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Archive for February, 2008

Priests

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I just read another great article by (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratizinger called “The Ministry and Life of Priests.” It is full of choice and meaty morsels; I recommend you read it. In it he discusses not only the ministerial Priesthood but ecclesiology, the elder/priest issue Protestants have (by not understanding the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in the New) and basics of the Christian life all of us could learn better (“word/deed”).

And for more on the Eucharist as Sacrifice check out “Theology of the Liturgy“.

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Oh Really?

I just threw up a little… listen here.
If being Catholic doesn’t effect what you believe and do, you are not Catholic. And God have mercy on Father Auth. He says, “If they [the running Democrats] have voted pro-choice but have a consistent ethic of life; we could vote for that.” He lies and is misleading his flock. How is being “pro-choice” (i.e. for the murder of the innocent) consistent with an ethic of life?

Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.

See also Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter on the support of Abortion and Communion. (War does not trump Abortion.)

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Great Question

Question of the Day for Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Convert Apologists?
Q. Why are the best Catholic apologists former Protestants? Why haven’t priests educated us with the same zeal and love and enthusiasm? I love EWTN and have learned more from former Protestants in three years than from 55 years of attending Mass.C.A., via email
A. As a former Protestant pastor who is now a Catholic apologist and educator, I’ll do my best to answer, based on my personal experience.
First, I should note that in my almost 15 years as a Catholic, I’ve met numerous cradle Catholics — clergy, lay and religious — who are true saints-in-the-making: faithful, zealous, full of knowledge and wisdom about the Faith. They have been wonderful role models for me in my spiritual journey, and I’m deeply grateful for their holy witness. They have taught me a great deal, and I still have much more to learn from them. I can never repay them for their help.At the same time, I think it’s just human nature that we tend not to value as much what we haven’t had to struggle to obtain. Like most converts, I feel like the merchant who searched for “fine pearls” and finally discovered “one pearl of great value” (Mt 13:45-46). After a rather costly spiritual search, I traded nearly all I had for the great treasure I found in the Catholic Church. So it’s no wonder I tell others about what I’ve found — and try to help them find it, too.

Another factor may be that converts have been put in the position of defending the Faith to their family members and friends, who typically oppose their movement toward the Church. Converts had to learn the answers to these challenges for themselves, and they had to present these answers again and again. By the time they have entered the Church, they have had plenty of practice as apologists, catechists and evangelists.

Yet another observation: Most converts know from the inside what it’s like to be a Protestant who feels suspicious of the Catholic Church, who has been fed misinformation about the Church, and who has problems grasping Catholic truth because he sees it through the lens of the Protestant worldview. We can help other Protestants into the Church — or at least relieve some of their suspicions and correct some of their misunderstandings — because we’ve been where they are, said what they say, thought what they think, felt what they feel. We know their religious jargon, their philosophical assumptions, the emotional blind spots in their reasoning, and the internal contradictions of their theological positions.

Finally, I should note that sometimes those who are raised Catholic may dismiss the evangelistic fervor of folks like me, insisting that we’re like this only because it’s a Protestant “holdover” in our spiritual temperament, something that’s not truly Catholic. (I’m glad the apostles didn’t think that way.) So I’m thrilled to hear from a cradle Catholic such as you who is zealous for the Faith and eager to share it. However we may have received our precious faith, it’s just too good to keep to ourselves. Praise God for your enthusiasm — the Church needs your witness!

[I think he was being charitable. But he is ignoring a major part of the issue; that is Catholics often lack (even Priests) a good education in the Scriptures. And I think they take for granted Sacred Tradition (ie. the faith of Early Church Fathers). It seems backwards but the ex-Protestant Apologists are often better able to engage in debate regarding dogma, the Scriptures, and different aspects and issues of Catholic doctrine, because they didn’t receive their education at Catholic Seminaries (which are often Catholic in name only). As Protestants they got good (however limited) catechesis and education in the Scriptures and Hermeneutics. With this foundation they then are better able to fill in the gaps or errors of Protestant Theology, that upon closer inspection, aren’t fully consistent with the Scriptures or Sacred Tradition. I think many Catholic priests, even if they really uphold Catholic doctrine, are not equipped to adequately defend it. Our faith is reasonable therefore Priests should be able to give the people some good reasons for why we believe what we believe. In the meantime, thank God, for the Catechism! I suspect that the (sad) state of US seminaries will be one that the Pope will address during his visit in April. Already he has said they should being teaching Latin and the Traditional Mass…. I think the future of the Priesthood will only be as good as the Seminaries in which they are trained.]

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Return of the Fathers

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Thanks again to Felix for bringing to my attention the excellent article: “The Return of the Fathers“, by R. R. Reno.

Here are some choice quotes.

“Heresy is not, finally, about doctrine; it is about reading the Bible in the wrong way. Or perhaps, more precisely, heresy is about doctrine because doctrine organizes our minds and shapes our reading of the Bible. At the end of the day, Irenaeus refutes his adversaries by showing that the doctrine he inherited from his teachers (who, in turn, inherited it from teachers who were taught by the apostles) allows for the fullest possible entry into the scriptural text.”

“The basic patristic project was simple: to take all things captive to Christ. The Fathers did so by saturating their ideas, their lives, and their communities with Scripture. But as they return, they do not simply bring us Scripture as an undifferentiated mass of text, nor do they thrust the Bible into our hands without instructions for its use. All the power of Christian truth may reside in the biblical text, but, as the Church Fathers recognized, we need to organize our minds and sanctify our lives so that the Word of God might live in us. This requires the discipline of the rule of faith.”

“One can no more invent Christianity from inductive Bible study than read modern physics off the movements of the stars, and a contemporary Christian who wishes to engage the Scriptures in their “purity” is as foolish as an undergraduate who refuses to take a class in physics because it will corrupt his ability to interpret nature. ”

“But we should not confuse what we must do for the defense of life and social sanity with the deeper task of renewing Christian culture in the West. St. Benedict’s Rule did far more than any battle or palace coup to shape the future of what was to become Europe. We must do what we can to limit the damage done by the barbarians of our time, but the renewal of the culture they now control will require the revolutionary power of people whose lives are immersed in Scripture. Men and women saturated by Scripture are as explosive as rags soaked in gasoline, but, unlike Molotov cocktails, the fire of divine love transforms and perfects rather than destroys and consumes. This the Fathers knew, and this they teach us as they return.”

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On Interpreting the Scriptures

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The art of interpreting the scriptures is the only one of which all men everywhere claim to be masters. To quote Horace again;
“Taught or untaught we all write poetry.”
The chatty old woman, the doting old man, and the wordy sophist, one and all take in hand the Scriptures, rend them in pieces and teach them before they have learned them. …they boldly explain to others what they themselves by no means understand. I say nothing of persons who, like myself have been familiar with secular literature before they have come to the study of the holy scriptures. Such men when they charm the popular ear by the finish of their style suppose every word they say to be a law of God. They do not deign to notice what Prophets and apostles have intended but they adapt conflicting passages to suit their own meaning, as if it were a grand way of teaching—and not rather the faultiest of all—to misrepresent a writer’s views and to force the scriptures reluctantly to do their will.

[St. Jerome, letter to Paulinus, 53,7]

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Friendship with Christ is learned

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Benedict XVI recently had a Q&A with Roman clergy. Here is a response to a question about how to preach the gospel to youth. [From Zenit]

[Benedict XVI]:

Thank you for this beautiful testimony of a young priest who is with the youth, who accompanies them, and as you have said, helps them to walk with Christ, with Jesus.

What to say? All of us know how difficult it is for youth today to live as Christians. The cultural context and the mass media offer everything contrary to the path that leads to Christ. It precisely seems that it makes it impossible to see Christ as the center of life and live a life as Jesus shows us. Nevertheless, it also seems to me that many feel more and more the inadequacy of these offers, of this style of life that in the end, leaves one empty.

In this sense, it seems to me that the readings precisely from today’s liturgy, from Deuteronomy [30:15-20] and the Gospel passage from Luke [9:22-25] respond to what we should essentially say to youth and always to ourselves. As you have mentioned, sincerity is fundamental. Youth should perceive that we don’t say words we don’t ourselves live, but rather that we speak because we have found and look to find each day the truth as truth for my life. Only if we are on this path, if we ourselves try to assimilate this life and associate our lives with that of the Lord, then our words can also be credible and have a visible and convincing logic. I insist: Today this is the great and fundamental norm, not only for Lent but for all Christian life: Choose life. Before you, you have death and life: Choose life.

And it seems that the answer is natural. There are only a few people who nourish in their depths a will for destruction, for death, of no longer wanting existence and life, because everything is contrary for them. Unfortunately, on the other hand, this is a phenomenon that is growing. With all the contradictions, the false promises, in the end life seems contradictory. It is no longer a gift, but a condemnation and thus there are those who want death more than life. But normally, man responds: Yes, I want life.

The question continues being how to find life, what to choose, how to choose life. And we know the offers generally made: Go to the disco, obtain everything possible, consider liberty as doing everything you want, whatever occurs to you in any given moment. But we know on the other hand — and we can show it — that this is a false path, because in the end, life is not found there, but rather the abyss of nothingness.

Choose life. The reading says it: God is your life, you have chosen life and you have made the choice: God. This seems fundamental to me. Only in this way are our horizons broad enough and only in this way do we remain within the fount of life, which is stronger than death, stronger than all of the threats of death. Thus, the fundamental choice is this one that is indicated: Choose God. It is necessary to understand that one who begins a life without God in the end finds himself in darkness, even though there can be moments in which it seems he has discovered life.

Another step is how to find God, how to choose God. Here we arrive to the Gospel: God is not a stranger, a hypothesis of the first cause of the cosmos. God has flesh and bones. He is one of us. We know him with his face, with his name. It is Jesus Christ who speaks to us in the Gospel. He is man and he is God. And being God, he chose man to make it possible for us to choose God. Thus it is necessary to enter into knowledge of and afterward friendship with Jesus, to walk with him.

I consider this the fundamental point of our pastoral care for youth, for everyone, but above all for youth: Call their attention to the choice of God, who is life. To the fact that God exists. And he exists in a very concrete way. And teach them friendship with Jesus Christ.

There is also a third step. This friendship with Jesus is not a friendship with a person who isn’t real, with someone who belongs to the past, or is far from man at the right hand of God. He is present in his body, which continues to be a body of flesh and bones: It is the Church, the communion of the Church. We should construct and make communities that are more accessible and reflect the great community of the living Church. It is everything: the living experience of the community, with all of its human weaknesses, but nevertheless real, with a clear path and a solid sacramental life in which we can also touch what can seem so far away — the presence of the Lord. In this way, we can also learn the commandments — to return to Deuteronomy, from where I began. Because the reading says: To choose God means to choose according to his Word, to live according to his Word. For a moment this seems almost positivist: They are imperatives. But first is the gift — his friendship. Later we can understand that the indicators of the path are explanations of the reality of this friendship of ours.

We can say that this is a general overview, which flows out of contact with sacred Scripture and the life of the Church each day. Afterward it is translated step by step in the concrete encounters with youth: To guide them in their dialogue with Jesus in prayer, in the reading of sacred Scripture — reading in common, above all, but also personal — and sacramental life. These are all steps to make these experiences present in the professional life, even though this realm is frequently marked by the total absence of God and by the apparent impossibility of seeing him present. But precisely then, through our life and our experience of God, we should try to make the presence of Christ enter into this world far from God.

Thirst for God exists. A short time ago, I received the “ad limina” visit of bishops from a country in which more than 50% are declared atheists or agnostics. But they told me, in reality all of them are thirsting for God. This thirst exists, though hidden. Because of this, let’s start beforehand, with the youth we can find. Let’s form communities in which the Church is reflected; let’s learn friendship with Jesus. And in this way, full of this joy and this experience, we can also today make God present in this world of ours.

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Best Definition of Faith Ever.

[the above title is best read in the voice of Comic-Book Guy]

28. What are the characteristics of faith?

153-165
179-180
183-184

Faith is the supernatural virtue which is necessary for salvation. It is a free gift of God and is accessible to all who humbly seek it. The act of faith is a human act, that is, an act of the intellect of a person – prompted by the will moved by God – who freely assents to divine truth. Faith is also certain because it is founded on the Word of God; it works “through charity” (Galatians 5:6); and it continually grows through listening to the Word of God and through prayer. It is, even now, a foretaste of the joys of heaven.

[Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church]

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