For the Paradox of the Wide Road on the Narrow Path

Joe Six-Pack, USMC here with a few brief words on Why I Am Catholic. Actually, there is one word that sums up what I am getting at with this post: pluralism. Before pitchforks and torches are mobilized, and hordes of angry, conspiracy theory influenced folks attempt to hurl themselves upon my redoubts and battlements, and risk being bitten by my ferocious and cunning battle dog, let me clarify which definition of this word I mean.

Using the handy Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, you will find the definition of pluralism, as I use it here, listed as the fourth one with two parts.

4 a: a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.

b: a concept, doctrine, or policy advocating this state

Catholic Cathedral Bamako, Mali

If when reading the definition in 4 a) you didn’t immediately notice the similarity of this with the actual makeup of the Catholic Church, think about it for a moment. Do you see it now? I don’t mean just in your particular parish, or even in your diocese, though if they are anything like mine, it may be enough. No, I mean the whole Church, the entire Body of Christ spread as she is throughout the world; every parish, and every diocese from Rome, Italy to Bamako, Mali, in all countries, from A to Z.

Whoa Frank, you may be thinking, there is only one way, and that is the Catholic way! And if you note the title of this blog, it should come as no surprise that I agree. But I do so with the caveat that within the “one way” of Catholic tradition, there are many variations that allow the adaptation of practices not only to the cultural mores of local parishes, but even extending out to the widely different charisms that give rise to the multitude of orders and societies within the Church as well.

If there was only “one way,” there would be no allowance for the orders of the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Paulists, or the Poor Clares. There would be no tolerance of the charisms of the Capuchins, the Carthusians or the Cistercians. No need for the Carmelites, the Brothers of the Holy Cross, the Redemptorists, or the Sisters of Mercy. Seriously, if there is only one way to be a faithful, Christ-centered, and blessed by grace, Catholic, the enterprise of saving the whole world was doomed to failure at the beginning.

But it wasn’t a failure. Instead, the mission has been a rousing success, in spite of all the challenges, travails, and martyrs. From the death and resurrection of the Founder, to those of our brothers and sisters that endure persecution for being faithful Catholics today, the saving mission of the Church continues on. The sharing of the Good News, and the provision of inward grace via the outward signs of grace (which are the sacraments) continues apace.

And the Church was successful, and will continue to be so, because the catholic nature of the world demands an embrace of pluralism that, frankly, the leadership of the Church understands and encourages. This is why when you hear some folks ranting about there being only one way to receive communion, only one correct way to sing songs (and even diatribes on certain songs that are in in your hymnal? Lord have mercy.), only one proper way for the Mass to be said, in only one proper language, etc, etc., there is something to remember: there is a wideness in God’s mercy within the narrow path of Catholicism.

Oh, and thank God for bishops. Who, among their many responsibilities, have one also “to affirm legitimate pluralism and to challenge simultaneously contemporary currents which exceed the boundaries of justice, holiness, and mutually forgiving love, so that the unity of truth and the unity of Spirit can be even more deeply renewed ” among the faithful and spread to the world. See Matthew 7:16.

I lifted that quote from Brother James Hanson, CSC and I’ll also share this one from the introduction of his book, If I’m a Christian, Why Be a Catholic? as well,

To be Catholic today is to live in the pluralism of the post Vatican II Church. For many the experience is as confusing as it is renewing. Gradually the dust is settling as the wheat is separated from the chaff while gently nurturing new shoots of life at the same time (Matthew 13:25-30). I am convinced that all truth is beautiful and that the revealed truth of Catholic faith is compellingly beautiful when it is properly understood. In John 10:14, Jesus called himself the good shepherd who knows his sheep and is known by them. When Pope Gregory the Great preached on that text, he wrote, “If someone does not love the truth, it is because he has not recognized it.”

I thank God for helping me to recognize it. And a huge part of that recognition is from seeing the beneficial fruits of the pluralistic policies of the Church as seen in the various approaches she allows in following her. She is so accommodating and hospitable, you know, like you would expect your best friends mom to be.

Now, Brother Hanson wrote those words 27 years ago about the Council, which concluded 19 years before he wrote them. Perhaps he was premature in saying the dust was settled, because there was plenty of threshing to be done, as there always will be. But to me, and remember, I’m just Joe Six-Pack, she believes, practiced, and continues to practice E Pluribus Unum long before that motto was adopted on the Seal of the United States (1782, for you history buffs). In fact, a variation of the phrase was used in the fourth book of the Confessions of St. Augustine (which is just another reason why I am Catholic).

Why has pluralism been a “Catholic thing” since the beginning? Well, I’ll venture to again keep things simple with a one word answer, that may require development in further posts to make it evident. Agape. A simple answer that again is seen as the reason for the saving mission of Christ, and thus of His Church,

A mustard seed

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)

And thus the mustard seed of agape was planted and now we behold the truth as the Truth Incarnate foretold us in this short parable,

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”

Not just for one kind of bird, and in a very large bush. Thanks be to God.

Quote of the Week

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind. -Hannah Senesh, poet, playwright, and paratrooper (1921-1944)

Explaining Death and Loss to a Young Child, A Poem By Gerard Manly Hopkins, SJ

When words fail, and our hearts are not still, what can we do?When tragedy strikes, there are questions that must be answered, and mourning that we must endure.

At times like these, I turn to prayer, and to the psalms seeking comfort. Further still, I look to the poets, like those of a Jesuit priest named Gerard Manly Hopkins.

Some poems are meant to be sung, and thankfully, Natalie Merchant sings this one for us beautifully. Follow along with me,

YouTube Preview Image

Spring and Fall: To a young child (1880)

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

 

 

 

To Renew My Inmost Being and Put on the New Man

Have you noticed how tough life is? It’s hard enough to make it on your own, but try living the Christian life fully and the delusion that doing so is easy should have already crashed down upon you like a Summer thunder storm. That is, if you are giving it your all.

I’m reminded of the sage words of a military genius again. Ever heard of Carl von Clauswitz? Here is something he shared in his classic book on military strategy, On War,

Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.

Sure, you could kid yourself that this doesn’t apply to your life as a Christian. “I’m a civilian,” or so you pretend. But to me, Clauswitz’s thoughts illuminate the truth of the life not only of those “in the world,” but definitely the lives of those of us who struggle mightily to be “not of the world.”

So yesterday morning, for the first time in what seems like ages, I dug into my book bag, pulled out my copy of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, flipped to the Friday morning prayers and proceeded to regain my sanity. It wasn’t long before I came across this truth of the Christian life,

Your inmost being must be renewed, and you must put on the new man (Ephesians 4:23).

I always knew that it was work to be a Christian, in the back of my mind. Everything I had learned from studying the Bible while growing up warned that this was true. But somewhere between leaving home and entering the world on my own, I had forgotten this fact. Running away from the truth will do that to you.

St. Paul’s inspired words reminded me of this situation again. You see, in order to “put on the new man,” you have to take off the old man first. And Lord knows, early on I had as much interest in being changed as the next person, which if you are anything like me means practically not at all. I went along with the easy care of “the saved,” while never confronting any of the dark shadows of responsibility that followed me along that road.

In other words, I sought the easy path of the Christian who is a Christian in name only. I professed belief in Christ, had been baptized, and I was “good to go” in that department, or so I thought, and I could concentrate on other more important things like fighting World War III, or striking it rich, you know, all while ignoring the plight of the poor or less fortunate. Talking myself out of my sinfulness, and letting my pride get the best of me and run the show.

I came back to the well of my faith only when I needed help. Like when I was sweating probation when I was trying to make it through Marine Security Guard School in Quantico, or when I was getting ready to graduate from college and I would pray, “Lord, help me find a job.” Prayers such as these are not invalid. They are necessary prayers for the soul to cry out with, as long as they are backed up with the diligent search to find work, etc. But all in all, I was a fair weather Christian and my conscience would needle me on that point from time to time.

Distractions helped me keep from listening to these urgings for the longest time. Have you allowed that to happen? Especially when there is some important project that you know you should be working on, but you put it off and put it off some more in the vain hope that the task would go away on its own accord so you won’t have to face it. But it doesn’t go away, and then you burn the midnight oil cobbling something together that barely passes muster, and just in the nick of time. I didn’t want to live my life like that forever.

As they say, denial is not just a river in Egypt, but I drank deeply from her anyway. But increasingly I noticed that her drafts still left me parched. Despite dying from thirst, it took my almost being killed to put me finally on the path to the Catholic Church. The Lord knows that marrying a Catholic didn’t do this, but it didn’t hurt matters either. Nor did the accident provoke me into an instant, “on the spot” conversion either. It took another 6-7 years before I finally cracked open the door that, by this time, my conscience was banging on loudly and relentlessly. As I’ve written before, the injuries I sustained ended my Marine Corps career, providing me the opportunity to change my (and my family’s) life and lead us I knew not where.

I never thought this tortuous path would lead me to the Catholic Church, but every day I rejoice that it has. I can say that I have no idea what is going on in much of the rest of the Church. Perhaps my brush with the Desert Fathers has inured me to answering the siren call of keeping tabs on all that the Bishops do, or don’t do, for instance. For me, the call to conversion is deeper than playing “inside baseball” with what is going on with Rome and all her players. This particular player is in the game, and not sitting on the bench. I am too busy “work(ing) out my salvation with fear and trembling” to have much time to devote to anything that distracts me from helping me, my family, and you dear readers, from that goal.

I’ve heard it said by some to others (bloggers, etc.), “how could you not know about Father X?,” or “problem XYZ?” or some such line regarding another scandal du jour. You all know that I’ve heard about, and commented on, some events like these in the past. And I’m likely to do so again, in the future. But it will be only if it is something glaringly obvious worth talking about, and by that I mean something that is leading others astray, or that has affected me personally in some way.

The real reason that I don’t follow all the latest newsy stuff is that I am too busy doing the work of “renewing my inmost being” to pay attention to the noise that’s going on outside. This work of taking off the old person and putting on the new one is time consuming. Especially considering that I have other work, and family responsibilities, on top of blogging about the Faith here. But my friend Webster Bull said once that “being Catholic is like walking around with a blazing torch in your hand, one that illuminates everything you encounter” and for me that is the reality.

It is as if the scales have dropped from my own eyes, and I’ve discovered the “beauty ever ancient, beauty ever new” of the Church. It is the vision of a person who was blind once and can now see. Or like after the storm is gone and I see what Noah saw. Even so, I’ll freely admit that the sight I have regained is still one “as looking through a glass, and darkly.” But the Beacon calls me clearly.

And thankfully, as I continue to do the work of renewal, the Divine Optician constantly updates the prescription on my individual looking glass. And did I mention he also carries most of the load? He’s got the big stuff, so I can sweat the small stuff.

Photo Credit: Michael Belk

For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says About the Adversary

The following thoughts are from my patron, St. Macarius the Great.

from Homily 26.

Question. Does Satan know all of a man’s thoughts and intentions?

Answer. If one man, by being acquainted with another, knows about him, and you, who are twenty years old, know the affairs of your neighbor, can Satan fail to know your reasonings? He has been with you from your birth. He is six thousand years old (Note: This is a very rough calculation from the LXX chronology of the Old Testament, which differs from the Hebrew). Yet I do not say that he knows what a man will do before he tempts him. The tempter tempts, but does not know whether the man will yield or not yield, till such time as the soul gives up its will into bondage.

Nor do I say that the devil knows all the thoughts and devices of the heart. Suppose there is a tree with many branches and many limbs. A man may be able to grasp two or three branches of the tree. So the soul has many branches and many limbs. There are some branches of thought and intention which Satan grasps; there are other thoughts and intentions not grasped by Satan.

In one thing the side of evil is the stronger when thoughts spring up; in another, the mans’ thought is more than conqueror, receiving succour and deliverance from God, and resisting sin. At one point the man is mastered, at another he has his will. Sometimes he comes to God with fervour, and Satan knows it, and sees that he is acting against him, and cannot restrain him.

Why? Because he has the will to cry to God; he has the natural fruits of loving God, of believing, of seeking and coming. In the outer world, the farmer tills the ground; but in spite of his tilling, he needs rains and showers from above. If no moisture comes from above, the farmer has no profit from his tilling of the ground.

So is it with the spiritual world. There are two factors to be taken into consideration. The man must cultivate with a will the ground of his heart, and labor upon it—for God requires the mans’ labor and toil and travail. But unless clouds of heaven make their appearance from above, and showers of grace, the farmer does not profit by his toil.

This is the mark of Christianity: however much a man toils, and however many righteousnesses he performs, to feel that he has done nothing, and in fasting to say, “This is not fasting,” and in praying, “This is not prayer,” and in perseverance at prayer, “I have shown no perseverance; I am only just beginning to practice and to take pains “; and even if he is righteous before God, he should say, “I am not righteous, not I; I do not take pains, but only make a beginning every day.”

He should every day have the hope and the joy and the expectation of the coming kingdom and deliverance, and to say, “If today I have not been delivered, I shall tomorrow.” As the man who plants a vine has the joy and the hope in himself, before ever he embarks upon the toil, and sketches out vineyards in his mind, and reckons up the income, when there has been no wine yet, and so enters upon the toil—for the hope and expectation make him work cheerfully, and for the time being he incurs many expenses out of pocket; and in like manner the man who builds a house, and the man who tills a field, are at much expense to themselves first, in hope of the advantage to come; so it is here.

If a man does not keep before his eyes the joy and the hope, “I shall find deliverance and life,” he cannot endure the afflictions, or the burden, and adopt the narrow way. It is the presence of hope and joy that make him labour and endure the afflictions.

But as it is not easy for a brand to escape from the fire, so neither can the soul escape out of the fire of death, except with a great deal of trouble. For the most part, Satan, under pretext of good thoughts, that “in such and such a way you can please God,” offers suggestions to the soul, and underhand seduces it to subtle and specious notions, and it does not know how to discern that it is being seduced, and thus it falls into the snare and perdition of the devil (1 Tim. iii. 7, and vi. 9).

The most deadly weapon of the combatant and champion is this: to enter into the heart and make war there upon Satan, and to hate himself and to deny his own soul, to be angry with it and rebuke it, and to resist the desires that dwell there, and grapple with his thoughts, and fight with himself.

If outwardly you keep your body from corruption and fornication, but inwardly commit adultery, to God you are an adulterer and a fornicator in your thoughts, and you have gained nothing by the virginity of your body. If there is a young woman and a young man, and he by guile wheedles her till she is corrupted, she then becomes an object of loathing to her spouse, because she has been unfaithful. So the incorporeal soul, if it holds fellowship with the serpent that lurks within, the wicked spirit, goes a-whoring from God, as it is written, “Everyone that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart”(Matt v.28).

There is a fornication effected in the body, and there is a fornication of the soul, when it holds fellowship with Satan. The same soul is partner and sister either of devils, or of God and the angels; and if it commits adultery with the devil, it is unfit for the heavenly Bridegroom.

Read the entire homily here. St. Macarius the Great, pray for us.

An Old Feature Polished Up and Given It’s Own Page

I’m talking about the YIMCatholic Pandora Radio stations. Frankly, I had forgotten about the possibilites of Pandora Radio. But then a reader jogged my memory after they stumbled across an old post penned by Webster Bull.

Written waaay back on New Years Eve in December of 2009, the post is about a station he had created called Bingen Radio. He built it around the seed of St. Hildegard of Bingen’s music. But his conclusion points to the blog’s Facebook page and a link that you will never find there. One (not exactly) frantic e-mail later, I promised to look into the matter.

So I logged into Pandora Radio and faster than you can say “presto,change-o” I unearthed that old station. And then I decided that, since others may enjoy it, I ‘ll go ahead and put the link for it in a more accessible location, you know, like the right-hand sidebar of the blog.=========>

You can find it now, right under Our Lord’s portrait and the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. It’s “chant city” over at Hildegarde of Bingen Radio. Need a recharge, or need to cool your jets surrounded by prayerful music? Bingen Radio is where you’ll want to go. I re-seeded it with Webster’s original selections, but have added a few more.

And then I had another brilliant idea, or three. Since I was already standing atop the shoulders of the geniuses on Mount Pandora Radio, I came up with another station showcasing artists from the wildly popular Music for Mondays posts. Ok, “wildly popular” may be an overstating things a bit, but say you can’t wait for Monday, or you don’t want to work your way through seven YouTube videos at a time. What to do?

Head to the station I built called Rare Earth Radio.Well, I didn’t build it, really, but I started it from the seed of one great band (Rare Earth),and then proceeded to fill the little garden there with seeds from artists that have been featured on the MfM rock n’ roll music posts. With everthing from Matt Maher to the Foo Fighters, Elvis Presley to Arcade Fire, it’s a pretty eclectic mix. I reckon that little garden is more like a 40 acre farm. Give it a whirl!

And there is a third channel called Antonio Vivaldi Radio started with the seed of the Red Priest himself, and surrounded with other classical composers from the Jesus Went Mainstream -Classical music posts. His brothers in the priesthood, Manuel de Zumaya and Tomás Luis de Victoria, hang their berettas there too.

And the fourth and final channel is called Jesus Just Left Chicago Radio and is packed with songs that include Our Lord’s name in their titles or in their lyrics. Everthing from showtunes (Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell) to Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel is planted there. Who knows what the Music Geneome project will unearth around this theme?

So there you have it folks. Something old, something new, everything borrowed, and some of it blue. The YIMCatholic Pandora stations, available 24/7 on your personal electronic devices.

Because it is Only Rational That One Should Submit to Guidance

I’ve shared in this space thoughts on private interpretation of the scriptures before. Stuff from the Treasure Chest, like the article written by Father Bampfield for the Catholic Truth Society. I’ve even shared my own thoughts on this subject by way of my experience with land navigation and map reading skills.

I’ve been flipping through my new favorite classic, The Catholic’s Ready Answer, which I introduced to you this morning. Here again are Jesuit Fathers Michael P. Hill, and F. X. Brors (how is that surname pronounced?!), using their god-given ability to reason, along with God’s grace-filled gift of faith, to explain clearly, succinctly, and definitively, the Catholic approach to interpreting the Bible.

Think, “The Church interprets the Bible, as the Supreme Court of the United States interprets the Constitution”, and you’ll understand the Catholic position in a New York minute. First up? How I was taught as a child, followed by what I learned as a man (and by faith and reason knew what must be true). Common sense, and clear teaching, is coming your way.

BIBLE INTERPRETATIONS

Protestant Position:

—The Bible teaches all necessary truth to all who approach the study of it in the right spirit. In the Scriptures God speaks to the human soul, and no interpreter of His words is needed but the soul itself, enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Catholic Position:

—The above, if we mistake not, is a fair statement of the Protestant view of private interpretation. It differs essentially from the Catholic principle, according to which private interpretation is controlled by the authority of a divinely established Church.

But now a question: What are the grounds of the Protestant position? As the Bible is the Protestant’s final rule of faith, he should be able to quote chapter and verse for this as well as for any other article of his faith. Where in the whole compass of the sacred writings is there a passage enunciating the principle of private and independent interpretation? There are passages in abundance setting forth the benefits resulting from a reading of the Word of God, but none which declare that the individual reader is independent of all control in his interpretation of it.

In opposing such independence we do not mean to imply that the Bible is simply an unintelligible book. Quite the contrary, many parts of Scripture are plain narratives of matters of fact, and the more obvious sense of the text is the true one, or at least one true one. But other parts of the Bible abound in mysteries, or in other obscurities of one kind or another. This was doubtless the case even in the original version of the several books; but what shall we say of the modern translations—the imperfect medium through which all but a few readers get a glimpse of the revealed truth?

Now, is it likely that every chance reader, however good his disposition, possesses a “key to the Scriptures” and sees his way through all their obscurity of thought and expression? Is it not to be feared that the assumption of such power of interpretation will have injurious, and in some cases even disastrous, effects upon the reader? St. Peter the apostle, speaking of the epistles of St. Paul, says of them that they “contain certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter iii. 16). If this declaration, made by no less an authority than St. Peter, and to the very people to whom the epistles of St. Paul were addressed, was justified at the time, is it not to be feared that now, after twenty centuries, the same causes are producing even worse effects?

The Apostle here mentions two effects which he traces to three causes. The two effects are: 1. The wresting— that is to say, the twisting or distorting—of the meaning of Scripture; 2. The spiritual self-destruction of the reader. The causes are: 1. The intrinsic difficulties of the text; 2. Ignorance; 3. Instability (unsteadfastness, as it reads in the Revised Version). The same three causes are in operation to-day, and doubtless tend, in varying degrees, to produce the same effects. The text, with its intrinsic difficulties, remains. Ignorance remains; for the three R’s are the highest reach of knowledge for millions; and what special insight into Scripture is furnished by the three R’s?

But have not some gone much farther than the three R’s? Surely; they have learned their chemistry, or their physics, or their mathematics. But none of these sciences furnish a key to the obscurities of St. Paul. But have we no theologians or exegetes? Certainly we have; and they have helped us not a little to understand the sacred volume; but if we may believe Dr. Littledale it was just from this class that most of the ancient heresies took their rise; and all the theology in the world can not, of itself, secure a man from that instability of which St. Paul speaks—that is to say, from that intellectual and moral giddiness which often accompanies the greatest learning.

But, our opponents will tell us, at least let a man approach the reading of the Scriptures in a prayerful spirit, and he may expect to receive interior illumination. Doubtless a prayerful reading of Scripture has produced much insight into the meaning of the sacred text. But let us not mistake the issue in the present discussion. We do not deny the possibility of personal illumination. God, from the beginning, has deigned to speak to the individual soul. But—and this is the most important thing we have to say in the present article—there is nothing more illusory than the impression of having been enlightened from on high; and in the whole course of religious history nothing has proved more pernicious than the seeing in supposed illumination a practical rule of faith or of conduct.

Where God does really enlighten, no one can enlighten so well; but it is one thing to be enlightened, another to think one is enlightened. Many of our Catholic saints have received what they have described as marvelous illumination, but none were more distrustful of such illumination than the very recipients of it. And yet just the contrary has been the case with those leaders of men from Luther to Mrs. Eddy who have confidently proclaimed a special illumination in their interpretation of Scripture. And when we see the number of such claimants to inspirationand compare their clashing creeds—all based on the same Word of God—and listen to the war of words in which each denounces all the others, we begin to see the utter hollowness of the theory of private interpretation.

Religious chaos was never intended to be the result of the preaching of the Christian revelation. And yet chaos is the necessary result of Christian preaching when it is based on private interpretation. But worse than chaos are the ultimate logical consequences of the theory, for amidst the chaos at least some fragments of the truth remain; but even these are destined to disappear under the powerful solvent of independent judgment. The principle of private judgment is to-day working itself out most consistently in the land of its origin. In Germany individual judgment, even amongst the ministers of religion, who are supposed to have committed themselves to a fixed creed, is rapidly dissolving the fabric of Christianity itself.

Personal illumination is, therefore, in no absolute sense a safe guide. In one’s meditation on Scripture one may, of course, feel that reflection throws some light upon words or sentences heretofore obscure; many sound conclusions may be drawn; spiritual insight may increase; but still, considering that there are many things in Scripture “hard to be understood,” and that so many readers of Scripture have been mistaken in their interpretations, it is only rational that one should submit to guidance, if a guide can be found. And that a guide has been provided by a kind Providence can not be matter of doubt when one reflects on the unspeakable wisdom displayed in all God’s works and, on the other hand, on the sad consequences which are seen to follow the rejection of authority in so important a matter as the interpretation of the word of God.

Evidently, then, there is an infallible interpreter appointed by God Himself; and that infallible interpreter can be no other than the Church of Christ, which St. Paul tells us is “the pillar and ground of truth.” (1 Tim. iii. 15.)

If that sounds sort of like “We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident: no one person can interpret Scriptures,” then so be it. Because the Holy Father wants you to read the Bible.

For Books By Dead Jesuits, Like The Catholic’s Ready Answer

Yesterday I published the Music for Mondays post early. Therein, I commented that Catholicism is so deep and so wide, that ideas for writing about it will never be exhausted. But the fact of the matter is, folks like the shiny new stuff better than the old, moldy stuff already sitting in the libraries of the world.

Not me. I’m the weirdo contrarian, remember? And you know what else? Lately I’ve been bumping into fantastic stuff written by long dead Jesuit priests whom I’ve never heard of. My buddy Blaise Pascal hated the Jesuits with a passion. He’s not alone with that opinion either. But I like them. Guys like Wu Li, SJ for example. And François Nepveu, SJ. Remember Wilhem Wilmers, SJ, torpedoing Ayn Rand’s “originality?” And who could forget Henry Morse, SJ?

Oh, folks love John Hardon SJ, for example, and I picked up a copy of his The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism at a used book sale. I haven’t cracked it open yet though. At the same sale, I also picked up Mission and Grace, Volume 1 written by Karl Rahner, SJ, and We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, by John Courtney Murray, SJ. I’m reading that selection currently and frankly, it is top notch. I promise to post on it soon.

Aside for Fr. Hardon though, I have never heard of any of these guys. It turns out they are modern giants of the Society of Jesus. See? I’ve got a lot to learn. I hadn’t heard of the Jesuit who wrote this neat little book I just added to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf either.

It’s called, The Catholic’s Ready Answer: Popular Vindication of Christian Beliefs and Practices Against the Attacks of Modern Criticism , and looking over it I can say that it will be very useful even to Catholic of today. It was written by Michael P. Hill, SJ and started off as an English translation of a German book written by Franz X. Brors, SJ. Sure, it was published in 1914, but seriously, the modernist tenor of that time was very similar to modernist thoughts encountered nowadays. Don’t believe me? Just check the contents:


AGNOSTICISM > An Agnostic Query—”Why trouble ourselves about matters such as Gods existence, of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing?” (Huxley)

THE BIBLE AND MODERN THOUGHT Objection—The Bible is for many reasons deserving of veneration, but it is quite out of harmony with modern thought. The science, the aspirations, and the general point of view of the modern world are at the opposite pole from the contents of the Bible.

EUGENICS An Accusation—Every human being should love his kind, and a love of his kind should awaken in his breast an interest in the future of his race. The improvement of the race is the object of eugenics, and a want of sympathy with the present eugenic movement betrays either selfishness or an unenlightened conservatism.

HELL Objection—God is good and merciful; but a good and merciful God would not condemn a soul to eternal torments; therefore the eternity of hell is a contradiction of our belief in His goodness and mercy.

MARRIAGE A SACRAMENT, Ultra-Protestant View— “Marriage is an outward, material thing, like any other secular business. Marriage, with all that appertains to it, is a temporal thing and does not concern the Church at all, except in so far as it affects the conscience.”—Luther

See what I mean? The whole book is full of great, modern, controversial, questions and answered briefly from the viewpoint of Catholic tradition. If nothing else, it will get you jump started on learning more about the faith. Here are several examples for you to try out: Thoughts on Tolerance and Tradition.

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TOLERANCE

An Accusation. —Tolerance is the first duty of the citizen as regards religious matters; but “the Roman Catholic Church, if it would be consistent, must be intolerant.”—Tschackert.

The Answer. —According to Christ’s teaching, the first duty of a man living in a community is not tolerance, but love of his neighbor. A pharisaical doctor of the law once “asked Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Matt. xxii. 35-40).

Justice and love are the two first duties of a man to his fellow-men. Tolerance is nowhere mentioned in the law. Mere tolerance does not go far enough. The Catholic Church does not merely tolerate her erring brethren She loves them with a divine charity—and that is more than tolerance. “Tolerance” is the catchword of genuine liberalism, which manages to put up with an obnoxious fellow-citizen, but knows nothing of charity.

But a distinction must be made in the matter of tolerance. Catholics are not intolerant of the erring, but toward their error there can be no such thing as tolerance. We can not compromise with error. What is false we can not call true, any more than we can call black white. When, therefore, the Catholic Church combats error and champions truth, she only follows the example of Christ and does what every right-thinking man will acknowledge to be just.

Dogmatic tolerance is self-contradiction. How can a Church that professes to be a teacher of truth say to the thinking world: “If you believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Christ, and in the sacrament of Penance, well and good. If you don’t believe in them—again well and good—for I can’t be intolerant”? A Church which is the custodian of revealed truth can not compound with error; and any church—no matter what elements of truth it may retain, or what good it may do to men—any church which is seen to throw the mantle of a false charity over all vagaries of opinion within its pale is proved thereby not to have the hall-mark of Christian orthodoxy. In this connection the Catholic Church stands quite alone—and is thereby proved to be the one faithful eustodian of the doctrine revealed by Christ.

TRADITION AS A RULE OF FAITH

Objection. —Tradition can not be a source of true knowledge. There is nothing so unreliable as an old story that has passed from mouth to mouth and is subject to change at every telling. Even written documents are not safe from alteration. Every new copy made is likely to contain fresh errors.

The Answer. —Many who urge this objection are believers in Christianity; and yet what guarantee can be had for the truth of Christianity except in reliable tradition? Perhaps such guarantee is furnished by the Bible; but how can we know that the Bible is the word of God save by tradition?

Doubtless there are matters of secular interest about which neither writing nor tradition can afford any security from error; but there are also matters regarding which all fear of error is reasonably absent. No sensible man doubts about the existence of such historical characters as Csesar, Napoleon, or Luther. So, too, in the religious domain, there is a body of truth which is sealed as such by the continuous and unfailing witness of God’s Church; and what is this but tradition?

The Gospels can be proved to be genuine and reliable historical documents. And it may be proved from the Gospels that Christ, who was sent from on high, established an infallible Church—a fact which is plain from His having commissioned the apostles to preach the Faith to all nations and from His having declared that whosoever would not believe them would be condemned (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; Mark xvi. 15, 16). The Church as represented by the apostles must be infallible, for otherwise no one would be condemned for not accepting the apostolic teaching. Now the Pope and the other bishops are the successors of the apostles; and they must be supposed to teach with the same infallible authority as the apostles, for otherwise we are forced to the very unchristian conclusion that Christ must have meant that all authoritative teaching should cease with the apostles! It follows that once the Pope and the bishops proclaim anything to be a truth of the Faith, it must infallibly be such.

Now tradition is nothing else but the continuous and uninterrupted teaching of God’s Church. God has it in His power to provide for the continued infallibility of His Church—just as of old He provided for the preservation of the writings of the evangelists and the other sacred writers from errors of fact and of doctrine.

In the Catholic Church there is every possible guarantee that the tradition on which Catholics rely is not of a loose, haphazard sort, containing a large admixture of hearsay and legend. The communion of all parts of the Church with the Apostolic See of Peter and Peter’s successors has been the one great source of unity and continuity of teaching in the Church. The decrees of the Popes, and of councils presided over by the Popes, are written in broad characters on the pages of history; but, even if there were no such record of them, the unfailing continuity of the Church’s life makes her a witness to apostolic truth in every succeeding age. It is to Catholic tradition as thus understood that Protestants owe such elements of pure Christianity as they retain in their several creeds.

Have a look at the rest of the book over on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

For All the Charities: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Guest post by Warren Jewell. Warren is a long time reader of YIMCatholic and I saw he posted this on his Facebook Page. Thinking that it might be something you would be interested in as well, I asked his permission to share it with you. Though not a Catholic hospital or charity, per se, the work they do, and the amount they charge their patients (see below), are in keeping with the finest traditions of Catholic agape for our neighbor.

Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital sent me another appeal for funds with a short sketch about What Cancer Cannot Do. But, first, a little history to try to appeal to your blessed, giving ways about Saint Jude’s.

Saint Jude’s is the ongoing act of gratitude to God by Danny Thomas, God love the man, for his success in entertainment in TV (remember ‘Make Room for Daddy’?) and stand-up comedy. He prayed that he would create Saint Jude’s if God permitted him to support his family through his career. For my part, Mr. Thomas personally recruited me, and my brother and other Chicago-area teens, at the time of his first public appeal for funds. He had us make radio ads to be aired on Chicago radio stations for his singular dedicated devotion to children dying of cancer, and their families. With a modest pride, I have observed and supported this mighty work ever since.

Of worthy note, you see, for all its powerful research, the hospital is last therapeutic resort for children approaching death due to their diseases. Saint Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. No child is ever denied treatment because of the family’s inability to pay.

ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities) is the fund-raising arm of Saint Jude. For all these years Americans of Lebanese descent (as Mr. Thomas was) have donated to cover the basic infrastructure and facilities of the hospital. Our own donations go to pay for professional and technical workers and the basic care of each child patient and his family.

And, Saint Jude’s has been blessed with great success. How blessed, how successful? Praise be to God, for a few examples:

in 1962, the survival rate for dreaded acute lymphoblastic leukemia was 4%; today it is 94%;
in 1962, the rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma was 7%; today, it is 85%;
in 1962, neuroblastoma (cancer of nerve tissues) was 10%; today, 55%;
in 1962, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) survival was 20%; today 65%;
in 1962, medulloblastoma (a type of brain tumor) was 10%; today, it is 85%;
overall, in 1962, 20% of child cancer victim survived; today, 80% survive.

Indeed, the hospital has been so successful that it has begun to branch out into research combating other serious childhood diseases. I am proud to have played my own miniscule part of that since those first appeals for help.

Of course, such statistics make me weep in gratitude to God, Danny Thomas, and his family and fellow Americans of Lebanese descent, and all who have been instrumental in such life-saving medicine. But, also, for how many children and their families have so awfully suffered the development of therapies to make these numbers what they are.

At Saint Jude’s, the most remarkable quality of this whole process has always been the heroic confidence and cheerful endurance of their little patients. Even in losing battles, the kids have been the very ‘bricks’ of the whole enterprise.

Now, that stanza of What Cancer Cannot Do?

Cancer is so limited –
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot conquer the spirit.
~ Anonymous

Saint Jude the Apostle is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. Serious childhood illness is surely still desperate; Saint Jude’s Hospital is working to lessen those ‘lost causes’. You can read more at stjude.org if you so desire.

Finally, if you will, I beg of you, mail your own donation to this grand effort:
Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital
P.O. Box 50
Memphis, TN 38101-9929

Their current campaign is called ‘Partners in Hope’, where if you would, you can pledge a regular monthly donation. Call 1-800-822-6344 to ask about this program.

I know that these are tough times for many of us. But, it can’t get much tougher than being an innocent child hurting and fighting for her life, huh? Hey! This time, about helping these kids, it’s personal :-)

God love and bless you, always and in all ways.

Quote of the Week

In recollection, news and vain gossip have no appeal, nor do we like to hear anything that does not advise us to withdraw further into our hearts…for their (the recollected) only wish is to see God with their hearts.

—Fray Francisco de Osuna (1492 – 1540 AD)


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