Friday, September 14, 2007

Conversion of the Jews

Observant Jews believe that conformity to the Law is a non-negotiable. What an observant Jew would have to understand in order to convert to Christianity is that he does not have to give up strict obedience to the law to become Christian. Indeed, he will continue to follow every jot and tittle of the Law, but it its fulfilled, spiritual mode in Christ and the Spirit.

This is one of the reasons I cannot read the New Testament alone, without the Old Testament. Somehow the NT limps and seem anemic without the OT. I always read the marginal notes citing the OT references when reading the NT. For instance, among other things, the cleansing of the Temple can be read in light of Jer. 7, where Jeremiah berates temple worshipers for their hypocrisy. That is why Jesus is not simply arrested, but is asked to produce a sign--because the Jews know he is acting in a prophetic way and they are familiar with the passage from Jeremiah. He is fulfilling the prophets. There is, of course, more to it than that--about Jesus' body as a temple.

The Reformed and Conservative Jews must realize (perhaps under the influence of the Christians) that strict external observance of the letter is not necessary to fulfill the Law. They just don't realize where the true fulfillment is. They try to do it through their natural humanity, which is why they become secular humanists.

New Old Mass at St. Stan's in Milwaukee

at the faldstool
(latin Tridentine, Missal of Bl. John XXIII)



By the way, a faldstool is a portable chair used by a bishop who is celebrating the liturgy outside his own Cathedral.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

From Gumbo to the Summa

Here is a great blog by Jeff Vehige, of Thursday Night Gumbo. It is a very careful and systematic study of the Catholic intellectual life, especially the Thomistic tradition. I hate it when other people are smarter than me. One could tell just how intellectual this guy is by looking at his list of non-fiction books he'd take on a desert island.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

White Mass in Milwaukee


Bishop Morlino of Madison will celebrate the ANNUAL WHITE* MASS on Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Josaphat, South 6th Street and Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee. October 18th is the Feast of St. Luke, patron of the medical profession and a martyr.

Bishop Morlino will be the homilist "Proclaiming Christ as Healer" and speaker after the mass presenting "An Examination on the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care." Bishop Morlino served as chairman of two committees within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) - the Bishops' Committee on the Diaconate, dealing with matters concerning the ministry of permanent deacons, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Issues and the Church, responding to moral and theological questions surrounding specific health care situations. In 2005, Bishop Morlino became Chairman of the Board of Directors of The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) which conducts research, consultation, publishing and education to promote human dignity in health care and the life sciences. Also, Bishop Morlino was appointed to the Board of Visitors for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). This board is a federal advisory committee created to maintain independent review, observation and recommendation regarding operations of the institute. Bishop Morlino was elected vice-Chairman of the Board of Visitors at their November 2005 meeting. Most recently Bishop Morlino was appointed to the USCCB Bishops' and Presidents' Committee which seeks to encourage the Catholic identity of institutions of higher education. in 2006, Bishop Morlino gave the address at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on "The Dictatorship of Relativism."

A light supper and dessert reception will immediately follow the mass in the Basilica Undercroft. No reservations are needed; open to the public; $5-$10 donation gratefully accepted. Information: (262) 644-9662 or;

Physicians, health care professionals and workers, their families and patients are invited. Concelebrants welcome!

*"White" refers to the traditional white color of the garb worn by medical professionals.

Michael G. White, M.D.
President, Milwaukee Guild of the Catholic Medical Association

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two traps for the pious

I'm a firm believer (as my children can tell you) that one should order one's lives according to the moral and spiritual teachings of Christ as expressed in the tradition of the Church. You should love God and neighbor, live a life of prayer and self-discipline, reading of scripture, liturgy, do penance, etc. You should develop and practice to the extent possible the natural and the supernatural virtues so that you can be a beacon of light in the world, not a chaotic source of confusion and darkness. You should take seriously and implement all the admonitions of the Bible about proper Christian behavior, even the ones that seem a bit overdone in our culture. In other words, you should live a moral, devout, pious life, individually, in your family, and in the world.

Unfortunately piety has a bad name, primarily because there are a lot of people in the world who try to conform their lives to the manifest will of God in a way that simply kills charity in their souls. We've come to call them pharisees and we are fools if we presume the proper pronoun is "them" rather than "us."

Fr. Benedict Groescel, in Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones describes two traps the pious (among whom I number myself) can get into. The first is less serious in itself and, with a reasonable amount of self awareness and intentionallity, it can be overcome. After discussion how great personal suffering can lead one to become more compassionate toward the sinner and the sufferer of the world, he says:

There is a strange and often misunderstood problem here for organized religion and especially for the Church. Much of the world's sorrow comes from sin and misbehavior. A devout person who tries to lead an orderly life and fulfill his or her responsibilities is likely to experience less sorrow than the disorganized, irresponsible person. Religious practice and morality remove a person from a sizeable portion of the world's sorrow. 'Happy are they who walk according to the law of the Lord,' and unhappy are they who do not. Unfortunately, this can lead the devout to be less sorrowful and, consequently, less compassionate than the poor sinners of the world.

This is almost an accidental, automatic fault. It can be overcome, as Fr. Groeschel points out, by reading good literature and opening your eyes to the plight of the poor and intentionally entering into solidarity with the poor by divesting one's self of some of the incidental benefits of a devout life.

The saints, combatting their own possible complacency, purposely avoided the comfort of their virtuous lives by sharing in the misery begotten of sin. In any society the difference between the pious and the saintly is often the degree of compassion and acceptance of another's pain through sorrow that has strangely linked the saintly and the sinful.

This is not an argument against piety and devotion, but it is a statement about the true nature of piety and devotion--that it is centered on trust in God and compassion towards all, especially the sinner.

The second, and more insidious trap for the pious, as Fr. Groeschel points out at the beginning of his book, is the belief that pious and devout behavior somehow automatically excludes the Christian from the number of those in the world who are fully capable of great evil.

Believers can be deceived by their own virtue. Although Christ our Lord warned that not everyone who called him 'Lord' would enter the kingdom, good Christians have persisted in believing that they were somehow 'above it all.'

This can lead to, among other things, an attempt to separate one's self from the sinner to avoid contamination, as if you don't thereby bring the contamination with you, because it is in you all along. We try to create hermetically sealed, utopian Christian communities and try to avoid contact as much as possible with those poor, sinful wretches out in the world who might contaminate us.

I once belonged to a charismatic group that exhibited this tendency. The presumption seemed to be that because they had been baptized in the Spirit, they had been cleaned of the effects of original sin. I can still remember being at a prayer meeting. One of the leaders went over to the window in the building we were in, looked out over the city and stuck out his tongue at the flesh, the world and the devil, implying that none of these realities had any sway among the hundreds in that room. Unfortunately, the same group was soon to be rocked by a sexual abuse scandal that brought one of the leaders down.

The answer to this temptation, according to Fr. Groeschel is humility and compassion. We must enter into the subjective reality of the sinner, know his suffering and his limitations, his sadness and despair. The word John Paul II used was solidarity. Disdain for the sinner, even the egregious and unrepentent one, is not compatable with Christian virtue. And we need to realize that we are not so much different than they are. We might be guilty of sin that we, in our pride, are not even aware of.

I thoroughly recommend the book and anything by Groeschel.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Latin-Based Classical Education

From Thursday Night Gumbo I learn about a "new" approach to classical education based on Andrew Campbell's book, the Latin-Centered Curriculim, that I'm quite sure I would be sympathetic with because of its emphasis on the Trivium and Quadrivium. The trivium seems like the more classical version than the neo-trivium of Dorothy Sayers.

Here's is a list of the characteristics of Classic Education that appear on the web page:

  • Classical education treats classical languages and mathematics as the organizing principles of education. These subjects can only be mastered by orderly, systematic study over a period of many years. They provide the best training for "learning how to learn" and the most solid foundation for further study in literature, history, and science.
  • Classical education recognizes that memory, analysis, and expression are important facets of learning at all levels. It therefore treats the medieval Trivium subjects - Latin grammar, logic, and rhetoric - as disciplines in their own right. It suggests that to place undo emphasis on “ages and stages” can lead to rigidity in the curriculum and an unnatural emphasis on technique in teaching.
  • Classical education is holistic: it trains not only the mind, but also the emotions, the will, and the aesthetic sense. It fosters love for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful wherever they may be found. Its goal is to produce men and women both knowledgeable and virtuous: good persons speaking well.
  • Classical education is traditional and conservative in the sense that it seeks to hand on to each new generation "the best that has been thought and said in the world." It stands for the Permanent Things. It mitigates against chronological snobbery by setting our current concerns against the backdrop of history and requiring us to take long views. It lays upon us the responsibility of doing our part to preserve and transmit the accumulated wisdom of the race.
  • Classical education rests on the principle of multum non multa: quality, not quantity. It does not let the good crowd out the best. Rather than rushing students from book to book, from author to author, classical education invites students to contemplate the representative masterpieces of each historical period. It gives entree into the Great Conversation by allowing students to speak at length with the master teachers of the last three millennia.
  • Classical education unites the great spiritual and intellectual streams of the West, rising from Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. As such, it represents the common cultural patrimony of both Christians and non-Christians.
This is pretty much the position I've come to over the years. I'll have to look into this further.