Pro Sanctis et Fidelibus

Friday, November 24, 2006

With National Geographic Channel screening a new series on "fetal development in the animal kingdom, unlocking mysteries of one of nature's most remarkable journeys", I would not be surprised if animal fetuses suddenly become a protected species while human fetuses remain mere "accidents" which can easily be destroyed and disposed. It has amused me that we have such a fascination for the animal kingdom while considering our own 'species' as being worthless.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's official

Martin Luther's excommunication has been removed by the Vatican. Well it was actually removed in 1999 by a joint Catholic-Lutheran statement though proceedings began a few years earlier at the instigation of Pope John Paul II. Since Martin Luther is no longer a heretic, who will be next to be 'reconciled' to the Catholic Church by way of another joint agreement. Henry VIII? Elizabeth I? Calvin? Knox? Zwingili?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Has Martin Luther had the last laugh?

Today there is so broad a conception of the what the Catholic Church is or should be that it seems religion as an entirely private affair subject to one's own conscience has overcome the entire world. Even among those who frequent the Traditional Latin Mass there are so many divisions according to personal preferences that it would appear we have all become Protestants, the writer included. So how then can we rectify this situation and have the Catholic Church as God intended?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

From Jonny Dymond, the BBC's correspondent in Helsinki, a sign that Latin may once again become the language of Europe:

Finland is one of the quieter members of the EU. But now its turn at the EU presidency has thrust it into the spotlight - and exposed an unusual passion.

Like the boy at the party with cheese straws stuck up his nose, it has been caught doing something vaguely disturbing - indulging a penchant for Latin. It is the only country in the world which broadcasts the news in Latin.

On its EU presidency website one can find descriptions of meetings in Latin. But love of the language of Rome goes deep.

I am in a hotel somewhere comfortably north of Helsinki. It is off-season, so the place is deserted. There are dark brown mock logs, lining one side of the room. Fake beams on the ceiling, chocolate-box pictures on the walls.

There is also a man in the corner of the room singing Elvis Presley's songs in Latin, like Can't Help Falling In Love - or Non adamare non possum. It sounds a little like Italian but rather more stilted - like Italian sung by a Finnish person. We are a long way from Memphis. The singer is Dr Jukka Ammondt, an academic whose twin passions, it appears to him, march in lock-step.

"The legend of Elvis Presley lives for ever, and it's of course very important to sing Elvis Presley's songs in the Latin language, because Latin is the eternal language," he says.

Mia Lahti, who edits the EU presidency website, is like many Finns an optimist at heart. But why do a website in Latin?

"The website is in English and French," she says.

But they have their secret language: Conspectus rerum Latinus, or "Latin News in Brief".

"I know there are people who are angry because, for example, in their childhood they had to read compulsory Latin. But also I think it might be interesting to read the news in brief in Latin," Ms Lahti believes.

Lurking within the world of EU Latin, which is only marginally more difficult to comprehend than EU English, is one delightful statistic - more people subscribe to the newsletter in Latin than to the one in French.

The Finns are clearly having their revenge on French President Jacques Chirac, who once dismissed their food as the worst in the EU.

The news in Latin on national radio gets 75,000 listeners, which may not sound like much, but on a per capita basis is more than some BBC Radio 4 programmes get.

This is the final piece in the Finland Latin jigsaw.

"In Latin we have more listeners in the world than for Finnish broadcasts," explains Professor Tuomo Pekannen, who does the translations.

"Latin is more known abroad than Finnish," he adds.

Perhaps Finland wants to dominate the global news agenda in the same way Elvis once dominated the music scene.

Dangerous Times

There is so much fear and distraction these days over the state of the world - there is sadness in the Pope's messages, in articles, in letters, in all endeavours. And yet surely, "all times" as St. Teresa of Avila said, "are dangerous times."

We may be living on the verge of eternity - but that should not make us dismal. The early Christians rejoiced to think that the end of the world was near, as they thought. Over and over again, even the Seventh Day Adventists of our time, people have been expecting the end of the world. Are we so unready to face God? Are we so avid for joys here, that we perceive so darkly those to come?

From On Pilgrimage by Dorothy Day as quoted in Meditations by Dorothy Day, selected and arranged by Stanley Vishnewski.

I could not help thinking how little penance we have done these last years, how little mortification, how little dying to self, which is what mortificaiton is ... If our cause is a mighty one, and surely peace on earth in these days is the great issue of the day, and if we are opposing the powers of darkness, of nothingness, of destruction, and working on the side of light and life, then surely we must use our greatest weapons - the life forces that are in each one of us. To stand on the side of life we must give up our own lives. "He who would save his life must lose it."

From the Catholic Worker, September 1965 as quoted in Meditations by Dorothy Day, selected and arranged by Stanley Vishnewski

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Little Political Incorrectness

This year is the 50th anniversary of the student uprising in Hungary which called for an end to Soviet occupation but was quickly and brutally crushed by the Communists, who subjected them to 33 more years of domination.

It is also the 650th anniversary of the Battle of Belgrade when Sultan Mehmet II laid siege to the city, prompting Pope Callistus III to send St. John of Capistrano to rouse the Hungarians to defend the 'Shield of Christianity' while awaiting the forces of Janos Hunyadi. Pope Callistus ordered bells to be tolled at midday 'till eternity' throughout Christendom as fervent prayers ascended to God for victory. Despite being outnumbered the citizens of Belgrade resisted heroically and their efforts were rewarded when Hunyadi surrounded and destroyed the Turks. The bells then continued to toll in praise and thanksgiving for Christendom's defense and Hunyadi's courage.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The central act of devotional life in the Catholic Church is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The sacrifice of the Mass is the unbloody repetition of the Sacrifice of the Cross.
On the Cross of Calvary Christ gave His life to redeem the world.
The life of Christ was a life of sacrifice.
The life of a Christian must be a life of sacrifice.
We cannot imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to get all we can.
We can only imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to give all we can.

From Easy Essays by Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement with Dorothy Day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Some Thoughts on a Universal Indult

News around Traditional circles is that the long awaited universal indult has been signed and will be made public in a few months. For many Traditionalists this is welcome news because the right to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion according to the rite which has been the mainstay of the Catholic Church for centuries has been denied them for the last forty years. Even the indult issued in 1988 by Pope John Paul placed a significant limitation on the Traditional Mass by placing it in the hands of the bishops, many of whom had little experience of what Fr. Faber called 'the greatest thing this side of heaven' or were so caught up in the modernist 'spirit of Vatican II' they vehemently opposed any such return to the old rite. Thus we find many Catholics who desired to retain or return to this treasure of the Catholic Church left in the cold because of their bishop's ignorance or hostility.

However amidst the cries of Dei Gratias, which are no doubt being uttered throughout Traditional communities, there remains a great deal of apprehension and even a little suspicion. For a start the only news that has come out is that a document has been signed but few details as to its contents, or rather conditions. In the aforementioned indult of Pope John Paul II one of the conditions was the recognition of the validity of the Novus Ordo Missae and this caused many Traditionalists some pain because it appeared to be nothing more than the Protestant Service of the Lord's Supper to which were added a few references to Our Lady, the Pope and Purgatory. Despite the Church's attempts to justify the Novus Ordo Missae, the evidence suggests that what is been celebrated is no different to what Cranmer and Luther had created, or rather mutilated, centuries before.

That said let us consider some of the other aspects of a universal indult beginning with its effect on the liturgical landscape. It has already been pointed out that bishops are either ignorant of or hostile to the Traditional Mass, so there is little hope the clergy and laity will be any different. There has been in recent years a desire to correct liturgical abuses in the Novus Ordo Missae by interpreting Sacrosanctum Concillium according to the letter not the spirit, the so called 'reform of the reform', but many Catholics have become so complacent with the present state of the liturgy that any reform will be greeted with a mere shrug of the shoulders. As long as reforms do not involve the elimination of altar girls, guitars or whatever else might take their fancy, the faithful would in principle accept them. In this atmosphere the universalisation of the Traditional Mass will be no more than a blip on the Catholic radar. Certainly there will be those who are curious to see what liturgy was like in the 'good ol days', others who are annoyed with the constant evolution of the parish Mass and even a few who actually want to experience beauty and mystery but it only amounts to placating a minority within the Church, something in which the modern Church is well versed.

A far more important consideration is preparing priests who have only celebrated the Novus Ordo Missae to offer the Traditional Mass, if they so choose. This is not simply a case of learning a new set of rubrics but also the history, spirituality and theology behind those rubrics, so that they are conscious of the significance of every action and word. Only then will they be able to approach the sacred mysteries with due reverence and offer them with the proper intention. Coupled with the priest's preparation will be the faithful's formation in the Church's teaching on the Mass so they will be able to understand the ceremonies and prayers. Only when they are conscious of the great drama which takes place upon the altar will they be able to engage in actual participation.

From the reports which have appeared it would appear priests would be able to revert to the Traditional Mass without consulting the faithful, which could present a pastoral nightmare if those same faithful are reluctant to follow their priest's lead. What then? Canon law states the parish is the property of the parishoners not the bishops nor the priests, so they could request the removal of a priest who imposes the Traditional Mass, though one would hope any such action would come after actually experiencing the rite first and even then, if there was some genuine concern, though what that might be I leave to bishops and canon lawyers.

So much for concerns among Catholics, what about the other 'churches'. The Orthodox for one should view a return to the Traditional Mass as a positive step towards reunion because it presents in a distinctly Latin manner much of what they themselves believe and practice. However there may be fears among some that such a return will be the beginning of a reclamation by the Catholic Church of its glorious past and their being 'schismatics' once more. By far the greatest challenge the Traditional Mass poses is to the 'heretical' Protestants because it represents everything which their forefathers 'protested' against and which they, even subconsciously, have been led to deny. As one author notes, the Protestant Reformation opened the door to the removal of sacrifice, fellowship and ultimately God. Since the Second Vatican Council great efforts have been taken to enter into dialogue but without actually closing that door, instead opening another door for Catholics to embrace a Protestant understanding of everything. If this seems a little harsh, consider how much is done on the Catholic side to open this door by way of organising these dialogues compared with the Protestant side.

From what has been said thus far it is clear a universal indult may not be a God send after all but that is no reason for those who are already assisting and attending the Traditional Mass to give up. On the contrary they must persevere as normal in the hope that through the sacrifice of the Mass humanity may be sanctified and saved. [It might also help if Russia is consecrated to the Immaculate Heart] While others may have itching ears for new doctrines, let them remain faithful to what has come down from Christ and his Apostles over the centuries, let them remain signs of contradiction, living in the world but not of it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The blogger is currently on an extended hiatus undertaking more important work. He will be back with a few retrospective and more current pieces in a few days.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The bishop is a shepherd

From St. Thomas of Villanova's sermon on the Birth of Christ:

"Today's shepherds watch carefully over income and tithes, and the flock is the least of their concerns. One shepherd spends his time in the court of princes, another is entangled in secular business, another devotes himself to games and the hunt, another goes off to Rome to acquire a higher rank. Meanwhile the flock of Christ is left to mercenaries to despoil and ravage and scatter; care of the sheep is left to wolves. What else will a hungry wolf do but tear and destroy and kill? This is why nowadays knowledge of divine secrets and the light of spiritual revelations has passed from prelates to the least little lambs of the flock.

Where shall we find today a bishop who is famous for miracles, conspicuous for holiness, fervent in spirit, an explorer of the scriptures, outstanding for doctrine, a searcher of things heavenly, and a despiser of the things of time? Where is the bishop who from unbounded intimacy with God is both aware of God's secrets and able, like a new Moses, to stand like a wall between an angry God and the house of Israel, and who by his extraordinary holiness and outstanding doctrine has become an example to the Lord's flock and a model of virtue?"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

AngelQueen featured a post of an exhortation from the Archbishop of Smyrna in Turkey in which a Muslim auhority said during an interreiligious dialogue that such events are not organised by Muslims because "You [Christians] have nothing to teach us and we have nothing to learn."

Now CNS reports the mayor of Rome has organised yet another interreligious meeting between Christians, Jews and Muslims. When will they learn that such meetings achieve bare anything on the social front and absolutely nothing on the religious front, except to advocate religious pluralism over against objective truth.

Reports are that Katie Holmes is hestitant about marrying Tom Cruise because she fears been unable to commit to Cruise (and all that he brings with him, notably Scientology). Mind you that didn't stop her committing fornication and conceiving a child, which will no doubt become the property of Cruise. Another concern for Ms. Holmes is that her fledgling career will be pushed into the background or at least stifled, as is evident from scripts she has been offered being screened and scrutinised by a member of the Church of Scientology.

Despite being a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage, I do hope Ms. Holmes pulls out of the marriage because it will not benefit her either in mind, body and particularly soul.

When is a church a concert hall?

This week's liturgical question on Zenit is from a reader in Bunbury who asks: In what circumstances can a cathedral be used for a non-liturgical purpose such as a concert of secular operatic arias?

Now before I provide Fr. McNamara's answer, it appears that today the line between the liturgical and non-liturgical, the sacred and profane, has become blurred when you consider the antics that often take place in the sanctuary and among the pews. While it is more often parish churches that are subject to sacrilege and scandal, there are occasions when even the cathedral is not immune. A classic example of the latter would be the dedication of the new table (it is definitely not an altar given its size and almost square shape) in Los Angeles as depicted on the cover of Michael Davies Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II.

That said, here is the answer from Fr. McNamara taken from a declaration of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments on 'Concerts in Churches' (it may be noted the title of the document refers to all churches):

III. Practical Directives

8. The regulation of the use of churches is stipulated by canon 1210 of the Code of Canon Law:

In a sacred place only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety and religion. Anything out of harmony with the holiness of the place is forbidden. The Ordinary may, however, for individual cases, permit other uses, provided they are not contrary to the sacred character of the place.

The principle that the use of the church must not offend the sacredness of the place determines the criteria by which the doors of a church may be opened to a concert of sacred or religious music, as also the concomitant exclusion of every other type of music. The most beautiful symphonic music, for example, is not in itself of religious character. The definition of sacred or religious music depends explicitly on the original intended use of the musical pieces or songs, and likewise on their content. It is not legitimate to provide for the execution in the church of music which is not of religious inspiration and which was composed with a view to performance in a certain precise secular context, irrespective of whether the music would be judged classical or contemporary, of high quality or of a popular nature. On the one hand, such performances would not respect the sacred character of the church, and on the other, would result in the music being performed in an unfitting context ….

9. Sacred music, that is to say music which was composed for the Liturgy, but which for various reasons can no longer be performed during a liturgical celebration, and religious music, that is to say music inspired by the text of sacred scripture or the Liturgy and which has reference to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the saints or to the Church, may both find a place in the church building, but outside liturgical celebration. The playing of the organ or other musical performance, whether vocal or instrumental, may: 'serve to promote piety or religion.' In particular they may:

a. prepare for the major liturgical feasts, or lend to these a more festive character beyond the moment of actual celebration;
b. bring out the particular character of the different liturgical seasons;
c. create in churches a setting of beauty conducive to meditation, so as to arouse even in those who are distant from the Church an openness to spiritual values;
d. create a context which favors and makes accessible the proclamation of God's word, as for example, a sustained reading of the Gospel;
e. keep alive the treasures of Church music which must not be lost; musical pieces and songs composed for the Liturgy but which cannot in any way be
conveniently incorporated into liturgical celebrations in modern times;
spiritual music, such as oratorios and religious cantatas which can still serve
as vehicles for spiritual communication;

f. assist visitors and tourists to grasp more fully the sacred character of a church, by means of organ concerts at prearranged times.

10. When the proposal is made that there should be a concert in a church, the Ordinary is to grant the permission 'per modum actus.' These concerts should be occasional events. This excludes permission for a series of concerts, for example in the case of a festival or a cycle of concerts.

When the Ordinary considers it to be necessary, he can, in the conditions foreseen in the Code of Canon Law (can. 1222, para. 2) designate a church that is no longer used for divine service, to be an 'auditorium' for the performance of sacred or religious music, and also of music not specifically religious but in keeping with the character of the place.

In this task the bishop should be assisted by the diocesan commission for Liturgy and sacred music.

In order that the sacred character of a church be conserved in the matter of concerts, the Ordinary can specify that:

a. Requests are to be made in writing, in good time, indicating the date and time of the proposed concert, the program, giving the works and the names of the composers.
b. After having received the authorization of the Ordinary, the rectors and parish priests of the churches should arrange details with the choir and orchestra so that the requisite norms are observed.
c. Entrance to the church must be without payment and open to all.
d. The performers and the audience must be dressed in a manner which is fitting to the sacred character of the place.
e. The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary. The greatest respect is to be shown to the altar, the president's chair and the ambo.
f. The Blessed Sacrament should be, as far as possible, reserved in a side chapel or in another safe and suitably adorned place (Cf. C.I.C., can 928, par. 4). g. The concert should be presented or introduced not only with historical or technical details, but also in a way that fosters a deeper understanding and an interior participation on the part of the listeners. h. The organizer of the concert will declare in writing that he accepts legal responsibilities for expenses involved, for leaving the church in order and for any possible damage incurred.

11. The above practical directives should be of assistance to the bishops and rectors of churches in their pastoral responsibility to maintain the sacred character of their churches, designed for sacred celebrations, prayer and silence.

Rupert Murdoch Serves God ... and Mammon

The LA Times reports the Fox Home Entertainment Network has decided to target millions of 'conservative' evangelicals by launching FoxFaith, which will produce and televise up to a dozen films each year based on Christian bestsellers, at a cost of US$5 million each. At least half will also be screened in local cinemas. According to Fox's GM for US Home Entertainment, "A segment of the market is starving for this type of content ... We want to push the production value not videotape sermons or proselytize."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quotabel Quote 30

I'm only mentioning this quote from Marge Simpson in the episode All Fair in Oven War because it happened to be screened this evening and I hadn't seen before, so apologies if this is a little 'old hat' :

"Even the Pope couldn't forgive this pizza and he's letting a lot of things slide these days."

What's the world coming to when a young boy, no more than about 13 and sporting a yellow mohawk, talks with his friends openly on the tram about:
  • a new name for their band which contains novel spelling of expletives
  • a mutual acquaintance with whom he stayed who gets pretty scary and violent when he is drunk yet is 'cool'
  • another acquaintance who is trying to get young children to commit acts of violence, even killing people
  • finding a new location for them to drink away from prying eyes
  • committing sadistic acts against a 'friend'

Whoever says that 'Goth' and 'punk' culture is harmless should see what it is sporning among the youngest of this generation. It is truly leading many down a sure path to damnation and perdition.

As the feast of St. Michael approaches, I would ask that his intercession be invoked on behalf the thousands who are consciously or not becoming slaves to Satan. May the Prince of Angels truly thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wonder through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

The Age reports that Federal Minister for Finance, Nick Minchin, has come out saying that if he was afflicted with a degenerative disease he would refuse treatment with drugs which have been developed using unethical means such as therapeutic cloning.

Mr. Minchin's comments add yet another dimension to the current debate over the use of embryonic stem cells by raising the important issue of whether patient's have a right to refuse treatment using drugs developed from embryonic stem cells.

I though this was rather amsuing.

Singer Britney Spears' new child has been named Sutton Pierce in order to having matching intials with his older brother, Sean Preston, and in honour of her favourite wine cellar, Sutton Wines, which she and husband Kevin Federline frequent every week.

Now there is perhaps nothing wrong with this choice of name although one astute commentator noted, "So, basically, the baby reminds them of being blotto. Nice."

A question: Does it seem like the contemporary Catholic Church is appealing too much to sensation, sentiment and sensuality (in the proper sense of the word) rather than tradition, transcendence and truth?

AAP reports on a couple from Maine who kidnapped their own pregnant daughter in an attempt to procure for her an abortion because they feared the father was a man now in jail. They were arrested by police and arraigned before the district court on charges of kidnapping, which carry a sentence of 7-15 years in prison. Such was the couple's desperation, police found inside their car duct tape, rope, a knife and rifle. Apparently they had been informed given the term of their daughter's pregnancy it would not be possible to have a legal abortion in their own state and were intending to take her across the state line to New York.

In other news, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has weighed into the 'controversy' over Pope Benedict's 'inflammatory' address saying "The Pope has already issued an apology and I think his views on this need to be judged against his entire record, where he has spoken very positively about dialogue."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Changes in the US Priesthood

Catholic News Service reports on the findings of a study into recently ordained priests conducted by sociologist Dean Hoge from CUA. A comparison of results with a similar study by Hoge in 1990 revealed the following:
  1. The average age of priests ordained five to nine years has increased by 8.5 years for diocesan priests and 7.5 years for religious.
  2. 54% of diocesan priests surveyed were already parish priests, of which 75% had been assigned within five years of being ordained and 33% were responsible for more than one parish.
  3. More than 50% of diocesan and 66% of religious priests could speak another language.
  4. In the 15 years between the studies, there had been a decline in priests who entered a college seminary and increase in those who attended a post-college, pre-theology program.
  5. In 1990 the five most influential magazines on young priests were America, National Catholic Reporter, The Priest, Origins and Church. In 2005 the top five were America, The Priest, National Catholic Register, First Things and Origins.
  6. In 1990 Karl Rahner had the greatest influence on those surveyed but in 2005 it was Pope John Paul II.
  7. A revealing finding was that 89% (up from 63%) of diocesan priests today identify with a cultic model of priesthood, the priest as a man set apart to administer the sacraments, teaching doctrine and set a religious example, as opposed to the servant-leader model of priesthood, the priest as a collaborator with the community, serving their needs and fostering their gifts. Amongst religious the situation was the reverse but there had been little change in numbers between the surveys.
  8. Another revealing finding is that 90% of priests surveyed were happy with their vocation and would enter again if given the choice.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The "controversial" part of Pope Benedict XVI's address to scientists at the University of Regensburg:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by professor Theodore Khoury (Muenster) of part of the dialogue carried on -- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara -- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.

It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Koran, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the "three Laws": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran.

In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point -- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself -- which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason," I found interesting and which can serve as the starting point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation ("diálesis" -- controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war.

Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ("syn logo") is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a teasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

A few years back during the pontificate of John Paul II, the Vatican isssued a statement acknowledging and apologising for past evils committed by and in the name of the Catholic Church. To date I am not aware of such a statement from any Islamic authority, Shiitite or Sunni.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

While Australian terror suspect David Hicks remains in Guantanamo Bay, former detainee Mamdouh Habib has become the subject of a new drama-cum-documentary, The Habib Show, which is being staged at the Theatreworks in St Kilda.

According to a review, the performance is meant to examine how in contemporary society we are complicit in the mistreatment of those accused of being involved with terrorists. However it fails to deliver on this, instead becoming an outlet for the writer's contempt of politicians. Of course the irony is that the writer has fallen into the same hole as politicians who cannot see the forest for the trees.

I just saw a video report on the Zulu Reed Dance which is an annual event to promote purity among and respect for young women. During the dance, virgins bearing reeds from the river process to the king's palace before reaffirming their commitment to remain pure. In the past the king would choose his future bride from among those gathered and according to Zulu mythology, if a reed should break it was a sign its bearer was no longer a virgin. Today the custom is seen as an important way of preventing contraction of AIDS and other STDs, as well as giving a spiritual dimension to marriage and sexuality, but it does have its critics, notably the South African government.

I began the previous post with a reference to the absence of the art of engaging people in conversation and some might think it a little harsh. Yet when you look at today's journalists it is a sad and sorrowful picture, particularly when they persist in asking the most idiotic and insensitive questions. Take for instance the reporter who asked Steve Irwin's father how will he cope with his son's death, when the poor man was trying hard to fight back the tears and field the questions from the Australian media. Seriously, did the reporter think the majority of viewers had no experience of bereavement and grief, so that they needed to be informed of its effects? I suppose in this age of sentimentality, sensuality and sensitivity this is to be expected, but I cannot help but think that sometimes people are merely scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Former US Vice-President, Al Gore, was interviewed this evening by one of the few people in Australia who actually know the art of engaging someone in conversation, Andrew Denton. At the end of the interview Mr. Gore made an interesting observation that if nations would stop or at least significantly reduce their dependence on petroleum, it would have a drastic effect on the Middle Eastern economy and deplete funding for terrorists. At the same time those nations would be averting future environmental catastrophes by lowering global carbon dioxide levels.

Another observation of Mr. Gore was the need for individuals and communities to reclaim the medium of television from multinational corporations. For example, Mr. Gore himself has established a television station in which a third of the programs are produced by individuals and communities using their own video cameras and editing equipment. They are submitted to the station and the viewers themselves vote on what programs they would like broadcast. Thus viewers are given the opportunity to express their own ideas and interests without having to endure those of a handful of people seated in a boardroom, who are in the pockets of yet more people in boardrooms. Mr. Gore also noted how the internet has not lived up to its promise of being a medium for change and exchange.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I have been looking at an illustrated guide to the Traditional Mass on Ebay and received an email notifying me the auction will be ending soon. Now there isn't anything interesting about that unless you are a Traditional Mass attendee but what is of interest is the list of 'similar' items, which includes:

A Complete Guide to Palmistry
Illustrated Guide to Wicca
Tarot Cards- Major and Minor Arcana

It appears Ebay hasn't quite learnt to distinguish between authentic religion, paganism and superstition. Not that you could blame them when vast numbers of Catholics get caught up in the same thing in the mistaken belief that it is all quite harmless. Mind you if you consult any good Catholic book on the workings of the Devil, you will find these practices - I refer to ouija boards, palmistry, tarot, wicca, etc - listed as among his more subtle methods of drawing souls away from the faith. I just wonder how many Ebay users who go looking for Catholic books or articles of devotion end up delving into the dark and sinister.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Latest news from Hollywood is that Brad Pitt is refusing to marry Angelina Jolie unless laws are changed to give everyone (think gays and lesbians) the opportunity of marriage. Mind you that didn't stop him in the past when he married Jennifer Aniston. So I wonder what, or rather who, has caused him to hold out on Ms. Jolie, leaving their daughter Shiloh remaining out of wedlock.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Proponents of the 'reform of the reform' claim that by eliminating abuses and enforcing the directives of Sacrosanctum Concilium the modern liturgy will be improved and Catholics will no longer leave churches in droves. Yet these are merely external considerations. What really should be addressed is the fact the modern liturgy is simply a Catholic version of the Service of the Lord's Supper as commemorated by Protestants with the addition of a few anaphoras (think Eucharistic prayers) reconstructed from Eastern liturgies, not the Sacrifice of the Mass and Sacrament of Holy Communion as offered by Catholics from the time of the apostles.

On another matter, next time you intend receiving communion in the hand just pause for a moment and realise that you are self-communicating, that is administering the body of Christ to yourself. Never mind that you have been given the host by a priest or deacon (or extraordinary minister) because they are merely dispensers of this divine handout, if I could borrow a phrase from a book I recently read. Sure people use to receive as such in the age of the apostles and fathers but remember they did so with the greatest of ceremony and reverence to avoid manhandling the body of our Lord.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

AngelQueen posted a report on a Russian Orthodox Church which had succumbed to fire and one astute commentator said that today it is only the schismatics, in one form or another, who are actually maintaining doctrinal, liturgical and moral traditions of the past. However one might argue that is exactly what you would expect from a schismatic since they are a law unto themselves. Personally I prefer to maintain these traditions while trying to understand the modern Church's belief and practice.

Cardinal Newman on St. John the Baptist

For the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist a sermon from Cardinal Newman on rebuking evil, which is perhaps pertinent to this present age when there seems to be so much of it.

"John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife." Mark vi. 18.

In the Collect of this day, we pray God to enable us "boldly to rebuke vice" after the example of St. John the Baptist, who died a Martyr in the faithful discharge of this duty.

Herod the Tetrarch had taken his brother's wife. John the Baptist protested against so heinous a sin; and the guilty king, though he could not bring himself to forsake it, yet respected the prophet, and tried to please him in other ways; but Herodias, the proud and cruel woman whom he had married, resented his interference, and at length effected his death. I need not go through the details of this atrocious history, which are well known to every reader of the Gospels.

St. John the Baptist had a most difficult office to fulfil; that of rebuking a king. Not that it is difficult for a man of rude arrogant mind to say a harsh thing to men in power,—nay, rather, it is a gratification to such a one; but it is difficult to rebuke well, that is, at a right time, in a right spirit, and a right manner. The Holy Baptist rebuked Herod without making him angry; therefore he must have rebuked him with gravity, temper, sincerity, and an evident good-will towards him. On the other hand, he spoke so firmly, sharply, and faithfully, that his rebuke cost him his life.

We who now live have not that extreme duty put upon us with which St. John was laden; yet every one of us has a share in his office, inasmuch as we are all bound "to rebuke vice boldly," when we have fit opportunities for so doing. I proceed then to make some remarks upon the duty, as enforced upon us by today's Festival.

Now, it is plain that there are two sorts of men in the world; those who put themselves forward, and speak much; and those who retire, and from indolence, timidity, or fastidiousness, do not care to express an opinion on what comes before them. Neither of these classes will act the part of St. John the Baptist in their intercourse with others: the retiring will not rebuke vice at all; the bold and ill-mannered will take a pleasure in giving their judgment, whether they are fit judges or not, whether they ought to speak or not, and at all times proper and improper.

These self-appointed censors of vice are not to be countenanced or tolerated by any serious Christian. The subjects of their attacks are often open to censure, it is true; and should be censured, but not by them. Yet these men take upon them, on their own authority, to blame them; often, because those whose duty it is, neglect to do so; and then they flatter themselves with the notion that they are energetic champions of virtue, strenuous and useful guardians of public morals or popular rights. There is a multitude of such men in these days, who succeed the better, because they conceal their names; and are thus relieved of the trouble of observing delicacy in their manner of rebuking, escape the retaliation which the assailed party may inflict on an open assailant, and are able to dispense with such requisites of personal character and deportment as are ordinarily expected from those who assume the office of the Baptist. And, by speaking against men of note, they gratify the bad passions of the multitude; fond, as it ever is, of tales of crime, and malevolent towards the great; and thus they increase their influence, and come to be looked up to and feared.

Now such officious accusers of vice are, I say, to be disowned by all who wish to be really Christians. Every one has his place, one to obey, another to rule, a third to rebuke. It is not religious to undertake an office without a commission. John the Baptist was miraculously called to the duties of a reformer and teacher. Afterwards, an order of men was appointed for the performance of the same services; and this order remains to this day in an uninterrupted succession. Those who take upon them to rebuke vice without producing credentials of their authority, are intruding upon the office of God's Ministers. They may indeed succeed in their usurpation, they may become popular, be supported by the many, and be recognised even by the persons whom they attack; still the function of censor is from God, whose final judgment it precedes and shadows forth; and not a whole generation of self-willed men can bestow on their organ the powers of a divine ambassador. It is our part, then, anxiously to guard against the guilt of acquiescing in the claims of such false prophets, lest we fall under the severity of our Lord's prediction: "I am come in My Father's name," He says, "and ye receive Me not. If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." [John v. 43.]

I notice this peculiarity of the Reprover's office, as founded on a Divine Commission, and the consequent sin of undertaking it without a call, for another reason. Besides these bad men, who clamour against vice for gain and envy's sake, I know there are others of a better stamp, who imagine that they ought to rebuke, when in truth they ought not; and who, on finding that they cannot do the office well, or on getting into trouble in attempting it, are perplexed and discouraged, or consider that they suffer for righteousness' sake. But our duty is commonly a far more straightforward matter than excited and over-sensitive minds are apt to suppose, that is, as far as concerns our knowing it; and, when we find ourselves perplexed to ascertain it, we should ask ourselves, whether we have not embarrassed our course by some unnecessary or self-willed conduct of our own. For instance, when men imagine it to be their duty to rebuke their superiors, they get into difficulties, for the simple reason, that it is and ever will be difficult to do another man's duty. When the young take upon them to set right their elders, private Christians speak against the Clergy, the Clergy attempt to direct their Bishops, or servants their masters, they will find that, generally speaking, the attempt does not succeed; and perhaps they will impute their failure to circumstances,—whereas, the real reason is, that there was no call on them to rebuke at all. There is ever, indeed, a call on them to keep from sin themselves in all things, which itself is a silent protest against whatever is wrong in high places,—and this they cannot avoid, and need not wish to avoid; but very seldom, only in extreme cases, for instance, as, when the Faith is in jeopardy, or in order to protect or rescue the simple-minded, is a man called upon in the way of duty, directly to blame or denounce his superiors.

And in truth we have quite enough to do in the way of rebuking vice, if we confine our censure to those who are the lawful subjects of it. These are our equals and our inferiors. Here, again, it is easy to use violent language towards those who are below us in station, to be arrogant, to tyrannize; but such was not St. John the Baptist's manner of reproving. He reproved under the prospect of suffering for his faithfulness; and we should never use a strong word, however true it be, without being willing to acquiesce in some penalty or other, should it so happen, as the seal of our earnestness. We must not suppose, that our inferiors are without power to annoy us, because they are inferior. We depend on the poor as well as on the rich. Nor, by inferiors, do I mean those merely who are in a lower rank of society. Herod was St. John's inferior; the greatest king is, in one sense, inferior to God's ministers, and is to be approached by them, with all honour indeed and loyal service, but without trepidation of mind or cowardice, without forgetting that they are servants of the Church, gifted with their power by a divine appointment. And what is true even in the instance of the King himself is much more applicable in the case of the merely wealthy or ennobled. But is it a light matter to reprove such men? And can we do so without the risk of suffering for it? Who is sufficient for these things, without the guidance and strength of Him who died to purchase for His Church this high authority?

Again, parents are bound to rebuke their children; but here the office is irksome for a different reason. It is misplaced affection, not fear, which interferes here with the performance of our duty. And besides, parents are indolent as well as overfond. They look to their home as a release from the world's cares, and cannot bear to make duties in a quarter where they would find a recreation. And they have their preferences and partialities about their children; and being alternately harsh and weakly indulgent, are not respected by them, even when they seasonably rebuke them.

And as to rebuke those who are inferior to us in the temporal appointments of Providence, is a serious work, so also, much more, does it require a ripeness in Christian holiness to rebuke our equals suitably;—and this, first, because we fear their ridicule and censure; next, because the failings of our equals commonly lie in the same line as our own, and every considerate person is aware, that, in rebuking another, he is binding himself to a strict and religious life, which we naturally shrink from doing. Accordingly, it has come to pass, that Christians, by a sort of tacit agreement, wink at each other's faults, and keep silence; whereas, if each of us forced himself to make his neighbour sensible when he did wrong, he would both benefit another, and, through God's blessing, would bind himself also to a more consistent profession. Who can say how much harm is done by thus countenancing the imperfections of our friends and equals? The standard of Christian morals is lowered; the service of God is mixed up with devotion to Mammon; and thus society is constantly tending to a heathen state. And this culpable toleration of vice is sanctioned by the manners of the present age, which seems to consider it a mark of good breeding not to be solicitous about the faith or conduct of those around us, as if their private views and habits were nothing to us; which would have more pretence of truth in it, were they merely our fellow-creatures, but is evidently false in the case of those who all the while profess to be Christians, who imagine that they gain the privileges of the Gospel by their profession, while they bring scandal on it by their lives.

Now, if it be asked, what rules can be given for rebuking vice?—I observe, that, as on the one hand to perform the office of a censor requires a maturity and consistency of principle seen and acknowledged, so is it also the necessary result of possessing it. They who reprove with the greatest propriety, from their weight of character, are generally the very men who are also best qualified for reproving. To rebuke well is a gift which grows with the need of exercising it. Not that any one will gain it without an effort on his part; he must overcome false shame, timidity, and undue delicacy, and learn to be prompt and collected in withstanding evil; but after all, his mode of doing it will depend mainly on his general character. The more his habitual temper is formed after the law of Christ, the more discreet, unexceptionable, and graceful will be his censures, the more difficult to escape or to resist.

What I mean is this: cultivate in your general deportment a cheerful, honest, manly temper; and you will find fault well, because you will do so in a natural way. Aim at viewing all things in a plain and candid light, and at calling them by their right names. Be frank, do not keep your notions of right and wrong to yourselves, nor, on some conceit that the world is too bad to be taught the Truth, suffer it to sin in word or deed without rebuke. Do not allow friend or stranger in the familiar intercourse of society to advance false opinions, nor shrink from stating your own, and do this in singleness of mind and love. Persons are to be found, who tell their neighbours of their faults in a strangely solemn way, with a great parade, as if they were doing something extraordinary; and such men not only offend those whom they wish to set right, but also foster in themselves a spirit of self-complacency. Such a mode of finding fault is inseparably connected with a notion that they themselves are far better than the parties they blame; whereas the single-hearted Christian will find fault, not austerely or gloomily, but in love; not stiffly, but naturally, gently, and as a matter of course, just as he would tell his friend of some obstacle in his path which was likely to throw him down, but without any absurd feeling of superiority over him, because he was able to do so. His feeling is, "I have done a good office to you, and you must in turn serve me." And though his advice be not always taken as he meant it, yet he will not dwell on the pain occasioned to himself by such a result of his interference; being conscious, that in truth there ever is much to correct in his mode of doing his duty, knowing that his intention was good, and being determined any how to make light of his failure, except so far as to be more cautious in future against even the appearance of rudeness or intemperance in his manner.

These are a few suggestions on an important subject. We daily influence each other for good or evil; let us not be the occasion of misleading others by our silence, when we ought to speak. Recollect St. Paul's words:—"Be not partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure." [1 Tim. v. 22.]

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Importance of St Augustine

Dr. Pius Parsch considers St. Augustine's importance as the founder of a religious Order, doctor of the Church and above all a man.
  1. St. Augustine's ideal was a common life for clerics in imitation of the apostles, which became the norm for cathedral canons and clerks regular. In celebrating his feast we are united with all his spiritual children who have observed or are observing his rule, whether already in glory or still labouring on earth.
  2. St. Augustine ranks among the greatest doctors because he was a teacher according to the liturgical sense, for God "opened his mouth in the midst of the Church." Most of the great feasts contain excerpts from his homilies and commentaries in the Office of Matins, especially those on the Psalms which are among the most profound.
  3. St. Augustine as a man is unique because in his life we can easily observe the workings of divine grace and the struggle between the good and evil. When he became a Manichean it caused his mother intense sorrow, she prayed and wept constantly. A bishop consoled her that a son of so many tears would not be lost. Yet the evil spirit, capitalizing on his passion and pride, led him into moral degeneracy. It seemed that God was playing a waiting game, allowing him to plunge into the depths of sin that he might rise stronger in sanctity. Augustine soon realised that a heart is restless unless it rests in God and through St. Ambrose allowed God to enter the depths of his heart and give him the peace he sought.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

St. Augustine of Hippo

Tomorrow's feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, bishop, confessor, doctor and father of the Church, has a special place in the Order of Preachers, for it was his rule which St. Dominic adopted for his Order.

Since readers will be familiar with his life it suffices to sketch some of the more salient points. Firstly he was born to a pagan father and Christian mother, who brought him up in the faith but as was the custom did not have him baptised. Through the aid of a generous benefactor he enrolled in the rhetoric school at Carthage and while studying he took a concubine, who bore him a son. He also became a member of the Manichean sect, which claimed to have special knowledge that led to salvation, believed in good and evil powers, rejected the Old Testament as coming from the evil power, looked upon the body as evil and practiced asceticism, and claimed to offer a rational solution to life's problems. The other influence on his life at the time was the pagan philosophers Cicero, Seneca, Plato and above all Plotinus.

After teaching in Carthage he went to Rome and received an appointment as professor of rhetoric in Milan. It was there came under the influence of St. Ambrose who received him into the Church, the prayers, sacrifices and tears of his mother having finally been answered. Together with his mother, son and a few friends he set sail back to North Africa but at the port of Ostia his mother died and he remained in Rome a year before finally returning to Carthage and Thagaste, where he established a small religious community.

While visiting Hippo, Augustine was made the bishop's auxillary and ordained. He turned himself to turning the city into a place of learning and sanctity, overseeing the formation of a number of bishops who would contribute to the greatness of the Church of North Africa in the fifth century. On the death of the bishop, Augustine ascended to the see in 396. For the remaining four decades of his life he divided his time between providing for the needs of his diocese and writing against the Donatist, Manichean and Pelagian heresies. St. Augustine died on August 28, 430 while the Vandals were laying siege to Hippo.

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You,
And desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You,
And ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself, let me fear You,
And let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You,
And for ever enjoy You. Amen.

Whosoever receives this child in My Name receives Me

Today we commemorate St. Joseph Calasanctius, founder of the Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools or Piarists.

Born into a noble Spanish family as the youngest of five children, after completing classical studies he took up philosophy and jurisprudence, earning a doctorate in law, then completed his theological studies. While studying theology he overcame the wiles of a noble woman, preserving his virginity which he vowed to God. His father desired him to be a soldier and marry but God interfered by sending him a near fatal illness, during which he examined his life and discovered a religious vocation. After his ordination he was appointed secretary to the bishop, distinguishing himself in reviving zeal among the laity and discipline among the clergy, eventually becoming vicar-general. Once again God intervened in his life, calling him to renounce his inheritance and journey to Rome.

In Rome he found a protector in Cardinal Colonna, who retained him as an adviser and tutor for his nephew. Such was the saint's love for the works of mercy, he made the visit to the seven churches every night to honour the Roman martyrs and during several plagues had a holy rivalry with St Camillus in aiding the sick and burying the dead. Upon joining the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, St. Joseph dedicated himself to instructing neglected and homeless children, eventually opening the first free public school in Europe. With the support of the pope, the saint gathered together a small community at S. Andrea della Valle and laid the foundation of the Piarists. In 1612 the community moved to near S. Pantaleone, where St. Joseph remained for the rest of his life.

During its foundation, the Order faced many obstacles due to St. Joseph's friendship with Galileo, objections from the ruling class to the education of the poor and objections from other religious who feared the Piarists would take over their work. In later years the Order was torn apart by accusations of incompetence against St. Joseph and dissent. The saint was even led as a criminal through Rome and imprisoned. Despite being acquitted by a papal commission and reappointed superior, in 1646 Pope Innocent X dissolved the Piarists and placed its priests under their local bishops. Eight years after the saint's death, the Order was reorganized and after another thirteen years restored.

Dr Pius Parsch notes it was Christ who first revealed the sanctity of childhood, as the state closest to the kingdom of God. The Church continues to express this by her maternal care but above all in the sacraments and sacramentals. She is at pains to confer as soon as possible the sacrament of baptism. She seeks to call the child at an early age to confirmation and communion. She has numerous blessings for children, mothers during pregnancy, before childbirth, for sick children, for children to obtain the mercy of God and for children publicly presented in church. Above all it is the burial of infants which shows how much they are treasured, for there they are clothed in the white of innocence and honoured with the joyous Mass of the Angels.

Friday, August 25, 2006

What can a group of young Catholics assisting or attending the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)seriously do at World Youth Day? Why should they even bother attending given the sacrilege and scandal which has accompanied previous World Youth Day's? Surely they could achieve far more and provide a better example by offering the sacrifice of the Mass in their TLM communities, rather than give their silent support to a modern Church which has become derailed by ecumenism, liberalism and secularism?

I admit these criticisms of Juventutem have some validity but before critics start throwing stones they should take a serious look at the glasshouses they have built around themselves because for the vast majority of Catholics the TLM is only ever associated with fundamentalism, legalism, sentimentalism and schism. Now there is nothing wrong with upholding tradition and truth or observing rubrics and rules, in fact Catholics should be encouraged to do so. However it must be realised that many young Catholics have neither been educated in nor experienced them firsthand. World Youth Day provides an opportunity, one of many, to extend an invitation to young Catholics to experience the TLM, learn about what the Catholic has taught for generations and immerse themselves in authentic Catholic culture. It also serves to give them encouragement in being signs of contradiction, and stand up against the forces which are destroying faith, morals and worship. All this without them worrying about the canonical status of Juventutem or being asked to submit to one of the other popes who is floating about.

What are Catholics in the modern Church being fed when they see apparitions of Our Lord and His mother amidst assorted foodstuffs, yet don't see the only real and true miracle taking place in the world, when every day at the altar, at the evocation of the priest, Christ is made present body and blood, soul and divinity?

While many will no doubt regard this as mere ignorance, it is still irreverence and needs to be corrected. Recently Pope Benedict XVI lamented Catholics losing their sense of the sacred and it would appear this is what happens, Catholics go looking for it in the wrong places or not at all.

Quotable Quote 27

Professor Giovanni Maria Vian in response to the question should Christianity be considered a culture said:

"Absolutely not, belief in Jesus, as [the] definitive revelation of God, being something that surpasses every culture. However, Christianity, founded precisely on the incarnation of the Divine Word in a specific historical and cultural context, is rooted in different cultures, which it undoubtedly transcends but of which it is, at the same time, inseparable."

Quotable Quote 26

From Pope Benedict XVI to participants of the 57th Italian National Liturgical Week:

"In the liturgy of the Church, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and, in this way, also learn to recognize it in our daily life ... On freeing man's heart from daily anxieties the celebration of the liturgy gives new confidence; the moment of celebration communicates the joy of hoping for a better world, of living in the Church, of being loved by God and of being able to love again, of being forgiven and saved ... For this reason, the believer must be helped to understand that to guard, revive and communicate hope he must again celebrate, contemplate Jesus, the Risen One ... Then prayer opens our life to God's plan, it leads us to be docile instruments in his hands to transform our way of living and, consequently, the history of our environment ... Thus, the liturgical celebration embraces several aspects of existence: the world of emotions and relationships, shared frailty and weaknesses, the experience of work and rest, always proclaiming the primacy of the love of God."

UCANews reports the Syro-Malabar Church has requested greater authority and more dioceses to provide for the pastoral care of the faithful and prevent them turning to Pentecostal churches.

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly has referred to the fact that despite Church law allowing Oriental-rite Catholics to practice their faith according to their own liturgical, spiritual and theological traditions, and particular church discipline, as well as take steps for the preservation and growth of individual Catholic churches throughout the world, nonetheless thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics who live outside Syro-Malabar Church jurisdiction have no parish, church or institutions and are forced to follow the Latin tradition for more than 50 years.

Father Babu Kalathil added the hierarchy must do something to restore to the Syro-Malabar rite its dignity and tradition since many Syro-Malabar Church priests and nuns are silenced and there is no forum where we can express our concerns.

As one fortunate to have attended Mass in the Syro-Malabar rite and met with one their bishops, I am greatly disappointed the Vatican continues to give them the 'cold shoulder'. I think that before the Pope engages in dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, he should provide for the welfare of Eastern Catholics and perhaps do something more about the prevalence of dissent and liturgical abuses.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Luther and the Law

While working at the library I came across an interesting article on the demise of reason, written by a Catholic priest and defender of the unborn. The following is a few extracts.

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk who not only detested philosophy, but also refuted the very notion of logic in theology, led a rebellion against the Church that split Christendom asunder. He rejected "reason contrary to faith" and, in doing so, discarded the God-given means by which we discern what is good and what is evil. In short he declared war on the Natural Law. Luther's rebellion with its catch phrases sola fides (goodbye to reason), sola scriptura (goodbye to natural law) detached his followers from any exterior authority (the Church) and transformed then into a law unto themselves (each person becoming his own pope). And so were laid the philosophical foundations for the elevation of the human will and the autonomous self a the prime determinant of truth in all human affairs. Luther's intellectual heirs, the ideologues of the so-called Enlightenment, also held a disdain for reason that was only surpassed by their hatred for God and man ... Martin Luther's ideas have armed nature against us. The Church he attacked still stands by what she has always said: Nature reveals the mind of God and is not governed except by its [the mind of God's] rules and ordinances. The modern world following the mind of Luther tells us that to be happy we must overcome the prejudices inherited from tradition and free ourselves from every teaching authority. The Church tells us that to be happy we must put on the mind of Christ and live according to His law which is made known, even to unbelievers, through reason and the natural law.

Cardinal Newman on St. Bartholomew

"Guilelessness" from Volume 2 of Cardinal Newman's Plain and Parochial Sermons

What then do we learn from his recorded character and history? It affords us an instructive lesson.

When Philip told him that he had found the long-expected Messiah of whom Moses wrote, Nathanael (that is, Bartholomew) at first doubted. He was well read in the Scriptures, and knew the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem; whereas Jesus dwelt at Nazareth, which Nathanael supposed in consequence to be the place of His birth,—and he knew of no particular promises attached to that city, which was a place of evil report, and he thought no good could come out of it. Philip told him to come and see; and he went to see, as a humble single-minded man, sincerely desirous to get at the truth. In consequence, he was vouchsafed an interview with our Saviour, and was converted.

Now, from what occurred in this interview, we gain some insight into St. Bartholomew's character. Our Lord said of him, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" and it appears, moreover, as if before Philip called him to come to Christ, he was engaged in meditation or prayer, in the privacy which a fig-tree's shade afforded him. And this, it seems, was the life of one who was destined to act the busy part of an Apostle; quietness without, guilelessness within. This was the tranquil preparation for great dangers and sufferings! We see who make the most heroic Christians, and are the most honoured by Christ!

An even, unvaried life is the lot of most men, in spite of occasional troubles or other accidents; and we are apt to despise it, and to get tired of it, and to long to see the world,—or, at all events, we think such a life affords no great opportunity for religious obedience. To rise up, and go through the same duties, and then to rest again, day after day,—to pass week after week, beginning with God's service on Sunday, and then to our worldly tasks,—so to continue till year follows year, and we gradually get old,—an unvaried life like this is apt to seem unprofitable to us when we dwell upon the thought of it. Many indeed there are, who do not think at all;—but live in their round of employments, without care about God and religion, driven on by the natural course of things in a dull irrational way like the beasts that perish. But when a man begins to feel he has a soul, and a work to do, and a reward to be gained, greater or less, according as he improves the talents committed to him, then he is naturally tempted to be anxious from his very wish to be saved, and he says, "What must I do to please God?" And sometimes he is led to think he ought to be useful on a large scale, and goes out of his line of life, that he may be doing something worth doing, as he considers it. Here we have the history of St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles to recall us to ourselves, and to assure us that we need not give up our usual manner of life, in order to serve God; that the most humble and quietest station is acceptable to Him, if improved duly,—nay, affords means for maturing the highest Christian character, even that of an Apostle. Bartholomew read the Scriptures and prayed to God; and thus was trained at length to give up his life for Christ, when He demanded it.

But, further, let us consider the particular praise which our Saviour gives him. "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" This is just the character which (through God's grace) they may attain most fully, who live out of the world in the private way I have been describing,—which is made least account of by man, and thought to be in the way of success in life, though our Saviour chose it to make head against all the power and wisdom of the world. Men of the world think an ignorance of its ways is a disadvantage or disgrace; as if it were somehow unmanly and weak to have abstained from all acquaintance with its impieties and lax practices. How often do we hear them say that a man must do so and so, unless he would be singular and absurd; that he must not be too strict, or indulge high-flown notions of virtue, which may be good to talk about, but are not fit for this world! When they hear of any young person resolving on being consistently religious, or being strictly honest in trade, or observing a noble purity in language and demeanour, they smile and think it very well, but that it will and must wear off in time. And they are ashamed of being innocent, and pretend to be worse than they really are. Then they have all sorts of little ways—are mean, jealous, suspicious, censorious, cunning, insincere, selfish; and think others as low-minded as themselves, only proud, or in some sense hypocritical, unwilling to confess their real motives and feelings.

To this base and irreligious multitude is opposed the Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile. David describes his character in the fifteenth Psalm; and, taken in all its parts, it is a rare one. He asks, "Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not."

I say, it is a difficult and rare virtue, to mean what we say, to love without dissimulation, to think no evil, to bear no grudge, to be free from selfishness, to be innocent and straightforward. This character of mind is something far above the generality of men; and when realized in due measure, one of the surest marks of Christ's elect. And the instances which we may even now and then discover of it among Christians, will be an evidence to us, if evidence be wanting, that, in spite of all that grovelling minds may say about the necessity of acquaintance with the world and with sin, in order to get on well in life, yet after all, inexperienced guilelessness carries a man on as safely and more happily. For, first, it is in itself a great privilege to a rightly disposed mind, not to be sensible of the moral miseries of the world; and this is eminently the lot of the simple-hearted. They take everything in good part which happens to them, and make the best of every one; thus they have always something to be pleased with, not seeing the bad, and keenly sensible of the good. And communicating their own happy peace to those around them, they really diminish the evils of life in society at large, while they escape from the knowledge of them themselves. Such men are cheerful and contented; for they desire but little, and take pleasure in the least matters, having no wish for riches and distinction. And they are under the tyranny of no evil or base thoughts, having never encouraged what in the case of other men often spreads disorder and unholiness through their whole future life. They have no phantoms of former sins, such as remain even to the penitent, when he has subdued their realities, rising up in their minds, harassing them, for a time domineering, and leaving a sting behind them. Guileless persons are, most of all men, skilful in shaming and silencing the wicked;—for they do not argue, but take things for granted in so natural a way, that they throw back the sinner upon the recollection of those times of his youth, when he was pure from sin, and thought as they do now; and none but very hardened men can resist this sort of appeal. Men of irreligious lives live in bondage and fear; even though they do not acknowledge it to themselves. Many a one, who would be ashamed to own it, is afraid of certain places or times, or of solitude, from a sort of instinct that he is no company for good spirits, and that devils may then assail him. But the guileless man has a simple boldness and a princely heart; he overcomes dangers which others shrink from, merely because they are no dangers to him, and thus he often gains even worldly advantages, by his straightforwardness, which the most crafty persons cannot gain, though they risk their souls for them. It is true such single-hearted men often get into difficulties, but they usually get out of them as easily; and are almost unconscious both of their danger and their escape. Perhaps they have not received a learned education, and cannot talk fluently; yet they are ever a match for those who try to shake their faith in Christ by profane argument or ridicule, for the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Nor is it only among the poor and lowly that this blessed character of mind is found to exist. Secular learning and dignity have doubtless in their respective ways a powerful tendency to rob the heart of its brightness and purity; yet even in kings' courts, and the schools of philosophy, Nathanaels may be discovered. Nay, like the Apostles, they have been subjected to the world's buffetings, they have been thwarted in their day, lived in anxiety, and seemingly lost by their honesty, yet without being foiled either of its present comfort or its ultimate fruit. Such was our great Archbishop and Martyr, to whom perchance we owe it, that we who now live are still members of a branch of the Church Catholic; one of whose "greatest unpopular infirmities," according to the historian of his times, was "that he believed innocence of heart, and integrity of manners, was a guard strong enough to secure any man in his voyage through this world, in what company soever he travelled and through what ways soever he was to pass. And sure," he adds, "never any man was better supplied with that provision."

I have in these remarks spoken of guileless men as members of society, because I wished to show that, even in that respect in which they seem deficient, they possess a hidden strength, an unconscious wisdom, which makes them live above the world, and sooner or later triumph over it. The weapons of their warfare are not carnal; and they are fitted to be Apostles, though they seem to be ordinary men. Such is the blessedness of the innocent, that is, of those who have never given way to evil, or formed themselves to habits of sin; who in consequence literally do not know its power or its misery, who have thoughts of truth and peace ever before them, and are able to discern at once the right and wrong in conduct, as by some delicate instrument which tells truly because it has never been ill-treated. Nay, such may be the portion (through God's mercy) even of those who have at one time departed from Him, and then repented; in proportion as they have learned to love God, and have purified themselves, not only from sin, but from the recollections of it.

Lastly, more is requisite for the Christian, even than guilelessness such as Bartholomew's. When Christ sent forth him and his brethren into the world, He said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Innocence must be joined to prudence, discretion, self-command, gravity, patience, perseverance in well-doing, as Bartholomew doubtless learned in due season under his Lord's teaching; but innocence is the beginning. Let us then pray God to fulfil in us "all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power;" that if it should please Him suddenly to bring us forward to great trials, as He did His Apostles, we may not be taken by surprise, but be found to have made a private or domestic life a preparation for the achievements of Confessors and Martyrs.

Flayed for the Faith

Today we honour the holy apostle St. Bartholomew. After the Ascension, he preached in Egypt and Ethiopia before journeying to India, where he gave to his converts the gospel of St. Matthew In Armenia he converted King Polymius and the citizens of several cities but so enraged the pagan priests they caused the king's brother Astyages to have the apostle flayed alive and beheaded.

The Golden Legend by Jacob de Voraigne describes his visit to a temple in India where an idol, reportedly capable of curing the sick, suddenly stopped doing so. The sick in desperation went to another temple and enquired of that temple's idol the cause of their prayers going unanswered.

The devil, for in truth the idols were but devils is disguise, said, "Your god is bound with chains of fire that he neither dare draw breath nor speak after that Bartholomew, the apostle of God, entered into the temple."
And they [the sick] said to him: "Who is that Bartholomew?"
And the devil said: "He is the friend of God Almighty, and he is come into this province for to avoid all the gods of India."
And then they [the sick] said: "Tell us some tokens and signs that we may know him and find him."
And the devil said to them: "He hath his hairs black and crisp, his skin white, eyes great, his nostrils even and straight, his beard long and hoar a little, and of a straight and seemly stature. He is clad in a white coat, and a white mantle, which in every corner hath gems of purple and precious stones therein. And it is saith twenty-six years that his clothes never waxed old nor foul. He prayeth and worshippeth God on his knees a hundred times a day, and a hundred times by night. The angels go with him, which never suffer him to be weary nor to be an hungered, he is always of like semblance, glad and joyous. He seeth all things before, he knoweth all things, he speaketh all manner languages, and understandeth them, and he knoweth well what I say to you. And when ye seek him, if he will he may show himself to you, and if him dost not, not shall ye find him. And I pray you, when ye find him, that ye pray him that he come not hither, that his angels do not to me as they have done to my fellow."

Tradent enim vos in conciliis,
et in synagogis suis flagellabunt vos,
et ante reges et praesides ducemini
propter me in testimonium illis, et Gentibus.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Doctor of Body and Soul

Today we commemorate St. Philip Benizi, who was born on the feast of the Assumption and died on its Octave.

A precocious student, he began his medical and philosophical studies in Paris, finished them in Padua and practiced medicine in Florence for about a year. Since childhood he had wanted to be a servant of Mary and only at his father's insistence he became a doctor but finally Our Lady granted his desire by appearing in a vision and directing him to the Servites at Monte Senario.
He entered the Order as a lay brother to live a penitential life in atonement for his sins and tried to hide his learning but with little success. His superiors had him ordained to the priesthood and soon the Pope requested his services to persuade the people of Forli to return their loyalty to Rome. While preaching in the city he was physically attacked by a mob but simply turned the other cheek, an act witnessed by the future St. Peregrine Laziosi.

Appointed master of novices, his rare abilities were daily discovered and he became prior of several communities before his election as prior general for the entire Order. On the death of Pope Clement IV he was chosen a candidate for the papacy but fled to a cave and remained there for the duration of the conclave. St. Philip attended the Council of Lyons, defended the Order from being disbanded in the wake of restrictions to mendicant orders, restored peace to places ravaged by civil war, helped St Juliana of Mount Cornillon found the Servite third order and sent the first Servite missionaries to the East.

Throughout his life St Philip was constantly imploring God's mercy and daily reciting the Penitential Psalms. On his death bed he recited the Miserere several times and suddenly was overcome with fear of being rejected by God. A few minutes later his doubts disappeared and holding a crucifix to his breast, breathed his last.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Affectionate Salutations to Mary

This prayer was composed by St John Eudes and propagated by Fr Paul of Moll, the Benedictine wonderworker, for the conversion of sinners.

I greet thee, Mary, Daughter of God the Father.
I greet thee, Mary, Mother of the Son of God.
I greet thee, Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

I greet thee, Mary, Temple of the Blessed Trinity.
I greet thee, Mary, White Lily of the resplendent Trinity.
I greet thee, Mary, Fragrant Rose of the heavenly court.
I greet thee, Mary, Virgin full of meekness and humility, of whom the King of Heaven willed to be born and nourished by thy milk.
I greet thee, Mary, Virgin of virgins.
I greet thee, Mary, Queen of Martyrs, whose soul was pierced by the sword of sorrows.
I greet thee, Mary, Lady and Mistress, to whom all power has been given in Heaven and on earth.
I greet thee, Mary, Queen of my heart, my sweetness, my life and all my hope.
I greet thee, Mary, Mother most amiable.
I greet thee, Mary, Mother most admirable.
I greet thee, Mary , Mother of beautiful love.
I greet thee, Mary , Conceived without sin.
I greet thee, Mary , Full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed be the Fruit of thy womb.

Blessed be thy spouse, Saint Joseph.
Blessed be thy father, Saint Joachim.
Blessed be thy mother, Saint Anne.
Blessed be thy Angel, Saint Gabriel.
Blessed be the Eternal Father, Who has chosen thee.
Blessed be thy Son, Who has loved thee.
Blessed be the Holy Ghost, Who has espoused thee.
May all those who love thee bless thee.

O Blessed Virgin, bless us all now and in the hour of our death in the name of Jesus thy dear Son. Amen

Pilgrims at the shrine of Lourdes

AngelQueen has a post on how drunkeness is shattering the peace and sanctity of Lourdes.

No wonder Medjugorje attracts so many pilgrims when Lourdes is been desecrated by revelers who come there to "party after being reverential all day" and enage in "drunken and lewd behaviour"

In other Marian news from AngelQueen, forest fires have forced the evacuation of the stone house in Ephesus believed to be Our Lady's home when she was taken in by St John.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Courageous yet Gentle

Today we commemorate St. Jane Frances de Chantal, founder of the Order of the Visitation of our Lady. Born to the president of parliament and future leader of the royalists, at the age of fifteen she confuted with a Presbyterian and when he gave her a gift, threw it into the fire saying, "That is how heretics will burn in hell for not believing Christ when he speaketh." When her mother died, she placed herself under the protection of Our Lady and devoted herself to religious works.

At twenty she married Baron de Chantal and took charge of his household. She restored its previous prosperity, ensured her children and servants were taught the faith, and relieved the poor and suffering. At twenty eight her husband was killed in a shooting accident and she took a vow of chastity, rejecting many influential and wealthy suitors. Resolving to remain a widow and devote herself to charitable works, she branded with a hot iron the Holy Name into her breast. To safegard her children's property she lived for a time in the home of her father-in-law, where she patiently endured the wickedness of the servant in charge, eventually triumphing over him by her virtue.

In 1604 she heard St. Francis de Sales preach a Lenten sermon and recognised him as the figure in a dream she had earlier. After providing for the welfare and education of her children, she went to Annecy to found the Order of the Visitation, for the spiritual advancement of young women and widows, adopting St. Francis' method of attaining perfection through abandoning oneself to God and seeking His holy will. For the rest of her life she was either in the cloister, praying for the conversion of her son, receiving those who came to ask her advice and founding new convents. At her death, St. Vincent de Paul had a vision of her soul ascending to heaven and being met by St. Francis. She left behind a number of works including instructions on the religious life, a deposition for the beatification of St. Francis and letters.

Dr. Pius Parsch notes that in the Common for Holy Women, the Church emphasises their courage and strength which seems odd since it is their compassion and obdeience which frequently come to mind. However these are but complementary virtues and were displayed by Our Lord Himself. One need only contrast his driving the merchants from the Temple or rebuking St. Peter as 'Satan' with his condescension towards St. Mary Magdalene or receiving the poor and sick.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Quotable Quote 25

From St. Peter of Alcantara, spiritual director of St. Teresa of Avila

In mental prayer the soul is purified from its sins, nourished with charity, confirmed in faith, and strengthened in hope; the mind expands, the affections dilate, the heart is purified, truth becomes evident; temptation is conquered, sadness dispelled; the senses are renovated; drooping powers revive; tepidity ceases; the rust of vices disappears. Out of mental prayer issues forth, like living sparks, those desires of heaven which the soul conceives when inflamed with the fire of divine love. Sublime is the excellence of mental prayer, great are its privileges; to mental prayer heaven is opened; to mental prayer heavenly secrets are manifested and the ear of God ever attentive.

The latest Commentary has an interesting article on a Catholic cathedral in Norway, which was appropriated by the Lutherans in the 16th century but avoided the fate of so many cathedrals and churches that remained in Catholic hands. Last year the Traditional Latin Mass was celebrated in the cathedral and two other churches, which have also retained their original architecture and art. As the Fathers say, hopefully the Lutherans will extend the invitation this year as well and perhaps in the future consider making this more than an annual event.

While the Church in Australia might not be perfect, at least it is better than in Canada where it has been thoroughly secularised. There priests and religious openly criticize the Magisterium on family and life issues, Catholic newspapers push a Marxist agenda, Catholic educators encourage students to be dissenters, or worse reformers and revolutionaries, and bishops simply turn a blind eye. Let us pray for the social reign of the Sacred Heart, which once adorned the flag of Quebec.

Inner Peace - Forget the New Age Psycho-babble

From Denis the Carthusian's Commentary on Luke

The way to attain the perfection of divine love is thus stated. Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? In other words: Do not imagine that I have come to offer people a sensual, worldly, and unruly peace that will enable them to be united in their vices and achieve earthly prosperity. No, I tell you, I have not come to offer that kind of peace, but rather division — a good, healthy kind of division, physical as well as spiritual. Love for God and desire for inner peace will set those who believe in me at odds with wicked men and women, and make them part company with those who would turn them from their course of spiritual progress and from the purity of divine love, or who attempt to hinder them.

Good, interior, spiritual peace consists in the repose of the mind in God, and in a rightly ordered harmony. To bestow this peace was the chief reason for Christ's coming. This inner peace flows from love. It is an unassailable joy of the mind in God, and it is called peace of heart. It is the beginning and a kind of foretaste of the peace of the saints in heaven — the peace of eternity.

Denis was a mystic and theologian of the 15th century. Despite being a Carthusian, he was a prolific scholar and writer on liturgy, morality, philosophy, scripture, spirituality, and theology. He also wrote works on Christian living for clergy and laity of every rank and profession, and at the request of Nicholas of Cusa, a treatise against Mohammedanism. Notably he upheld the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in two treatises on the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is considered the last great Scholastic writer.

Quotable Quote 24 and Supernatural Smoke

The Open Book posted about the chocolate which looked a statue of Our Lady, prompting one commenter to note that while Protestants go crazy over end time prophecies, with Catholics its apparitions and images of Mary.

In other news, the previously mentioned church in Melbourne which was subject to fire, now has four 'mysterious' crosses on the wall behind the altar. While CFA fire officer Ken Evans said "For the smoke to form in definite shapes is very unusual. It's supernatural or something", Ms Lynne Kelly author of The Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal prefers "a more rational explanation" and to "know a lot more" before claiming the miraculous.

Perhaps a more credible case for divine intervention is the fire which destroyed a historic Anglican church hall that was used for the Hollywood adaptation of Steven King's Salem's Lot, a film which the rector described as 'eminently forgettable'. Fire fighters did however manage to save the adjacent bluestone church and a nearby house.