My late son Larry always seemed to enjoy Ash Wednesday. Last year I went up with him to receive ashes. He heard the traditional admonition: “Remember man thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” and had the ashes placed on his forehead. He then did the normal circle turn that he did after receiving Communion, and we went back to our pew.
Little did we know that this would be Larry’s last Ash Wednesday. He died in the wee hours of Pentecost last year of a seizure. (On that dreadful date I said to my wife that one of the greatest gifts God has given us in this life is our inability to see the future.) Now Larry’s physical body is well on its way back to dust, awaiting the Resurrection when it will be reunited with his soul.
Larry is now in the land which knows not Ash Wednesday, but only Eternal Easter, and we are left to experience an Ash Wednesday without him. I have always found Ash Wednesday to be a bleak day and it will be much bleaker yet without my son. However, Ash Wednesday, like death, is not the end, but merely a beginning. As Ash Wednesday is the portal to Easter, death is the portal to eternal life. Continue reading
Since Vatican II Catholics have largely deserted the confessional. Our Communion lines are full and our confessionals are empty. Unless there has been some radical change in human nature over the past half century, something I see no evidence for, there is something very, very wrong in all this.
Saint Augustine, who once prayed before his conversion, Lord make me chaste, but not now, knew the temptation to put off until some theoretical tomorrow repentance. We know that God will accept our repentance, but true repentance means putting away sins we are deeply attached to, or ones we in despair think we cannot summon up the willpower to avoid in future. Saint Augustine, in Sermon 32 responds to this manana mentality by reminding us that while God has promised us forgiveness He has not promised us endless tomorrows to seek His forgiveness. As we enter Lent, let us recall these words of the Bishop of Hippo: Continue reading
I have never much enjoyed Lent, of course the purpose of Lent is not enjoyment. Repentance, mortification, fasting casts for me a gray pallor over this time of year. Like many things in life I do not like, foul tasting medicine, judges who insist on strict adherence to the law, honest traffic cops, I benefit from Lent. It reminds me of my sins and the necessity to amend my life. This is especially good for me because we live in a sinless age.
Prior to say 1965, people enjoyed sinning just as much as we do, but most did not delude themselves about what they were doing. Promiscuous sex was just as fun then as now, but few were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was not, deep down, wrong. A trip to an abortionist might “solve” a small “problem”, but the destruction of human life that went on in an abortion was acknowledged by almost all. Standards of morality, as even a cursory study of human history reveals, have often been ignored by men, but the standards remained.
Now we live in a new and glorious day! If something is physically pleasant then there can be no sin about it. Good and evil have been banished from our lexicons, to be replaced, at most, with “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior. If over a million innocents have to die for one of our pleasures each year it is a “small” price to pay, and in any case we aren’t the ones paying the price. Some of our friends find gratification in sexual behaviors that were near universally condemned a few decades ago? Not a problem! We will rewrite the laws to make their behaviors “appropriate” and give a hard time to those retrogrades who do not adjust their concepts of “appropriate” and “inappropriate” to match ours. We will celebrate those with great wealth and seek to emulate their lives, no matter how squalid, unless they hold political opinions that are “inappropriate”. We will create wealth out of thin air to care for the poor through that magical device known as ”government”, the same poor that we would never personally lift a finger to aid. Lies will cease to be lies if we wish to believe them, and the term lie will soon be banished in any case. Too “judgmental”, the closest thing we have remaining to sin.
Is it not, I say, quite a common case for men and for women to neglect religion in their best days? They have been baptized, they have been taught their duty, they have been taught to pray, they know their Creed, their conscience has been enlightened, they have opportunity to come to Church. This is their birthright, the privileges of their birth of water and of the Spirit; but they sell it, as Esau did. They are tempted by Satan with some bribe of this world, and they give up their birthright in exchange for what is sure to perish, and to make them perish with it. Esau was tempted by the mess of pottage which he saw in Jacob’s hands. Satan arrested the eyes of his lust, and he gazed on the pottage, as Eve gazed on the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve sold their birthright for the fruit of a tree—that was their bargain. Esau sold his for a mess of lentils—that was his. And men now-a-days often sell theirs, not indeed for any thing so simple as fruit or herbs, but for some evil gain or other, which at the time they think worth purchasing at any price; perhaps for the enjoyment of some particular sin, or more commonly for the indulgence of general carelessness and spiritual sloth, because they do not like a strict life, and have no heart for God’s service. And thus they are profane persons, for they despise the great gift of God. Continue reading
Growing up, my family had a lot of odd conversations, especially on the rare occasions we watched TV. One of these led to my mom pointing out that a lot of the “strange” things that the Bible told the Jews to do were not just for religious reasons (I think it came out of a TV character using ‘religious’ as a synonym for ‘serves no practical purpose’)—they made very good practical sense, too. Simplest example, pork is horrifically dangerous if you don’t have a fridge and don’t know about invisible dangers. Continue reading
I don’t know about anyone else— at least this time of year, come Lent I know it’ll be a group obsession — but I’m constantly on the look-out for something to make that doesn’t involve carne.
Beyond the staples of fried cheese sandwiches (Thank you, George Foreman), the treat of deep-fried calamari, and various canned soups, my childhood only offers one option:
Thinking back over Lent, one of the things that hits me, as it has before, is that I am much better at not doing things for Lent than doing things. Even moderately big changes in my daily routine such as “fasting” by having only one meal a day on Wednesdays and Fridays, or abstaining from alcohol entirely, are fairly doable. However, my resolutions to start each day be reading Morning Prayer, or reading the Pope’s second volume of Jesus of Nazareth, or blogging my way through all of Augustine’s Confessions — not so much.
That’s the point at which I find myself wondering: Is putting so much focus into not doing something a mistake? There is, after all, nothing wrong with eating, or with having my nightly beer or glass of wine. Why should God have any interest in my not doing these perfectly acceptable things? It’s not as if God gets satisfaction out of thinking, “Ah, it’s Lent. I do so look forward to all those little human creatures going in for a little bit of voluntary discomfort. I thrive on discomfort.”
So why give up a few pleasures for Lent — especially while at the same time failing in doing some positive things which would arguably be better things to do?
Well, obviously, the reason for penance is not that God wants us to be miserable. Continue reading
In the course of my meanderings around the political blogosphere for well over two years, I’ve sought to offer up a Catholic perspective on the issues of the day. As I look interiorly during this Lenten season, I am seeing myself a bit differently than I expected to. What I expected to see in this opportunity to reassess my spiritual life, was a soul in bit of disrepair, still on the right track, but needing a simple nudge to be able to surge onward with more Christian vigor than before — to be better equipped to win the battle (intellectual battle, that is) in the year ahead. Instead, I see a soul that is careening forward as mightily as before, but that has switched tracks altogether.
We live in troubling times. The threat of economic disaster looms. The culture has become more and more corrupt. Christian persecution is rising on a global scale, ranging from pressures on youth in American classrooms to outright slaughter in the Middle East. These manifestations of the world groaning in labor pains can be intense, particularly for a political blogger whose job it is to read the headlines and the stories about injustice day in and day out. This Lent, I see the toll that it has taken on my own soul. It has become clear to me that I am spending far too much time on making intellectual arguments to win the great debates of our time, but not nearly enough time practicing kindness and sharing the Love of Jesus Christ with others.
As Catholics, we have a great blessing in being given the Truth….and not only the Truth, but the Fullness of the Truth. How often I have forgotten that the Fullness of the Truth includes Love, not merely the ability to Reason rightly in accordance with the precepts of our Faith. It is not enough to merely know the Truth intellectually. We must also Live the Truth so that we may bring others to the Light of His Eternal Love. These intellectual battles will always exist, in every age, but the main battle that we should be concerned with is the one within ourselves and in how we treat each other as fellow human beings.
The Church is called to continue Christ’s work on earth, leading those whose hearts are open to her mission into communion with the Triune God. There will never be a shortage of opposition on the part of the world as on the part of the heart of fallen man. (“Cor ad cor loquitur” John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Coat of Arms, Newman Friends International)
Just as it is not enough to merely know the Truth intellectually, it is not enough to simply “perform”, either:
“Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough go keep us in love with Christ unless both are preceded by a personal encounter with him. I have found that it takes some time to catch fire in prayer. This has been one of the advantages of the Holy Hour. Sitting before the Presence is like a body exposing itself to the sun to absorb its rays. In those moments one does not so much pour out written prayers, but listening takes place. The Holy Hour became a teacher for me. Although, before we love anyone we must have knowledge of that person, nevertheless, after we know, it is love that intensifies knowledge.” (“Treasure in Clay“, Archbishop Fulton Sheen)
Love teaches….and if we fail to Love, then we fail to know in fullness the Truths we boldly proclaim. Not only that, we set up limitations on our ability to grow even more completely into the Fullness of the Truth.
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. (Fides Et Ratio, Encyclical of Pope John Paul II)
I’m a bit appalled by myself, having taken it upon myself to argue so frequently the Truth that Reason alone is not enough…that Moral Reasoning is the right path….and yet have failed to live this in my interactions with people on a personal level.
To all whom I have offended, I ask forgiveness and a chance to start anew. I have committed myself to a renewed effort to Live what the Church proclaims, and not to merely stand with her to proclaim it. I offer a renewed effort to be Christ to those around me. Before I can change the world, I have to first be willing to change myself.
Please let me know if, and when, I fail.
God bless you.
About the Seventh Station: Jesus Falls a Second Time
My Jesus, often have I sinned and often, by sin, beaten Thee to the ground beneath the cross. Help me to use the efficacious means of grace that I may never fall again.
Lent is a time for confronting evil, especially the evil within us. Today is Ash Wednesday. The origins of the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday is lost in the mists of Church history. The first pope to mention Ash Wednesday, although the custom was very old by his time, was Pope Urban II. At the Council of Clermont in 1095, the same Council at which the Pope issued his world altering call for the First Crusade, the Council handed down this decree (among others): 10-11. No layman shall eat meat after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday until Easter. No cleric shall eat meat from Quinquagesima Sunday until Easter.
That the first pope to mention Ash Wednesday was the same pope who launched the First Crusade is very appropriate. Although even many Catholics may not realize this today, from first to last the Crusades were a penitential rite for the remission of sins. One of the foremost modern historian of the Crusades, Thomas Madden, notes this:
During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.
Pope Urban II was clear on this point in calling for the first Crusades when he reminded the chivalry of Europe of their manifold sins and called them to repentance through the Crusade: Continue reading
Before jumping into the topic, I want to say “thank you” to Tito and the entire staff for the invitation to contribute to TAC. I’m humbled and honored – and I hope to meet the fine standards already established here. It’s gonna mean more reliance on a dictionary and thesaurus, and the use of something I’ve seen referred to as “rational thinking”, but that’s a challenge I’m willing to undertake. Readers of my blog Acts of the Apostasy are familiar with my style; as my masthead says, “Orthodox commentary on heterodox hooligans – serious; satirical; humorous; faithful.” I can’t guarantee the most erudite (I had to look that up) commentary, but hopefully it will spark some worthwhile thoughts and conversations. So let’s begin…
Lent starts tomorrow. Ash Wednesday. A time to tighten our belts, wash our faces, deep-fry some haddock…
…and exorcise our homes of those eeeeevvilllll incandescent light bulbs.
That’s right – according to the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, your Lent will be meaningless if you don’t focus on creating a more sustainable and just world. It’s all about forgoing plastic shopping bags and installing CFL’s. Forget about growing in holiness. It’s all about glowing in fluorescence-ness.
Today, March 19, 2010, is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary; it is also a Friday during the season of Lent. According to Canon Law 1251, the obligation to abstain from meat is lifted, therefore it is permissible to eat meat today or voluntarily observe Lenten abstinence on Fridays.
Have a blessed Feast of Saint Joseph!
The abuse of removing Holy Water from fonts during the season of Lent is a manifestation of the Spirit of Vatican II. Well meaning priests misinterpreted or altogether made up their own discipline by removing Holy Water. Father John Zuhlsdorf has followed this up during the course of Lent 2010 with his most recent posting clarifying why Holy Water should never be removed during the season of Lent except for Good Friday and Holy Saturday:
To all the priests out there still… unbelievably still putting sand in holy water fonts during Lent…
KNOCK IT OFF!
And if you go into a church where you see this sort of idiocy… for the love of God, DON’T bless yourself with SAND.
As we work our way through Lent 2009, we need to rejoice in the turning tide. Though there has been much negative news about the Catholic Church this past decade, much of the negative news had its roots in actions taken during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, the seeds of the good news planted during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI is just now seeing its shoots and blossoms become visible to the naked eye.
What are the shoots and blossoms? They can be seen in increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the strong orthodox nature of these new, young priests. A new crop of Catholic bishops is also boldly showing their orthodoxy, which often befuddles and mystifies the mainstream media and the secular culture in which we live. In addition to this, many in the laity have for years now been writing and blogging about the desperate need for Catholic orthodoxy in a world full of hurt and self absorption. Many ask how can the Church possibly grow when the Church’s active laity, especially the young along with those who serve her in ordained and professed ministries, are so different from the culture in which they live? It is that culture in which they live that causes them to see the wisdom in Christ’s words and the Church He started through the first pope, the Apostle Saint Peter.
There were fewer shoots and blossoms in the 1970s when the seriousness of the Catholicism was questioned after the Church seemed to be trying to be relative, whether it was related or not, thousands of priests and nuns left their vocations. However, starting in 1978 with the election of Pope John Paul II, the tide began to turn. All of the Polish pontiff’s hard work began to be seen in the shoots and blossoms of events like World Youth Day 1993, which was held in Denver. Later in his pontificate thanks to events like World Youth Day, vocations to the priesthood and religious life began to increase.
Very loosely based on the Justice Trials of Nazi judges and Reich Ministry of Justice officials, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) is a masterful exploration of justice and the personal responsibility of good men trapped in a totalitarian state. Burt Lancaster, an actor of the first calibre, gives the performance of his career as Ernst Janning. The early portion of the movie makes clear that Ernst Janning is in many ways a good man. Before the Nazis came to power Janning was a world respected German jurist. After the Nazis came to power evidence is brought forward by his defense counsel that Janning attempted to help people persecuted by the Nazis, and that he even personally insulted Hitler on one occasion. Janning obviously despises the Nazis and the other judges who are on trial with him. At his trial he refuses to say a word in his defense. He only testifies after being appalled by the tactics of his defense counsel. His magnificent and unsparing testimony convicts him and all the other Germans who were good men and women, who knew better, and who failed to speak out or to act against the Nazis. Janning’s testimony tells us that sins of omission can be as damning as sins of commission. When he reveals that he sentenced a man to death he knew to be innocent, we can only agree with his bleak assessment that he reduced his life to excrement. Yet we have to respect Janning. It is a rare man who can so publicly take responsibility for his own evil acts. Continue reading
Biretta tip to Thomas Peters of the American Papist.
Update I: Curiously funny video clip of U.K. Sky News host and self-identified Catholic Kay Burley mistakenly thinks the ashes on Biden’s is a bruise.
0:29 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley makes above remark.
…you can skip the intermittent video of VP Biden bloviating about the successful stimulus package until the…
3:06 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley’s mea culpa.