Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If hope is certain, why can't I be sure of my own salvation?

Allegory of the Theological Virtues: Faith, Love, and Hope

Hope vs. Presumption
If we are saved through hope, and hope is certain; why is it that the Catholic Church teaches that it is a heresy to say that I am certain of my own salvation? How is it that theological hope can be certain without being presumptuous?
The theological virtue of hope must needs be distinguished first from natural and worldly volition – “I hope it doesn’t rain today!” – and then from the vices of despair (which is a lack of hope) and presumption (a quasi-excess of hope).
[this article was previously published at VirtuousPla.net, but was lost when the site moved to IgnitumToday – check out all the good work that blog continues to do (here)]

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Interior Life: That of the Apostles, and our own

Solemnity of Pentecost, John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
Both before his saving death and again after his resurrection, the Lord Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit upon his Apostles. This promise was fulfilled at the feast of Pentecost.
We all recognize the great importance of Pentecost for the life of the Church, since this day is often called the “Day of the birth of the Church”. Further, one can see that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gave them that missionary zeal to convert the whole world.
What is perhaps less clear is the importance of Pentecost for the interior life of the Apostles, and what this has to do with our own spiritual growth.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pentecost and the Sacrament of Confirmation

Solemnity of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-11
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
The seven sacraments do not come from the Church, for she has not the power to create sacraments. Rather, they all were instituted by Christ himself. This is easiest to see in the cases of Baptism and the Eucharist, where he gave the very words and matter in the most explicit terms.
The Fathers and Doctors of the Church recognize the institution of the sacrament of Confirmation in the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Pentecost and Confirmation
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sees Pentecost as the principal Scriptural foundation for the sacrament of Confirmation:
“On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday [by breathing upon the Apostles] and then more strikingly at Pentecost.” (CCC 1287)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit necessary for salvation?

As the Church prepares for the Solemnity of Pentecost, we are invited to pray the good Lord to send a new outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit into our souls. Thus, the novena to the Holy Spirit – from the Friday after Ascension Thursday through to the Saturday Vigil of Pentecost – enjoys a certain pride of place among the various novenas in the life of the Church.
But what exactly are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? And, are they necessary for our salvation?
You may find the Novena for the gifts of the Holy Spirit [here].
How the gifts differ from virtues
Like the virtues, gifts are stable realities in the soul. They are spiritual and immaterial things which are in the faculties of the soul, perfecting and guiding either the intellect or the will.
Some virtues are built up by human effort, these are called acquired virtues. Others are placed into the soul by God without human co-operation, these are called infused virtues.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Why did Christ ascend into heaven? Would it have been better if he had remained on earth?

And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts of the Apostles 1:9)
For forty days after his Resurrection, Christ remained with the Apostles showing himself by many proofs truly to have been raised from the dead. However, after these days were fulfilled, our Savior withdrew his physical presence from his disciples and ascended into heaven.
While we know that the good Jesus has done all things rightly, we may nevertheless ask whether it may not have been better for him to remain on earth. Why did the Lord ascend into heaven? While it is clearly better for him, it does not at first seem to be beneficial for us.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What is the significance of a novena? Why nine days?

Friday after the Ascension
And eating together with them, [Jesus] commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. (Acts of the Apostles 1:4)
Before Christ ascended into heaven, he commanded his Apostles to remain in the city of Jerusalem for the nine days until the feast of Pentecost, and there to await the descent of the Holy Spirit. With this, our Savior instituted the practice of the Christian Novena – nine days of prayer, especially in preparation for a solemn feast or in petition for some special grace.
Christ Jesus commanded this first novena both as a period of preparation (since the feast of Pentecost was approaching) and also as an act of petition (for the Apostles, together with Mary, were pleading for the Holy Spirit to come as their Advocate).
But what is the significance of a novena? Why nine days, rather than ten or forty or three?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On Retreat

The priests of my diocese (myself included) will be on retreat through the first part of this week, which means that I will be taking a little break from blogging.

Please pray for the priests of Great Falls - Billings, and for all priests!

"There are no bad priests, only priests for whom there has not been enough prayer!" - St.  John Vianney

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Fatima Devotion of the Five First Saturdays

May 13th, Feast of Our Lady of Fatima
The three children of Fatima – Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta – said that the Blessed Mother came to them as “The Lady of the Rosary”, commanding them and all to pray the Rosary daily for peace in the world. We recall that world peace must surely begin in our own homes and families, hence the family Rosary has a certain pride of place in the devotional life of the people of God – this is why the Church grants a plenary indulgence to any who devoutly recite five decades of the Rosary as a family (with the usual conditions). [please join us in a prayer-campaign for the family Rosary (here), and on Facebook (here)]
In addition to the Rosary, the Five First Saturdays Devotion is closely associated to the message of Fatima. But in what exactly does the first Saturdays devotion consist? How do we complete it?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Did Job really exist?

May 10th, Feast of St. Job
In the land of Hus, St. Job, Prophet, a man of wonderful patience. (from The Roman Martyrology)
While it is not uncommon to hear modern biblical “scholars” question the historicity of the book of Job and of Job himself, there can be no doubt that the Bible presents Job as a real historical person.
Not only is this the opinion of the Church Fathers and Doctors, but it is also affirmed by other passages of the Scriptures. Further, the Latin Church has traditionally kept the feast of St. Job today. The Greeks keep it on May 6.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Family Rosary: Gain a plenary indulgence without leaving home!

The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age. […]
The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes toward Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God. (Bl. John Paul II, Rosarium Virignis Mariae, nn. 6 and 41)
What a grace the family Rosary is for the Christian home! And yet, with all the demands of modern life, how can an ordinary Catholic family begin the practice of the daily Rosary?

[Please consider our May prayer-Campaign for the Family Rosary (here), join us on facebook (here)]

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Without me you can do nothing" - What Calvinists and Jesuits don't understand about divine providence

van Gogh: "Man writing, facing left"
(primary and secondary causality)

5th Sunday of Easter, John 15:1-8
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
Jesus did not say, “Without me you can do only a few things,” nor “Without me you scarcely can do even little things,” but rather Without me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
On the one hand, there are the Calvinists who so emphasize the divine causality as to diminish free will. Indeed, their doctrine of double-predestination makes man to be nothing more than a donkey, ridden either by Satan into hell or by God into heaven.
On the other hand, the classical Jesuits (like St. Robert Bellarmine and Fr. Francisco Su├írez) generally struggle to give sufficient acknowledgment to the role of divine providence. Certainly, the Jesuits are not semi-Pelagian heretics, yet their writings often tend to lean toward an over-emphasis of the human will and a de-emphasizing of God’s causal powers.
Both the Jesuits and the Calvinists see man and God as competing forces in a battle over who is the “cause” of any given action. This is their fundamental flaw.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Whatever the modern scholars tell you, James the Less is one of the Twelve Apostles

It may come as something of a surprise to many, but it is not uncommon for modern historical-biblical “scholars” (I, for my part, doubt whether they are deserving of the name) to claim that St. James the Less, “the brother of the Lord”, was not the same St. James who was an Apostle and the son of Alphaeus.
Pope Benedict XVI, on the other hand, clearly states (by the authority of his ordinary Magisterium) that James the son of Alphaeus, one of the Twelve, is the same James the Less, “the brother of the Lord”.
James the Less and James the Greater
In earlier articles, we have already detailed the ancestry of these two men – [here] and [here] – for the present, we will simply indicate which James is which.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The "Little Crown" of the Blessed Virgin: A May devotion

May is set aside as Mary’s Month, a time in which we honor the various privileges given the Mother of God by the three Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity. In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, this month concludes with the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which we recall the Coronation of our Lady as the Queen of heaven and earth, the Queen of all hearts.
A once common devotional prayer, known as the “Little Crown” of the Blessed Virgin Mary, honors the triple crown of twelve stars which our Lady received from God upon her bodily assumption into heaven (cf. Revelation 12:1).  This little prayer takes only a few minutes to pray (it is much shorter than the Rosary) and would be a wonderful way for a devout soul to honor the Mother of God in the month dedicated to her.