, and happiness are intuitively understood, that there is nothing new to be learned in regard to it.

·         Your vote is precious.  Use it for good, not evil.  

For Anthony, involvement in the suffrage movement grew out of her experiences with the abolition and temperance efforts.  She came to believe that, if women had the vote, they would use their power to improve society and make it safer for their children.  Neither could have for seen that any woman would ever use the power in her hands to kill her own child.

·         You deserve better than 50 Shades of Grey.

One of the driving forces behind the women’s movement of the 19th century was the how women were mistreated and often abused by their husbands and lovers.  I cannot begin to think what these pioneers for equality would think of a series of novels that glorify any woman making herself a man’s sexual punching bag.

·         Celibacy can free you for great work.

Susan B. Anthony never married.  However, there is also no evidence that she ever became romantically entangled outside of marriage, either.  Without the threat of a surprise pregnancy or commitments to a family, she was able to focus her attention on her life’s work.

·         A surprise pregnancy will not ruin your life.   
      Though she though “she was done” after the birth of her sixth child at the age of 40, Stanton found herself pregnant again at 44.  In spite of the fact that she had no use of Christianity or the Church, she still did nothing to prevent this child from being born. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

My brave daughter Maggie

Mental illnesses are the most difficult subject to talk about.  Even in our enlightened society, people are still very uncomfortable talking about issues such as depression.  This is particularly true with teenagers.  So many teenagers suffer in silence because they are afraid to tell anyone what's going on for fear of being ridiculed or ignored.  Thus, they go on for years struggling with depression, sometimes only finding relief from their suffering in alcohol, drugs--or suicide.  Depression is the silent killer of our teens.  We must listen to them when they cry.  But they have to be brave enough to cry out to us first.

That's why I'm so proud of Maggie.  She has been brave enough to post on her blog about her experience with bipolar depression.  Please read it.

Blue Denim Skirts and Red High Heels: Depression in Teen Girls: I have had a lot of hard times in the past several years.  In the last 2 years I have suffered from depression; all I could do was think a...

To parents out there who love a child with a mental illness, let me say a couple of things.  First, I know it seems hopeless; it has to me and Susan at times.  It does become easier to deal with.  And by the grace of God, it can abound to your growth in holiness.  Through everything, my faith has only grown stronger;  I offer up my own sufferings for Maggie's healing and those like her..

Second, remember that they are first of all your child; and your child is not their illness.  It's just like your child had diabetes, cancer, or another illness; there are good days and bad days  But your child is and will always be your child, given to you by God and made in His image.  And when you look in the face of your child, remember to see her as Jesus does.

Monday Morning Catechism: The Precepts of the Church

Because I want to use my blog for catechesis, I'm starting a new semi-regular (read "when I get around to it") feature here at LLATPOH:  Monday Morning Catechism.  Every, or most...maybe several....Mondays I'll have a post covering a specific aspect of the Catholic faith.  For the inaugural MMC, let's cover the Precepts of the Church.

What is a precept?  The dictionary definition of "precept" is "a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action."  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the precepts of the Church are "obligatory...positive laws" given Catholics by "pastoral authorities...to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor."(CCC 2041).

Let's parse this a little before we move on.  The Catechism tells us in this paragraph that the Precepts are

  • Obligatory:  for a Catholic, the Precepts are not optional.  They are binding on us, and are things we must do in order to call ourselves Catholics.
  • Positive Laws:  the Precepts are things we must do-not things we should avoid doing.  Too often, the Church is seen by the world as giving people a whole list of things not to do.  It is true, there are negative laws that tell us the things we should avoid to keep from falling into sin.  But in phrasing the Precepts as positive statements, the Church tells us that being a follower of Christ is much more than merely avoiding sin.  It means we're to act.
  • The very necessary minimum:  as parents, want to help our children grow into responsible adults.  Part of that process includes giving them chores to do.  Susan and I gave our three chores from the time they were about four years old.  But we did not start out by making them mow the lawn or cook dinner.  They started small, picking up their toys or taking out the trash.  We started with the minimum that was necessary to teach them that everyone had responsibilities in a family to help keep a clean house.  Likewise, through the Precepts, the Church as our loving Mother gives us her children the few things that are essential for us as Catholics.  But essential for what?  What are the precepts minimally necessary for?
  • For the growth in love of God and neighbor:  this is the purpose of the Precepts.  They have been provided us by the Church as a sure guide to our growth as followers of Christ.  But the are not to be done merely outwardly;  we can't just go through the motions.  We are to perform these in a "spirit of prayer and moral effort"  so these outward actions can bring about our inward transformation.
So what are the Precepts?  The Catechism lists 5.

1.  Attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; along with resting from servile labor.  The Catechism explains that this Precept "requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints....by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered."(CCC 2042)  In the United States, the Holy Days of Obligation (aside from Sundays) are:
  • December 8--Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25--Solemnity of the Nativity (Christmas)
  • January 1--Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God
  • 40 Days from Easter Sunday, or the nearest Sunday--Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord
  • August 15--Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
  • November 1--Solemnity of All Saints 
As Catholics, to miss attendance at Sunday Mass or a Holy Day of Obligation for any but a serious reasons (such as illness of self or a child) is a mortal sin and should be confessed at the next opportunity.  But even if there is a valid reason, we should strive to meet our obligation.  It may involve extra effort on our part and adjusting our schedule, but such is the importance of Mass is that it's worth it.  Last Sunday is a case in point; we went out to our Suburban and it wouldn't start.  That was it, I thought, we'd miss Mass; but that was okay, after all, because it was not our intention.  But later that afternoon, we borrowed our neighbor's car and went to a Church near us that has a late Sunday afternoon Mass.  

What about "resting from servile labor?"  The Catechism explains this as "resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of those days."  The simplest application of this is to Sunday; simply, we should not work on Sundays and avoid anything that might distract us from honoring God.  But we should also be sure not to apply this legalistically.  (For years we were members of a very conservative Presbyterian church which had a very strict view of Sundays as the Sabbath;  not only was work prohibited, but activities such as going to the pool and playground, shopping, even watching television were not approved.  Reading the bible or discussing the morning sermon were acceptable.  I thank God to have been delivered from this perspective).  But what about Holy Days of Obligation that fall on regular workdays?   That's a difficult question and one each of us needs to work out on our own;  some days I took off of work, but in general I think attendance at Mass (either the day of or on the Vigil) and honoring the day by offering our regular work to the Lord as a way of commemorating is a good approach to take.

2.   Confession at least Once a Year.  This Precept, the Catechism says, "ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of sacrament and reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness"(CCC 2042).  The Council of Trent decreed that Catholics, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Remember, one must receive the Eucharist in a state of grace.  "Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession"(CCC 1457).

Of the five, this may be one of the most neglected.  There is more avoidance of this sacrament than any of the others, partly I think because many Catholics have accepted the predominate Protestant ethos in our country that says that it is enough to confess one's sin directly to Jesus;  Jesus, after all, not the priest, forgives sins.  If one is really, really sorry and tells Jesus he's sorry, that is enough.  Well, if that were all that was necessary, then it would (1) not be a sacrament, and (2) not be a precept.  One can say, in fact, after Baptism and the Eucharist, Confession is the most important sacrament.

How important?  So important that Jesus himself told St. Maria Faustina (as recorded in her Diary):
Write, speak of My mercy. Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one's misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of ] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God's mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late. (1448)
As I've said in another post ,  my dear daughter Maggie wrote of her first confession on her blog.

Finally, just remember that once a year is a precept;  we should not read this legalistically and decide we only need to go once a year.  I think that if you go less than at least once a month, you're missing innumerable graces.  And these days, who can't use as much grace as possible.

3.  Receive the Eucharist at least once a year, during Easter.  Again, this is the bare minimum for a Catholic;  the once a year reception is closely related to the once-a-year confession.  The assumption is made, I believe, that if you are not regularly receiving the Eucharist, you are not regularly attending Mass;  therefore you are in mortal sin;  therefore you need to go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist at Easter.  But while the Church requires attendance at Mass every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation, it does not require reception of the Eucharist;  this is a holdover from earlier times when people received the Eucharist infrequently.  Regular reception of the Eucharist is in fact a relatively recent historical development; so for someone who is a regular Mass attending Catholic, this precept may seem a little odd.  It seems, on the other hand, to give the irregular Catholic a pass in a way.  They can miss every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, go to confession, receive the Eucharist on Easter Sunday, and go merrily along the remaining 364 days of the year.

Again, though, I think we need to look beyond such a narrow and legalistic reading of the precept.  The precept gives no one a pass; a person who misses every Sunday is committing a mortal sin, and unless they are in great health and never leave their house, are constantly endangering their soul.  No one would say an "Easter only Catholic" is in fact a good, or even proper, Catholic.

The precept, as with Confession, serves as a reminder to us of the great importance of the Eucharist--the source and summit of our life.  The Catechism says of reception of the Eucharist that "the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily."  As I have written before, I have received great graces from the daily reception of the Eucharist.  Unless you live in an area without a nearby Catholic Church, I strongly recommend this discipline for the growth of your soul.

4.  Observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.  Such days, the Catechism says, "ensures the times of ascesis [the exercise of self-discipline] and penance which prepares us for the liturgical feasts and helps us to acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart" (CCC 2043).  Since the Second Vatican Council, in the United States the days of abstinence from meat are Ash Wednesday  Fridays during Lent, and on Good Friday; fast days are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Traditionally, all Fridays were days of obligatory abstinence from meat;  today, it is not a requirement, but a discipline individual Catholics might choose to adopt. Last year, Cardinal Dolan posted an article on his blog that the restoration of the tradition might help us regain our identity as Catholics.

I must admit, this has been a difficult one for me.  Partly, it's because of the legalism I've encountered concerning it; as an Anglican, one woman I knew adhered strictly to the rules of abstinence (which in the absence of the Pope and real sacraments was all an Anglican had to convince themselves that they were really an truly Catholic) that she didn't think anyone else should have meat either.  When we had a reception on a Friday night at Church, all the dishes were meatless--but we had boiled shrimp and smoked salmon.   Sorry, but there is nothing penitential about shrimp or smoked salmon.  But when done with the right spirit, there is real spiritual benefit.  Symbolically, giving up flesh meat reminds us that our Lord gave up his fleshly body on the Cross for our sins.  It is something that we should somehow remember every Friday of the year;  giving up meat is a relatively easy way to do that.

5.  Help provide the needs of the Church.  Of this, the Catechism says "the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability."(CCC 2043).

When people read this, they immediately jump to giving money.  Of course, this covers the giving of monetary support to the Church.  The question usually asked is, "how much?"  Coming from a Protestant background where tithing was emphasized, that was a question Susan and I had.  So, we did some research and came to an astonishing conclusion:  the Catholic Church does not specify a specific fixed percentage.  Tithing was an Old Testament regulation, one that we are dispensed from under the New Covenant.  But this does not mean we are not to give to the Church;  we are required to, but the amount is left up to us.

But I also think we need to look beyond a narrow and legalistic reading of the Precept.  It does cover monetary giving to our local Parish, but it is not limited to this.  There are a couple of other aspects we should consider.

First, every Parish has needs other than monetary.  For a Parish does not just run on money; it also runs on people.  Men and women are needed to teach children and adults the faith;  servers are needed for the altar; help is needed to maintain the physical plant of the church.  In some Parishes, particularly large and affluent ones, people may actually be a greater need.  When considering the help we can provide, we should look at our time and talents as well as our treasure.

Second, the Church means more than the institution of the Parish.  The Church is the Body of Christ;  each individual person in the pews makes up the Body.  Every person in the Church has a need; it may be monetary, but it could be an intangible.  Perhaps there's a single mom who needs help with her unruly young teenage son; maybe an elderly widow needs some yard work or household repairs done;  maybe a young High School student is struggling in calculus and needs a good grade to get a College Scholarship.  We are so used to thinking about meeting needs through institutions that we forget that as Catholics we are individually called to practice both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy;  in doing so, we are fulfilling this Precept.

I hope that I've shed some light on these 5 Precepts.  Just remember, though, that I'm just a catechist;  I'm not a trained theologian nor am I a priest or deacon.  If you have further questions, please go to your parish priest;  they are there, not just to Sunday Mass, but to provide help in growing in your Catholic faith.

Next week (hopefully):  The Ten Commandments.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

For Sunday...a Message from St. Maximilian Kolbe

"The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. Its victims are found not only among worldly people, but in our own ranks as well….And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. We finite creatures cannot ever give Him the boundless glory He deserves. Let us strive therefore to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers…. All that exists has value to the extent that it is related to Him, the Creator of the universe, the Savior of men. If our actions are directed to this God as our final good, He will give us His wisdom and prudence without limit. What a gift! That, dear brother, is the only way to realize our capacity of giving God the greatest glory.
"Life begins to make sense when we recognize and acknowledge God’s infinite goodness and our absolute dependence on Him. Our response will be praise and total love expressed in obedience."
St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pray for Us!

If the Church were like the Apple Store...

The other day I was sitting on the couch, doing I-don't-remember-what (either reading, watching TV, or preparing another scintillating post for you fine people) when my DD (dear daughter) Maggie walked up and stood beside me.  She had one of those expressions that's all too familiar to Dads of teenage daughters everywhere--you know, the "Dad, I'm about to ask you to do something for me that I know you are not really going to want to do but you will because I'm your little princess and you LOOOOVE me" look.

"Daddy," she asked with her best 17-going-on-4 voice.

I stopped whatever it was I was doing.  "Yes Maggie?"

She inhaled, then her request came out something like this--"Dad you know how my iTouch screen cracked a couple of months ago well now it is like completely broken it will turn on but you can't see anything and my friend said if you have had it less than a year and you take it to the Apple store they'll give you one for like $80 dollars or something so can you pleeeeeeeese take me on Friday when you get home from work?"

After many years, I was able to understand what she was asking me.  Since I couldn't come up with a way out of taking her and I wanted to be the Good Dad, I said "Sure, honey, I'll take you."  So that's how I wound up in rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon doing the thing I hate most in the world.

I hate the mall.  I go at most once a year, usually under duress.  I was the kind of person online retail was made for;  I much prefer to shop with my laptop, where there are none of the hassles of shopping in a brick and mortar store.  You have to find a parking place, usually on the other side of town.  Then, there's navigating the walkways filled either with hyperkynetic hormonal teenagers for whom going to the mall is the cultural equivalent of an afternoon in the Louvre, or with elderly people with walkers moving slightly slower than the average sloth.  The mall is designed to prevent one from getting in and out as quickly as possible;  this is always my goal.  Usually, I am the driver;  I drop off and pick up later, or wait in the parking lot and read.  Today, however, I had to go in.  There was no way I was going to let my 17 year old daughter loose in the mall.  More than anything, I wanted this trip to the Apple store to be as quick as possible.

Miraculously, we managed to find a parking space within a reasonable distance of the mall entrance.  Once we navigated through Macy's and got into the Mall proper, then came trying to find the Apple store.  Fortunately, I found a map that indicated that the goal of our quest was right above us.  So, a short trip up an escalator (I know one of these days I'm going to loose a foot on one of those things) later and we were in front of the Apple store.

Now, let me say this about Apple.   I don't own any Apple products, and don't intend to in the future.I'm not a particular fan of Apple.  I don't have anything against the company, it's just that I've never gone all weak-kneed at their products.  To my mind, they always seemed overpriced and overly fragile;  there was also a weird combination of hype and elitism about the products.   All the i-products I've purchased for my children have come from online sources;  today was the first time I ever ventured into an Apple retail store.

I don't know what I expected.  But I have to say, I was impressed.  We walked into the store with one broken iTouch.  We walked out fifteen minutes later with a new iTouch for less than half the cost of the original.  I may buy an Apple product yet.

As I drove home and thought about the experience, I began to wonder what the Church would be like if we were more like the Apple store.  Several came to mind.

1.  We'd be easily identifiable in a crowd.  One of the few things I knew about the Apple store (thanks to an episode of The Big Bang Theory) is that the employees all wore the same distinctive t-shirts.  So when Maggie and I went into the store, I had no trouble separating the customers from the employees.  They stood out because they were clothed in distinctive apparel.

Both as individual Catholics and as a group, we should stand out.  People should be able to pick us out from the crowd as different because of our attitude, because of the way we speak and the way we behave.  We don't necessarily have to wear distinctive clothing or an outward sign of our faith (though we should consider wearing a crucifix when appropriate); but they should be able to tell we are Catholics because of the way we live our lives.

2.  We'd have ready answers to people's questions.  Every Apple employee had an iPad.  With the move of a few fingers, they were able to bring up information and provide answers on any question a person had about an Apple product.  They didn't have to come up with the answers on their own, or wonder where to find the answer; they had authoritative answers at their fingertips.

Now, I'm not saying we have to walk around with an iPad or with the Catechism on our smartphones (though it does make me wonder if anyone has thought of a Catechism app...), but we should know our faith in order to share it with others.  Only by knowing the right answers can we show people that the Church has the answers to any problem they may have.

3.  We'd be clear about our "product".  The Apple store had Apple products.  They had Macintoshes, Macbooks, iPods, iPhones, and iPads.  They were not selling PCs or Microsoft products; if they did, they wouldn't be an Apple store.

The Church first and foremost needs to be the Church.  Our main product is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is not social and economic justice; nor is it an end to abortion and the preservation of traditional marriage.  We are not a political activist organization; we are not a social welfare organization; we are not a fraternal society;  we are not a social club. We are the Church of Jesus Christ.  All we do for our fellow man flows from our spreading the gospel of salvation.  If we forget that, if we confuse the secondary with the primary, our message to the world gets muddled.  We can be identified as simply another political pressure group, too easily co-opted by those who would seek to clothe their grasping for power in the mantle of holiness.  When this happens, we cease to be the Church.

Now I'm not saying if we do these things the Church will become as popular as the iPad.  The Church has been around longer than the Apple Corporation, and will long outlast her.  But we can do a better job than we have at late in getting our "brand" out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Thoughts on Ayn Rand

Since being named by Mitt Romney as his running mate, Paul Ryan has been roundly criticized for his professed admiration for the works of author Ayn Rand.  While to be expected from the political left and the secularist media, some of the sharpest criticism has come from fellow Catholics.  This criticism is not new; it was made in the letter signed by 90 Georgetown professors and alumni before his April speech:
In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.
Ryan has repeatedly explained his attraction to the works of Rand, and placed it in context.  For example, there was his interview in National Review a few months ago:
I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young.  I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says. (emphasis added)
But in spite of this and similar statements, Ryan is still criticized because of his admitted liking of Rand's works and his assigning of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged to his Congressional staffers and interns.  Most of the criticism is aimed at his specific budget proposals, which are said by critics to reflect more Rand than Aquinas.
Father Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest at Georgetown, told the Huffington Post that Ryan’s views do not reflect the tenets of their shared faith. “I am afraid that Chairman Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love.”
(In fact, the criticism demonstrates an accepts the Obama Administration's caricature of the Ryan budget proposal as "social Darwinism".)

The criticism of Ryan's liking of Rand has continued, and has grown sharper.  Among Catholic writers in particular, Rand is a particular target (see, for example, the usually thoughtful Mark Shea's comments).  But much of the criticism of Rand is based on a caricature of her thought and writings.  For example, in a Huffington Post article, Professor Charles J. Reid, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas writes of Rand:
Rand is best understood as a faded modern epigone of the social darwinist movements of the latter 19th century. Claiming the mantle of Charles Darwin but drawing the wrong lessons from his work, these pseudo-scientists tried to transfer insights from the workings of biology to social structures. All life, they argued, was a struggle. Man had to compete to live. Nature was "red in tooth and claw," and so also, by extension, were human relations...
Ayn Rand, to her great credit, rejected racism emphatically. But she celebrated much of the rest of the social darwinist creed. There is no room in her work for cooperation, for community, for concern for the less advantaged. The maximization of individual productive capacity, freed of the impediments of state control, is the byword of her philosophy, so-called "Objectivism." The noble entrepreneur, the far-sighted man of wealth and power, the bold individualist who casts off the shackles of the "takers" and the "hangers-on," is the hero of her fiction. Without him, society itself would crumble to dust.
[Ryan's] tepid protest that he reads the Bible and so cannot be a follower of Ayn Rand rings hollow. The record of his public life is that of a man in thrall to a curdled, warped individualism.
What is clear from most of these criticisms is that they are based on either a superficial reading or Rand's works, or no reading of them at all.

Like Ryan, I read Atlas Shrugged in my mid-teens.  I probably have read it through about half a dozen times in the last 30 years.  It, along with the works of Milton Freedman and other free market economists, formed my thoughts concerning the superiority of the market, the danger of socialism and excessive government, and the superiority of the private sector to solve problems of poverty and create a society of freedom and prosperity for all.  But also like Ryan, as a Christian I have rejected Rand's underlying philosophy.

So, how is a Catholic to think about Ayn Rand?  To help, here are 7 thoughts.

--- 1 ---
Regardless of what you may think of her underlying atheism and materialism, you should recognize Ayn Rand as one of the first novelists to write seriously about the evils of totalitarianism.   Unlike many of her critics, Rand saw those evils first hand.  Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905, she was 12 at the time of the Russian Revolution;  when the Bolsheviks took over, they seized her father's drugstore and her family fled to the Crimea.  Along with millions of Russians, Rand suffered through the social and economic upheavals as her homeland slipped into totalitarianism.  She experienced the shortages, the desperation, the deprivation caused by a state controlled economy.  Her first novel, We The Living, was based on her experiences in the Soviet Union and was one the first fictional depictions of life under a communist regime.  These experiences also informed her thinking and views put forward in Atlas Shrugged.  Unfortunately, unlike another witness to the totalitarian horrors of the 20th Century, Blessed John Paul II, she accepted the underlying worldview of the Soviets--materialistic atheism--and said the antidote to totalitarianism was individual self-interest.
--- 2 ---
In spite of what her critics and her acolytes may think, Rand was not primarily a philosopher, nor a n economist; she was a novelist.  While I loved Atlas Shrugged and have read most things she wrote (though for some reason I could never get into The Fountainhead),  I read them as novels.  While I admit in my own youthful agnosticism I found her philosophy attractive (particularly for someone like myself who was a bit of a loner), as a system her philosophy of Objectivism is an odd amalgam of Nietzsche, Aristotle, and pop psychology and does not work in the real world.   Her understanding of free-market economics is not original, but reflects numerous other influences.  Her novels are not blueprints; they are fiction.  Anyone who treats them as anything more is in for a difficult time.
--- 3 ---
Atlas Shrugged is an impressive and expansive novelistic description of what happens when governmental regulation of the economy runs amok.  For me, like for Paul Ryan as I would expect, this  part of the novel had the biggest impact.  The gradual process by which industries were driven into bankruptcy by regulation; the inability of the state to provide goods and services;  the replacement of free exchange and contracts with force and coercion; the take over of industry by the state--Rand touches on all of these points in the novel.  She is particularly effective in describing what happens to a society when individuals are no longer rewarded for their work, but everyone is treated "equal".  Particularly memorable is her description of what happens when the Twenty-First Century Motor Company is managed as a collectivist experiment instead of a business (hint: nothing good).
--- 4 ---
Atlas Shrugged shows what happens when a society rejects God.  This aspect of the novel only struck me recently, surprising considering Rand's atheism.  Rand's atheism, as I understand it, was a general rejection of supernaturalism; she did not consider God important enough to think about.  It's not just her heroes that reject God; He is completely absent.  Both the villains and the heroes operate without reference to God.  With no God, there is no objective standard of morality.  For the villains, what is moral is what they determine is right for the group at the expense of the individual; for the heroes, what is moral is what they determine to be right for the individual at the expense of the group.  Without an objective moral standard (God), they look for another reference.  For Rand, the only proper reference to what is moral is the self-interest of the individual; in the words of John Galt's credo, "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
--- 5 ---
Rand's villains and heroes are mirror images of each other.  That's the best way to understand the characterizations.  The villains and the heroes believe the opposite of the other.  The villains, as mentioned under 4, believe in the collective over the individual; the heroes, the individuals over the collective.  The villains reject the material in favor of the spiritual; the heroes, the spiritual in favor of the material.  The villains have no positive attributes; the heroes no negative attributes.  The heroes are supposed to be noble, and the villains degenerate.  But the heroes themselves are immoral; for example, the adulterous relationship carried on between the two main characters.  Overall, the characters are not "real"; they are caricatures.  This is why ultimately the novel is unsatisfying; the reader cannot relate to the heroes.
--- 6 ---
Aspects of Rand's thought do contradict Church teaching.  Ironically, her basic rejection of collectivist economics does not constitute a rejection of Catholic Teaching, in spite of what "social justice" Catholics contend.  But her radical individualism does.  As the Catechism states,
1879 The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.
Another aspect of Rand's thought that contradicts the Church is her view of the human person.  She clearly sees some people as more worthwhile than others;  the industrialist and the artist have more inherent dignity than the poor or the sick because the former derive their dignity from the fact that they work and product.  This is the opposite of what the  Church teaches:
1700 The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son[1] to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.
People who are not producers, or who are not creative, or who are dependent on others because of various limitations are described by Rand as "looters" and "parasites."  The implication is that these people are a drag on the productive members of society. And for Rand, the goal of every individual is their own happiness and fulfillment   Any obstacle to this, any source of suffering is to be removed or avoided.  The logical conclusion is seen in Rand's views on abortion...
Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights—and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate apotential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable. . . . Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings. ("The Last Survey," The Ayn Rand Letter, IV, 2, 3.
and birth control ...

The capacity to procreate is merely a potential which man is not obligated to actualize. The choice to have children or not is morally optional. Nature endows man with a variety of potentials—and it is hismind that must decide which capacities he chooses to exercise, according to his own hierarchy of rational goals and values.
The mere fact that man has the capacity to kill, does not mean that it is his duty to become a murderer; in the same way, the mere fact that man has the capacity to procreate, does not mean that it is his duty to commit spiritual suicide by making procreation his primary goal and turning himself into a stud-farm animal . . . .
To an animal, the rearing of its young is a matter of temporary cycles. To man, it is a lifelong responsibility—a grave responsibility that must not be undertaken causelessly, thoughtlessly or accidentally.
In regard to the moral aspects of birth control, the primary right involved is not the “right” of an unborn child, nor of the family, nor of society, nor of God. The primary right is one which—in today’s public clamor on the subject—few, if any, voices have had the courage to uphold: the right of man and woman to their own life and happiness—the right not to be regarded as the means to any end.

When Ryan says he rejects Rand's philosophy, clearly this is what he is talking about.  Knowing what to accept and what to reject from Rand reveals that he, unlike his critics, is actually familiar with her work and thought.  Those Catholics liberals who accept contraception and abortion in the name of social justice are actually more Randian than Ryan is.  Rand, in fact, would despise Ryan for his Catholicism and his pro-life views.

--- 7 ---
A Catholic can read Rand, but carefully.  This is true of any work of literature.  A Catholic can benefit from a careful, thoughtful reading of even the most anti-Church writing;  even in heresies there is a glimmer of truth.  So a Catholic can read Rand as a critique of collectivist economics (which she intended) and as a critique of atheistic materialism (which she did not).  But they should not accept her philosophy as the be all and end all.  Reading Rand might spark an interest in economics, which should lead a Catholic student to see what the Church says about economics and society, about freedom and liberty, and about the dignity of the human person.   

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