Saint Augustine: No Matter How Great Our Crimes

Sunday, April 6, AD 2014

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Isaiah:  1:18


Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here and here to read the first five posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent.   One of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the eternal enemy of Man is despair.  How many people abstain from confession and reconciliation with God on the mistaken belief that their sins are too great and they are beyond redemption.  It would seem in our day that these people would be small in number since so many would appear to have lost any sense of sin.  Perhaps, but perhaps also a denial of the fact of sin is merely a surface attempt to avoid the gnawing guilt and emptiness that sin usually causes in most souls, whether the sin is recognized as such or not.   For all lost and wandering souls the forgiveness of God is close at hand for His mercy is as infinite as His justice is sure.  What so many of us have earned at the hands of His justice, He spares us by His mercy.  Despair is a sin, and in Lent we should turn our backs on it, as we do all sin.  Here is what Augustine wrote in regard to forgiveness of sins, no matter how great they are:

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7 Responses to Saint Augustine: No Matter How Great Our Crimes

  • Thank you for this Donald McClarey.
    Where was the man taken in adultery? Moses prescribed the penalty of death by stoning of both, the man and the woman caught in adultery. Ignoring the Law of Moses, the stoners were indulging their lust for death. The stoners were a mob not interested in Justice.
    Why haven’t Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy Pelosi proclaimed the Good News of Justice? All men, gay and straight are entitled to equal Justice. It is the duty of the state to deliver equal Justice. Equal Justice, to be delivered by the state, can only be found in the perfectly legal and moral innocence of the newly begotten human being at fertilization and creation of a new human soul.
    Let it be known, atheists, abortionists, fornicatiors and to all men, that your soul has been created by God, “our Creator”, in equal Justice, in moral and legal innocence. “Who is like unto God”
    When the atheist discarded his/her belief in God, the atheist destroyed belief in perfect Justice, in the virtues, in his own existence as an immortal and rational human being. The atheist exchanged him/herself for a finite, corrupt Justice, stoning a woman for a half-truth. Dare I say, that the man who committed adultery with the woman was among those willing to stone her, that the man who impregnated the woman with an innocent child is the one who is willing to abort the innocent child for his own sin? Justice stoned and aborted. Justice put to death. Equal Justice put to death.

  • “Where was the man taken in adultery?”

    Presumably he was quicker in getting away than the woman was, or he had already been stoned. This was an obvious attempt on the part of the leaders of the mob to use this incident to trap Jesus by forcing him to either forego mercy and allow the woman to be stoned or to negate the law of Moses by ordering mercy. Jesus neatly sidestepped the trap by indicating that those who would stone the woman were also enmeshed in their own sins, and therefore were not fit to pass judgment on her. (If the woman was a prostitute, I wonder if some of her other customers were among those who were going to stone her?) The words of Jesus obviously packed a large wallop since the woman was not stoned and the mob dispersed, not an easy task to accomplish when the blood lust of a mob is at its peak.

  • Donald McClarey: I like your reading better. Thank you.

  • “times of repentance have been rightly established by those set over the churches, that satisfaction may also be made in the Church, in which the sins are forgiven.”
    There is a rite in the Pontificale Romanum for the reconciliation of those on whom public penance had been enjoined. The reconciliation traditionally took place on Maundy Thursday.

    The practice of imposing public penance fell into desuetude during the 17th century, in part as a reaction to Jansenist insistence on its restoration, in its full ancient vigour. By that time, the years of penance enjoined in the early penitentials had been reduced to, at most, a single Lent and were often commuted to other good works, such as a pilgrimage, or alms-giving.

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Saint Augustine: Late Have I Loved Thee

Sunday, March 30, AD 2014



Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  and here to read the first four posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent.  We repent our sins and turn away from them, but these are not ends in themselves.  We do them to help reawaken in our souls our love of God.  God loves each of us with a love the intensity and magnitude of which we, in this life, cannot hope to fathom.  It has been said that God loves each man as if he were the only one.  He loves us enough to die for us, the creator of life suffering an ignominious human death to bring us to Him.  Blinded by sin and the follies of this Vale of Tears we are often unable to see that the sweet loves we encounter in this life are but pale reflections of His love.  Saint Augustine, after a wasted youth, did finally understand that love, and wrote about his discovery in imperishable words:

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7 Responses to Saint Augustine: Late Have I Loved Thee

Saint Augustine on Sin, Fear and Love

Sunday, March 23, AD 2014



Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  and here to read the first three posts in the series, we come to Augustine’s discussion of why we should avoid sin.  Augustine thought that refraining from sin due to fear of Hell did not involve the rejection of sin but rather fear of burning.  The true reason for avoiding sin is love of God and therefore rejection of sin as a result of that love.  Our Act of Contrition mentions both motivations but is clear what should be the most important:

O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.

As the saying goes, fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and no doubt the fear of Hell for many a sinner is the beginning of repentance, but that is only the beginning, and not the end, of our struggle against sin.  Christ taught us to call God Father and that He is a loving Father.  Anything that turns us from the God who loves us with such an eternal love, we reject, not out of fear but out of love:

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11 Responses to Saint Augustine on Sin, Fear and Love

  • This Letter CXLV of St Augustine was a crucial text in the great debate between the Jesuits and their opponents (particularly the Jansenists) over attrition and contrition and whether the former was sufficient for the sacrament of penance.

    Thus, we have the Jesuit in Lettre X of Les Provinciales: “Our fathers, Fagundez, Granados, and Escobar, have decided, ‘that contrition is not necessary even at death; because,’ say they, ‘if attrition with the sacrament did not suffice at death, it would follow that attrition would not be sufficient with the sacrament. And the learned Hurtado, cited by Diana and Escobar, goes still further; for he asks: ‘Is that sorrow for sin which flows solely from apprehension of its temporal consequences, such as having lost health or money, sufficient? We must distinguish. If the evil is not regarded as sent by the hand of God, such a sorrow does not suffice; but if the evil is viewed as sent by God, as, in fact, all evil, says Diana, except sin, comes from him, that kind of sorrow is sufficient.’ Our Father Lamy holds the same doctrine.”

    “You surprise me, father; for I see nothing in all that attrition of which you speak but what is natural; and in this way a sinner may render himself worthy of absolution without supernatural grace at all. Now everybody knows that this is a heresy condemned by the Council.”

    “I should have thought with you,” he replied; “and yet it seems this must not be the case, for the fathers of our College of Clermont have maintained (in their Theses of the 23rd May and 6th June 1644) ‘that attrition may be holy and sufficient for the sacrament, although it may not be supernatural’; and (in that of August 1643) ‘that attrition, though merely natural, is sufficient for the sacrament, provided it is honest.’”

  • “‘that attrition may be holy and sufficient for the sacrament, although it may not be supernatural’; and (in that of August 1643) ‘that attrition, though merely natural, is sufficient for the sacrament, provided it is honest.’””
    Imperfect contrition, although imperfect, is an act of the will to be contrite, to accept penance and forgiveness, to accept grace.

  • The contrition I learned about in parochial school also contained a resolve to sin no more with the help of His grace. This whole topic should merit all Catholics to study what our Church teaches on “justification”. Sometimes, I feel Catholics get mixed up with our justification beliefs and protestants justification beliefs. The Act of contrition, I learned, didn’t have the fear of burning part; i.e. “Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishment, but most of all because they have offended Thee my God, who art All Good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin, Amen! This contrition never refers to fearing hell. What you refer to regarding this fear of hell was taught to me as an imperfect act of contrition. Being sorry because we have offended God is the ultimate repentance. Great topic for an article, thanks.

  • The contrition I learned about in parochial school also contained a resolve to sin no more with the help of His grace. This whole topic should merit all Catholics to study what our Church teaches on “justification”.
    This is right. I’ve seen good, smart Protestants struggle with the question about why we should avoid sin, and I think their aversion to Catholic Church as an institution causes them to miss out on this teaching. Creflo Dollar, for example someone I was watching recently, a good preacher on many topics, is so devoted to his (abhorent) ‘prosperity gospel’ that he has a blindspot when it comes to the topic of sin. If godly behavior brings many earthly blessings, he argues, then sinful conduct leads to earthly consequences. His doctrine would allow no consequences in the afterlife.
    Other Protestants have differing views obviously, but none I’ve heard seem satisfying compared with Catholic doctrine. I think Ray and Donald have it right that studying St. Augustine and justification and sanctification are the way to find satisfying answers.
    Imperfect contrition, although imperfect, is an act of the will to be contrite, to accept penance and forgiveness, to accept grace.

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  • God does not want us to sin because it hurts ourselves and others. God teaches us what is sinful and what is good. This is one of the reasons we love God. When I sin I have contrition because I have hurt myself or someone else, not because I have offended God who cannot be offended.

    Is the above an heretical idea?

    Appreciate your comments.

  • Is the above an heretical idea?
    Michael, a good place to start (as always) is with the Catechism. This section in particular seems to to pertain to your point:
    Section 1849, for example, says that sin is a “failure in genuine love for God and neighbor”. And at 1850 quotes Psalm 51, “Sin is an offense against God: ‘Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.'”
    There is more to it than that, but perhaps a starting point.

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Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

Sunday, March 16, AD 2014

Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  and here to read the first and the second in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s description of what he viewed as one of his worst sins, the theft of pears from a pear tree.  More than a few people have been mystified as to why this incident caused Saint Augustine such pain.  Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, for example, wrote  “Rum thing to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens”.  Such critics of course completely miss the point.  The incident of the pear tree is the classic example of pure sin.  Augustine and the other rowdies did not steal the pears to feed themselves, they threw the pears to hogs.  They did this evil not to satisfy some hunger or desire, but for the sake of the sin itself, and that is what makes the act so monstrous in retrospect in the eyes of Saint Augustine.  The worst sort of sin we can do is a sin that has no purpose other than to engage in sin, in disobedience to God.  Most sins men do are a bad road to reach a worldly good.  A thief who robs a bank to gain money.  A couple who fornicate with each other to show their love for one another.  A glutton who gorges himself because he loves fine food.   The pear tree sin lacks any good as a goal that led to the commission of the sin, and leaves only the desire to do an evil act.  Saint Augustine was right to weep over this, as should we all whenever we do evil solely for the sake of doing evil.  Saint Augustine on the pear tree:

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15 Responses to Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

  • I’m going to concur with the Supreme Court Justice for one reason…Augustine’s next mistress after he dumped the ten year mistress that bore him a son. The first one left saying she would love him til death. Then St. Monica finds him a respectable girl to marry who however is too young to marry as yet. Augustine can’t wait for her, sexually speaking, so he gratuitously seeks and takes another mistress for sex…according to himself in the “Confessions”. Gratuitous pear theft…gratuitous mistress for fornication…which is worse? The second of course. He may have been displacing a lot of big guilt on to that real pear guilt such that the pear was doing double duty. After he converted really, Augustine according to a contemporary, chose never to be alone with a woman even relatives. Jerome, a brief fornicator in his youth, was the opposite and had many female friends after he converted. Augustine had sinned far more in that area.

  • “Augustine and the other rowdies” Mob mentality. Each one to impress the mob, then the mob owns that individual. The mob takes away his soul and makes of him a beast. Yes, I concur. Addiction to irrationality. Senseless sin except for committing the sin and offending against God the reason being.
    Would Augustine have committed that sin if he was alone? I think not. Therefore, he avoided the near occasion of sin.
    It has occurred to me that this is how communism operates. Communism owns you, you do not own communism.

  • “Gratuitous pear theft…gratuitous mistress for fornication…which is worse? The second of course.”

    Of course not. He and his mistress had their son, who they named Adeodatus, gift of God. His mistress ultimately repented before Augustine:

    “She was stronger than I”, wrote St. Augustine, “and made her sacrifice with a courage and a generosity which I was not strong enough to imitate.” She returned to Carthage, whence she had come, and the grace which had led her to sacrifice the object of her affection further impelled her to bury herself in a monastery, where she might atone for the sin which had been the price so long paid for it.”

    Adeodatus, a bright child with a very bright future, died at sixteen, to the intense grief of his father, and no doubt his mother. Much good came out of Augstine’s sinning with his mistress and he did not sin with her merely for the sake of sin itself.

  • Donald,
    Reread my post. I clearly was talking about the mistress after her…no.2.

  • bill bannon: “I’m going to concur with the Supreme Court Justice for one reason…Augustine’s next mistress after he dumped the ten year mistress that bore him a son.” It was a sin of lust, whereas, the sin of stealing the pears was a sin of ingratitude, a sin against the Holy Spirit. Sins against the Holy Spirit are unforgivable.
    I have no respect for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. for having a mentally handicapped girl sterilized because she had been raped, instead of hanging the rapist by his man-parts so all would-be rapists could see. Now every patient under anesthesia runs the risk of the doctor’s lust. It is the patient’s fault for having been created most enchantingly beautiful, I suppose. Yet, another sin against the Holy Spirit. Hang all rapists by their man-parts and the crime of rape will drop to minus one, (-1).

  • Confessions Book Six


    25. Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied. My mistress was torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, and my heart which clung to her was torn and wounded till it bled. And she went back to Africa, vowing to thee never to know any other man and leaving with me my natural son by her. But I, unhappy as I was, and weaker than a woman, could not bear the delay of the two years that should elapse before I could obtain the bride I sought. And so, since I was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust, I procured another mistress — not a wife, of course. Thus in bondage to a lasting habit, the disease of my soul might be nursed up and kept in its vigor or even increased until it reached the realm of matrimony. Nor indeed was the wound healed that had been caused by cutting away my former mistress; only it ceased to burn and throb, and began to fester, and was more dangerous because it was less painful.

  • Same argument. Augustine did not have a brief relationship with his second concubine out of a desire to sin for the sake of sin. That is what makes the pear tree sin so deadly in the mind of Saint Augustine, and I completely agree with him.

  • “”A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.””

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  • Compare: “but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden,” God said,” you shall not eat. neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” But the serpent said to the woman, No, you shall not die; for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. Did Augustine see a connection, in that he stole the pears to know evil? It seems so, Eve, goaded on not by a mob but by the Devil. Perhaps a devil inhabits a mob, something of which Augustine was painfully aware.

  • Having found my old copy of “Confessions”, I stand somewhat corrected. He speaks for himself: “Let my heart tell you what prompted me to do wrong for no purpose and why it was only my own love of mischief that made me do it. The evil in me was foul, but I loved it”. Perhaps the theft of the pears was an affirmation of the lawless lust he had come to embrace.

  • Without Christ, he (the devil) would surely “sift us like wheat”.


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Saint Augustine: Sins of the Flesh

Sunday, March 9, AD 2014



Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here to read the first in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s comments on sins of the flesh.  It is interesting that Saint Augustine begins the passage noting that some argue that the sins of the flesh are not sins, precisely the same argument that is made in our time.  Saint Paul  mentioned, and refuted, this argument in his epistles, so it is as old as Christianity.  The sins of the flesh are not the most dire of sins, rather the reverse, that pride of place going to the sin of pride, a sin I have ever struggled with, and that caused Lucifer to fall from Heaven to Hell.  However, sins of the flesh are sins, being a perversion of the love that is at the heart of Christianity.  Lust is ever an inadequate substitute for love, and attempting to make it a substitute is at the core of many of our social problems today, treating people as things, means to our own gratification, rather than children of a loving God that we love with fidelity and self-sacrifice, to mirror in our lives some minute fragment of the love that God lavishes on us.  Here is Saint Augustine on sins of the flesh:

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Larry and Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, March 5, AD 2014



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. 

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13 Responses to Larry and Ash Wednesday

  • Don, I pray you and your wife feel the Peace of our Lord, as you attend Ash Wednesday Mass today.

    Your words really resonate.

    I love how you constantly refer to this life as we all live it- in a “Vale of Tears”. It expresses so accurately how much we yearn for God.

    Your beautiful son Larry now lives eternally, right by his Heavenly Father, watching down on you his earthly father.

    You and your family are in my prayers on this day.

  • A beautiful reflection, Don.

  • Your son is in the loving arms of Jesus, his Savior.

    Soon, we’ll be there right along side of them.

    A blessed Lenten season to all here.

  • Larry looks like you, Donald. Blessed Larry.

  • “You and your family are in my prayers on this day.”

    Thank you Ez. Saint Francis of Assisi used to call himself a beggar completely dependent upon God. Until my son died I didn’t really understand his words and now I think I do.

  • “A beautiful reflection, Don.”

    Thank you Michael. Larry led a beautiful life, and it brings me peace when I think or write about him.

  • “Larry looks like you, Donald.”

    I like to think he did. He had his maternal grandmother’s curly hair, and the lean, lanky build of his paternal grandfather. He had the big feet of his maternal grandfather, and when he laughed or was angry he always reminded me of his paternal grandmother. Whenever I looked into his eyes I usually saw the gentleness of my bride looking back.

  • “Your son is in the loving arms of Jesus, his Savior.”

    I believe that with every fibre of my being OA.

  • “one of the greatest gifts God has given us in this life is our inability to see the future.”

    Well said Don.

  • Eloquent is how I would describe that ‘turn of joy’. Of course, trying to imagine the moments, I wonder whether you or someone in your family might be there behind him.

  • My son Larry always walked before me when we went up for Communion or ashes. I still find myself instinctively keeping a space for him.

  • Don:
    Your magnanimous (great-souled) words touched my heart and brought a tear to my eye. They made Ash Wednesday come alive for me. If we knew the future, would we act differently. Since we do not know the day nor the hour, should we act as if was imminent and strive even greater to bring out the best in others and ourselves while we traverse this vale of tears on our way to what we hope will be a heavenly reward? I guess in the end, it’s not what we “give up” for Lent but what we do for Lent.

  • Thank you Pete. Since Larry’s death I think I do appreciate the gift of each day more than I did before. When I was a kid a priest once told me that I should live each day as if it was my last. That piece of ageless advice makes much more sense to me now than it did then.

Saint Augustine: Repent Today!

Sunday, March 2, AD 2014


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:

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11 Responses to Saint Augustine: Repent Today!

  • “Quia nolo mortem morientis, dicit Dominus Deus. Revertimini et vivite.” Prophetia Ezekielis XVIII:XXXII

    “For I do not wish death on the dying, saith the Lord God. Return and live.” The Prophecy of Ezekiel 18:32

    That phrase “mortem morientis” is noteworthy because it assumes that when we are in unrepentent sin we are already dying. I do not know however if that is how the original Hebrew is written.

    Domine, adiuva me compungere.
    Lord help me to repent.

  • Yes, that is how the Hebrew is worded:

    But I have to cheat with Hebrew.

  • I have read and heard many observe that it is the seemingle small, habitual sin that fills most men’s lives. The big, heart wrenching sin we most often repent of but the lesser things that fill our lives touch our heat only in quiet moments, quiet moments easily shunted aside with the interests of the day. Would that all our sins were momentous! Then we would grovel and debase ourselves and, so, be raised up! Instead, we muddle along, vaguely aware that all is not right but unaware of the flames tickling our toes. There is a connection between the confessional and the pew, the penitent and the prayerful. Unless there are moments of silent prayer, there will not likely be regular repentance. Our confessional lines are not long because the moments we spend on our knees are fleeting.

  • Great post Don, and very timely.

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  • Our new bishop is very big on making it easy to find an open confessional. (I was going to say “easy to confess,” but….)

    Judging from the lines, it’s successful.

  • Catholics are well aware that Reconcilisation is neseccary for the forgiveness of serious sin. Perhaps they avoid the Confessional because we priest avoid preaching about any moral teachings that may offend our parishioners. Thus, we prefer avoiding teachings that offend and Cathlics continue to disregard the church’s moral teachings.
    I feel that too many of our faithful don’t repent of mortal sins because they disregard venial sins such as selfishness, lack of charity in action and speech, indecent language, and any other sins considered less serious. I firmly believe that if we sincerely make an honest effort to strive for perfection by eradicating “small sins” from our everyday lives, we will then succeed in overcoming mortal sins. I base this on the moral premise that pilling up “small sins” will eventually lead to “serious sins”.
    The upcoming penitential season of Lent is a great time to try this moral premise together with an increase in acts of charity.

  • Catholics are well aware that Reconciliation is necessary for the forgiveness of serious sin.

    Maybe not as aware as they should be– I’ve been told by Church Ladies in good standing that I shouldn’t “worry about it.”
    (Organizing three small children so that I’m fit for communion is not as easy as it sounds, especially if the pre-Mass confession line is long.)

    The “spirit” of Vatican II has a lot to answer for.

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Lent in a Sinless Age

Wednesday, February 13, AD 2013

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.

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14 Responses to Lent in a Sinless Age

  • A heads up to the Fr. Barron lovers out there ~ my comment may rub you the wrong way. Here goes nothing. I must say, I guess I can admire Fr. Barron’s ability to find and give Catholics a teaching moment from the series, “Rome”, which to my mind is nothing but soft-porn clothed in historical fiction. Heck, even my anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, non-religious sister won’t watch it because of its over the top sex scenes. He apparently watches it regularly as he mentioned a previous season. He must have the ability and confidence to filter out the parade of skin and sex.

    Whatever happened to a priest’s admonition of practicing ‘custody of the eyes’? Frankly, I would think what we’d be hearing from Fr. Barron, or any Catholic priest, that we shouldn’t watch the show, period. But then again, I’ve read recently that Fr. Barron isn’t so sure that many people are even in Hell. How disappointing to see where Fr. Barron is at these days and equally disappointing that his talks and sermons are so popular. I guess I can see why.

  • This thread is not going to devolve into a pointless back and forth on Father Barron. Such comments will be deleted by me. Perhaps we could all try to stay on point in the comboxes of TAC for Lent?

  • thanks for the mediatation which strikes at the heart of the modern culture and convicts many who live within it—including me. one question to show (and hopefully alleviate) my ingnorance: what are the sources of the quotes from the “wise men” in the article? i am guessing C. S. Lewis might be one but I would like to find out for sure so that I could have the chance of both reading and learning more. thank you again and wishing you a blesssed and healing Lenten season.

  • Fyodor Dostoevesky from The Grand Inquisitor story in The Brothers Karamazov. It was as if he had a vision of the shape of things to come for the next century and a half after his death:

    Correct as to CS Lewis. It is from Screwtape Proposes a Toast:

  • Have you all noticed how, in trying to abolish the concept of sin and replace it with “intolerance” that they point towards animal behavior to somehow justify their own? The argument they imply is that if animals do it, it must be natural, and if it’s natural it must not be a sin. How far we have sunk when the mating behavior of bonobos and penguins becomes that moral standard which rules our behavior.

  • Donald, thanks very much for the info on the references and links thereto.

  • “The great lie of our time, and the great despair, is that we are creatures merely of our appetites with transient, meaningless lives.” BOOM!!!!!

  • Interesting point to consider: Oswald Spengler held that Dostoevsky was true to the spirit of Christianity while Tolstoy was a mere Westerner. Tolstoy is a social engineer but Dostoevsky is Orthodox at heart.

  • My thoughts on this article: Amen Brother! Right is wrong and wrong is right.

  • Tolstoy was an absolutist theoretician, a Plato. Dostoevsky was more an Aristotle.

    Then again, Dostoevsky was probably insane.

    Or, if I could steal a concept from Chesterton (and I always do), no matter how crazy Dostoevsky was, he was grounded by an understanding of human nature. No matter how sane Tolstoy’s religion was, it was unhinged by Reason detached from humanity, even though it claimed to be purely human.

  • Pinky, that was wonderfully put! Yes, Tolstoy was certainly platonic. Dostoevsky knew the human heart better and perhaps consequently saw the world with an aristotelian eye. I was unaware Dostoevsky was insane, though it would seem to be Tolstoyn would be the one to lose it of the two!

  • It seems the same people that want to write a million laws taxing, regulating, or banning nearly every thing concomitantly believe there is no such a thing (except disagreeing with them) is a sin.

    Is that irony, or what?

    Here it is. They hate God and the Church because God and the Church stand in their way.

Cardinal Newman on Lent

Wednesday, February 22, AD 2012


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.

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8 Responses to Cardinal Newman on Lent

  • Amen.

    I desire true repentance for my sins. I think of Our Lord in the Garden if Gethsemani suffering a bitter agony for my sins.

  • I recommend them to look on all pain and sorrow which comes on them as a punishment for what they once were; and to take it patiently on that account, nay, joyfully, as giving them a hope that God is punishing them here instead of hereafter.

    Is he saying with certainty all bad things which happen to us is punishment for sin? It sounds very deuteronomistic, the idea of “Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.” That’s early Old Testament philosophy.

    Some bad events can be punishment for sin or a wake up call to turn away from sin. But, all of them? Hmm… Job had a lot of bad things happen to him, but he was a good, faithful man.

  • Donald McClarey, it amazes me how you find good and timely words.

    ” These are thoughts, I need hardly say, especially suited to this season. ”
    ” Now it is that, God being your helper, you are to attempt to throw off from you the heavy burden of past transgression, to reconcile yourselves to Him who has once already imparted to you His atoning merits, and you have profaned them. ”

    ” Depend upon it, they will wail over them in the next world, if they wail not here. Which is better, to utter a bitter cry now or then?—then, when the blessing of eternal life is refused them by the just Judge at the last day, or now, in order that they may gain it? Let us be wise enough to have our agony in this world, not in the next. If we humble ourselves now, God will pardon us then. We cannot escape punishment, here or hereafter; we must take our choice, whether to suffer and mourn a little now, or much then. ”

    ” 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. ”

    God being our Helper … wailing and agony now or then? … being profane persons with no heart for God’s service and despising His gift … let’s hope to be among the chosen

    T. Shaw, also thinking about that night in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asked them to watch while he prayed but they fell asleep. Fearful of how easy it is to doze off, and how important it is to try not to for 38 days left, then for the next eight months, and then always like it’s a matter of life and death. We can balance it with Easter – sort of like the mystery of faith words in the Memorial Acclamation, so God is our helper.

    ” And be sure of this: that if He has any love for you, if He sees aught of good in your soul, He will afflict you, if you will not afflict yourselves. He will not let you escape. He has ten thousand ways of purging those whom He has chosen, “

  • the church teaches that all temporal suffering is the result of sin, but not necessarily the sin of the sufferer. this is the philosophy not only of the old but also of the new testament.

  • @PM, you’re right. Donald picked very relevant and wise words.

    @Edward, Is all temporal suffering punishment? As I understand, all temporal punishment is temporal suffering, but not all temporal suffering is temporal punishment.

  • Why split hairs? Accept temporal suffering as a gift of purification. Thank God in all things and especially the sufferings that befall us because they can burnish the dross of sin.

  • It’s an important distinction into the understanding of suffering and sin. If I twist my ankle leaving a confessional, is that because I sinned as I left? Is a baby suffering from a birth complication suffering because of sin? I think we’re getting close to the gospel of karma, which I don’t subscribe to.

    One can become over attentive to sin and suffering to the point of asking at every challenge, “What did I do to deserve this?”

Not Just One Reason

Friday, November 4, AD 2011

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.

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2 Responses to Not Just One Reason

  • Good reflection there Foxfier. God isn’t stupid, and I don’t think there is any genuine religious tradition that is simply arbitrary or exists for no reason — they all have some logic to them.

    The “practicality” of the Mosaic Law can be glimpsed in other aspects. For example, the 40 days of ritual uncleanness, followed by purification, that women underwent after giving birth correspond almost exactly to the standard 6 week recovery period after childbirth today. Being “unclean”, though it sounds bad, meant women were excused from most of their ordinary household duties like cooking and cleaning (since anything they touched became unclean) and it also allowed them time to bond with their babies.

    Also, the Law of Niddah, which prohibited sexual contact (or any contact at all) between a woman and her husband during her menstrual period and for 7 days afterward, meant that the period of abstinence would usually end right around the time the wife was most fertile — sort of a reverse rhythm method.

    Then there are the economic laws like the “sabbatical” year every 7 years when the land was allowed to “rest” (to prevent exhaustion of the soil) and the “jubilee” year every 50 years when debts were canceled, slaves freed, and lands that had been sold to pay debts were returned to the original owners. Whether this was ever actually carried out exactly as prescribed in Scripture is a bit doubtful, but it did seem to have some logic to it… it would allow everyone an economic “do over” at least once in their lifetimes and prevent the rich from perpetually getting richer while the poor sink into a permanent underclass.

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18 Responses to Fish Friday

  • What a totally cool site – recipes for living, recipes for eating 🙂

    well done Foxfier.

    But I’ve no problems with fish returning on Friday. My older son has just purchased a 25 ft. power boat, and has told me that he’ll be going fishing at least once a week over the summer, and he wants me along – yum yum all that beautiful fresh fish.

    Only one little snag – a 50,000 ton container ship just last week ran itself up on a reef about 7 mile offshore, and its been spilling oil all over our beautiful beaches, and a couple of outlying islands that are havens for fishermen, (and women 😉 ) divers and spearfisherman, especially during the summer months. The newsmedia, as usual have gone into “extreme exageration” mode, and it is now “the worst marine and ecological disaster in NZ’s history.”

    What a crock. I looked at the beaches yesterday, and all the oil is cleared away by teams after each high tide. The winds have gone Westerly, so any remaining oil is being blown out to sea, where it will dissipate and be tidied up by marine bacteria. The damaged wildlfe birds, seals etc. – though sadly some have died – in 6 months nature will replenish all. Our fishing will now take place to the North of our harbour, rather than on Astrolabe Reef where the ship ‘Rena’ is – slowing breaking up with the pounding NE swell, and losing 20 – 30 containers overboard each day.

    So how are you guys reacting to this post? Bet you never thought you’d get a comment like this, Foxie 🙂

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  • Try the world’s easiest beans and rice, courtesy of Lent and Easter in the Christian Kitchen by Laurie Gill/Teresa Zepeda.
    In a 13×9 glass casserole dump the following: 3 cans beans (black, kidney, pinto, mix+match), 1 can or bag of corn, 1 1/2 cups UNCOOKED rice, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp oregano, and 4 cups liquid that the recipe says should be half V-8 juice and half picante sauce. But I have used regular tomato juice and salsa. You might even substitute water for some of this if you want things less spicy. Stir it around, cover tight with foil, and bake at 374 for an hour. Remove foil and cover with shredded cheese. Serve after cheese melts.

  • *laughs* Indeed, Don!

    Congratulations on the new source of fish, and I’m glad the problem isn’t nearly as bad as they say!

    Daria– ooh, that sounds rather good, and it could be used as burrito filling.

  • I usually feel guilty on Fridays because they’re my best eating days. My local lunchtime restaurant has salmon, vegetable lo mein, tilapia, stir-fry vegetables, and a decent salad bar with tuna salad.

  • Saute about 6 cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil for about 30 seconds. Add 10 cups of spinach and saute until wilted. Add a pound of cooked penne and a half pound shredded smoked gouda cheese. Take off heat and stir until mixed well. Thin with some of the pasta water if too thick. Serves 8 and is awesome.

  • Sushi and miso soup
    McDonald’s 2 for $3 Fillet-o-Fish
    Fish and chips
    Subway’s veggie sub
    Fish tacos
    Tuna fish sandwich
    Egg salad sandwich
    Pretty much any rice dish can be made meatless. E.g., fried rice, paella, curry rice, bibimbap, omurice.
    Pretty much any pasta dish can be made meatless. E.g., baked ziti, ramen, pad thai.
    Lots of soups and stews can be made meatless. E.g., bouillabaisse, minestrone.

    Looking at that list, it doesn’t look that hard to go meatless everyday.

  • “Bake until Bubbly” by Clifford A. Wright has the best ever tuna casserole recipe(in the noodle chapter, I think) and also a whole seafood section. Everything is from scratch. A little extra work, but well worth it.
    Also pizza (like RR mentioned) is a great meatless dish. We have a Friday tradition of eating pizza for dinner while we watch an action/adventure TV show.
    Go to your library and look for magazine’s with recipes or for vegetarian cookbooks. You can land some really great ones that way.

  • My seven year old calls Lent “fried fish season.”

    The problem with Lent in our house is that my wife is allergic to shellfish and hates all other fish. Only during Lent does she relent… Which means Lent is, for me, my son, and my eldest daughter, a blessed season because it is “fried fish season.”

    I suspect that I could convert my wife to fish if I could make a dish with olive oil, garlic, and pasta (three of her favorite things) if it was sufficiently mild that she’d eat it without immediately knowing it is fish.

    Got a dish for that?

  • Deep fry fish sticks in olive oil, slice into creamy garlic sauce and serve on pasta? Maybe some broccoli in the sauce as well. I can’t think of any other way to keep the fish intact!

    If you don’t mind the fish breaking apart, maybe cod fried in olive oil and flaked into a garlic sauce?

  • I bake homemade mac & cheese. It is really good and the kids love it.
    Also, I make a spinach lasagne that is really good with parmesan. If you want me to post recipes, I will, if interested.

  • Asian fishcake doesn’t even taste like fish. It makes a good stir fry. It might work as a substitute for meatballs in pasta.
    Imitation crab meat is made from fish. It can be used in salads or maki rolls. It breaks apart very easily so you can’t really do any cooking with it.

  • My wife makes an excellent mac & cheese but I’m interested in the spinach lasagne if your of a mind to post it.

  • My son and I had the fish sticks and pasta with creamy garlic and parmesan sauce for dinner. It was delicious! I’d give it four of five stars. I don’t think it will work for easing my wife over to fish though. The taste and smell are unmistakably fish. I’ll definately add it to the lenten menu though.

  • If you visit a website called “Monastery Greetings” (just Google it) you can find a number of meat-free and very good cookbooks, whose purchase will support a monastery somewhere in the US – along with lots of other goodies, totally inappropriate for Lent, but hey – Christmas is coming, too.

  • Thanks. Quick question about the “inappropriate for Lent” issue, is it true that we can set aside our sacrifices on Sunday?

  • G-Veg, yes. Sunday is a day of celebration so the 40 days of Lent exclude Sundays (Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday is 46 days if you include Sundays).

Looking Back at Lent: Why Do Penance?

Wednesday, April 27, AD 2011

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.

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7 Responses to Looking Back at Lent: Why Do Penance?

  • It’s also about remembrance (at least it is for me, anyways). It reminds me when I am not drinking that glass of beer of what the season is supposed to be about and what I should be thinking of rather than my own pleasures. In that context, it puts Jesus and His sacrifice front and center in my thoughts, which can lead to other reflections.

    Sadly, many young people see it more as a hassle or guilt trip than anything else. But then, they ARE young people (sigh)…

  • I’ve been taught that you should give up something you enjoy as a suffering in remembrance of what Jesus went through (I was later taught that I should replace it with “something positive”). My problem has always been that after the first week, I don’t miss what I gave up anymore and I’m not suffering anything :/

  • Doing something positive is acceptable, but I tend to think it should be something positive not as in a personal goal with a vague general good, but as a life changing positive or doing something profound for others. Like something that takes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to act on things we know we should do for others but often rationalize it away. I also view the giving up of something not so much as to be a rememberance of Our Lord’s passion (though it is certainly that too!), but as a true mortification. Something that causes us discomfort, a serious denial of the flesh. I’ve had a few good Lents where I was really ambitious in both the mortification and positive departments, and I’ve had many more Lents where I’ve been a sissy and just gave up soda (like this year). As a big soda drinker it’s a definite change of behavior and an inconvenience, however I don’t delude myself into thinking it’s true mortification, after all I end up just drinking more iced tea.

  • The past few years I’ve been trying to do one of each – give up something and do something. I find that I get so much less out of Lent when I give up (or do) something that I’ve done before. I need that “oh, darn it, that’s right” moment as I reach for potato chips (or whatever), followed by the self-pity at my huge sacrifice, followed by the humiliating contrast between not eating potato chips for 40 days versus being crucified for someone else’s sins. That keeps me from falling into the problem that Kylekanos describes.

  • The self-discipline imposed at Lent serves another purpose also; knowing that you can say ‘no’ to things which are not sinful teaches us we have the strength to say ‘no’ when we are tempted by things that are and gives us the strength to resist.

Ash Wednesday: God Wills It!

Wednesday, March 9, AD 2011

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:

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6 Responses to Ash Wednesday: God Wills It!

  • Medieval penances included Crusades and pilgrimages. See St. Bernard de Clairvaux’ endorsement of the Knights Templars.

    Christendom suffered 400 years of Islamic invasions, massacres and rapines. Then in 1095, in defense of itself and of its “children,” Christendom launched the First Crusade.

    One cannot easily reconcile 21st century “human dignity/peace/justice/secularism” with 11th century Faith and piety.

  • Deus le volt

    Its interesting that you say the crowds shouted these words.

    Many commentators today claim that it was the Pope who uttered these words, and use that as one of the bases for attacking the Crusades – even many Catholics think this, and is now promoted by liberal teachers and scholars that the Crusades were an evil attack on ‘poor peaceful (gag) muslims’.

    I have even had to explain to people in our RCIA group – not just the candidates – how wrong this understanding is.

  • Popular ignorance of the Crusades Don is never to be underestimated. Most people are simply ignorant of the fact that Islam and Christianity had been at war for more than four centuries by the time of the First Crusade and that Islam was almost always the aggressor.

  • The Timeline
    630 Two years before Muhammad’s death of a fever, he launched the Tabuk Crusade, in which he led 30,000 jihadists against the Byzantine Christians.
    632-634 Caliph Abu Bakr reconquer sometimes conquer for the first time the polytheists of Arabia. The Arab polytheists had to convert to Islam or die.
    633 Khalid al-Walid, the Sword of Allah for his ferocity, conquers the city of Ullays along the Euphrates River (in today’s Iraq). Khalid captures and beheads so many that a nearby canal, into which the blood flowed, was called Blood Canal (Tabari 11:24 / 2034-35).
    634 At the Battle of Yarmuk in Syria the Muslim Crusaders defeat the Byzantines. .
    635 Muslim Crusaders besiege and conquer Damascus
    636 Muslim Crusaders defeat Byzantines decisively at Battle of Yarmuk.
    637 Muslim Crusaders conquer Iraq at the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah
    638 Muslim Crusaders conquer and annex Jerusalem, taking it from the Byzantines.
    638-650 Muslim Crusaders conquer Iran, except along Caspian Sea.
    639-642 Muslim Crusaders conquer Egypt.
    641 Muslim Crusaders control Syria and Palestine.
    643-707 Muslim Crusaders conquer North Africa.
    644-650 Muslim Crusaders conquer Cyprus, Tripoli in North Africa, and establish Islamic rule in Iran, Afghanistan, and Sind.
    673-678 Arabs besiege Constantinople, capital of Byzantine Empire
    691 Dome of the Rock is completed in Jerusalem, only six decades after Muhammad’s death.
    710-713 Muslim Crusaders conquer the lower Indus Valley.
    711-713 Muslim Crusaders conquer Spain and impose the kingdom of Andalus.
    732 The Muslim Crusaders stopped at the Battle of Poitiers; that is, Franks (France) halt Arab advance
    756 Foundation of Umayyid amirate in Cordova, Spain, setting up an independent kingdom from Abbasids
    785 Foundation of the Great Mosque of Cordova
    807 Caliph Harun al-Rashid orders the destruction of non-Muslim prayer houses and of the church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem
    809 Aghlabids (Muslim Crusaders) conquer Sardinia, Italy
    813 Christians in Palestine are attacked; many flee the country
    831 Muslim Crusaders capture Palermo, Italy; raids in Southern Italy
    850 Caliph al-Matawakkil orders the destruction of non-Muslim houses of prayer
    837-901 Aghlabids (Muslim Crusaders) conquer Sicily, raid Corsica, Italy, France
    909 Rise of the Fatimid Caliphate in Tunisia; these Muslim Crusaders occupy Sicily, Sardinia
    928-969 Byzantine military revival, they retake old territories, such as Cyprus (964) and Tarsus (969)
    937 The Ikhshid, a particularly harsh Muslim ruler, writes to Emperor Romanus, boasting of his control over the holy places
    937 The Church of the Resurrection (known as Church of Holy Sepulcher in Latin West) is burned down by Muslims; more churches in Jerusalem are attacked
    966 Anti-Christian riots in Jerusalem
    969 Fatimids (Muslim Crusaders) conquer Egypt and found Cairo
    c. 970 Seljuks enter conquered Islamic territories from the East
    973 Israel and southern Syria are again conquered by the Fatimids
    1003 First persecutions by al-Hakim; the Church of St. Mark in Fustat, Egypt, is destroyed
    1009 Destruction of the Church of the Resurrection by al-Hakim (see 937)
    1012 Beginning of al-Hakim’s oppressive decrees against Jews and Christians
    1015 Earthquake in Palestine; the dome of the Dome of the Rock collapses
    1048 Reconstruction of the Church of the Resurrection completed
    1055 Confiscation of property of Church of the Resurrection
    1071 Battle of Manzikert, Seljuk Turks (Muslim Crusaders) defeat Byzantines and occupy much of Anatolia
    1071 Turks (Muslim Crusaders) invade Palestine
    1073 Conquest of Jerusalem by Turks (Muslim Crusaders)
    1075 Seljuks (Muslim Crusaders) capture Nicea (Iznik) and make it their capital in Anatolia
    1076 Almoravids (Muslim Crusaders) (see 1050) conquer western Ghana
    1085 Toledo is taken back by Christian armies
    1086 Almoravids (Muslim Crusaders) (see 1050) send help to Andalus, Battle of Zallaca
    1090-1091 Almoravids (Muslim Crusaders) occupy all of Andalus except Saragossa and Balearic Islands
    1094 Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus I asks western Christendom for help against Seljuk invasions of his territory; Seljuks are Muslim Turkish family of eastern origins; see 970
    1095 Pope Urban II preaches first Crusade; they capture Jerusalem in 1099

    So it is only after four centuries of Islamic invasions Western Christendom launches its first Crusades.

  • “630 Two years before Muhammad’s death of a fever, he launched the Tabuk Crusade, in which he led 30,000 jihadists against the Byzantine Christians.” Muhammed did not launch a crusade, he launched a jihad.
    “634 At the Battle of Yarmuk in Syria the Muslim Crusaders defeat the Byzantines.” The jihadists are properly identified in the first sentence, then improperly identified as crusaders in the rest of the post. Otherwise a very good time line.

Father Zuhlsdorf Rants About Sand in Holy Water Fonts

Tuesday, March 2, AD 2010

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…


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.

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9 Responses to Father Zuhlsdorf Rants About Sand in Holy Water Fonts

  • Our parish moved the holy water to containers in urns in the aisles and filled the holy water fonts with vinegar.

  • Our “holy” water usually has mossy/seaweed-looking debris floating in it. There’s a penance for you.

  • I think Father’s idea of sneaking fast growing seeds and a little water into the “Holy Sand” is fabulous.

  • Must be a Northern Hemisphere thing.

    Never seen it of even heard of it Downunder.

    Why not a font full of salt? More appropriate than sand. 🙂

  • Don,

    You are very fortunate to be in a parish or diocese that has a low threshold of dissident Catholics.

    You are truly blessed!


  • Sand in the holy water fount means rocks in the collection plate. I forget who suggested it , but think its quite brilliant. Also it’s in keeping with the Lenten theme. All the whackado personal symbolism has got to stop. Just contribute less money to buy all that sand.

  • I’ve never seen or heard of sand in the holy water fonts before. I’m glad we’re behind the times when it comes to this particular innovation.

    These days, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started filling the fonts with hand sanitizer. And considering that I have a rare talent for sitting next to the kid who wipes his nose on his hand or the lady with the bad cold who coughs and sneezes all the way through Mass and then wants to hold my hand during the Our Father, well, hey, a little hand sanitizer would be welcome…

  • Hehe, I now appreciate the literal holy-water-fountain (not as bad as it sounds…OK, the little wading-pool it pours into is kinda eyebrow-raising…) at my church.

  • I buried some rubber tarantulas in the sand that was placed in the holy water founts a few years ago. We haven’t seen sand since.

Lent 2010; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholic Orthodoxy

Monday, February 22, AD 2010

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.

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5 Responses to Lent 2010; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholic Orthodoxy

  • Amen Dave. The Tide is indeed turning as witnessed by the young men and women who attended the Right to Life in DC The way they handled thenmselves was remarable and edifying. The young orthodox priests are proclaiming the true tenets of the Church in their homiles and many so called “cafeteria catholic” are figgeting in the pews. RCIA teacher are getting back to what Catholism is and not just trying to bring anyone into the Church. More and more orthodox Bishops are taking a stance against those that try to justify their approach to public service aand their faith, as well as those in the academia who are trying to justify their relativism in their teaching and examples.

  • I think you rightly point out that the future of the American Church is being moved by the fact that only conservative young men are becoming priests.

    But I think a clarification needs to be made between orthodox and conservative, between heterodox and liberal, and between traditional and progressive. The meanings of these words seem to change from person to person.

  • Mr. Hartman,
    I see you are blind to the actual facts and are writing about a Catholic Church that is crumbling away. The lack of acknowledgment of wrongdoing at the very head of the Church has caused many to leave. Parishes are closing and there are fewer priests to run them. Catholic schools are closing due to declining enrollment. The vision begun by Pope John XXIII sadly were buried by Paul VI and Pope Benedict’s continued push to the right is continuing to push people further away.
    I think the Church I was raised in and have always been proud to be a member of, has turned it’s back on me and the many children who have been abused and shunned by the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Barbara, at first I thought your post was a tasteless April Fool’s joke. However, I see now that you are serious and I am very sorry that you are either this misinformed or this week. If you want the Church to become the same as the liberal Protestant churches who are in a statistical free fall then, shame on you. If you are week and run at the first sign of trouble, than I will continue to pray for you.

    My childhood parish had the distinction of having one of the highest number of molestors in my entir state, let alone diocese. I remember these molestors well, they were all liberals who wanted to change the Church and not defend it, some of the victims were people I knew.

    Even in the midst of this scandal, more and more young people, who are very orthodox in the Catholic faith, are becoming priests and nuns. In addition, the Church continues to see an increase in the number of converts (as evidenced by the last few years and this year in particular.)

    When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he prayed that God would give him the courage not to run when the wolves come. I pray Barbara that you find a backbone and stand up for the Faith when it is under attack by people who solely want to destory the Church by making outrageous accusations against Pope Benedict, without a single shred of evidence to back it up. There are even writers from the liberal America magazine who have said the conduct displayed by the NY Times and others is outrageous. I prayerfully ask you to consider these points.

Judgment at Nuremberg

Thursday, February 18, AD 2010

Very loosely based on the Justice Trials of Nazi judges and Reich Ministry of Justice officialsJudgment 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 because of pressure from the Nazi government, 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.

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5 Responses to Judgment at Nuremberg

  • A truly powerful movie.

    And despite having William Shatner in it, though in a very minor role as an American guard.

  • You have sharp eyes Darwin!

  • I had to rent and watch this film for a college American history course one semester, and I was so glad to have been given a reason to do so. This was an amazing film, and this speech, its highlight.

    Thanks Don!

  • [youtube=]

  • Spencer Tracy’s brilliant verdict speech!

    Marlene Dietrich who appeared in the film was a fervent anti-Nazi. She left Germany after the Nazis took power and spent the war entertaining British and American troops and selling war bonds.

    Werner Klemperer who played one of the Nazi judges, and who would later win fame as Colonel Klink, was a Jewish refugee from Germany. He served in the US Army during the war. When asked how he could play Nazis like Klink, he said that he would go to his grave happy knowing that he had helped make Nazis look ridiculous.

Joe Bidens Forehead Makes An Appearance

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

[Update below]

It’s Ash Wednesday and comic relief has arrived with our illustrious Vice-President Joe Biden!

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.

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54 Responses to Joe Bidens Forehead Makes An Appearance

  • Did Obama think Biden’s smudge/cross was a fly and try to swat it?

  • Ashes from the burned babies.

  • I had ashes once on my head when I was in court and a judge thought that I didn’t realize my forehead was dirty. He apologized profusely when I told him it was Ash Wednesday and I had just come from Mass.

  • Kristan,



    When I first moved to the South to Charlotte, NC, my coworkers were laughing themselves silly all morning when I arrived with ashes on my forehead.

    In the afternoon one of them finally came up to my office, giggling and smirking, and apologetically tried to tell me I had dirt on my forehead.

    I laughed, but that was my first encounter in the U.S. where Catholics weren’t as prominent I suppose in everyday life for my coworkers to have a laugh or too.

    I laughed to. It gave me an opportunity to evangelize and explain the meaning behind the ashes.

  • Yes, but what lies behind that forehead? That is what mystifies me.

  • Back in law school, way before I was Catholic and was still a Southern Baptist, I was (and still am) close friends with another evangelical named “X”. Up to that point in out lives, neither of us had had much exposure to Catholic culture (apart from our 2 Catholic law school roommates and my rarely seen Catholic relatives on my paternal grandmother’s side), having both been raised in thoroughly Protestant enclaves of the Bible-Belt South. However, I was ahead of “X” in my knowledge of things Catholic because of my father’s relatives. So I wasn’t completely in the dark about certain things.

    “X”, on the other hand, was absolutely clueless. His naivete was on full display during our first year of law school when the season of Lent caught him completely unaware. On Ash Wednesday, I was sitting with our Catholic roommates in the student lounge reading the school newspaper when “X” came rushing up to us and told us there was something wrong with that day’s paper. According to “X”, everyone had “newsprint smudged all over their faces”.

  • I have a friend from Lutheran-dominated northern Germany, who had never seen ashes before he moved to the US. He thought aliens had landed.

    I work for a multi-national company, with many Indian and Chinese employees. Ash Wednesday always gives me an opportunity to explain Christianity to them. Nothing like dirt on your forehead to ignite conversation.

  • It’s a shame Joe went to Mass where the priest has no testosterone. Of course, under Abp. Donald Wuerl, any priest who told Joe the truth (“You are a promoter of mass murder, and therefore not a practicing Catholic, and not a sincere penitent.”) would be in heap big trouble. According to Abp. Wuerl, promoting mass murder is NOT a sin. Abp. Wuerl has taught this repeatedly, each time he has declared that pro-aborts like Joe may receive Communion in the Archdiocese of Washington.

  • Sir, if you wish to be a faithful priest, you will not encourage the faithful to think ill of their bishop. That is not the way of Christ.

  • I’m not aware of any law or custom restricting who may receive sacramentals.

  • M.Z.,

    I believe Father Fitzpatrick was making a general statement in regards to Holy Communion.

    But to the point of recieving ashes on the forehead, I’m in agreement with you, I don’t believe there are no restrictions to receiving the ashes.


    Can non-Catholics receive the ashes?

  • I’m not a Catholic – but I play one on TV

  • Can non-Catholics receive the ashes?

    Yes. I think our Ash Wednesday mass even made a point of saying anyone is welcome to receive ashes.

  • That’s pretty cool.

    It’s interesting to note that many Protestant denominations are picking up this practice. As well as picking up the practice of fasting and abstinence of Lent and Advent.

  • When I was in Florida a friend of mine who was a Methodist minister would go to get ashed.

  • Yeah, Tito, it is pretty cool, isn’t it? I have a friend who was raised and is Presbyterian, and standing at the threshold of becoming he-cares-not-what as long as it’s not Protestant. One thing he said to me once is that Protestants are mostly either becoming entirely non-Christian or else “discovering” all sorts of things like bringing communion from church to the homebound, and advent wreathes, etc.

    It’s a real sign of spiritual stirring, and I believe we should eagerly encourage it and judiciously guide it as we’re able.

  • Ryan Haber:

    What you say is true in the case of a bishop who is not scandalizing and dividing the faithfrul. As it is, I don’t agree.

    When a bishop’s public actions are scandalous, the scandal must be resisted and repaired as much as possible. Archbishop Burke has published a full exposition, explaining precisely WHY and HOW Archbishop Wuerl (who is named by Burke) and other bishops are scandalizing the faithful by their refusal to obey Canon 915. Note that I said “obey,” not “enforce.” While Canon 915 has to do with the Eucharist, Joe Biden, as a person who is notoriously ineligible to receive the Eucharist, is also perpetrating a public scandal by flaunting ashes and in general posing as a practicing Catholic. All bishops and priests who are in a position to stop him, or at least to correct him, and thus lessen the deception and scandal, but choose not to do so, are accomplices in scandalizing the Church and society.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick:

    Sir, are you then made judge over bishops? If you are judge over bishops, why shouldn’t your parishioners set themselves up as judge over you. Archbishop Burke is a peer of Archbishop Wuerl’s, and to some extent, in a position of authority over him as Prefect of the Signatura and as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.

    I will leave it to the Archbishop’s peers and superiors to correct him. It is impossible for a subordinate to publicly berate his superiors without undermining the very structure of authority that connects them. We do not instill confidence and love for bishops in general by undermining them in particular. It would be better to observe the error made in simple, objective terms and leave it at that. If animosity prevents us from praying for a person – really praying for him, it is perhaps best not to speak of him either.

    I understand entirely. There are public figures whose existence makes me sputter. That’s my problem. I try to refrain critizing them while I still have a hard time praying for their authentic needs in a sympathetic way, as I would for a sick friend.

    The correction of superiors has been undertaken by some saints, it is true… but there are more Martin Luthers and Girolamo Savonarolas who gave it a whack than there are St Catherine of Sienas. St Francis of Assisi’s example is instructive on the point. I hesitated to say these things to you, Father, because I feel the same trepidation about seeming to criticize a priest that I hope a priest would have with regard to critizing a bishop. If there were a way of approaching you privately, sir, please believe me that I would have done so.

    Very sincerely yours,

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • I would like to point out that this so-called “Fr Vincent Fitzpatrick” is unlikely a priest and unlikely someone with that name. The famous priest with that name is dead, and I think he is putting that name to shame. I would like to ask where he is a priest of and who his Bishop is.

  • I haven’t said a word of judgment about any bishop. I have described actions.

    The scandal I am discussing is eating the heart out of the Church in America. The failure of all but a handful of bishops to carry out their STRICT duty in regard to the scandal of pro-abortion politicians, and those politicians’ sacrilegious Communions, is an open sore, a cancer, a case of leprosy. It is not a secret. It is not a matter of confidentiality. It is all taking place in public, and poisoning the Church.

  • “Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick” are you a priest or not? Who is your bishop? Do you know there are canons against pretending to be a priest, if you are not one?

  • “Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick”:

    Certainly many bishops have given scandal over the years, starting with Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter, and many continue to do so. Even to say, “Bishop X did Y and that is scandalous,” is a serious matter because of his office, and you, sir, said a good deal more than that.

    Henry Karlson’s question stands. Are you truly a priest? What is your real name, so that you may be public and honorable rather than anonymous and a snake, and who is your ordinary? Of what diocese or congregation are you a member?

    Please state yourself openly or be quiet, sir.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • I honestly can’t see how seeing the Biden sporting ashes scandalizes anyone. Although it would be of benefit to the faithful if the bishops would use their shepherding powers more forcefully at times when addressing Catholic leaders who actively support abortion, euthenasia, torture, etc., ashes are a sign of repentence and thus an acknowledgement that we are sinners. Further, any practicing Catholic knows that lots of people show up to get ashes on Ash Wednesday who won’t show up again until Easter, if then. How they’d be scandalized by the fact that a politician who does not follow Church teaching is seen with ashes escapes me.

  • Yes, Fr. Vincent –

    Just be quiet and humbly submit to all authority, no matter how outrageous, sacrilegious, or obscene. Don’t raise questions and don’t encourage fellow Catholics to do likewise. Just be quiet.

    That’s exactly how Jesus handled the Pharisees, exactly how the saints handled corrupted bishops and popes in the Middle Ages, etc.

    Unless the Bishops, say, start advocating policies that reflect the agenda of Republican instead of Democratic research staff. Then by all means rebel, please, and be quick about it.

  • but there are more Martin Luthers and Girolamo Savonarolas


    A man gets burned at the stake for heresy once — once!! — and for that you see fit to yoke him with Martin Luther?

  • Joe once again shows he has no respect for the Church and its ecclesiology. Which is not surprising, since he came from an agitated past and continues to promote agitation as his response. There is nothing wrong with Biden getting ashes (if he were Eastern, I would ask what he was doing at an Ash Weds service– but that’s something else). The fact that people get upset that he went to church — priceless.

  • No, there’s just a difference between what I call respect, and what you do.

    In my view, a criticism that doesn’t contain vulgar language, that doesn’t question personal motives or judges a person’s soul, that addresses a legitimate concern, is a respectful criticism.

    I might also add, doesn’t raise the irrelevant issue of a person’s past instead of simply addressing the merits of a point or argument.

    And if we don’t have the right to make a respectful criticism, then what are we? Are we men?

    I don’t know what you would consider such. I hope “respect” means more than “keep your mouth shut and do what you are told.”

  • Joe once again shows he has no respect for the Church and its ecclesiology. Which is not surprising, since he came from an agitated past and continues to promote agitation as his response.

    For a few moments I thought you were talking about the Catholic Anarchist.


    I think only one person got upset, and that’s stretching that father is commenting about the ashes, but more about reception of Holy Communion.

    I made this post in friendly jest to my favorite VP, not because he did anything wrong.

  • “Just be quiet and humbly submit to all authority, no matter how outrageous, sacrilegious, or obscene. Don’t raise questions and don’t encourage fellow Catholics to do likewise. Just be quiet.”

    Seems you presume much there, and misrepresenting Catholic understanding of authority and respect. And misrepresenting what others are saying in respect to how to deal with issues of concern.

    As for addressing a person’s past, it is important if the habit of the past remains and the person has yet to deal with that habit.

    Respectful criticism is good; your rant wasn’t respectful, nor was this “Fr Vincent’s”.

  • Tito

    Do you know he is a priest? If it is the same person who has posted on Vox Nova, the info behind the nick appears — well, contrary to the that. The way he speaks isn’t like a normal priest, and he appears to have fundamental problems with basic principles of Catholic ecclesiology. I somehow doubt he is a priest, and going with the name as if he were is a violation.

  • Actually, Tom, I rather appreciate Savonarola, at least as an historical figure, if not as a role model. Lol.

    And Joe Hargrave, none of that is what I said. Your parody of me makes me think that you have not got an honest, rational response.

    The importation of American political agenda into this particular conversation is entirely your own doing. I couldn’t care less about the Democrats or Republicans. We do the Church a great disservice by importing particular political paradigms and agendas into her way of thinking and living. We are supposed to be exporting our values into the world. Of course there is a legitimate time and place to express concerns about the life of the Church; the American way of vocal, organized dissent is very appropriate to the American democracy, but very inappropriate to the Catholic Church.

    Vitriol and mockery is never constructive, and is positively unchristian.

    For the record, my challenge to “Fr. Vincent” was to identify himself. I was echoing Henry Karlson, who like me, you, Tito Edwards, and numerous others, posts only under our true identities. Doing so is a sign of integrity. Taking a pseudonym for public debate, particularly in a place where speaking your mind isn’t a shooting crime, is not a mark of integrity.

    As for me, I will obey Christ. He, as God-in-flesh, took great liberties with the Pharisees and had authority to do so. He never pretended that we should do likewise. Rather he commanded us:

    Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. (Matthew 23:1-3)

    And Joe, if you read the accounts of Brigid of Sweden or Catherine of Siena, I think you will find their words both more compelling and more respectful in addressing directly, not snarking on a blog, the men God had placed in authority over them. We have given up faith that God can work conversion through us if we turn from our prayers to ridiculing and backbiting on a blog that the intended victims don’t even read in the first place.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • “misrepresenting Catholic understanding of authority and respect”

    I never presented as such, but your reading skills continue to impress me.

    “And misrepresenting what others are saying in respect to how to deal with issues of concern.”

    I was more fair than Ryan was to Fr. V, characterizing his criticism as a “berating” – it was no such thing. It also seems that “thinking ill” of one’s bishop is somehow a greater danger than the potential scandal caused, a notion which is about on the same level of a soldier placing the reputation of one of his officers ahead of a matter that could affect the entire company. In both cases, completely cowardly and unacceptable.

    “As for addressing a person’s past, it is important if the habit of the past remains and the person has yet to deal with that habit.”

    Ah. So you, you are going to lecture me on bad habits. I see.

    You see, Henry, there’s a difference between an argument, and its cause. The validity of an argument can be tested against the objective standards of logic which are independent of any personal, subjective motivation I might hold.

    Those personal, subjective motivations are matters best discussed with one’s priest, one’s family, one’s friends – and they have absolutely no bearing on the validity or invalidity of an argument.

    In a debate, they are what we call an ad hominem – attacking the man, to distract or deflect from the main point. It is a tactic of people I would describe as losers and scoundrels, or at best, people who just aren’t very bright.

    Since I think you’re probably better than that, I trust in the future you will recognize that I am not interested in personal advice from you, and pay basic respect to the elementary rules of a logical debate.

    Consider this a warning. Destroy me on the issues, take a chainsaw of logic to my arguments – but leave the personal insinuations out of it, or your posting privileges here will be taken under review. And if you want to consider that an act of censorship on my part, I can’t stop you. But I’m making a clear distinction here. I welcome any and all criticisms of a person’s actual argument, but I will not tolerate attacks on a person’s character, mine, or anyone else’s.

  • Henry K.,

    I understand and we’ll monitor him for now.

    To be on the safe side I’ll refer to him as a priest.

    Do Eastern Catholics have Ash Wednesday on their liturgical calendars?

  • Tito

    I think Maronites might do something on Ash Weds (I’ve heard something about it before, but I cannot confirm). But Byzantine tradition has Lent start earlier (Sunday evening, Forgiveness Vespers). There is no ashes, rather, there is a Vespers service, an anointing, and a ritual where the priest asks the congregation for forgiveness, and the congregation asks everyone else for forgiveness. Then on Monday, it is a strict day of fast (no meat, no dairy). But we don’t do Ashes. This week is called “Clean Week.” The tradition is to clean out one’s home and to have confession this week ( I plan to go tomorrow – due to all the snow and blizzard, and a few other issues, it’s been about 5 weeks; normally I go once a week).

  • Ryan,

    My response was a mockery of the completely disproportionate response you gave to Father V.

    About the only questionable thing he did was to question the “testosterone” levels of the priest in question. Everything else he said was, as far as I’m concerned, perfectly fine and worthy of more than a lecture more befitting a fifth-grader being admonished for picking his nose in class.

    You said “Vitriol and mockery” is not acceptable – neither is silence in the face of sacrilege. Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple and broke the laws of the Pharisees. If we are to be like Christ, that means knowing when to be mild, and when to be strong.

    “For the record, my challenge to “Fr. Vincent” was to identify himself.”

    That was based on your criticism of his comments, obviously. Your first challenge was whether or not he had any right to say anything about a bishop at all. You said,

    “It would be better to observe the error made in simple, objective terms and leave it at that.”

    Well, he did that and you continued to go off on him.

    “Taking a pseudonym for public debate, particularly in a place where speaking your mind isn’t a shooting crime, is not a mark of integrity.”

    That’s a separate matter, and if you want to pursue it with the man, fine. I’m not interested in that – only the arguments. And there was certainly more to the exchange between you two than this man’s (alleged) anonymity.

    “He, as God-in-flesh, took great liberties with the Pharisees and had authority to do so. He never pretended that we should do likewise.”

    Aren’t we supposed to follow Christ as an example? It obviously doesn’t mean defiance for its own sake, but in defense of the truth. And what Father V. was doing, and what most loyal Catholics who are concerned are doing, is far less than what Christ did to the money changers at the temple.

    This isn’t, moreover, 1000 A.D. during which the argument that the average peasant couldn’t possibly know enough to comment on a Church dispute or teaching had some actual foundation in the conditions of the time. Now, as Fr. V did, we can cite canon law on the internet.

    “We have given up faith that God can work conversion through us if we turn from our prayers to ridiculing and backbiting on a blog that the intended victims don’t even read in the first place.”

    I don’t think your “if” follows at all, first of all, because the “victims” are not the only ones intended – how about all of the genuine victims of their scandal? They need to hear the criticisms as well.

    Secondly it doesn’t follow because these things are not mutually exclusive, and who are you to know that the criticism might not be the chosen instrument of God for the conversion of the heart?

  • Joe,

    There is something between silence and vitriol. The fact that silence isn’t acceptable doesn’t mean that vitriol is acceptable. And I am not sure you are right that silence is an unacceptable option.

    We certainly need to know when to be mild and when to be strong. The two aren’t contrary, coincidentally. Jesus, never weak, called himself “gentle and lowly in heart,” (Mt 11:29-30). Furthermore, St. James writes, “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God,” (Ja 1:19-20).

    We are supposed to follow Christ as an example, but not without qualification. After all, we are called to be his disciples, and not Him. Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately? Lolol.

    Commenting on the life of the Church isn’t about education or not being peasants; I commended the examples of medieval saints who commented very vocally on the life of the Church precisely because you mentioned that medieval saints did so. I only added specific names and mentioned that they made their criticisms respectfully and in a manner otherwise appropriate.

    You’re right, Joe, kinda – my original concern with “Fr. Vincent” was how he did what he did. Voicing concern about the state of the Church or about our bishops or even a particular bishop – that’s all legitimate. The way he did it was disrespectful. His psuedonymity is a perfectly legitimate additional concern on the same matter of how he undertakes legitimate actions. If he wishes to object publicly to something another man, whose name is publicly known to the world, let him at least do so with his own proper name likewise publicly known.

    You wrote that you are only interested in the arguments; if by that you mean “Fr Vincent’s” original post, I believe you are stretching the definition of “argument.”

    As Henry Karlson wrote, given the shared name of an earlier, deceased priest, the radically different tone from pretty much anything any priest I’ve ever known has written, and his sudden silence when asked for credentials, I think “Fr Vincent” is itself a stretch.

    I’m sorry, Joe, but I do not think that you will convince me that the kind of comment “Fr Vincent” made constitute the productive or virtuous response of a Christian man to seeing a bishop derelict in his duty.

  • Ryan,

    Re. meekness and courage, mildness and strength:

    “We certainly need to know when to be mild and when to be strong. The two aren’t contrary, coincidentally.”

    And, as I hope you acknowledge, I did not say that they were in an absolute sense – both capacities should co-exist within the same person – but in a situational sense. Some situations call for us to be soft, and others, to be hard. In that moment the two are indeed contrary.

    “Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately?”

    Well, forgive me if I’m not as amused by your joke as you are 🙂

    Following Christ’s indignation at the defilement of the temple is, obviously, within our means as mortal men.

    “Commenting on the life of the Church isn’t about education or not being peasants”

    It is a little bit, though. Because I would have agreed with clergy of the Middle Ages that people who, because of the limitations of the time, could not read or write (even if they were naturally blessed with intelligence) probably had little to no place in a debate of this kind. Let’s say, it would have been much more cautious and guarded.

    Today we can’t say that. I love the middle ages as much as any historian of the era but the inevitable consequence of literacy is democracy. Now I DON’T think the Church should be a democracy like some on the left do, I totally reject that – but I DO believe that lay Catholics need to have a way to express their grievances and that some degree of accountability has to exist. If doctrinal and liturgical disputes don’t show that, then the sex-abuse scandal does.

    As for Fr. V,

    “he way he did it was disrespectful.”

    In what way, beyond his crack about “testosterone”?

    “You wrote that you are only interested in the arguments; if by that you mean “Fr Vincent’s” original post, I believe you are stretching the definition of “argument.””

    Actually, I mean more his second post, in which he built upon his initial point and included references. That looked like an argument to me.

    So, I’m talking about his second post. And yes, he would have done his cause more good had he began with that instead of sarcasm, as would I. If there is a bad habit here, it is on the part of those of us who would resort to sarcasm first. Whatever faults I see in your approach, at least that isn’t one of them.

  • At Mass last night, I had quite a few who came forward for ashes that, at communion, came up for a blessing instead the bread. Every oak began as a tiny seed.

    I understand that among at least some Hispanics, there is a belief that you will die within a year if you don’t receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. Has anyone else heard that?

  • Patrick,

    Never heard of it. I’ll ask my mother and my aunts about this though.

  • Hey Joe,

    I’m glad we’re both maintaining or regaining civility. I found myself irritated, and have been praying, and think that two men who love the Church as she is can come to some sort of understanding about how to address her features that need, well, let’s just say, more love.

    Meekness, courage, mildness, and strength aren’t contrary to each other. They can’t be, because they are both virtues, and as you note, reconcile in an absolute sense. That being true, they are always reconcilable in the particulars, since the particulars depend upon the absolute. It takes a great deal of sanctity to reconcile apparent opposites – which Christ did in everything he did: always strong, always gentle; always direct, always discreet; always active, always recollected. These things only seem to us to be at odds with each other because we do not understand them deeply enough, we do not know what is at their heart.

    We set aside one virtue for another at great peril to losing them all.

    “Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately?”
    Well, forgive me if I’m not as amused by your joke as you are 🙂

    Sure. But I think my point still stands. We follow Christ in one sense, in another sense, we are each called to blaze our own trail, to follow his light in our own circumstances. Recourse to WWJD isn’t terribly helpful if the question “What would Jesus do?” is precisely what needs answering. Lolol.

    I agree that people uninformed in a matter shouldn’t discuss it, and those informed should freely admit the point at which their information ends. I wasn’t saying that “Fr Vincent” didn’t know anything, but that he make his contribution to the discussion badly.

    But since we’re on the topic, “Fr Vincent” clearly has not been following news in the DC area. If he had, he would know more. Archbishop Wuerl, whom “Fr Vincent” thinks something of a weakling or liberal intent on punishing anyone with testosterone, has been publicly sparing with the city council because of its increasingly militant and intrusive laws about gay “marriage”. Most recently, they have passed a law prohibiting discrimination in adoption services based on the sexes of a “married” couple. Yesterday the Archbishop and Catholic Charities shut down the Church’s adoption agency here because we cannot comply with the terms of the wicked law in question. This action followed months of wrangling and being vilified over the Church’s refusal to comply with another law requiring spousal benefits for gay “married” couples – I believe that case is now pending in federal court. These aren’t the acts of spineless cowards.

    As for Fr. V,
    “he way he did it was disrespectful.”
    In what way, beyond his crack about “testosterone”?

    “Other than that, how was the theatre, Mrs. Lincoln?” Lol. Sorry, another bad joke, but meant in good fun. His general approach of smearing the archbishop is hardly respectful, and fits in better with the secularist MSM’s approach than with a Christian’s. He also wrote, “According to Abp. Wuerl, promoting mass murder is NOT a sin,” based upon evidence from which it hardly follows.

    “Actually, I mean more his second post, in which he built upon his initial point and included references. That looked like an argument to me.”

    Fair enough. His first one has been a show-stopper for me, which is the principle rhetorical problem with such posts. It is a show-stopper for me because of the more issues underlying it, and so on. Thank you for your compliment, too. I continue to find you an honorable gentleman.

    I think that one of the archbishop’s more admirable and useful qualities in a place as political as DC, though one least likely to endear him to his allies, are his tact, deliberation, and moderation. Fools rush in, and Archbishop Wuerl is no fool; but nor is he a coward, or opposed to the truth, or seeking to undermine the Church.

    One good reason to reserve judgment of the actions of our superiors is that, just like our parents, they often know things – either experience or concrete facts – that we do not, cannot know. Though I certainly do not understand the actions of many of our bishops, I can trust that they know more than I do, and I can – God help me if I cannot – trust that God has put them in authority over me, and not the reverse, for my sanctification and theirs.

    There is some consolation in that, I hope.

    When in conscience I must challenge a clergyman, just as with a brother, it is always best to do so in private, even if the cause of my concern is public. That is, after all, how our Lord instructed us to handle such things. It’s all the more important because any semblence of rebelliousness causes only further scandal.

    It has become a useful spiritual habit of mine to write a letter of support to bishops when they get bad press for doing good things. I’ve written a number of such letters, and am deeply impressed always to have received a personal response.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • Ryan,

    The point about private criticism is valid, but only to a certain extent. There is also something to be said for the argument that a public figure invites public criticism and ought to be subject to public scrutiny.

    Here is a point on which we may disagree.

    “Though I certainly do not understand the actions of many of our bishops, I can trust that they know more than I do”

    This may be true, but as opposed to earlier times, there is nothing they know that we cannot also know. If those responsible for promulgating and enforcing laws do not themselves respect them, then by example and inference they argue that there is really only ONE law; that the strong dominate the weak.

    Obviously in church matters there is no physical coercion as there is in politics, but the same principle applies. If those responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing rules do not abide by them, then all you have is a naked, raw, exercise of power.

    This is not order, this is not respect, this is not stability and proper hierarchy. This is an affront to our dignity as creatures endowed with reason and moral sense.

    I don’t mean to accuse you, or the bishops for that matter, of going so far. I don’t think you do. But I do think that this is a trap that good-hearted people can fall into, and I would like to avoid.

    “It has become a useful spiritual habit of mine to write a letter of support to bishops when they get bad press for doing good things.”

    I’ve done that myself from time to time. We ought to do both. We ought to be informed and involved as Catholics, as we ought to be as citizens.

  • …getting back to the original post.

    I haven’t watched the video yet but I often get the same response from self proclaiming Catholics at work.

    “You have something on your forehead, oh, Ash Wednesday?. Oh-ya I knew that…”

  • Joe,

    I think the central point of our disagreement is ecclesiological after all.

    “This may be true, but as opposed to earlier times, there is nothing they know that we cannot also know.”

    Joe, nothing could be further from the truth. There is TONS of stuff that we should NOT know as Christians. Canon law requires bishops to keep a safety box with such documents, literally called a secret archives, for his eyes and the eyes of his general vicars only – and their eyes only on a need to know basis. It has nothing to do with our education level, our rights, or the times we live in. It has to do with discretion – perhaps the virtue most sorely lacking in contemporary American culture, and therefore probably in most of us as individuals as well.

    “If those responsible for promulgating and enforcing laws do not themselves respect them, then by example and inference they argue that there is really only ONE law; that the strong dominate the weak.”

    I fully agree. It is not manifest to me that this description applies to the present situation. Moreover, “Fr Vincent” said nothing of anything remotely like it.

    My bishop is not answerable to me. That is a fundamental difference between life in the Church and life in a representative democracy. They just aren’t at all. They are accountable to Jesus Christ, and he will do justice upon them.

    “We ought to be informed and involved as Catholics, as we ought to be as citizens.”

    Again, no. We ought to be informed and involved, but in a very different way than citizens do. We are not citizens of the Church, but sheep in Christ’s flock. I am not advocating a “pray, pay, and obey,” mentality, and tire of the cliche. That has never gone over well with laypeople. I think an angry nun in the sixties invented that one, Joe.

    But we must be very markedly different from the world in how we do so many things.

    “If those responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing rules do not abide by them, then all you have is a naked, raw, exercise of power.
    This is not order, this is not respect, this is not stability and proper hierarchy. This is an affront to our dignity as creatures endowed with reason and moral sense.”

    I fully agree with you. I do not think that this is what is happening.

    All the best.

  • Patrick

    Yup!Just little ol’me.

    …by the way that’s for the Free Lenten Books tip!

  • Ryan,

    “There is TONS of stuff that we should NOT know as Christians.”

    Maybe on specific matters, sure – “need to know” is usually about the details of specific cases.

    What should be obvious here, though, is that we are talking about what is required from bishops, and what is required from lay people. All Fr. V and others bring up is their duty with relation to canon law, and more broadly, their general obligation to avoid scandals.

    In that sense, and yes, in stark contrast to the situation many years ago, there we absolutely can know.

    “Moreover, “Fr Vincent” said nothing of anything remotely like it.”

    I wasn’t responding to him, though – I was responding to you. And what you seem to be saying at times is that authority is its own justification.

    I said “seem to be”; its how it might be interpreted. And that is why I brought it up, not by way of accusation, but simply to reinforce the main idea.

    ” I think an angry nun in the sixties invented that one, Joe.”

    Invented what? That we ought to be informed and involved? We ought to be. It may be the only defense mechanism we have left.

    “I do not think that this is what is happening.”

    It happens every time someone is told to be quiet and take orders without question. Reason exists to be used, even in the Church. I agree that it is often used in combination with rudeness and disrespect, because people who feel or know they are right also feel entitled to be haughty. This is a failing and it should be admonished.

  • Ryan,

    Just to add – watch Tito’s clip of Cardinal Arinze. He is making an appeal to reason, not authority.

    THAT is what we need. And when bishops defy this reason, when they attack it or deny it, our dignity is on the line in choosing how to respond to it.

    To go too far, or to say too little, each diminishes our dignity.

  • I’m not a theologian, but it is my understanding that ashes are a “sacramental,” NOT a “sacrament.”

    Sacramentals are objects or actions of significance that carry a blessing with them, and include things like religious medals, rosaries, blessed palms, and holy water. Anyone, including non-Catholics, children who have not yet been baptized or received First Communion, and Catholics not in good standing, may receive a sacramental.

    Receiving ashes is not the same as receiving Communion or any of the other six sacraments. Receiving a SACRAMENT (other than Penance) while not in a state of grace is a mortal sin in and of itself (sacrilege); but it is NOT a sin, as far as I know, to receive a sacramental in that state.

    It is not a sin, for instance, to give a religious medal or blessed object to a lapsed Catholic or one who has married outside the Church, but it would be a sin to knowingly give them Communion or encourage them to receive it without first going to confession or having their marital situation rectified in some manner. I presume the same rule would apply to Catholics who are or may be in an objective state of sin due to their public advocacy of abortion. And I presume the same rule would apply to blessed ashes.

    Again, I’m not a theologian or canon lawyer but I am familiar with the Church’s rules on this matter and I find it very suspicious that “Fr.” Vincent seems to not be aware of this distinction.

  • Yeah, and to be clear, I don’t even agree with Fr. Vincent on this issue.

    I just disagree with the general idea that the possibility that people might “think ill” of their bishop is a higher priority than exposing legitimate malfeasance and defending truth.

    I disagree with, and feel compelled to argue against, even the slightest whiff of the idea that power and authority justify themselves without reference to higher principles, without reason and objective truth.

  • That’s good, Joe, because it’s not what I was arguing. I argue that in the Church authority comes from Jesus Christ and is answerable to Him, and Him through one’s superiors.

    I never said anything remotely like authority is self-justified in the Church. Nothing remotely like it.

    When I joked that a nun made up something, I meant the bit about “pray, pay, and obey.” It was a nice smear employed widely by modernists in the Church during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. I’ve had a bellyful of it; though I admit there is a kernel of truth to it. The period from the 1930s to the 1960s saw a dramatic increase in Priest-as-Prince-of-the-Parish syndrome, and it was a vile debasing of the moral capital accrued by hardworking, holy missionaries in this country during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, Fr. Bluejeans did not end the clericalism but rather compounded it – I spent 3 years in the employ of such a priest who not only wanted to be pampered and obeyed, but also wanted us all to “feel” (i.e., pretend) that he was “one of us.” The handling of the sexual abuse in this country, and of the Church’s finances, is simply a public exposition of the most monumental instance of clericalism yet. Clericalism is essentially an exaggerated sense of the distinction of priests and clergy.

    The solution to that is not:

    (1) The ’60s approach of stand up and make yourself heard, expose the problems in public;

    (2) To pretend that there is no difference between priests and clergy;

    but rather

    (3) To accentuate the difference where it is appropriate, and close the divide whenever at all possible.

    In the liturgy, in spiritual formation of seminarians, etc., the role of the priest should be clearly 100% different from that of his people – our clerics are a priesthood among a priesthood, a sacred people among a holy nation. That should be crystal clear in the conduct of the liturgy and in the rectitude of their lives, which should shine even among us – who should shine before the world.

    In day to day life, without ever abandoning the distinction, we should feel very comfortable with each other and spend gobs of time together.

    That would solve so many problems in the Church. We need to love each other – and that means prayer for each other, spending time together, building each other up.

    That’s not what “Fr. Vincent” was doing in his post. Nothing like it.

    I am in essence saying that if we keep operating as the world does, we can expect the same results within the Church.

  • “I never said anything remotely like authority is self-justified in the Church. Nothing remotely like it.”

    I know that. You were quite clear in your rejection of that. I was stating, for Elaine, what my mindset was when I first commented, before it was AS clear to me.

    My apologies if it came off differently.

    “To accentuate the difference where it is appropriate, and close the divide whenever at all possible.”

    Yes, possible being the key word. At a certain point it may no longer be possible. Then public pressure is an effective tool.

    “That’s not what “Fr. Vincent” was doing in his post. Nothing like it.”

    In his second point, he made a legitimate argument that could have been addressed. It is a shame he could not have made it his first post, but, even so, its there.

  • Oh, my apologies vis-a-vis your response to Elaine. Rereading it, what you wrote in response to her, yeah, it’s all good.

    It’s late. You’re a good man. God bless.

  • Ryan,

    Elaine is a woman.

    Must have been really late for you last night.