Friday, December 30, 2011

If Mary is the Mother of Jesus, why isn't the Holy Spirit called his father?


January 1st, Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God
The generation of Christ was in this wise. When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph etc. (Matthew 1:18)
St. Matthew makes it very clear that Mary is truly the Mother of Jesus, and this is affirmed also in the other Gospels many times over. Throughout the Gospels and in the Church’s Tradition, Mary is called the Mother of Jesus. Indeed, we know that (because Jesus is one divine person) Mary is truly said to be the Mother of God.
However, given that Mary is the Mother of Jesus with respect to his humanity, why do we not call the Holy Spirit the Father of Jesus? Since it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived, and since Mary is called the spouse of the Holy Spirit, why does the Church refuse to say that Jesus is the Son of the Holy Spirit in his humanity?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why does the Church celebrate Christmas with greater solemnity than the Annunciation?


And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The mystery of the Incarnation was effected by the Annunciation, nine months before Our Savior’s Nativity. The Word was made flesh with our Lady’s fiat, and at that moment humanity was joined to divinity in a personal union. The Child conceived is already a perfect man, meriting the salvation of the whole world, praying in our behalf and offering to God perfect worship. Further, Blessed Mary was already the “Mother of God” at the Annunciation, for women are mothers from conception even before giving birth.
Why, then, does the Church celebrate the Birth of our Savior with greater solemnity than the Incarnation itself (at the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th)?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Birth of Jesus, revealed to St. Bridget


Over the past week, we have posted a few articles related to the temporal generation of the Son – on Mary’s pregnancy [here], on the miraculous birth itself [here], and on the rational perfection of the Child conceived [here].
In these articles, we showed that our Lady did not suffer any pain when giving birth to her Son, that the physical closure of her virgin womb remained intact even in the very act of giving birth (for Christ passed through without causing any harm to her virginal integrity), and that the Christ Child already knew all created things and loved each of us in his humanity from the very first moment of his conception (thus, while an infant, he was already a rational man).
While all of these articles were firmly rooted in the magisterial teachings of the Church and in the doctrines of the Church Fathers, it is always good to compare our theological insights with the lived faith of the great saints. We will not be the least surprised to discover that the mystical revelations given to St. Bridget of Sweden (surely, one of the greatest saint-mystics of the Church) wholly confirm all that the saint-theologians have taught and all that the Magisterium has declared.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

When did Christ reach the "age of reason"?


Femina circumdabit virum.

How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness, O wandering daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth: A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN. (Jeremiah 31:22)
St. Thomas Aquinas, following the tradition of the Fathers (especially St. Jerome) reads this verse from Jeremiah as a prophetic sign that the Christ Child, from the first moment of his conception and while yet enclosed within the womb of the Woman Mary, will be a “perfect man” – which means that he will have perfect use of both reason and will.
Though, in general, by the “age of reason” we refer to around six or seven years of age, the real meaning of the phrase is to specify the point in which a child attains to the use of reason and free-will. When a child is capable of making morally significant decisions, we say that he has reached the “age of reason”.
Some will be quite surprised to realize that the Church has taught, in her ordinary Magisterium, that Christ our Savior had use of reason from the very first moment of his conception. While yet in the womb, our Lord was a rational man in regard to the powers of his human intellect, though his body was yet that of a tiny child.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The virgin birth of Christ - What the Church really teaches


Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” (Lumen Gentium [Vatican II], 57)
The Church teaches de fide that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ our Savior. She conceived as a virgin, she gave birth as a virgin, and she remains a virgin forever. Yet, we ask, What does the Church mean when saying that Mary was a virgin “during birth”? What is the mystery we contemplate in the third joyful mystery of the Rosary? Why do the Popes and Church Fathers (together with the Doctors) insist that Christ’s birth was “miraculous”?
While we will briefly consider a few points from Scripture, our primary goal in this little article will be to describe just what exactly it is that the Church means when she professes that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why did God send Gabriel for the Annunciation?


4th Sunday of Advent, Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
Familiar as we are with the narrative of St. Luke’s Gospel, we are tempted to take it for granted that God sent the archangel Gabriel to announce the joyful news of the Incarnation to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.
Yet, of course, it did not need to have happened that way. God could have forgone the Annunciation all together. Or one of the Persons of the Trinity could have appeared to Mary rather than sending an angel. Further, even granting that God chose to send an angel – he could have sent a seraphim rather than an archangel, or he could have sent Michael rather than Gabriel.
Why then did God choose to send an archangel? And why did he send Gabriel?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Biblical proof that Mary (and Joseph) made a vow of virginity


4th Sunday of Advent, Luke 1:26-38
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
The Gospel text recounting the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary contains the biblical evidence and proof that she had made a vow of virginity prior to her conception of the Christ Child. Further, as we consider the historical circumstances of her betrothal to Joseph, it will become quite clear that he also had vowed perpetual continence as the spouse of our Lady.
Rather than discussing the universal and emphatic teachings of the Fathers of the Church – all of whom assert that Mary had made a vow of virginity – because such texts will often be ignored by Protestants (to their eternal ruin), we will look simply at the Gospel text itself and shall assert only those things which are affirmed also by the Evangelist.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What was it like to be pregnant with the Savior?


For nine months, the Blessed Virgin Mary carried the Christ Child within her own body. She was “with child”, pregnant. The body of our Lord grew within her over those nine months, and he was sustained by the nourishment which was given him through her most pure body.
St. John of the Cross, whose feast we celebrate on Wednesday, writes beautifully of this mystery:
Del Verbo divino
La Virgen preƱada
Viene de camino
¡si le dais posada!
With the divine Word
The Virgin heavy
Comes down the way
If only you'll give her welcome!
During the season of Advent, we await the Nativity of our Savior; and it is only natural that, meditating upon the time before Christ’s birth, we should begin to ponder what the pregnancy was like. In such matters as these – which touch upon the most intimate union of our Lord and our Blessed Lady – we must write with great tenderness, caution, love, devotion, and dignity.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Whether St. John the Baptist is Elijah?


Third Sunday of Advent, John 1:6-8,19-28
So they asked him [John], “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, its seems quite clear that St. John the Baptist is not Elijah – he even specifically denies it saying, “I am not Elijah”. Hence, we ought to think that John is not Elijah.
However, we may become confused if we consider the Sunday Gospel in relation to the Saturday morning Gospel (Matthew 17:9a,10-13) where Jesus says, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come”Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
The Savior makes this same point even more explicitly when he says: For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 11:13-15)
So, was or was not John the Baptist Elijah? John denied it, but Jesus seems to affirm it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Was Jesus immaculately conceived?


The dogma of the Immaculate Conception refers, as we know, to the blessed Virgin Mother of God as having been preserved from all sin (including the stain of original sin) from the first moment of her conception. The dogma, of course, is about the Immaculate Conception of Mary – even though many Catholics mistakenly think it refers to the virginal conception of the Christ Child.
Still, this common misconception about the Immaculate Conception leads us to a further point of reflection: Was Christ immaculately conceived? Our answer to this Christological question will help us to understand the Marian dogma in a new light.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Did St. Thomas deny the dogma of the Immaculate Conception?


As we prepare for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thomists are forced to face the rather popular criticism: “You know, St. Thomas doesn’t know everything. After all, he denied the Immaculate Conception!”
Beyond the obvious fact that no good Thomist would ever hold that St. Thomas knew literally everything in the first place, and the fact that nearly every person in St. Thomas’ day who held the Immaculate Conception held the dogma in a heretical way (claiming that our Lady did not need a Redeemer), and also the further point that most of the best theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries also seem to have denied the doctrine (including Sts. Bernard, Anselm, Albert the Great, and Bonaventure, as well as Peter Lombard and Hugh of St. Victor); beyond all of that, there is this little point: St. Thomas did not (most probably) deny the Immaculate Conception after all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why was John baptizing?, and John Paul II: When confession is need before communion


2nd Sunday of Advent, Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
St. John the Precursor is a central figure of the Advent season and his baptism is set before us not only this Sunday but also the following. But why was John sent to baptize in the first place?
What was the value of John’s baptism? Was it a sacrament? Did it forgive sins? Did it confer grace? Why did John baptize? We will see that our answer directs us to the devotion with which we must receive our Lord in Holy Communion, and the role that confession plays in preparing the way of the Lord.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who was the first disciple of Jesus?


November 30th, Feast of St. Andrew
The Church begins her liturgical year with the disciple called first by the Lord. For, while it is true that the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Baptist, St. Elizabeth, and St. Joseph (in that order) all believed in the Messiah before him, St. Andrew is the Protokletos, the first-called.
St. Andrew was the first disciple of Christ Jesus in his public ministry – and in this sense, it is fiting that his feast be celebrated at the first of the Church’s year.
However, there is a difficulty: St. John tells us that Andrew was called in the place where John was baptizing, but St. Matthew specifies that Andrew and Peter were called together while cleaning their nets on the sea of Galilee. How are these two accounts to be reconciled?

Monday, November 28, 2011

What if the priest messes up the words of consecration?


This past Sunday, in the English speaking world, the new translation of the Mass was implemented. While there were certainly many of little mistakes – most notably, the struggle to say “And with your spirit” – we all can recognize that these are of no great consequence. Surely, we want to celebrate the Mass correctly, but a mistake is only a mistake, right?
However, there is one area where we recognize that a mistake could have serious consequences: What happens if the priest does not say the words of consecration correctly? What if he confuses one or two words, especially if he accidently says some portion of the old translation?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New page, new links - your comments?


The “Ask Father Ryan” page is back up and running [here], after the comment box for the page had been out of service for over a month. It seems that there were too many back-logged comments, hence (from now on) I will occasionally go through and delete all the comments so that we can start fresh.
Additionally, I have added a page “For Priests and Seminarians” [here] which contains links to articles from the New Theological Movement which relate particularly to the life and ministry of priests.
There are several new sets of links along the right sidebar – here I have placed links to the two Catholic blogosphere centers that I check on occasion, The Pulpit and New Advent. Additionally, I have added links to the blogs that I read from time to time – certainly, there are many other good Catholic blogs out there, but these are the ones which I personally read and enjoy.
Finally, if you have any comments regarding the layout of New Theological Movement blog, please do let me know (leave a comment to this post, even anonymously). Is the NTM blog easy to use? Are there too many links, or not enough? How well does the page load on your browser? What could Fr. Martin and I do to make NTM better (on the level of design and format)?
Blessings to all for a holy Advent! +

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why didn't Jesus tell us the day and the hour of his return?


1st Sunday of Advent, Mark 13:33-37
Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
As we enter upon the season of Advent, the Church with all her children looks to the coming of the Christ. There are, of course, three advents of our Savior: First, when he came as a child (and this is the mystery celebrated on Christmas); second, when we will come at the end of time (and this is the focus of Christ the King and of the first days of Advent); and then a “middle coming”, when he enters the soul by sanctifying grace.
This Sunday’s Gospel focuses on the second coming, the Parousia, the Final Judgment. Our Savior stresses that we do not know the day or hour of his return, and therefore we must watch and pray. Still, we may ask why it was that Jesus didn’t tell us when he would return in glory. Would it not be helpful for us to know the exact time of the judgment?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ought we to pray for young children who have died?


In this article we enter upon a very sensitive question – Ought we (or even, Can we) pray for the young children who have died before attaining to the use of reason? Thus, we consider miscarried, aborted, and still-born children; as well as those who have died after birth but before growing up. Additionally, we must consider what difference the sacrament of baptism would make in regard to our praying or not praying for these children. Further, we note that those who have never had use of reason but have grown past the age of childhood (i.e. the severely mentally disabled) are, for our purposes, included in the notion of “young child” insofar as they have not attained to the use of reason.
In this article, we will discuss certain points about the traditional doctrine of limbo (which is not binding on any Catholic). I know that this will be a very sensitive subject - please recognize that, in spite of the great many possible theological opinions on limbo and other subjects, there are still some things we can say with great certainty regarding young children who have died. To ease the heart, I will say here at the beginning of the article that young children who have died (even without baptism) are most certainly in a state of perfect happiness and they know and love God while knowing that he loves them infinitely - but whether this is a natural or supernatural happiness, I do not know.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why did God choose Mary?


"Come my elect, and I will place in you my throne.
And thus in Sion I have been established, and I rested in the sanctified city."

November 21st, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
At Jerusalem, the Presentation in the Temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. (Roman Martyrology)
As the Blessed Virgin, the true Ark of the Covenant, enters the Temple at the age of three, the heavens rejoice and earth is glad – for the long awaited promise of the Messiah is soon to be fulfilled. Let us enter into a period of contemplation together with our Lady in this season of Advent, may we prepare with her for the coming of Christ our God.
And yet, we ponder, why was it that God chose Our Lady?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who will judge and who will be judged on the last day?


Feast of Christ the King, Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.
Following upon the particular judgment (which occurs immediately upon death and determines the eternal destiny of the soul, either ultimately in heaven or in hell), there is need also for a general judgment. “The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life.” (CCC 1039)
If the particular judgment reveals God’s sovereignty of each individual, it is in the general judgment that the Lord “will pronounce the final word on all history. […] The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.” (CCC 1040)
But, will all be judged on the last day? And will any be judges together with Christ? [we will rely especially on Summa Theologica Supplementum, q.89.] 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Can the poor souls pray for us?


In the month of November, it is fitting that we think on the poor souls in purgatory. While it is a matter of faith that the saints can pray for us, and likewise that we can pray for the poor souls, there is no little question as to whether the souls in purgatory can pray for us. While there is much popular devotion today – which seems also to be supported by the experiences of certain more recent saints (for example, St. Pio) – by which the faithful invoke the intercessory power of the holy souls, it is good to recognize that the majority of the tradition is decidedly against this possibility.
Granting that nearly every Church Doctor has either implicitly or even explicitly held that the poor souls cannot pray for us, is there any ground for imploring their intercession?
[Much of this article was occasioned by comments and questions regarding an earlier post on the nature of purgatory.]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Universal Doctor (not St. Thomas, but his teacher)


Albertus Magnus, with his mitre

He is the Angelic Doctor, the Common Doctor, and the Angel of the Schools, but St. Thomas Aquinas is not the “Universal Doctor”. Rather this title, Doctor Universalis, has been given to the teacher and mentor of St. Thomas, St. Albert the Great – Albertus Magnus.
Personally, this has become one of my own pet-annoyances – so many people keep calling St. Thomas “Universal Doctor” rather than “Common Doctor”. Still, this error is nothing in comparison to the misquotation by which many credit the phrase “grace builds on nature” to St. Thomas (even prominent, conservative bishops say this), when he really said “grace perfects nature” – and this makes all the difference in the world to a true Thomist.
Why is St. Albert called the “Universal Doctor”? And how can we tell St. Albert from St. Thomas in Christian art?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why does God give to some five and to others only one talent?


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 25:14-30
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one – to each according to his ability. […] For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.
There is great danger in the interpretation of this parable, for one may easily come to the false conclusion that grace is given according to nature, in the sense that man merits grace through his natural efforts – such would be the heresy of the Pelagians.
However, we know that grace DOES NOT build on nature, rather (as St. Thomas said in the first question of the Summa) grace perfects nature. Thus, it is not according to one’s own natural talents, but according to the generous will of God, that one receives more grace and another less grace.
In the final analysis, the divine will alone must be credited with the diversity of graces among men.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How indulgences are offered for the dead


Throughout the month of November (and especially in the first eight days) the Church encourages her faithful children to offer indulgences on behalf of the poor souls in purgatory. Pope Paul VI states that this is a great work of charity and helps us to grow further in charity and in communion with the Church (cf. apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina).
Still, we might wonder how it is that an indulgence can be applied to the holy souls. Since the Church on earth has no jurisdiction over the souls in purgatory, how can she provide an indulgence to ease their sufferings?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Black must come back (in the Liturgy)


Though the New Theological Movement blog rarely enters into matters liturgical or rubrical, preferring to consider the more profound theological foundations, the re-introduction of the use of black vestments in parish life seems to us to be so important to the renewal of the faith of the people (at least in the USA, though most likely throughout the world) that we must devote a post to this cause.
In the Novus Ordo – that is, the ordinary form of the Roman Rite which is celebrated in most parishes in the USA (in English) – there is no reason why black may not be used regularly. In the usus antiquior – the extraordinary form – black vestments remain mandatory for certain Masses. Let us consider the theological points first, and then we will make a few practical conclusions.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why the wise virgins could not share their oil - On this Sunday's Gospel


36th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 25:1-13
The foolish [virgins] said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise ones replied, “No, for there may not be enough for us and you.”
Have you ever wondered why it is that the wise virgins refuse to assist the foolish virgins by sharing a little of the oil from their own lamps? Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that they care more for themselves than for the others?
The great 17th century Jesuit, Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide and the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas (citing the tradition from the Fathers of the Church) offer an answer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Some facts about purgatory


These early days (indeed, the whole month) of November is a time specifically devoted to praying for the poor souls in purgatory. How sad it is that relatively few Catholics even think of the poor souls! Certainly, this woeful neglect on the part of so many is due largely to the fact that few priests have been preaching about purgatory over the past thirty to forty years.
I do hope that we all are taking advantage of the opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence for the dead each day between the first and eighth of November. The requirements for gaining this special grace (from the handbook of indulgences) are:
1) To visit a cemetery and say any prayer for the deceased (the person does not need to actually be buried in that particular cemetery).
2) To be in the state of grace when the work is accomplished.
3) To go to confession.
4) To pray for the Holy Father (an Our Father and Hail Mary, as well as the Creed or the Glory Be, are the traditional prayers).
5) To receive communion devoutly.
6) To be free from all attachment to sin (even venial sin).
Note: Communion should be received on the day or near the day in which the visit to the cemetery is made. Confession may be made several days before or after (and one confession suffices for multiple indulgences [but communion must be received for each plenary indulgence]).
Finally: Only one plenary indulgence may be gained each day (excepting in the case of the moment of death, when a second may be acquired).
Additionally, the usual requirements being met, a plenary indulgence for the deceased may be gained on November 2nd by visiting a church or oratory and offering an Our Father and the Creed.
Now, let’s consider some facts about purgatory!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The ambition of a priest desiring to become a bishop


31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees […] preach but they do no not practice. […] All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
It should give every priest of the New Law pause to recognize that the chief criticism which our Savior levels against the Pharisees is that they are vainglorious and ambitious. They sit in the chair of Moses and have accrued to themselves great pastoral responsibility, but have failed to exercise their authority for the good of the sheep and have instead sought only to gain worldly honor for themselves.
As the Fathers and Doctors of the Church consider this passage from Scripture, they comment on the danger of the vice of ambition (and also the sin of vainglory) which can be so injurious to the priestly vocation. Ambition in the priesthood can mean the desire for a “more important” parish or a more prominent role in the diocese, but it is most especially typified by the desire for the episcopal rank. The height of ambition and pride for a (diocesan) priest is seen in his desire to be a bishop.
Is it lawful to desire to be a bishop? What must the priest do in order to avoid the sin of ambition? For direction on this point, we look to the greatest doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Friday, October 28, 2011

St. Simon, "the Canaanite" not from Canaan and "the Zealot" who was no Zealot


October 28th, Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude
“In Persia, the birthday of the blessed Apostles Simon the Canaanite and Thaddeus, who is also called Jude; Simon preached the Gospel in Egypt and Thaddeus in Mesopotamia, and then they both entered Persia and suffered martyrdom there, after having made subject an innumerable multitude of that people to the yoke of Christ.” (Roman Martyrology)
It is a minor point of irony that both Simon and Jude share names with others of the Apostles – St. Simon, of course, shares his name with St. Peter who was first called Simon; while St. Jude has this name in common with Judas, the betrayer. Thus, St. Simon is called either “the Zealot” (“Zelotes”) or “the Canaanite” in order to distinguish him from the Prince of the Apostles, while St. Jude is called “Thaddeus” as distinct from the Iscariot.
We do well on this day to consider the person of St. Simon the Zealot: Who was he? Where was he from? Was he a Zealot? And how did he die?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Can we hope that all men be saved?


And he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats.

This topic has been beaten around far too many times for my own taste – however, since the reading for Mass today (Romans 8:26-30) contains what is probably the clearest doctrine on hope in the whole of Scripture, and since the phrase for in hope we were saved inspired our Holy Father’s encyclical letter on Christian Hope (Spe salvi), it seems appropriate to offer a few brief reflections on the nature of hope.
Last Saturday, I offered a word on the nature of the theological virtue of hope over at the Virtuous Planet blog, today I would like to consider the object of hope – For what do Christians hope? Can we properly hope that all men should be saved?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hope vs. Presumption, VirtuousPla.net article

I have just posted an article over at the (relatively new) blog, VirtuousPla.net. It is on the difference between the theological virtue of hope and the vices of despair and presumption.

If hope is 100% certain, how do we avoid the typically Protestant error of presumption - "Once saved, always saved"?

Check out the article here - VirtuousPla.net: Hope vs. Presumption
Update: You will now find the article [here].

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Do you love your neighbor with the same love with which you love God?


The theological virtues: Faith, Charity, Hope

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 22:34-40
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
“Which is the greatest commandment?” Such is the question of the scholar who put our Savior to the test. However, though this man was acting in behalf of the Pharisees, it is clear from the Scriptures, that he in fact had a deep desire to know Christ Jesus and to become his follower. The goodness of the man is more clear in Mark’s Gospel where our Lord commends and encourages him saying, You are not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34).
The love of God and the love of neighbor is the hinge of the whole moral life. In the final analysis, it is love (i.e. supernatural charity) which determines our eternal reward – to die with charity is to die in the state of grace and attain to heaven, to die without charity is to die in mortal sin and to be condemned to the everlasting punishments of hell.
What then is the nature of this supernatural charity which fulfills the Law and the Prophets? Further, how does the love of neighbor relate to the love of God?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

St. Luke, the most prolific New Testament writer


October 18th, Feast of St. Luke
“In Bithynia, the birthday of St. Luke the Evangelist, who suffered much for the name of Christ and died filled with the Holy Spirit. His bones were translated to Constantinople and thence taken to Padua.” (from the Roman Martyrology)
It is well known that St. Luke is an Evangelist and also that he wrote the Acts of the Apostles. He was a disciple of St. Paul and accompanied the Apostle on several journeys.
Additionally, most know that St. Luke had been a physician before his conversion. Beyond this, we may wonder: Who was St. Luke? Moreover, why is he pictured by the symbol of an ox?

Monday, October 17, 2011

On the authority of bishops, from St. Ignatius of Antioch


October 17th, Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch
On December 20th, in the Roman Martyrology, we read: “At Rome, the passion of St. Ignatius, Bishop and Martyr; he was the third after St. Peter the Apostle to rule the Church of Antioch, and in the persecution of Trajan was condemned to the beasts and sent to Rome in fetters. There he was afflicted and tortured by the most cruel torments in the very presence of the Senate. Finally he was cast to the lions and, ground by their teeth, became a sacrifice for Christ.”
 St. Ignatius of Antioch has rightly been called the “Doctor of Unity” – both insofar as he brilliantly set forth the doctrine of the unity of the person of Christ in two natures, and as he defended the unity of the Christian people within the hierarchy of the Church. As the unity of the single person of Christ cannot be properly defended without admitting the diversity of his two natures, so too (we say by analogy) the unity of the Church cannot be maintained without the diversity of hierarchical vocations within the mystical body.
Today, in honor of our saintly Bishop and Martyr, we consider the role of the bishops of the Church – specifically, we do well to call to mind the special relation between the priests and the bishops. [This is particularly important in our days, when many so-called “conservative” priests rebel against the authority of their bishops.]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sanctifying grace and the interior castle of St. Teresa of Avila


October 15th, Feast of St. Teresa of Avila
Today’s saint, Teresa of Avila, is honored by the Church as the “Doctor of Prayer” – and so indeed she is. Of all the spiritiual treatises on the life of prayer, the writings of the Carmalite Reformer stand at the head. From among these writings, it has been recognized by many that “The Interior Castle” deserves a special pride of place as the greatest (or, at least, one of the greatest) works on the nature of prayer. Together with “The Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa’s “Castle” is arguably the greatest treatise on the spiritual life.
Rather than considering, in this little post, the progression of the soul through the seven mansions of St. Teresa – which progress is the most often-noted aspect of the little book – we will benefit greatly from a prior consideration of St. Teresa’s conception of the soul in God, and God in the soul.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Money in the image of Caesar, and man in the image of God


29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 22:15-21
Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.”
The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians sought to trap our Savior by asking him the question of the tax – Is it lawful to pay the tax to Caesar? In response to this, the good Jesus points out that the image of Caesar is on the coin – but that we are to render to God what is God’s.
As the Fathers of the Church read this passage, they recognize that the coin is made with the image of Caesar, but man is made in the image of God. 
It will be well for us to consider the historical debate among the Jews which set the stage for the question of taxation. We will then consider the manner in which man is in the image of his Creator.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Feast of Sts. Dionysius the Areopagite and Abraham, another plug for the Roman Martyrology


St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr

October 9th, Feast of Sts. Denis and Abraham
At Paris, the birthday of the holy martyrs Denis the Areopagite (Bishop), Rusticus (Priest), and Eleutherius (Deacon). Of these, Denis having been baptized by Paul the Apostle, was ordained first Bishop of the Athenians; then, coming to Rome, he was sent to France by blessed Clement the Roman Pontiff, to fulfill the office of preaching, and arrived at Paris. After he had faithfully carried out there for some years the work committed to him, at last he suffered martyrdom, being slain with the sword with his companions after most severe torments by the prefect Fescennius.
On the same day, the memory of St. Abraham, Patriarch and father of all believers.
(Taken from the Roman Martyrology)
Today is one of those days when I am reminded how good the Roman Martyrology is. [see my earlier post on the Martyrology, here]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Make the most of your daily Rosary!


I posted the following last year on this day, but it is well worth another consideration.
From The Secret of the Rosary, by St. Louis Marie deMontfort
[from the 41st through the 43rd “roses” or chapters, and also from the 45th rose]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Without a wedding garment - Faith without works


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 22:1-14
My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?
Though all people are invited to the wedding banquet, only a few come. And, even from among those who do attend, at least one is cast out. Our Savior’s parable from this Sunday’s Gospel should give us pause – for he is speaking of the mystery of salvation and damnation.
Many are called, few are chosen. But what exactly does our Lord mean when he warns us that those who attempt to come to the feast without a “wedding garment” will be cast out and rejected? What is the significance of this garment, and how do we don it?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gone through October 14th


I will be on vacation and generally unable to access internet for about the next two weeks, from today through to October 14th. New articles will still be posted through a blogger feature which allows me to schedule posts weeks (or even months) in advance.
However, although new posts will go up (about three per week), there will be no comments allowed. This is on account of the fact that I will not be able to moderate comments during these days.
Thank you for your patience!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Can a pro-life politician ever vote pro-abortion?


October 2nd, Respect life Sunday
While recognizing the intrinsic evil of abortion, that is of each and every abortion in any and all circumstances, there is serious difficulty in discerning how to bring a nation from a pro-abortion stance to becoming pro-life. In particular, some generally pro-life politicians (in various nations, including the USA) have agreed to vote in favor of certain legislative bills which are pro-abortion in cases of rape and incest. These pro-life politicians justify voting in favor of the pro-abortion bills by claiming that the bill (though still pro-abortion) restricts abortion and begins to move the nation gradually to a pro-life stance.
Indeed, there are some politicians who, while stating that they are pro-life and are against all abortions, nevertheless also state that they will pass legislation which (while restricting abortion overall) allows for abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Can a good politician vote for such a bill or hold such a stance? Can a pro-life politician vote in favor of allowing abortions only in extreme cases (e.g. rape or incest)?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where are the archangels among the choirs of angels?


September 29th, Feast of the Archangels
Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are the only three angels mentioned by name in the Scriptures, and they all belong to the same choir of angels: The archangels.
From St. Dionysius and St. Gregory the Great, we learn that there are nine choirs of angels which are gathered into three sets of three. But where are the archangels in this list? Are they toward the top of the bottom? The answer may surprise you!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Natural Family Planning with a "contraceptive mentality"?


This coming Sunday has been designated by the bishops of the United States as “Respect Life Sunday”. As we pray and work for an end to abortion, it is well to remember that there is a profound connection between the prominent use of birth control in a nation and the legalization of abortion: As Pope Paul VI foresaw in his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, contraception will always lead to abortion (if not for each individual, at least for the society as a whole).
However, there are many good and faithful Catholics in the Church who question the relation between contraception and natural family planning. Does NFP have a “contraceptive mentality”? And, even if NFP can be used well, is it possible (or even likely) that many people in fact use NFP with a contraceptive mentality? What are the circumstances in which a couple may licitly use natural family planning?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Final perseverance: You can't get to heaven without it


St. Dismas receives the grace of final perseverance

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Ezekiel 18:25-28
If he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.
Both the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel and the parable which our Savior offers in Matthew 21:28-32 (the parable of the two sons, the one who would not work but converted and the other who said he would work but did not) hint toward the reality that what is most important of all is the manner in which we finish. Certainly, the beginning and the middle are important, but the end or the finish makes all the difference.
In a stage of the Tour de France, it is possible for a rider or (more likely) a small group of riders to lead the day for over a hundred miles (this is called a break-away from the pelaton); however, it almost always happens that the main pack of riders (i.e. the pelaton) will catch this small break-away with less than a mile to go before the finish. Having led the stage for all those miles, the break-away group will lose all hope of victory in just the last minutes of the several hour long day of racing. What is most important is how one finishes.
So it is with the life of grace. Certainly, it is important to start well and to live in Christ’s grace throughout life, but what is most important of all is to die well, to finish well, to complete one’s life with the grace of final perseverance. This alone will bring us to heaven: We simply must die in the state of grace.
However, the Church teaches that we cannot merit this grace, not even by a holy life. How then do we gain perseverance and eternal salvation?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Some thoughts on bilocation


September 23rd, Feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Last year on the feast of St. Pio, I wrote a little article about the mysterious gift of bilocation. In that article, which you can read here, I pointed out just how great a mystery this phenomenon truly is. Today I would like to revisit this discussion, including some of the major lines of response which people took in the comment box.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's in a name? Matthew or Levi


September 21st, Feast of St. Matthew
The birthday of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist, who suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia while engaged in preaching. The Gospel written by him in Hebrew was found by his own revelation during the time of Emperor Zeno, together with the relics of the blessed apostle Barnabas. (From the Roman Martyrology)
Caravaggio’s masterpiece depicts the calling of St. Matthew, who was once a tax-collector but became both an apostle and evangelist. The calling of Matthew is most clearly described in Matthew 9:9ff. However, it is interesting to note that both Luke and Mark seem to describe the same scene, only they give a different name for the publican, calling him Levi.
Thus, we are led to consider why it was that Luke and Mark called Matthew “Levi”, and why Matthew called himself by his own proper name. Moreover, we must consider the meaning of these two names, and what mystery is hidden behind the conversion of the son of Alpheus (not of the Alpheus, called Cleopas, father of James and Jude; but the son of a different Alpheus).

Monday, September 19, 2011

This statement is not bigotry: Public displays of homosexual affection should be illegal


There has recently been quite a fuss over a rather simple blog-post from Stacy Trasancos over at Accepting Abundance. In her post, Dr. Trasancos expressed her frustration about having her young children exposed to public displays of homosexual affection while simply trying to enjoy a day at the park. The story should have ended here.
However, a handful of very hateful atheists and homosexuals (as well as a large number of more moderate individuals from the anti-Catholic, pro-choice, pro-gay sub-culture) have been stampeding her blog and writing about her all over the internet.
In this post, I do not intend to get into the particulars of this situation. I will simply state that I have great respect for Stacy, that I have been keeping her and her family in my prayers (since they have received death threats), and that the blog Accepting Abundance is an excellent site and one of the few blogs that I find to be worth the time of regular reading. Please pray for Stacy, and consider sharing a word of support for her work over in the comment box of her blog. If you have blog yourself, why not make a post in support of her? We need to speak out when a woman and her family are receiving death threats.
What I do propose to consider in this little article is the question of whether it is bigotry to think that the State (not specifically the USA, but any nation in general) ought to enact laws restricting homosexual and other deviant sexual behaviors in public. I am not trying to prove that any particular nation should (at the present moment) impose laws outlawing homosexual PDAs [public displays of affection]; rather, I am proposing a hypothetical question: Am I a bigot, if I think that homosexual PDAs should be illegal?
[for the record, Stacy Trasancos did not claim that homosexual PDAs should be illegal; as I understand it, she only stated that they made her uncomfortable and that she did not want to have to expose her children to them]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fr. Ryan Erlenbush - Sermon on the gift of time, September 18th

The homily of Father Ryan Erlenbush for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, on the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
Time is a great gift from God, it is the opportunity both to convert from sin and to merit greater glory.
The parable of the vineyard laborers is really all about the ages of the history of salvation.
Father Ryan's Sunday Sermons: The gift of time, Sermon of September 18th

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The mystical interpretations of the "hours" of the Sunday Gospel


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 20:1-16a
The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
As the Fathers of the Church consider the parable of the landowner who hired laborers throughout the hours of the day and, at the end of the day, paid them all the equal daily wage (i.e. one denarius); they recognize that the reward of heaven is equal on one level, insofar as all receive the one denarius (signifying the eternity of heaven), and diverse on another level (insofar as each receives a diverse glory throughout eternity).
What is more, the Church Fathers see that the various workers called at the diverse hours of the day (the third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours) represent the progressive covenants which God established throughout the ages.