Posts Tagged ‘ Catholic Church ’

This View Will Change Your Life Forever

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration, the remembrance of when our Lord appeared in heavenly glory upon the mountain and spoke with Moses and Elijah with Peter, James, and John on looking.  God the father spoke decisively: “He is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased; Listen to him.”  One line of the Transfiguration story found in Luke stands out most to me:

They became awake and saw his glory…

The transformation of Peter, John, and James at the Transfiguration mirrors our own.  One moment they were asleep and at rest–encounter with the divine Lord jarred them from the slumber of the universe as they knew it.  Jesus’ divine kingship stirs us to move.  The reality of Jesus’ reign as king directly challenges our will toward self-reliance.  And we must to reconcile this reality with the notion that we are fully in charge of our lives and existence.  Either Jesus is king or he is not.  Either he is divine or he is not.  Either we, in turn, like the disciples become awake upon encounter or we deny his glory.

Jesus’ divine kingship remains true, but in our relativistic culture, it is easy to evade the question of Jesus’ divinity.  Tough questions are gently brushed aside.  People make broad statements such as, “That’s fine that Jesus is divine for you, but he’s not for me.”  We must open ourselves to the possibility of encounter.  When the encounter does occur, the choice remains–Jesus always gives us the choice to follow him!

While God has given me the grace of faith, I struggle with self-reliance.  It’s easy for me to try to do things all myself, which eventually leads to distrust in the Lord and worries and fears.  I lose touch with Jesus quite easily, having more faith in myself at times than I have in the Lord.  This turns my hope sour , and I am unable to give myself to the present moment and to love freely and unreservedly.

Recently, the Lord called me back to him.  I had a steady mental prayer schedule for a few months, at the guidance of a spiritual director.  While God graced me with a spirit of devotion and faith abounded for that time I lost track of that devotion upon a recent move with my family and lost track of prayer.

Minor annoyances became major obstacles as my self-reliance were inadequate for my vocation.  In God’s grace a wonderful priest friend of mine recommended a book that he was reading, Interior Freedom.  I felt compelled to pray over the book, and I have since then re-established my prayer routine.  While I have not been fully free of self-reliance I am again opening myself to the daily encounters with our Lord.  These encounters strengthen me and purify my will.

My prayer routines do not have the same drama as the Transfiguration, but yet I am grateful for prayer as my touchstone with divinity.  I pray that I continue to open myself up in my daily life and “Listen to him.”

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“Liberal” Catholics Are Not Progressive Enough

I don’t understand actions and attitudes quite common in many American Roman Catholic  believers, attitudes which are, at their core, the fruits of the Enlightenment.  Ideals such as freedom and progress, as defined and practiced by today’s standards are fine.  But when mixed with Christianity–I get confused when Enlightenment-defined freedom subverts Christian freedom.  That is merely one example.

For the longest time, I rationalized that perhaps believers of this persuasion were simply heirs to the Enlightenment, and that was all they knew.  Indoctrinated in Enlightenment thought, they learned to emphasize Enlightenment values over any other values.  They received a thoroughly Enlightenment-influenced education and control a media landscape with a tendency toward brainwashing “progressivism.”

But people have a choice.  They are rational beings with a heart and a soul, who can make choices.  Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular presents a starkly contrasting view.  Christianity presents a more progressive view of  life, humanity, the future, death, and all sorts of terribly important aspects of living, compared with the drab gray, literally hopeless Enlightenment landscape.

Enlightenment living is static–for something is only better if it supports the meta-narrative of progress-de jure.  Since objective truths and values are anathema, real, lasting progress is only an ideal and can never be a reality in Enlightenment-influenced living.   Truly, the academy and the media concoct and promote a view of life so limiting, so anti-progress.   The axiom goes something like this: I am who I am and you are who you are, and that’s enough.   How is that progressive?

Want real choice?  Christianity offers expansive freedom and choice.  Want real, deep down hope?  Christianity offers that as well.  Believe in humanism?  The goodness of humanity at the core?  Christianity offers a deeper, comprehensive view of humanity.  Want to help people?  Real, lasting help?  Help which transcends ideology?  That started and ends with Christianity as well.

What I don’t understand is why believers prefer a twisted, anti-Christian brand of Christianity to what is really there. Why, when given the choice between the candy-saccharine heterodox Christianity and the joyous feast which orthodoxy provides, that heterodoxy is ever chosen?

C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Beauty” said it better, as always:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to eagerly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion…is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Of course in reality, it’s not an either-or endeavor.  None of us is perfect.  None of us is precisely obedient to the Lord and His Church.  All of us land on a continuum between heteropraxy and orthopraxy.

But, I’m not talking about heteropraxy (doing things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthopraxy (doing things in line with the Lord’s teachings and His Church).

I’m talking about heterodoxy (believing in things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthodoxy (believing in things in line with the Lord and His Church).  We all fall short, in practice.  To soak-in, breathe, teach, and argue for non-truth (heterodoxy), to the exclusion of truth–that is what I don’t understand.

Christianity is the true progressive heuristic, as compared with paganism or deterministic humanism/scientism or anything else.  Buddhism, teaching that people can become one, is progressive, but falls short of the progressivism of Christianity.  Christianity believes that people can actually progress–to be more like God–and to unite with God.  That doctrine is infinitely more progressive than any other belief conjured by the Democratic party, or by the overlords of scientism and the Enlightenment.

What is more progressive than knowing that each person’s potential is infinite?  A limited, constricting view of progressivism propagated by contemporary ruling powers falls short of the true progressivism taught by Christianity:

God Himself was born.  He healed and taught.  He suffered, died, and rose again.  Through sanctifying grace we can rise as well, as He did.

Now that’s progress!

Top 10: a postmodern deconstruction of the Francis interview

The pope’s recent progressive manifesto is still fresh.  Soon, leading academics will use their scalpels and deconstruct the meta-narrative of the Real Faith–you know, the one graciously bestowed on those who could read the Vatican 2 documents like tarot cards and intuit the “spirit of Vatican 2.” Well, you saw it here first. Here are the top 10 axioms we can read from Francis’s interview, if we tilt our heads just right and squint:

1. The church (actually, just the hierarchy) has, until this interview, taught with strict moral authority that only those who can read, understand, and follow arcane and old-fashioned rules can be a member of the church.

2. Said individuals, the elect, were said to have a basic, God-given right to disparage and publicly humiliate anyone who didn’t follow said arcane rules.

3. Henceforth, from last Thursday until the end of eternity, issues deemed by elite academics to be sensitive, such as abortion, are to receive the status similar to usury–yes, it’s technically a sin, but we can retire from speaking about it, cause it’s not that big of a deal.

4. Pope Francis, progressive though he may be, is not perfect. He did in fact break his own guideline about staying quiet about abortion by speaking out vehemently against the “throw away culture,” which so easily discards its most vulnerable members.

5. The Church really doesn’t have any business talking about imperatives any more than it has business maintaining traditions of the past.  The Church of now is the Church of reform.  It’s time to get going and get with the times.  The Church doesn’t know exactly where it’s going, but there is sure to be plenty of poor people to patronize…er…help.

6. Magisterium is out.  Collaboration and personal intuition is in.  Francis rejects the idea that there can be a governing body of the Church which, with the authority bestowed by Jesus Christ, teach the world about the human condition and its relationship to God.

7. Similarly, Francis teaches (infallibly) that the Church does not have any authority to teach about morals.  The Church may have some strong “opinions,” but really, whatever suits you is fine, man.

8. The Pope cares more about poverty than religion.  He claims to be a “son of the Church,” when it comes to religious-based  moral teachings, but really, that’s just a cop-out.  He’s not that in to religion, just like you and me!

9.  God is not in the past, but in the future.  We need to look at the signs of the times and read the theology of the now, rather than old, tattered pages from some ancient book.

10. Most importantly, the Catholic Church, especially with regards to its teaching, is malleable because it made mistakes.  Once it starts reading more Slate and less First Things, it will see how despicably counter-cultural and radical it has been for the past 2000+ years.

Pope Francis loves gays and abortion-seekers: Antinomianism or grace?

Pope Francis knows how to shake things up, eh? While I have net yet read the whole interview (another post to come about that), it made me think of a comment that Adam recently posted on this site.  I had posted about how I get caught up in thinking about theology that I fail to encounter the One I study.  Or I argue about a point about the faith, but ignore the reason for the faith in the first place, Jesus.

It’s hard.  I think our intentions are right and true in that we want to seek out God.  But that is the problem.  We are seeking for God, while God is seeking for us.  It’s not like a meet in the middle kind of thing.  When we go looking for God, as if we are on an expedition, we won’t find him.  I think it’s about, rather, allowing God to find us.  Accepting God’s invitation.  The problem is, while that may be true, it seems so ethereal, so touchy-feely.  I get the feeling like holiness is much more simple, much more common, everyday.  If holiness isn’t simply living a bunch of rules (like our pope recently indicated), but rather an encounter, what does that mean?  What are the practical implications?  If it doesn’t actually involve doing something, then what is it?  Holiness isn’t just doing good.  It is accepting grace.  But what does that mean?

How does one encounter the Lord Jesus?  I don’t really know.  But I think it has something to do with mercy, accepting forgiveness, and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  I think it involves a search for Truth and Goodness.  I think it involves healing and being and allowing Love to seep through the bark to the place we are most vulnerable.  Rules do not come quite yet.  Once we have this encounter with Jesus, we are given a choice–much like Jesus’ contemporaries had a choice after they encountered Him.  Will I come and follow?  Will I put down my nets, my boat, my family, my friends, my life as I know it, and follow?

But why?  Why would anyone in their right minds follow?  Our post-modern, skeptical self says, “What’s in it for me?”  Everything: living water, eternal life, everlasting food.  It’s the ultimate bargain with implications for eternity.  The question lingers–what will I choose?

Jesus tells those he healed:

“Go, and sin no more.”

After healing, forgiveness, and change of heart, then we are compelled, on our own accord, to seek the Kingdom of God, to know His ways, and to sin no more.  The grace we receive from healing and forgiveness opens our hearts to the longing that we have had all along, to live according to God’s commandments, such as living an authentic person-affirming chastity or living the virtues.

But didn’t you say that the natural virtues–living a good life–should lead unbelievers to Christ?  What now, you equivocating sophist?

I may be a sophist, but I don’t equivocate (here at least).

If we live the virtues, we will have a taste of Truth and Goodness, which can lead us to that encounter.  Living a good life takes us far, but only accepting God’s supernatural grace into our lives–and in response to God’s gift of grace, live our lives according to His will–can we live truly and deeply, with supernatural virtue.  Holiness, ultimate living, requires us to take a step beyond just “being a good person,” or even living a virtuous life.  It requires us to constant encounter with a person, Jesus Christ.

It’s a cycle of encounter, healing, grace, and transformation.  That transformation gives us a deeper sense of Jesus Christ, which in turn leads to a deeper encounter, and thus, the blessed cycle continues.

Transformation without healing and grace can only lead to idolatry.  That is, if I teach my children to follow God’s rules, but don’t teach them about the God who gives the rules, and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom he sent to set me free from the bonds of death, in order that I can have eternal life, I lead my children to an idol.  I need to lead them to the Person of Jesus Christ.

This is what Paul teaches in 1 Timothy:

For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.

This is the Gospel. This is what it is all about, and this is, I think (though I haven’t fully read the piece) is what Pope Francis is driving at when he talked about the Church being “obsessed” with homosexuality and abortion. From the little I have read, this is what it is all about. He teaches that it’s not about living a code of rules. Christianity is not a code of rules. It is an encounter with a Person, Christ Jesus.

By his most recently published comments, he is not eliminating rules from Christian Living.  He is not saying that we shouldn’t have rules or follow rules.  Thus, he is not an antinomian.  But rather, he rightly emphasizes grace which only comes through an encounter with the Living Christ, Jesus our Lord.

Existence and not (a follow up from 5 minutes ago)

I wrote

  To be fair, some of the Christian armchair apologists (I would consider myself a part of this crowd) could brush up on their logic and rhetorical skills.

I think that is because non-believers train in logic.  They come from the sciences.   They are drilled in reasoning.  Unless we are academic philosophers, biologists, and chemists, we are playing on their turf.  It is always an away game.

They are logicians, rhetoricians, and argument producers/critiquers/destroyers by day AND by night.  Many Catholics are not.  Sure, we dabble in philosophy, logic, and rhetoric.  And there are plenty of super-solid logician, rhetorician, argument-producing Catholics.  But that is not the sum total of what we do.

Believers do not have as much at stake such that they feel compelled to constantly dialog with people who completely disagree with them.  Believers can sleep well at night (that is without much dissonance) knowing that there are individuals who disagree on the God question (and related consequences).  However, for some reason, atheists (at least those who comment on blogs and who make public claims based on their atheism) cannot seem to handle the existence of God.

That is, they seem to find it quite satisfying to continue to disprove and dispose of God.  That’s why they blog about it, think about it, write about it.  That is why they go to Catholic blogs and attack (sometimes with good argument, sometimes with stupid snark).

To use a common atheist trope: I don’t see any atheists passionately arguing against the existence of dragons, unicorns, and the flying spaghetti monster.

To be fair, I’m not quite saying that that indicates the existence of God, but it is fascinating to me at some level the interest, passion, and vitriol with which atheists spend their time.  So much energy directed at something that does not exist.  What an existence.

It is a curious thing though.

So I think part of my observation of quite adept atheist rhetoriticians versus middlingly adept Christians is attributed to  sampling bias.

I think another part of it is that it is passe to be a theist and an academic.  It is much easier to be atheist as an academic.

I also think that, at the same time, we need to devote infinitely more time and energy to honing our skills to match those who hold opposing ideas, yet I think we need to devote infinitely less time and energy to that task since our real task is sanctity.  Can you see how this has been a trying time in our life?

 

A Call to Arms

In the culture wars, everyone has an opinion.  As Catholics, our opinion, of course, is that Heaven is our destination, and that we need to get on that road, fast.  Part of getting on that road is pointing out the way for others to get on that road too.  This is the new evangelization.

The road to Heaven is the road to Truth and Goodness.  Jesus is the most pure Truth and most Good.  Of course, even people who don’t know about Jesus can know aspects of His Truth and aspects of His Goodness.  I think that logic is behind Vatican II documents’ and Pope Francis’ recent point about how non-Christians can be “saved,” of sorts.  People who know and live the Goodness and Truth of life, written in their hearts by the Author of life, essentially know Jesus.

We call this naturally-observed Goodness and Truth “virtue.”  The natural virtues are part of natural law.  CS Lewis, one of my Christian heroes, in his treatise on natural law Abolition of Man compiled a list of several virtues from across times and cultures throughout the world (pp 34-40 of the pdf).  Not surprisingly, each virtue he listed had support from east to west, north to south, since the beginning of written time.  Humble as ever, Lewis admits that this compilation is not a scholarly endeavor in that it is not a work of cultural anthropology.  However, one can easily deduce that the compilation demonstrates that virtues are more or less universally found in cultures throughout history.

If the natural laws are universal, and thus are written on the hearts of all, I am not surprised about the vitriol with which culture warriors argue against natural virtues.  People have written on their hearts the way to Truth and Goodness as exemplified by natural virtues.  Because of our collective fallen nature, it is not easy to live that way.

Here is my inchoate hypothesis about why.  Fallout from the industrial revolution splintered communities, making it more difficult to receive emotional security from the world.  It was harder to connect to people around them, but they still needed to connect on a deep way–we need connection and intimacy.  We are built to reflect the unity of the Trinity.  We need and crave community.  Though still connected with their family, and still connected, albeit in a less predictable and effective way to their greater community, isolation left a deep social-spiritual-emotional wound.  Without community and intimacy to help heal, people turned inward.  The pleasure principle took over–people turned to biological-ecological means of healing.  This ranges from the hard core (drugs, alcohol, binge eating) to the seemingly innocuous (exercise, mild use of antidepressants).  Either way, due in part to social isolation people tend to cope with the difficulties of this world and their isolation by biological means.

Because this pattern is naturally reinforcing (people feel bad, they turn to some external means to feel better, they feel better, and then they are more disposed to turn to that same means to feel better), it becomes an integral part of people’s functioning.  However, the pattern may be at times at odds with our tendency to live natural virtues.  The pleasure principle wins the day, and anything standing in the way of living that principle becomes anathema.  This explains the vehemence against the Church, Christianity, and Tim Tebow, as I discussed in my last post.

This brings us to practical considerations.  As I explored in my last post words are weapons in the culture wars.  Calling Tebow “polarizing” is an attack on Christian living, defending the belief that there is no right or wrong and thus maintaining the primacy of pleasure.

Two can play that game.  We have at our disposal more battle-weathered tools.  The virtues, written on our hearts, are our way to connect Jesus manifest in all our hearts with people who do not believe.  Using virtue-promoting language in secular contexts is our way to fight fire with fire.  We don’t have to debate first principles if we, like our “enemies,” implicitly promote Truth, Beauty, and Goodness by using virtues-promoting language.

The way that we describe our world in secular contexts can have a profound impact on how others view those contexts.  There are great benefits to this approach.  First of all, it does not necessarily presuppose revelation.  Thus, we don’t get into circular debates about epistemology or the relative costs or benefits to using scripture as the basis for debate in secular contexts.  Secondly, people are already used to hearing this sort of rhetoric.  It has become part of the cultural vernacular to imbue into our language our perspectives.  Third, it directly challenges the perspectives put forward by the “other side,” using their own tactics.  People are used to philosophical messages being subsumed by more overt statements.  Finally, this tactic is especially amenable to new media–texts, memes, twitter, facebook, instagram, youtube, blogs…all of these media thrive on the 10-second or 10-word bold statement.  By staking a claim on those platforms using virtues-promoting language, the message of Truth can thrive on screens, and therefore, in hearts and minds.

There is a caveat here.  Reducing Christianity and Jesus Christ to simply a model of living by focusing on the virtues is a dangerous heresy.  True Christian living is changing one’s heart as a result of an encounter with the Living Christ.  Without that encounter, virtue-guided living ends up as a sort of pantheism, which is one step away from relativism.  Additionally, this is not an easy tactic.  It takes a great command of language, an in-depth understanding of faith and philosophy, and, more practically speaking, an outlet.  Finally, it takes commitment.  Courageous Catholics need to step up.

Many already do–bloggers such as Marc Barnes takes this approach in his blogging and meme creation.  His approach is a model since he does a wonderful job writing for a broad audience.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Fr. Z, Simcha Fisher, and others.  But these fantastic bloggers tend to write for and attract a primarily Catholic audience of a certain flavor.  And that is fine, and necessary.  Their audience loves and needs them.  But as Pope Francis stresses, we can’t just be a church turned inward.  We need to reach out and get dirty.

The culture wars are far from over.  That said, it is up to us to be able to read between the lines and refute the implicit assumptions embedded in contemporary oral and written public discourse.  Furthermore, we need to ingest solid Catholic and Christian theology and philosophy and hone our expressive arts so we can embed in our discourse the language of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

 

Latin!

Quotes from  Sacrosanctum Concilium!  This is awesome.  It’s what really was said about the liturgy at time of reform.  Reading that, I’m even more saddened at the state of our liturgy.

Who knew?

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.

And

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.