Monday, December 31, 2007

Can God Get Lonely (Part Two)

Well today I only have a couple of short posts as I've been traveling a bit and haven't had the time to get as much done as I'd hoped. This is part two so you may want to read part one before getting too far into this post...

What I love about pantheism is its very rational rejection of many gods in favor of a single God. This single God, however, does not make pantheism a monotheistic religion – in fact, it could even be construed as the religious opposite of Faiths like Judaism and Islam. What differentiates pantheism from monotheism is that pantheism believes God is one with the universe while monotheists believe God is transcendent, that He exists separate from the universe. Some radical monotheists, like founding father Thomas Jefferson, believed that God was so separate from creation that there could be no miracles for God would have nothing to do with the world after the act of Creation.

Though pantheism rejected the absurdity of many gods, to the answer of God’s loneliness comes the rejection of God’s personhood. If God is not a person who cannot think or choose, God cannot be lonely. We would never ask a pool of water: do you get lonely? Thus does pantheism answer the question but at the cost of God’s personhood. This, however, is a very powerful and attractive religion today in the West and is a chief source of the New Age Movement, which preaches an impersonal god that makes no demands upon the believer.

This problem also leads one to wonder at the rise of an ordered universe and the development of the human person. Pantheism teaches that both of these are illusions. For the pantheist, all that exists is the absolutely simple, water-like god and everything perceptible – including you and I – are illusions which need to be overcome. God is thus in everything and everything deep down is God.

Western monotheism, however, would give rise to modern science for the very reason that their transcendent personal God was the source of all that exists. This God is personal, with a mind to reason and a will to act. In creation we will thus find an ordered universe and other personal beings made in God’s image and likeness. Pantheism teaches that your personhood is an illusion; monotheism teaches that you are a unique, unrepeatable individual in search of truth and love. Monotheism works very well to explain the mysterious world around us and the relationships which humans share among each other. Can it hold up, however, to questions about God – especially the question of divine solitude? Somehow Islam and Judaism, two great monotheistic religions, seemed to fall short.

Enter Christianity.

The Commercialization of Motherhood

According to a human rights group, orphans in China are being abused and murdered by a government that refuses to protect them or give them care. Instead, China will do whatever it can to make some money off them. “The brutal treatment of orphans in Shanghai, which included deliberate starvation, torture and sexual assault, continued over a period of many years and led to the unnatural deaths of well over 1,000 children between 1986 and 1992 alone” – that’s only in the city of Shanghai! Online statistics place orphans well above the 100,000 mark in the United States! It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that orphans number in the millions worldwide.

Thus you can understand my displeasure to hear that women in India are being used in the commercialization of surrogate motherhood, getting paid quite a handful to help all those infertile couples in the world. Now I totally understand the desire to have a family but look at all the children in the world who have no home who are facing a life of abuse. I’ve personally been to an orphanage in Cambodia – where the kids ARE treated very well – but they grow up with no family whatsoever. I’m sorry, but if I were married and couldn’t have children, I’d adopt 5-10!

And I haven’t even mentioned the moral implications of surrogate motherhood. The Catholic Church is officially against the act because it denies the unitive element to the matrimonial embrace – in fact, it eliminates that loving union all together! “Wombs for Rent” – or so they’re calling it – also raises another moral question: is it really fair to take poor women off the street and offer them all kinds of money to have babies that aren’t their own and will soon be taken away? Oh yeah, and how many times will these women have children for others and when will they get to have some for themselves? I mean, you can have many kids, but how many times does someone want to go through all that?!

The whole thing sounds sick and twisted. Please people, adopt the children that need you!

Get more here.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Can God Get Lonely? (Part One)

Anthropologists in recent times have made two startling discoveries regarding ancient man. The first is that humanity, in fact, traces its origins to a single human couple – a primeval “Adam and Eve” so to speak. From this first human couple descends modern man. The second amazing fact is that the first generations of man were monotheistic, meaning they believed in a single God. There are few extra-biblical accounts of how the first humans worshiped the one God but we do know that they believed in one God.

Religion today is roughly divided into four groups: monotheism, pantheism, polytheism, and the primal religions of tribal peoples. Though this last group is chock full of myths, superstitions, and generally irrational beliefs, it proves the point that man is by nature a religious being. Man must find some place, plan, and purpose in the cosmos in order to live and thrive. Primal religions gave this on a basic level, attributing to local deities the many wonders of nature. This is the form of religion that the scientific method was supposed to rid the world of. We needn’t think some evil spirit is behind the springtime floodwaters when we understand that they are caused by the melting of mountaintop snow. Neither should read the stars in search of good or bad omens. Yet this particular example is clearly demonstrated by many through the popularity of astrology and other superstitious readings in the modern West. Why would we reach out for such nonsense when we have the scientific method to give us mathematical certainties? The answer lies in the aforementioned fact that man is a religious being. Many people have left the “organized” religions of their youth, skipping church to live the “free” life – only to find themselves in a quest for some higher guiding principle. The rise of astrology in the West’s ever-growing secularism shows how right was G.K. Chesterton when he said: “A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything.” Some may say “God is dead” but the existence of man’s primal religious instinct teaches otherwise.

The rise of the polytheism (which is really one step up from the primal religions in that it is a far more organized system of many deities who control nature and the fates of men) and pantheism stem from the question: can God get lonely? This question, by the way, is a wholly legitimate question that even children ask. Most of the time orthodox parents reply with the non-answer: “We shouldn’t ask such questions, just have faith.” Other parents, whose ideas have been shaped by secular culture say: “Of course God gets lonely, that’s why he made you and me!” Neither answer is acceptable, though in this case a non-answer would be better than a wrong answer. It’s better for a child to look to faith than to a belief which denies God’s omnipotence, for if God needed us then He is obviously not all-powerful!

Polytheism and pantheism are two seemingly logical answers to the above question. Like monotheism, both assume that God does not get lonely – but their answers are radically different. Before we begin, however, it is important to identify the two theological factors which give us the problem in the first place. These are: God oneness and God’s personhood. The first humans believed in a single and personal God. The problem of loneliness – for anyone – simply means that a person is alone, which in turn causes a bad case of loneliness. Now apply this to a God Who must face an eternity of solitude and we have one major theological mess. The key to understanding polytheism and pantheism is to see that each tackles one of the two theological factors, accepting one while denying the other.

For the polytheist, God does not get lonely because God is not one but many. The gods are powerful persons in control of everything with which humans interact. Polytheists, to some extent, understood that if we are personal beings, God must in some sense be personal as well. God can’t give what He doesn’t have – and at the same time, an impersonal universe cannot create a race of personal beings. Personality must go “all the way up” but in this case God is split into many gods in order to keep Him from eternal loneliness.

Coming Soon: Answers from Pantheism and Monotheism

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Go Christina!

So a good friend of mine, Christina Carpenter (a great Catholic, awesome swimmer, and soon-to-be grad from Franciscan University in Steubie!), spent 17 days in Uganda and wanted to do something to help their mass numbers of poor. So it was quite natural for her to raise money via a 20-mile swimathon! I'm very pleased to say that she raised over $20,000 and made it through each and every mile!

Here's a bit from the paper coverage of her swim:

"'My mom had to feed me coleslaw," [Christina] said after the event. "It was too hard to raise my arms.' ...Friends and family members at the event weren't surprised that Carpenter had taken on such a lofty project. 'She's always been the type of person that is willing to help others,' high school friend April Bauer said."

I totally agree with April!

Read the story here!

People of the Book versus People of the Word (Part Two)

Hey guys. Here's a short part II to my earlier post on the concepts of People of the Word versus People of the Book. I'd recommend you read Part One before this so be sure to check it out!

Power was also given to the prime minister of the kingdom, who was responsible for the day to day affairs and spoke in the name of the king, exercising his authority. What’s most important is that the ancient Jews looked to the future when the fullness of the kingdom, king, queen mother, and prime minister – and even Temple sacrifice – would come to pass with the advent of the promised messiah. For Christians the Jewish figures of authority took on a greater dimension with Jesus, the Church, Mary, the Pope, the Apostles (with their successors, the bishops), and the Mass.

It all begins, however, with Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God – and as Christians we are a People of the Word, not of a book.

St. John opens his Gospel by saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the beginning here refers not to the beginning of time but rather to the timelessness of eternity; before anything was made. In fact, St. John also tells us that it was through this Word that all things were made. Jesus Christ, the Word, existed with God and was God, a distinct Person within the Godhead yet one with God in nature. This is the first indication of multi-personal God, an indication which would ultimately culminate with the full revelation of the Trinity as three divine Persons Who each fully possess the one divine nature.

This was a radical idea in the history of religion. It was the first and only adequate answer to the question which caused the first major divisions in world religions: can God get lonely?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Disabled Iraqi Boy Adopted!

Okay I couldn't let Christmas go by without some heartwarming story like this...

Last Friday I posted a YouTube video on the Passion of the Christ (warning: the video contains graphic images). Well I recently came across a story about a service man named Capt. Scott Southworth who served in Iraq and made an attempt to adopt a disabled Iraqi boy after watching the movie. Southworth felt God was calling him to make a difference in this boy's life - who suffers from cerebral palsy. Well, being that it is illegal for a westerner to adopt an Iraqi, it certainly was an uphill battle. Needless to say, the boy now lives with his new father in Wisconsin!

Check it out - and see what Scott Southworth is now doing for living!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

People of the Book versus People of the Word (Part One)

The term People of the Book has loosely been applied to the three great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, referring to a particular holy book as the primary source of the religion’s beliefs and authority. This application has greater credence in the English-speaking western world, composed primarily of Protestants who view the Bible in just that light. For many, People of the Book seems to be an apt description of Judaism as the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) has always played a central role in the lives of Jews, a fact dating prior to the time of Christ. Historically and theologically speaking, however, Islam is the only true People of the Book.

Islam is said to have begun in 622 AD (nearly six hundred years after the birth of Christianity) when Muhammad fled the city of Mecca after being persecuted for preaching his new religion. Muhammad saw himself in a similar way that Buddha and the first Protestant reforms saw themselves: as a prophetic founder who simplified an older religion of its seeming theological contradictions and practices. For Muhammad, simplicity meant the deletion of the Trinity and the Incarnation from Christianity and the addition of the Koran and the five pillars of Islam, while for Buddha it meant the carving away of Hindu polytheism and the addition of the noble eightfold path to enlightenment. Protestants knocked out sacred Tradition and the authority of the Church, replacing them with the far simpler doctrines of scripture-alone, faith-alone, and grace-alone.

The Protestant sects within Christianity are, in the scripture-alone sense, a People of the Book. Like Islam, which has neither a strong Tradition nor central ecclesial authority, Protestantism has broken into many divisions. Islam, on the other had, has suffered few divisions over the course of fourteen hundred years primarily because it is both a religion as well as a political entity, uniting whole countries under its banner. Whereas Islam has split into several solid sects (i.e. the Sunnis and the Shiites), Protestantism, which emphasizes the individual’s relationship with God over the corporate body of believers, has split into thousands of theologically contradictory denominations. Based on that individualistic notion, each Protestant could consider himself his own denomination!

The term People of the Book, however, simply cannot be applied to historical Judaism and Christianity, which both held extra-biblical tradition and authority in high regard. Both religions find their origins in three-fold covenantal promises made by God to Abraham. In these promises God swore to 1) make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation, 2) to raise that nation into a kingdom, and 3) to bring forth a world-wide blessing through the promised king and his kingdom. For the Jews, the first two promises were fulfilled through Moses and David while historical Christians believed Jesus Christ and his Catholic (“world-wide”) Church, which is the Kingdom of God, to be the fulfillment of the third promise. Both ancient Jews and Christians, through the figures of Moses, David, and Jesus, understood that there must be an authority guiding their religion if that religion is to remain unified.

The Jewish concept of authority, however, extends beyond Moses, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Torah, and the Davidic kings to include the queen and prime minister of the kingdom. In ancient times, the particular king could have many wives. This left the choosing a queen an impossible task. It was determined that though a king may have several (or even hundreds of wives) he had but one mother – thus one queen mother. Over the centuries, God would speak to His people through the prophets, but messages would often times be addressed to the king and the queen mother as those in authority over the kingdom. Moreover, the people of the kingdom would look to the queen mother for their intercessory needs, trusting in her relationship with her son for aid and support.

More to come..

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Evangelization and Salvation

I’m currently preparing a presentation for my parish on evangelization and the role the Catholic Church plays in the salvation of the world. Before I get into the topic at hand, I wanted to share with ya'll how excited I am about the presentation as I believe it’s going to get some media attention! Why? Because I’ve been in a war of words in the newspaper lately over this very topic. It’s been generating a good buzz in the community and now we’re looking to capitalize on it and draw some attention to this important topic! So say a prayer and let God’s will be done!

Okay, on to evangelization. One of my first thoughts on it basically comes down to this: if you came across something that changed your life forever, wouldn’t you want to tell others about it? I mean, just look at all those people calling around to get you to vote for so-and-so. And that’s just for some politician – we’re talking about God here. Really, if you can get all worked up over someone who would be in office for eight years at the most, why not get worked up over a God who loves you and wants to give you eternal life?! [An author once said: "We've confused politics and religion. We treat politics religiously and religion politically when we should be treating religion religiously and politics politically!"]

But speaking of eternal life, where does the Catholic Church fit in? Aren’t we all the same deep down? Well not quite! Jesus established one Church, built around the twelve apostles (if you’re not sure of these points, check out Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17) – but particularly gave authority to Peter, the first Pope. Now which Protestant or Orthodox churches have leaders descending from the original twelve apostles and a direct successor of St. Peter? Thank, you’ve eliminated every Christian group or church.. but not the Catholic Church. Sorry guys, but Jesus has one bride not many. He's not a polygamist.

Well, there’s much, much more to be said, but that’s all for now.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Well I'm not sure what I'll be writing today, but I figured I could post a neato picture of the Pope in a santa-style hat. Merry Christmas ya'll!

Speaking of Pope Benedict XVI, he has just released an encyclical on hope called Spe Salvi. If you're looking for some quality reading during the Christmas season, this is it!

Oh yeah, remember the Pope's contraversial speech he gave in Germany a year or so ago? If not, he questioned how rational Islam was or if it were a fundamentalist religion, void of any reason. Mass media got it all wrong (go fig) but Islamic scholars saw it as a challenge to give reasons for their faith - which has thus sparked the largest dialogue between Islam and the West in the past 500 years! Now the group of Muslim scholars has sent a warm "Merry Christmas" letter of sorts to the West. Thanks Pope Benedict!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Words and Meaning

There exists today an ever-growing anthropological dimension to the crisis of faith. No longer do we simply ask: does God exist? We ask rather: what does it mean to be man? The typical response to this question is that we must individually create meaning for ourselves – and if we’re still not sure, look to Hollywood for answers! Many people live the example set by movie stars and live a life in search of lust, wealth, and power, never asking themselves why celebrities like Owen Wilson and Kurt Cobain attempt, or are successful in, suicide. When the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience become unfashionable, society slips into the decay of decadence.

But maybe it’s more than simply being unfashionable. Perhaps, once again, it comes back to meaning. If we could take a pause to remove our glasses of popular culture and secular media through which we see the world, we would discover that we tend to distract ourselves with many little things in order to keep ourselves from asking life’s big questions. People tend to fear asking such questions, afraid of finding no answers. Thus I quote Pope John Paul the Great: “Be not afraid!”

So, what does it mean to be man?

Meaning implies objective truth. For man, objective truth is expressed through words, structured into sentences, and formed into logical arguments. How boring it was for me to learn new words and definitions in school. Little did I know how important words were for discovering truth. Words today are being redefined by pop culture and the secular media. Some words when spoken lack almost all of their original meaning. Describing yourself as “gay” in modern society means something completely different than it did fifty years ago. At the same time, many ideas are being lumped together under one word. Love is a good example of this. To the Greeks, the concept of love was so important that they gave it four different words!

Now take the evangelical counsels for example. Poverty is taken to be simply the renunciation of worldly possessions. This is the new cultural simplification of poverty. We forget that poverty applies to the spirit as well as to the body. The first beatitude is: blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poverty is the key to hope, which recognizes that God is the source of our happiness and it is only through His help that it can be acquired. Chastity today has been reduced to meaning abstinence. Just say no to sex – as if it were dirty! Chastity is the key to love because through chastity we see people as ends and not as a means to selfish gratification. Lastly, the new definition of obedience means “wussing out” and sacrificing individual freedom. Rather, obedience means recognizing you’re not number one. Obedience is the key to faith – as a matter of fact, the Catechism talks about the “obedience of faith” which refers to the acceptance of God’s self-revelation because He who reveals is truth itself (remember, it’s the truth that sets one free!). If God reveals it, who am I to disagree with it? That, however, is exactly what has happened. From gay marriage to abortion; from embryonic stem cell research to the ordination of priestesses. All these originate from the redefinition of words like poverty, chastity, and obedience.

But more importantly, society has redefined what it means to be man – and when we do so, we redefine morality. Once morality is redefined, beauty is lost. For example, if man is no longer made in the image and likeness of God but is simply an animal, he is not free to choose between being good or being bad – as a matter of fact, he is no longer good or bad. This reduction of man to beast leaves no hope of sanctity, for a saint is a saved sinner – and animals lack the freedom to sin. Beauty likewise is reduced to the body because a godless society believes in no individual, imperishable soul. And we thought we beat communism!

The truth of the matter is: when we reduce the meaning of words we lose whole thoughts and ideas. Chunks of reality disappear because the words which described them are no more. When we redefine man and the meaning of life, we become subhuman – and damned. The addict and failed-hobbit, Gollum, is not just a make-believe creature in The Lord of the Rings, hell is full of them.

What we need today is to look truth in the face, to see ourselves in light of it, conforming ourselves to truth instead of trying to conform truth to ourselves. We may be able to bend nature to our wills when it comes to using the scientific method, but in the world of the spirit it is we who shall bend – or else break! Conformity to truth, however, seems so impersonal and abstract. Perhaps this is something that philosophers like Socrates and Plato would enjoy, but it seems too difficult for modern man.

But what if I told you that truth was, in fact, personal – and that this personal truth became a human being like you and me? St. John calls this truth “the Word of God” (John 1:1). We’ve spoken about the importance of words and what it means to be man; here is the one eternal Word which contains all the truths we could speak with our many words, who became man in order to show us what it means to be man. The incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, is looking at you. Will you look into the eyes of truth, accept reality, and begin to find meaning to your life?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tony Blair Leaves Anglicanism!

In a not so stunning move, ex-prime minister Tony Blair joined the Catholic Church Friaday after months of speculation from secular and religious media alike. His joining the Church comes six months after leaving office, to which no Roman Catholic has held since its creation in the 18th century. Blair now joins the ranks of famous Brits, like J.R.R. Tolkien and Cardinal Newman, who have left the Anglican church for Catholicism.

That being said, Blair has been a contraversial leader, angering liberals for his staunch support of the war in Iraq while angering conservatives for his views on abortion (among other moral issues). Regardless of this, my prayers are with him as he enters the Church of Christ.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Apostle at Bethlehem

Well I have to admit, it was a crazy day today (now yesterday) and I'm a bit too tired to write much. It began with Mass with the new Archbishop, visiting the school I teach at: Bethlehem Academy. Archbishop Nienstedt began his homily by saying that it was fitting that he should come to 'Bethlehem' five days before Christmas! I thought it was extra neat being that he is a direct successor to one of the twelve apostles and he was here instructing us and drawing us closer to Christ and His Church.

After Mass, he took a couple hours to meet with the seniors, answering many of their questions, ranging from "why did you become a priest?" to "Would you deny the Eucharist to pro-choice Catholic politians who refused to live out their Faith in their work?" (he said "yes" to the latter question!). Anyhoo, I'm always engergized when I see the successors of the Apostles at work!

Friday, December 21, 2007

In Your Honor

Before you play this video, be aware that it contains graphic images from Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. As you watch, you will definitely notice the music in the background - which is one of my new favorite songs by the Foo Fighters, called In Your Honor. I'm not sure if it's the right music for the piece, but I thought it was interesting.. oh yeah, and I wanted to see if I could get YouTube videos to work in my blog!

This video takes me back to my Alabama days when my mom informed me that Jim Caviezel was in town preparing to take on the role of Christ. At the time I didn't know who he was and when I heard the movie was going to be in foriegn languages I figured only a handful of devout Catholics would watch it.

Six months later my evangelical friends were raving about the previews and I knew I missed the boat!

On the other hand, it seemed that evangelicals flocked to this movie more than Catholics, despite the fact that Pope John Paul II gave it his thumbs up. I think this is because evangelicals lack much artistry in their worship. Catholic churches (at least prior to Vatican II) were filled with the most beautiful art, making the story of salvation quite vivid - just look at a crucifix!

Catholic art isn't around to be idolotrous but to be human! We need to worship not only spiritually but also physically. Art, therefore, keeps us real, not to mention puts us in the mood to worship God! Evangelicals, and the many other believers who saw the movie, were hyped to worship God as they came out of the theater - which is exactly what Christian art is supposed to do.

And if your in the mood to be with God right now (and being since it's Friday), pop in The Passion of the Christ and use it as you're praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary!

The Blessedness of Christmas

I was recently peering at an image of Santa Claus in his sled, flying across the sky as his eight reindeer took him around the world, helping him to spread his wonderful blessings. For some reason, I thought of a spiritual meaning for all that.

First off, everyone knows that Santa Clause is named after St. Nick (a wonderful Catholic saint!); so the first thing we should think of is sanctity. But how do we receive sanctity? Well, one important way to go about santity is through the beatitudes. Live the beatitudes and sanctity will come to you - rather like the eight reindeer bringing you St. Nick! But what sort of blessings will we recieve; are they always expensive gifts and do they always come in fancy boxes? The key is the Greek word eudaimonia ("blessedness") which means a lasting state ("ia") of spiritual ("daimon") goodness ("eu"). Guess what? Jesus used eudaimonia when he gave us the beatitudes!

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice:
for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called
the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Which beatitude are you in most need of today?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Taking Jesus to Vegas

Though there is much more to come on the M&M’s I spoke of earlier, I remembered an analogy about faith in Jesus, encountering him in a one-time, slam-bam sort of way. “I’ve found Jesus!” they say. To this I reply, “Great! But this is just the beginning of a committed relationship.”

In the Catholic Church, there is a process of conversion which for many begins with something called the RCIA. It stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Conversion means drawing into a deep relationship with God, becoming like Him so that one day we can see Him face to face, as He truly is. Like any relationship, however, this takes time. It begins with a period courting. In RCIA we call this the precatechumanate. I am right now working with a group of people in this phase of conversion. They are exploring the Faith, learning more about God and His Word (and the Church which is this Word’s Body – and this Church is living and active through the work of God’s Spirit!).

Next comes the catechumenate. This is much akin to an engagement period prior to the marriage. Faith can be expressed both vocally and internally. This period draws candidates (those on their way to becoming Catholic) closer to Christ and, as with engagements, creates a longing for Him – a total relationship of love and communion. In marriage, this is expressed through the vows of the wedding but with completion in the act of consummation whereby the two become on flesh. In conversion, this happens typically at the Easter Vigil Mass with the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation.

Baptism and Confirmation come first, establishing the relationship in a real, physical way. The relationship is consummated, however, in receiving the very flesh of the Word incarnate – we enter into a one-flesh union with our Lord and Savior becoming both His bride and His body.

But even this is a beginning. Like marriage, it takes time and commitment. Now, how do we know if we are growing into a deeper relationship? First, receive the sacraments often – especially the Eucharist and Confession (which I’ll talk more about later). Generally speaking, love is: free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Keep these words in mind when you’re in any relationship! For instance, ask yourself: Am I really in a free relationship or am I in an addictive (emotionally and/or physically) relationship? Love must be freely given AND received.

The fact is, saying “I believe in Jesus” and thinking that your relationship is a done deal with no more to do, you’re, in a sense, taking Jesus to Vegas for a quick (and weak) marriage. Who wants that?

If you want stability, commitment, and joy, join the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Materialism and Mysticism: The M&M’s of Delusion

Philosophy identifies three important “transcendentals” which form a Trinity of sorts: truth, goodness, and beauty. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. What you may not know, however, is that they are ontologically connected. That means that beauty is rooted in goodness which is in turn rooted in truth. Truth determines what is good and goodness determines what is beautiful. Saints are beautiful because they are good and they are good because they live according to the truth. We act according to what we are.

What’s so wonderful about Catholicism (okay there are way too many things that are wonderful about the Church to limit it to one!) is that she sees things as they really are. This means that it is only in the Catholic Church that you can find the fullness of life. Though you may find some profound truths in other religions, they each miss something terribly important about what it means to be man. This is true of Protestants, pantheists, polytheists, and pig-headed atheists.

Now as the title indicates, I’ve broken the symptoms down into two categories: materialism and mysticism. Both have limited interpretations of reality and humanity. Materialism, in general, stresses the material world around us. Radical materialism rejects the existence of spirit, teaching that reality is only what you can experience with your senses and discoverable through the scientific method. Mysticism, on the other hand, stresses spirituality over the material world. Extreme mysticism rejects the existence of matter, calling it an illusion to be overcome through spiritual enlightenment. This is the reason why science grew predominantly in the Christian West and not in the Orient.

Catholicism sees and unites both matter and spirit because both are good in themselves and both make up the nature of man. Our divided world has attempted to divorce faith and reason. Atheists sided with “reason alone” while Protestants sided with “faith alone” – neither has the slightest idea of what faith and reason truly are! The late John Paul II described faith and reason as the two
wings of a bird flying upwards toward God. Materialists and spiritual mystics are grounded to the earth, not chained down by God but wounded rather by their own self-mutilation.

Catholicism sees the truths of reality. Everything else sees partial truths and delusions.

Identifying the Symptoms and the Disease

As you already know, I’ve been writing a series of posts on encountering the Word of God. This dynamic encounter not only changes your life, but it also changes the direction of the culture and the world. Thus I would say that the Word of God, that is, Jesus Christ, is the answer to all our questions (By the way, asking questions is a quest. I tend define life as the quest to find something worth dying for. Now if Jesus is the answer to all our questions, He thus gives meaning to life and worth to death). Jesus is the antidote to our problems.

But, as most of my friends will tell you, I have a tendency to jump the gun a bit! I really should put us in reverse and mention the fact that: 1) there is a problem and 2) there is a cause to the problem. There’s an illness lurking about. First we must understand the symptoms and dig our way to discovering the illness – only then can we address the cure, that is, the Word of God.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Providence: Encountering the Word of God

In a recent post I spoke briefly about God the Son taking upon Himself our death so that we may find life. I’d like momentarily to post on the role of God’s saving plan, foreordained prior to the foundations of the very universe we live in.

But first of all, I want to confess that though I love and teach about God’s providence, I haven’t always been a big fan of it in practice. You see, I grew up in family that moved quite frequently. In fact, I’ve lived in five different states and attended four different high schools (one each year). Experiencing all that meant that I had very little control over anything growing up. Now that I’m an adult, I have gravitated towards control over my own destiny, perhaps more so than the average person. I’ve become a pretty good long-range planner and really want to be prepared to get where I want to be in life. That’s good and all, but faith, like any relationship, doesn’t work that way – it’s just too dynamic for extended planning.

I started thinking more about all that after I realized that I didn’t even like the good surprises God threw at me! In my mind I thought: if such great things can happen to me clear out of the blue, what bad things could happen? I was almost to the point of desiring to do away with the good and the bad simply so that everything could be reduced to a simple formula or probability. But again, it doesn’t work that way. Of course, this led me to think about Buddhism which sees life as personal suffering – and what is their cure? Simply put, it is the annihilation of the individual. If you as a person do not exist, you will feel no suffering. This philosophy, like the deterministic philosophy I was accidentally toying with, totally denies what it means to be man – they are not sufficient answers to life’s questions!

The fact is God has a plan for all of us. It is woven into an epic story called “salvation history” (His Story), and we ALL have a role to play in it! And never forget, we can choose to be great heroes or great villains! Either way, God’s story of our salvation is ordered and structured. A plan, especially a plan encompassing, well, everything, is never hashed out without any structure or thought behind it. The same is true of this plan.

One word to remember is the word: economy. Though you may be seeing dollar signs when reading that word, the Greek word from which we get “economy” is oikonamia which means a father’s loving plan for his family. So next time you read about the economy of salvation in the Catechism, know that it is referring to the Father’s plan for our salvation.

So what does this all have to do with encountering the Word of God? Everything. First of all, recall from my earlier post that it was through the Word that God ordered all creation and that it is through the Word incarnate that creation is re-ordered. What is so important is that God’s ordered plan takes shape through the Eternal Word.

What is now so encouraging to me is that through my baptism, I have entered into this Word in a such dynamic way that my life, both its pains and joys, are shaped by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of that Word incarnate. Everything that happens to us is part of God’s oikonamia, His loving plan for our salvation. When you see life that way, both the joys and the sorrows are blessings.

Monday, December 17, 2007

New CDF Document!

Well, if you didn’t already know, CDF stands for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It gives solid answers to Catholics about theological questions. When the CDF speaks, it carries a lot of weight! Oh yeah, it’s names used to be the Inquisition – and I’m sure you’ve heard of that!

Anyhoo, last summer the CDF released a document on the Church and reaffirmed the fact that the one true Church Christ established is found in its fullness in the Catholic Church. Why is this? First of all, the Catholic Church received her authority from Christ, through the Apostles, who gave us the bishops as their successors. Protestants do not have this apostolic succession – which is critical even in being called a “church”. Hence, the Catholic Church’s teachings on Protestantism is that there are no Protestant “churches” but rather “ecclesial communities” – this is because they lack the apostolic aspect of the Church; you can’t be an apostolic church without succeeding the apostles!

Well the new document takes us to the next step: Catholics are called to evangelize by both deed and WORD. Many Catholics use a copout quote of St. Francis (who’d be angered by what these Catholics think he meant): “Always preach the Gospel, sometimes use words.” Logically, St. Francis is saying that at some point, you WILL have to use words – the problem is that most Catholics do not know the words to speak when the time comes. And this isn’t simply a problem of catechetics, it’s also a problem of grace. Jesus was always driven by the Holy Spirit – and we need His help in finding the right words to use when the time comes to speak! People are not math equations and apologetics is not a set of variables; we need the Spirit to help us speak with the power and authority to win souls for Christ, not clever arguments.

So Catholics HAVE to evangelize. This means study and prayer, the two things Catholics have been utterly failing at for the past 40 years. On that note, is should make sense then that this new document was issued by the CDF (which helps us study) in conjunction with Cardinal Arinze, who heads the Church’s liturgy (i.e. worship/corporate prayer).

And to wrap things up, here’s a pointed quote from Cardinal Arinze (who almost became pope, by the way) on Catholics and evangelization:

"Indeed if a Christian did not try to spread the Gospel by sharing the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ with others, we could suspect that [this] Christian either of lack of total conviction on the faith, or of selfishness and laziness in not wanting to share the full and abundant means of salvation with his fellow human beings."

Okay, one more point: the new document says that faith is just as important as the material goods of the body. For someone to down evangelization they should also down giving food to the poor. Remember, man does not live on bread alone but by every WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God. In the Eucharist we have the bread of life, the very WORD of God in the flesh. If we eat this bread we will live forever. But it has to start with evangelization and conversion.

Get the document!


Our modern crisis of culture arose, in my opinion, with the establishment of divorce by King Henry VIII during the Reformation. Most of my non-fundamentalist Protestant friends think that marriage is a sacrament in their church. Unfortunately, it is not. Lutherans, for instance, believe only in baptism and the Lord’s supper as being sacramental.

Divorce destroys the sacramentality of marriage.

This is so because sacraments are sacred covenants – in fact, the word sacrament means “oath” and oaths are sworn in covenants. Covenants, unlike contracts, are forever. Contracts exchange goods for services, covenants are exchanges of persons to make families.

There are two particularly important oaths/sacraments in the Church that emphasize communal relationships: Holy Matrimony and the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a foretaste of the consummation of our relationship with God, we the bride and He the bridegroom. Marriage is a mysterious participation in this relationship, the husband imaging the role of God and the wife imaging the role of the humanity and the Church.

Scripture is very clear about both. The Old Testament, particularly in the prophet Hosea, speaks of a marriage between God and man. In forging this family relationship, God swore a series of covenant oaths, keeping them faithfully, even when we failed. Our failed oaths led to death – not our deaths, but the death of His Son, through Whom we could be reconciled to God and receive the strength of His Spirit to be faithful to the covenant.

Notice how in this sense, we see that we use the word “fidelity” to describe our covenantal relationship with God as well as with our spouse. Marriage should always be a sign, pointing us to the love that God has for us. This is particularly true for the husband who images the self-sacrificial love of Christ on the cross. How many wives live with husbands who cannot image this love? How many children lose faith in God the Father when their own earthly fathers fail so miserably?

It comes back to faith and sacrament, both are God’s gift to mankind. Jesus said that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; hence we need faith and sacrament. Our Protestant brothers and sisters look especially to faith – but this is only the first step. Only in the Catholic Church can we partake of the sacramental fullness God longs to grant us. And for we westerners, it is only in the Catholic Church that can we find marriage at is best.

Encountering the Word of God

So lately I posted on the folly of Protestantism and its use of sola scriptura. On that note, I’d like to start a series of posts on the Word of God. First let me begin by saying that the Word of God is not simply a nice little book that we can pick up whenever – but is rather a Person Who has the power to change your life! I first encountered God’s Word shortly after my birth. It was at my baptism. At that point, I was born again as a son of God in the One and only begotten Son. This Son I speak of is also called the Word of God. It was this Word which emptied Himself, becoming like us to redeem us and raise us up as the children of the living God. This Word baptized me with fire, transforming me through the power of His Spirit. Now that’s what I call an encounter with the Word of God!

[Note: Christians of all centuries believed in baptismal regeneration. Most fundamentalist Christians today see the sinner’s confession of faith as the moment of rebirth, the “born again” experience. It was St. Peter himself who said: “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). Infant baptism is especially historic. Just as circumcision was given to infant males in the Old Covenant, baptism is given to infants in the New. For the early Christians, the question was not over whether or not to baptize infants but whether or not they had to wait until the eighth day as was the custom for circumcision with the Jews! By the way, the eighth day was a symbol of eternity and salvation – Sunday in the New Covenant has become the eighth day, not the first day, and most baptismal fonts come with eight sides. Oh yeah, and how many people were saved through water in the days of Noah? See 1 Peter 3 for more!]

It was through the Word that all creation came to be. In Trinitarian theology, we would say that God the Father spoke the words of creation through the Son, whose words were carried forth upon the breath of the Spirit. I like to think of the three great miracles of creation: 1) that things exist at all; 2) that what exists is ordered and makes sense; and 3) that of the ordered things there exists life. To the first we attribute the work of the Father, creator of heaven and earth. In the second case we have God the Son, the Word of God, Who orders the things God the Father brought into being. Lastly we find ourselves before the Holy Spirit, who is the “giver of life” according to the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed (which we usually just call the “Nicene Creed”).

Okay, so I’ve mentioned the Trinity – but what makes the Word of God, that is, God the Son, so central? Sin. Sin causes disorder, the breaking down of the fabric of creation. Since it was through the Word of God that order was created, it would be through this Word that order will be restored! What’s more, sin is not simply a human thing. Angels sinned first. By the way, this makes matter inherently good and the spirit quite dangerous. People today have it totally backwards when they condemn their “wicked” bodies or despise their emotions and desires – these things are only twisted by sin, which is fundamentally a spiritual affliction which enters into the realm of matter through our bodies.

What we see in Christ is not only a battle fought to redeem mankind of its sins, but the cosmic battle against evil itself pouring over into our physical realm. God could have given the knockout blow to Satan before ever coming to Earth to redeem man – but He chose instead to wage His spiritual war through His physical body! It is this body that we were baptized into and it is this body that we partake of, and are transformed by, when we receive the Eucharist.

Catholics do not reject scripture as the “Word of God” – we just define the term in a bigger, more cosmic way. In fact, everything is bigger and more cosmic when you’re Catholic. When you become Catholic you can never look at the world the same way again!

More to come!

Spe Salvi

As you know, my name is Andrew. I’m named after St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of St. Peter (the first Pope) and the first to respond to the call of Christ. You could just imagine how stoked I was that Pope Benedict XVI promulgated his new encyclical Spe Salvi (“By hope we were saved”) on the feast of St. Andrew, November 30th!

So why an encyclical on HOPE on the feast of St. Andrew?

Well, the Pope very much HOPES for a reunion between the Eastern Orthodox Christians with Rome, ending a schism which has last for 950 years! It just so happened that Benedict was visiting Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Eastern Orthodox Constantinople, on November 30th. According to the Eastern Orthodox, Bartholomew I is the direct successor of St. Andrew the Apostle – which means the successors of the brothers Andrew and Peter were together as the Pope gave the world an encyclical on hope!

I sincerely hope that by 2054, the 1000-year anniversary of the East-West split, the two will be reunited. Hmm.. that’ll mean there will be about 1.7 billion Catholics and only about 300 million Protestants in the world. HOPEFULLY soon there will be ONE Church and the world will finally be able to believe in Christ (at least according to Jesus’ prayer in John 17, that is)!

Check out Spe Salvi!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Folly of Protestantism

Okay, so I was in the paper a few days ago about Catholics and the Bible. First of all, I want to say that Catholics are definitely into the Bible! We have been for 2,000 years and don’t let anyone else tell you differently!

My beef with Protestantism is it’s assumption that sola scriptura (the Bible alone as the source of saving truth) is at odds with sacred tradition and an infallible Church. I have to admit, Protestantism seemed really interesting to me when I first encountered it. When you think about its simplicity, in comparison to Catholicism that is, you’d think you’ve found the right place. The problem is, when you reduce everything to the Bible alone you end up not being able to settle any arguments over interpretation.

Protestants like to say that the Bible is easy to read and understand – and some say that it even interprets itself! All I can say is that if the Bible is so easy to use for doctrine, then why are there over 20,000 theologically contradictory Protestant sects? Protestantism failed the minute it started.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Pseudo-Attractiveness of Atheism

I have no time for secular humanist atheists – like Nietzsche in the not so distant past and the many “intellectuals” of today (who usually are all Democrats!) that indoctrinate our children. I do however, respect atheists like Sartre. What differentiates the two?

Nietzsche and his intellectual descendants believe that there is no God telling us what to be and do and that somehow means that mankind can give meaning to the world, becoming supermen with technology and power. This is the stuff that Marx, the founder of Communism, and Freud, the founder modern psychology, ate up and propagated.

Sartre, on the other hand, saw everything as fundamentally meaningless without a God to give things meaning. Sartre is much more right and realistic than his romantic counterpart Nietzsche. If you are meaningless in yourself, than there is no way you can give meaning to other meaningless things. You can’t give what you don’t have.

But why, you may ask, do I call atheism attractive? Well to me, there are only two possibilities: Catholicism or Atheism. I don’t say this because I grew up Catholic; I say it because it is the only two logical choices. All other forms of religion, from Protestantism to Pantheism, are fundamentally flawed (in my next post, I’ll talk about Protestantism). Either Catholicism, with her rich teachings on liturgy, the Eucharist, Mary, Purgatory, and the like is true – or nothing is true at all and everything is without meaning.

Before I go, I thought I’d mention one other quick point or two Sartre came across. First off, he fully understood what the absence of God meant for morality: there can be no moral law without a moral lawgiver! His ultimate problem was a problem of love. He believed life would have meaning if there were such a thing as love. Love here means not simply an emotion – emotions are caused by our bodies and we are not in control of which emotions come to us (though we do control how we ACT in response to those emotions). Jesus would have been insane to command us to love our enemies if he meant it in an emotional way! True love sticks it out against all odds, feelings, and enemies. Sartre knew this and rejected it because he knew of no human who lived up to it’s full meaning. He didn’t know Jesus and Mary! If you want to know what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman, look to Jesus and Mary!

Notice it all comes back to meaning! Where do you find yours?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Welcome to 3AMusins!

Welcome to the blog! Here you'll find some of my random musings I thought up around 3 AM! I would put some things up here about me but I think you'll get more information on me by just reading my posts!