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.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The real meaning of "noon", How the ancient Jews (and medieval Christian monks) continue to influence modern society


25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 20:1-16a
Going out about nine o’clock […] And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock […] Going out about five o’clock […]
The parable of the landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day, even hiring some at the last hour of the working day, and yet paid them all equally (giving each the usual daily wage). The Lectionary, following the New American Bible, renders the hours of the day in a way that is understandable to modern Westerners: Nine o’clock, noon, three o’clock, and five o’clock.
The original Greek text, however, speaks of the times of the day according to the old Jewish manner of counting time. As we consider this ancient method of measuring the day, we will see what the true meaning of “noon” is, and how both the ancient Jews and the medieval monks continue to influence even the most secular people of the modern day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

St. Thomas isn't "dry" - Just look at his meditation of the sorrow of Christ and his Mother


September 15th, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
It has become popular of late to claim that St. Thomas Aquinas (and all the other scholastics with him, excepting [perhaps] St. Bonaventure) was a dry and boring author. “Sure”, some will say, “he was a great thinker and did much to help explain the faith with clarity; but there is no feeling and nothing which grasps the reader’s heart.”
Indeed, quite sadly, this derogatory style of speech is common even to our Holy Father Pope Benedict who scarcely misses an opportunity to point out that St. Augustine is more human than St. Thomas (at least in terms of his theological writings). Now, I am not sure who soured our Holy Father to the writing-style of St. Thomas, but that man did Pope Benedict a great disservice – as we shall see, St. Thomas isn’t dry at all! [Certainly, the Common Doctor is no more “dry” than St. Augustine can be, as anyone who has attempted to read The City of God has discovered.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why the True Cross is the greatest relic


Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine!

September 14th, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
We worship your cross, O Lord, and we praise and glorify your holy resurrection, for the wood of the cross has brought joy to the world. (Antiphon from Morning Prayer)
The True Cross of our Savior Jesus Christ is the greatest and most precious of all relics. It is only to the True Cross, from among all other relics, that the Christian faithful are instructed to genuflect. Every other image and relic (whether of our Lord or of any of the saints) is venerated by a bow, but the relic of the True Cross is adored and worshiped with a genuflection!
The theologians debate as to whether we truly worship and adore the Cross with the adoration of latria – the Thomists, following the best of both reason and faith, maintain that we do in fact worship the Cross with latria; but others (tending toward a literalist reading of certain texts from the early Church) hold that we do not worship the Cross but only give it veneration.
The Church herself speaks quite boldly when she declares in the Sacred Liturgy that the Cross of Christ is our only hope (O Crux, ave, Spes unica!) and directs us to worship the Cross (Ecce lignum Crucis … Venite, adoremus). Finally, in the Benedictus antiphon for today’s feast in the Novus Ordo breviary, the Church proclaims: “We worship your cross, O Lord” (Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine).
Why, then, is the True Cross venerated and even worshiped as the greatest of all relics?

Monday, September 12, 2011

What does the name "Mary" mean?


September 12th, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary
And the virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:27)
Today the Church honors the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, recalling also her patronage of Christians as (through the intercession of the same Mother of God) the Turks’ siege against Vienna was lifted on this day by the glorious victory of John III Sobieski in the year 1683.
There is a great and consoling mystery hidden for us in the name “Mary”.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Seven, seventy-seven, and seventy times seven - How Christ fulfills the prophecy of Daniel


The prophet Daniel

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 18:21-35
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
While Peter was already being fairly generous in offering to forgive his brother seven times, our Savior insists that forgiveness must be unconditional – and this was the meaning of his words: And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him. (Luke 17:4)
In response to Peter’s question, the good Jesus uses the number “seven” to convey the totality of forgiveness. While Peter considered “seven” solely as according to the letter, the Savior raises our hearts and minds to the recognition of the true spirit of his words. Many translations render our Lord’s words not as seventy-seven times, but as seventy times seven times (i.e. four hundred ninety times).
There is a great mystery hidden in these numbers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why we celebrate Mary's birth


September 8th, Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Generally the feast day of a saint is held upon the occasion of his death. Indeed, in the Roman Martyrology, the day of death is often called the natalicia or birthday – referring to the saint’s birth into heaven.
However, there are three feast days which commemorate a birth. The first and most prominent is, of course, Christmas – the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ. The second is the Nativity of our Lady. The third is the birth of St. John the Baptist. These three – Jesus, Mary and John – were born without original sin (having been sanctified even before birth), and hence these three are honored with feasts commemorating their earthly births.
Today we consider Mary’s birth, which is not contained in Scripture, but the sanctity of which is attested by the words of the angel Gabriel.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September: Month of the Seven Sorrows, a commentary on the Stabat Mater


September, The month of the Seven Dolors
While September 15th is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the entire month of September is dedicated to the seven dolors (seven sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Mater Dolorosa is the great companion and consolation of all those who suffer.
Today, near the beginning of the month of September, I offer a little commentary on the Stabat Mater – a hymn which contains a most beautiful devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and which has traditionally been used as the sequence at the Mass of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The sorrow hidden in the Joyful Mysteries

Over at the blog VirtuousPla.net, I have just published a little reflection for the month of September - the month dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As we consider the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, we recognize how closely joy and sorrow were united in the Immaculate Heart of our Mother. It is only through receiving sorrows in a spirit of faith that we can come to the great joy of life everlasting.

Read the article here: The sorrow hidden in the Joyful Mysteries.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Am I obliged to correct my brother who sins?


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, according to the lectionary of the forma ordinaria, our Savior indicates the three escalating levels of fraternal correction. First, we are to correct the sinner privately. Then, if he refuses to listen, we bring one or two others. Finally, if necessary, the sinner must be brought to the Church. If he refuses even the correction of the Church, and if the matter is serious, he is to be excommunicated – for this is what our Lord means when he tells us, And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican (Matthew 18:17).
Are all the faithful bound to correct sinners? Is it a matter of precept or only a counsel that I should correct my brother who sins? Does my own salvation rely upon correcting the faults of others?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The feast of the prophetess Anna - Who was she?


Blessed Anna is on the right, holding a scroll

September 1st, Feast of St. Anna
“At Jerusalem, blessed Anna, the prophetess, whose holiness is recounted in the Gospel.” (from The Roman Martyrology)
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. (Luke 2:36-38)
St. Anna was gifted with prophecy that she might welcome the Christ in his coming and proclaim his name to the people. Behold her very name, in Hebrew, means “Grace”! And so, she is a special patron of all those women who share this name with her.
Though St. Luke only devotes three lines of his Gospel to her history, it will greatly aid our devotion if we consider what we know of this saintly woman from both Scripture and Tradition.