Year B | Gospel of St. Mark | Cycle I | Tuesday of Holy Week


Salve! The digital sacristy has many cabinets. e-Media can be found at the bottom of the blog.


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On The Transcendentals of Being

We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, he draws us to himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”—Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

On Human Dignity

CCC1700. The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude. It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment. By his deliberate actions, the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience. Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth. With the help of grace they grow in virtue, avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven. In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.

Holy Week

Holy Week
Victoria, BC March 30, 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Positive Catholicism... or is it?

A series of observations.

One of the purposes of this brief essay is to assist in the identification of the accurate promotion of the Catholic mission by distinguishing between 1) organizations that, claiming to be part of evangelization efforts that are faithful to the Magisterium, surrender to the culture of nice, and 2) organizations that really are faithful to the Magisterium.
The Culture of Nice:
  • is characterized by the idea of "country before Catholicism". Are you a Catholic Canadian or a Canadian Catholic? Yes, there is a distinction to b made.
  • emphasizes "pastoral sensitivity" at the expense of Christ's teaching. In other words, when push comes to shove, faith takes a backseat to secular "norms".
  • confines religion to the private sphere.
  • tolerates those who agree with the politically correct status quo.
The Catholic mission is far more inclusive and oriented to the dignity of human beings than your common secularist agenda.
  1. The Catholic mission necessarily includes respect for the dignity of all people, not just those who agree with us. Catholic hospitals and schools serve Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Catholics pray for and welcome those who persecute others in the hope that by extending Christ's love, even the most badly behaved adversary may abandon his evil agenda and allow himself to be embraced by Jesus Christ. Have some Catholics failed in their love for others? Indeed, yes, and some miserably so. Only with the grace of Christ can man life fully the saving message of the Gospel. It should come as no surprise that some Catholics have failed to live the Gospel. Even when Catholics fail to put the Gospel first, God accepts the plea of a truly penitent man who, recognizing his failings, takes up his cross and is united again with God through the Sacrament of Penance. Peter abandoned the Son of God, yet he turned back to Jesus after the resurrection. Peter's threefold denial was undone by the Lord Who restored Peter by providing him the opportunity to make a threefold affirmation (confession) of his love for Jesus.
  2. Authentic hospitality requires a skilled use of language to engage people in dialogue. The Church employs the language of sacrificial love. That love issues forth from the perfect love Jesus extends to all who desire truth, mercy and justice.
  3. The Catholic mission is primarily about the salvation of souls (St. Matthew 28:18-20). Yes, the Church still makes a habit of praying for the conversion of souls.
  4. Speaking the truth in love, especially when Catholics speak truth to power, is frequently perceived as not very nice by people who, perhaps blinded by arrogance or some form of bigotry, do not share the Church's God-given understanding of the true identity of man.
What did you say? What are you saying?

Catholic media which attempt to bridge the divide between the Church and the world by using an upbeat vocabulary conditioned to the times all too often empty content of its Catholic heart. There is merit in an attempt to reacquire the vocabulary of change (of heart), mercy and of healing, of love and authentic relationships, and there is merit in rescuing language from the relativists who have very effectively emptied language of meaning and have thus created a vacuum into which content can be poured that pushes agendas which rob man of his dignity and are very profitable for a very tiny enclave of cultural elitists. The media enterprises which market their product as "positive" Catholicism are producing stuff that is safe and nice and Catholicism-lite because they have strayed into the nice-sounding cultural relativism that is inimical to Christianity.

One such Canadian enterprise that is straying into mere relativistic thinking is marketed as "Your Catholic channel of hope". The same organization, under its "About" tab on its webpage, has little else to say about its mission. Why is that? Is it because the founder or founders wanted broad latitude with little constraint and thus avoided labelling itself Catholic, which is to say an attempt was made to avoid making the channel appear too Catholic? Or,... did the administrators decide that the organization is defined by the contributors and administrators who are named on its pages? Perhaps the content of the corporation's programming speaks for itself?
Organizations that fail to affirm a clear direction or objective mission often degenerate into ego-driven enterprises because they are so rapt in the personality of a founder that they cannot continue independently when a founder or organizer retires or dies.
Hope springs entrepreneurial.

Another enterprise's mission statement displays the following series of "positive" marketing hooks:
[Q] is a beacon of Hope and a unique Herald of the simple, yet profound Message of Jesus Christ, Who is made truly present among us in the Breaking of the Bread.

Utilizing powerful technology, we strive to connect People of Faith. Through relevant, inspiring and prayerful programming we educate, teaching the Wisdom of God in the Catholic Tradition, endeavoring to move people of all ages, cultures and attitudes toward the Fullness of Life.
The statement uses language that attempts to engage low-information or non-churched people who have few churchy linguistic skills. No fault there. However, the phrase "Breaking of the Bread", while recognizable among well formed Catholics as a legitimate name for the Mass, has become a term used by self-declared progressives to avoid language that affirms a much needed perspective among Catholics, namely the affirmation of the Eucharistic Mystery better conveyed by terms such as Holy Eucharist, Divine Liturgy, Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and so forth. Is it merely nitpicking to ask that the language of a mission statement accurately reflect Catholic theology, or is it a useful and necessary process of clarification to refine Catholic vocabulary which sets the Mass apart from protestant services which employ the same language (breaking of the bread) but do not include the Christ-given Catholic teaching about the Real Presence? Does borrowing language obscure the Catholic message or more effectively enable its dissemination? The early Church borrowed terms from Greek philosophy (logos, for one). Saint Thomas Aquinas did the hard work of synthesizing the vocabularies of Greek and Latin philosophy and employed the result as an effective vehicle to communicate the truth of the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, most contemporary adaptateurs fail to acquire the sensitive mind and hand of a Saint Thomas to create effective vehicles for the transmission of the Faith. Pope Benedict was one successful mind; Pope Saint John Paul II was another.

Catholics need more from the Catholic media: more depth; more precision; more artistry; more cultural intelligence; more Catholicism (not mere Christianity).

Tell me who you are, and I'll tell you if I'm prepared to tune in to your programming.

The next citation is a mission statement from a media outlet that comes much closer to an ethos that conforms authentically to the Catholic mission while engaging modern communication techniques and vehicles to disseminate the Catholic Faith among diverse peoples.
[M] is dedicated to teaching the truth as defined by the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. In keeping with the Holy Father's call for a New Evangelization, [M's] mission is to communicate the teachings and the beauty of the Catholic Church and to help people grow in their love and understanding of God and His infinite mercy.
One might argue that, in this instant, to pit one legitimate mission statement against another is to do a disservice to both. One could argue further that the Church needs different media organizations with distinct charisms included under the Catholic umbrella in order to reach diverse peoples. True enough, on both accounts. However, Catholics must always be mindful that the content we receive or communicate to others must be trustworthy, and if Catholic media are configured to mission statements that do not accurately represent the Catholic Faith, then such enterprises should be avoided, regardless of how positive and engaging they might be. Just as Catholics rely on theologians and bishops to teach the orthodox Faith, and Catholics should require universities and colleges that call themselves Catholic to teach the orthodox Faith, Catholics should also call on Catholic media to embody the Catholic mission with absolute fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In some dioceses, the deference shown to the Magisterium by Catholic media enterprises is tenuous at best, the National Catholic Reporter being one of the more obvious examples of a Catholic-lite enterprise.

Muddled Media

When a certain Catholic television outfit interviews a dissident theologian and paints him as a faithful representative of the Church's teaching, then such an organization calls into question its ability to represent Catholicism. That is precisely what a prominent priest-CEO of Canada's "channel of hope" did when he, in one of his television programs, lionized Gregory Baum, an individual who, for starters, did more to lead Catholics away from the teaching of Humanae Vitae than any other individual in the Church in Canada. It's one thing to host someone who dissents from Jesus' and the Church's teaching and engage them in frank discussion with an aim to expose teaching that is not Catholic. It is an entirely different matter when an interviewer provides a forum in which a dissenting individual is blessed and canonized for his or her opposition to the Church. Misguided attempts to rehabilitate dissident theologians, for example, who have little interest in defending the Magisterial teaching of the Church should not be understood as anything other than a misuse of a forum which purports to be Catholic. Such an organization, by engaging in such activity, calls into question its ability to represent itself as a Catholic organization. Undoubtedly there are well intentioned journalists and administrators working for said Canadian organization. Those who are faithful to the Magisterium might do well to build their own media group and offer it as a more authentic option for Catholic Canadians to access and support rather than staying with a ship that, even if only rarely, fires on its own fleet.

What for?

Are Catholic media for Catholics, well informed or otherwise, or are Catholic media for a whole world of non-Catholic peoples? Of course, the answer is both/and. All media groups share something of that conviction whether it is for practical reasons of having a wide financial base or for more authentic reasons relevant to evangelization. The problem comes into focus when we adjust our investigative lenses for orthodox content and examine the stuff that enjoys a life under the umbrella of Catholicism. Too often content is actually not Catholicism at all. More than the umbrella of Catholicism, the umbrella of "hope" and "positive Christianity" is frequently an umbrella that is full of holes. The words 'hope' and 'positive' are now more suspect than ever because they represent adaptations of the Faith which offer little real hope and/or substance for people seeking truth, love, forgiveness and a chance for their lives to be renewed. The Catholic message is, these days, more hidden behind a veneer of niceness that both supplants the Good News and distracts people from encountering the real Jesus. A dumbed down Gospel merely offers a cardboard Jesus, a Jesus who is my poker buddy and drinking pal and not the Lord of the Cosmos Who saves us from sin and death.

The Little Guy

Not all Catholic media organizations are created equal. Some are highly deficient vehicles. Many others are, however, exceptional representatives of the mission of the Church. By and large, with a few notable exceptions, the most effective Catholic mission enterprises are the little guys one finds nearer the margins of the internet which thus places them closer to the margins of society, both the global online society and the people in the street. Catholics own the online Christian mission. Proof of that claim can be seen on a daily basis by the vast number of Catholic journalists and bloggers weighing in on secular and religious news. If traffic feeds are any indication of success, then Catholic websites and blogs blow away the competition. Catholic online magazines are growing while secular vehicles are withering. Catholic print edition newspapers have been hurt by the shift in attention to online resources, but diocesan newspapers have fared much better than many large secular enterprises that have disappeared completely. Well known secular magazines, once thought to be too popular to fail, have gone too.

Best Narrative

While secularists and liberal religionists have abandoned the opportunity to read and reflect with any measure of depth, often giving in to the temptation to use social media as shallow tools to preoccupy oneself at a bus stop, religionists by contrast, exposed to the deep wellspring of Holy Scripture and the sharing of a vast legacy of wisdom on a weekly (if not daily) basis in the Mass, are able to enjoy and develop deeper uses of the same technologies because Catholics understand both the advantages and limitations of various media. Catholics may have been slow to employ the printing press to disseminate the Catholic Faith, but once engaged the Church began a vast employ of a new technology to better inform Catholics and non-Catholics about the one true Faith. The opportunity to form and inform minds will be best and most fully engaged by Catholics because:
  1. the Catholic Church has the best story because God is its author.
  2. the Catholic Church is the most diverse and yet unified by that story we share.
  3. Catholics are the best organized and informed because we seek truth wherever it may be found. Catholic scientists initiated the scientific method. Catholic physicians have made innumerable contributions to improving the health of all. Catholic artists, musicians, philosophers and architects have contributed a vast legacy of art and knowledge to civilization and justice. Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and countless other men and women saints testify to the truth which all men seek, the truth which draws all to Jesus Christ. Jesus is, for the Catholic Christian, the way, the truth and the life.
  4. Faithful Catholics love God and love our fellow human beings who need what God offers and what has been given to the Church to share.
  5. The Holy Spirit guides and guards the mission of the Catholic Church. Through the efforts of faithful Catholics, the Holy Spirit communicates the Holy Gospel.
One such faithful Catholic Canadian enterprise is Catholic Insight. When CI started it was a delightfully plain magazine with solid content that appeared on the shelves of a local large bookseller. On occasion, I would arrive to purchase a copy only to find that it had been removed from the shelves by some self-appointed censor who stumbled over one excuse after another to justify its removal. "The content is objectionable. ... No one was buying it." Repeatedly confronted with the fact that the content was faithful Catholic teaching that enjoys Charter protection, and the fact that all copies were routinely purchased within a week of appearing on the stand while other liberal-progressive rags remained unsold collecting dust, store representatives caved and kept ordering and selling issues.

Catholic Insight has some of the best content to be found. Its contributors and organizers are solid Catholics who love the Church and represent diverse fields of expertise. The magazine has gotten more sophisticated in its look while retaining its original modesty. It has retained all the freshness of its orthodox orientation. If there is a magazine to be found that is bold, engaging, truthful and replete with hope and the call to live the Gospel without compromise, it is Catholic Insight.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cardinal Koch: Fidei Defensor

H/T Catholic Legate for the link to LifeSiteNews

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Vatican cardinal tells German bishops: We can’t adapt the faith to the times like Christians did under the Nazis
Edited for length. 
Cardinal Koch’s comments followed a strong rebuke of Cardinal Marx by German Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes. “A Cardinal cannot easily separate the pastoral approach from the teaching,” Cardinal Cordes said, “unless he wants to ignore the binding meaning of Christ's words and the binding words of the Council of Trent.”

Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that Bode's words should remind us of a similar historical situation: namely the time of the Third Reich, where the “German Christians” adjusted their faith to the worldview of National Socialism, namely its racist and nationalistic ideas. He said: “Let us think of the 'German Christians' during the time of National Socialism, when, next to the Holy Scripture, they also raised up the Nation and the Race as sources of revelation, against which the Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934) [which rejected the submission of the Protestant churches under the state] protested. We have to differentiate very carefully here and listen with sensitivity to the signs of the times – and to the spirit that reveals itself in these signs: Which ones are signs of the Gospel, which ones are not?”

With this comment, Koch made clear that it is not the Catholic Church's mission to adapt her irreformable teaching to the spirit of the time, the Zeitgeist, but, rather, the Church has to follow Christ's teaching at all times, throughout history.

In this context, it is wise to point to that part of German history, where many Christians, mainly Protestants of the movement called “German Christians,” subjected parts of Christ's teaching under the ideology of Adolf Hitler. Such an adaptation might have sounded convincing at the time, but there will also always be a “time after,” where many Christians then had to regret their inordinate submission to such a false teaching.

In reference to our own time, we can apply Cardinal Koch's words and determine not to adapt to a morally lax atmosphere that has spread throughout the Western world since the cultural revolution of the 1960s, which now also permeates more and more of the culture of the Catholic Church. The standard of Christ is still applicable now, and will always be – it is timely, and timeless.

Cardinal Koch thus insisted that it is dangerous to declare “life realities” as a third source of revelation: “To see how and in which way people are living their Faith today, is of course helpful and important, in order to recognize the challenges of the pastoral duties of the Church. However, this [the “life realities”] cannot be a third reality of the revelation next to Holy Scripture and the Magisterium.
Add Cardinal Koch to the list of bishops defending the Faith.

SSPX. Wither goest thou.

Whither or wither goest the SSPX?

Pundits far more informed than this blogger have weighed in—Rorate Caeli being an eminent example among the well versed oases of information—on the curious case of Bishop Richard Williamson and the other sons of His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

For this blogger's vantage point, the portents have long signalled a predictable direction and outcome. The further a community is away from Peter, the more it becomes fragmented by debates between rival claimants to the authority which properly belongs to the Bishop of Rome. To be clear, anyone or any group that acts—how does one say in all charity—with the authority imitating that of a pope had better hope that Jesus Christ has forgotten His promise to the one whose office continues to this day. That is, the Office of Saint Peter and the occupant of the same. Point of fact, Jesus has not forgotten His promise that the Church He founded on Peter will be protected for all time.

The many good priests of the SSPX, and the people who attend their liturgies, might do well to consider the witness of history. Many other well intentioned people, believing they are faithful to Jesus and His Church, have split from the one true fold and found themselves outside the very Church to which they claim to belong or represent.

3:52 for specific reference

Pray for the priests of the SSPX, that they may come home before they split yet again and become mired in discord to the detriment of souls. As for Bishop Williamson who unlawfully consecrated other men, may his recent acts which have put him even further from communion with Rome be a sobering reminder to him and others that where there is disobedience division soon follows.

Pray, too, for the Roman officials who are responsible for facilitating dialogue with the SSPX. May every gesture of goodwill and the truth spoken in love saturate their conversations.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Faith, Family and the Way Forward

In case you missed it, Pope Francis recently affirmed and defended the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, "in which the family 'occupies a central role, inasmuch as it is the womb of human life'."

The word of my venerated predecessor reminds us that the human couple has been blessed by God since the beginning to form a community of love and life, to whom the mission of procreation has been entrusted. Christian couples, by celebrating the sacrament of Marriage, indicate they are willing to honour this blessing, with the grace of Christ, for all their life. The Church, for her part, solemnly commits to caring for the family that is thus born, as a gift from God for her own life, in good times and bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable. The Church, as a mother, never abandons her family, even when it is debased, hurt and humiliated in many ways. Not even when it gives in to sin or drifts away from the Church; she will always do everything to seek to cure and heal it, to invite it to convert and be reconciled with the Lord.
Let's hope the family-revisionists in the Church take note of the Holy Father's affirmation of the Tradition of the Church.

Keep praying for the Holy Father. Pray, too, that the enemies of the family who inhabit some of the precincts of the Church may be confounded in their attempts to obscure doctrine and change practice regarding marriage and Holy Communion.

His Beatitude Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, chimes in:
“The Church must remain faithful to Jesus, who plainly stated that those who divorce and remarry commit adultery. So on one hand, the Church is seeking to be as compassionate and helpful as possible to those who would like to move on from a broken marriage, and yet it can’t just eliminate the parts of Jesus’ teaching that are hardest to live by.”

Moreover, the central thrust of the next synod, Patriarch Twal said, will not be “how to make it easier to get out of a bad marriage. The Church will want to send a message to young people that she still believes in marriage and that lifetime commitment — with God’s help — is still possible.”

“How to combine a robust affirmation of marriage with a renewed commitment to compassion is the enormous task that awaits the bishops.”—LPJ website.

Somebody or Nobody?

In the eyes of God and the Church, each and every person is a somebody. Each person is a child of God. A child in need of redemption, but a child of God nonetheless. How many times a day do we make ourselves into nobodies by engaging in behaviour beneath our God-given human dignity? How many times a day do we offer thanks to God for His gift of salvation?
St. Matthew 23:11-12
He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
In the eyes of the conceited or the violent, the worldly rich and powerful, those who do not achieve worldly success are nobodies.
Are you a somebody
If you are faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church, if you humble yourself before God...
—a good way to do that is to make an examination of conscience before retiring each night and to go to confession (Sacrament of Penance) on a regular basis—
... if you strive after the truth and make charity your daily exercise, if you pray with utter sincerity and docility to the Holy Spirit, if you show mercy according to the mind of Christ and you do not make a show of being a somebody, then there's a strong possibility that you are a somebody in the eyes of God.
If you think yourself so much better than the beggar in the street, better than the young couple who can barely scrape together a mortgage payment, or the working poor who can barely afford the monthly rent, or think yourself better than someone with a psychological illness or physical disability, or you think yourself so much better than the poor ignorant masses because you're so progressive by upholding the politically correct status quo... you might want to revisit your definition of somebody. Failing a redefinition, you might just be a self righteous sinner. If that be the case, and you want to reform, you will be in good company if you choose to turn away from the path of sin. The Church, a home for sinners wanting to become saints, is for you.

Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us that God has a particular view about who constitutes a somebody in His eyes.
(Pope Saint) John Paul II
General Audience Wednesday 23 May 2001
5. There is a second term which we use to define those who pray in the Psalm: they are the anawim, "the poor and lowly ones" (v. 4). The expression turns up often in the Psalter. It indicates not just the oppressed, the miserable, the persecuted for justice, but also those who, with fidelity to the moral teaching of the Alliance with God, are marginalized by those who prefer to use violence, riches and power. In this light one understands that the category of the "poor" is not just a social category but a spiritual choice. It is what the famous first Beatitude means: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:3). The prophet Zephaniah spoke to the anawim as special persons: "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of wrath of the Lord" (Zep 2:3). 
6. The "day of the Lord's wrath" is really the day described in the second part of the Psalm when the "poor" are lined up on the side of God to fight against evil. By themselves they do not have sufficient strength or the arms or the necessary strategies to oppose the onslaught of evil. Yet the Psalmist does not admit hesitation: "The Lord loves his people, he adorns the lowly (anawim) with victory" (v. 4). What St Paul says to the Corinthians completes the picture: "God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are" (1 Cor 1:28).
With such confidence the "sons of Zion" (v. 2), the hasidim and anawim, the faithful and the poor, go on to live their witness in the world and in history. Mary's canticle in the Gospel of Luke, the Magnificat, is the echo of the best sentiments of the "sons of Zion": glorious praise of God her Saviour, thanksgiving for the great things done by the Mighty One, the battle against the forces of evil, solidarity with the poor and fidelity to the God of the Covenant (cf Lk 1:46-55).
Who is our model of humility? Mary, who proclaimed
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.—St. Luke 1:46-55

Pray. Be holy!