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!