” . . . and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Isaiah 22:22
I own several papal biographies, yet I’ve never read them. I seriously question how many Catholics have ever read any of the full-length papal biographies. Maybe I underestimate the zeal of others’ papal personality cult, but I just doubt that anyone can read more than two pages of George Weigel* without suddenly deciding that it’s the perfect time to clean the grout out from between their bathroom tiles. I can’t really compare George Weigel to any other Catholic “talking heads” because he’s usually the author I compare other “talking heads” to when I’m criticizing them.
So how does he earn a living writing papal biographies? I’m guessing that it works like this. Through the buzz for his first papal biography, Weigel established that he was a supporter of Pope St. John Paul II. So a few tens of thousands of people identified Weigel as “one of the good guys.” Then, when he produces yet another book about everybody’s favorite “good guy” from the past 50 years (Pope St. John Paul II), the book becomes a very heavy, awkward stocking stuffer. The recipient thanks the giver for this fetishistic acknowledgment of their shared appreciation for the right team of good guys. Then the book goes on the shelf to proclaim the household’s allegiance to said team.
That, or maybe it just becomes a sturdy door stop.
*This post is inspired by this Catholic Kulchur review: https://catholickulchur.com/2017/07/30/george-weigel-letting-the-cat-out-of-the-bag/
For me as a Norwegian-American, July 29 is first and foremost the feast of St. Olaf, patron saint of Norway.* When I opened my Baronius Press Missal, however, I wasn’t sure which saint would be listed today; in the Roman Calendar, the patron saint of remote Norway doesn’t rank particularly high. I was intrigued when I saw that today is the feast day of St. Martha. I immediately flipped back to July 22 and saw what I expected—the feast day of St. Mary Magdalen. Per a tradition in the Latin Church going back at least to Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Mary Magdalen is the same person as St. Mary of Bethany, sister of St. Martha. So St. Martha’s feast day falls on the octave of her sister’s feast.
*See my post here: https://driftlesscatholic.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/blog-pseudonym-saint-day-st-olaf-martyr-patron-and-eternal-king-of-norway/
The photo above shows the altar of St. Olaf in Rome. He is shown with his battle axe, triumphantly crushing under foot the dragon of paganism (or maybe, in the artist’s mind, Lutheran heresy?). My blog pseudonym is the Latin form of “Olaf from Wisconsin.” My family is from Wisconsin (though I wasn’t born or raised here), and I’m one-eighth Norwegian. When I was a child, my late father (who was insanely proud of his one-quarter Norwegianity—may he rest in peace) used to call me “Ole,” which is short for Olaf.
St. Olaf was the King of Norway who spearheaded the conversion of that country to the Roman Catholic Faith. For his efforts at converting the pagan Vikings, St. Olaf was martyred during the Battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030, which is why today is his feast day. St. Olaf is honored as the “eternal king” (Rex Perpetuus) of Norway. Unfortunately, Norway was annexed by Denmark during the Protestant Revolt, and the Danes imposed Lutheranism on the country.
When I was studying under Fr. Reginald Foster in Rome ten years ago, I visited many of the so-called National Churches in the city. These are the churches that each nation claims as “its church” in Rome. I figured that Norway, despite its official Lutheranism, must have at least a chapel somewhere. Catholics—good ones, anyway—are always trying to reclaim the lost sheep among the nations. One day by accident, I stumbled upon the Norwegian national chapel in the Basilica of San Carlo al Corso* (which is the National Church of the Lombards). That’s where I took the photo above. The Latin inscriptions on the edge of the painting read in part, “Norvegia Catholica; S. Olaus Martyr, Norvegiae Rex et Patronus.” Translated, that’s, “Catholic Norway; St. Olaf, Martyr, King and Patron of Norway.” Continue reading
I’m a day late in posting this, but yesterday (July 25) was the feast day of St. James the Greater. Along with St. John the Evangelist (St. James’ brother) and St. Peter, St. James was one of Our Lord’s inner circle, being present at the Transfiguration and during Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden. Here are some one-off notes in appreciation of St. James:
St. James’ Iconography: Apostle, Pilgrim, Moor-Killer, and Martyr
Over at the New Liturgical Movement, David Clayton has posted an article about St. James’ iconography.* One of the commenters, Thom Ryng, notes that St. James appears in art in three different ways: as Apostle, as pilgrim, and as the Moor-Killer (Santiago Matamoros).**
I’ve seen the apostle, pilgrim, and Moor-Killer (or martyr?) identities combined in iconography. Once upon a time, I used to attend Mass at St. James Parish in Trumansburg, New York. The canopy/reredos at St. James shows a bishop’s crosier and sword laid across each other. The crosier obviously shows that St. James was an Apostle, and hence a bishop. The sword likely refers to his martyrdom by beheading, but also possibly to his status as Santiago Matamoros, the scourge of the Moors during Spain’s Reconquista. I believe the canopy also shows the pilgrim’s scallop shell, which points to Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James. Continue reading
If you performed at work as poorly as you perform as a self-professed Catholic, would your boss keep you around? Yet you call Christ your Lord.
If you expended as little effort at mastering your school subjects as you expend at mastering yourself, would your teachers and professors give you a passing grade? Yet you call Christ your Master.
If you disregarded your parents the way you disregard God, would your parents admit that you were their son? Yet you call God your Father.
(Prefatory note: this post was inspired by an article* by Mons. Charles Pope on the radical deficiencies of Catholic catechesis in America during the past century and more.)
The “spirit of Vatican II” said that the Church as it existed in 1958 (let’s say) was hide-bound, clergy-bound, conformist, brittle, stifling, and infantilizing. The adult lay Catholic was treated as a child, lacking in personal responsibility for achieving personal holiness and maturing as a Christian. The institutions of the Church alienated him from a personal response to God’s grace.
The traditionalist often reflexively tries to reject this characterization. He states that he wants to restore all of the institutions that existed in 1958, or whatever date he picks. But shouldn’t the traditionalist agree with the indictment of Catholicism as lived ca. 1958? How, HOW, could the spirit of Vatican II have wrought such pure havoc if things were good?** How could religious orders and lay attendance at Mass, and devotion to the old liturgy, and public orthodoxy, etc., etc., have collapsed so readily unless the Church of 1958 was in fact victim to crippling institutionalism? The revolutionaries seized control of the institutions and proved their case. Continue reading
This post addresses an objection to Catholicism similar to the last one: “What about all of the sinful Popes/bishops/priests? How you can you seriously listen to them?”
Let’s deal with it this way:
You: Are you saying that someone who commits sin cannot have religious authority to teach and command others?
Them: Yes. [Again, I don’t know how long it will take to get to this point. It’s really what the objection boils down to, and of course it’s nth-degree silliness.]
You: If I showed you from the Bible that Our Lord Himself acknowledges human religious authorities, even though they are sinners, and commands His followers to obey the teachings of these sinful religious authorities, would you admit that your position is wrong? Continue reading
I am beginning a new project, which I am labeling “Scriptural Apologetics Project.” You can find entries by searching for the category of the same name. My goal is to arm myself, and you, since I’m supposed to love you as much as myself, with Scriptural passages for use in apologetic endeavors.
One ever-popular objection to Catholicism, from the so-called Orthodox, Protestants, and Modernists of all stripes, is that Popes have been sinful. The Renaissance Popes held orgies, Pope Pius XII didn’t try to stop the Holocaust, recent popes covered up sex abuse. On and on. Some organizations put out historical analyses trying to disprove these claims one by one, or put the claims in historical context. This is one approach, and for some people, likely history buffs, it might work.
However, I think it is of limited value. It requires a good amount of historical research that a lot of people don’t have time for. The person you’re speaking to might just dismiss all your sources as biased. When I tried to defend Pope Pius XII and other Catholics for their conduct in saving Jews from the Nazis, the guy I was talking with just repeated, “I’ve never heard that before,” without showing much interest in accepting what I was saying.
I propose a more efficient route for use in arguments with Orthodox and “Bible-believing” Protestants. Your Scriptural counter-argument is that Christ knew that St. Peter was a sinner and made him Pope anyway. Here’s how the argument works:
Here are some notes from today’s* Traditional Latin Mass for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, offered at St. Norbert’s Parish in Roxbury, WI:
1.) During my Confession, the priest told me to say Psalm 50 (aka 51) for my penance. That’s King David’s famous psalm of repentance. I went to the parish bookshelf in hopes of finding a Bible, but one didn’t turn up. Then I tried the table at the back of the church covered in devotional literature. I saw a small, antique-looking volume entitled “Extensionist Manual.” I figured it was put out by Catholic Extension**, which is an outreach organization directed at small rural parishes like the one I grew up in. Without knowing precisely what an “Extensionist Manual” would contain, I cracked the book open. It opened immediately to Psalm 50, in a section entitled “Penitential Psalms.” So a big thank you to Catholic Extension.