Communicating Perfection

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

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Each day between today (Jan. 18th, regardless of the date stamp above) and next Wednesday (Jan. 25th), I encourage you all to pray the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. For each day’s prayers, I refer you here (http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2015/01/traditional-catholic-prayers-for-week.html). For some background on this prayer octave, I refer you here (http://church.atonementonline.com/wp-content/uploads/Octave-of-Prayer-for-Christian-Unity.pdf).

The octave lasts from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome (Jan. 18th) until the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25th). You can learn more about today’s feast here (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2017/01/the-two-feasts-of-st-peters-chair.html#.WIAQSGciyM9). The first day’s prayer intention is for the return of the “other sheep” to the One Fold of Christ. In honor of today’s feast, here is a photo of the Altar of the Chair in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. As I understand it, the throne above the altar is a reliquary containing the relics of St. Peter’s cathedra (chair). 015 Continue reading

Twilight of the Idols, Part II: A Conversation at the Pearly Gates

St. Peter: Next up.

C.S. Lewis: Hmm . . . hello. Are you . . . St. Peter?

St. Peter: Yes, don’t the keys and the papal tiara indicate that?

Lewis: Erm, yes. <Starts to turn pale.>

St. Peter: Well, time for the standard questions. First question: At the moment of your death, did you believe with divine faith in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Lewis: Pardon? Continue reading

Twilight of the Idols, Part I: A Riddle

“For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.” Mat. 24:24

The purpose of this piece is to expose the prejudice that some Catholics exhibit when considering the life and the work of a specific Protestant author. Here, the prejudice is in the Protestant author’s favor. I intend to point out why this prejudice is incorrect. Let’s start:

Catholic missionaries evangelized the region around Nagasaki, Japan, in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Then the Japanese government turned against the Catholics, martyred the priests, and forced the Church underground. After Japan began to open up to the Western world in the 1800s, a Catholic priest arrived. A group of wary local women approached him and asked three questions (I paraphrase):

1.) Do you venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary?
2.) Do you obey the Pope of Rome?
3.) Do you have a wife?

The priest answered Yes to first two questions and No to the last one. The women then went away. Sometime later, the men of their village returned to the priest, revealing that they were “Kakure Kirishitan,” the secret Christians of Japan.* Continue reading

Pickler of the Stars of Night

The Communion hymn at Mass last Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Advent) was “Creator of the Stars of Night,” which is the English translation of “Conditor Alme Siderum.” Priests, monks, and nuns recite this hymn at Vespers during Advent. Reggie (Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D.) told us about “Conditor Alme Siderum” during our summer class in Rome back in 2007. As originally composed back in the early Middle Ages, the first word of the hymn was “conditor,” which should mean “creator, establisher,” from the verb “condo, condere” (“found, establish”). But because of the meter of the hymn, the stress falls on the second syllable (-di-), which would mean the word comes from the verb “condio, condire” (“pickle, preserve”). With that long-i, “conditor” would mean something like “condiment-maker.” Suffice it to say, don’t go to the early Middle Ages looking for stellar Latin (pun intended).
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“All who are truly Christ’s believe . . . the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin”

Regardless of the date that appears above, it’s still December 8 here in the Driftless. Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of the United States of America. In honor of our nation’s patronal feast day, I cite His Holiness Pope Pius XI’s encyclical letter Mortalium Animos (1928), emphasis added:

“Besides this, in connection with things which must be believed, it is nowise licit to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between those articles of faith which are fundamental and those which are not fundamental, as they say, as if the former are to be accepted by all, while the latter may be left to the free assent of the faithful: for the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God revealing, and this is patient of no such distinction. For this reason it is that all who are truly Christ’s believe, for example, the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin with the same faith as they believe the mystery of the August Trinity, and the Incarnation of our Lord just as they do the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, according to the sense in which it was defined by the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. Are these truths not equally certain, or not equally to be believed, because the Church has solemnly sanctioned and defined them, some in one age and some in another, even in those times immediately before our own? Has not God revealed them all?” (http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19280106_mortalium-animos.html)

Patronal Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle

Today, November 30, is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. St. Andrew is the patron saint of the church of the town where I live. This is fitting, as the town was founded by a Scotsman and St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. Here are two photographs of the statue of St. Andrew outside of the local church:

st-andrew-statue

The nave of the church is fittingly shaped like a ship (“nave” means “ship”); St. Andrew was a fisherman and is a patron saint of fishermen. Here’s a close up of the coat-of-arms beneath the statue:
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St. Sebastian: Bastion of Catholic Identity

This post is inspired by a homily that the parish priest at my home parish in Illinois* preached about a month ago. The Rio Olympics were in full swing, and the priest commented on American gymnast Simone Biles. He related that Biles, a Catholic, had a devotion to St. Sebastian and lit candles to him. I subsequently found out that St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes and of Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympics were held. The full name of Rio de Janeiro is São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, which in Portuguese means St. Sebastian of the River January (the Portuguese first landed there in January). This got me thinking about St. Sebastian’s role as an icon and bastion of Catholic identity.

Here are the basics of St. Sebastian’s story. He was a Roman soldier who was martyred during one of the persecutions inflicted on the Church by the Roman Emperors. He was sentenced to be tied to a tree and shot through with arrows. He miraculously survived the arrows, so he was clubbed to death. The Christians buried him in catacombs outside the city of Rome that have been called St. Sebastian’s Catacombs ever since. Now a basilica in St. Sebastian’s honor stands over the catacombs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Sebastiano_fuori_le_mura). Here’s a photo I took of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom as depicted on the ceiling (!) of the nave of the Basilica of St. Sebastian’s Outside the Walls:

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St. Sebastian became very popular in the Middle Ages for a number of reasons**. Here, I’ll focus on just one: the all-out awesomeness of his martyrdom. I think in many Catholics’ mind, the martyrdom of St. Sebastian is the template for their own perseverance in the face of persecution and temptation. If you think of it, his martyrdom is very reminiscent of Our Lord’s Crucifixion. He was bound to a tree, with his face to his persecutors, as they pierced his flesh. He is the patron saint of grit-your-teeth-and-take-it.

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The Decollation of St. John the Baptist

Today we honor the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Our Lord. According to Fr. Zuhlsdorf*, the feast began as the feast of the translation of St. John’s head to the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite** (St. Sylvester “in the Head”) in Rome. This basilica was the occasion of a serendipitous event when I was studying Latin with Fr. Reginald “Reggie” Foster, O.C.D., in Rome during the summer of 2007.

I was wandering around the Eternal City a few weeks into the class. Having already visited all of the main pilgrim churches (St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore, etc.), I muttered to myself, “I’m surprised I haven’t run into a head of St. John the Baptist. There’s supposed to be one in Rome.” I then looked up and saw a basilica I’d never noticed before, and said, “Really, *another* basilica? How many of these are there? Oh, well, ‘when in Rome.'” Upon entering, I discovered the shrine where they preserve what is purported to be the relic of St. John’s head (definitive proof is lacking).
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The Theology of the Rational Soul

This is a (partly) cranky post, about the theological and philosophical sediment of Pope St. John Paul II’s Papacy. It’s inspired by a post at Just Thomism about a contemporary Catholic theologian’s (?) attempt at theodicy. The author of the post points out that not all divine actions are best explained in terms of love. Some are better explained in terms of intellection.

I attribute the sentimental exaggeration of “love” to Pope St. John Paul II’s so-called “Theology of the Body” (TOB). This “theology” (this usage seems wrong; shouldn’t it be “theological school” or something like that?) seems to place the image and likeness of God primarily in the body. Traditionally, the Church has said this image and likeness resides primarily in the rational soul. Continue reading