I recently made a short video based on President Obama’s comments last month at the National Prayer Breakfast (see the image I made here):
Archive for March, 2009
Recently, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island wrote an article entitled “Jesus Wasn’t Always Nice.” The purpose of the article was to address critics of his who didn’t like an article he wrote a while back criticizing President Obama. Bishop Tobin reminds us that the real Jesus is often not like the Jesus of popular imagination; he can be harshly critical of others and does not shy away from challenging those who contradict his teachings.
One the primary reasons I am writing Who Do You Say That I Am? is to counteract the false images of Jesus that permeate our culture – including our churches. In reality, these false images have often become false idols that we set up to give us a Jesus who will agree with us and accept our faults and sins. But the real Jesus loves us too much to simply “accept us where we are” – he want us to be where he is.
If you read the Gospels carefully, you see that Christ’s contemporaries did not have such a limited view of him. They often saw him as a prophet in the mold of Elijah, Jeremiah or John the Baptist. When we think of those figures, we think of harsh men who challenged their people and called them to repentance. If Jesus was compared to them by those who knew him, isn’t it likely that he too was such a prophet?
According to this story, the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion have been invited to Rome for Easter. If you remember, this is the ecclesial community of 500,000 members that has asked to be united to the Catholic Church. I can’t help but hope that this is a sign that a major announcement will take place soon regarding those efforts: Pope Benedict has made clear that he is willing to take concrete steps towards union with other ecclesial bodies, and rumor is that he would love to announce this union during the year of St. Paul, which ends in June.
Pray for all involved that union might take place soon!
The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, has come up with an astonishingly successful incentive to counteract the country’s plummeting birth rate.
To encourage families to have more children the Patriarch has promised to personally baptize any baby born to parents who already have two or more children.
What a wonderful idea! I think Catholic bishops should take it up, especially in Europe. Heck, with the low birthrates on that continent, the Pope could probably promise to personally baptize any 3rd baby in a family!
Perhaps I can convince Archbishop Wuerl would baptize our next child…
Every day I pray the Angelus with my family; it is one of the best parts of my day. Sometimes, however, our schedules are such that I cannot pray with them.
Recently I set up Speech Recognition on my MacBook to respond to voice commands such as “Save this document”, “Open my browser” and “Get my mail.” It is pretty cool and definitely brings out the inner Geek in me.
How are these two things related? Watch this video to find out:
I’ve uploaded my reflection on this Sunday’s readings, in which I examine the role of suffering in our path to salvation.
A common misconception about St. Paul is that he did not have a sacramental view of salvation. Many today, including more than a few Catholics, believe that Paul taught a sort of “proto-Protestantism” in which faith is the only necessary component of salvation, and things like the sacraments are at best “extras” which are not an integral part of the Gospel. I’d like to recommend two resources to show the fallacy in that assumption.
In St. Paul: A Bible Study for Catholics, Fr. Mitch Pacwa details Paul’s teaching on six of the seven sacraments (Paul doesn’t mention the anointing of the sick in any of his surviving letters). It is a short, readable book that quickly dismisses the idea that Paul didn’t accept the importance of the sacraments in the Christian life.
Also, I wrote an article last year titled Paul and the Sacraments in which I examine Paul’s teaching on the role of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist in his concept of salvation. An excerpt:
The sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist did not originate with Paul, but instead were already established within the Christian Church of his day. Paul himself was baptized (Acts 9:18), and he assumes it as a common experience of Christians (Rom 6:1-4, Gal 3:26-28). Likewise, when speaking of the Eucharist, Paul states clearly that it is something he “received” (1 Cor 11:23), not something he invented. While it is true that in the Pauline corpus, there is little detailed discussion of these two sacraments, this is due to the nature of his letters, which were written to address specific topics and controversies of the communities to whom they were addressed. One can deduce from the content of Paul’s letters that he did not feel the need to address controversies regarding a “sacramental theology.” When Paul does address Baptism and the Eucharist, it is almost always in an ethical context.
However, it would be a mistake to assume from this that these two sacraments are unimportant to Paul, or not an integral part of his theology. When it suits his argument, Paul does not hesitate to use the realities of these sacraments to further his view. Some point towards Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 as evidence that he denigrated Baptism. However, this passage is not a statement on the essential role of Baptism in the Christian life, but instead simply a reminder from Paul that his specific mission from Christ is to “preach the gospel” (1 Cor 1:17), not to administer Baptism. Furthermore, one must understand the context in which these letters were received and read. Paul’s letters are typically intended for a specific ecclesia (1 Cor 1:2, 2 Cor 1:1, Gal 1:2, 1 Thess 1:1, 2 Thess 1:1, Philem 1:2). Meeks and especially Zizioulas show that, for Paul, an ecclesia is specifically the Eucharistic gathering of the community of believers. Thus, the context of the reading of Paul’s letters is within the Eucharistic liturgy. Thus Paul does not build a true “sacramental theology;” nevertheless these two sacraments are fundamental parts of his overall theology of salvation.
For Paul, both Baptism and the Eucharist are a participation in the saving works of Christ which bring about an incorporation and union with Christ and a corporate union with all other believers. These effects have ethical implications for the believer, and ultimately point towards the parousia, when Christ will come again and bring all his followers into his kingdom.
In this year of St. Paul, it is good to try to set the record straight about what he really taught!
Father Robert Stanion, a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, passed away this week.
From the Friars’ website:
Father Robert Stanion, CFR, passed away on Monday, March 23, 2009, in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was one of our founders and had been stationed at San Juan Diego Friary in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Fr. Robert was born on April 1, 1947 in Boston, MA. He entered the Capuchins on March 18, 1966 and made his final profession on May 8, 1972. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 16, 1992. He was an expert on rocks, precious stones, herbs, flowers, cooking, saints, eastern Christianity and many other things. His holiness and Franciscan joy will always be remembered by those who knew him.
We thank you for your prayers for our dear Fr. Robert, and we ask you to continue praying for his family and the entire CFR community.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Yesterday, for the feast of the Annunciation, I attended Divine Liturgy at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia. I attend Holy Transfiguration a few times a year, and I am always glad when I can make it. For those unaware, the Melkites are one of the 23 “sui juris” churches that make up the Catholic Church. Most people are aware of only one of these churches – the Roman one – because its members make up the vast majority of the overall Catholic Church. However, the Eastern Catholic churches are a vital and important part of the universal Church. Most of them historically were created when members of an Orthodox church decided to reunite with the bishop of Rome. For example, the Melkite Church was formed out of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
If you have never attended an Eastern Liturgy, I urge you to do so. It is beautiful beyond description. The title of this post is a quote from the 10th century ambassadors of Vladmir, the prince of Kiev, who were traveling the world trying to determine which religion was true based on how they worshipped God. The quote was their description of the Liturgy of St. Sophia in Constantinople. And it is a true statement: nothing is more heavenly on this earth than an Eastern liturgy.
Personally, I am somewhat diverse in my liturgical tastes: I love the simplicity of the Roman rite, especially at daily Mass, but I also greatly appreciate the grandeur and beauty of an Eastern liturgy. For me, a daily Mass reminds me of the simplicity of the original Last Supper in the Upper Room, while the Eastern liturgy takes me to the final “Last Supper” to be celebrated for all eternity in heaven.
Again, if you have never attended an Eastern liturgy, please do so. If you live in the DC-area, I especially encourage you to attend Holy Transfiguration – it is a vibrant, faithful parish which maintains its Eastern traditions in full.
Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that the Son of God would become a baby in her womb. Mary’s obedient “yes” reversed the disobedience of Eve and brought about our salvation.
This day, March 25th, is very meaningful in a number of ways. There is a tradition that this is the day in which Adam and Eve were created, and there is another tradition that March 25th was the day of the crucifixion. On this day the events of our salvation have played out in a most wonderous way. Let us rejoice in God’s saving work!
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
The Lord is with You!
Troparion – Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady
“Technological society has succeeded in mutiplying the occasions of pleasure, but finds great difficulty in giving birth to happiness. For happiness has its origin elsewhere: it is a spiritual thing. Money, comfort, hygiene, material security etc, may often not be lacking, but nevertheless, despite these advantages, boredom, suffering and sadness are frequently to be found supervening in the lives of many people.”
- Pope Paul VI, Exhortation, Gaudete in Domino, 1, April 9, 1975
I have important news to announce: the University of Now Damned, the leading Wiccan university in the country, is going to give me an honorary doctorate in theology. I understand that many believe that a Wiccan institution giving a practicing orthodox Catholic an honorary degree, especially in theology, means that the Wiccans are honoring me and supporting my beliefs, but nothing could be further from the truth. They are honoring recognizing me for the purpose of dialogue. By giving one of their highest honors awards thingys to me they are in no way implying that they actually support me in any way. No, quite the contrary: by giving me this degree, they are actually engaging me in tough dialogue. I look forward to this dialogue, especially when I give my speech accepting this honor thing – a speech to which, in the finest traditions of dialogue, there will be no response.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the second-most powerful Christian Church in the world; its potential to influence world affairs is vast. We in the West would ignore this Church at our own peril. There is a very informative and fascinating article in the latest National Geographic about the role of Russian Orthodoxy in post-communist Russia. It is written by Serge Schmemann, the former New York Times bureau chief in Moscow and the son of famous Russian Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann. In the article Schmemann explores the relationship between the Russian Church and the Russian state. The Church there has a long history of working closely (many would say too closely) with the state, and after the fall of communism many were hoping that it would resist that urge and be more of a challenging force to the state.
Schmemann concludes that the post-communist Church has been a mixed bag: on the one hand, it has collaborated closely with the authoritarian desires of the Russian government, but on the other hand, it is the Church that is performing many valiant works of charity and piety within Russia.
No one can read history and not recognize the ongoing struggle of Christianity since Constantine to remain free from state entanglements. I pray that the Russian Church maintains its autonomy to continue to preach the Gospel and strives to always make this their top priority.
The trial of George Tiller, the most notorious abortionist in the country, starts today. Tiller has a practice in Wichita, Kansas which specializes in late-term abortions. The trial revolves around whether Tiller received the proper sign-off from a second doctor before performing late-term abortions, which is required by Kansas state law.
Pray that this man receives justice, but more importantly, pray for his soul that the Lord would bring him to salvation. No one is outside the Lord’s infinite mercy.
“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
“There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10)
Having young children at home, I often think about their future vocations: are they called to be mothers and fathers like their parents, or has God called one or more of them to be priests or religious sisters? I’ll be honest – I think I’d explode with pride and excitement if one of my children became a priest or a sister (unless, of course, one of my daughters became a “priest”). But down deep I know that each person is uniquely called by God to his or her specific vocation and that I should be happy only if they follow their divine calling – not my desire. My job is simply to expose them to the various vocations of the Church and encourage them to listen to the Lord as they get older. He will do the rest.
But I can’t help asking every parent of a priest or sister: “what did you do?” Rachel Watkins at Catholic Exhange, a mother of a religious, addresses this question. I thought her opening paragraphs were insightful:
With a daughter off for religious life I’ve been asked, “How do you do it? How do you raise children open to religious life and willing to pursue it?” Wondering myself, I asked other moms and dads we know who have sons and daughters either in religious or discerning. I asked priests and religious their vocation stories. The results are in. We have no idea.
Seriously, each parent raised their child differently. Each family is unique in size and make-up. Several families are large in anyone’s eyes – 10 or more such as mine. Others are large in society’s eye – four or more and others have smaller families. Some families were committed to Daily Mass, a family rosary, novenas, the scapular, or other familiar Catholic devotions. Some families did all of them, some practiced a few of these and, surprisingly, a few religious tell me their families did none of those devotionals. Some families might be described as rigid in these commitments while others might be seen as more lax. Again, each family was unique.
How then?? In a sentence: They were called.
So I will continue to pray for my childrens’ openness to the Lord and trust that He will guide them to a life that gives glory to Him. (But I’ll still slip in a prayer or two for a priest or religious sister to come from my family…).