Friday, April 27, 2007

A Thought About Doctrine and Dogma

Absp. Fulton Sheen once said that there are likely only a handful of people who truly hate the Church. Most simply hate what they incorrectly believe the Church to be.

I'm in the middle of a paper on the various levels of magisterial authority and the degree of adherence faithful Catholics owe to each level. What struck me (ouch!) as I was rehashing the phrasing extra ecclesiam nula salus was that most people have no real exposure to Catholic dogma or doctrine in its clearest form. What they are exposed to are blunted weapons wielded by people who have a poor understanding of the truth or people who hold the truth without charity or people who are ignorant of the truth and want to pursuade others to accept their biases. And none of these people have any magisterial authority!

With such representatives, it's no wonder the Church has enemies.

I believe that the Catholic Church teaches the Truth. The Truth is not a battering ram that breaches a wall or crushes the bones of the opposition or flings disease and disaster over the walls of a stronghold to force defenders to flee. The Truth is that which causes those inside to leave willingly and abandon the defenses, the defenses they thought protected them from destruction but in reality only caused inertia and enfeeblement.

Truth builds up. It doesn't batter down. Truth converts hearts. It doesn't impel a heartless adherence.

Our Catholic faith is the Truth. We already know how the story ends. We don't need to beat non-Catholics into submission. We need to understand the Truth, not simply parrot stock phrases.

The Truth is beautiful. The Truth is loveable. The Truth will set us free.

Sodom and Gomorrah

The History Channel is running a show tonight on archaeological evidence for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. What's rather cool about it is that they've indeed found some evidence for two cities in close proximity to the Dead Sea that were destroyed quite suddenly. Wikipedia has an entry that seems to fairly objective at a first glance. There are a number of other sites that have clearly biased accounts. (Whether they're correct is another issue. I happen to believe that the locations are correct.)

Anyway, fascinating stuff. When I first heard about these sites back when I was in graduate school the first time, I started thinking other parts of the Genesis account, and this poem was born.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's on HWTN* this week?

*Holy Whapping Television, that is...

Well, a whole bunch of things I wish my locale cable company carried, that's for sure.

Take a look at the schedule here.

Doh! I missed Dr. Pusey again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Proactive Student-Body Prohibits Limbo at Prom

Well, at least they're paying attention. I never liked that dance anyway. Ironic Catholic has the story here.

Thought for the Day

R.R. Reno has this thought in his review of on Phillip Rieff's Charisma:

If we try to give ourselves the gift of grace, we end up with a soulless world without inner constraints, a “cultureless society” populated by clever, technically sophisticated animals whose lives are dominated by the need for survival, the desire for pleasure, and the dark urge to dominate.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Prayer Request

I won't go into detail here, but I would like to ask you to pray for my stepdaughter Hannah's health and the health of her unborn child.

On a different note...

My wife will never release a cookbook on low-fat cooking.

Where in the World is Theocoid?

Not that I've been around much in the last few months anyway...

I'm wrapping up the last of my course work. While I know one class doesn't seem like much, on top of business travel and regular work, I've been scrambling. Actually, the last two weeks I've spent recovering from the previous three months.

Anyway, I hope to be able to post something substantive once my course work is finished. At very least, I plan to post the papers.

If you haven't seen our new puppy, well here he is, along with a little link to a story in which yours truly gets a mention.

And my boss (aka, me) just approved the purchase of a Treo last week to ensure that I would be in email contact with my people. I've picked up some new businesses in far corners of the world, which means I'll have some interesting travel opportunities this year.

But I've got a paper to write. Back to work me!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

John G. Borbonus: requiescat in pace

One of our local men, and a parishioner at St. John's Cathedral, John Borbonus, was killed in Iraq last week. I did not know him or his family personally, but I'm saddened by their loss. He sounds like a remarkable young man. You can read about him here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


in case you haven't heard...

Looks like Anita is going to give us the lowdown on the decision soon.

I have no doubt Anita will do a fine job on it, but I do miss Southern Appeal.

UPDATE: Or was it here?

New Family Member and Something Else...

We're hearing the pitter patter of not-so tiny feet these days. Meet Brutus:

He came to us via my stepdaughters, ever the animal welfare do-gooders, who found him and a few other puppies being kept in dismal conditions. Now that they've finally realized that an apartment is not really the best place for a no-kill animal shelter, they've been forced to seek home for many of their critters. (Rats, cats, dogs, frogs, and at least a couple of ferrets—at least the don't keep their horses there.)

Brutus is half lab, half pit bull. He has the most mellow temperment, and at four months, he's housebroken. He's a surprisngly smart fellow.

On other fronts, somehow a local person wound up in a National Catholic Register interview this week...

Sad Events at VA Tech

Dom Bettinelli has a post on the shootings at VA Tech and points to some discussions that the Anchoress has been having with her son and his friends.

I left a comment on Dom's blog, and I've been thinking about this topic as well. I was hesitant to post until some time had elapsed. However, it looks like others are thinking the same thoughts that I am. Kathy Shaidle has commented on a similar situation in Montreal several years ago.

I'm not a particularly brave person, and I'm certainly not the kind of guy one would associate with excessive levls of testosterone or with violent dispositions. It's true that I've practiced karate and kung fu for around 17 years, but many of the skills I developed there came in response to training.

But I pray to God that if I'm ever in a situation where someone is threatening the lives of others or is committing acts of violence against others that I will have the courage to do what I can to stop it. It appalls me that one person armed with two pistols can shoot over 50 people without someone attempting to disarm him. I have to commend the jewish professor who gave up his life to save his students. That's the kind of self-sacrifice that men should be called to do--whatever is necessary and whatever we're capable of doing.

But this mentality of self-sacrifice is what goes right out the window with a culture of rugged individualism and the glorified value of self-interest.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has an essay titled On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs. I mentioned that I'm not a particularly brave person. However, I do have the tendency toward being a sheepdog. On more than one occasion, I've run out the door armed with a bokken (wooden katana) in response to people yelling for help (or simply yelling). I've considered joining the military or law enforcement on more than one occasion—even tested for the county sheriff a few years back (and kicked everyone's butts on the physical portion). I've come to the conclusion that that's not really where God wants me in my everyday life, even if I've wanted it for myself.

BTW, Grossman has two excellent books: On Killing and On Combat. I've read the former, not the latter, but I've done enough reading on the subject to know that facing violence is traumatic to even those trained to deal with it.

Bowing During Mass

Fr. Stephanos provides some guidelines for our active participation in the Mass. Whatever else might be going on in Mass these days, I don't see many people doing these basics.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Entering Through the Beautiful Gate

Some of my realizations during scripture reading and Lectio Divina are, I'm sure, rather pedestrian. That's part of what I find so fascinating about scripture. You can have a single phrase that, in its literal sense, says something quite mundane, but one reading can dramatically change its relevance.

Take, for example, this passage from Acts 3:

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." 5 And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

One of my problems when I do Lectio Divina is that I frequently just can't get beyond the surface. Other times, I will start out very dry, but after about 20 minutes, some phrase will suddenly break open and reveal something I hadn't seen before.

In this passage, you have a lame man sitting outside the Beautiful Gate asking for alms. He's lame, and he's sitting outside the Beautiful Gate seeking money. Peter and John come along, and Peter gives him, not what he's looking for, but "strength" to walk. Peter gives the man what he has from Christ, and that "something" allows the lame man to stand up and enter the temple through the Beautiful Gate.

So we might be seeking what we think we need: wealth, security, love, fame. But until someone passes on what they have been given from Christ, we're unable to walk through that Beautiful Gate. We're seeking alms outside the temple rather than entering the temple, walking and leaping God's presence.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Welcome aboard the HMS Cephas

Dale Price welcomes all the new Catholics aboard the Barque of Peter. Does he show them to the lido deck? Does he go over the itinerary fo the ports of call?

No! He puts them to work.

Tragic Casualities of the Easter Triduum

The Ironic Catholic has the story on those of our liturgists suffering from Post Easter Stress Disorder (PESD).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Speaking of Julie D. and Holy 2x4s...

Please keep Julie's father in your prayers.

A Tale of Two Trees

I received a second thwack upside my head this morning when I read today's entry in the Magnificat Lenten Companion. (BTW, if you don't know about Magnificat, definitely check it out.

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete goes in depth with the typology of Christ as the new Adam. In each garden, we have a "tree," a man, a woman, and a decision. Perhaps the tree represents that very decision. (Heh, just like a business diagram, no?) In each scene, a human decision takes place.

What I had completely missed was that this is such an excellent support for Catholic devotion to the Blessed Mother. Here at the foot of the cross, Christ (the seed of the woman) defeats the serpent (as Msgr. Albacete notes). At this very moment, Jesus says to the Blessed Mother, "Woman, behold your son" and to John, "Behold, your mother." That much, we often use to support our devotion. But Jesus lets us flesh out the rest of that connection. We are Mary's children, by extension, her seed. She has victory over the serpent, and we bruise the head of that serpent when we submit to God's will as well. Every decision for Christ is another crushing defeat for Satan, another reminder of God's weakness overcoming Satan's "strength."

Folly and Weakness

I meditated on 1 Corinthians 1: 20–25 this morning, and I had another one of those moments that Julie D. would call the Holy 2 x 4. This particular epistle always seems to do it to me, I think in large part of the contrast of wisdom and foolishness. Verses 20–25 are, to extend Julie's metaphor, the point of contact:

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The meaning is plain: what we consider wise is no match even for the foolishness of God; what we consider strong is far less than the strength of God. The part that thwacked me upside the head was verse 23, "but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block for Jews and folly to Gentiles." Why is Christ crucified a stumbling block? Why folly?

To the Jews, this man claiming to be the Messiah, a political king and conqueror, is also hung upon a cross, thus, accursed. How can he redeem (in human fashion) Israel as such? He's exactly the opposite of what a human society would think it needed. He said we had to eat His body and drink His blood to have life in us. What Jew could accept that counsel? Christ was an enigma to them. He contradicted everything they expected and believed about the Messiah.

To the Greeks, folly. They believed the body to be a prison for the spirit and death to be a release. Why would they want to be raised from the dead? The wisdom of Plato, as wise as it might've been, had given them a wrong view of the relationship between matter and spirit. They ridiculed Paul when he preached the Resurrection.

As Christ Himself said, he was a sign of contradiction.

He said He would be lifted up and draw all men to Himself. He turned a symbol of ignominious death into a symbol of healing. And at the moment of His greatest human weakness, His utter debasement and apparent discredit, He utterly defeated Satan and sin.

The crucifix is the perfect representation of this contradiction: two opposed beams, crossing each other, running perpendicular to each other, a point of decision for us. Right there. Christ at His weakest. Can we accept Satan's defeat? Can we accept an "accursed" Messiah?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Which Church Father am I?

Mike Aquilina has the answer. Apparently, I'm...

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, Church History]