From the Treasure Chest: “Difficulties of Private Interpretation”

Alec Guinness (as Chesterton’s Fr. Brown) stands in for Fr. Bampfield

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a lengthy essay by Reverend George Bampfield entitled “Cannot.” Yesterday, I posted a little note on the Bible, and today Reverend Bampfield will help me explain something else that helped me decide to become a Catholic. I don’t know what Father George looks like so I have borrowed Sir Alec Guinness in the role of Chesterton’s Father Brown as a proxy.

The reason, or answer if you will, is right there in the title of this new Bampfield gem that I discovered today, by searching the YIM Catholic Bookself with the word “scripture.” I think you will enjoy what my friend Father George has to say on this matter. [Read more...]

Because I Love the Bible

Here is a reason that answers the question posed by this blog daily that I’ve never written about yet. So here goes: I love the Bible. Well, duh, Frank you may be thinking, of course you do. Well, let me be more specific. I love the entire Bible and every single book therein, including all the books that Martin Luther tossed out during the Protestant Reformation.

I have some mechanical ability, which I have written about in this space once or twice. And I know a thing or two about removing parts from a motor, or adding them, for example. To make a long story short, you don’t remove parts from an engine, leave them off, and expect the motor to work. Remove a turbocharger from a diesel engine, for example, and you will have a motor than runs, but it will run like a sick dog with absolutely no torque. What’s the point of that?

Of course, the other possibility is that you can add parts to a motor in an effort to make it stronger. “Soup it up,” so to speak. Usually this results in some additional power and fun, but at the expense of the longevity of the motor. In other words, you might make more power, but you will probably wind up grenading the motor as well. Oops.

So when I was coming around to the idea of converting, see, I wanted to know what was the scoop on these “extra” books in the Bible. Like a mechanic, I was wondering if the Catholic Church had decided to throw some aftermarket parts onto the motor, if you follow me. You know, like adding a supercharger to a motor that was already strong.

So I grabbed my souvenir Catholic Bible, from my first failed attempt at RCIA class,  and I started looking at these mysterious books. As a result, I discovered some wonderful passages from books that were in the Bible that I had never heard of. Like the one from the first reading from Mass yesterday:

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength, search not. The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise. Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.

Um, not very scary, is it? As a matter of fact, don’t those verses make all kinds of sense? And there are 50 more chapters of this book to sink your teeth into.  Then I found these verses from the first chapter of the book entitled Wisdom,

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the LORD in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, and his power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin. For the holy spirit of discipline flees deceit and withdraws from senseless counsels; and when injustice occurs it is rebuked.

Wow, I thought. Seek the Lord,  just like it says in Psalm 105, but with a twist for clarity.

For wisdom is a kindly spirit, yet she acquits not the blasphemer of his guilty lips; because God is the witness of his inmost self and the sure observer of his heart and the listener to his tongue. For the spirit of the LORD fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what man says. Therefore no one who utters wicked things can go unnoticed, nor will chastising condemnation pass him by.

Of course! God knows all, sees all. GPS has got nothing on God. It says so right there in 1 Samuel 16:7.

For the devices of the wicked man shall be scrutinized, and the sound of his words shall reach the LORD, for the chastisement of his transgressions; because a jealous ear hearkens to everything, and discordant grumblings are no secret. Therefore guard against profitless grumbling, and from calumny withhold your tongues; for a stealthy utterance does not go unpunished, and a lying mouth slays the soul.

Again, there is nothing strange here. There was a lot of “grumbling” going on in Numbers(14:27), for example, remember? And the command to not lie? That’s right there in the Ten Commandments.

Court not death by your erring way of life, nor draw to yourselves destruction by the works of your hands. Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the nether world on earth, for justice is undying.

I remember clearly thinking to myself after reading this particular passage, “where has this book been all my life?” No wonder I feel immortal, because, gulp (!) I was created to be immortal.  And then I realized there are 18 more chapters in this book too?

And so it goes, as I explored, and continue to marvel at, the wonders of Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, and 1 & 2 Maccabees. The passage in the New Testament that sealed the deal for me was when these verses in Hebrews chapter 11:32-35,

What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders. Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

could only seem to be understood by referring to 2 Maccabees chapter 7:1, 13-14. Take a look,

It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way. When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

And then I learned that all of these books had been in the Bible since the beginning of Christianity. They had been in the Old Testament, but got tossed when Luther decided to toss them. At this point, I had to concede three things. 1) I’m not a biblical scholar; 2) The Catholic Church, the institution that assembled the Bible, is the Authority, and further, it has the Authority to decide what books belong in the Bible and what books don’t; 3) These allegedly disputed books were in the Septuagint, which happened to be the authoritative Old Testament Canon in place while Our Lord Jesus Christ walked the earth.

At Mass today, for example, the gospel reading is from Luke and begins like this,

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.(Luke 4:16-17)

What the passage doesn’t say, of course, is that He could possibly, on a different day of the week, or on a different day of the liturgical calendar, have been handed a scroll from Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, or 1 & 2 Maccabees. These books were in the scrolls too, when God walked upon the earth. I don’t know for sure, but like I said, I’m not a biblical scholar. Which is why I rely, again, on the authority of the Church.

So the mechanic in me was left with only one question to consider. As a Christian, did I want to go along with a stripped version of the motor, the one missing a few parts, with all of the pitfalls associated with that, or go along with the original version of the motor; the one that has all of the original parts, all in the proper place.

It really was not a difficult choice to make for me. Especially after I learned that Luther didn’t like the book of James or Revelation either. Lucky us, he left those in because leaving those “parts” out would have been like forgetting the oil sump pump and the oil pan.

I’ll share something on interpretation of scripture shortly.

Personal Thoughts on the Scandal on a Sunday

To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy assault by fire and close combat.

That short, terse statement is the mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad. I learned it long ago. It was seared into my memory at Parris Island, never to be forgotten. It comes readily to my mind now as more stories of abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests continue to come to light.

Perhaps it is wrong for me to have these feelings, but my first reaction is to fix bayonets and start rooting out these enemy saboteurs. Whispers in the Loggia? I would argue that bullhorns and flashlights in the Loggia are in order. I feel like St. Peter when he whacks the right ear off Malchus when the authorities came to arrest Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.” (John 18:1-10 RSV)

Obviously Peter was attempting to protect Jesus by cleaving the head of this Malchus fellow in two. Quick reflexes saved Malchus, while costing him his ear. In His last recorded miracle before being crucified, Jesus heals Malchus by restoring his ear to him,

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51 RSV)

Our Lord then explained that if He were about to take over the world at that time by force of arms, He wouldn’t need the help of humans to do it:

Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:53-54 RSV)

What does this scene have to do with pedophile priests? Perhaps I just needed to let you know that I am thoroughly disgusted with this ongoing scandal. I feel compelled to wield the sword at them much the way that other regular guy named Peter tried to do there in the Garden of Gethsemane. Call me Joe Sixpack, USMC of the Catholic blogosphere. I pray that Catholics the world over will insist on a thorough and uncompromising investigation of these latest allegations. No one should be immune from investigation and/or  prosecution.

I definitely did not become Catholic because of pedophile priests. When the scandal first broke in the United States in 2002, I wasn’t a Catholic yet. My oldest son was attending our parish school though and as the allegations came to light nationwide, I personally thought that this could be “game over” for the Catholic Church. Not my problem though because I wasn’t a Catholic.

That was my attitude then maybe, but not now. Now my attitude is 8 years of this crap has been long enough. Sure, the barque of St. Peter maneuvers as nimbly as an aircraft carrier, but 8 (others say it’s 10) years to make a course correction?! But wait a second, the ship is on the right course.  The problem is that some of the hands have gone rogue on us and need to be dealt with ASAP. And just when you thought the situation with the crew was under control, up came more allegations of shipmates behaving badly. And not just any shipmates, but officers of the line. In Ireland late last year and now in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Like dandelions in my yard, or zombies…Run!

Wait, on second thought don’t run. Sure zombies aren’t real, but only one thing works on them in the movies. Fire, like from a flame-thrower or a torch. And only one thing works on dandelions in my yard: forcibly extracting them from the ground, root and all, and tossing them in the trash can.

You need to extract them while they are still in full bloom and before the flowers become seeds. If they seed over, you still have to pull them while being very careful that none of the seedlings drop to the ground. Good luck with that. I’ve found that clipping the seed head first and then extracting the weed works best in this case. Ever considered transplanting dandelions removed from one part of your yard to another? Me neither.

I don’t mean to offend anyone’s sensibilities by talking about pedophile priests and associating them with punitive actions like fire, maneuver, forcible extraction, and other harsh words and phrases. But like the warrior King David, my hands are trained for battle and my fingers for war.  I realize that we are talking about sinful human beings just like ourselves. But what of the victims and the anguish and remorse they have endured and are still enduring?

And what of the damage to the Church, the Body of Christ? No one’s reputation or standing is more important than that of the Church as a whole. These words from the book of Isaiah ring loudly,

The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, therefore I will again deal with this people in surprising and wondrous fashion:

The wisdom of its wise men shall perish and the understanding of its prudent men be hid. Woe to those who would hide their plans too deep for the LORD! Who work in the dark, saying, “Who sees us, or who knows us?”

Suggestion: let the sun shine in.  You don’t protect the integrity of the ship by ignoring holes in her hull, you repair them. And you don’t allow malefactors to run amok within your ships crew either. You court-martial them and bust them to private and throw them in the brig.

You see, something else was seared into my brain while I served in the Marine Corps. It’s from the Code of Conduct (bold emphasis is mine):

Article VI: I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

I’m a rookie lay Catholic, but I bet if I tried hard enough I could find a similar Code of Conduct for priests and religious. Yep, here’s one.  Not quite as hard corps as the one in the military. For instance this line from that code (4.5) should really be up there in section 2, Conduct with Minors

All instances of alleged harassment (insert abuse) must be reported at once to the immediate supervisor, Pastor, Parochial Administrator, Principal or the appropriate Diocesan Official.

Um, I suggest calling the police first.  Serious people with guns and badges looking for bad guys tend to get things done a little quicker than the average bureaucracy.  Also, simple stuff like no child left alone with an adult works wonders in Scouting. Is this the protocol in your parish?

To keep up with the news, I suggest you check in with the good folks over at New Advent for the latest stories from the Catholic blogosphere. And there is a news feed over at this site too, which probably won’t win me any admirers either.  So be it.

In closing, even though I haven’t ever personally stooped this low in my own sinful life (there, but for the grace of God, go I), I know that these priests deserve our sympathy, prayers, compassion and love. But they need to be arrested, tried and convicted (if found guilty by a jury of their peers), and then sent to jail for their crimes. This is necessary not only for good order and discipline aboard His Majesty’s Ship but for the good of the entire world.

Now is the time for accountability and transparency. “No more of this!” St. Joseph pray for us!

Semper Fidelis

Thanks to Thomas à Kempis for These Thoughts on Confession

Seemingly, there aren’t enough words to describe the graces we obtain from the Sacrament of Confession. And the number of opinions on this Sacrament are legion, if our poll results and the comments they have prompted are any indication. Webster and I haven’t fully plumbed the depths of this Sacrament yet. For example, we haven’t mentioned Divine Mercy Sunday or the fact that the Sacrament of Confession plays a large role in the diary of Sister Faustina.

And the fact of the matter is no saint on record has ever said,

Look at me! I soar above the heights of the world with the Lord. I have no need of the Sacrament of Confession. Yippee! 

If anything, the importance and necessity of this Sacrament are solidified and bolstered by the saints. St. Teresa of Avila, practitioner of contemplative prayer, writes at length on the importance of this Sacrament and the duty we have of finding a good confessor.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not anywhere near the level of perfection that she obtained while she was here on earth.  If Big Terry says Confession is  important, I listen up.

Although not an official saint, Thomas à Kempis discusses the importance of this Sacrament in The Imitation of Christ. Take a look at these thoughts Thomas wrote down regarding the Eucharistic celebration coupled with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  He is writing here in the character of Our Lord. Notice how similar these phrases are to the ones Sister Faustina reports in her diary (bold highlights are mine),

Do Not Lightly Forego Holy Communion

The Voice of Christ,

You must often return to the source of grace and divine mercy, to the fountain of goodness and perfect purity, if you wish to be free from passion and vice, if you desire to be made stronger and more watchful against all the temptations and deceits of the devil.

The enemy, knowing the great good and the healing power of Holy Communion, tries as much as he can by every manner and means to hinder and keep away the faithful and the devout. Indeed, there are some who suffer the worst assaults of Satan when disposing themselves to prepare for Holy Communion. As it is written in Job, this wicked spirit comes among the sons of God to trouble them by his wonted malice, to make them unduly fearful and perplexed, that thus he may lessen their devotion or attack their faith to such an extent that they perhaps either forego Communion altogether or receive with little fervor.

No attention, however, must be paid to his cunning wiles, no matter how base and horrible—all his suggestions must be cast back upon his head. The wretch is to be despised and scorned. Holy Communion must not be passed by because of any assaults from him or because of the commotion he may arouse.

Oftentimes, also, too great solicitude for devotion and anxiety about confession hinder a person. Do as wise men do. Cast off anxiety and scruple, for it impedes the grace of God and destroys devotion of the mind.

Do not remain away from Holy Communion because of a small trouble or vexation but go at once to confession and willingly forgive all others their offenses. If you have offended anyone, humbly seek pardon and God will readily forgive you.

What good is it to delay confession for a long time or to put off Holy Communion? Cleanse yourself at once, spit out the poison quickly. Make haste to apply the remedy and you will find it better than if you had waited a long time. If you put it off today because of one thing, perhaps tomorrow a greater will occur to you, and thus you will stay away from Communion for a long time and become even more unfit.

Shake off this heaviness and sloth as quickly as you can, for there is no gain in much anxiety, in enduring long hours of trouble, and in depriving yourself of the divine Mysteries because of these daily disturbances. Yes, it is very hurtful to defer Holy Communion long, for it usually brings on a lazy spiritual sleep.

How sad that some dissolute and lax persons are willing to postpone confession and likewise wish to defer Holy Communion, lest they be forced to keep a stricter watch over themselves! Alas, how little love and devotion have they who so easily put off Holy Communion! How happy and acceptable to God is he who so lives, and keeps his conscience so pure, as to be ready and well disposed to communicate, even every day if he were permitted, and if he could do so unnoticed.

If, now and then, a man abstains by the grace of humility or for a legitimate reason, his reverence is commendable, but if laziness takes hold of him, he must arouse himself and do everything in his power, for the Lord will quicken his desire because of the good intention to which He particularly looks. When he is indeed unable to come, he will always have the good will and pious intention to communicate and thus he will not lose the fruit of the Sacrament.

Any devout person may at any hour on any day receive Christ in spiritual communion profitably and without hindrance. Yet on certain days and times appointed he ought to receive with affectionate reverence the Body of his Redeemer in this Sacrament, seeking the praise and honor of God rather than his own consolation.

For as often as he devoutly calls to mind the mystery and passion of the Incarnate Christ, and is inflamed with love for Him, he communicates mystically and is invisibly refreshed.
He who prepares himself only when festivals approach or custom demands, will often find himself unprepared. Blessed is he who offers himself a sacrifice to the Lord as often as he celebrates or communicates.

Be neither too slow nor too fast in celebrating but follow the good custom common to those among whom you are. You ought not to cause others inconvenience or trouble, but observe the accepted rule as laid down by superiors, and look to the benefit of others rather than to your own devotion or inclination.

Several of you have commented about the short lines at the confessional and long lines for Communion. Many complained about priests not motivated to hear their confessions. I’m not saying I don’t believe what I’m reading. Not every parish has uniform hours for this sacrament or uniformly motivated priests to hear them. But this hasn’t been my experience. Keep in mind, I’m a recent RCIA convert. Confession opportunities are plentiful, but especially during Lent. I intend to make full use of them and I hope you will as well.

Semper Fidelis

Because “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Makes Sense

As a relatively new convert to Catholicism (Class of 2008), friends have asked me the following question, “How could you join such a scandal-plagued institution?”

My answer has been something along the lines of what St. Peter said to Our Lord in the Gospel of John (6:67-69) when,

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are The Holy One of God.”

But the painting shown here speaks to me as well. It is entitled A Ship In Need In A Raging Storm and was painted by Willem Van de Velde II in 1707.

Throughout Her history, the Church has been depicted as a Ship. As a Marine, I have an affinity for all things nautical and love the jargon and the feel of all things naval. And I have written before that I read the entire Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien which, in a way, helped soften me up for Blaise Pascal’s assault on my personal beachhead.

The Ship as metaphor for the Church works to answer the question above easily for me. When your ship is damaged, due to weather or as a result of action against an enemy, the command is “man the pumps, clear spars, frother a sail over the hull, beach the ship for repairs,” etc.. The command is not “abandon ship.”

As for the members of the crew who commit acts of treachery, criminal conduct etc? Yes, they must be dealt with internally within the ship (using the Articles of War) and externally through the powers of the state. But again, and consider that I am just an able-bodied seaman (nothing more) writing this, when crises like these erupt, the alarm given is “man overboard!” and a life-line is thrown or a launch put down in the water in order to effect a rescue if at all possible. Sometimes, due to weather for example, this is not possible. But the order is certainly not “scuttle the ship.” Never.

Sometimes the orders and alarm occur simultaneously. And scandals will occur, as they always do. As Catholic Christians, we are called to man our battle stations and stay alert as members of the crew of His Majesty’s Ship. The command is “Don’t Give Up The Ship!”

Semper Fidelis

Because the Real Santa Story is Amazing Enough

I’ve told my children that there is no Santa Claus. I make no apologies about that either. My reason? It takes away from the story of the actual miracle man who is Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.

As I’ve stated before, I’m a newcomer to Catholicism. However, I was baptized when I was ten years old and have been a Christian for (do the math) thirty-six years. So I’m not exactly a newcomer to Christianity.

And I truly believe in the Spirit of Christmas. But I never really knew the true story of Saint Nicholas until I went looking for it. I had no idea that he is commemorated on December 6, the day of his death in 347 A.D.

This guy is amazing! And yet there isn’t much really known about him. We do know that he was the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century. Myra is no longer around, having been superseded by a new city called Demre in the Anatalya Province in Turkey. Here he is in a painting entitled St. Nicholas Saves Three Innocents From Death. The painting is hanging in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. (Note, it is St. Petersburg again, and no longer Leningrad.)

So I have sat all three of my children down (ages 13, 10, and 8) and spilled the beans on Madison Avenue’s version of Santa Claus and the unlimited wish-fulfillment powers of same. (Hey, personally, I love that guy too.) Now, my 13-year-old has known the truth since he was 8. My daughter started getting concerned when she was about 8 and couldn’t see ash footprints or any other convincing evidence of his visit, and my youngest is 8 now so . . . I did what had to be done. I told them the truth.

This has caused a bit of a dust-up within our extended family, and I understand why. You can’t convince kids aged 13, 10, and 8 to continue telling a fiction about Santa Claus to their friends. Well, maybe the 13-year-old, but the 8-year-old will sink the party pronto. This is like a state secret that “need to know” will not keep safe. And that is the concern of certain relatives, which my wife and I fully understand.

But that doesn’t do St. Nicholas justice, nor Our Lord and Savior whom he serves. So if your child comes home from school one day with the idea that Santa isn’t real? Blame my kids. Or tell yours the truth and donate an unwrapped new toy to Toys for Tots.

Semper Fidelis

Because This May Be My Last Mass

Gulp . . . My eyes water, and I get a lump in my throat just looking at this photograph.

That is Our Lord on Iwo Jima, and a priest providing comfort and solace to the sheep of His flock. Young Marines in a crazy, mixed-up, madhouse of a world with death staring them right in the face. Death from a thousand angles, at any second, in diverse manners and forms, all of which are horrible.

How do they do it? I mean function in that environment? The same thing is going on in Kandahar today. How do they do it? I can’t put “it” into words that you would understand—not yet anyway.

One of my favorite Marines in the Marine Corps Roll of Honor is Sergeant Major Daniel Daly, winner of two Medals of Honor. He is famous for saying (as a Gunnery Sergeant) the following immortal phrase—”C’mon you sons-of-bitches! you wanna live forever?”—at the WW I Battle of Belleau Wood.

Looking at this photograph, whether you agree or disagree with the “reasons” for either World War (see our recent post), the Chaplain Corps provides much comfort to us troops. I wasn’t a Catholic when I was serving in the line as a Marine. (Wow, I would seriously recommend it now!) But many of us took advantage of the comfort the Padres provided.

Semper Fidelis


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