March 31, 2010

Scoundrel Time(s)

George Weigel

The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child's mother-thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years-some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests -- a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops' annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog's behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down -- and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.

The Church itself is in some measure responsible for this. Reprehensible patterns of clerical sexual abuse and misgovernance by the Church's bishops came to glaring light in the U.S. in 2002; worse patterns of corruption have been recently revealed in Ireland. Clericalism, cowardice, fideism about psychotherapy's ability to "fix" sexual predators -- all played their roles in the recycling of abusers into ministry and in the failure of bishops to come to grips with a massive breakdown of conviction and discipline in the post-Vatican II years. For the Church's sexual abuse crisis has always been that: a crisis of fidelity. Priests who live the noble promises of their ordination are not sexual abusers; bishops who take their custody of the Lord's flock seriously, protect the young and recognize that a man's acts can so disfigure his priesthood that he must be removed from public ministry or from the clerical state. That the Catholic Church was slow to recognize the scandal of sexual abuse within the household of faith, and the failures of governance that led to the scandal being horribly mishandled, has been frankly admitted-by the bishops of the United States in 2002, and by Pope Benedict XVI in his recent letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland. In recent years, though, . . .

Read the full piece online at First Things, here.

March 30, 2010

How To Go To Confession

Fr. Phillip Neri Powell

The following is an excerpt from the article “Advice from Fr. Philip Neri’s Confessional,” by Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P., Ph.D. It's quite long but well worth the read. Visit his website here. Go here for the previous post in this series.

II. The Sins (in order of frequency heard in the Box)

4. Lust. What gift does lust pervert? You might be tempt to say “love” or “sex,” but I would say “beauty.” We know from the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei verbum) that God reveals Himself to us through His creation, His only Son, and scripture. As the rational members of His creation, we humans are particularly capable of revealing Who God Is, that is, of revealing Divine Beauty, Goodness, and Truth to others. In other words, you are a revelation of God to me and I to you. When you see a beautiful woman (or man) she is beautiful b/c God’s beauty is being revealed through her. She serves as an icon through which God shines His beauty and through which you receive His beauty. Your attraction to her is the attraction you know and feel for Beauty Himself. When you take that Beauty and pervert it for temporary pleasure (porn, masturbation), you sin against God.

Advice: Begin to habituate yourself to giving God thanks for the Beauty He reveals to you. When you see an attractive person lift them up in your mind and say, “Thank you, Lord, for showing me your beauty through this beautiful person!” Be truly grateful each and every time. Over time, it will become harder and harder to think of others as objects when you know that they are actually icons.

5. Envy: What gift does envy pervert? I would say that envy perverts the nature of giftedness itself. We are all created as graced creatures…THAT we exist at all is a grace, a gift of God. Beyond the gift of existence, each of us is gifted in some particular fashion—singing, writing, patience, piety, etc. These gifts are mixed and matched and combined in all sorts of odd configurations. Our job is to organize these gifts into a coherent “charitable personality,” to become the best possible version of ourselves that these gifts will allow. The way we do this is to use the gifts for others. When we do this God’s love is perfected in us. However, when I lust after the gifts of my friends and neighbors, ignoring my own gifts in favor of coveting theirs, I fail to use my own gifts and God’s love is not perfected in me. So, envy is a double-edged sin in that it promotes covetousness and makes us lazy in being charitable.

Advice: Being grateful is the key here. When you feel yourself becoming envious of another’s gifts, stop and give God thanks for that person’s gifts. Pray that they might use their gifts well and grow in holiness. Gratitude is one of the things that the devil can’t fight against. A truly grateful heart is well protected from temptation.

March 29, 2010

Thought of the Day — St. John Chrysostom on Christ's Sacrifice

Thought of the Day
It is clear through unlearned men that the cross was persuasive; in fact, it persuaded the whole world.
- St. John Chrysostom

March 26, 2010

What Does the Nuptial Meaning of the Body Mean for Single People?

Recently, a friend asked me what the nuptial meaning of the body means for single people. The nuptial meaning of the body is the body's capacity for expressing love, that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift and fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence.

Single people had a unique capacity to express love in a variety of different self giving functions: helping those in need with their time and attention, being concerned with the poor and sick and helping others through the gift of self. The nuptial meaning of the body in this sense can be more closely assigned with agape than eros. The forgetting of self helps to bring concern and care for others. Even if one is not married, our bodies have a spousal sense in that as a member of humanity there are countless ways of giving ourselves to others. Loneliness is an invitation to self gift, inviting ourselves out of oneself to find communion and reconciliation in the communion of persons that makes humanity. Therefore, our body can be a gift for others in a nuptial sense even if we are not married.

H/T Love Undefiled

New Papal Document On Scripture Coming After Easter

Pope Benedict XVI will be releasing a new document, an Apostolic Exhortation, on Scripture. The document is a follow-up to the recent Synod on Scripture.

Here's more information on the new document from Rome Reports:

H/T the Sacred Page

March 25, 2010

Solemnity of the Annunciation

The Annunciation is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would become the Theotokos (God-bearer). Despite being a virgin, Mary would miraculously conceive a child who would be called the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus, meaning “YHWH delivers”. Most of Christianity observes this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, nine full months before Christmas. According to the Bible (Luke 1:26), the Annunciation occurred in “the sixth month” of Elizabeth's pregnancy with the child who would later become known as John the Baptist.

Theology of the Body: The Spousal Meaning of the Body

Men were made to love women just as women were made to love men. We were all made to love as God loves. To love the way God loves is to love completely, holding nothing back from the other. Adam and Eve knew this immediately upon seeing each other for the first time. It is inscribed in our bodies; their very physicality speaks this truth. Sex is sacred. It must be protected and revered as a holy and mysterious union.

Women express the unrepeatable feminine incarnations of the human person that they are when they love their husbands. In so doing they honor and love God. Men express the unrepeatable masculine incarnations of the human person that they are when they love their wives. In so doing they also love God.

The celibate is called to love through their bodies by offering up their masculinity or femininity to God. Nuns live a beautiful vocation by being spouses to Christ. This is not a sexual union but a profound spiritual union. Likewise, priests and religious brothers offer up their masculinity to God by loving and serving the church. Their role model is Christ who offered his life for God’s people.

Spiritual love like that shared by the Trinity, brings a joy greater than sexual fulfillment. It is difficult to imagine a joy greater than sexual bliss since most of us have never experienced it. The holy family did. The Virgin Mary and Joseph, her husband, refrained from sexual relations. Jesus, of course, was their son. Having God in their midst was an unrivaled joy. Nothing in the world could possibly compare with it. The happiness this brought was something we can only imagine.

In heaven, we will see God face-to-face. This intimacy with God is something the celibate witnesses too in the here-and-now. Many religious testify to a love of God that is beyond words. It animates their vocations enabling them to love as God loves.

March 22, 2010

Genesis - "In the beginning" Part III

As we discussed last time, Adam's sin was his failure to protect his wife Eve. Following the first sin, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden. Barely had man transgressed, however, when God warns the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." (Genesis 3:15)

This is the Protoevangelium or “first gospel” in which God promises to send a redeemer to save his people from the slavery of sin. The "woman" is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her "offspring," (sometimes translated as seed), is Jesus Christ. He (Christ) will strike and ultimately defeat the serpent/evil. The forces of evil will attack Christ culminating in His passion and death.

Fortunately for us, Christ is Resurrected, defeating death and overcoming sin. His victory is our victory. His Resurrection is our hope and our salvation.

March 20, 2010

The Universal Call To Holiness

According to John Paul II holiness isn’t simply one option among many; it is the essence of being Catholic. To be Catholic is to be called to holiness. Holiness can be summed up in one word – love. Christ calls his disciples to authentic love – love of God and love of neighbor.

Saying this is one thing. Living it is another. We might think that holiness is the stuff of priests and nuns. We might think of living a holier life as something we will do tomorrow or sometime in the future. This is wrong. Sacred Scripture tells us the time to be holy is now!

1.The spiritual journey is entirely dependent on God. It is a gift God gives us. It is a grace. Going to Mass doesn’t make us holy. Neither does saying a million rosaries. God sustains us in life – in everything we do. We are entirely dependent on his mercy.

2. Our effort is necessary. What we can do to place ourselves in the presence of Christ we should do. Daily prayer is essential. Reading the scriptures is another key that unlocks the doors to eternity. God loves us abundantly. God knows us completely. Everything we say and do should be a response to that Love.

3. There are painful dimensions to the path toward holiness. We’re all familiar with the expression “no pain no gain.” Expelling sin from our lives can be difficult even painful. Expanding our hearts, minds, and souls takes work. Letting go of lesser cares and filling us up with God’s love can be a challenge. The temptation may be to put off the heavy lifting until later.

4. Despite its painful dimensions, the journey toward holiness is worth it. To find the pearl of great price we must get rid of the junk in our lives. Falling in love with God means letting go of the world. Whatever our difficulties - holiness is worth the journey

March 19, 2010

Exegesis for Everyone

When reading Sacred Scripture it is good to bear in mind the four senses of Scripture that Dr. Pauline A. Viviano outlined in the last Exegesis for Everyone. Let us begin with the literal sense. 

The literal sense of Scripture is what the authors of Sacred Scripture intended to covey when they wrote it. The bible contains a multitude of literary forms from poetry to histories, wisdom narratives, letters and more. Furthermore, the Bible is not just one book but a collection of seventy-three books. It must be read with this in mind. 

The three spiritual senses of Scripture emerge from the literal sense. They are:

The allegorical or typical sense of Scripture is how people and events in the Bible point forward to other times. An example Scott Hahn uses is the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac is a prefiguring of Christ. Isaac, a son carries the wood for his own sacrifice (which fortunately for Isaac doesn’t happen). Christ, the Son of God carries the cross for his own sacrifice, which is the crucifixion. 

The moral sense of Scripture is emulating the virtue, faith and goodness of biblical figures to turn away from evil and toward God. 

Finally, the anagogical sense of Scripture is how events in the Bible reveal what our life in Heaven will be like.
Thought of the Day
As iron is fashioned by the fire on an anvil, so in the fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive the form that our Lord desires for them to have.
-- St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

March 18, 2010

The Exodus and Easter

Easter is linked to the Passover and Exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament through the Last Supper and crucifixion that preceded the resurrection. According to the narratives of the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as he prepared himself and his disciples for his death in the upper room during the Last Supper. He identified the loaf of bread and cup of wine as symbolizing his body soon to be sacrificed and his blood soon to be shed. 1 Corinthians 5:7 states, "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed"; this refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal lamb.

Moses led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt. Christ leads us out of spiritual slavery in sin. The blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the death of the first born. The blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) delivers us from spiritual death and gains for us eternal life. Christ is the new Moses. Christ is the ultimate Passover.

The parallels between the Exodus and Easter are many. Christ leads us out of the wilderness of death. He guides us on our journey to the Promised Land that is Heaven. The night before the Israelites began their journey towards Canaan, they were told to wait and be ready. The night before Christ was delivered up to die, he asked the apostles to wait and be ready with him.

Genesis - "In the beginning" Part II

In our last post on Genesis we talked about how the sin of Adam had thrown everything out of balance. The world was no longer a temple as it was before. Man had literally fallen out of God's grace. He was now estranged from God though not entirely. God promises to send a redeemer to save man and defeat evil once and for all. (More on this in a later post.) Last but not least, man's relationship with man and with woman was forever transformed. Brother would fight against and kill brother. Marriage would no longer be predicated on love. Instead, the battle of the sexes had begun. This was not part of God's original plan but a consequence of original sin.

"In the beginning," Adam was charged with protecting the Garden and everything in it - including Eve. Man was supposed to tend the Garden, reap its fruits and defend it against the very evil he would succumb to. Adam was standing next to Eve as the snake tempted her. The idea that a "mere garden snake" tempted man away from God is very misleading. The Hebrew word translated as snake in the book of Genesis is the same word used to describe fearsome monsters in other parts of the Old Testament.

Adam was afraid. His first sin wasn't eating the fruit. It was failing to protect Eve.

March 17, 2010

Parable of the Prodigal Son

Michael Barber

This Sunday the Church reads the story of the Prodigal Son in the Liturgy (unless you’re doing the RCIA cycle, in which case you will read from John 9). Here I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on the story.

You’re Dead to Me

Jesus begins by telling the story of a man who had two sons. The parable begins with the younger brother going to the father and asking for his inheritance.

Of course, an inheritance is usually bestowed upon offspring after the death of the one bequeathing it. Essentially, by demanding his inheritance while his father is still alive the younger brother basically says, “Dad, you’re dead to me.”

We might note how incredible it is that the father actually honors his request―the father gives his son of his own estate while he is still living. In effect, the father impoverishes himself. Notably, the son has not told his father what he is going to do with it. Ostensibly, one could think that the son was looking to simply take responsibility of the family’s goods he would one day receive. (Though, given the fact that son has basically declared the death of his father, his next actions are not at all surprising). Yet, instead of sticking around and managing the family estate he has been entrusted with, he takes off with it!

To read this article in full visit the Sacred Page website.

Genesis - "In the beginning"

The book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It portrays the beginning of life on earth, indeed the start of everything that is. God, in a free act of love created the world. "In the beginning... " the world was far different from the one we know today. All of creation was in perfect harmony with the Lord. We don't often think of it this way, but before the first sin, the entire world was a temple in which mankind worshiped the one true God. Man fully possessed original goodness and original justice. Then Adam sinned and this was lost.

For one thing, the world at large stopped being a temple. It became necessary to build a temple in which God could be worshiped. Furthermore, man had to sanctify or purify himself before entering this sacred space. This was not necessary before the Fall. More in our next Genesis post.

March 16, 2010

Will Pro-Life Democrats Stand Strong?

We are entering the final stretch to push through Obamacare. The legislation as written is the most pro-abortion bill in United States history. It grantees abortion funding at taxpayer's existence while at the same time expanding access. This in light of a recent poll that shows Americans aged 18-25 are more pro-life than middle aged and older Americans.

March 15, 2010

Five Key Virtues For A Happy Marriage:

I. Obedience – Obedience to God is the foundation of a happy life. This requires us to make sacrifices in big ways and little ways. Obedience requires faith and strength of character. Whatever our chosen vocation, obedience and the discipline that flows from it girds us daily to become more of the person God is calling you to be. People looking to marry should seek a spouse who is obedient both to God’s law and the laws of the state.

II. Kindness – Kindness is in many ways the linchpin of any good relationship. Husband and wife should strive to be kind towards each other and the world at large. Every marriage is a light to the world – a shining example of love and human commitment. Kindness forces us to choose our words carefully. Kindness goes hand in hand with respecting others – including our spouses.

III. Patience – The most obvious virtue to practice in a happy, fulfilled marriage is patience. Patience is key to understanding and charity. Husbands and wives practice patience at every point in their married live. Patience fosters other virtues and draws a couple closer together.

IV. Humility – Being humble before God and man makes us ever more Christlike. Humility is a gateway through which love is able to flow freely. Spouses must pray for each other and do things for the other without expecting anything in return. Christ gave his very body to us just as husband and wife are called to donate their bodies to each other.

V. Love – By loving each other with life-giving love, husband and wife mirror the life-giving love that is the inner life of the Trinity. Love makes all things possible. Without love, obedience, kindness, patience, and humility would be impossible. Through love we can reflect God’s life in and through our families. The love between husband and wife is a lifetime commitment that includes an openness to children. The love of marriage is most powerful when it results in another human being, capable of bringing still more love into the world.

Dems to Stupak: More Abortions = Fewer Babies = Lower Gov' t Costs

Democrats explaining their stubbornness to maintain the abortion funding in the Senate health care bill have admitted that a primary motivation for doing so lies in encouraging more abortions, lest more children born put a strain on government funds, said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) as reported by National Review Online.

"If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing [from Democrat leaders],” Stupak said in a phone interview published Friday. “Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue — come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we’re talking about.”

Stupak called the revelations “a pretty sad commentary on the state of the Democratic party."

The Michigan Democrat also lamented that "enormous" political pressure from Democrat leaders has likely "peel[ed] off one or two of my twelve" - that is, the twelve pro-life Democrats who vowed with Stupak not to vote for health care reform without a ban on abortion funding.

"Even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue," he said. . .

Read more at Lifesitenews

In defence of Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI is a scholar and a statesman. As a gifted academic, he has written many books pointing people towards the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith and towards an encounter with Christ. As a Bishop he has been a guardian of the flock entrusted to his care with diligence, prudence and loving concern. As Pope, he has produced wonderful writings on love, hope and truth, travelled around the world despite his age and health. He has shown countless acts of charity towards thousands of people, carried his ministry out to the greatest degree of professionalism and continues to teach and preach the Gospel. This is why I think he is a remarkable man. Despite the many attempts to blight his ministry, he continues to serve. Viva el papa!

How To Go To Confession

Fr. Phillip Neri Powell

The following is an excerpt from the article “Advice from Fr. Philip Neri’s Confessional,” by Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P., Ph.D. Visit his website here.

I Starting point:

1. Sin. When we sin we abuse a gift from God. Just about every sin we commit can be traced back to a disordered use of some grace we have received from God. Abusing God’s gifts is a dangerous practice b/c it is through the charitable use of our divine gifts for others that God perfects His love us. If you are not using your gifts for the benefit of others then God’s love is not being perfected in you.

2. Forgiveness. When we ask for forgiveness we are not asking God to do something He has not already done. All of our sins are forgiven right now. All of them. Then why go to confession? God gives us forgiveness always, constantly, without ceasing. We go to confession to receive His forgiveness. Let’s say I call you up and tell you that I’ve purchased a nice Easter ham for you at Central Market. It’s a gift from me to you and your family. I give you this ham. For the ham to be a proper gift, you have to go get it. Once you have received the ham, it is a gift. The ham is no less real b/c you haven’t picked it up yet. The ham doesn’t materialize out of thin air when you go to Central Market and ask for it. The ham is just sitting there waiting for you to come ask for. The same is true for God’s forgiveness. Just ask and you will receive.

3. Charity. Once you have received your gift of forgiveness, you need to put it into action as a gift for others. We do not have the option of failing to forgive. We are commanded to love and when we love, we forgive; i.e., You give your gift of divine forgiveness away by forgiving me my sins against you. In this way, you enact your most basic ministry as Christ to me.

March 14, 2010


Fr. Rene Butler

Catholics are sometimes disturbed by the claim that in receiving the Body of Christ they can be called cannibals. The reasoning goes: Catholics (and Orthodox, by the way) take literally the words of Jesus, “This is my body,” and “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you,” so they must be cannibals when they take Communion.

Such reasoning is based on the failure to understand the sacraments. Jesus is present in all the sacraments. This sacramental presence is real, and not merely symbolic; but it is likewise not merely materialistic.

For example, when the minister of Baptism pours water and says the words, Jesus is really – not symbolically, not materialistically, but sacramentally – present, cleansing the soul of all sin. The Eucharist is different in that Jesus is present in the bread and wine, whereas we do not say that He is present in the baptismal water. How can this be? Over 900 years ago theologians came up with the best explanation to date: that which makes bread bread or wine wine, its substance, becomes, really, that which is Jesus Christ. This is the Church doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is theological and academic in form, but it speaks to the heart as well.

Cannibals materially eat human flesh. We do not. We receive the Body and Blood of Christ really and truly – sacramentally.

Redemptive Suffering

Redemptive suffering is the Roman Catholic belief that human suffering, when accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, can remit the just punishment for one's sins or for the sins of another. Like an indulgence, redemptive suffering does not gain the individual forgiveness for their sin; forgiveness results from God’s grace, freely given through Christ, which cannot be earned. After one's sins are forgiven, the individual's suffering can reduce the penalty due for sin.

March 12, 2010

Thought of the Day

The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.

-- Pope Benedict XVI

Homily: Brave New World

Fr. Rene Butler

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda, who has never set eyes on another human being but her father and, only recently, Fernando, suddenly finds herself among a group of men, and exclaims:

“How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in it!”
[Note: “brave” here means “fine, beautiful.”]

Isaiah 35:5-6 presents a wonderful vision of a brave new world: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing.” We see this fulfilled in Jesus healings, which lead us to hope for a better world.

If you could change just one thing about the world, what evil would you eliminate? Sickness and disease, even death? We can imagine people living a healthy life and then, when the time comes, just passing peacefully to the next life in their sleep.

This would mean eliminating hunger, the cause of so much sickness and disease in the world. Think of a world where no one goes to bed wondering if they will have anything to eat the next day.

For this, we need to free the world from injustice, so that everyone respects everyone else’s rights, people help each other in their need.

Before that, we would have to get rid of hatred, the source of so much evil and suffering. Hate blinds people to anything that is good. It kills everything but itself. It feeds on itself, and grows and grows. It is the cause of so many wars, so much rage. We see it everywhere, around political and moral issues, for example. It has led to three genocides in the last 100 years: against the Armenians during World War I, against the Jews during World War II, and in Rwanda only 15 years ago.

But how do we eliminate hatred? First get rid of false pride, the arrogance that makes people believe they are the best, better than anyone else, ever ready to take offense. Pride makes people think they are above the law, exempt from the basic moral principles that govern everyone else. Greed is its closest companion. As long as I have what I want, it makes no difference to me if others have what they need.

Imagine a world without arrogance: no one feeling superior to others; no one claiming more rights than someone else. That just might be a world without hatred, without injustice, without hunger; and if we couldn’t eliminate sickness, at least sick persons would be surrounded by care, and die knowing they are loved.

A world without arrogance could produce persons who are eager to be of service, compassionate to all who suffer, anxious to share. We could look around and quote Shakespeare: O brave new world, that has such people in it! – Such people as you and I are called to be.

Review: The Essential Catholic Survival Guide from Catholic Answers

Ever been at a loss when someone attacks your faith and beliefs? The Essential Catholic Survival Guide is a good resource to combat questions, challenges, and misconceptions about Catholicism and the Catholic Church’ Indexed according to topic in a “question and answer” format, it allows the reader to find the right answer to any question quickly. Topics covered include the following:

· The Church and the papacy
· Scripture and Tradition
· Mary and the saints
· The sacraments
· Salvation
· Last things
· Morality and science
· Anti-Catholicism
· Non-Catholic churches and movements
· Practical apologetics

Many of the answers provided in this book are in-depth and technical. I found it profitable nonetheless – especially as a reference tool.

March 10, 2010

Theology of the Body, Part 3

Adam and Eve
Matthew Coffin

In John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, he compares and contrasts the three states of man: "Original Man," mankind before the Fall or first sin, "Historical Man" man after the Fall, (our current state,) and "Eschatological Man," man following Christ’s second coming, (our life in heaven).

Original Man

The state of original man concerns two human beings: Adam and Eve. They viewed each other with, "all the peace of the interior gaze." God walked in their midst, suggesting an intimacy with their creator we can only imagine. Adam and Eve’s lives were untouched by sin. Vice, depravity and despair were foreign to their experience. Everything in creation was perfect. The world was a temple in which human beings worshiped the one true God.

The boundary line between the state of original man and historical man is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is key. Man was the only person in the garden. The animals were not persons. They could not choose like Adam could. They could not till the ground or tend to the garden as human beings were called to do.

We have a choice. We can love God or reject God. We can be good stewards or bad stewards. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents this choice.

Two Accounts of Creation

The book of Genesis features two accounts of creation. Detractors of Christianity, and even some Christians, claim these stories contradict each other by telling different versions of the same event – namely, when God created the world. The two creation accounts also pose a challenge to fundamentalists who hold a literal interpretation of the Bible. Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body, shows how the two creation stories in Genesis are complementary, not contradictory.

The first creation account (Genesis 1:1-2:9) is called the Elohist account since the term used for God is "Elohim." It is chronologically newer than the second creation account starting at Genesis 2:10. The second creation account is called the Yawhist account since the name used for God in that story is "Yahweh."

The Elohist account or first creation story is creation from God’s point of view. God separates the light from the darkness, divides the waters, creates the sun, moon, and stars, land, vegetation, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea and so on. Before creating man God pauses as if pondering a momentous act. He makes man in his image, that is to say, in God’s own image. In this way, human beings – men and women – are different from everything else in creation.

The second creation account, the so-called Yawhist account, is creation from Adam’s point of view. The second creation account is the story of creation through Adam (and Eve's) experience. In other words, the second creation account is creation seen through the eyes of the first humans. In this sense, the Yawhist account is subjective - based on experience.

At first, Adam is alone without Eve. The Hebrew word for Adam in the Bible before the arrival of Eve is man meaning mankind. Adam before Eve is genderless. Only later does Adam the male appear with the first woman Eve. The Theology of the Body puts it this way:
The Bible calls the first human being "man" ('adam), but from the moment of the creation of the first woman, it begins to call him "man" (ish), in relation to ishshah ("woman," because she was taken from the man—ish).
Our personhood - being a subject before God - is more fundamental to who we are than even our gender. In the Bible, our personhood, our dignity before God, comes before gender differentiation. (We will discuss gender more fully in a future post.)

God brings all the animals of the Garden to Adam to name. After naming all the animals Adam realizes he is alone. John Paul calls this "original solitude." It is through the experience of original solitude that Adam comes to realize that he is a person. Furthermore, after naming all the animals Adam is aware there are no other persons like him. (Adam knows that even the most human like animals are not persons.) He longs for an other to relate to and love. God waits for Adam to have this self-revelation before making Eve. As a loving creator, he never acts before Adam is ready.

Original Solitude

When Adam named all the animals in the garden he realized he was alone. In other words, he realizes that he is the only "person" in the visible world. He experiences what John Paul II in his Theology of the Body calls "original solitude." This original solitude has two senses.

The first sense of original solitude has to do with Adam's relationship with God. In "the beginning," Adam quickly began to understand that he had a unique relationship with the creator. He alone could talk with God. He alone could have a personal relationship with God. None of the other creatures in the garden could do this.

It naturally follows that only man has an interior life. Only man is capable of loving. Adam/man is the Hebrew word for "mankind" as mentioned previously. Adam and Eve together experience original solitude. This is key to understanding the Theology of the Body. Mankind experiences original solitude in all its senses, both male and female. Adam and Eve both experience original solitude, not just Adam the male.

The second sense of original solitude is perhaps the most obvious one. In naming all the animals Adam discovers he is alone. There is no other human person to love and to receive in love. Adam longs deep in his heart to love an other and to be loved by an other. This profound loneliness, the second sense of original unity, was felt by both Adam and Eve.

Through his experience of original solitude Adam (mankind) realizes he is alone. There is no "other" to give himself over to in love. Adam cannot perfect himself, he cannot fulfill himself, he cannot know himself except by making a gift of himself to another human person. Adam longs for another human person to love. It is in his spiritual DNA to give himself to an other. God acknowledges this when he says; "It is not good for the man to be alone."

God bringing the animals to Adam to see what he will name them is a kind of test. Through it Adam discovers that there is not a help mate fit for him. Genesis states; "The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man."

In ancient Hebrew tradition, to name something is to have responsibility for it. In this way, mankind is to be the caregiver of the garden, the steward of all creation. Furthermore, in the first chapter of Genesis God tells man;"Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth."

God is clearly enjoining man to be a responsible master over all creation. In the beginning, this responsible mastery came easily. After sin, it would prove difficult if not impossible to achieve.

God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep "and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man." God then presents the woman to man who exclaims; "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." In that moment, original solitude gives way to the joy of original unity.

Original Unity

When Adam awoke from the divine sleep God presented him with Eve. Adam explained “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This was an exclamation of love. Adam saw in Eve a human person like himself. Eve saw in Adam a human person like herself. In this moment original solitude was over come. The loneliness that each person felt for the other, the longing that they felt for another was over.

Original solitude gives way to original unity. Adam was a gift for Eve. And Eve was a gift for Adam. Their very bodies spoke a language of love and communion, intimacy and union. Neither Adam nor Eve would use another person. Original unity meant they could view each other “with all the peace of the interior gaze” and not be afraid. Man was not given over to dominating woman. Woman was not afraid of man. The two represented a communion of souls. There was harmony in the male-female relationship. Such were the characteristics of original solitude.

The nuptial meaning of the body is central to the idea of John Paul’s Theology of the Body. As he states “the body and it alone is capable of making visible what has been invisible, the mystery of the divine since time immemorial.” The body makes visible the ineffable mystery of the human person. It is a sign of the person but then again it is more, it is the embodiment of the person. There is no disconnect between a man’s spirit and his bodily desires in the beginning. The two work in concert with each other. Just as there was harmony in the male-female relationship so to there was harmony in the mind-body-spirit relationship within the human person.

The Nuptial Meaning of the Body

Adam and Eve were created as gifts to one another. Their very bodies made this truth known. It was through their masculinity and femininity that they could express total self-giving. This is called “the nuptial meaning of the body.” The nuptial meaning of the body is central to Pope Saint John Paul’s Theology of the Body. He references it numerous times throughout his catechesis.

To love is the essential activity of the human person. We were created to love others and to receive love from others. Because our bodies make visible what is invisible in the world, it is through our bodies that we are called to be selfless and self-donative. This is evident most obviously in the conjugal union. Moreover, we are called to love and to serve others in numerous ways using our bodies. We cannot serve others unless we have a physical self to serve with. Man can only discover himself through a sincere gift of himself. This is at the heart of Christ’s teaching. It is also the heart of the Theology of the Body.

Before sin, Adam and Eve clearly perceived this truth. After sin, it became cluttered and obscure. For the children of Adam and Eve it remains so. We struggle daily to reject sin and selfishness in order to love and serve others more fully. In the beginning love was undiluted and spontaneous; an instantaneous impulse. Adam and Eve served each other without thinking. It was in their spiritual DNA to do this.

Now with historical man, (that is man after the first sin) we do not automatically love as God loves. It takes work and conscious effort. In many ways it is a battle among our heart, our will, and our body. In the beginning there was no struggle. At the end of human history, we will see God face to face in Heaven. On that day, we will love perfectly like God loves us, and sin will be no more.

Theology of the Body, Part 2

Matthew Coffin

The Exchange of Persons in the Trinity

The three-leaf clover used in religion classes to explain the mystery of three Divine Persons in one God does not begin to penetrate the incomparable majesty, boundless love, and total communion, which the Church in her Tradition and creeds ascribes to the Godhead.

To the early Church Fathers the idea of perichoresis (the exchange of Persons in the Trinity), was indispensable to understanding God. This sublime, metaphysical concept is central to John Paul’s Theology of the Body. The inner life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Divine Love Itself, is dimly but unmistakably reflected in the beauty of the conjugal embrace, the nuptial meaning of our bodies, and the echo of original innocence that resides in the human heart.

Before continuing, the term "person" should be defined. A person has an intellect, with which to know and a will, with which to choose. As a result, a person is always a "someone," never a "something." Animals are not persons. Their intellects are governed by instinct and they do not have free will. Only persons can freely choose.

There are three types of persons: Divine Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), angelic persons (angels), and human persons (human beings). God alone possesses the Divine Nature that is the Divine Intellect and the Divine Will. As Persons, each member of the Trinity has a Divine Intellect and a Divine Will, separate from and in accordance with each other. Christ incarnate also possesses a human intellect and a human will. Angels are persons because they know and choose, as do human beings. This is what it means to say we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our personhood images the Divine Personhood of the Trinity.

The Inner Life of the Trinity

God’s perfection is to exist. This doesn’t sound very impressive until we consider the opposite of existence. Something that exists is more perfect than the mere conceptualization of that thing. Before Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa he envisioned it in his mind. What resulted from his creative powers and artistry continues to fascinate, inspiring legions of impersonators, and bring joy to beholders. Had he not painted it his masterpiece would have disappeared along with his imagination. The Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre is superior in every way to the unrealized concept.

As the perfection of all that is, God the Father’s knowledge of Himself is perfect. The perfect self-knowledge of the Father exists. It is God the Son. Since Jesus is the perfect self-knowledge of the Father, the Person of Christ has always existed. God the Father and God the Son have no beginning and no end, a truth acknowledged in the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.

The love of the Father for the Son is total. God the Father empties Himself completely, holding nothing back from the Son. The love of the Son for the Father is total. God the Son empties Himself completely, holding nothing back from the Father. The love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father exists. It is God the Holy Spirit. The love that is the exchange of Persons between Father and Son is the Life that is the Spirit, with no beginning and no end. The Creed affirms that the Third Person of the Trinity is coequal with and proceeds from the Father and the Son:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets.

The love of the Holy Spirit for the other Persons of the Trinity is total. God the Holy Spirit empties Himself completely, holding nothing back from the Father and the Son. The love of the Father and the Son for the Spirit is total. God the Father and God the Son empty themselves completely, holding nothing back from the Spirit. This exchange of Persons that is the inner life of the Trinity is the first family. Before God created the world there was only the Divine Family. But the life-giving love of the Trinity is spiritual not sexual in nature.

Mirroring the Trinity, man and woman consummate their love in marriage through a free and total self-donation of their persons in the intimacy of sexual union. Pope John Paul’s exhortation to couples that a man should give himself completely in a receiving way to his wife, and a woman should receive her husband completely in a giving way, reflects this (Something contraception prevents entirely).

Our Lord raises marriage to a sacrament. The words of Jesus confer on matrimony a dignity befitting its purpose: "…from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Mark 10:6-9, also Matthew 19:4-6)

Christ is referring to the first covenant, in Genesis, between man and man’s Creator. It is a marriage covenant. God’s command to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it," calls attention to a profound truth. Only persons can know and choose. Because they know and choose persons alone can love. Only the human person is able to bring into this world another person capable of still more love. The gift of human sexuality allows married persons to grow in intimacy and holiness, give themselves more completely to their spouse, and be co-creators with God in the procreation, raising, and education of children.

In Part 3 we discuss Man and woman "in the beginning", after the Fall, and after the Resurrection; the sacrament of marriage and conjugal love.

March 9, 2010

Theology of the Body, Part 1

Matthew Coffin

In his Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II seeks to establish an adequate anthropology in which the human person, in both his spiritual and physical dimensions, reveals truths about God. George Weigel has called it, "one of the boldest reconfigurations of Catholic theology in centuries." Part 1 examines the philosophical developments that preceded it. Major schools of thought have been greatly oversimplified in order to show how John Paul II’s contribution is necessary, transformative, and faithful.


Prior to the thirteenth century, the dominant school of thought in Catholic theology was that of St. Augustine. Early in the fifth century, Augustine refuted the heresy of Pelagianism. Pelagius taught that Adam’s original sin did not taint human nature. For that reason, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was neither necessary nor redemptive. A neo-Platonist, Augustine uses the philosophy of Plato, together with the deposit of faith, to oppose Pelagianism and create a new way of looking at everything.

The resulting synthesis, Augustinianism, is objective. It acknowledges truth, including moral truth, as outside of us, not a matter of personal opinion, therefore, universal, not particular to individuals, cultures, or circumstances. According to Augustine, we can know truth through Revelation, right reason, and the Church.

Augustine’s theology is also deductive. Deductive reasoning begins with a general idea and ends with a specific one. Father Richard Hogan describes this approach (later used by scholastics, especially Thomas Aquinas):

One started with a "given" which was accepted, e.g., God is a pure spirit, and added what was called the minor term, e.g., a pure spirit does not have a body… (then) drew a conclusion, e.g., God does not have a body.

Finally, Augustinian theology is principled. Principles flow from objective truth and deductive reasoning. The opposite of principled is experimental. Experimental knowledge comes from personal experience.


In the thirteenth century, when better translations of Aristotle’s works came to the attention of European scholars, new questions emerged. The dissemination of these works along with doctrinal disagreements threatened to divide the Church between traditionalists, those adhering rigidly to the letter of Church law at the expense of the spirit of the law, and modernists, those embracing a theology based on novelty, often at the expense of Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

St. Thomas Aquinas answered these questions and in the process prevented a rift between traditionalists and modernists. His theology, Thomism, is a synthesis of Aristotelian philosophy and Revelation. Like his predecessors, Aquinas’s theology is objective, deductive, and principled.

For all the centuries between Augustine and Aquinas, the accepted worldview stayed largely intact. Thought and theology remained grounded in objective principles and deductive arguments.

Cartesian Philosophy

The Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and Scientific Revolution caused social upheaval, cataclysmic shifts in thinking, and the democratization of knowledge, making all that came before seem antiquated, authoritarian, incomplete, or irrelevant. The world and how people viewed it changed. Written in 1611, the words of poet John Donne could apply to all of the aforementioned:

(The) new Philosophy calls all in doubt,
The Element of fire is quite put out;
The Sun is lost, and th'earth, and no man's wit,
Can well direct him where to look for it.

Of particular note is French philosopher René Descartes. Published in 1637, his treatise, Discourse on the Method, attempts to establish a set of principles that are certain beyond doubt. The result would turn philosophy on its head. His famous statement: "I think therefore I am," marks a radical departure from the objective view of reality held by Augustine and Aquinas.

This departure is so radical, Descartes’ philosophy (known as Cartesian philosophy), is a dividing line. Philosophers before him (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas) are pre-Cartesian; everyone after (Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, Sartre, Husserl, etc.) is a post-Cartesian. Pre-Cartesian schools of thought are objective, deductive, and principled. Post-Cartesian philosophy is largely subjective, deriving from personal experience, feelings, and perceptions.

"I think therefore I am."

Descartes observes that sometimes our senses deceive us. When a straw is placed in a glass of water the water’s refractive properties make the straw appear bent. This optical illusion is precisely that, an illusion. How can we know what is real with certainty, Descartes asks, if we cannot always trust our senses? Because our senses are fallible in his search for certitude Descartes employs "hyperbolical doubt." In other words, for Descartes nothing is certain – not even reality itself.

The fact that he can doubt, however, means something or someone exists to do the doubting. His mind thinks, in this case about doubt. Consequently, Descartes arrives at the first certainty, his famous "Cogito ergo sum," "I think therefore I am."

Descartes goes on to prove that God exists and that He is benevolent. Nonetheless, the foundation of Descartes’ philosophical system is man. Man or man’s mind is the ultimate source of everything. Man determines morality, knowledge, meaning, and reality; to the extent it can be known. That natural law (God’s law written in our hearts), could be the source of civil law or a universal morality, an idea central to Augustine and Aquinas, is all but abandoned.

After Descartes, truth is no longer objective. It resides in and is established by the individual. Morality, therefore, cannot be universal. Each person decides for himself what is right. This represented a revolution in philosophy that abandoned objective reality, moral norms and absolute truth as previously understood.  

Immanuel Kant

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is considered the central figure of modern philosophy. Much like Descartes, Kant, was a pious man whose intentions seemed noble. The primary aim of his philosophical efforts was to restore human dignity to its rightful place in a world that increasingly worshipped science. Kant described his philosophy as "clearing away the pretensions of reason to make room for faith". His most important work, The Critique of Pure Reason, was dry, impenetrable and immensely influential in its assertion that reason is the source of morality (not God). In his Critique, Kant states:
The conviction [of faith] is not a logical but a moral certainty; and because it rests on subjective bases (of the moral attitude), I must not even say, It is morally certain that there is a God, etc., but I must say, I am morally certain, etc.
Kant’s philosophy allows individuals to choose their own visions for morality, since moral truth (according to Kant) cannot be arrived at using theoretical reason. Each individual’s conscience acts as a personal "lawmaker" for subjective morality. Kant’s assertion destroyed Aquinas’ medieval synthesis of faith and reason. It also directly contradicted the Church’s understanding that moral norms are discovered in objective truth as found in the natural law, not the creations of an individual’s conscience. Hence, more than any other thinker, Kant is responsible for making morality a matter of subjective opinion not objective truth.

Moreover, the modern-day notion that faith and reason are contradictory not complementary is largely owed to Kant who believed it was impossible for religion to be the subject of reason, evidence, argument, or even knowledge. Rather, religion was a question of feelings, motives and attitudes. The consequences of this shift in thinking have been catastrophic. Peter Kreeft notes:
[Kant’s] assumption has deeply influenced the minds of most religious educators (e.g., catechism writers and theology departments) today, who have turned their attention away from the plain "bare bones" of faith, the objective facts narrated in Scripture and summarized in the Apostles' Creed. They have divorced the faith from reason and married it to pop psychology, because they've bought into Kant's philosophy.
Kant's understand of morality as personal, subjective and emotional finalized what Descartes had begun and helped to shape a new worldview. That worldview, our own, is subjective (based on feelings and opinions), inductive (moving from specific instances to general assumptions), and experimental (proof is everything whether in the laboratory or our everyday lives). It would give rise to skepticism, existentialism, nihilism, Freudian psychology, and secular humanism, among others, affecting government, law, culture, and religion.

The "new Philosophy" called all in doubt, leaving nothing to give man his bearings, direction, or purpose. Moral relativism replaced moral absolutes. Science, technology, material affluence, sexual permissiveness, and the threat of nuclear annihilation brought new concerns. Increasingly, the person was seen as a "something," not a "someone," to be indoctrinated, exploited, or used. A new synthesis of faith and reason would be needed to respond to these developments.


At the beginning of the twentieth century a new school of thought, phenomenology, would reestablish the link severed by Cartesian philosophy and Kantian ethics between man and the world at large. Phenomenologists use the subjective experiences of persons to understand reality. Two in particular, Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler, would influence later thinkers responding to totalitarianism, Marxist ideology, genocide, materialism, war on an unprecedented scale, and more.

Broadly speaking, phenomenology (from the Greek phainómenon, "that which appears" and logos, “to study"), sees objects and events around us as understandable only through the person’s consciousness. By examining human consciousness (the collective experience of persons), an awareness of the world (objective reality), in which persons exist and act could emerge. The result is that things viewed subjectively can now be studied objectively.

Descartes tears man out of objective reality, making moral absolutes impossible. Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II), restores man firmly at the center of reality, making moral absolutes essential. Like Augustine and Aquinas before him, Wojtyla confirms the fundamental harmony between faith and reason. Using phenomenology and Sacred Scripture, he affirms objective moral truth and the dignity of persons, who are shaped by and responsible for their actions.

The fruit of this synthesis, John Paul’s Theology of the Body, is a reflection on our nature and life as persons made in the image and likeness of God, conjugal love, the meaning of celibacy, and the beatitude to which every human being is called. This is the Holy Father’s catechesis for a culture where sex is an obsession, marriage and families are endangered, and the dignity of persons is denied. Teaching about human sexuality using language subjective, inductive, experimental minds can understand, the Theology of the Body is a light in the darkness, guiding us toward an authentic vision of the person as divine gift.

In Part 2, we will discuss perichoresis, or the interpenetration of the persons in the Trinity. This concept is key to understanding John Paul’s Theology of the Body.

Our Lady of Guadalupe the Movie

A new movie is being planned about Our Lady of Guadalupe, so-named for an appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531 that’s credited with converting nine million indigenous Mexicans to Christianity. The film, still untitled, will be produced by Mpower Pictures, the company that was launched with the pro-life movie "Bella" in 2006 and founded by "The Passion of the Christ" producer Steve McEveety.

For more on Our Lady of Guadalupe go here.

March 7, 2010

Virginity for the Sake of the Kingdom

“Not all men can receive the precept, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.” (Mt. 19:11-12) If the meaning of life consists in making a gift of self to others and living in a communion of persons, should not all people marry? The answer is that all are called to “marriage,” but not necessarily in the physical sense. Some are called to marriage as we usually understand it.

Others are called to be the spouse of Christ (women religious) or the spouse of the Church (male religious) and live a celibate life for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Men and women who live this commitment are a sign to us that we are all made for union with God, which is the ultimate fulfillment of the human person. They remind us by their lives that we will all fully participate in this union in heaven. Their gift of self to the world bears spiritual fruit through the power of the Holy Spirit.

March 6, 2010

What do you think? Question of the Month

We're asking our readers during the month of March what they think Heaven will be like. Share with our viewership your opinion. Will we have glorified bodies? If so, what will they be like? Will our pets be in Heaven? Let us know what you think. Leave your thoughts in the coments section of this post.

Allen said: In heavan we will indeed have glorified bodies. John Paul II in his theology of the body says that in heaven "what is essentially human will be divinized by what is essentially divine." Furthermore, everything im our humanity will be taken up with seeing God face to face.

Anonymous said: In Heaven we will have all we need to be happy. My priest said that if our pets make us happy in this life, we will have them in the next life.

Jon said: I don't expect an answer but I have to wonder what age our bodies will be. Youth, middle age or old age?

Robert said: Glorified bodies - you betcha! St. Thomas (following the Fathers and Doctors of the Church) notes that most of what we can know about heaven is based on what we know about Christ's resurrection.

As for pets ... on the one hand, non-rational souls probably aren't immortal. On the other hand, St. Paul tells us, "All creation" is waiting for the general resurrection and last judgment.

My personal guess is that all of creation will somehow be glorified in the last judgment. But I don't know what that means for Fifi.

Anonymous said: I think the argument about having pets in heaven is a little more subtle than "if they make us happy in this life, we will have them in the next life." By that argument, heaven for me will feature video games and cereal. Rather, I've heard it argued that "if we need our pets for it to be a heaven, then our pets will be in heaven." That's just another way of saying that in heaven, our every true longing will be fulfilled. If a person, purged of every disordered desire and every inclination towards sin and away from God, could still be capable of wanting the companionship of their pet, then God would not let that longing go unfulfilled, or he would fulfill it in some undreamed of way. And who are we to guess now whether the love of a pet, a wholesome thing even if prone to excess, could not remain with us in the blessedness that God has prepared for us?

March 5, 2010

Theology of the Body Video

Fr. Roger Landry talks about the communion of man and woman in marriage.

Father Thomas Rosica on the third week of Lent

h/t Love Undefiled

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

In this rich, sophisticated introduction to the life of Jesus, the pope argues that Jesus brought to the world neither universal prosperity nor peace, but God. Indeed, Jesus cannot be understood outside of his relationship with God the Father, "which is the true center of his personality." Ratzinger explores the meaning of key moments in the Gospels, such as the temptations of Jesus, the Transfiguration, and the Sermon on the Mount, and points to passages in which Jesus adumbrates Pauline theology. He underscores Jesus’ being rooted in the Old Testament, showing, for example, that the Beatitudes participate in a long tradition of blessings, exemplified in Psalms and Jeremiah.

Ratzinger draws on historical-critical scholarship of the New Testament, but cautions that the usefulness of strictly historical readings of Scripture is limited: one must also read Scripture theologically, and view each passage of the Bible as part of a larger canonical whole. This learned book cannot be read casually—Ratzinger draws on a vast array of scholarship, and he assumes familiarity with theological categories such as "Christology." But for those who are willing to work through Ratzinger’s text slowly, virtually every page will yield fruitful insights

March 4, 2010

Theology of the Body: Purity of Heart

John Paul II

1. The analysis of purity is an indispensable completion of the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, which our present reflections are centered on. When explaining the correct meaning of the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," Christ appealed to the interior man. At the same time he specified the fundamental dimension of purity that marks the relations between man and woman both in marriage and outside it. The words, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28), express what is opposed to purity. At the same time, these words demand the purity which, in the Sermon on the Mount, is included in the list of the beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). In this way Christ appealed to the human heart. He called upon it and did not accuse it, as we have already clarified.

Ritual ablutions

2. Christ sees in the heart, in man's inner self, the source of purity—but also of moral impurity—in the fundamental and most generic sense of the word. That is confirmed, for example, by the answer he gave to the Pharisees, who were scandalized by the fact that his disciples "transgress the tradition of the elders. For they do not wash their hands when they eat" (Mt 15:2). Jesus then said to those present: "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth defiles a man" (Mt 15:11). Answering Peter's question, he explained these words to his disciples as follows: "What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man" (cf. Mt 15:18-20; also Mk 7:20-23).

When we say "purity" or "pure," in the first meaning of these words, we indicate what contrasts with what is dirty. "To dirty" means "to make filthy," "to pollute." That referred to the various spheres of the physical world. For example, we talk of a dirty road or a dirty room; we also talk of polluted air. In the same way man can be filthy, when his body is not clean. The body must be washed to remove dirt.

The Old Testament tradition attributed great importance to ritual ablutions, for example, to wash one's hands before eating, which the above-mentioned text spoke of. Many detailed prescriptions concerned the ablutions of the body in relation to sexual impurity, understood in the exclusively physiological sense, to which we have referred previously (cf. Lv 15). According to the medical science of the time, the various ablutions may have corresponded to hygienic prescriptions. Since they were imposed in God's name and contained in the sacred books of the Old Testament legislation, their observance indirectly acquired a religious meaning. They were ritual ablutions and, in the life of the people of the old covenant, they served ritual "purity."

Purity in the moral sense

3. In relation to the aforesaid juridico-religious tradition of the old covenant, an erroneous way of understanding moral purity developed.(1) It was often taken in the exclusively exterior and material sense. In any case, an explicit tendency to this interpretation spread. Christ opposed it radically. Nothing from outside makes one filthy, no "material" dirt makes one impure in the moral, that is, interior sense. No ablution, not even of a ritual nature, is capable in itself of producing moral purity. This has its exclusive source within man. It comes from the heart.

Probably the respective prescriptions in the Old Testament (for example, those found in Leviticus 15:16-24; 18:lff., or 12:1-5) served, in addition to hygienic purposes, to attribute a certain dimension of interiority to what is corporeal and sexual in the human person. In any case, Christ took good care not to connect purity in the moral (ethical) sense with physiology and its organic processes. In the light of the words of Matthew 15:18-20, quoted above, none of the aspects of sexual "dirtiness," in the strictly bodily, biophysiological sense, falls by itself into the definition of purity or impurity in the moral (ethical) sense...

Marriage and Celibacy as Icons

Iconography, pictures of Divine Persons and saints, are signs, images, or likenesses that embody and make present what they portray. God, the author of creation, uses physical realities to make present spiritual realities beyond us. Sex is sacred because, as a life-giving exchange of persons, it images the exchange of persons in the Trinity. Husband and wife participate in the Divine Life of God by being a family. Human families are icons of the Divine Family.

Like marriage, celibacy is a total gift of self that points to a spiritual reality. Jesus’ answer: "At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage… " (Matthew 22:30, also Mark 12:25, and Luke 20:35), in response to the Sadducees’ question about the seven times widowed woman, reveals our life in Heaven.

Sex and matrimony are icons of Divine Love. In Heaven we will see God face to face. This intimate (re)union will be an unrivaled joy, surpassing even the ecstasy of sexual fulfillment. There will be no need for such signs, images, or likenesses in the life of the world to come. God will walk in our midst and be present to us. We will receive Him fully in glory without sin or selfishness.

The celibate is a witness to the happiness we will experience in Heaven. Those who are chaste for the Kingdom can still practice life-giving love in emulation of Christ. Whatever our vocation or circumstance, we are all called to be "midwifes to souls."

Thought of the Day — Saint John Paul II on Marriage

Thought of the Day
A man should give himself completely in a receiving way to his wife, and a woman should receive her husband completely in a giving way.
-- John Paul II

A pro life examination of conscience by Fr Frank Pavone

Questions to help me defend life better.

Am I fully convinced that every abortion, at every stage of pregnancy, is the destruction of an innocent human life, which has the same value as my life, my parents? lives, my children's lives? Do I foster and nourish this conviction by reflecting often on the tragic loss of life occurring daily around me? Do I ever allow myself the thought that someone else's abortion is "none of my business?" Do I sometimes think that I have "more important" things to do than to save innocent lives? Do I believe I am responsible for my preborn brothers and sisters and accountable to God for what I do to save them? Do I have the courage to remind myself of the horror of abortion by actually looking at the pictures of aborted babies?

Do I pray daily and explicitly for an end to abortion? Do I pray for the babies, the mothers, the abortionists, the legislators, the media, the clergy, and the whole pro-life movement? Do I fast or make other significant sacrifices for this cause? Or do I believe the fight against abortion can be easy and convenient? Am I too afraid of displeasing others, and do I think I need to be liked to be successful? Am I willing to undergo financial loss, ridicule, or other sacrifices, to save a child's life?

Do I see the link between abortion and other assaults on human life and dignity? Do I acknowledge that progress in any arena for the defense of life facilitates progress in all the other arenas?

Do I have faith that God is the Lord of Life? Do I believe the whole struggle is in His hands, and that He has already conquered evil, falsehood, and death? Do I trust Him? Do I ask His guidance? Do I keep my eyes on Him, or do I allow discouragement by focusing only on the problem and myself?

Am I learning more about abortion and about the pro-life movement? Do I read good pro-life books? Do I subscribe to at least one pro-life publication so that I can be well informed on the issue? Do I escape from taking action by thinking that prayer alone is enough? Am I developing all the talents God gave me so that I can use them to advance the Culture of Life?

Do I speak up in defense of life? Do I make full use of the opportunities I have, such as wearing pins or using bumper stickers or decals? Do I write letters to the paper or to legislators or to doctors? Or do I allow a lack of self-confidence to paralyze my activity? Do I only do what's comfortable, or do I try to discover what activities will be most effective? Do I gladly participate in projects that need to be done, even if I don't particularly want to? Do I try to come up with new ideas for pro-life work? Do I suggest these ideas to others?

Do I take proper care of myself, physically and spiritually, so that I can be more effective in my pro-life work? Do I rest when I need to?

Do I foster unity in the movement? Do I encourage my fellow pro-lifers? Are all of my efforts guided by charity? Do I allow unhealthy competition between pro-life persons or groups? Do I foster collaboration, without demanding uniformity? Do I follow the advice or direction of those who bear responsibility for pro-life projects or groups? Do I seek the advice and input of others in the movement, especially of those more experienced than I?

Do I try to grow in compassion for women who are tempted to have abortions or who have had them in the past? Do I try to understand their situation and learn more about their needs? Do I help women find alternatives to abortion? Do I inspire hope in women I know who have had abortions? Do I help them find forgiveness and healing? Do I foster charity in thought, word, and deed toward those who disagree with me, or who perform or promote abortion? Am I fully committed to non-violence in this struggle?

Am I ready from this day forward to be a better pro-lifer? Am I ready to launch out with new strength, generosity, and determination to bring an end to abortion, without counting the cost to myself? Am I grateful enough for the gift of life to work to give life to others? Do I thank God for the privilege of being part of the pro-life movement?