Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Attachment to venial sin

I've often wondered what it means that one of the conditions for a plenary indulgence is a freedom from attachment to venial sins. It sounds so impossible, considering how often we commit venial sins. St. Francis de Sales addresses this in Introduction to a Devout Life in Part I, Ch. 22. He first says we can't avoid venial sins for any length of time, so that is not what we are talking about (whew!). He then says:
But I tell you that you must purify your soul from all inclination to venial sin;—that is to say, you must not voluntarily retain any deliberate intention of permitting yourself to commit any venial sin whatever.
In other words, what you need to avoid is intentionally reserving for your self permission to commit venial sins. Note: this is sin, not imperfect affections. Those are dealt with in chapter 24.

Christie redux

A while back I posted some thoughts about Agatha Christie. A reader has commented on that. I'm posting his comments here to make them more prominent.


I read your blog occassionally, though this is the first time I comment. It was through your post on Sertillanges that I first found your blog. I enjoy your writings.

Good observations about Agatha Christie.

I'm a Catholic, too.

I too had noticed that she made some of her significant characters (e.g., Amy Carnaby in The Flock of Geryon) treat the Catholic Church with a bit of disdain. But then I was surprised to read in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding that when Col. Lacey says that midnight Mass is too much like "Popery" he then apologises to Hercule Poirot.

After that my curiosity was aroused and I tried to find out if Agatha Christie had ever mentioned Poirot's religion explicitly somewhere. Later, while reading The Apples of Hesperides in The Labours of Hercules, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Poirot was "a Catholic by birth."

Later, I was even more surprised and happy to read in the short story The Chocolate Box Hercule Poirot saying to Capt. Hastings, "I am, as you also know, bon catholique ...."

I don't know Agatha Christie's opinion of Catholicism in general, (I have recently bought her autobiography. Perhaps, after reading that, I might learn what she thought about Catholicism.)

However, I do know that she signed a petition to Pope Paul VI requesting permission for the use of the Tridentine Mass in England and Wales. You can read about it here:


It's great to read those parts in the novels and short stories when Poirot upholds the good of the family, marriage, and appeals passionately to the plans and the will of Le bon Dieu.

I found one half of your third point different from my experience, since there have been times when I didn't particularly enjoy the plot-line of some novel or short-story, but I read it anyway simply because Poirot was in it. I, personally, would very much love to meet Hercule Poirot in person. (Though he would probably have a heart attack if he saw my room - complete lack of any order and method.) As a character, he is fascinating and unique.

Mrs. Marple, however, I don't find appealing as a character.

With love and prayers,

Yours in Christ,

I'm not as well read in Christie as this reader. I'm glad to see that through Poirot she gives Catholicism its due.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A meme from Love2Learn Mom.

How to play: BOLD anything you have done.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (DisneyWorld)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (does from a small boat in the middle of a lake count? LOL)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (in general)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Catholic Liturgical Spreadsheet

I have no idea where this came from, but it is amuzing enough to post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Interview about Newman

Here is a Zenit interview with Ian Ker about Newman and about his canonization. Very good interview.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sophia Press and Thomas More College

MERRIMACK, New Hampshire, (Zenit.org).- A partnership between a college and a publishing house will return to print several classics of Catholic writing, including Bishop Fulton Sheen's "God's World and Our Place in It."The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and Sophia Institute Press announced this week that the institute is to become the publishing division of the college.This collaboration will immediately return to print over 50 works from Sophia Institute Press that are currently out-of-print, including "How to Get More out of Holy Communion."...(cont.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Notes on Agatha Christie

  • She really has a knack for detailed and vivid description, genuinely human dialogue, both conceiling and revealing clues and red herrings in a way that builds to the climax. It is really hard to put her books down.
  • She is usually pretty psychologically astute, but occasionally her (masterful) manipulation of events shows through in an undermotivated action or decision on the part of one of the characters.
  • No one in my family actually likes Poirot or Marple as characters, although we certainly enjoy the books they appear in. We all agree that we enjoy better the ones they don't appear in.
  • She seems to have an obsession with Americans. They appear frequently in her stories. When they do she overdoes the slang, causing me to cringe. It isn't quite right--seems studied and overwrought--not natural.
  • She seems to have a typically British Guy Fawkes Day type abhorrance of things Catholic. I am always disappointed when I find perfectly intelligent Brits who are so unreflective about this prejudice. It's "civilization vs. those benighted, superstitious, jesuitical, untrustworthy not-quite-full Englishmen."--the very attitude that Waugh addresses by portraying the real Catholicism in Brideshead.

Ward on inculturation

I think this is a better and more poetic explanation of "inculturation" than most of the ones you see in pop theology these days. From Masie Ward's Saints Who Made History: the First Five Centuries (New York: Sheed and Ward [who else?], pp. 217-8), while explaining the eloquence of the Vulgate:
We have seen in earlier chapters the language problem in relation to theological definition: we shall meet it again. But with St. Jerome and the Scriptures we have something more like a picture; words are colours, they are shapes. Christianity makes a new and vivid literature, as a great artist creates a new sort of painting. This new supernatural art is expressed not in [dogmatic] defintions alone, but even more richly in the liturgy and the Scriptures, as they are given to one race after another in forms suited to the genius of their different tongues but all alike coloured by the supernatural.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

To quote Bella Karolyi...

"Vow! Vow!" HT Drew of Holy Whapping.

We visited the shrine at the end of June, but were not allowed to visit the main chapel. Now I can't wait to go back. Fortunately it is right between Milwaukee and my wife's parents.

Friday, August 15, 2008

From the "you just never know" department

Love2Learn Mom at Studeo warned in a recent post about some new sidebar widgets on Blogger thar are racy and therefore not appropriate for younger bloggers. From her post I had the notion that these widgets were "R" rated, which would have caused me to take some kind of action. As it is, many of the blogs on blogger contain lots of foul language and explicit sexual content, but that can be avoided by simply not browsing through the blogs. On the other hand, if you are a young blogger setting up a new blog and go to these widgets, you might be exposed to things you shouldn't be. The most racy widgets I noticed were of the swimsuit pin-up variety. I don't know if she saw any worse ones, but that is bad enough when it comes to the innocence of our youth, especially our boys, not to mention us.

There are some really cool new widgets, though, such as the phases of the moon one and the Astronomy Picture of the Day one.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yay! Yay! Yay!

I have been hoping for this for a LONG, LONG time! Besides the hesitancy being tradition, it is really helpful for relations with the Jews to be sensitive on this issue.

Yay! Yay! Yay!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pelikan on the Bible and the Constitution

Oh, and I also picked up a quirky book by Jaroslav Pelikan called Interpreting the Bible & the Constitution. I've always liked Pelikan, although I was disappointed he went over to Orthodoxy rather than Catholicism. This book compares the way our official interpreters (the Supreme Court) interprets the Constitution and the way the Church interprets the Bible. There are a lot of similarities and, of course, some important differences. It includes a sustained articulation of his understanding of how the development of doctrine occurs.

Did I mention I picked up a two year CD-ROM Learnng Company course on Spanish? This must have been expensive.

Books found

One of the most wonderful parts about working at this seminary is the astounding number of truly great books I have collected from the free book shelf near the library. It contains not only the books that the library is getting rid of because of duplication or old paper, but also any books other professors, students or members of the community are getting rid of. For instance, I have almost all the works of Chesterton because of these free books. Not that I have read them!
This morning I picked up a number of books, among which were two by Guardini and two by Evelyn Underhill. Plus, I got a replacement copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was one of the most influential books I read as an undergraduate, along with Bonaventure's Itinerarum and Newman's A Grammar of Assent. I also got a number of popular and technical books on physics and astronomy. Physics is my favorite science.
Now, if I could only retire by the fire and begin to read all these books!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Transfiguration

What we see is not always what is really there. Or rather, what is see is often only a small part, and the least important part. Every now and then our vision is expanded and we can see the invisible. There is a natural dynamic of this sort, and also a supernatural one. By God's grace the veil is occasionally removed and the phenomena do what they are supposed to do: mediate the nouminous. The rest of the time the phenomena are ambigious; they both reveal the deep, the invisible and hide it. We can cooperate the sharpening of our vision by cultivating virtue in prayer. This allows us to more clearly see the full truth underneath our sensible experience--although never perpetually in this life. Even those that are approaching mystical union must experience the dark night of the soul--the dessication of all spiritual phenomena, in order to focus on God in himself, lest they become attached the the creature, the phenomena.

This brings up the theological debate between the hesychasts and western theology. Is the phenomenon of the Light of Tabor a creature? In classic Palamism it is not--rather, it is the uncreated divine energies. So, one may seek them and become attached to them because it is the same as seeking God and becoming attached to Him. In wester theology, as far as I know, the light of Tabor is still a creature, although it mediates knowledge of the divinity of Christ.

Blog neglect

I have woefully neglected this blog for several weeks now, as my stats given evidence for. I hope to rectify that now.

I have a fundamental committment to the renewal of Classic Catholicism in the contemporary Church because I think we have cut ourselves off too much from the accumulated wisdom of the centuries, thereby making our sense of the faith, our immersion in the tradition, more tenuous. I think any time we read a new book, we should follow it with at least one old book. My preference is three old to one new. And the old books need to be by solid voices, not marginal figures, as far as the tradition is concerned. For instance, Blake is good and worth reading, but his gnostic "problems" make it important to follow up or prepare by reading someone like Hopkins. Same with Jung. Follow him up by reading C.S. Lewis. Till We Have Faces, for instance. And don't read Lewis through Jungean lenses. Rather, read Jung through the lens of the Gospel and the tradition, including the valid insights of Lewis.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cardinal Hoyos and the Missal of Pope Paul VI

I think it interesting that in this interview with Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", the cardinal states that he normally celebrates the ordinary form of the Roman rite, and only occasionally celebrates the extraordinary form.

I very much like the novus ordo that I celebrate every day. After the post-Conciliar liturgical Reform I no longer celebrated in accordance with the 1962 Missal. Today, by returning occasionally to the extraordinary rite, I too have discovered the riches of the ancient liturgy which the Pope wants to keep alive by preserving that age-old form of the Roman Tradition.

As I've stated before, I do not think the ordinary form is substantially impoverished in relation to the extraordinary form, if the former is translated and celebrated properly and if the significance of its form is understood by the priest and congregation. In both cases you have Christ, as Cardinal Hoyos points out:
We must never forget that the supreme reference point of the liturgy, as in life, is always Christ. We must not be afraid, therefore, to turn towards him in the liturgical rite, to turn towards the Crucifix together with the faithful in order to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice in an unbloody manner, as the Council of Trent described the Mass.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education

The Cardinal Newman Society announces a new center for scholarship concerning Catholic higher education. This is a welcome addition to CNS's efforts, which has tended up to now to focus more advocacy and activism in specific situations. Here is their self-description:

Welcome to The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education, a new division of The Cardinal Newman Society. The Center's mission is to study Catholic colleges and universities in accordance with the guidelines of Ex corde Ecclesiae and in a manner faithful to the Holy Father and Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

As the in-house research arm of The Cardinal Newman Society, The Center will help facilitate the ongoing renewal of Catholic higher education by providing unique analysis and data available nowhere else. The Center publishes the quarterly Bulletin of Catholic Higher Education, produces the biennial Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College and works with leading Catholic educators and other leaders to conduct research and publish reports on the most pressing Catholic higher education issues.

Monday, June 02, 2008

C.S. Lewis vs. Chesterton

My kids were apparently having a discussion this weekend with some other homeschooled kids about who is more of a demi-god, Lewis or Chesterton. I have to admit, I prefer to read Lewis, but I'm not convinced he is the greater mind of the two. As I've said before, my problem with Chesterton is often style, and not content. Anyone have an opinion?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Academic Retreat for Teachers

The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education invites you to attend:

Academic Retreat for High School Teachers & Principals

  • Revitalize your classroom teaching
  • Engage your students in life-long learning habits
  • See exciting results in your classroom
  • Feed your own passion for growth and learning

In this week-long retreat, you will:

  • Explore the foundations of classical liberal education
  • Discuss the profound and practical refl ections of great thinkers on education
  • Learn with like-minded colleagues in an atmosphere of refl ection and devotion
  • Return to your classroom with a renewed joy in learning and with practical suggestions to share with your academic community

Discussions include:

  • Monday: Christopher Dawson and the History of Western Education
  • Tuesday: Sr. Miriam Joseph and Th e Trivium
  • Wednesday: Euclid, Descartes and the Quadrivium
  • Thursday: Newton, Democritus and Science
  • Friday: “Wisdom” Subjects: Literature with Newman, History with Dawson, Th eology with JP II

PLUS: Seminars on Sophocles and Shakespeare, Lectures on Poetry and Music Directed by: Andrew T. Seeley, Ph.D. - Senior tutor at Th omas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California
with: Dave Fleischacker, Ph.D. - Chairman, Department of Philosophy & Th eology, University of St. Francis

Date: July 6 - 11 Location: University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Registration includes room, board and all materials for the entire week:

- EARLY Registration (by June 22): only $400

- AFTER June 22: $450

REGISTER ONLINE TODAY!!! http://www.catholicliberaleducation.org/

Or by check payable to: “Institute for Catholic Liberal Education” and mailed to:

ICLE Summer Academic Retreats, P.O. Box 4638, Ventura, California 93007-0638

Questions? 805.625.1817

For more information or to Register Online: http://www.catholicliberaleducation.org/

I was part of this retreat last year as a presenter. It was wonderful.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Trinity in 1st John

I was taken aback the other day when I was reading the biblical reading from the Office of Readings and came across this passage: "Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in cælo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra: spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis: et hi tres unum sunt" (1 John 5:7-8). I did not recall such an explicit mention of the Trinity in 1 John or anywhere in the Bible except Mt. 28. So, I looked in both the old and new NAB and found out that the Trinitarian text is not there! It says in the RNAB: "So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are of one accord." In the Nova Vulgata it says: "Quia tres sunt, qui testificantur: Spiritus et aqua et sanguis; et hi tres in unum sunt." Clearly there was an alternative reading at the time of St. Jerome that later scholarship has interpreted as a gloss. Also, clearly my copy of the Latin office doesn't use the Nova Vulgata. The current critical edition of the Greek text (NA26) does not have the Trinitarian language. Since I don't have my copy at work I can't look up the footnotes.

Still, it is an amazing passage when read in the way St. Jerome did. I wish it were canonical, because then my task in teaching about the Trinity to seminarians would be easier!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fr. Anthony Taylor the new bishop of Little Rock

The pastor of my home parish in Oklahoma City, Sacred Heart, has been named the new bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas. Here's the story from the Sooner Catholic.

I've been acquainted with Fr. Taylor since he was Associate Pastor at Sacred Heart from 1980 to 1982. He is a wonderful, pastoral and courageous priest and a scholar to boot.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Servais Pinckaers, O.P., RIP

Dawn Eden notes that moral theologian Servais Pinckaers died. She provides space for a wonderful summery of Pinckaers' work by Brother James Brent, O.P.

I use Pinckaers' Morality: The Catholic View in my Introduction to Christian Morality course. His approach is very compatible with the CCC and with Veritatis spendor.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Article in Homiletics and Pastoral Review

Here is a summary from their web page:
GREAT CATHOLIC WRITERS…The twentieth century was graced with many outstanding Catholic writers like Chesterton, Belloc, Ronald Knox, Flannery O’Connor and Tolkien, to name just a few. There was an immense flowering of Catholic writers between 1920 and 1960—roughly from World War I to Vatican II. What is it that makes a truly Catholic writer? In this issue Dr. Robert F. Gotcher asks that question and also gives an answer. According to his analysis, a truly great Catholic writer must be immersed in the following: 1) Scripture, 2) Latin, 3) St. Thomas Aquinas, 4) liturgy, and 5) two thousand years of Catholic cultural history. In addition the great writers, for the most part, had a personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, since she is the perfect model of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 31, 2008

St. John's Institute for Catholic Thought

At the University of Illinois, associated with the Newman Center.

Did you know about this? I didn't. I wonder if they have any openings.

Mission Statement
With an emphasis on the trinitarian and liturgical structure of creation, the St. John Institute of Catholic Thought School of Theology provides rigorous and comprehensive formation in Catholic theology.

School Objectives
The School of Theology seeks to imbue the student with a robust knowledge of the Catholic intellectual tradition. It endeavors to develop in the student an integrated view of knowledge in general and Catholic theology in particular. It attempts to develop the intellectual skills needed to understand and articulate the harmony between faith and reason. Finally, it works to develop critical thinking skills in each student.

Friday, March 28, 2008

An Easter Hymn

Song: O Filii et Filiae

All: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

O filii et filiae,
Rex coelestis, Rex gloriae
morte surrexit hodie. Alleluia.

All: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Et Maria Magdalene,
et Iacobi, et Salome
Venerunt corpus ungere. Alleluia.

All: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

In albis sedens angelus
praedixit mulieribus:
In Galilea est Dominus. Alleluia.

All: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Discipulis astantibus,
in medio stetit Christus,
dicens: Pax vobis omnibus. Alleluia.

All: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The consolation of philosophy

When you get all balled up inside about personal issues, there is nothing like a good shot of classic philosophy to help you regain some emotioinal stability! Last night I woke up in the middle of the night fretting about some things going on in my life. I went downstairs with the intent to pray. What I did instead was pick up Aristotle's Logic and begin to work through it carefully and systematically. The work was hard; it took me a while to understand some concepts, such as the idea of something being "present in" another. I found the distinction between primary and secondary substance useful for a point I make in Trinity class. I'm now working on understanding the difference between "differentiae" and the essential components of a secondary substance.

Anyway, in doing this work, doing something objective outside of myself, I was able to gain a sense of distance from my own situation and calmed down considerable. Then I was able to look at my own issues more effectively.

This is not the same as Pascal's "distractions," since it didn't ultimately prevent me from addressing my issues. It is more like an intellectual exercise that allows you to see things in perspective.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stations one at a time

I've always had trouble praying the Stations of the Cross--a funny thing for a Franciscan to say. It often seems like a forced march rather than a slow, prayerful reflection on the mysteries of the Passion. My spiritual director said something the other week in passing that really has changed my experience of the Stations. He mentioned that he meditates on only one station a day. Since then I have tried that approach and it has lead to a much deeper, richer experience of prayer.

Our chapel is one of those church in the round types with the stations mounted on the exterior wall behind a kind of colonnade , so what I do is stand in front of the station of the day and "announce" it to myself. Then I walk around the perimeter of the chapel while reflection on the station. When I get to the tabernacle I genuflect. When I get to the stain glass window of the Sacred Heart, I reflect upon it. Our chapel has a bunch of different Stations booklets in a basket by the first station. Each time I walk around the perimeter I look at an illustration from a different one of those books.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Spiritual Portfolio

I have recently developed what I call a spiritual portfolio. This is a collection of texts and images that have had the most profound impact on my spiritual life over the years. St. Ignatius says: "Let him who is in consolation think how he will be in the desolation which will come after, taking new strength for then." I have decided that certain texts help me get and keep my head on straight, especially when I am in a period of interior spiritual turmoil. So, if I collect them together, I can have access to them in prayer to remind me of the truth I've known when in consolation. Right now they are only in a folder on my computer, but I intend to get a binder and put them in it. The current content is:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Christ's sufferings and my sins

You often enough read in books of meditation on the stations of the Cross assertions such as this: "I'm the guilty one, not Jesus. He is paying for my sins," and "I can't stand knowing that I'm to blame for this horrible scene." Theological, I understand the reasoning that makes these assertions in a sense true, but affectively, I always cringe when I read them. I understand that the weight of my sins and infidelities crushed Jesus and contributed to his death. But I find it hard to see a strict one to one correspondence between my current sins and the entirety of the crucifixion. This probably points to my own spiritual immaturity.

Or, perhaps it is this: It seems to me that, although all human sin contributes to the sufferings of Christ, it is mortal sin that causes his death. Since I am not conscious of being currently spiritually dead because of mortal sin, my affective response to these assertions reflects my assumption that I am in the state of grace and therefore in fundamentally positive relationship with Jesus. Does that make sense?

Of course, the weight of the cumulative sins of my entire life are certainly enough to have killed our Savior. Perhaps that is the sense of such statements.

Any thoughts?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Contrasting views of the postconciliar Church

Here are two contrasting views of the situation in the Church since the Second Vatican Council. The first, "The Other Health Crisis: Why Priests Are Coping Poorly," is Paul Stanosz, a priest of the Archdioces of Milwaukee. The other, "The Cautionary End of the Spirit of Vatican II," is by Jeff Mirus of Trinity Communications. I think Fr. Stanosz is right inasmuch as he is advocating that priests avoid what might be called a Messiah complex. I've seen enough self-appointed anointed priest fall to fear the overly driven, but spiritually undergrounded, ministry in a world full of deceit and temptations. On the other hand, I think Mirus' observation about the seeming hopelessness of Fr. Stanosz's position is very important. A Church minister really has to engage in the faithful and enthusiastic presentation of the Gospel in season or out of season, no matter what the cost no matter what apparent failure one experiences. This can only be possible in a person who has a deep and rich spiritual life. As Ven. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, taught, a priest must pursue sanctity, study and service in that order. And by "study," he meant an orthodox intellectual exploration of the dogmas of the Church.

I do not accept any fundamental dichotomy between a John XXIII priest, a Paul VI priest, a John Paul II priest or a Benedict XVI priest--or a Pius XII priest, for that matter. The same goes for lay people. My interpretation of the Council is always in light of the magisterium of the popes that oversaw its implementation--Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI--so far.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Discernment of Spirits

A while back Oswald Sobrino started a series of posts commenting on the books of Timothy Gallagher about Ignatian spirituality. The first of these books is called The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living (New York: Crossroad, 2005). I have been reading this book over the past few weeks. It is truly a spiritual gem, and very useful for practical, everyday living. There are many insights I have gained from this book, such as: a clear way to determine the difference between spiritual and nonspiritual desolation. This distinction is absolutely important (even though they are sometimes mixed together) because the treatment for each is different. If you treat a nonspiritual desolation as though it had a spiritual cause and character, you can suffer from psychological distress and damage. I think many people overspiritualize their psychological problems. Many people think they are in spiritual desolation when all they really need is to get more sleep, drink less coffee and eat a balanced diet!

A second insight is the idea that spiritual desolation is never in itself a good thing and does not in itself bring about spiritual growth. It can only lead to growth if it is resisted because it is not caused by good spirits or by the Holy Spirit. If you do not resist spiritual desolation you will probably experience spiritual damage or a spiritual disaster of some sort.

A third insight is the idea that a person who does not patiently resist spiritual desolation using the spiritual means given to us by God, but rather gives in to the thoughts and temptations that come with spiritual desolation is like a mercenary soldier who stops fighting the moment a paycheck is late. A true servant and soldier of the Lord continues to fight because he believes in the Cause (in this case a Person) no matter whether he is being rewarded for it or not. Such a person is like a spiritual child. He will never achieve spiritual maturity or holiness. He is like a husband who only loves his wife when she is warm, cuddly and attractive. There is no real love in that. Nor is there real love of God in someone who caves in and turns away from God the moment things get difficult.

Finally, God does not normally intend to leave the Christian in a state of desolation for life or for a long time. There are some rare exceptions among the saints (who have advanced so much that a more or less extended trial of spiritual desolation is a condition for spiritual fruitfulness--think of Mother Teresa; few of us are Mother Teresa yet!). Otherwise, if we take the steps that St. Ignatius outlines in the rules for discernment, we can expect the desolation to subside in fairly short order (days or weeks at the most?).

Here are Sobrino's posts on the book (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). He has also posted on some of Fr. Gallagher's other writings, such as his book on consolation and on the Ignatian examen.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Meme

Clayton tagged me. I'm going to tag the gang at HMS Weblog. Here are the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

The closest book was Das Neue Testament: Eiheitsuebersetzung der heligen Schrift. The quote is from Mark 17:19
Weh aber den Frauen, die in jenen Tagen schwanger sind oder ein Kind stillen. Beten darum, dass dies alles nicht im Winter eintritt. Denn jene Tage werden eine Not bringen, wie es noch nie eine gegeben hat, seit Gott die Welt erschuf, und wie es auch keine mehr geben wird.
In English:
And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be.
I tag the gang at HMS.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Review of Fr. Schall's Book

You can find my review of Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.'s A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning here. Scroll to the very bottom. It takes a long time to load. The rest of the issue is good as well. A related piece is the lead article by James Hitchcock called "Rehearsal for Deconstruction" about Christopher Dawson.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blog roll

I've made a decision to read only blogs that somehow relate to my own professional, theological interests. That means I will no longer read a lot of personal blogs of friends. I also won't read scholarly blogs that aren't likely to include material that will help me in my work. The reason for this is so that I can discipline my reading and therefore get more scholarly reading and writing done. I need to focus on that in order to maintain my avocation to scholarship.

I have not changed my blogroll to reflect this, but I will in the near or remote future, as I have time.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Personal Litany of the Saints meme

Many of us have our own set of saints that we invoke for personal reasons. I have a whole litany that I recite during my morning prayer. Most of these saints are the patrons of my wife and children and special saints having to do with their lives. The rest are my own personal batch of saints. Here are the ones that are my personal litany:
  • Mary, Mother of God and Seat of Wisdom,
  • St. Joseph, patron of fathers and guardian of purity. Joseph is my confirmation name.
  • Ss. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
  • St. Robert Bellarmine, my patron and a theologian.
  • St. Francis, my other patron (my middle name is actually Franklin, but I fudge things a little, esp. since I am a secular Franciscan).
  • St. Augustine.
  • St. Benedict. I went to a Benedictine high school and have always been attracted to Benedictine spirituality, such as the Liturgy of the Hours and lectio divina. How I became Franciscan rather than an Oblate of St. Benedict is a long story.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas.
  • St. Thomas More, because he lived an intense spiritual life in the world and suffered for the truth.
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola. The impact Ignatian spirituality has had on me, both personally and intellectually is profound.
  • Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, Because of his devotion to a genuinely Catholic liberal education and because of the relationship of his thought to the teachings of Vatican II.
  • Venerable Leo John Dehon, because I work at a Dehonian institution and because of his devotion to the Sacred Heart, which is the primary form of my devotion to Christ, and to Eucharistic adoration, and to the formation of priests and to social justice.
  • St. Josemarie Escriva. El Camino has helped me considerably to be a man in my spirituality.
  • Servant of God Joseph Kentenich, founder of Schoenstatt. He has been the voice that has most helped me understand the centrality and meaning of motherhood, fatherhood and family in the human and Christian experience.
  • Servant of God John Paul II. He's the man. That is all I can say. I wish I were personally more like him and less like Pope Paul VI (whom I also admire greatly, especially for his longsuffering for the truth), but you have to play the cards you were dealt. Maybe I should add Pope Paul VI to my list?
  • Fr. Donald Wagener, a former seminarian here who developed a brain tumor while a deacon and died only months after his ordination to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. I have never been more certain of the sanctity of a man than I was of Fr. Donald Wagener.
  • Henri Cardinal de Lubac. Because he among all theologians has provided me an approach, a language, and an indefatigable zeal for the Catholic tradition in genuine dialogue with contemporary intellectual trends. I spent four years focusing on his thought. I don't know if he will ever be canonized, but I can hope that he will be, or at least that he has now already been released from purgatory and can therefore intercede on my behalf.
  • Guardian angels, for myself, my family and my godchildren.

What does one note about this list?

  • It is all male, except the Blessed Virgin Mary and the angels.
  • It is decidedly Western. I have an affinity for Eastern thought and spirituality (which is one of the reasons why I am a Franciscan, whose spirituality has a lot in common with Eastern approaches to the faith), but have drifted naturally and more recenlty to western saints. I don't know why. I admire many eastern saints. Maybe in the future this will change.
  • The list tends to be either intellectuals or spiritual "doctors."
  • Besides Ss. Mary and Joseph, there is only one lay person on the list, St. Thomas More. That is mostly because some of my favorite lay people have not been canonized--Jacques Maritain, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc. Maybe I should add them as well, like I did Donald Wagener and Henri de Lubac.

I'm going to tag Kevin Miller, Maclin Horton, Oswald Sobrino, and Jeff Vehige, if they are interested.