Papal intentions for April 2014…

  • Ecology and Justice.  That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
  • Hope for the Sick.  That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

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We walk by faith and not by sight…

In much the same way, we worship actively and not hyperactively. As the life of Elijah shows us, the true and living God is not found in the screams and gyrations of pagan priests summoning their demonic mentors (I Kings 18:21 ff), but in the still, small whisper of His own freely disclosed presence (I Kings 19:1-14). Where sounds fails us, faith prevails in the prayers. Where sight fails us, grace abounds in the unseen light of faith.

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Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! (Khristós Anésti!)

Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! (Alithós Anésti!)

Christos anesti

My wife and joked last night that, while Christ rose from death last night, we’d have to wait until this morning to do so. Handling two infants under three years old for the entire Easter vigil, a time when they would normally be in bed, was by far the most taxing workout I’ve done in a while, and I’ve been training pretty seriously for a while now. It was grueling at times, but I am aware how privileged I am to be able to celebrate the precious Mysteries with my family. The vigil is an irreplaceable liturgical treasure, and I hope all of you were renewed in your faith. (The Sunday morning Mass is good, too, if the vigil is not for you!) I thank God that He brought this foul, weak sinner through yet another year of my life, drawing me ever deeper into His own.

Having said that, I realized again this year that Maundy Thursday may be my “favorite” liturgical celebration of the year. The solemn intimacy of entering the shadows of our Lord’s Passion–a passage lit only by the light of His love, signified by the washing of the disciples’ feet–brings all of Lent into focus for me. (Verily, at one point in that service, I prayed, mournfully, “O Lord, all the things I’ve put You through–!”) I am thankful that the priests at the Mass at which I assisted were free from the canonical adventurism which so commonly obscures and violates the significance of the foot washing. Free from the spirit of lawlessness, only the feet of Catholic men were washed, and only by the pastor.

As I prayed with them, I had an insight about why the ritual is as important as it is violated: “The sacraments are only for those in the Church… but the Church is for everyone.” All are called into Her bosom, but only those who have been delivered into the kingdom of light may enjoy the graces given therein. A prevalent error, by contrast, is to exploit the ritual (as but the primary example among others) in order to say, “Since everyone can enter the Church, therefore we should show how everyone can enjoy the sacraments, and therefore everyone can enjoy salvation, inside or outside the Church.” It’s a subtle but important difference. Certainly, once a person enters through the gate of Baptism into the Church, as the Ark of Salvation, he can enjoy the graces promised therein. Unless he enters, however, it is worse than incoherent to convey the idea that anyone and everyone can partake of the Eucharist as mediated by the priesthood–which is to say, that anyone and everyone will enter Heaven, regardless of his response to the Gospel. In any case, as I say, I didn’t have to deal with such spiritual lawlessness at Mass, and I hope you didn’t either. If a pastor does try to pull one over on you, though, this video from a couple years ago, sets the record straight, and puts things into perspective:

Which brings us back to the great vigil.

While the readings are enriching in their own right–especially the passage from Ezekiel 36:17 ff!–, I believe the high point is the initiation of the candidates. Before our very eyes we see the Body of Christ grow, and we ourselves embrace new siblings in the Faith! The intimacy signed on Maundy Thursday is made manifest on Good Friday, shrouded in silent defeat on Holy Saturday, but then shown victorious in the passage from darkness to light, from death to life, in the great Easter vigil. The sacrificial love which Christ gave to His disciples (on Maundy Thursday) is shown to persist in the sacrificial gifts given by the hands of His priests, when former strangers from God are welcomed to the eternal banquet (on the Easter Vigil). The unity of the Triduum, like the integrity of Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity, must never be sundered. To shroud His love in the “exclusive” cloak of the Church is but to make it habitable for mere mortals, much like God protected Moses from His unmitigated glory by hiding him in a rock. On Maundy Thursday we are reminded by signs and words that those whose feet are washed have been baptized, and (in other words) that those who have been baptized have had their feet lovingly washed by the Master and Servant of all. Mere days later we see this reminder of love actualized in whole, by the sacrament of Baptism, at the hands of a washed priest, and only a little later do we see these spiritual infants fed by the same hands which just washed them from all sin.

Pelosi foot schmoozingYou’re doing it wrong.

Sadly, none of the above applies to those outside the Church. We are still hoping for their conversion, for their restoration, for their homecoming, for their salvation. Let us never trivialize the great difference there is between living in the Church and living in the world, between being a creature of God lost in the world and a true child of God redeemed in the Church! Let us never dilute the saving difference between being inside and outside the Ark of Salvation! Let us always rejoice in the unique and total triumph which Christ has wrought over apathy, absurdity, death, and evil! Meanwhile, let us pray for and beckon those who have not yet had their feet washed in the waters of life, that they may enjoy the graces promised only to those reborn in the Church. Easter is not a single day (sorry, Protestants), but an entire season. May we commit ourselves this season to drawing in new disciples this year, so that by the next Easter vigil, we can see even more souls given seats at the eternal banquet.

On that high note, I leave you with portions of a too little know movie, The Ninth Configuration, written by William Peter “The Exorcist” Blatty. The premise of the film is that a military psychiatrist, himself a practicing Catholic, is trying cure some shell-shocked veterans by engaging in a large-scale role-play. Imagine The Brothers Karamazov meets Catch-22. I learned of the movie a few years ago from a Greek Orthodox blogger, so I claim no originality in citing it. While the clips that follow do contain some harsh language, I think they convey Blatty’s deep insight into how Christ’s Death and Resurrection are the only things which can make sense of and restore the world as we know it. The bad news is that the world is not perfect, on a horrid scale; but the good news is that Christ is perfect, He is irreversibly and inescapably in the world, and He’s not done with the world yet. In other words, Easter is the only thing which can and will redeem our universal Lent.

The key exchange begins at about 5:20 in the first clip, and extends to about 3:20 in the second clip. Enjoy.

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Bring your A-game for IHS…

Holy Week Monday – Thursday Fast – Partial Abstinence. Friday Saturday Fast – Abstinence

Holy_Face_of_Jesus11Holy Monday through Holy Thursday it is Fast (1 Full Meal + 2 Small Meals) & Partial Abstinence (Only Meat at Main Meal).

Good Friday and Holy Saturday it is Fast (1 Full Meal + 2 Small Meals) and Abstinence (NO MEAT at All)

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There will be the usual swarms of “CEO Catholics” (Christmas-Easter Only Catholics) next weekend, so now is the time to devote special attention to the Lord’s passionate mercy for us all. In other words, you can make this a truly Holy Week, or just be Wholly Weak.

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Originally posted on Catholic4Life:


 On March 27, self-described “staunch Catholic” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi excitedly accepted Planned Parenthood’s highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award—named in honor of the eugenicist who founded America’s largest abortion chain. Only days later at a luncheon on Tuesday, April 1, Pelosi was presented with a gift from Pope Francis. 

However, it was not the pope who made this gift to Pelosi. In fact, just last year the Vatican criticized Pelosi’s vehement public promotion of abortion. This gift, a rosary blessed by the Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church, was personally handed to President Barack Obama on the president’s first and likely only state visit to the Vatican. Upon his return, Obama immediately used this precious gift to reward Pelosi. 

One must assume this recognition is for playing the role of Catholic shill for the Obama administration. This regifting of the pontiff’s rosary to Pelosi, who calls pro-lifers…

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Dear Lord in Heaven have mercy on this soul

Codgitator (Cadgertator):

“I wish every prelate in the Church who makes indifferentist statements (and acts) regarding islam would have to sit down for an hour or so to watch such videos (and there are plenty of them) and pray and meditate on what they are doing with their claims that ‘islam is the religion of peace,’ or that ‘islam is a salvific religion like Christianity.’ … The only ecumenism Islam understands is of the sword.”

Originally posted on A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics:

Over the weekend, I saw a chilling, horrendous scene from Syria of a Christian being made to apostasize – making the oath that “there is no god but fake allah and mohammad is his fake messenger” – and then being beheaded anyways.

It was so sad on so many levels.  There is an extremely, disgustingly graphic video of this barbarity.  I won’t put it on my blog. I’ve seen it, but I don’t want want to put it on here. If you really want to see it – and I must tell you, these muslims, they must love being evil, because when they cut off someone’s head, they don’t use a sword and do it in one fell swoop, or even a particularly sharp knife, they take their time about it, so the poor soul actually has time to suffer and even try to resist a bit before expiring –…

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A brief argument against sola Scriptura…

“16 He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. 17 And the seventy-two returned with joy, saying: Lord, the devils also are subject to us in thy name.” – Luke 10

Christ predicated His post-Ascension authority upon the reception of His words by way of His own Apostles. Whoever heeds the Apostles, heeds Christ. Running verse 16 as a modus tollens, it follows that whoever does not hear the Apostles, does not hear Christ.

Now, according to Protestants, we hear the Apostles, and thus the authentic, binding teaching of Christ, solely in the canonical Scriptures. (Who made that canon in the first place is its own famous can of worms, but let’s ignore that problem for now.) The problem is that the Scriptures do not contain writings from all the Apostles. Therefore, with Scripture alone, it is impossible to hear the same Apostles to whom Christ said, “He that heareth you, heareth me.” If the only means by which we can hear Christ is by way of hearing the Apostles, and if the only way we can hear the Apostles is by reading the Scriptures, then the Scriptures must contain the complete voice of the Apostles–yet they do not.

Does this mean that the Apostles were silent, and therefore the voice of Christ fell mute upon the world without their contributions to Scripture? No, for there is a well established means by which all the Apostles authoritatively echoed Christ for our benefits, namely, by the ecclesial Tradition which flowered as a result of their historic missionary efforts.

The objection may be that we still need some canon besides these pillars of Tradition to sort out the complexities of what those apostolic roots–as the voice of Christ–bequeathed to the Church. This, however, is irrelevant because the Church agrees that Tradition is not enough. Just as there is an undivided unity of Persons in God (ad intra), so there is an undivided unity of media by which God as Beauty, Goodness, and Truth is known in the Church (ad extra). Scripture is the Lamp of the Spirit lighting the Way of Tradition, but that Lamp is held by no other Hand than the Magisterium qua the concrete endurance of the Apostles’s foundations. If the Lamp is set down upon the Way, the Church stays in one frame of the Tradition, chained to that patch of the Kingdom (rather like the Eastern Orthodox). The Hand is equally vital for the Journey to the Father. Likewise, if the Hand walks the Way without the Lamp, the Church will wander blindly, rather like Gnostics. Similarly, if the Hand carries the Lamp into the forest simply to enjoy the warm glow without obeying the contours of the Way, it will become lost in the immediacy of its bright but aimless short-sightedness (i.e. Protestantism).

So, while the triune nature of Christ’s headship–Scripture, Tradition Magisterium–does not of itself remove the need for working out apparent contradictions and growth into the truth, it does at least provide all the resources Christ knew we would need in order to overcome any obstacle on the Journey to the Father. Never forget that when Christ said the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church built on the supernaturally faithful Peter, He gave us an offensive mandate, not a merely defensive assurance. As Stephen Beale notes,

Reading hell in this way reverses how we see the gates—the gates are not to be thought of as a monstrous opening from which hell vomits forth demonic armies upon the Church. Instead, the gates of death could be thought of as prison doors that once barred the way to heaven. According to this interpretation, Jesus is saying that the gates of hell can no longer hold back members of the Church—just as they could no longer contain the fathers in limbo.

So, boys and girls, don’t take any bunkum from the powers of darkness, knowing that We Win. To that end, never surrender the trident given us by Our Lord for the Battle: a Traditionally informed Scriptural faith that is obedient to the Magisterium.

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Home alone…

Normally my wife and I don’t watch television. I prefer to watch movies. However, when I can find some quasi-educational television programs, I will give them a try. We don’t have cable, but we do get numerous movies via our annual subscription to a streaming media company. I’ve been abstaining from “enjoyable” movies during Lent (how hardcore, right?), so if I watch anything lately, it’s documentaries. (Well, when I can get a break from my daughter’s fixation with “the big purple dinosaur.”) On a lark last week, once the kids were asleep, my wife and I started watching an episode of Hoarders. (Okay, so my standards for “quasi-educational TV” are pretty dubious.)

After being brought nearly to tears in almost every episode we skimmed/watched, I had an insight as to why it’s such a popular show. Obviously, much of the appeal of the show is getting to gawk at other people’s dirty laundry (literally). But there’s a depth beneath that voyeuristic bathos. (Hardcore Pawn, by contrast, is nothing but bathos.) The reason Hoarders is popular is because it is fundamentally not about people’s garbage, but about families in a nation which is not about families. When the new normal is redefined every TV season, family is a word honored only in the breach. We’re all in it for ourselves, and we’re assured that we can rely on ourselves.

hoarders lady kitchen

Every episode features at least one relative of the hoarder, and the story is almost always the same: X knew that Y had a messy house, but “didn’t know things had gotten so bad.” This raises the obvious question: how can family members let their own kin sink into such isolation and squalor? Each case is unique enough to be compelling, yet there is a common thread which give the series an almost iconic gravitas: X let Y sink because Y can live like he wants and adults can take care of themselves. The eye-popping reality, of course, is that Y cannot take care of himself at all.

You don’t have to be Emile Durkheim or Peter Berger to grasp the problem: the Puritan-libertarian roots of the American ethos, when unmoored from the religious matrix which alone makes subsidiarity sustainable, has grown into a forest of dysfunctional families which are probably best described as a group of mutually best acquainted strangers. Only some cases of hoarding, as shown, are clearly struggles with idolatry–especially, for example, the woman who hoarded thousands and thousands of dolls. More often the struggle is one of compensation. These persons, some of them of already precarious mental health, find themselves increasingly, or perhaps suddenly, isolated and ignored by those persons on this earth among whom they should feel most at home. At some point, in other words, they find themselves at home, but alone–ensconced in material shelter and privacy, and yet inexpressibly vulnerable and isolated. This is the mechanism driving hoarders, I believe. The absence of family is vicariously filled by the presence of trinkets and garbage. These poor souls are literally filling the void of their domesticity with the comforting, irresistible, unflagging and nonjudgmental intimacy of junk. They are quite literally finding love among the ruins. And yet all the while we can see how they are like a bird feverishly and implacably knitting its nest as it falls in the void.

hoarder filth

The spiritual depth involved in such considerations is what makes Hoarders more than prurient voyeurism. There is an eschatological urgency to every episode, and an almost messianic high when The Crew has disinterred the hoarder’s life from a catacomb of his own making. As I say, I’ve only seen a few episodes, but I was struck more than once by the undeniable savor of deliverance at the end of a clean-up.

17 He sent from on high, and took me: and received me out of many waters. 18 He delivered me from my strongest enemies, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. 19 They prevented me in the day of my affliction: and the Lord became my protector. 20 And he brought me forth into a large place: he saved me, because he was well pleased with me. (Psalm 17/18)

To judge by the reactions of many hoarders on the show, it’s no exaggeration to say that the arrival of those clean-up crews is the advent of angels of hope.

While I am not saying that Hoarders is a Christian show, of course, I am saying that its popularity feeds on a submerged Christian instinct: for communion, for freedom, for light, for purity, and for deliverance. If nothing else, it is a superb heuristic for understanding the spiritual life, and, believe it or not, gave my Lent a shot in the arm. We are born into a fetid, sprawling refugee camp. Our parents were hoarders of their own choosing. Their (and our) detachment from God is synonymous with attachment to idols and false securities, and vice versa. We know we belong to a family, under a good Father, and yet we find ourselves estranged even from ourselves. We grow up among, and then ourselves add to, a world of discarded glory. We have abandoned ourselves to an illusory self-sufficiency, yet deliverance is never far off. The angels of God await our whimper from the slag heap, at which point the engines of grace–the Sacraments–come pouring in to deliver us from our free-falling bird nest. If, however, we refuse to detach ourselves from our trashy idols, we shall be wedded to them forever when all such filth is tossed into the incinerator. Nothing unclean shall enter the presence of God; no one obstinately isolated–turned in on himself–shall enjoy the fellowship of the Trinity and the worshipers transformed by triune love.

Do not give up on Lent. Do not isolate yourself from the Church. Do not resign yourself to living among intellectual, moral, spiritual, nor even physical junk. We were made for more. We are not alone. We are not abandoned. Call in the angels. Send in the trucks. Get the rot out. Pour out the filth in confession, flush out the infections with grace, and replace the fetid scraps of sin with the eternal nourishment of the Eucharist. At the final hour, we are either hoarders on life rafts going over the falls, or we are boarders on the Barque that shall never fall. In that sense, hoarders die whores, while boarders die brides.

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