Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural
A look at religion in the Civil War from the internet series the Civil War in Four Minutes. Most people on both sides, as Lincoln noted in his Second Inaugural, assumed God was on their side. Some viewed their causes as crusades. Typical of those who embraced that interpretation is a Union officer who upbraided a chaplain who had given a stern sermon to the men of his regiment on the pains of Hell, and informed him that every one of his boys who fell in this great fight for human liberty was going straight to Heaven and he would allow no other doctrine to be preached while he was in command of the regiment.
Perhaps the most insightful view was that embraced by Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee and others who saw the War as the punishment for national sins. Rather than a crusade, the War was a chastisement that God was using for His purposes. I think there is much wisdom in this view. God often brings good out of human weakness, folly and even sin, and out of the Civil War, with all of its ghastly loss of life, came freedom for the slaves and a united nation. Continue reading
It’s the unofficial end of Summer and it’s my annual gratuitous post of myself day. The pic below was taken in mid-July, but I waited to fix the feed to The American Catholic in order celebrate the Summer. Needless to say, it’s fixed and the Summer is almost over.
During the Summer I asked my fellow blogger Don for some book recommendations for the French Revolution. Of the few he did mentioned, I picked up Simon Schama’s ‘Citizen’. The reading is in-depth, interesting, and balanced. I’m a bit over halfway finished of the 948 pages and am so far impressed. Considering that we are in the post-Cold War era, I wanted to know a bit more on the French Revolution since their errors have already engulfed Europe and has almost metastasizing here in the United States. The book is good and if there is any criticism of Simon Schama’s work it’s that he views Christianity, in particular the Catholic Church, through a materialistic lens.
My opinion on the subject is that the French Revolution is the confluence of anti-Christian ideas emanating from the so-called era of enlightenment. These very same ideas unleashed the short-term devastation of the rape of nuns, the execution of priests, and the degradation of houses of worship. The long-term affects have furthered the cause of eliminating God from all aspects of life blossoming further in the Communist Revolution in Russia and continued to bear the fruit of death in World Wars I & II. From this compost grew what we now call modern liberalism & democratic socialism.
 Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad.  The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?  Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.  They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
John 8: 56-59
Father Barron has a magnificent article in Catholic World Report in which he explains why it is improper to think of God as a Supreme Being:
Now to God’s invisibility. One of the most fundamental mistakes made by atheists both old and new is to suppose that God is a supreme being, an impressive item within or alongside the universe. As David Bentley Hart has argued, the gods of ancient mythology or the watchmaker God of 18th-century Deism might fit such a description, but the God presented by the Bible and by classical theism has nothing to do with it. The true God is the non-contingent ground of the contingent universe, the reason there is something rather than nothing, the ultimate explanation for why the world should exist at all. Accordingly, he is not a being, but rather, as Thomas Aquinas put it, ipsum esse subsistens, the sheer act of to be itself.
Thomas goes so far as to say that God cannot be placed in any genus, even in that most generic of genera, namely, being. But all of this must imply God’s invisibility. Whatever can be seen is, ipso facto, a being, a particular state of affairs, and hence something that can be placed in a genus, compared with other finite realities, etc. The visible is, by definition, conditioned—and God is the unconditioned. I hope it is clear that in affirming God’s invisibility, I am not placing limits on him, as though he were a type of being—the invisible type—over and against visible things, a ghost floating above physical objects. The invisible God is he whose reality transcends and includes whatever perfection can be found in creatures, since he himself is the source and ground of creatureliness in all its manifestations. Anything other than an invisible God would be a conditioned thing and hence utterly unworthy of worship. Continue reading
Kyle Cupp at The Week has an interesting post in which he celebrates Pope Francis for bringing uncertainty about God to Catholicism:
In fact, Pope Francis has explicitly endorsed doubt in the life of faith. In a 2013 interview published in America Magazine, the pontiff said that the space where one finds and meets God must include an area of uncertainty. For him, to say that you have met God with total certainty or that you have the answers to all questions is a sign that God is not with you. Be uncertain, he counsels. Let go of exaggerated doctrinal “security.” A devout faith must be an uncertain faith:
The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: “God is here.” We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever.
The pope has taken a risk with all this, but not without reason. If God really is infinite and indescribable, as Catholicism and other religious traditions imagine, then an uncertain faith makes sense. At the end of the day, those who talk about God really do not know what they’re talking about. People refer to God with symbols and metaphors, stories and analogies, believing that these limited expressions disclose a limitless reality, but even if these expressions are true, they nonetheless differ infinitely from any infinite being. Undoubtedly, a lot gets lost in translation. Continue reading
It is often easy to wonder why God went through the trouble of making us and dying for us, and then you read about someone like Fang Mei Qiu’s grandmother:
The child Fang Mei Qiu can not stand for more than a few minutes without being in unbearable pain due to a condition she was born with that made her kneecaps weak. The girl’s father left when she was young and her mother remarried leaving Fang Mei in the care of her grandparents.
So each morning since she was nine, Fang Mei’s grandmother puts her granddaughter on her back and begins the long one and a half hour walk to school up a mountain on dirt roads. She stops when she gets too tired and resumes again. Her granddaughter has never once been late. At the end of the day she does it all over again.
Justice exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable.
Today is the 204th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. One of the many things I find fascinating about Lincoln is his view of the Civil War, a view which is not much considered these days. Lincoln viewed it simply as a punishment for the sin of slavery. Lincoln put this idea forth clearly in a letter to Albert Hodges on April 4, 1864. Hodges was the editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth in Kentucky and Lincoln was explaining why he had found it necessary to adopt a policy of Emancipation and to enlist black troops, neither policy being popular in Kentucky or any of the border states. At the close of the letter Lincoln disclaimed that he had controlled the events which had led to his embracing abolition as a war goal:
I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation’s condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.
God was willing the removal of slavery and gave the War as a punishment to both North and South for the sin of slavery. This was not a spur of the moment thought by Lincoln, but rather the fruit of much anguished contemplation as to why the War came and what it meant. Continue reading
A round-up of some of the best punditry in the Catholic Blogosphere, courtesy of ThePulp.it:
“Why Is Mugabe Visiting the Vatican?” – James Kirchick, New Republic
. . .Mark Stricherz of Catholic Vote wrote about this here. . .
God & Political Science – Timothy Shah, Daniel Philpott & Monica Toft, PD
Exposing the Death Dealers – Amy Welborn, Crisis Magazine
Pro-Lifers Help Win Canadian Baby Battle – Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, OSV
About Face on Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ – Joan Frawley Desmond, NCRegister
Abp. Jose Gomez: You Have a Duty to Confront This Culture – Cal Cth Daily
Fig Leaves & Falsehoods (Lying & Planned Parenthood) – Janet E. Smith, FT
Quaeritur: Selling a Rosary & Other Sacred Things – Father John Zuhlsdorf
Paternalistic Violence in the New World – David, The School of Salamanca
Monster Baptism & Chemical Pregnancy – Doctor Stacy Trasancos
The Sistine Chapel, In the Depths of Wales! – Richard Collins, The Guild
If you liked this roundup of the best posts from around the Catholic blogosphere, visit ThePulp.it for daily updates twice a day.
Today is the anniversary of what might be John Paul II’s most important encyclical, Fides et ratio. Although I have not the time to give it a full treatment, if you have not read it I strongly urge you to do so as soon as possible. Catholicism’s eager embrace of reason & philosophy not only sets it apart from most other religions but also positions it to best respond to the philosophical failures that are hurting the modern world. If the modern world is to find some redemption, it will be because these words are heeded:
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves
“Unnatural, mummy? You tell me, what’s nature’s way? If poison mushrooms grow and babies come with crooked backs, if goiters thrive and dogs go mad and wives kill husbands, what’s unnatural?”
Richard, The Lion in Winter
One of the claims to which people seem peculiarly susceptible at the moment is that if something is “natural”, it must be good. “Natural” foods are believed to be uniformly healthy. The finding that some particular behavior (say, polyamory) is found in nature is taken to be some sign that it is a good thing.
I think a fair amount of this results from our culture having lost a sense of tragic vision in regards to nature — we naturally assume that unless some active force comes along and makes things bad, that they will be good. This could not be farther from a traditional view of nature. While neo-pagans are sure that being “in tune” with nature would be a blissful and pleasant state, real pagans of the ancient world saw the natural forces that were bound up with their gods as capricious, sometimes cruel, and almost always unconcerned with the impact of their actions upon mortals.
“I think everyone has a secret resentment against God, against our very creation, against the fact of our being what we are. Freud called this the death wish, resentment against being born into this pain-full world.”
Peter Kreeft says something surprising in Back to Virtue: that we need to learn to forgive God. He is quite clear that this is not for any evil or debt he owes us, but for His goodness. As Kreeft says in his book, God loves us more than we would like, and we need to forgive him for interfering with our foolish will again and again”. We need to “forgive him for his blessed but painful surgery on our spirits.”
At first, I thought Kreeft was wrong. Forgive God? Why would we lowly creatures need to forgive God, who is infinite goodness? How absurd! Then, giving the great Peter Kreeft the benefit of the doubt, I thought it over and had a realization of sorts. We need to forgive God lest we hold a grudge against Him. God calls us out of ourselves. He asks us to give up ourselves and our particular desires, and this can be very difficult, even aggravating. Our broken nature rebels against God’s will. We must say with Jesus, “not my will Father, but yours be done,” but we do not want to. We often say, leave me alone to what I want! Christians say this even when they know this is foolishness. We are broken and part of our brokenness is a wrong-relationship with God: we blame him when he is not at fault. Our hearts must be at peace with God. And our hearts, misshapen as they are, cannot be at peace with God unless we forgive him. How ridiculous we are!
The New York Times runs an article about how the national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to address concerns about shrinking membership as they celebrate 100 years of boy scouting in the US. The number of boy scouts has declined 42% since it’s peak in 1978, with 2.8 million boys currently in the Scouts.
To judge from the commentariat at the Times, you would think this is entirely the result of the BSA remaining firm in their ban of gay scout leaders and statement that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath.” Not to mention saying that boys who refuse to recite the Scout Oath because of its references to God and reverence may simply not have a place in the program. Commenters claiming to be Eagle Scouts line up one after another in the comments to announce that no son of theirs will ever be a member of the Scouts while it remains homophobic and theocratic.
Kathryn Elizabeth “Kate” Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986) was an American singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin‘s “God Bless America“. Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, reaching its pinnacle in the 1940s.
Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia. Her professional musical career began in 1930, when she was discovered by Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins, who became her longtime partner and manager. Collins put her on radio in 1931. She appeared in 1932 in Hello Everybody!, with co-stars Randolph Scott and Sally Blane, and in the 1943 wartime movie This is the Army she sang “God Bless America”.
Late in the following video you’ll see a young Lt. Ronald Reagan make a cameo. 39 years later President Ronald Reagan awarded Kate Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom America’s highest civilian honor.
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
As we celebrate our Independence from the British Empire, let us remember our total dependence on God.
It may sound too simple or even too silly to be taken seriously- but I would say that looking back over my own life, and being in a perpetual teen world courtesy of my employment as a high school religion teacher- it would be hard to overplay the damage of this “Problem-Free Philosophy”.
The practice of celibacy in the priesthood is apparent in the years following Jesus’ resurrection. Single priests and priests who were married abstained from sex, of course with approval from their wives. Just as Jesus chose celibacy giving up a family in order to give himself to mankind, priests are called by God to imitate Jesus. In fact, the priest is able to better serve all people because he is more available.
Monsignor Angelo Amato of the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints states:
“Jesus was chaste, virgin, celibate and he defended it. His virginity distanced him from others, but it’s what made him able to show, compassion and forgiveness to others.”
Thus priests are called by God to imitate Jesus in this discipline.
By the end of the fourth century Pope Saint Siricius pushed for a celibate priesthood in order to maintain continuity with earlier centuries. Later this became a discipline* in order to carry out the tradition of celibacy, thus priests could not marry in the Catholic Church.
* The Eastern Orthodox still allow their priests to marry, but they must be so before entering the seminary and are not allowed to become bishops.
On Fasting, St. John Chrysostom, a Greek Father of the Church.
Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail
Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.
In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Ash Wednesday Address in English:
Here is the complete text of the Pope’s message:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Church’s Lenten journey towards Easter.
Lent reminds us, as Saint Paul exhorts, “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (cf. 2 Cor 6:1), but to recognize that today the Lord calls us to penance and spiritual renewal. This call to conversion is expressed in the two formulae used in the rite of the imposition of ashes. The first formula – “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” – echoes Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry (cf. Mk 1:15). It reminds us that conversion is meant to be a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways in order to enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness and fulfilment.