Blog Template Theology of the Body: July 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

He Takes Unto Himself a Body

"God took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery – lest the creature should perish, and his Father’s handiwork in men be spent for naught – he takes unto himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. … How much more did God the Word of the all-good Father not neglect the race of men, his work, going to corruption? But, while he blotted out the death which had ensued by the offering of his own body, he corrected their neglect by his own teaching, restoring all that was man’s by his own power. ...God willing to profit men, sojourns here as man, taking to himself a body like the others, and from things of earth, that is, by the works of his body he teaches them, so that they who would not know him from his providence and rule over all things may even from the works done by his actual body know the Word of God which is in the body, and through him the Father.”

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, AD 296- 373

Monday, July 30, 2007

Reflections on Motu Proprio from the Times

Thank you, KI.

"To a child in a Roman Catholic family, the rhythm of the Mass is absorbed into the body well before understanding reaches the brain. It becomes as lullingly familiar as a weekly drive to a relative’s house: opening prayers like quick turns though local streets, long freeway stretches of readings, homily and Eucharistic prayers, the quietude of communion and then — thanks be to God — the final blessing, a song and home to pancakes and the Sunday comics.

Pope Benedict insists he is not taking the church on a nostalgia trip. He wants to re-energize it, and hopes that the Latin Mass, like an immense celestial object, will exert gravitational pull on the faithful.

It’s easy enough to see where this is going: same God, same church, but separate camps, each with an affinity for vernacular or Latin, John XXIII or Benedict XVI. Smart, devout, ambitious Catholics — ecclesial young Republicans, home-schoolers, seminarians and other shock troops of the faith — will have their Mass. The rest of us — a lumpy assortment of cafeteria Catholics, guilty parents, peace-’n’-justice lefties, stubborn Vatican II die-hards — will have ours. We’ll have to prod our snoozing pewmates when to sit and stand; they’ll have to rein in their zealots."

More here.

The best theological bookstore I've ever visited

Last week, on a trip to a town in Nebraska that has no traffic lights, no wireless internet, and only one cell phone carrier (not mine), my wife and I stopped at a bookstore in Wichita, Kansas that a friend had recommended to us, Eighth Day Books. It is, by far, the best theological bookstore I've ever visited; they had just about everything -- great patristic stuff, wonderful philosophical works, classic theological texts, liturgical studies, spirituality books, etc. If you read their catalog (which is available as a .pdf on their site or can be mailed to you) you'll notice that they review their books on their own, which means they read them. I could have spent hours and $$$ in the store as they had several books that I've only seen in academic libraries.

The prices were nice too, as they were willing to negotiate with me on a book that I wanted.

So if you ever have reason to drive through Wichita, make sure to budget some time and money to stop by this wonderful little bookstore (though you can also order from them on-line).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Faith of Our Fathers: Body of Christ or Bread?

From the beginning, the Church has desired to understand Christ's gift of Himself in the Eucharist. We hope to understand what exactly our Lord meant when He said this is my Body, broken for you... I am the bread of life... my flesh is food indeed. These are powerful words. I'm struck by the fact that Christ once sent Satan packing with His statement that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the Father." I have always thought that this statement was pure imperative, a kind of rebuke to we silly mortals who feed our bodies instead of delighting in prayer and fasting, or something like that. But I think that the more we reflect on the universe-altering fact that the Word of God is become flesh forever, the more we can understand that "man shall not live by bread alone" is Christ's impassioned promise that the curse is broken (in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return).

You see, we can't live on bread alone. Christ will not permit we who could not live on bread alone to subsist without Him. We were made to be in Him, and He in us, such that we perish apart from Him, and so Christ shouts into the void, "you shall not live on Bread alone!" and then gives Himself to be the Bread of Heaven.

You see, we once really knew God. We lived on His vivid, joyous, recklessly tender life. You know the rest. We condemned ourselves to living by bread alone. We were made to have God's life within us, but we chose a vast distance. There was nothing left to sustain our life but... bread... alone. And God was gracious. Israel said it for centuries: Blessed are you Lord God of our Fathers, who bringeth forth bread from the earth. In pure mercy, God permitted His arrogant creation to perpetuate itself on the fruit of the earth that He called into being. He gave bread. In time of direst need, He even sent bread from Heaven, and they lived on it with gratitude. Life persisted. This bread was Heaven's gift, sure. It conveyed a basic grace. It healed, nourished, and provoked hearts to proper affection. But it was just bread alone, meant to sustain mortal life alone. But we were not made for life alone; we were made for Him. Try as we might, we could never really live on bread alone. We were made to draw exquisite being from every Word of God's. So the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Then His flesh became food, and remains with us; take this all of you, and eat need never live on bread alone again.

Ask the disciples: these are hard sayings- who can accept them? Maybe only the starving person can accept that the flesh of the Savior is food. (As I recall, Jesus had a special affinity for the starving). Since the beginning, whether in starvation or plenty, the Church has struggled to comprehend and accept the meaning of this strange, central feast of our faith. Modern anti-Catholics are not the first to blaspheme the Eucharist as quasi-cannibalism, nor are they the first to urge that Christ never meant to say that He would really give His flesh for our salvation. Certainly they are not the first to question how. What is clear is that from the beginning, Christians have confessed that Christ- body, soul, and divinity- is truly present and to be adored in the Eucharist. This is a datum of the Christian tradition, and there is none other. I've culled a few quotes from the tradition that is ours for your consideration:

The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ in order that the soul may be nourished by God.” Tertullian of Carthage, 160-230.

“…the truth of His body and blood… effect that both we are in Christ and Christ in us… therefore He is in us through the flesh, and we are in Him.” Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate, 310-367.

Christ is in this sacrament because it is the body of Christ."
Ambrose of Milan, De Mysteriis, 337-397.

"CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: 'THIS IS MY BODY.' FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS." (Ennartiones on the Psalms 33:1:10)...I turn to Christ, because it is He whom I seek here; and I discover how the earth is adored without impiety, how without impiety the footstool of His feet is adored. For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from the earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, AND GAVE US THE SAME FLESH TO BE EATEN UNTO SALVATION. BUT NO ONE EATS THAT FLESH UNLESS FIRST HE ADORES IT; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord's feet is adored; AND NOT ONLY DO WE NOT SIN BY ADORING, WE DO SIN BY NOT ADORING..." Augustine, Ennarationes on the Psalms 33:1:10, 98.9.

"What is eternally perceived here the figure or character… the whole truth and not its shadow that is internally perceived; and through this is opened up the very truth and sacrament of Christ’s flesh. It is indeed the true flesh of Christ which was crucified and buried, it is truly the sacrament of that flesh.” Abbot Radbertus of Corbie, De Corpore et Sanguine Domini, 831.

Real Woman Award V

This Week's Award goes to the cloistered Dominican Sisters who blog at Moniales OP, just because they rock. Visiting their site often feels like a miniature retreat to me, and it offers wonderful insights into modern religious life. This comes with congratulations for their new novice who is entering their community this week!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Honor thy Grandmothers

I'm off to take my wonderful grandmother out to lunch in celebration of the fact that today is the feast of Saints Anna and Joachim, the grandparents of our Lord. Have you honored your grandparents lately?

The Catholic Perspective on Immigration

"The Church considers the problem of illegal migrants from the standpoint of Christ, who died to gather together the dispersed children of God (cf. Jn 11:52), to rehabilitate the marginalized and to bring close those who are distant, in order to integrate all within a communion that is not based on ethnic, cultural or social membership, but on the common desire to accept God's word and to seek justice. God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him (Acts 10:34-35). The Church acts in continuity with Christ's mission. In particular, she asks herself how to meet the needs, while respecting the law of those persons who are not allowed to remain in a national territory. She also asks what the right to emigrate is worth without the corresponding right to immigrate. She tackles the problem of how to involve in this work of solidarity those Christian communities frequently infected by a public opinion that is often hostile to immigrants." John Paul II, On Illegal Immigration.

Either re-read (ahem) Pope John Paul's Gaudium et Spes, or refer to this very very helpful index of posts, articles, and sources on point from the authors at Evangelical Catholicism. Essential reading for Christian Texans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Rhema Word and Catholic Justification

One of the saddest and most destructive fruits of that theological child of the Renaissance- otherwise known as the Protestant Reformation- is the error of solfideism. You've heard this before- "faith alone." On one level, it makes sense. We Christians believe that we are saved by Christ alone, and a living, obedient faith perfected in love is the means by which we join ourselves to His final and victorious work on our behalf. The problem is that a certain defector decided at a certain time to alter Christian doctrine to state that the finished work of the Second Person of the Trinity does not provide for the re-creation of the fallen universe and the fallen human creature. Given this depleted understanding of the Atonement, all that's left is faith.

In a gravely diminished way, the innovative Reformers required their following to confess that Christ's finished work merely authorizes a new legal category. Thus, rather than confessing with triumphant joy that in Christ all things are made new, the Reformation's solfide claim amounts to a sheepish summary that in Christ, God merely 're-names,' 'declares' and 'pretends' with regard to the fallen world, such that He can justly 'pronounce' us holy- as though we were, while in reality we are not. This doctrine defied what Augustine, Aquinas, and the Fathers had always confessed: that God's declaration was never merely a judgement, but a re-creation, an inscription on the soul of the baptized that made him, in fact, a new creature.

You see the difference. Catholic doctrine had held for centuries, with the Scriptures, that the power of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection is sufficient to penetrate the human heart, soul, and body, transforming the will and the affection for the proper adoration of God, such that the fallen, snivelling, diseased creature might be re-made and fashioned ready for the rigors of Heaven. The Protestant revolt edited the Gospel according to a miserly anthropology that muttered about how the depravity of the human heart was just too great for the glory of God ever to get in; the most that regenerate humanity could hope for was to link himself to the ever external merits of Christ "by faith alone" such that God might pronounce him worthy of eternal life at the last day.

So: when Prots hear that "Catholics are trying to work their way to Heaven," they are reflecting on centuries of the Christian faith in a terribly distorted way. We believe that God has re-made us in Christ, by Christ, and for Christ, and is re-making us; accordingly, we wish to cooperate with His gracious work in our hearts by our external actions, so that cooperatively, we assent to His will that we may enjoy Him forever by preparing to enjoy Him forever, now. With every ounce of our lives we wish to express that "thy will be done." So we work with Him; we are, after all, His living, choosing workmanship. The Catholic's Protestant brothers, on the other hand, are required to believe that God cannot re-make us in Christ until the very end; accordingly, though obedience is still somewhat required of the believer, there is no consistent reason or need for cooperation or preparation. The Creator and nuptial Lover of the human soul is rendered nothing more than a (benevolent) Judge by the Reformer's all-consuming emphasis on an omnipotent human depravity. Thus since God cannot re-make, He will only declare.

One recalls the problem of mere utterance with regard to God's presence- for instance, those saying "Lord, Lord" at the last day are in some trouble if He does not recognize something of Himself within.

These variations between Catholic and Protestant doctrine were recently summarized nicely in a discussion at Taylor Marshall's excellent blog: "Augustine, Justification, and Imputation." One of the Reformed contenders insists that the Biblical terms for God's "justifying" of the sinner always refer to that which is purely declarative or juridical, and never to that which is ontological or real. In other words, the Reformed thinks that the apostolic writers are thinking like Calvinists: since God cannot re-make the sinner into a truly righteous man, He will only declare him righteous, "as though" he were just, though in reality he remains unjust.

I am struck by the impossibility of upholding this doctrine of the pure declaration of justification from the words of Scripture.

First, as Taylor comments, the sense of declaring righteousness (what God does for us, in Prot parlance) is, Biblically, something that humans do for God. Clearly, it would be absurd, blasphemous, etc. to say that in so doing, humanity is merely imputing righteousness to a God whom they have chosen to pretend to be righteous, though He is not so in reality. Rather, it is clear that when humanity "declares righteous" in Scripture, they are describing a true reality with factual accuracy.

Secondly: Biblically, God does not speak without simultaneously creating. From the beginning, God calls things that are not as though they were... and they become so. "Let there be" is followed by "and it was so" reality. Cf light, sun, moon, stars, trees, hippopotami, and our good friend Adam. In the same way, it is most commensurate with our belief in the declaring and creating God to hold that, in the words of baptism whereby God declares us righteous, God simultaneously creates a new reality in the regenerate soul, such that we attain the mark of Christ's righteousness that will infallibly grow into more and more of the same. God's Word is that which becomes flesh.

And lastly, our Greek word for the day: rhema. Pentecostals and televangelists love this word because they like the idea of "speaking things into being by faith" (see Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinne vis'a vis your bank account, second lake house, etc). The idea is that a faithful declaration effects a new or altered reality- that our words, especially our prayed words, have real and creative power. One is supposed "to speak things into being." I'm not so sure about the implications of this Pentecostal theology, though it sure sounds like a lot of fun. What I want to point out is that St. Paul loves this word. Throughout the New Testament, rhema means 'utterance' or 'declaration,' a statement much like The Statement anticipated by Prots at the last day: the Father is hoped to say, "on account of my Son's suffering and death for your sake, I hereby pronounce you mine," or something like that. St. Luke also loves this word in his Gospel account of the life and saving death and Resurrection of our Lord. But in Luke's Gospel, rhema is used to convey its second, and predominant meaning: here, rhema refers to a created entity, a concrete reality, a thing as real as incarnate human life itself, such that God would be hoped to say "on the real effects of my Son's suffering and death for your sake, I see that you are become mine." The rhema term itself conveys what the Catholic Church has always understood about justification and the sacraments: God's creative word does not return to Him void, but accomplishes in reality what He sends it to do.

That's why Catholics believe that God does not verbally justify the sinner without simultaneously making all things new within him. That's why we reverentially practice the sacraments that Christ instituted as heavenly realities rather than as mere juridical signs, whereby the washing of Baptism really washes, and the food of the Eucharist really feeds (you can see, given the Greek's dual sense of word and reality, how silly it is to think that "this is my body" does not mean what it says).

In sum: perhaps catholicity may very well be summarized in that great phrase, "a little less talk and a lot more action..."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Formatting Woes

Have any of you regular readers noticed that our sidebar does crazy things? Depending on the computer that I use for posting, sometimes I find the sidebar at the bottom of the web page or sometimes at a weird angle, but rarely where it belongs. I am such a technological novice... do any of you blogging aficionados have any suggestions as to formatting the sidebar so that it stays put in its proper place? I would really appreciate any suggestions!

Are Modern Young People More Pious than their Parents?

The hosts of National Public Radio think so; check out the program aired last week on Talk of the Nation: "Recent articles have reported that young adults are turning to religion to the surprise — and sometimes chagrin — of their less observant parents. Guests discuss God and the generation gap, and why parents aren't always thrilled when their children become more observant..."

The program topic reflects trends published recently in USA Today- Religious bonds divide some parents, kids- and also in that book published in 2002 about how "Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Catholic Home

Holy Whapping has posted today on key elements of the true Ecclesia Domestica. Some of the suggestions given include (ahem):

A chapel with large crucifix, individual kneelers, a Marian alcove shrine, and of course a statue of Saint Francis
Lots of bedrooms. Gotta have room for kids and the occasional Paschal Guest.-
A kitchen with a BIG table for gathering (think of the scene from "Saturday Night Fever.")

A very large fireplace. Or, in more temperate climes, a pleasant outdoor space with a nice tile floor and a fountain.

A small chapel. A large kitchen. Gargoyles on the eaves. And a brewery.

A priest hole. And a wine cellar.

A little prayer niche.

A loving spouse.

A studio, to practice the tricky liturgical dance routines.A rack for the guitars and tambourines and perhaps even a corner for the drum kit.An extra large garage to keep the boat in, for when those friendly lady ordinands come calling.Felt banners. Everywhere.

A piano and maybe a few other instruments in case of impromptu jam sessions, as happened at my grandfather's wake a few years ago.Lots of cabinets and shelves for storage. A large-ish family who often have guests are going to need a good-sized linen closet and plenty of places to store toys, school supplies, bulk foods, etc. I have yet to meet a house that had enough storage space, even for people who try to avoid being materialistic.There should be a door from the garage into the kitchen, and as few stairs as possible to the kitchen. I grew up in a house where the garage was a room, a hallway, and two flights of stairs away from the garage, and carrying groceries from the car was a hugely unpleasant task.Also, a very large refrigerator and freezer.
61 inch DLP HDTVyou know, for EWTN.Also the HWTN would (hopefully) have Fr. Ted in HD.

At least one stained glass window. And the "chapel" would have to be far removed from the smoke detector so incense could be used.

Location within walking distance of both a Catholic Church (along the procession route, so we could decorate for Corpus Christi), and a mom-and-pop grocery store (with bonus points if it's Italian or otherwise ethnic).
... Chime in here.

Real Woman Award IV

This Week's Award goes to the beautiful Terhune sisters:

First, to Mrs. J at More Water, who last year bravely foreswore European jaunts with MM for the much greater (and more adventurous) good of becoming a mother. She will give birth to her husband's precious daughter any time now...

And secondly, to Kendall Bethy at Happily Ever After, for taking her toddler out to dinner. Read all about it here. (Scroll down to the entry for June 16, to be precise.)

I love you girls!

More on the Merits of Potter

See Mark Newman's really interesting article entitled C.S. Lewis, Spiritual Warfare, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the Movie website.

(I think the Movie Ministry site looks great. MovieMinistry provides resources, sermon illustrations, Bible studies, "FilmTalk" cards, etc., to assist pastors, youth, and lay leaders in using the power of film to communicate and discuss our relationships with God. Rather than merely providing a forum for censuring films, this Christian site equips Christians to appropriate elements of our culture for our own purposes... in the words of Borat, nice.)

See also Dr. Todd Lewis' rebuttal of the sad and defeatist belief that any mention of witches and wizards in literature and film makes such works automatically unsuitable for Christians – even as allegory: "The Holy Harry Potter Wars,” here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Is *one* anti murder presidential candidate too much to ask for?

The top Democratic presidential candidates claim they want to appeal to voters with faith-based values. But such appeals are inconsistent with their continued pandering to anti life activists. Last night, they bid for the support of the Planned Parenthood Political Action Fund.

Elizabeth Edwards, speaking for her husband, promised a "universal health-care" plan that would include coverage for "pregnancy termination." Yet 74% of the public opposes federal financing of abortion.

Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke of her concern for American servicewomen--not that they be given the tools to succeed in their military mission, but that they should be provided with "emergency contraception."

Sen. Barack Obama recently lambasted the U.S. Supreme Court for its recent ruling upholding a ban on partial-birth abortion, even though 72% of Americans agree this gruesome procedure should be illegal. Obama backs "the Oprah test" for Supreme Court nominees, saying, "we need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom" or "poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old." But what we dont need are nominees who've got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a very small and innocent, defenseless, and voiceless human being in utero, who needs to be loved and protected...?

Obama went on to dismiss the "culture wars" as "just so '90s"--oh really, Senator?

HT: Focus on the Family

Monday, July 16, 2007

Los Angeles Diocese: $660 Million

$660 million to 500 victims of sexual abuse from the Roman Catholic Church.


This makes me so sad. First, of course, for the victims and their families; we all know what even our merciful Lord Himself thought about the perpetrators of child abuse. Secondly, for the hundreds of unnamed others who were complicit in these atrocities- parents who were not home or available to attend carefully to their children, parish members who did not love their priests enought to hold them accountable, the various victims who may have complied through vices of their own. Thirdly, I am sorry for myself. As a new Catholic, it's just no fun to stand with a community whose public face involves this kind of thing. And lastly, I am sad about the personal greed that's represented by this settlement. Yes, just reparation is essential. But good grief. This vast sum of the Church's money could have been put to so many good uses in taking care of thousands of other victims of other griefs in our world.

Certainly the Church has done the right thing in handing over the exorbitant sum that was demanded for reparations. But I am waiting to hear stories of victims who complete the story of restoration by lovingly handing their settlement money over to their bishops for use in missions and ministry...

What is also interesting about this story is the extent to which the long arm of civil adjudication reaches into the formerly sacrosanct jurisdiction of the Church these days. I've just posted my thoughts on some of the legal precedents involved here.

These times of splashy, embarrasing ecclesial publicity are times that call for the churchly behavior that St. Paul talked about in I Corinthians 12: "and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." We Christians are ontologically or juridically members of one another; the slur on one aspect dishonors the whole, and together, deflects our common shame to the renown of our Lord. But He still freely remains the devoted Head of His sinful Body; He holds us close and relentlessly associates Himself with us even while we do terrible things. So. This is a time for following Him. It's not a time for name-calling among denominations or repudiation of "those sinning celibates." It's not even a time for muttering about bishops with whose pastoral and legal prerogatives we might disagree. It's a time for behaving like the one body that we are; for providing our own strength for the weaker parts until they are strong and gleaming again, for nursing one another back to health in the sanctuary for sinners that is Christ's Church.

A great critique of the New Atheism

In today's Wall Street Journal, there is an excellent review of the books out by the New Atheists; the review focuses on Christopher Hitchen's book, God is Not Great. I find most of the work of the New Atheists to be shallow compared to many of the old ones. I'd much rather read Hume or Feuerbach than Dawkins.

Update: An even better review by Ross Douhat, can be found here. Pretty devastating.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

An excellent response to the CDF document

In my mind, one of the best theologians among evangelicals is Al Mohler, the Southern Baptist theologian who is also the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He keeps a regular blog which is always worth reading, whether one agrees with him or not. This week he posted a response to the CDF document we discussed a few days ago. He rightly recognizes that the document is helpful to ecumenical dialogue because it honestly spells out just what is at stake. He quite obviously disagrees with the position of the Vatican, but is wise to see that theological discussions are not for the faint of heart; we make no progress by trying to mollify everyone. Notice that he doesn't engage in any kind of ad hominem by claiming that there is a lust for power or that the Vatican is arrogant. Instead he mentions, without elaboration, that he thinks their arguments are wrong. It is a theological argument, not an emotional argument.

One of the things that I've been wondering this week about the response to the document is why anyone would want the Vatican to be dishonest about what they believe. Wouldn't it be a sin to lie about what one believes, just to make everyone like you? Wouldn't giving people false hope that this will be easy be fundamentally dishonest and sinful? Do we want the Pope to lie?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

In Praise of Potter?

I went to see The Order of the Pheonix last week. Loved it. I have not missed a single one of the Harry Potter movies. Naturally, I get excited about the whole trend. It's probably not surprising that I have fallen head over heels in love with a story of a band of earnest children with supernatural powers who (per the last film) band together into an "order" to defend against the dark arts and ward off evil through hand-to-hand combat. More Christians need to understand themselves in this way.

Still, in every Potter film it strikes me how easy it would be for consternation to surface in those Christian sectors who do not approve of Potter. Papa Benedict has expressed his own concerns over a certain moral ambiguity that characterizes many of the Potter characters. Harry himself suffers from anger, vulnerabilities, and weakness, and is a less than perfect hero. The evil Lord Valdemort is suave and well-spoken, and allows Harry to defend himself; the instructors at Hogwart's, with a few exceptions, are authority figures who cannot always be trusted. These ambiguities can be confusing to kids (my thoughts on point from last year are here).

The easy rebuttal is, of course, that such moral ambiguity closely approximates Real Life.

Another protest addresses the valid concern of endorsing the practice of sorcery to young kiddos. It's true; showcasing spells and explicit witchcraft to impressionable minds may indeed be asking for trouble in a world where dangerous forms of spiritual practice are readily available to the curious.
Nancy Carpentier Brown published an interesting endorsement of Harry Potter in last week's edition of Our Sunday Visitor. Brown is a former Potter detractor turned Potter enthusiast. Brown explains the following positive aspects of the Potter films that make Harry a boon to our culture.

First, despite the occasional instances of moral ambiguity, the Dark Lord Valdemort is easily identifiable as really evil; he steals, he kills, and destroys. The child wizards prepare to defend themselves against this clearly discernible evil; they are never in league with it.

Secondly, Brown argues that while Scripture and the Catechism do unequivocally forbid any practice of sorcery whatsoever, the "sorcery" of the Potter saga is always purely fictional; in short, Scripture and the Catechism have nothing real to counter in Potter. It is not as though the potion recipes or spells referred to in the film could actually work- if anyone tried anything from the movies at home, nothing would happen. Furthermore, unlike real-world sorcery, spirits are never invoked in the children's spell-making. Rather, the children's use of Latinate commands is more similar to the effective, direct prayers used by clergy and laity for their own real defense against the dark arts. Lastly, the real virtue of justice is never superseded by the character's magical powers; the future is not predicted, nor can the past be undone. The young wizards are accountable for their actions.

Thirdly, Brown defends the Potter films as uniquely wholesome modern dramas. The children must perfect their battle skills through the virtues of hard work, practice, and discipline. As Brown adds in her own words, "it's amazing that a children's story published in our times has no smoking or drug usage, no homosexuality or mixed up sexual feelings; ...there is very little swearing, very little kissing, and not even a single token parent fact all of the main characters have two parents, one male and one female. In the world of today's children books, this is unusual."

Finally, Brown describes how the Potter films offer a beautiful modern parable that is relevant to an explication of the Gospel. The boy wizard only has his very life- and magical powers- on account of his mother's self-sacrificing love, which she demonstrated by offering her own life as a substitute in order to protect her infant son. Her loving sacrifice is a charm powerful enough to prevent Harry's death as an infant, and this love also saves him from his future encounters with the Dark Lord. Her inoculation of love is also sufficient to protect Harry from the unloving and uncaring atmosphere of his foster home. In short, this is a story in which blood saves. Hmmmm... does this sound familiar to anyone?

And then there is my own observation, if you will permit me: the new character introduced in The Order of the Pheonix, Dolores Umbridge, is, in a manner of speaking, a pretty vivid incarnation of our contemporary theological culture. She insistently denies the presence of evil in the person of the Dark Lord. She is a woman who overthrows men. She always wears the softest shades, but she does not love children. She desexualizes Hogwarts School. She forbids the Old Ways in favor of intolerant scruples. Whereas faults at Hogwarts used to be a matter of personal confession and restoration vis' a vis the kindly and authoritative Dumbledore, personal guilt is now retained unconfessed, and inscribed in the person of the perpetrator. And worst of all, she replaces the children's education in defenses against the dark arts with useless coloring books.

In short: I, MM, think that the Potter films are an inspiring depiction of the real life of human beings, and of Christians in particular. We live in a world in which there are witches and warlocks and a Dark Lord, and in which mere children are called to be mighty spiritual secret agents and fighters. It has been frequently suggested that the Potter films' most positive function for Christian purposes is that they can effectively wake children up to the realities of the spiritual world, while inoculating them against our culture's jaded materialism and denial of spiritual realities. It's not as if we lived in a world without demons and active spiritual forces. The fact remains that the Potter films will indeed awaken spiritual curiosities, which must be honed and guided. If children become (rightly) curious about our world's very real witches and demons and spells, they should be quickly equipped with holiness and angels and prayers. The Church has a magic of its own, and thankfully, modern Potter fans may be better attuned to it.

So it seems to me that the real question seems to be not "should the Church praise Potter?" but rather, is the Church ready to channel the powerful inclinations of the Potter generation...?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Real Woman Award III: Women Thinkers and Scholars Everywhere

This post was inspired by my friend KI. KI inspires me by her perseverence and accomplishments in her (hard) work in philosophy. These thoughts are drawn from a hazy memory of something that I once read and now cannot trace, but I thought it was great at the time. KI, this is for you girl.

This week's award offers props to various of my girl friends who devote their God-given time as unmarried women to the study of the verities. No, we may not be mothers yet in the biological sense; but as several of our venerable fathers have pointed out, there is a place and a need for the feminine genius in the bearing and nurturing of ideas. A Franciscan nun who I once knew once reminded me that women (married, single, or celibate) are made always to receive; this is a law of the universe. The stance of reception that is appropriate to the scholar is especially appropriate to women scholars as we receive the riches of intellectual traditions under the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit, whether we are pouring over our books or reflecting on the words of our instructors with our male colleagues. Yes, women think differently than men. It is a basic human vocation to think, and thereby to return to God that portion of the fallen human intellect for which we are responsible, and women should rejoice in thinking like women.

In my experience, we women think in a maternal kind of way; we hold ideas until they flourish; we intuit subtleties and nuances and bring conclusions to bear in a way that is slightly more emotive and perhaps slightly more beautiful. There is a sense in which women academics are called to encourage and to heal and to be fruitful even in the halls of the academy. And I have frequently thought that the often passionate process of conveying a message on paper or before a classroom is something- something, though in the teeniest degree- like "giving birth" to a new thing that God has willed to be. In as much as women receive with grace and thanksgiving the riches of the mind, their vocation to nurture and to support can unfold in the ivory towers of academia, bringing something of the Father's home and the heart of a mother and a sister to students and teachers alike.

Do you know a Christian in law school?

If so, you may want to point them to this excellent bibliography of books and articles that deal with the law from a Christian perspective.

The Anglican response to the statement by the CDF

It's not exactly happy-clappy. I'm curious as to why some think of it as a 'lust for power'. Make sure to read the comments, mostly hysterical and uneducated, left by readers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A brief analysis of the statement by the CDF

Thanks to the work of MM, you can read the full statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the post just below or at the Vatican website. For a document that seeks to answer questions, it appears that it has created more questions than it has actually answered. I'd like to offer up an interpretation of the document to help clarify what is going on from a theological perspective. Let me say from the outset that I am more than happy to be corrected on any of this, as Catholic doctrine never lacks subtlety and demands careful study.

First of all, the introduction tells us that this document is to be taken not by itself, but in concert with the other documents listed, particularly Lumen Gentium. This document is written to answer five questions that have recurred in response to the other publications listed, with the second through fifth questions providing definitions for technical terms, which will allow for more fruitful debate among theologians interested in issues of the church; only by beginning with a shared set of definitions can debate proceed. Let's take the questions one by one.

Question one is pretty straightforward. Did Vatican II change the teaching on the church? The answer is no, and basically the CDF says that if you think it did, you are wrong and misunderstood their clear intentions. All that Vatican II did, according to the CDF, is deepen the explanation of the church, but the teaching was in continuity with past teaching. This also means that everything that I am about to discuss, from the Vatican's view, is nothing new, but rather just an explanation of a longstanding understanding of the church.

Now it gets technical. The next two questions deal with the technical term 'subsists', a term that is used in paragraph 8 of Lumen Gentium. Question 2 wants to know what it means for something to subsist and Question 3 wants to know what the difference is between 'subsist' and 'is'. At this point you might be wondering why this matters. But what is at stake here is a clear understanding of what it means for the Church of Christ to exist. Both the terms "is" and "subsists" are terms which denote ways of existing. If the Catholic Church says that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, then it is saying that it is the one and only way of salvation. The CDF does not want to say this, as it believes that limited elements of salvation take place outside of the Catholic fold -- though it is careful to state that even those elements are derived from Catholic church. For example, if a Protestant sees Scripture as a means of grace, the Catholic Church is going to agree that it is, but will argue that Scripture was entrusted to, and compiled by, the Catholic Church and so any participation in grace through Scripture is derived from the Church.

Given this, the CDF explains that the Vatican II language of 'subsists' is a more accurate understanding of how the Church of Christ is found in the Catholic Church. What do they mean by this term? The term 'subsist' itself has had a variety of meanings throughout the history of philosophy, and it looks like this is part of the question that the CDF is attempting to answer. For them, for something to subsist requires two things: 1) continuity (one of the meanings of the Latin word 'subsistere' is to continue) and 2) the presence of all of the elements of the church instituted by Christ, not just some of them. Subsistence, then, is a way of expressing the idea that the only full and complete church exists in the Catholic Church, while acknowledging that the Spirit has worked, in a limited way, in other eccesial bodies. Only the Catholic Church, according to the CDF, has been continuous from the beginning through its apostolic succession, and only the Catholic Church has all of the elements of the church found in it.

The real key here are the ideas of one church, apostolic succession, Holy Orders, and the Eucharist. Someone from another denomination may argue that they have all of the same sacraments as Roman Catholics and thus all of the elements of the church are there. But the Catholic response would be that if one of the elements of the church is its unity in conjunction with its continuity, then, in the words of the Highlander, "there can be only one!" Likewise, the Catholic Church would argue that because Eucharist is invalid unless done by a properly ordained priest, and the only properly ordained priests are those who have direct apostolic succession, then other denominations do not participate in the full grace of the Eucharist.

Indeed, this understanding of the relationship between ordination and Eucharist is critical to the CDF's explanation of what the term "church" means compared to an "ecclesial community". A true church, in the CDF's definition (and as I explained above) requires two things: 1) continuity through apostolic succession and 2) true sacraments -- the elements of the church. But if you don't have the first, you cannot have the second because of the role of apostolic succession in ordination. Notice the last line of exposition here -- what they are talking about is 'church' in a proper or technical sense, not in the common way we use it, usually in regard to a building.

Really, all of this turns on the Roman Catholic idea of what it means for the Church to be the Church properly speaking. If you grant them the case that 'one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church' is one that has continuity and all of the sacraments, then the rest of their argument follows. But if you don't think that is a proper understanding of what a church is, then you have two responsibilities -- a critical one and a constructive one. First you have to make an argument as to why that is not the proper understanding of what a church is and second you then have to offer up your own explanation what what the proper understanding should be. Or, I suppose, you could just ignore the whole thing (but only after reading John 17). One of the main benefits of this as an ecumenical document is that it clearly states the Catholic position; it may be disagreeable to many people, but ecumenical dialogue requires an honest statement of one's position rather than mealy-mouthed obfuscation that intends to mollify rather than take the discussion forward.

Finally, a quick note about salvation. The CDF is clear that members of other 'ecclesial bodies', "are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation". That is Christians of other denominations are saved. The reason for this, as mentioned above, is that even this salvation is derived from the existence of the one Church. The CDF does not say this, but my guess is that this is the result of the fact that baptism is the one sacrament that does not require ordination (and thus apostolic succession) in order to be effective. Thus anyone who has been validly baptized is a Christian, but does not fully participate in all of the sanctifying works of Christ without being a part of the Catholic Church. (Update: as one commenter points out, technically a couple confers the sacrament of marriage upon each other, but because it takes place in a Mass and the church desires that Eucharist be a part of it, you pretty much need a priest anyways)

As I said at the beginning, this is my take on what is going on in this document. I'll be happy to be corrected by anyone who thinks I got it wrong (and by that I mean "misunderstood what the CDF means". Don't mistake my explanation of their doctrine for my agreement with it)
New Document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church."
Here it is.

The Second Vatican Council, with its Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, and its Decrees on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio) and the Oriental Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum), has contributed in a decisive way to the renewal of Catholic ecclesiolgy. The Supreme Pontiffs have also contributed to this renewal by offering their own insights and orientations for praxis: Paul VI in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam suam (1964) and John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint (1995).The consequent duty of theologians to expound with greater clarity the diverse aspects of ecclesiology has resulted in a flowering of writing in this field. In fact it has become evident that this theme is a most fruitful one which, however, has also at times required clarification by way of precise definition and correction, for instance in the declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), the Letter addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Communionis notio (1992), and the declaration Dominus Iesus (2000), all published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.The vastness of the subject matter and the novelty of many of the themes involved continue to provoke theological reflection. Among the many new contributions to the field, some are not immune from erroneous interpretation which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt. A number of these interpretations have been referred to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Given the universality of Catholic doctrine on the Church, the Congregation wishes to respond to these questions by clarifying the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate.


First Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?

Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council1. Paul VI affirmed it2 and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: "There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation"3. The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention.

Second Question: What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?

Response: Christ "established here on earth" only one Church and instituted it as a "visible and spiritual community", that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. "This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him".

In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word "subsists" can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the "one" Church); and this "one" Church subsists in the Catholic Church.

Third Question: Why was the expression "subsists in" adopted instead of the simple word "is"?

Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are "numerous elements of sanctification and of truth" which are found outside her structure, but which "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity".

"It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church".

Fourth Question: Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term "Church" in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?

Response: The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. "Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all – because of the apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds", they merit the title of "particular or local Churches", and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.

"It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature". However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.

On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.

Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of "Church" with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery19 cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ratified and confirmed these Responses, adopted in the Plenary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 2007, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
William Cardinal LevadaPrefect
+ Angelo Amato, S.D.B.Titular Archbishop of Sila Secretary

Monday, July 09, 2007

RC Conversions

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University reports that over the past decade, approximately 1,543,230 adults (over age 7, according to the definition used by the Church) have been brought into the Catholic Church, either through adult baptism or through reception into full communion (if they were already baptized in another Christian tradition). We can safely assume that the vast majority of them were under the age of 35-40, since most adult converts are young adults. Here is the yearly breakdown of annual totals, as compiled from respective years of The Official Catholic Directory (each year represents the total reported for the previous calendar year):

1997 145431
1998 146897
1999 154338
2000 164584
2001 172581
2002 150876
2003 157276
2004 148728
2005 151512
2006 150007

More on the Our Father

In the post below, MM points to holding hands during the Mass as something that is not allowed. I assume that means this video from a Catholic high school in Washington state is verboten as well:

This was posted on the high school's website until enough complaints arrived at the bishop's office.

If you really want to laugh at a bunch of skinny white guys trying to appear to be tough, watch their follow up video here.
Who can find a licit Mass?
Calling all concerned lay people: there is a tres helpful document on the elements of a licit Mass here. NB that there is not supposed to be hand holding during the Our Father, ever, since this constitutes an inappropriate sign of intimacy rather than reconciliation. NB that the homily is not to be given by any other than a validly ordained priest or deacon, ever. NB that footwashing is for men and men only.
And furthermore, the hum-dinngger that is hereby effecting a change of my parish of choice for daily Mass:
Whether a crucifix is present at the altar has no bearing on whether the Eucharist is valid or invalid (the absence of a crucifix will not cause the Eucharist to be invalid), but it does have a bearing on whether the Mass is licit or illicit. Canon law requires that "There is to be a cross, clearly visible to the congregation, either on the altar or near it" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 270). The revised General Instruction—which has not yet gone into effect—clarifies that the cross in question should have a corpus (representation of Christ’s body), meaning that it should be a crucifix rather than a bare cross. If there were no cross by on or near the altar (or, once the new GIRM goes into effect, no crucifix) then the Mass would be illicit, or not celebrated in accord with the requirements of the law.

God bless China...

...let us be thankful for the witness of her martyrs and pray for the end the persecution of her believers

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

All Things Motu Proprio

... are covered in what seems to be a really excellent way at the Universal Indult Blog. Check it out. And don't miss Holy Whapping on point either.

As for me, I'm very happy. We Roman Catholics are reminded that the Church's liturgies are not about us and our perceptions, but about our Lord, and that they are 'for' us only in as much as they prepare us for the final Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Bene. Benedict is a generous and pastoral liturgist. Bene. We have affirmed the fact that the Church, as a timeless and universal institution, has a corresponding language- one that is timeless and universal. Bene. And we have reached out to those poor French discontents. Bene.

And, we also have the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaking very clearly on a critical point of ecclesiology, e.g., is the Catholic Church the one and only....?

From RORATE CÆLI: New Document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: The "Church of Christ" and the Catholic Church

Andrea Tornielli reports today in Il Giornale that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is about to release a Doctrinal Document stating in definitive and clear terms the interpretation of the Lumen Gentium passage according to which, "Haec ...unica Christi Ecclesia ... in hoc mundo ut societas constituta et ordinata, subsistit in Ecclesia catholica" ("this Church of Christ ... constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church") The Church of Christ is not distinct or distinguishable from the Catholic Church, which is the only one to possess "all elements of the Church instituted by Jesus". The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will confirm it next week, responding to "doubts" [dubia] raised in the past few years. The doctrinal stand of the former Holy Office should be accompanied by an authoritative theological comment on the pages of L'Osservatore Romano. At the center of the debate is once again the meaning of the verb "subsists", used by the Council in the Constitution Lumen Gentium, where it is said that the only Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic Church" (in Latin, "subsistit in"). Words which, in the course of the years, have suffered several interpretations, including the one according to which Jesus in reality had not thought of founding a Church and, in case he had, it would have afterwards divided itself in various Churches and ecclesial communities. Therefore, there would not be the true Church of Christ anymore, but only several expressions of it. This recurrent thesis has already been repeatedly denied by the Popes. In 1973, with the declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, of Paul VI; in 1985, with the notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on a book of liberation theologian Leonardo Boff; in 1992, with the Letter to the Bishops Communionis Notio, and, finally, in 2000, with the declaration Dominus Iesus, approved by John Paul II.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Saint Maria Goretti, Patron Saint of Modern Youth

The anti Paris Hilton.

Last week the Church celebrated the heroic life and death of a 12 year old young lady named Maria Goretti (1890-1902). A devout young lady, she was assaulted and murdered because she refused a man's sexual advances. She chose death and heaven rather than allow herself to be raped. She was stabbed over 14 times but lived for almost 20 hours after the attack in which time she prayed for and forgave her accuser. Fifty years later Pope Pius canonized her in 1950 as the Patron Saint of Modern Youth. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession. Her body remains incorruptible in a glass coffin in Our Lady of Mercy Church in Nettuno, Italy.

In our present age, when many young people idolize the wrong kind of role models, we need a modern saint whose virtue and faith can be emulated. Promiscuity, materialism and hedonism are put forth as the new "virtue" for today's youth. Saint Maria Goretti shows us how to choose purity and chastity over the values that this world offers.

HT: Crossed the Tiber

Saturday, July 07, 2007

For the food lovers who read us

One of the best things to do on a Saturday morning in Dallas is go down to the Farmer's Market. You can almost get an entire meal out of the free samples handed out by the vendors. Today we stopped at a meat vendor's stall, run by Texas Meats, to pick up some bacon. It turns out that the booth is run by three local family farms, who raise their beef, chicken, and pork "super-naturally", which is a double-entendre for both the way they raise it and what motivates their method. The families are devoted Christians and use natural grazing methods for their products. Here's a copy of a nice article from the Dallas Morning news on the families who run the farms.

So if you are at the Dallas Farmer's market any time soon, drop by and give these good folk some business.

Looking for a new church?

If you haven't seen this already, here's a hilarious send-up of the church shopping phenomenon. I swear this could have been made in Dallas.

Profiles of Catholic Conversions

This is a decent list. When I made the plunge, I thought that Newman's Apologia was the only source to turn to, but then I discovered Benson's Confessions of a Convert, and then, and then...

The Road to Damascus: The Spiritual Pilmgrimage of Fifteen Converts to Catholicism (ed. John A. O'Brien, 1949)

Surprised By Truth I, II, III: Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons For Becoming Catholic (Patrick Madrid, 1994-2002)

Literary Converts (Joseph Pearce, 2000)

Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome (Patrick Allitt, 2000)

Classic Catholic Converts (Charles Connor, 2001)

From the Mouths of Michaelites II

More from those whose angels see the Father's face.

Another of our evangelism assignments during the St. Michael's Conference was for each student to author his own personal prayer for evangelism. I encouraged my students to pray their prayers daily. Here is a sampling, drawn from the language of Colossians. (Pretty awesome, huh?)

Dear God:

I pray that you will work in me not to fall into sin, but to proclaim your word. I also pray that by proclaiming your word I would save someone so that they would be closer to you. I also pray that people who already know you could help somebody else. I pray that you would forgive my sins and help me to be a better person to others. I pray that you would open doors for me so I can take opportunities for your word. I pray that I would talk about you when talking to others. In your name I pray, Amen. - Miss Cassidy Long, age 13

Dear God:

As we watch for your answers we will remember to be thankful. Give us the chance to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. I will pray that I will become bold enough to tell it freely and fully as I should. I will tell others the good news and be wise in my contacts with them. I will let my conversation be gracious and sensible for then I will have the right answer for everyone. - Mr. Dakota Foster, age 12

Most Merciful God:

I thank you this day and ever day for opening doors to allow me, a humble servant of your son, Christ, to proclaim the glory of your name. Let me persuade people to come into you and Christ with grace and ease. I pray that you fill my mind with some of your infinite knowledge to bring souls to know and understand you this day and forevermore. Amen. - Miss Taylor Quance, age 12.

Friday, July 06, 2007

From the Mouths of Michaelites

... whose angels always see the Father's face. I had a great time teaching a small course on evangelism last week to some of the conferees at the St. Michael's Conference. One of the skills that we discussed was the development of a personal story about faith in Christ. The kids did a beautiful- and moving-job. They learned to develop an interesting title, a clear structure, and an inviting conclusion. This week, they will each be sending their personal story to an unchurched family member or friend.

This one in particular brought tears to my eyes.

He is My Love

Before I met Him, I was the not the type of person I would want to introduce myself to. I was a little less than an average teenager. Of course I already knew Him. I grew up learning about Him, but I never really got face to face. That summer I came to St. Michael's and that's where it started. I got kind of interested. Then I started taking Him seriously, and not just going through the motions. After that, I continued into it. The summer after, I went to Camp Crucis and met other great Christian people who were true friends. We were singing in chapel one day and I looked over and saw my friend smiling at me from the distance and something inside me just clicked. That moment, I realized that I was His child, that He loved me. I knew that I was supposed to be a Christian. From then on, the most simple things came to be so amazing to me. A friend smiling was Him saying "Thank you. I love you." Or singing, it made me feel energized and ready to yell out to the world that I loved Him more than anything. After I left camp and up to now, I see Him in everything I see or do. Now I know that I love Him, and He is my Savior and He is Jesus. Now its your turn. Go and find Him because He is looking for you. If you need help, you have me to turn to. Go and find love for yourself. It's truly amazing.

-Miss Liza Donor, age 13.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


MM hoists panchos in Texas Monsoon at St. Michael's. Fr. Cantrell seems to have posted more great photos here.

Real Woman Award II

This week's award definately goes to Ela Nelson at Real Womanhood. Ela endured the discomforts of camp life with her precious baby daughter in order to keep her husband company at the St. Michael's Conference last week, and spent her time there praying for and encouraging those of us who were looking after other people's children. Thank you, Ela and Moira!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More St. Mike's Photos

Thank you Fr. WB.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The St. Michael's Hymn

I love this:

Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels, thou who hast made us, thou who o'er us rulest, grant of thy mercy unto us, thy servants, steps up to heaven.

Send thine archangel Michael to our succor; peacemaker blessed, may he banish from us striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful all things may prosper.

Send thine archangel Gabriel, the mighty; herald of heaven, may he, from us mortals, spurn the old serpent, watching o'er the temples where thou art worshiped.

Send thine archangel Raphael, the restorer of the misguided ways of men who wander, who at thy bidding strengthens soul and body with thine anointing.

May the blest mother of our God and Savior, may the assembly of the saints in glory, may the celestial companies of angels ever assist us.

Father Almighty, Son, and Holy Spirit, God ever blessed, be thou our preserver; thine is the glory which the angels worship, veiling their faces.

Monday, July 02, 2007

... And St. Michael defended us

I (MM) am back from Camp Crucis and the St. Michael's Conference Southwest 2007. Whew.

Given this summer's flash flooding which almost wiped away our guy's cabins, the task of escorting dozens of girls to their first confessions, and the various exhilerating movements of the untamed Holy Spirit, the conference was exhausting, and a fairly accurate taste of Heaven.

Our macho young priests strolled around in their cassocks and intermittently joined in hilarious kickball with the kids or heard their confessions, cheering for them when they emerged from their encounters with God and helping them to burn their lists of sins in a bonfire outside the chapel. Fr. Cantrell beamingly presided in the most paternal way possible. Fr. WB won everyone's hearts, as always. Fr. Whitfield acted just like Jesus. Chris Guptill saved the day; Andy had the nerve to punish my table for undue levity at breakfast one morning. Fr. Nelson dealt with the demons. Fr. Matkin led us to a little more sanctity just by his example. I told a few of the little guys that they should consider the priesthood, and they solemnly said they would. Charles poured his life out for all of us, and taught the guys how to form a flank to protect the girls as we made our perilous way to breakfast. Fr. Jones was pure joy. Deacon Foster served. Gen quietly spread the sweet savor of Christ and had a few girls dying to get their own mantillas as soon as possible. And Fr. Yost kept the Host in the monstrance luna, where it belongs.

Some great pictures are here from Fr. Nelson. I will be posting a'la St. Michael's for the remainder of the week.