Thursday, September 8, 2016

Does Anybody Really Know What Day It Is?

Today, September 8, is the date on which the Roman Catholic Church has, since approximately the Sixth Century, (in other words, for no more than about 1500 years) celebrated the birth of Our Lady, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  While it is far from the most solemn Marian feast day on the Church calendar, it's still a big one, because it's her birthday (or at least, the day we've chosen to celebrate it, because we don't really know exactly what day she was born.)  We love and honor Mary because Jesus gave her to us as our spiritual Mother as he hung in agony on the Cross, and because ever since that dark day her sole occupation has been to lead each and every one of us closer to her divine Son, all glory and honor to him forever and ever, Amen!  This, not to mention that as any good Catholic knows, we are pretty sure Jesus loves his Mother a lot, and that it makes him happy when we love her, too. 

Now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a nice email service that sends out the Scripture readings for each day's celebration of the Mass, very early in the morning.  They also have a general communications email service.  Anyone can subscribe to both of them at no cost by going to the USCCB website. I get the daily Mass readings and also subscribe to the general email blasts because every now and then they actually send out something really interesting or helpful.  So on the day the Church celebrates the birthday of Mary, our Blessed Mother, does the USCCB mention this, and perhaps suggest ways in which we might honor her in prayer, and ask her to intercede with her Son for us, and for others in need?  No.  In fact, there is no mention whatsoever of today's feast.

Instead, we get this:
"In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has invited faith communities across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities on September 9th.

To assist in observance of this occasion, USCCB is offering a Prayer for Peace in Our Communities prayer card."
How nice.  But not one word about the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.  That was the best that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could do today?

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm as big a booster as you'll find anywhere of prayer as our number one tool against everything bad in the world and in support of everything good, in this world and the next.  All prayer is good, and when groups of people get together to pray for the same things, it's even better.  It's especially handy for the salvation of souls through the redeeming grace of our Lord.  (You know, that's sort of why we think it's important to go to Mass at least once a week!)

But to the USCCB communications team I have to say: You, of all people, should be aware that in the entire liturgical year, the Church only celebrates the nativity of three people--Jesus, Mary, and St. John the Baptist.  Every other saint is honored either on the date of their death (i.e., their birth into eternal life), or some other important date, such as being ordained a bishop or being elected Pope. That would tend to suggest that, well, maybe the Church thinks those three people are kind of important, you know?  Nevertheless, your email blast completely ignored today's celebration of Mary's nativity. 

This is just poor judgment, at best.  The bishops are supposed to be the shepherds of the CATHOLIC Church in the USA, the Church that still gives the Virgin Mary the honor she deserves, when very nearly all others who profess the name of Christ have thrown her overboard except for a couple of weeks around Christmas each year.  But instead of making even the merest mention of today's celebration, a very Catholic day, the USCCB PR machine sends out a release that could have come from any Protestant.

Now, here's the other kicker, another complete swing and miss that really makes me wonder if anyone at the USCCB communications office ever looks at a Church calendar.  Did you perhaps wonder why the bishops chose tomorrow, September 9, as the day to call "faith communities" to prayer to end racial tension?  I have an idea: September 9 is the feast day of another Catholic Saint, St. Peter Claver.  Ever hear of him?  He was a 16th Century Spanish Jesuit priest, whose missionary work in South America was primarily dedicated to the corporal and spiritual needs of the thousands of Africans who were transported into Cartagena, Colombia to feed the slave trade in the New World.  He is now revered as the patron saint of slaves and African-Americans, so his feast day is a perfect time for this prayer effort. But the email communique' from the USCCB managed to miss that, too! Not a word about St. Peter Claver! 

Next year, my suggestion for the USCCB is:  By all means, have another call to ecumenical prayer for the end of racial tension in the US on September 9, the feast day of St. Peter Claver.   But try to remember to mention him in your announcement, and send it out a few days in advance.  Then, on September 8 you can send out a reminder for all us to celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  See how easy that is?

Good thing the bishops have me around to straighten them out, right?  :)

Laudator Jesus Christus! 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Re-Posting: The Coming Tribulation?

This was originally posted in November, 2015.  Now seems like a good time to review these observations.  One introductory paragraph has been deleted since it no longer applies.  The rest is copied mostly verbatim.

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

Francis Cardinal George, former Archbishop of Chicago (d. 2015)

I continue to be intrigued by one thread that seems to be running through many of the blog posts and comments I've been seeing: the idea that the Church is facing a crisis unlike any other in its history, and that the resemblance of the present situation to apocalyptic prophecies in 20th Century private revelations, especially Our Lady's appearances at Fatima and Akita, is strong enough to warrant the most serious concern.  The End is near!  Fear, fire, foes! Awake! (Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.)

Well, OK then.  It does seem clear to many (most?) of an orthodox mindset that the Church is indeed in a state of crisis, and I have a hard time disagreeing with such an assessment. See my August 10 (2015) post, for example.  To run through another brief summary of the "bad stuff":  In recent times we have witnessed the violent slaughter of many thousands of Christians (mostly Catholics and Orthodox) in the very birthplace of the Faith, together with wanton destruction of their churches and holy treasures, by barbaric Jihadists bent on eradication of everything and everyone that is not Muslim; the near total collapse of European Christendom; a seeming rush of North and South America to follow suit via declining Mass attendance, millions of annual defections to "evangelical" or "none" status, the enshrinement in secular law of false marriages and the concomitant state and media persecution of Catholics and Catholic institutions who refuse to affirm them; and a papacy that praises material heretics (e.g. certain German Cardinals) while excoriating as "pharisees" those who stand for traditional doctrine and practice, and which sometimes seems more concerned with pleasing the international secular media than with the salvation of souls and the preservation of the deposit of faith.  To be fair, at other times we hear strikingly orthodox statements and exhortations of the type to which we have grown accustomed over the past several pontificates.  (Confused?  So am I.)

Even so, however, is it really as bad as some maintain?  Stated another way, whatever the magnitude of the crisis, is it in fact unprecedented?  Or is it just another day in the life of the Church that Our Lord promised would prevail to "the close of the age" (Cf. Mt 16:18, 28:20), despite being constantly under attack? (Cf. Mt 5:10-11; 10:16-23).

After all, the Arian heresy had most of the bishops in the world in its grasp at one point, and it took not one, but two ecumenical Councils (Nicea and Constantinople) to put it to rest.  (See here.)  In fact, legend has it that the Council of Nicea included the spectacle of Saint Nicholas (yes, that Saint Nicholas) punching out the heresiarch himself, in full view of the entire assembly.  Indeed, one could argue that at least a stepchild of Arianism survives to this day in certain quarters, where Modernists (see extensive discussion of Modernism here) insist upon a distinction between "the historical Jesus" and "the Christ of faith."  The former, these enlightened scholars solemnly inform us, was merely a man, albeit a wise man and great teacher, while the latter, the Son of God co-equal and consubstantial with the Father, is a mythical construct of a self-interested Church fearful of "reason and truth", which virtues the Modernist claims as exclusively his own. We beg to differ.

In any case, there were other serious heresies throughout the early Church, not to mention two major schisms, first the departure of the Eastern churches in the Eleventh Century A.D., followed by the Protestant revolt in the Sixteenth.  Finally, let's not forget how close Christendom came to being swallowed up by the Muslim hordes, not long after Luther and Calvin took their toys and went home.  The Battle of Lepanto, at which a massive Ottoman fleet bent on the sack of Vienna was defeated by a coalition put together by Pope St. Pius V, was a close-run thing, and many (including St. Pius V) believed the victory to have been secured only through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. (See here.)  Now, those were crises!  Can today's situation match up, and more importantly, are we really on the verge of the Last Days?

In my view, the most likely answer to both queries is "no."  Nevertheless, it is not hard to understand why people are fretting.  I find myself doing it too, more often than I care to admit.  See that August 10, 2015 post again, for example.

Of course, I wasn't there for any of the events just listed, so I don't know what it was like for the lay faithful in those times.  But it seems pretty certain that most of them, given the absence of any sort of rapid communication over long distances and the general illiteracy of the vast majority of the population, didn't even know anything was wrong.  Taking the Arian case for example, if your average layman was told by his bishop that Jesus was not really a God-man, but a mere creature given great power by God the Father, he probably just shrugged or nodded and kept praying, and going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.  Ignorance was bliss, one might say with some degree of assurance.

For better or worse, we no longer have this luxury.  In our day and age, when even the most trivial matters can gain world-wide attention via social media in a matter of minutes or hours, we have immediate access at any given moment to more information than, until very recently, even the most industrious seeker of knowledge could have acquired in a lifetime.  We know of many things occurring in the Church at large and in the Holy See in particular that were never before open to all the world as they are now.  Frequently, the result is information overload, and unless we are very careful we can find ourselves, in the classic idiom, unable to see the forest for the trees.  In a more recent idiom, we suffer from "TMI", or "too much information."  In this light, it seems prudent to keep in mind the following:

First, we have the aforementioned guarantee of Jesus himself that his Church will survive until his return, and we should take some comfort in the fact that the Church has survived for nearly two millennia despite all the challenges She has faced.  This is not something to be taken lightly.  No human institution has ever lasted more than a few hundred years, and most didn't make it that long.  Only a Divine institution could still be around after this much time.  God is in charge; let him take care of it!

Second, recall the vast time scale of the Church and of Salvation History.  Even if we go back to the very dawn of humanity, we are only talking about a few thousand years.  This is nothing in the sight of God.  Man has a natural tendency to view all things through his own extremely limited lens, where around eighty years is an average lifetime and even a single hour, if spent with, say, an extremely boring speaker, can seem interminable.  When we add up all the bad news available to us now, we conclude rather easily that things could not possibly ever have been worse, so the end must be near.  But in the "big picture", we exist in a blink of God's eye.  Father John Zuhlsdorf, a/k/a Father Z, a prolific and excellent blogger of traditional bent, recently exhorted his readers:
I am trying to take the longer view.  I remind myself that each pontificate is a parenthesis in the long history of the Church and of our Salvation.  This parenthesis will close one day and another will open.
Wise advice from a wise and holy priest.

Third, recall and heed the advice Jesus gave the Apostles just before his Ascension:
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:6-8 (Emphasis supplied.)
It is not for us to know when the Last Days will come.  In the meantime, we share in the Great Commission given by the Lord here and in Mt 28:18-20.  See next point.

Fourth, there are only a few things we lay members of the Church Militant can do, and we ought to be doing all of them anyway.  We can share the Gospel of Christ with the world.  We can obey the Commandments.  We can pray, a lot.  We can fast.  We can perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  We can (must!) continue going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.  We can attend weekday Mass.  We can go to Confession regularly.  Cardinal Burke has encouraged us to stay faithful!  The great Twentieth Century Saint Pio (Padre Pio) frequently advised everyone to "Pray, hope and don't worry."

If we do all these things, we can rest assured of Christ's promise: the Church will prevail over the gates of Hell, and those who persevere will be saved.  In the end, it doesn't really matter when the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming will occur.  What I do know is that my Day of Judgment is coming, and even assuming I survive to a ripe old age, it's coming a lot faster than I like to think about.  The same applies to every one of us, regardless of age.

I conclude with another Scriptural quote, one of my favorites:
"Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him." Jn 14:1-7.
Laudator Jesus Christus!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

St. Raymond Nonnatus: Evangelizer of Muslims

Here is the brief story of another Saint of whom most people know nothing (which included yours truly until I read this article on EWTN's website), and whose feast day is today, August 31.  St. Raymond Nonnatus underwent severe mistreatment by Muslims for preaching the Gospel of Christ and converting (and saving) many souls.  May his example be of great value for us all in these darkening times.

St. Raymond, ora pro nobis!

St. Raymond Nonnatus
Feast: August 31
Feast Day:August 31
Born: 1204, La Portella, Comarca of Segrià, Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon
Died:August 31, 1240, Cardona, Province of Barcelona, Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon
Canonized:1657, Rome by Pope Alexander VII
Patron of:Childbirth; children; expectant mothers; falsely accused people; fever; infants; midwives; newborn babies; obstetricians; pregnant women

Born 1200 or 1204 at Portello in the Diocese of Urgel in Catalonia; died at Cardona, 31 August, 1240. His feast is celebrated on 31 August. He is pictured in the habit of his order surrounded by ransomed slaves, with a padlock on his lips. He was taken from the womb of his mother after her death, hence his name. Of noble but poor family, he showed early traits of piety and great talent. His father ordered him to tend a farm, but later gave him permission to take the habit with the Mercedarians at Barcelona, at the hands of the founder, St. Peter Nolasco. Raymond made such progress in the religious life that he was soon considered worthy to succeed his master in the office of ransomer. He was sent to Algiers and liberated many captives. When money failed he gave himself as a hostage. He was zealous in teaching the Christian religion and made many converts, which embittered the Mohammedan authorities. Raymond was subjected to all kinds of indignities and cruelty, was made to run the gauntlet, and was at last sentenced to impalement. The hope of a greater sum of money as ransom caused the governor to commute the sentence into imprisonment. To prevent him from preaching for Christ, his lips were pierced with a red-hot iron and closed with a padlock. After his arrival in Spain, in 1239, he was made a cardinal by Gregory IX. In the next year he was called to Rome by the pope, but came only as far as Cardona, about six miles from Barcelona, where he died. His body was brought to the chapel of St. Nicholas near his old farm. In 1657 his name was placed in the Roman martyrology by Alexander VII. He is invoked by women in labour and by persons falsely accused. The appendix to the Roman ritual gives a formula for the blessing of water, in his honour, to be used by the sick, and another of candles.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia; emphasis added)

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Passion of St. John the Baptist--But, Mercy!

Today the Church commemorates the passion, that is, the suffering and martyrdom, of St. John the Baptist, he who prepared the way of the Lord, baptizing Him in the Jordan and preaching of his coming.

And why was he martyred?  For telling the truth to someone who didn't want to hear it.  He told King Herod that he was an adulterer for "marrying" his brother's wife while his brother was still alive. This somewhat displeased the woman in question, Herodias, who took advantage of her "husband's" rampant lust for her daughter and forced him to have John executed.  See Mark 6: 17-29; Matthew 14: 1-12. 

St. Ambrose, in his Treatise Concerning Virgins, (the third Reading for today's Matins prayers in the traditional Office) states in part:

 “We must not hurry past the record of blessed Baptist John. We must ask what he was; by whom he was slain; and why and how. He was a righteous man, murdered for his righteousness by adulterers. He was a judge, who suffered condemnation to death by the guilty ones because he had justly judged their guilt. He was the prophet whose death was a fee paid to a dancing-girl for a lascivious dance."

Imprisoned and later killed for speaking the truth to those who knew their own guilt but sought to pretend righteousness, John the Baptist is a type for the Church today, which is reviled and scorned and legally attacked for trying to uphold God's moral law.  Oh, wait... 

 At least, it used to be.  These days, we're not really hearing much from the Church about heroes like John the Baptist or St. Thomas More, who similarly lost his head for refusing to condone his king's adulterous desires.  Instead, we're told by various bishops and cardinals that we who stand up for Christ's definition of adultery are "Pharisees" and "fundamentalists" who "throw stones at people's lives."  You can verify all those statements, and more like them, quite easily with a word search or two.  Try names like Paglia, Schornborn, Kasper, Marx...and Francis. Or Bergoglio, as he still apparently prefers to be known, having re-upped his Argentinian passport in that name. 

Yeah, him.  I'm sorry, but I can't let this go. The guy who is supposed to be in charge of defending the Deposit of Faith seems hell-bent (no pun intended) on forcing priests worldwide to give Holy Communion to "the divorced and remarried"--in other words, to persons living in open and notorious adultery, which he and his fellow travelers prefer to call "irregular unions." Don't believe that?  I guess you haven't read the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which attempts to justify such a practice, among other problems.  Never mind those guys who were martyred for insisting that when Jesus defined divorce and "remarriage" as adultery, he meant it.  Because, you know, mercy.  Without repentance and conversion of heart, without a firm purpose of amendment, without any commitment whatsoever to cease engaging in mortal sin as Jesus Himself and His Church have defined it since the beginning.  You see, these definitions are too harsh, too...unmerciful.  As if these men, these fallen humans, can better define mercy than God can.  Righty-o, gentlemen, you go!  That guy Jesus, well, maybe he wasn't really God after all, you know, since he didn't really multiply the loaves and fishes, 'cuz that was just, you know, a miracle of "sharing" according to Bergoglio.  So why should we get hung up on what he said about adultery?

I would really like to see these prelates stand before John the Baptist and Thomas More and tell them how their martyrdom still means anything once unrepentant adulterers are admitted to Holy Communion.  What I don't want to see or imagine, because I really don't want any soul forever to be lost, is those same bishops and cardinals standing before the Lord trying to explain themselves, unless they reverse this perilous course before then.  I pray daily for their conversion of heart.  You should, too. 

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

If You Were Accused Of Being A Christian, Would You Be Convicted?

You may have noticed that I am no longer posting under the assumed user name Aquinas_54.  I also have changed my profile on Disqus and WordPress to substitute my real name for that user name.  The purpose of this post is to explain why I have done this, although the title above pretty much gives that away.

The purpose of this blog is to witness to and discuss my Catholic faith and Catholicism in general, which means to witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ.  For some time I have done as many, many others do in social media, and with the sole exception of Facebook, have posted comments and essays and tweets under assumed names.  My reasons were probably much like most other folks: fear of being personally attacked, stalked, fired from my job (no longer an issue since I'm retired now), or even, as seems increasingly likely in our anti-Christian culture, legally harassed or arrested for what I write.

Well, I'm done with that.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ means being willing to take whatever this fallen world sends our way.  Jesus made clear again and again to his disciples that they should expect to be persecuted and hated, imprisoned and even killed for His sake.  He never promised us an easy road.  Let's take a quick look at some of Our Lord's own words in Sacred Scripture:
(Matthew 10) [32] So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. [34] "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; [36] and a man's foes will be those of his own household. [37] He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; [38] and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
Amid all the warnings, let's not forget, our Lord also promised great things to those who follow him.  See, for example, the Beatitudes, the opening salvo, as it were, of the great Sermon on the Mount:
(Matthew 5) [10] "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11]"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you"
That's pretty straightforward talk.  And it's God the Son doing the talking.  Somewhat belatedly, it occurred to me not long ago that by masking my social media utterances behind an assumed name, I was failing to acknowledge Jesus Christ before men.  And I was ignoring his warning that being his disciple is not a path to tranquility in this world, but in the next.  The question I used for the title of this post is one I've heard before, though I don't recall where, but it certainly provides food for thought, doesn't it?  When I stand before my Lord at the hour of my death and face his judgment, I want the answer to that question to be a clear and ringing YES! 

Am I being a big brave guy by doing this?  No, I don't think so.  After all, this isn't a totalitarian dictatorship or Islamic caliphate...yet.  And I have no job or business to lose, no children for whom to fear.  I'll admit I am still a little bit worried about how some of my friends may react to the things I write (and have written, now searchable...yikes!), and maybe even concerned about all the other people "out there" who may see my words and find them offensive, hateful, bigoted, stupid, or whatever other labels they may have for someone who tries to adhere to the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church.  But that's what being a real Christian means.  He told us so himself.  It's time to pay attention and practice what I preach.  If that means I lose some friends, then maybe those people aren't really my friends in the first place.

God bless everyone, and onward we march!

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Saint Augustine of Hippo, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

In the Novus Ordo liturgical calendar, today (August 28) is the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, (354-430), one of the more successful of all converts to the Faith (after the original Apostles, of course, who were all converts!)  However, the feast is superseded by the weekly Sunday solemnity, so it may not be mentioned at Mass.

Augustine is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant theologians in Christian history. He is among the 36 men and women designated as Doctors of the Church.  What does this mean? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"The requisite conditions are enumerated as three: eminens doctrina, insignis vitae sanctitas, Ecclesiae declaratio (i.e. eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and proclamation by the Church). Benedict XIV explains the third as a declaration by the supreme pontiff or by a general council. But though general councils have acclaimed the writings of certain Doctors, no council has actually conferred the title of Doctor of the Church. In practice the procedure consists in extending to the universal church the use of the Office and Mass of a saint in which the title of doctor is applied to him. The decree is issued by the Congregation of Sacred Rites and approved by the pope, after a careful examination, if necessary, of the saint's writings. It is not in any way an ex cathedra decision, nor does it even amount to a declaration that no error is to be found in the teaching of the Doctor. It is, indeed, well known that the very greatest of them are not wholly immune from error. No martyr has ever been included in the list, since the Office and the Mass are for Confessors. Hence, as Benedict XIV points out, St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, and St. Cyprian are not called Doctors of the Church." [Note: although this entry is from the "old" C.E. which dates back to the first half of the 20th Century, the procedure and requisites for naming a Doctor of the Church remain essentially the same today.]
Augustine was an original party animal, who spent his youth and early adulthood pursuing an openly hedonistic lifestyle, to the great distress of his mother, (St. Monica, who prayed for his conversion for many years), before he finally took instruction in the Christian Faith from St. Ambrose of Milan and was baptized. His prolific writings are a source of many famous quotations. One of my favorites: "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depends on you."
My other favorite is: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

Despite Augustine's towering intellect and years of study, even he was unable to develop a rational way to understand the greatest of all Christian mysteries, the Holy Trinity. At the conclusion of a lengthy and densely-reasoned treatise on the subject, (nearly 100 pages in my English translation), Augustine concluded that the Trinity is beyond human comprehension. Heck, I could have told him that in a lot fewer words.

One very interesting thing about St. Augustine's writings is the degree to which some Protestants purport to be subscribers to his theology.  Calvinists, especially, are inclined to do this.  Their adherence to Augustine's thought is, of course, highly selective, ignoring the many aspects of his writings which are undeniably and completely Catholic.  But I still find it fascinating, and it is, I think, an indication of just how brilliant Augustine's theology is.

St. Augustine, ora pro nobis!

Laudator Jesus Christus 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Feast of St. Louis IX of France (Yes, THAT St. Louis!)

Today the Church honors Louis IX of France, the patron of the great City of St. Louis, Missouri, where I and two generations of my forebears entered this world.  My first knowledge of this Saint came from the famous statue that stands in front of the Art Museum in St. Louis, a work by C.H. Niehaus entitled "The Apotheosis of St. Louis."

My parents, who were semi-practicing Presbyterians, couldn't explain to me what the title "Saint" meant, other than to say it was a great honor of some kind.  They did not, to their credit, use it as an occasion to bash the Catholic Church.  Upon my conversion and entry into the Church in 2005, after I started paying attention to the solemnities, feasts and memorials of the liturgical calendar, I was pleased to learn more about the man for whom the city of my birth was named.  Here are the last few paragraphs from the Catholic Encyclopedia's quite lengthy entry about St. Louis:

"St. Louis led an exemplary life, bearing constantly in mind his mother's words: "I would rather see you dead at my feet than guilty of a mortal sin." His biographers have told us of the long hours he spent in prayer, fasting, and penance, without the knowledge of his subjects. The French king was a great lover of justice. French fancy still pictures him delivering judgements under the oak of Vincennes. It was during his reign that the "court of the king" (curia regis) was organized into a regular court of justice, having competent experts, and judicial commissions acting at regular periods. These commissions were called parlements and the history of the "Dit d'Amiens" proves that entire Christendom willingly looked upon him as an international judiciary. It is an error, however, to represent him as a great legislator; the document known as "Etablissements de St. Louis" was not a code drawn up by order of the king, but merely a collection of customs, written out before 1273 by a jurist who set forth in this book the customs of Orléans, Anjou, and Maine, to which he added a few ordinances of St. Louis.
St. Louis was a patron of architecture. The Sainte Chappelle, an architectural gem, was constructed in his reign, and it was under his patronage that Robert of Sorbonne founded the "Collège de la Sorbonne," which became the seat of the theological faculty of Paris.
He was renowned for his charity. The peace and blessings of the realm come to us through the poor he would say. Beggars were fed from his table, he ate their leavings, washed their feet, ministered to the wants of the lepers, and daily fed over one hundred poor. He founded many hospitals and houses: the House of the Felles-Dieu for reformed prostitutes; the Quinze-Vingt for 300 blind men (1254), hospitals at Pontoise, Vernon, Compiégne.
The Enseignements (written instructions) which he left to his son Philip and to his daughter Isabel, the discourses preserved by the witnesses at judicial investigations preparatory to his canonization and Joinville's anecdotes show St. Louis to have been a man of sound common sense, possessing indefatigable energy, graciously kind and of playful humour, and constantly guarding against the temptation to be imperious. The caricature made of him by the envoy of the Count of Gueldre: "worthless devotee, hypocritical king" was very far from the truth. On the contrary, St. Louis, through his personal qualities as well as his saintliness, increased for many centuries the prestige of the French monarchy (see FRANCE). St. Louis's canonization was proclaimed at Orvieto in 1297, by Boniface VIII. Of the inquiries in view of canonization, carried on from 1273 till 1297, we have only fragmentary reports published by Delaborde ("Mémoires de la société de l'histoire de Paris et de l'Ilea de France," XXIII, 1896) and a series of extracts compiled by Guillaume de St. Pathus, Queen Marguerite's confessor, under the title of "Vie Monseigneur Saint Loys" (Paris, 1899)."

You can read the whole thing here.

Laudator Jesus Christus! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

The Church, in both the traditional and Novus Ordo calendar, today honors St. Bartholomew, Apostle.  As the following entry shows (copied from The Catholic Encyclopedia via EWTN's website), not a great deal is known about this man, one of the Twelve who, as was the case with all but St. John the Evangelist, won the crown of martyrdom for the Faith.

St. Bartholomew, pray for us!

St. Bartholomew
Feast: August 24

Feast Day:August 24
1st century AD, Iudaea Province (Palaestina)
Died: 1st century AD, Armenia
Major Shrine:Bartholomew-on-the-Tiber Church, Rome, the Canterbury Cathedral, cathedral in Frankfurt, and the San Bartolomeo Cathedral in Lipari
Patron of:Armenia; bookbinders; butchers; cobblers; Florentine cheese merchants; Florentine salt merchants; leather workers; nervous diseases; neurological diseases; plasterers; shoemakers; tanners; trappers; twitching; whiteners

One of the Twelve Apostles, mentioned sixth in the three Gospel lists (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14), and seventh in the list of Acts (1:13).

The name (Bartholomaios) means "son of Talmai" (or Tholmai) which was an ancient Hebrew name, borne, e.g. by the King of Gessur whose daughter was a wife of David (2 Samuel 3:3). It shows, at least, that Bartholomew was of Hebrew descent; it may have been his genuine proper name or simply added to distinguish him as the son of Talmai. Outside the instances referred to, no other mention of the name occurs in the New Testament.

Nothing further is known of him for certain. Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel (John 1:45-51; 21:2). The reasons for this are that Bartholomew is not the proper name of the Apostle; that the name never occurs in the Fourth Gospel, while Nathaniel is not mentioned in the synoptics; that Bartholomew's name is coupled with Philip's in the lists of Matthew and Luke, and found next to it in Mark, which agrees well with the fact shown by St. John that Philip was an old friend of Nathaniel's and brought him to Jesus; that the call of Nathaniel, mentioned with the call of several Apostles, seems to mark him for the apostolate, especially since the rather full and beautiful narrative leads one to expect some important development; that Nathaniel was of Galilee where Jesus found most, if not all, of the Twelve; finally, that on the occasion of the appearance of the risen Savior on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Nathaniel is found present, together with several Apostles who are named and two unnamed Disciples who were, almost certainly, likewise Apostles (the word "apostle" not occurring in the Fourth Gospel and "disciple" of Jesus ordinarily meaning Apostle) and so, presumably, was one of the Twelve. This chain of circumstantial evidence is ingenious and pretty strong; the weak link is that, after all, Nathaniel may have been another personage in whom, for some reason, the author of the Fourth Gospel may have been particularly interested, as he was in Nicodemus, who is likewise not named in the synoptics.

No mention of St. Bartholomew occurs in ecclesiastical literature before Eusebius, who mentions that Pantaenus, the master of Origen, while evangelizing India, was told that the Apostle had preached there before him and had given to his converts the Gospel of St. Matthew written in Hebrew, which was still treasured by the Church. "India" was a name covering a very wide area, including even Arabia Felix. Other traditions represent St. Bartholomew as preaching in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea; one legend, it is interesting to note, identifies him with Nathaniel.

The manner of his death, said to have occurred at Albanopolis in Armenia, is equally uncertain; according to some, he was beheaded, according to others, flayed alive and crucified, head downward, by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia. On account of this latter legend, he is often represented in art (e.g. in Michelangelo's Last Judgment) as flayed and holding in his hand his own skin. His relics are thought by some to be preserved in the church of St. Bartholomew-in-the-Island, at Rome. His feast is celebrated on 24 August. An apocryphal gospel of Bartholomew existed in the early ages.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia)

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wisdom of Solomon- Words For Our Time

Here I am again. I run hot and cold with this blog, and haven't posted anything since February. I came very close to shutting down and deleting everything, but then I recalled how much time goes into even the briefest posts, and decided to let it live a while longer.

Today I will share something I posted over on Facebook under my real name. :)  It struck me while praying Matins today...

From today's first and second Lessons in Matins, in the Traditional Divine Office.  Some secular as well as Church leaders ought to pay attention. They most likely won't, of course.  But pray for them anyway. 🙏🏻

Wisdom Chapter 6

1 Wisdom is better than strength, and a wise man is better than a strong man.
2 Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: learn, ye that are judges of the ends of the earth.
3 Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations:
4 For power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the most High, who will examine your works, and search out your thoughts:
5 Because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God.
6 Horribly and speedily will he appear to you: for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule. 7 For to him that is little, mercy is granted: but the mighty shall be mightily tormented.
8 For God will not except any man's person, neither will he stand in awe of any man's greatness: for he made the little and the great, and he hath equally care of all. 9 But a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty.

Laudator Jesus Christus. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Second Sunday of Lent: The Transfiguration of Christ

The Gospel reading in both Traditional and Novus Ordo Masses for the Second Sunday of Lent was the Transfiguration of the Lord, from Chapter 17 of the Gospel of St. Matthew (Traditional) or St. Luke (N.O., year C for 2016.)  Here is the passage from Luke, in the RSV-CE translation.  (I know the "official" translation for the United States is the RNAB, but I simply cannot bring myself to use it. Bad enough that I have to listen to it at Mass.  The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things magazine, used to call the NAB translation "unfortunate."  He was, of course, being charitable.)
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.  And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah,  who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.  Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah" -- not knowing what he said.  As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"  And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. Lk 9:28-36.
I have always found this account, essentially the same in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, to be both puzzling and slightly amusing in its depiction of Peter's reaction to the vision.  First, the puzzle: How did Peter (and, presumably, James and John also) know that the two men were who appeared with Jesus were Moses and Elijah (or Elias, in the TLM translation)?  Both had been dead for centuries, and we can be fairly certain they were not wearing name tags.  Was this knowledge simply placed in the Apostles' consciousness by Divine action?  That's the best option I can think of, since none of the Scriptural accounts tell us what happened.  Second, the humor: Peter's offer to build booths (or tents, or tabernacles, again depending on the translation) for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, resembles nothing so much as the babbling of an extraordinarily frightened man.  Luke even seems to make reference to this, noting that Peter spoke "not knowing what he said."  The common homiletic suggestion that Peter was trying to "preserve the moment" assumes, in my view, a most unrealistic degree of calm acceptance of the miracle on Peter's part.  Keep in mind that Peter was a manual laborer, accustomed to such tasks as repairing his fishing boat and sewing torn nets.  Confronted with the astounding vision of the transfigured Christ and his two unusual visitors, it seems natural that he would fall back on something he knew-in this case, suggesting the building of a temporary shelter, as a sort of defense mechanism against the power of the miraculous vision.  We see in this story and elsewhere in the Gospels plenty of evidence that Peter was, despite his clear position as the leader of the Apostles, just an ordinary man, a sinner like the rest of us, and here, his instinctive response totally missed the point of the whole event.  My reaction probably would have been even worse.  In any case, I tend to imagine Jesus doing a divine eye-roll at the apostle's tent-building suggestion, even though he must have known in advance that it would occur.  So much for the humor.

The homily I heard this week concentrated on the Father's command, (This is my Son...listen to him!), a sound and salutary point.  We were reminded, among other things, that the intended audience of the Father's voice was not only Peter, James and John, but all of us who live and have lived through the millennia since the time our Lord walked this Earth. We believe, after all, that Sacred Scripture is the living Word of God, through which the Triune God speaks to us every time we read or hear it, and it greatly behooves us to pay attention!

But as always with the Scriptures, there are layers of meaning here, and there is only so much that even the most effective preacher can say in ten minutes or so; thus, we are always called to enter more deeply into the Word than is possible during the short time allotted for the Liturgy of the Word and the homily.  In this instance, let's take a look at how St. Thomas Aquinas discussed the Transfiguration in his greatest work, the Summa Theologica.  Among many other points, the Angelic Doctor suggests that the Lord's glorified appearance was a foretaste of that which we all hope to attain, the resurrection of our own bodies in eternal glory and the "beatific vision" of Christ:
"Therefore it was fitting that He should show His disciples the glory of His clarity (which is to be transfigured), to which He will configure those who are His; according to Philippians 3:21: "(Who) will reform the body of our lowness configured [Douay: 'made like'] to the body of His glory." Hence Bede says on Mark 8:39: "By His loving foresight He allowed them to taste for a short time the contemplation of eternal joy, so that they might bear persecution bravely." Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.45.1 (Emphasis added.)
In addition, St. Thomas draws an allegorical (or is it anagogical?) comparison with the Lord's Baptism, in showing how both events, which he calls the "first regeneration" and the "second regeneration", reveal the Holy Trinity:
"Just as in the Baptism, where the mystery of the first regeneration was proclaimed, the operation of the whole Trinity was made manifest, because the Son Incarnate was there, the Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove, and the Father made Himself known in the voice; so also in the transfiguration, which is the mystery of the second regeneration, the whole Trinity appears--the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud; for just as in baptism He confers innocence, signified by the simplicity of the dove, so in the resurrection will He give His elect the clarity of glory and refreshment from all sorts of evil, which are signified by the bright cloud. Summa Theologica, III.45.4. (Emphasis added.)
Thus, as we enter the second full week of the discipline of Lent, aided by the exegesis of St. Thomas, the story of the Transfiguration gives us spiritual meat to replace whatever we sacrifice (including, of course, abstaining from meat at least on Friday, if not other days of our own choosing), by pointing our hearts to the purpose of our journey--to reach the eternal home where:
"[t]here shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever." Rev. 22:3-5.

God's blessings to all, for a holy and rewarding second week of Lent.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Christ Cleanses the Temple: Respect for God's House

Yesterday's Gospel reading at the Traditional Mass was the story of Jesus running the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals out of the Jerusalem Temple, from Matthew 21:10-17:
At that time, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was thrown into commotion, saying, Who is this? But the crowds kept on saying, This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus entered the temple of God, and cast out all those who were selling and buying in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold the doves. And He said to them, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But the chief priests and the Scribes, seeing the wonderful deeds that He did, and the children crying out in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, were indignant, and said to Him, Do You hear what these are saying? And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings You have perfected praise’? And leaving them, He went out of the city to Bethany and He stayed there.
The standard exegesis of this passage is the righteous anger of our Lord at the desecration of the Father's house, coupled with one of the many examples of the "chief priests and the Scribes" getting upset with him.  But an additional view is provided by the Readings from Matins for the same day, from a sermon by the Venerable Bede, Priest (emphasis added):
If, therefore, the Lord would not have to be sold in the temple, even such things as He willed should be offered therein, (On account, that is, of the greed or dishonesty which is often the stain of such transactions,) with what anger, suppose ye, would He visit such as He might find laughing or gossiping there, or yielding to any other sin? If the Lord suffer not to be carried on in His house such worldly business as may be freely done elsewhere, how much more shall such things as ought never to be done anywhere, draw down the anger of God if they be done in His own holy house?
 How much more, indeed!  It never before occurred to me, I am sorry to admit, that the way we behave at church should be measured by the criteria Jesus applied to the money-changers and merchants in the Temple, but now it seems obvious.  This should be a sobering thought for all the faithful, calling for an examination of conscience concerning all aspects of our actions before and after Mass, as well as how we dress for the occasion.  We are there for prayer, worship and, if properly disposed, receiving the Blessed Sacrament, not to attend a social club or be entertained.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Sheep and the Goats: Faith and Works

Today, in both the Traditional and Novus Ordo calendars, the Gospel reading at Holy Mass was the parable of the sheep and the goats, taken from the Gospel of St. Matthew.  Here it is, in the English translation used in the Traditional Mass:

Matt. 25:31-46
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: When the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory; and before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of My Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; naked and you covered Me; sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the just will answer Him, saying; ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You; or thirsty, and give you to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and take You in; or naked, and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And, answering, the king will say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of My brethren, you did it for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left hand, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give Me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for Me.’ And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life."
Shortly after my personal conversion experience nearly twelve years ago, converting to the Catholic Church from my Presbyterian heritage, I began my first extensive and serious reading of Sacred Scripture.  When I encountered this passage I found it to be a decisive refutation of the doctrine of "sola fide" advanced by Luther and others in the 16th Century.  If "faith alone" saves us, what is Jesus talking about here?  His words make it abundantly clear that we are required to act on our faith, not just profess and hold it, and that if we fail to act, by performing the corporal works of mercy, the result is "everlasting punishment."  He doesn't mention any exceptions.  In my further studies in preparation for becoming Catholic, I learned that while the Church absolutely does not teach that we can "earn" Heaven by works of mercy, it does teach, in harmony with the words of Jesus quoted above, that salvation can be lost if we fail to do them.

The parable also appears in today's Matins readings for the traditional Divine Office, as well as, somewhat to my surprise, an argument against "salvation by faith alone" in a homily given by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo--in the Fourth Century!  I had always assumed Luther et al. had come up with "sola fide" themselves, but obviously there were others who were arguing that erroneous position even back in the time of Augustine.  So here is what that great Saint and Doctor of the Church had to say about it:

Homily by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.
On Faith and Works, xv. 4.
"If, without keeping the commandments, it be possible to attain unto life by faith only, and faith, if it hath not works, is dead, James ii. 17, how can it be true that the Lord will say to such as He shall have set on His left hand Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels? He rebuketh them, not because they have not believed in Him, but because they have not wrought good works. ..."
The parable of the sheep and the goats is not, of course, the only Gospel passage refuting the notion of salvation by faith alone.  Recall the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said:
"Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it." Mt 7:21-27
The same message is conveyed in the Sermon on the Plain in St. Luke's Gospel (Lk 6:46-49), but I won't restate it here.  I think you get my drift.  Unless we follow the Second Great Commandment, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and act on that Commandment by coming to the aid of our neighbors in need, all the faith in the world will not be enough by itself to open the gates of Heaven to us.

Let us take the opportunity afforded by the discipline of Lent to convert our hearts to obedience to Christ's teachings, in all things, especially performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  The Savior's own words tell us that faith alone is not enough to attain our eternal goal.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

First Sunday of Lent: The Temptation of Christ

Traditionally, on this first Sunday of Lent, the Church hears and teaches about the temptation of Our Lord in the desert (or wilderness, depending on your Bible translation) by none other than Satan himself, the Father of Lies.  In the Traditional liturgy, the Gospel reading today is always from St. Matthew, as follows:
Matt. 4:1-11
At that time, Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread. But He answered and said, It is written, ‘Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took Him into the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He has given His angels charge concerning You; and upon their hands they shall bear You up, lest You dash Your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, It is written further, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. And he said to Him, All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me. Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan, for it is written, ‘The Lord your God shall you worship and Him only shall you serve.’ Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
(Copied from

In the Novus Ordo, this liturgical year is "Year C", so the Gospel is from St. Luke, but it is essentially the same story, although the order of the second and third temptations is reversed.

What interests me the most about this Gospel is how it shows us that even Lucifer, who possesses the highly elevated intellect of an angel (albeit a fallen one), remains unsure whether Jesus is in fact the Son of God, God made Man.  Tradition teaches that it was God's revelation to his Angels of his intention to incarnate the Son as a man to redeem humanity which led Lucifer to revolt against God in the first place, taking a third of the angels to Hell along with him; these we now know as demons.  Yet even so, Lucifer felt the need to subject Jesus to these temptations in an effort to make sure of His identity as the Son.  I think he was finally convinced after his temptations failed to have any effect on our Lord.

Another interesting and very important point for all of us to keep in mind is the Devil's obvious knowledge of Scripture, which at that time consisted only of what we now call the Old Testament.  This reminds us to exercise the greatest of care in discernment whenever we are presented with arguments or contentions about our faith and the Church, even when cast in Scriptural terms or context.

One of the best commentaries I have seen on today's Gospel comes from the illustrious Jesuit scholar Fr. John A. Hardon, of happy memory, whose teaching hearkens back to the days when faithful Catholics could actually trust priests of the Society of Jesus to present solid catechesis and Scriptural exegesis, rather than the Modernist claptrap that dominates that once great order today.

I quote here from Fr. Hardon's commentary, (with added emphasis in bold font,) followed by a link to the website where I found it, and I encourage you to read the entire thing:

"In the third temptation, the devil does not start by saying that you are the Son of God. Rather he took the Savior to a very high mountain. On the high mountain from which a large view of the surrounding territory could be seen for miles up to the horizon. Commentators on the scriptures tell us that what the devil showed Christ was not only the land and the buildings surrounding a physical mountain in Palestine. It was a global view of all the kingdoms of the world and their majestic glory.
It was the devil’s last effort to tempt the Savior. But this time it was a temptation that only the devil, as the prince of this world, could offer. He told Jesus, “All these things I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
What was the devil telling our Lord? He was telling Him that as the one who is lord and master of the earthly pleasures that the kings of this world over the subjects, he would give everything to Christ on one condition. All Christ would have to do is fall on His knees and worship the evil spirit.
The history of the human race is a history of a conflict between two powers, the power of the devil over the worldly possessions of our planet, and the power of God over the humble souls who are willing to sacrifice everything in this world rather than abandon their service of God.
This was enough. Christ’s reply has become one of the most known imperatives in the human language, “Begone, Satan!” The devil could just go so far, and no further. Christ told the demon, again quoting from the scriptures, that there are two kinds of adoration that human beings can practice: either adoring the evil spirit as the ruler of this world, or adoring the true God, who is the only One whom we may serve.
St. Augustine’s City of God is the masterpiece in Christian literature explaining through a score of chapters what is the only real warfare that had ever been fought in world history. It is a war between the City of God, whose Leader is Christ, the Son of God; and the City of Man, whose master is Lucifer.
We are so accustomed to thinking of idolatry as an ancient form of paganism that no longer exists. The exact contrary is the truth. Idolatry in the modern world is widespread. It is nothing less than the worship of Self, inspired by the father of lies who tells people it is their will which they are to follow; it is their choices they are to make; it is their world in which they are living, and not the fantasy that religious zealots picture as created and ruled by an infinite God.


Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the universe, protect us from the wiles of the evil spirit, teach us to follow your example of humility in submitting our wills to the will of your divine Son. He conquered the evil spirit and gave us the grace to follow His example. Amen.
 For the full text of Fr. Hardon's commentary go here:

 Laudator Jesus Christus!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday, Lent and Sacrifice

And so it begins, the annual period of penance and preparation for the great festival of the Lord's Paschal Mystery.  I hope everyone made it to Mass today, and that you were able to fight your way through the crowds of occasional Catholics who tend to help fill the churches on Ash Wednesday--and I would guess probably a fair number of non-Catholics, as well.  Indeed, the observance of Lent for many people has descended to the secular level, having been robbed of all or nearly all religious significance. 

I have a personal theory about this, and it has to do with the message of today's Gospel reading, which is essentially the same in both the Novus Ordo and Traditional Latin Mass.  You all know the drift:  Our Lord instructs the faithful during the Sermon on the Mount on the things to avoid in the "Lenten triad" of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, in addition to giving us the Our Father. Essentially, Jesus admonishes us against showing off:  don't stand around praying on street corners, don't heap up empty words in prayer like the pagans, and when giving alms don't let the left hand know what the right is doing. 

Yet hundreds of people descend on every parish on Ash Wednesday who rarely if ever darken the door any other day, perhaps with the exception of Christmas and Easter.  Why?  Forgive me if I suggest that for most of these, their purpose probably is not to reconcile with our Lord and his Church through a faithful pursuit of the Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, going to confession and attending Mass every week and possibly even some weekdays.

A goodly number of them are there for one thing, and one thing only: to get those ashes applied to their foreheads.  In my experience, after the imposition of ashes a significant number of people head for the exits, not even sticking around for the real purpose of the Mass.  Even those who stay, if they are occasional Mass-goers, probably are only there for the ashes.

Do any of these people comprehend and internalize the meaning of the ashes, as a symbol of dying to self and seeking to rise in new life with Christ through repentance and conversion of heart, or understand what Lent is supposed to be all about? I think not; if they did, they wouldn't be occasional Catholics in the first place.  It's all about the badge, a show-off sign for their friends and family and the public.  "Look at me, I'm holy." They will flaunt their badges, brag to their friends about how they are giving up chocolate or coffee or something equally trite, and disappear from church for the next six and a half weeks.  In other words, exactly what Christ warned against in the Gospel today.   I pray that at least some of these people might respond to the grace they received by attending Holy Mass and truly enter into the season of Lent with the purpose for which the Church gives it to us.

And speaking of that purpose...I just criticized as "trite" the giving up of chocolate or coffee, which seem to be widespread choices for Lenten "discipline", if my anecdotal experience over many years in the workplace, combined with references seen in the popular media, is any indication.  This sort of choice reflects two things, in my view: First, the aforementioned general secularization of the season, and second, the loss of the meaning of the Lenten discipline even among many nominally practicing Catholics.  In a secularized environment, where for most people Lent has become nothing more than a short-term variant of a New Year's resolution, giving up something relatively insignificant is an easy way to be cool and do a little showing off, just like getting the ashes on the forehead.  For those 25% or so of self-identified Catholics who actually go to Mass at least weekly, however, a more elevated understanding of the nature and purpose of Lenten sacrifice should be the rule, rather than the exception.  Sadly this seems not to be the case.

As an RCIA catechist I have had a number of chances to discuss this issue with inquirers, candidates and Catechumens over the past nine years, and I have been unpleasantly surprised at the usual reaction to my standard opening statement: "Lent is not about giving up chocolate!"  Wide-eyed shock is the prevailing response.  Even after an explanation of the need for genuine personal sacrifice, made with a disposition of sincere contrition and desire to grow closer to God, too many still appear not to comprehend.  The cause might be aided by a little more attention to the subject of sacrifice from the pulpit, not only during Lent, but all during the year, although you can probably guess how often that happens.  It seems that the Modernist reduction of the essence of the Mass itself into nothing more than a communal meal of self-celebration has had a similarly negative impact on the observance of Lent.  Fasting and abstinence were already reduced to a minimum by Paul VI in 1966, with only two required fasting days and abstinence from meat only on Lenten Fridays, rather than both Fridays and Saturdays, so the subsequent deterioration of Lenten piety in general is perhaps no surprise.  It behooves each of us to do our part to reverse this scandal, for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, starting with ourselves and our families.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Epiphany of the Lord (Traditional Calendar)

Today once again the glories of the traditional (i.e., pre-Vatican II) Divine Office offer excellent catechesis from a great Saint of the Church, in this case Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461).  If you are familiar with the structure of the traditional Office (1960 rubrics) then skip this explanation:  The prayers known as the "Office of Readings" in today's simplified (and, some would argue, dumbed-down) "Liturgy of the Hours" are traditionally known as "Matutinum" or "Matins", and are always the most extensive of the day.  That is also true in the LOTH, but there really is no comparison beyond that.  Recitation of the post-V2 Office of Readings takes about 20-25 minutes, whereas on "Class I" feast days such as today, January 6, even private recitation without chanting of Matins will take around an hour to do with proper reverence.  Instead of three Psalms (or three segments of Psalms) as in the OOR, there are nine Psalms in three "Nocturnes" of three Psalms each.  Instead of one set of three Readings, the traditional Matins contains three sets of three, one for each Nocturne.  There are additional differences, which I won't try to explain here, but you get the point: for whatever reason(s), the post-Conciliar Church decided to restructure the Divine Office to make it far less demanding in terms of time and effort, which unfortunately also renders it, in my opinion at least, far less valuable as a vehicle for devotional prayer.  Sounds a bit like what happened to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, doesn't it?  Oh well...

As today is the traditional date of the Solemnity of the Epiphany, it's one of those Class I days on the Divine Office calendar, and the second of the three sets of readings is the main focus of this post.  Here they are, as copied and pasted from the marvelous website I use as my source for the Office and much other information about traditional Catholic worship.
From the Sermons of Pope St. Leo (the Great)
2nd for Twelfth-Day.
Dearly beloved brethren, rejoice in the Lord; again I say, rejoice. But a few days are past since the solemnity of Christ's Birth, and now the glorious light of His Manifestation is breaking upon us. On that day the Virgin brought Him forth, and on this the world knew Him. The Word made Flesh was pleased to reveal Himself by degrees to those for whom He had come. When Jesus was born He was manifested indeed to the believing, but hidden from His enemies. Already indeed the heavens declared the glory of God, and their sound went out into all lands, when the Herald Angels appeared to tell to the shepherds the glad tidings of a Saviour's Birth; and now the guiding star leadeth the wise men to worship Him, that from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, the Birth of the true King may be known abroad; that through those wise men the kingdoms of the east might learn the great truth, and the Roman empire remain no more in darkness.
The very cruelty of Herod, when he strove to crush at His birth this King Whom he alone feared, was made a blind means to carry out this dispensation of mercy. While the tyrant with horrid guilt sought to slay the little Child he did not know, amid an indiscriminate slaughter of innocents, his infamous act served to spread wider abroad the heaven-told news of the Birth of the Lord. Thus were these glad tidings loudly proclaimed, both by the novelty of their story, and the iniquity of their enemies. Then was the Saviour borne into Egypt, that nation, of a long time hardened in idolatry, might by the mysterious virtue which went out of Him, even when His presence was unknown, be prepared for the saving light so soon to dawn on them, and might receive the Truth as a wanderer even before they had banished falsehood.
Dearly beloved brethren, we recognize in the wise men who came to worship Christ, the first-fruits of that dispensation to the Gentiles wherein we also are called and enlightened. Let us then keep this Feast with grateful hearts, in thanksgiving for our blessed hope, whereof it doth commemorate the dawn. From that worship paid to the new-born Christ is to be dated the entry of us Gentiles upon our heirship of God and co-heirship with Christ. Since that joyful day the Scriptures which testify of Christ have lain open for us as well as for the Jews. Yea, their blindness rejected that Truth, Which, since that day, hath shed Its bright beams upon all nations. Let all observance, then, be paid to this most sacred day, whereon the Author of our salvation was made manifest, and as the wise men fell down and worshipped Him in the manger, so let us fall down and worship Him enthroned Almighty in heaven. As they also opened their treasures and presented unto Him mystic and symbolic gifts, so let us strive to open our hearts to Him, and offer Him from thence some worthy offering.
Anyone hear a homily like this at their parish this past Sunday, when the Church in the US celebrated Epiphany?  Neither did I.  And how may of last Sunday's homilies will still be read by anyone 1,500 years or so from now?  Just a rhetorical question, of course.  

One additional point deserves to be made here about the nature of the pre-V2 celebration of Epiphany.  The whole point of the feast, as Pope St. Leo made clear in his opening words, is the manifestation of the Lord to the world.  That is most clearly symbolized by the coming of the Magi, who are representative of the world as then known, having come from the mysterious East to worship the newborn King.  However, there are two other examples of manifestation which were a significant part of the traditional feast, and which have been separated from it in today's Church, the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan, by which Christ was first revealed as a Person of the Holy Trinity, and the Wedding at Cana, at which he opened his public ministry by performing the first of his "signs", as St. John's Gospel calls his miraculous works.  This is shown by the text of the final Antiphon of Laudes (Morning Prayer) in the traditional Office:
This day is the Church joined unto the Heavenly Bridegroom, * since Christ hath washed away her sins in Jordan; the wise men hasten with gifts to the marriage supper of the King; and they that sit at meat together make merry with water turned into wine. Alleluia.
This threefold manifestation is also clearly celebrated in other Hours of the Office, as well as in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

A happy and blessed Epiphany to all!

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

In the pre-Vatican II calendar, today the Catholic Church celebrates the Holy Name of Jesus. Here is a reading from a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (Abbott and Doctor of the Church, d. 1143). (Copied from today's readings for Matins in the pre-V-II Divine Office, at

From the Sermons of St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux.
1st on the Song of Songs.
It is not idly that the Holy Ghost likeneth the Name of the Bridegroom to oil, when He maketh the Bride say to the Bridegroom: thy Name is as oil poured forth. Oil indeed giveth light, meat, and unction. It feedeth fire, it nourisheth the flesh, it sootheth pain; it is light, food, and healing. Behold, Thus also is the Name of the Bridegroom. To preach it, is to give light; to think of it, is to feed the soul; to call on it, is to win grace and unction. Let us take it point by point. What, thinkest thou, hath made the light of faith so suddenly and so brightly to shine in the whole world but the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Is it not in the light of this Name that God hath called us into His marvellous light, even that light wherewith we being enlightened, and in His light seeing light, Paul saith truly of us Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.

This is the Name which the Apostle was commanded to bear before Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, the Name which he bore as a light to enlighten his people, crying everywhere The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light, let us walk honestly as in the dayligth, He pointed out to all that candle set upon a candlestick, preaching in every place Jesus and Him crucified. How did that Name shine forth and dazzle every eye that beheld it, when it came like lightning out of the mouth of Peter to give bodily strength to the feet of the lame man, and to clear the sight of many a blind soul? Cast he not fire when he said: In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk?

The Name of Jesus is not a Name of light only, but it is meat also. Dost thou ever call it to mind, and remain unstrengthened? Is there anything like it to enrich the soul of him that thinketh of it? What is there like it to restore the fagged senses, to fortify strength, to give birth to good lives and pure affections? The soul is fed on husks if that whereon it feedeth lack seasoning with this salt. If thou writest, thou hast no meaning for me if I read not of Jesus there. If thou preach, or dispute, thou hast no meaning for me if I hear not of Jesus there. The mention of Jesus is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and gladness in the heart. It is our healing too. Is any sorrowful among us? Let the thought of Jesus come into his heart, and spring to his mouth. Behold, when the day of that Name beginneth to break, every cloud will flee away, and there will be a great calm. Doth any fall into sin? Doth any draw nigh to an hopeless death? And if he but call on the life-giving Name of Jesus, will he not draw the breath of a new life again?

I can't possibly improve on the words of St. Bernard, so I won't try.

Laudator Jesus Christus!