It seems to me that the apostolic fervor (at least at times), the moral laxism, and now the effective doctrine of universal salvation associated with the Jesuits might all have their root in a profound un-ease with the idea of anyone being lost. This un-ease in turn inspires a profound un-ease with the idea that seed is ever sown in vain–that an act of evangelization, while beneficial to evangelizer, might not bear fruit for the recipient. If you’re St. Francis Xavier and you’re afraid of souls in Asia being lost, you go to Asia and try to convert them. But what about people who notionally are attracted to the Gospel but just don’t want to live by its demands? Well, surely there are ways to shoehorn them in; hence the moral laxism (and Rome condemned it too, not just Pascal and the Jansenists). And what if the missions don’t succeed, at least not to the degree hoped for? Redefine victory: turns out that everyone is already an anonymous Christian! Continue reading
It occurred to me how paltry Old Testament archeology is. Think of all of the artifacts, people, structures, cities, dynasties covered in the books of the Old Testament, and virtually no trace. Compared to Egypt, Mesopotamia, even Phoenicia, there’s meager physical and extra-Biblical documentary evidence for Israel’s existence.
Most notably, think of the Temple: not a stone upon a stone. The Ark of the Covenant, Urim and Thummim, and some other artifacts disappeared already with the Babylonian Captivity. The brazen serpent on a pole was destroyed by King Josias (Josiah) because it had become an object of idolatry. And now “evangelical” Protestants and some Jewish sects pore over ever square inch of the Holy Land trying to turn up artifacts–any artifact–of the Old Testament. How do we explain this absence? Continue reading
This is a bit of a ramshackle post, which I apologize for. Recently, I have been meditating on the story of the Patriarch Jacob in the Book of Genesis. In particular, I have been struck by the scene of Jacob and Esau’s reconciliation in Gen. 33. The build-up appears in Gen. 32.
I see in this story an account of our life in Christ. In fact, I hold that there is much in this passage that supports Catholic soteriology (teaching on how salvation works), specifically in those areas where it differs from Protestant soteriology. I don’t know that I shall ever have time to write out my thoughts with the proper detail, so I here present what notes I have managed to jot down. Here goes: Continue reading
“And again He entered into Capharnaum after some days. And it was heard that He was in the house, and many came together, so that there was no room; no, not even at the door; and He spoke to them the word. And they came to Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four. And when they could not offer him unto Him for the multitude, they uncovered the roof where He was; and opening it, they let down the bed wherein the man sick of the palsy lay. And when Jesus had seen their faith, He saith to the sick of the palsy: Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Gospel of St. Mark 2:1-5
I heard Fr. John Riccardo read this passage on Relevant Radio yesterday. It struck me that the miraculous healing of the paralytic vindicates the Catholic teaching on the intercession of the saints:
1.) Our Lord did not come to the paralytic, and the paralytic did not come to Our Lord alone. Instead, four men–apparently strong men–carried the paralytic, made their way through the crowd, lifted the paralytic up to the roof of the building, opened the roof, and lowered the paralytic down into the room. The paralytic’s helpers had to do a lot of work before Our Lord did His work. Continue reading
Protestants and Catholics profess different beliefs about how justification works. Let’s go with three realistic examples:
1a) An “evangelical” (sic) has a “born again” experience at the age of thirteen. He professes that he is saved for all time. The Catholic Church denies that this is how justification works.
2a) The evangelical is later baptized with water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Catholic Church acknowledges that this Baptism *might* be valid, but it’s unclear whether it actually justifies a believer who remains enmeshed in culpable heresy or credulity. So the question of whether this Baptism justifies is, from the Catholic perspective, an open question to be assessed on an individual level (I guess). According to the evangelical, Baptism has no objective effect on his salvation. Continue reading
Seems like I haven’t been able to get in any decent writing recently, not even on this, my summer vacation. Lest I forget, here are some jottings that I hope to develop into posts later:
–the meaning of perfidis in the traditional Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; how this term relates to 1.) a covenantal understanding of Christ’s Passion, 2.) the spiritual blindness mentioned in the same prayer, and 3.) our own identity as the Chosen People of the New Testament
–how to integrate our understanding of Christ’s Passion as both a martyrdom undertaken in defense of truth and as a propitiatory sacrifice; “the medium is the message”
–Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli as apostle of the Driftless Area; missions to the Indians, Frenchmen, Irish immigrants, and Anglo-American converts; temperance movement
–God’s “inscrutable will” (per Fr. Mazzuchelli), Pope Francis on the “God of Surprises,” and Fr. Feeney on divine surprises
–thoughts on the so-called debitum peccati, which is the speculative account of how exactly Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception relates to the Adam’s sin, if at all; the role of Christ’s Cross and the Immaculate Conception as the ultimate victory of the Cross; debitum Redemptoris or debitum Crucis as an alternative explanation; we inherit Original Sin for lack of the application of redemptive grace Continue reading
In his poem “Reflections on a Flea,” Fr. Leonard Feeney wrote:
“And by the way,
Speaking of how to pray,
Dogmas come first, not liturgies.”
This claim encapsulates one side in a contemporary debate concerning the best method of evangelization. Some prefer the so-called “path of beauty.” Some prefer the “path of truth.” Without denigrating the role of beautiful liturgy, I prefer the “path of truth.”
Consider that in the Early Church catechumens attended only the so-called Missa Catechumenorum, which is the overtly catechetical first part of the Mass. Only the baptized — the fully catechized and initiated — attended the Missa Fidelium, which is the overtly sacrificial part of the Mass beginning with the Offertory. In other words, it is catechesis that makes sense of the liturgy. Many who argue for the “path of beauty” seem to want the liturgical experience to substitute for or drive catechesis. This is the opposite extreme from the post-Vatican II over-emphasis on the “Liturgy of the Word.” I would say, it is doctrinal Faith that makes sense of the liturgy, not the other way around, even though the liturgy itself has an eschatological and sacrificial reality that transcends catechesis. Participation in the Mass is more the end than the means of evangelization; as Fr. Feeney said, dogmas still come first.
So many ideas occur to me, and I can’t develop them. Either more immediate needs take precedence, or I wile away the hours on something trifling. When I recall the many thoughts both subtle and sublime that have passed through my mind, and I survey the meager record I have left of them, I get melancholic. And with melancholy come memories of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” or I quote Nero’s dying words, “What an artist dies in me.”
But enough of that. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s good to publish your half-formed ideas. Who knows who might develop these thoughts, and do better with them than I could? So today I focus on a key element of the Catholic Faith and of Catholic practice: the communicability of perfection:
1.) The Father communicates to the Son everything that the Father has, save Fatherhood. This includes the Father’s identity as source of the Holy Ghost. The “Filioque” is essential. Continue reading