Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pope Benedict Was Right about Islam at Regensburg. The World Owes Him an Apology

LifeSiteNews reported on August 20, 2014:
As I write, the headlines and my various news feeds are filled with images of some of the most loathsome barbarities we have seen since the end of World War II. The horrific images invading our internet space from Syria and (the country formerly known as) Iraq: Mass murders, crucifixions, beheadings – even of tiny children – torture, and systematic gang rapes; women and girls abducted en masse and sold into slavery; thousands chased out of their homes in terror, allowed to carry nothing with them; homes, ancient churches, monasteries and shrines looted and burned…
Beyond horrific, the images and the news they depict are bizarre and surreal, as though the violent chaos of the 7th century had burst insanely into a quiet Midwestern suburb. We are being shown, in graphic detail on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Google, some hint of what the Islamic conquest of those ancient Christian lands we now call the Middle East must have looked like. We are reminded now of the long centuries of darkness, of misery and oppression of non-Muslim indigenous populations by their Islamic overlords, that spurred Christendom to attempt their rescue in the Crusades.
We are close today to the 8th anniversary, September 12th, of the address given by Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg in 2006, in which he quoted a long-dead Christian emperor who was facing similar reports. About a week ago, an editorial writer for the Catholic Italian newspaper Il Foglio, Camillo Langone, wrote that the world owed Pope Benedict – and Emperor Paleologus – an apology over their reaction to that speech. 
“Today, when the news from ex-Iraq is once more making history, and is showing to anyone who has eyes to see what the Koran translated into action truly is, they need to apologize to both of you.” But, Langone said, with obvious disgust, the modern secularized European “won’t do it”. Such a man, he wrote, “doesn’t believe in sacred texts…doesn’t believe in the Gospel.”
“For a European to believe that someone believes in religion is impossible… One who is no longer able to believe in God is not even capable of believing in reality, [and] does not even recognize a sword when it is pressing into his neck.”
Returning to that address with our current more graphic knowledge, it is hard to imagine a more mild response to Islamic extremism. Pope Benedict spoke about a discussion, a dialogue, “carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus” on the subject of Islam, the threat of which, in the form of the Ottoman Empire, was forcefully before him.
It is recorded that the Emperor, whom Pope Benedict described as “an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam,” asked, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The pope noted that the comment was recorded sometime “during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402.” The pope also noted that the Emperor spoke with “startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable.” But it is obvious that the emperor was also a man in a position to speak from personal experience.  
Since his talk, Pope Benedict has heard the constant accusations, endlessly repeated by the western press, that his “offensive” remarks, his “blunder” about Islam, caused the violence that followed.
But what did he say? He called quietly for a return to the supremacy of reason in religious discourse, and he politely asked Muslims to abjure violence.
The smug western secular media, busy with their attacks on one of their favorite targets, failed to quote the rest of the paragraph. But there can be found the thesis not only of Pope Benedict’s lecture, but of Christianity’s real response to both the uncontrolled violence of Islamism and to our own intellectually impoverished pleasure-obsessed libertinism: reason and faith, “fides et ratio” and their harmonious collaboration to create a moral and just civil order.
“The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul,” Pope Benedict said.
He quoted Paleologus: “God…is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...”
Given the images burning like acid into our minds now, how mild, how utterly calm and reasonable do the words now seem. And how plainly wicked the demands that he retract and apologize because of the “offence” they had caused Muslims: how feigned and deceitful, how self-serving the manufactured “outrage”.
When we can work up the nerve to look at these images coming from the new Islamic State, the new “Caliphate”, we are stunned and overwhelmed, and wonder if indeed this could possibly be happening in the age of near global market saturation of western consumables. How can this be happening in a “globalized” world? What has happened to our “global village”? Hasn’t modernity, with all its comforts and distractions, friendly, western secular Coca Cola imperialism, succeeded in civilizing everyone and taming the whole world?
One photo stands out this week, of a boy, about eight years old, reported to be the young son of one of the “Islamic State” terrorists, dressed in a blue Polo For Kids t-shirt, plaid checked summer trousers, what look like Birkenstocks and baseball cap, proudly holding up a decapitated head. Heads must be heavy, since the little boy needs two hands to hold it up by the hair. The Sydney Morning Herald, that carried the photo, with the boy’s face pixeled out, ran the caption, “A boy believed to be Australian Khaled Sharrouf’s son holds the decapitated head of a soldier.  From Khaled Sharrouf's Twitter account.” One does not usually imagine an apocalyptic dystopia featuring so many name brands.
In the face of this terrifying modern resurgence of the ancient threat, of such gross and unnatural barbarities, it is getting harder for western intellectual liberals to continue echoing the old mantras. The hard truth must be faced eventually, even by the most determined; not everyone in the world thinks the same way we do, holds the same values, has the same goals. Not every culture is of equal value. Not all men are equally “right” in what they believe.
And if the message of the photos and videos were not getting through our thick western skulls, we have today a direct warning from the leader of the ancient Christian community that has been decimated by ISIS. The Chaldean Catholic Church traces its heritage to St. Thomas, the doubting Apostle of Christ. A few days ago, we all saw the headline saying that, for the first time in 1600 years, Mass was not being said in the ancient Christian town of Mosul because all the Christians, all the Chaldean Catholics, had been either killed, expelled or kidnapped, to be sold later into chattel slavery.
Speaking from his exile in the dubious and perhaps temporary safety of the northern Iraqi town of Erbil, the head of this lost and grieving community, Archbishop Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic Archeparch of Mosul, told us quite bluntly, and without the niceties required by Pope Benedict’s civilized academic audience, that the time for indulging our comfortable liberal fantasies is over.
“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those that you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future,” said the archbishop in an interview with Corriere della Sera. “I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
“Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims.”
He warns us, “Also, you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles.”
Erbil is 55 miles east of Mosul, in territory currently holding off IS attackers, but it is certainly in their path. Corriera della Sera reports that the bishop has asked for material aid for the exiles huddling in shock there. “8,000 people, many elderly, a disproportionate number (for us Westerners) of children, babies of a few months, many dehydrated with diarrhea. A septuagenarian asks for insulin. Others write on scraps of crumpled paper the names of medicines that nobody knows where to find. 
“Tens of rusty wheelchairs were donated by humanitarian organizations for the sick and are used as chairs for the old. The local Christian organizations together with UN agencies have improvised a canteen service that distributes white rice, bread, bottled water. The toilets are almost useless.”
The archbishop continues: “You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Send Your Ice Bucket Challenge Donation to Ethical, Successful Adult Stem Cell Research


You’ve probably heard of it by now, the Ice Bucket Challenge.  Those challenged are supposed either to dump an ice bucket of cold water over their head, or donate to ALS research.  Most people do both, posting a video of their icy bath.
It’s a stunt, but has successfully raised awareness of ALS as well as donations for research.  But people should consider where their donations go and how the money is used.
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a fatal, progressive neurological disease.  It attacks the nerves that control voluntary muscles, so it is sometimes termed “motor neuron disease”.  As the nerves die, muscles weaken and atrophy, including the muscles for breathing; most people suffering from ALS die of respiratory failure.  The cause is unknown and at this point there is no cure, and very little that can even slow disease progression.
So, raising awareness about ALS and increasing support for ALS research is a good thing.  But whether you participate in a challenge or just donate to important research, where should your donation go?
So far, most of the attention and millions of dollars in donation have gone to the ALS Association.  However, the ALSA has admitted that it gives some of its money to embryonic stem cell research and has no qualms about doing so in the future.  (Note the ALSA page linked in the above has just recently been changed, and now notes that embryonic stem cell research “has raised ethical concerns.”)
That trial is being run by the University of Michigan and Emory University, and sponsored by a company called Neuralstem which uses aborted fetus cells for research (“from the donated spinal cord tissue of an 8-week-old aborted fetus.”)  All of the Neuralstem trials use cells derived from abortion.
Project ALS, another charity for ALS research, also funds embryonic stem cell research.
But there are alternatives for donations that use only ethical stem cell sources!

Friday, August 15, 2014

7 Things To Restore the Sense of the Sacred

Catholicism Pure & Simple August 13, 2014 :
When it comes to the liturgy of the Roman rite, some would have you believe that you have two choices, the progressive Novus Ordo mass at St. Banal of Boringham parish or the Traditional Latin Mass at the Parish of Quo Primum on the corner of Lunatic and Fringe.
They would also have you believe that never the twain shall meet, that until the Pope of Future Past arrives to reform the Novus Ordo, that any chance of recovering what was traditionally considered sacred and reverential in the Novus Ordo is impossible, regardless of whether you consider that a feature or a bug.
But this is simply not true. There are many things that Pastors and Priests could do tomorrow to help restore a sense of the sacred and proper reverence to the liturgy, things that are perfectly in line with Vatican II. Further, this is no theoretical exercise, there are pastors all around that have done some or even all of these things.
1.) Ad Orientem. The mass being said ad orientem means that the priest and the faithful face the same direction, (liturgical) east. Many people think that Vatican II or the Novus Ordo requires the priest to face the people. This is simply not true. In fact, the rubrics of the new mass anticipates that the mass be said ad orientem and instructs the priest when he should face the people.
I can think of no one single thing that could do more to properly orient the minds and hearts of the faithful (not to mention the priest) than restoring ad orientem worship. I commend to you the letter that Fr. Richard Heilman wrote to a priest about the fruits of this change one year after its implementation. No permission or indult is required to make this change as it is just as the mass was originally intended. All that is needed is a willing priest and time to properly educate the faithful.
2.) Restore chant and polyphony. Ditch the lame hymnal and its happy-clappy anthropocentrism and bring back chant and polyphony. Again, this is exactly for what Vatican II called, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.” Moreover, the priest should chant the mass with the faithful providing chanted responses. A priest could even chant the propers. All this can take time and a concerted effort at education, the payoff could be immense.
3.) Latin, yes Latin!! Again, Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” What Vatican II envisioned was the use of the vernacular for the variable parts of the mass, “This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants.” But the parts of the mass that are the same every week could be in Latin, the people could be educated on this, education, translation cheat sheets, and time could restore that which was always to be preserved. At the very least, prayers like the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei should be in Latin and the Kyrie in Greek as many people are already familiar with them.
4.) Proper Reception of Communion, Kneeling and On The Tongue. In his article at New Liturgical Movement, Fr. Richard Heilman does all the heavy lifting on this topic.
Why Kneel?
Pope Benedict XVI, has noted that kneeling is “an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.” He reminds us that “the word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own liturgy.”
In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict speaks of a “story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frightening thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.”
Why Receive on the tongue?
Despite the widespread practice of Communion in the hand, the universal discipline of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue has not changed. A bishop, for example, may forbid the practice of Communion in the hand but not the practice of Communion on the tongue. The Church strongly encourages the latter but not the former. With respect to Communion in the hand, the Church speaks only in a cautionary tone because of the many abuses that often accompany this practice.
Kneeling and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue encourages you to really think about what it is you are doing while at the same time showing proper respect for the Eucharist.  Adding or using a communion rail is the best way to encourage proper reception.
Speaking of respect for the Eucharist
5.) No More Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  The use of of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion is supposed to be just that, extraordinary.  The use of EMHC’s for the regular distribution of communion at ordinary masses is an abuse, pure and simple.
§ 1. The canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion. The same discipline establishes that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon.[96] Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are those instituted as acolytes and the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, § 3.[97]
§ 2. Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion.[99] They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion.
The ordinary ministers are Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.  When every Tom, Dick, and Jane runs up to the sanctuary and hands out communion, the sacredness of the Eucharist is diminished.
6.) Appropriate Attire.  This is all about education, education, and more education.  Priests and pastors should repeatedly preach and educate the faithful about proper attire for mass.  Nobody would dress in flip flops and tank top to a job interview,  or to meet the President or the Pope, but meeting our Lord and Savior in the Eucharist?  Other things Priest can do is ditch the altar server’s potato sack robes and replace them with cassocks and surplices.  Priest’s could teach about the sacredness of women and encourage use of the veil.  Everybody knows that what we wear changes how we behave and how we behave changes how we think.
7.) General Reverence and Sacredness.  This is all about eliminating disruption and restoring a sense of the sacred.  Some things to consider here are:
  • Eliminating the Sign of Peace by the Faithful.  It is only an option and not mandatory and often very disruptive.
  • More Incense.
  • Great attention to reverence and precision by the Priests and servers.
  • Priestly ad libs banished!
  • The priest avoid wandering around during the homily.
I don’t pretend that any of these things are easy for the priests or the faithful, but they are all doable and many priests and pastors have implemented many or all of these things. Some of these things may be particularly difficult for some older parishioners, boomers and beyond, no doubt. But to avoid restoring the sacred for the sake of these is simply to make the dying patient comfortable rather than trying to cure the disease.
In all these things, the priest must be committed to education and some may take time.  Parishes that have implemented many of these changes have seen tremendous blessings.

August 15th - The Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Into Heaven

 From The Liturgical Year by Abbot Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.
Today the Virgin Mary ascended to Heaven; rejoice, for she reigns with Christ for ever.' The Church will close her chants on this glorious day with this sweet antiphon, which resumes the object of the feast and the spirit in which it should be celebrated.
    No other solemnity breathes, like this one, at once triumph and peace; none better answers to the enthusiasm of the many and the serenity of souls consummated in love. Assuredly that was as great a triumph when our Lord, rising by His own power from the tomb, cast hell into dismay; but to our souls, so abruptly drawn from the abyss of sorrows on Golgotha, the suddenness of the victory caused a sort of stupor to mingle with the joy of that greatest of days. In presence of the prostrate angels, the hesitating apostles, the women seized with fear and trembling, one felt that the divine isolation of the Conqueror of death was perceptible even to His most intimate friends, and kept them, like Magdalen, at a distance.
   Mary's death, however, leaves no impression but peace; that death had no other cause than love. Being a mere creature, she could not deliver herself from that claim of the old enemy; but leaving her tomb filled with flowers, she mounts up to Heaven, flowing with delights, leaning upon her Beloved. Amid the acclamations of the daughters of Sion, who will henceforth never cease to call her blessed, she ascends surrounded by choirs of Heavenly spirits joyfully praising the Son of God. Never more will shadows veil, as they did on earth, the glory of the most beautiful daughter of Eve. Beyond the immovable Thrones, beyond the dazzling Cherubim, beyond the flaming Seraphim, onward she passes, delighting the Heavenly city with her sweet perfumes. She stays not till she reaches the very confines of the Divinity; close to the throne of honor where her Son, the King of ages, reigns in justice and in power; there she is proclaimed Queen, there she will reign for ever more in mercy and in goodness.
   Here on earth Libanus and Amana, Sanir and Hermon dispute the honor of having seen her rise to Heaven from their summits; and truly the whole world is but the pedestal of her glory, as the moon is her footstool, the sun her vesture, the stars of Heaven her glittering crown. Daughter of Sion, thou art all fair and sweet, 'l cries the Church, as in her rapture she mingles her own tender accents with the songs of triumph: I saw the beautiful one as a dove rising up from the brooks of waters; in her garments was the most exquisite odor; and as in the days of spring, flowers of roses surrounded her and lilies of the valley.'
   The same freshness breathes from the facts of Bible history wherein the interpreters of the sacred Books see the figure of Mary's triumph. As long as this world lasts a severe law protects the entrance to the eternal palace; no one, without having first laid aside the garb of flesh, is admitted to contemplate the King of Heaven. There is one, however, of our lowly race, whom the terrible decree does not touch; the true Esther, in her incredible beauty, advances without hindrance through all the doors. Full of grace, she is worthy of the love of the true Assuerus; but on the way which leads to the awful throne of the King of kings, she walks not alone: two handmaids, one supporting her steps, the other holding up the long folds of her royal robe, accompany her; they are the angelic nature and the human, both equally proud to hail her as their mistress and lady, and both sharing in her glory.
   If we go back from the time of captivity, when Esther saved her people, to the days of Israel's greatness, we find our Lady's entrance into the city of endless peace represented by the Queen of Saba coming to the earthly Jerusalem. While she contemplates with rapture the magnificence of the mighty prince of Sion, the pomp of her own retinue, the incalculable riches of the treasure she brings, her precious stones and her spices, plunge the whole city into admiration. There was brought no more, says the Scripture, such abundance of spices as these which the Queen of Saba gave to King Solomon!
The reception given by David's son to Bethsabee, his mother, in the third Book of Kings, no less happily expresses the mystery of today, so replete with the filial love of the true Solomon. Then Bethsabee came to King Solomon . . . and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne, and a throne was set the king's mother: and she sat on his right hand. O Lady, how exceedingly dost thou surpass all the servants and ministers and friends of God !
On the day when Gabriel came to my lowliness,' are the words St. Ephrem puts into thy mouth, 'from handmaid I became Queen; and I, the slave of Thy Divinity, found myself suddenly the mother of Thy humanity, my Lord and my Son! O Son of the King who hast made me His daughter, O Thou Heavenly One, who thus bringest into Heaven His daughter of earth, by what name shall I call Thee?' The Lord Christ Himself answered; the God made Man revealed to us the only name which fully expresses Him in His twofold nature; He is called THE SON, Son of Man as He is Son of God, on earth He has only a Mother, as in Heaven He has only a Father. In the august Trinity He proceeds from the Father, remaining consubstantial with Him; only distinguished from Him in that He is Son; producing together with Him, as one Principle, the Holy Ghost. In the external mission He fulfills by the Incarnation to the glory of the Blessed Trinity -- communicating to His humanity the manners, so to say, of His Divinity, as far as the diversity of the two natures permits -- He is in no way separated from His Mother, and would have her participate even in the giving of the Holy Ghost to every soul. This ineffable union is the foundation of all Mary's greatnesses, which are crowned by today's triumph. The days within the Octave will give us an opportunity of showing some of the consequences of this principle; today let it suffice to have laid it down.
As Christ is the Lord,' says Arnold of Bonneval, the friend of St. Bernard, Mary is Lady and sovereign. He who bends the knee before the Son kneels before the Mother. At the sound of her name the devils tremble, men rejoice, the angels glorify God. Mary and Christ are one flesh, one mind, and one love. From the day when it was said, The Lord is with thee, the grace was irrevocable, the unity inseparable; and in speaking of the glory of Son and Mother, we must call it not so much a common glory as the selfsame glory .' O Thou, the beauty and the honor of Thy Mother,' adds the great deacon of Edessa, thus hast Thou adorned her in every way; together with others she is Thy sister and Thy bride, but she alone conceived Thee."
Rupert in his turn cries out: Come then, O most beautiful one, thou shalt be crowned in Heaven Queen of saints, on earth Queen of every kingdom. Wherever it shall be said of the Beloved that He is crowned with glory and honor, and set over the works of His Father's hands, everywhere also shall they proclaim of thee, O well beloved, that thou art His Mother, and as such Queen over every domain where His power extends; and, therefore, emperors and kings shall crown thee with their crowns and consecrate their palaces to thee.'
    Among the feasts of the saints this is the solemnity of solemnities. 'Let the mind of man,' says St. Peter Damian, be occupied in declaring her magnificence; let his speech reflect her majesty. May the sovereign of the world deign to accept the goodwill of our lips, to aid our insufficiency, to illumine with her own light the sublimity of this day.'
It is no new thing, then, that Mary's triumph fills the hearts of Christians with enthusiasm. Before our times the Church showed by the prescriptions kept in the Corpus juris the pre-eminence she assigned to this glorious anniversary. Thus, under Boniface VIII, she granted to it, as to no other feast, except Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, the privilege of being celebrated with ringing of bells and the customary splendor in countries laid under interdict.
   In his instructions to the newly-converted Bulgarians, St. Nicholas I, who occupied the Apostolic See from 858 to 867, had already united these four solemnities when recommending the fasts of Lent, of the Ember days, and of the Vigils of these feasts -- 'Fasts,' he says, ' which the Holy Roman Church has long since received and observed.'
We must refer to the preceding century the composition of the celebrated discourse which, until the time of St. Pius V, furnished the Lessons for the Matins of the feast; while its thoughts, and even its text, are still found in several parts of the Office.' The author, worthy of the greatest ages for style and science, but screening himself under a false name, began thus: 'You wish me, O Paula and Eustochium, to lay aside my usual form of treatises, and strive [a new thing to me] to celebrate in oratorical style the Assumption of tile Blessed Mary ever Virgin.' And the supposed St. Jerome eloquently declared the grandeur of this feast : 'Incomparable as is she who thereon ascended glorious and happy to the sanctuary of Heaven: a solemnity, the admiration of the Heavenly hosts, the happiness of the citizens of our true country, who, not content with giving it one day as we do, celebrate it unceasingly in the eternal continuity of their veneration, of their love, and of their triumphant joy.' Unfortunately a just aversion for the excesses of certain apocryphal writers led the author of this beautiful exposition of the greatness of Mary to hesitate in his belief as to the glorious privilege of her corporal Assumption. This over-discreet prudence was soon exaggerated in the martyrologies of Usuard and of Odo of Vienne.
That such a misconception of the ever-growing tradition should be found in Gaul is truly astonishing, since it was the ancient Gallican liturgy which gave to the West the explicit formula of that complete Assumption, the consequence of a divine and virginal maternity: 'No pain in childbirth, no suffering in death, no dissolution in the grave, for no tomb could retain her whom earth had never sullied.'
When the first Carlovingians abandoned the Gallican liturgy, they bowed to the authority of the false St. Jerome. But the faith of the people could not be suppressed. In the thirteenth century the two princes of theology, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, subscribed to the general belief in our Lady's anticipated resurrection. Soon this belief, by reason of its universality, claimed to be the doctrine of the Church herself. In 497 the Sorbonne severely censured all contrary propositions.' In 1870 an earnest desire was expressed to have the doctrine defined; but the Vatican Council was unfortunately suspended too soon to complete our Lady's glorious crown. Yet the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, of which our times can boast, gives us hope for the future. The corporal Assumption of our Lady follows naturally from that dogma as its necessary result. Mary, having known nothing of original sin, contracted no debt with death, the punishment of that sin; she freely chose to die in order to be conformable to her Divine Son; and, as the Holy One of God, so the holy one of His Christ could not suffer the corruption of the tomb.
If certain ancient calendars give to this feast the title of Sleep or Repose, Dormitio or Pausatio, of the Blessed Virgin, we cannot thence conclude that at the time they were composed the feast had no other object than Mary's holy death; the Greeks, from whom we have the expression, have always included in the solemnity the glorious triumph that followed her death. The same is to be said of the Syrians, Chaldeans, Copts, and Armenians.
Among the last named, according to the custom of arranging their feasts by the day of the week rather than the date of the month, the Assumption is fixed for the Sunday which occurs between August 12 and 18. It is preceded by a week of fasting, and gives its name to the series of Sundays following it, up to the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September.
At Rome the Assumption or Dormitio of the holy Mother of God appears in the seventh century to have already been celebrated for an indefinite length of time; nor does it seem to have had any other day than August 15. According to Nicephorus Callistus, the same date was assigned to it for Constantinople by the Emperor Maurice at the end of the sixth century .The historian notes, at the same time, the origin of several other solemnities, while of the Dormitio alone, he does not say that it was established by Maurice on such a day; hence learned authors have concluded that the feast itself already existed before the imperial decree was issued, which was thus only intended to put an end to its being celebrated on various days.  Merovingian Franks celebrated the glorification of our Lady on January 18, with all the plenitude of doctrine we have mentioned above. However the choice of this day may be accounted for, it is remarkable that to this very time the Copts on the borders of the Nile announce in their synaxaria on the 21st of the month of Tobi, our January 28, the repose of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and the Assumption of her body into Heaven; they, however, repeat the announcement on Mesori 16, or August 21, and on the 1st of this same month of Mesori they begin their Lent of the Mother of God, lasting a fortnight like that of the Greeks.
Some authors think that the Assumption has been kept from apostolic times; but the silence of the primitive liturgical documents is not in favor of the opinion. The hesitation as to the date of its celebration, and the liberty so long allowed with regard to it, point rather to the spontaneous initiative of divers Churches, owing to some fact attracting attention to the mystery or throwing some light upon it. Of this nature we may reckon the account everywhere spread abroad about the year 451, in which Juvenal of Jerusalem related to the Empress St. Pulcheria and her husband Marcian the history of the tomb which was empty of its precious deposit, and which the apostles had prepared for our Lady at the foot of Mount Olivet. The following words of St. Andrew of Crete in the seventh century show how the new solemnity gained ground in consequence of such circumstances. The saint was born at Damascus, became a monk at Jerusalem, was afterwards deacon at Constantinople, and lastly bishop of the celebrated island from which he takes his name; no one then could speak for the East with better authority.' The present solemnity,' he says,' is full of mystery, having for its object to celebrate the day whereon the Mother of God fell asleep; this solemnity is too elevated for any discourse to reach; by some this mystery has not always been celebrated, but now all love and honor it. Silence long preceded speech, but now love divulges the secret. The gift of God must be manifested, not buried; we must show it forth, not as recently discovered, but as having recovered its splendor. Some of those who lived before us knew it but imperfectly: that is no reason for always keeping silence about it; it has not become altogether obscured; let us proclaim it and keep a feast. Today let the inhabitants of Heaven and of earth be united, let the joy of angels and men be one, let every tongue exult and sing Hail to the Mother of God.'
Let us, too, do honor to the gift of God; let us be grateful to the Church for having given us this feast whereon to sing with the angels the glory of Mary . . . In all the churches of France there takes place today the solemn procession which was instituted in memory of the vow whereby Louis XIII dedicated the most Christian Kingdom to the Blessed Virgin. By letters given at Saint-Germain-en-Faye, February 10, 1638, the pious king consecrated to Mary his person, his kingdom, his crown, and his people. Then he continued: ' We command the Archbishop of Paris to make a commemoration every year, on the Feast of the Assumption, of this decree at the High Mass in his cathedral; and after Vespers on the said day let there be a procession in the said church, at which the royal associations and the corporation shall assist, with the same ceremonies as in the most solemn processions.
We wish the same to be done also in all churches, whether parochial or monastic, in the said town and its suburbs, and in all the towns, hamlets, and villages of the said diocese of Paris. Moreover, we exhort and command all the archbishops and bishops of our kingdom to have Mass solemnly celebrated in their cathedrals and in all churches in their dioceses; and we wish the Parliaments and other royal associations and the principal municipal officers to be present at the ceremony. We exhort the said archbishops and bishops to admonish all our people to have a special devotion to the holy Virgin, and on this day to implore her protection, so that our Kingdom may be guarded by so powerful a patroness from all attacks of its enemies, and may enjoy good and lasting peace; and that God may be so well served and honored therein, that both we and our subjects may be enabled happily to attain the end for which we were created; for such is our pleasure!'
  Thus was France again proclaimed Mary's kingdom. Within a month after the first celebration of the feast, according to the royal prescriptions, the Queen, after twenty years' barrenness, gave birth on September 5, 1638, to Louis XIV. This prince also consecrated his crown and scepter to Mary. The Assumption, then; will always be the national feast of France, except for those of her sons who celebrate the anniversaries of revolutions and assassinations. [The special prayers said every year, until the fall of the monarchy, in fulfillment of the vow of Louis XIII are below with the concluding prayer.] . . .  We must not forget that Hungary was similarly consecrated to the holy Mother of God by its first king, St. Stephen. From that time the Hungarians called the Feast of the Assumption the 'Day of the great Queen,' Our Lady recompensed the piety of the apostolic king by calling him, on August 15, 1038, to exchange his earthly for a Heavenly crown; we shall find his feast in the cycle on September 2.
   In the sixteenth century the Lutherans in several places continued to celebrate the Assumption of our Lady, even after they had apostatized, because the people would not give up the feast. Many of the churches of Germany, as we learn from their breviaries and missals, were accustomed to celebrate Mary's triumph for thirty days by canticles and assemblies.
  Let us offer to Mary a garland of liturgical pieces on this day of her triumph. We could find nothing better to commence with than these beautiful and fragrant flowers produced by Gaul in early times. They are taken from the Mass of January 16, in which our forefathers celebrated both the Maternity and the triumph of our Lady . . .
 Thou didst taste death, O Mary ! But that death, like the sleep of Adam at the world's beginning, was but an ecstasy leading the Bride into the Bridegroom's presence. As the sleep of the new Adam on the great day of salvation, it called for the awakening of resurrection. In Jesus Christ our entire nature, soul and body, was already reigning in Heaven; but as in the first paradise, so in the presence of the Holy Trinity, it was not good for man to be alone. Today at the right hand of Jesus appears the new Eve, in all things like to her Divine Head, in His vesture of glorified flesh: henceforth nothing is wanting in the eternal paradise.
O Mary, who, according to the expression of thy devout servant John Damascene, hast made death blessed and happy, detach us from this world, where nothing ought now to have a hold on us. We have accompanied thee in desire; we have followed thee with the eyes of our soul, as far as the limits of our mortality allowed; and now, can we ever again turn our eyes upon this world of darkness ? O Blessed Virgin, in order to sanctify our exile and help us to rejoin thee, bring to our aid the virtues whereby, as on wings, thou didst soar to so sublime a height. In us, too, they must reign; in us they must crush the head of the wicked serpent, that one day they may triumph in us. O day of days, when we shall behold not only our Redeemer, but also the Queen who stands so close to the Sun of Justice as even to be clothed therewith, eclipsing with her brightness all the splendors of the Saints.
The Church, it is true, remains to us, O Mary, the Church who is also our Mother, and who continues thy struggle against the dragon with its seven hateful heads. But she, too, sighs for the time when the wings of an eagle will be given her, and she will be permitted to rise like thee from the desert and to reach her Spouse. Look upon her passing, like the moon, at thy feet, through her laborious phases; hear the supplications she addresses to thee as Mediatrix with the divine Sun; through thee may she receive light; through thee may she find favor with Him who loved thee, and clothed thee with glory and crowned thee with beauty.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Oklahoma City Catholic archbishop calls for prayer to counteract 'Black Mass'


Satan and Saint John Vianney

Ignatius Insight Scoop August 4, 2014:
Imagine a saint – a priest – so dedicated to God that he often went days without eating, and when he did eat, it was a boiled potato or a piece of hard bread.
Although many considered him unfit for the priesthood, he revived the crushed faith of an impoverished village and often spent eighteen hours a day hearing confessions, often sleeping only an hour or two each night.
As the reputation of this holy man of God spread, pilgrims began to seek him out, sometimes waiting days for him to hear their confession, heal their illnesses, and speak directly to their deepest needs. But not everyone was so pleased. This priest began to be attacked, sometimes physically and, at other times, emotionally and psychologically. He was verbally mocked, scorned, and abused. At night he was subjected to loud and violent noises for hours on end. He was pulled from bed in the middle of the night and, on one occasion, his bed was set on fire.
Despite this constant abuse, the priest never called the police or requested security. It wouldn’t have mattered, for the abuse and taunts did not come from another human, but from Satan. The priest, of course, was St. John Vianney (1786-1859), the Curé of Ars, whose feast is celebrated August 4.
Although rightly renowned for his holiness, asceticism, and spiritual insight, the Curé of Ars was also remarkable for his courage and steadiness in the face of the Devil. For some thirty-five years (1824-1858) Satan assaulted the Saint in a nearly endless number of ways, seeking to break the will and resolve of the great man of God: making harrowing noises, singing in a wicked voice, meowing like a cat, or shouting, "Vianney! Vianney! Potato eater!"
Living Being or Scary Symbol?Many people today would understood St. John Vianney's struggles with Satan to simply be the result of psychological problems that weren’t understood or properly identified in his day.  They would explain that in a less scientific age people often attributed behaviors they didn't understand to the work of the devil, but now we can treat many such illnesses with proper medication and therapy.  Behavior that once was deemed demonic or caused by spiritual oppression can be explained by science and psychology, as newspapers, magazines, and television programs instruct us on a regular basis.
While it’s not surprising that non-Christians or non-religious people might make such assessments, there’s evidence that more and more Christians are rejecting the ancient belief that Satan is a real, living being. 
In his 1991 book, What Americans Believe (Regal Books; page 26), Evangelical pollster George Barna reported that a survey of 1005 Americans found that 60% of respondents, regardless of religious affiliation, believed that Satan was "only a symbol of evil," while 35% believed he is "a living being." Just over half of the respondents who described themselves as "born again Christians" believed Satan is a living being, while only 26% of Catholics agreed, with almost 7 out of10 Catholics saying Satan is only a symbol of evil.
In December 1993, Time magazine featured a story and an opinion poll on angels. The poll revealed that 69% of respondents believed in the existence of angels, but only 49% believed in the existence of fallen "angels or devils." Two years later, in 1995, another Barna survey revealed that about 58% of American adults believed that Satan is "not a living being but is a symbol of evil."
And, finally, an October 2002 study by the Barna Group ("Americans Draw Theological Beliefs From Diverse Points of View") found that 59% of Americans reject the existence of Satan, instead believing he is merely a symbol of evil. The study stated: "Catholics are much more likely than Protestants to hold this view – 75% compared to 55% – although a majority of both groups concur that Satan is symbolic." The study also noted that the rejection of Satan’s existence apparently conflicted with the fact that 54% of respondents believed that "a human being can be under the control or the influence of spiritual forces such as demons." The religious group with the highest percentage (59%) of members who believe that Satan is a living entity was Mormon. The group with the lowest percentage, at 17%, was Catholic.
For some people, the path from denying Satan is a living being to denying his existence in any form – even an impersonal and abstract one – is a short one. As many have noted, this is probably how Satan would prefer it. The French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is credited with the saying that "the Devil's cleverest wile is to convince us that he does not exist." In his book, The Eternal Galilean, Archbishop Fulton Sheen warned readers: "Do not mock the Gospels and say there is no Satan. Evil is too real in the world to say that. Do not say the idea of Satan is dead and gone. Satan never gains so many cohorts as when, in his shrewdness, he spreads the rumor that he is long since dead."
Even though there are priests, catechists, and Catholic educators who may never speak of Satan, and who – either directly or indirectly – apparently deny his existence, Satan is not dead, nor has the Church demoted him to a vague, impersonal force. While a growing number of people, including an alarming number of Catholics, are being convinced (or have convinced themselves) that the Devil is just a figment of primitive imaginations, the Church’s teachings today about him are just as robust and clear as ever.
The Names and the Fall of Satan In a general audience titled "Confronting the Devil’s power," (November 15, 1972) Pope Paul VI said that it is a departure from "biblical Church teaching to refuse to aknowledge the Devil's existence; to regard him as a self-sustaining principle who, unlike other creatures, does not owe his origin to God; or to explain the Devil as a pseudo-reality, a conceptual, fanciful personification of the unknown causes of our misfortunes." Here are expressed three major truths about Satan, all of them found in the Bible: the Devil exists, he is a creature who was created by God, and he is very real.
The name Satan appears numerous times in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. The Hebrew word satan refers to an adversary, or to someone who plots opposition to another. It is used several times in the Old Testament to describe the work of both human and heavenly beings sent to stop, or oppose, the actions of a wrongdoer and to act as an agent of judgment on behalf of God. Eventually, in the decades immediately prior to the time of Christ, the word began to be used as a proper name – Satan – for a heavenly creature who is in complete opposition to God and who seeks to ruin His work. In Jewish apocryphal writings he is understood to be the prince of evil spirits whose expulsion from heaven was due to his refusal to recognize man as the image of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27).
Throughout the New Testament he is referred to by many other names, including Beelzebul (Mk 3:22; Matt 10:25; 12: 24), Belial/Beliar (2 Cor 6:15), the evil one (Matt 13:19; Jn 17:15; 1 Jn 5:18, 19), the enemy (Matt 13:25, 28, 29; Lk 10:19), the ruler of the demons (Mk 3:22), the ruler of this world (Jn 12:31; 14:30), the great dragon (Rev 12:9), the serpent, or serpent of old (2 Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9, 14, 14; 20:2), and the tempter (Matt 4:3; 1 Thess 3:5). And, of course, he is called "the Devil" (Matt 4:1; 25:41; Lk 4:2; Jn 13:2; Acts 10:38), which derives from the Greek word diabolos (Latin, diabolus), which means "slanderer" or "accuser." 

Monday, August 4, 2014

History and Heresy


“To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant” wrote Bl. John Henry Newman.
As part of my research for a book on married priests I am reading Christian Cochini’s tome Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy. It’s a masterful piece of scholarship which examines the early church’s views on marriage for the clergy.
As a fringe benefit I’m also getting a refresher in church history, and as we hop, skip and jump over the Christological heresies in the early church it’s interesting to note how these same problems are with us today–often not identified. Furthermore, what we believe affects how we behave. When Christians have a wrong understanding of their faith it has consequences.
It took three hundred years for the church to finally hammer out a precise theological definition of who Jesus Christ really is. It was codified by the Bishops and priests who attended the great council of Nicaea in 325 which was called by the Emperor Constantine and which all Catholics recite every week at Mass.
The Council of Nicaea was called to counter the heresy of Arianism. Arius was a priest from Alexandria in Egypt, and he taught that Christ was not co-equal with God, but was a created being. He thought Christ was created by God before the world began. His views therefore not only denied the divinity of Christ, but also destroyed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
Arianism was at first a highly theological and metaphysical concept concerned not so much with the denial of Christ’s divinity, but an attempt to preserve the transcendence and unity of God. In the end, Arius had to conclude that Jesus Christ the Son of God was a demi-god–and therefore a created being. The argument focussed on two Greek words: homoousias, the Son is of the same essence as the Father, and homoiousias, the Son is of similar essence as the Father. The Nicene creed uses the word first word “homoousias” meaning one of substance with the Father, and so we say today, “Consubstantial with the Father.”
Arianism is a refined heresy which deals in arguments about the nature of God and his relationship to Christ. It is rare today, but the practical result of Arianism: “Jesus is a created being” was expressed more openly in the ancient heresy called  Ebionism. Ebionites taught that Jesus is just an ordinary mortal.  The Ebionites were Jewish Christians in the early church. The Ebionites rejected the virgin birth, regarding Jesus as a man normally born of Joseph and Mary; they held he was the predestined Messiah, and in this capacity he would return to reign on earth. There are plenty of “Ebionites” around today. Everybody who says Jesus was just a good man or one prophet or holy man or good religious teacher among many.
Although they believe in the Virgin Birth, Muslims relegate Jesus Christ to being no more than a created being. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) do the same. In their denial of the Trinity the Unitarians also deny the divinity of Christ.
On the popular level Ebionism is everywhere around us. For many people in our society Jesus Christ is no more than a good teacher or a martyr for his cause. Indeed, sad to say, a large number of Christians and I expect a very large number of Catholics would have the same understanding of Jesus. Despite the fact that we recite the Nicene Creed every week it goes in one ear and out the other. “God from God. Light from Light. Very God of Very God. Consubstantial with the Father….” The words of the creed hammer home the truth.
Semi-Arianism was the view that Christ was “similar” to God but not of the same substance. Again, in popular modern terms you find theologians who will say things like, “Jesus was so perfect a human being that he shows us what God is like.” or “We say that Jesus is divine because the things he did reflect the image of God in which we are all created.” This is a typical modernist interpretation of the doctrine of the incarnation which is prevalent in many pulpits.
Why does it matter? Because if Jesus Christ is just another ordinary human being then we must regard him as no more than a good teacher, and if a good teacher, then no more important necessarily than any other good teacher. Christianity then becomes a religion of following the teachings of a good teacher. Jesus’ death becomes no more than a martyr’s death. It has no redemptive value. Furthermore, if Jesus is just a good teacher the Eucharist is no more than a symbol. The church is no more than a human organization of people trying to follow the teachings of a good man and he is no more of a bridge to God and a reconciler of the human race than Mahatma Gandhi or the Buddha.
If all of that is true, then we are stuck here as human beings looking for the best of the good teachers or the most convincing of ideologies to follow. If Jesus is just a good teacher and not the Redeemer, the Savior of Souls, then all we can do is to try to make the world a better place. In fact, look around. Isn’t that just what the modernist Christians have left us with? Heretical Christianity has become (to quote Pope Francis) no more than another NGO (non governmental organization)–a group of ideological do gooders, and we don’t have to look far to realize that ideological do gooders eventually end up doing bad.
Other Christological heresies abound. Each one is a misunderstanding of the true nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. Adoptionism teaches that Jesus was human, but he became the Son of God by Adoption. At some point in Jesus life (usually at his baptism) God adopted him as his Son. The early church document The Shepherd of Hermas taught that Jesus was an ordinary man, born of Mary and Joseph; at his baptism the Spirit or Christ descended upon Jesus and at his crucifixion the Christ departed, leaving the man Jesus to suffer alone.
While some Christological heresies denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ others denied his full humanity.Docetism is the heresy that teaches that Jesus is not human at all. He is completely divine. The Docetists said Jesus just ‘seemed’ to be human. Apollinarianism is another heresy that denies Jesus Christ’s full humanity. In this belief the Logos (the divine part of Jesus Christ) assumed a human body in Jesus, and thus replaced his human soul and mind. But if  the divine Word of God took the place of the human mind and soul, Christ the Lord was not completely human. Monophysitism suggests that the humanity of Jesus was overwhelmed or taken up into his divinity.
Some conservative Protestants fall into this trap unawares. They don’t take the labels of “Docetist” or “Apollinarian” or “Monophysite” but their concept of Jesus is that he sort of floated around a few inches off the ground, never soiled his clothes, always had his hair combed, did miracles and because he was God he was always squeaky clean. The “stained glass Jesus” is a popular image of this divine being who only appears to be human.  A more popular “man in the street” version understands Jesus’ divinity in super hero terms. Jesus was a wonderworker like Superman, so he must have come here from another planet. Jesus as an alien or an angel. He is really divine but seems to be human like us when he puts on ordinary clothes like Clark Kent.
Why does this matter? Because if those who fall into the trap of thinking Jesus is merely human end up focussing only on making this world a better place, then the docetists float through life so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good. The docetist Christians are the ones who are unlikely to start a soup kitchen, build a school, get involved in politics or campaign for life. As St Ignatius of Antioch said, “They do not believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ and they will not feed the hungry or house the orphans.”
The fathers of the Church realized that one of the safeguards for an orthodox understanding of the Incarnation of Christ was to have the proper understanding of who Mary really is. The Council of Ephesus in 431 approved the term “Theotokos” or “God Bearer” or “Mother of God” for the Blessed Virgin as a support for the orthodox understanding of the incarnation. In Mary the Mother of God we see the two natures combined perfectly: Jesus Christ–true God and true Man. This is why an icon of the Madonna and Child is not just a pretty picture, but always a meditation on the depth and wonder of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The beauty of the Catholic faith is that the true belief about Jesus Christ is not just a theological dogma to be believed in our head. It is a belief we affirm each week in the liturgy as we recite the creed. It is a belief we live through our devotion to the Blessed Mother as we pray the rosary. The incarnation is a belief that comes alive as we celebrate the Eucharist where Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity lives for us under the appearance of bread and wine. It is a belief we live as that same Lord lives in us and we in him–remembering that God became man so that we could become like God.
Go here for a quick summary description of the Christological heresies.