I have just posted a reflection on Sunday’s readings for the feast of Pentecost. I discuss the catholicy of the Church – a catholicity that existed even at that early date.
Archive for May, 2009
What a beautiful story:
The world-record-breaking oldest primary school student, a Kenyan great-grandfather, was baptized after he learned to read the Bible.
Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge, the Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest person to enter primary school at age 84, was baptized Sunday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Kariobangi, east of Nairobi, Ecumenical News International reported Monday.
Now 90 years old, Maruge chose the baptismal name “Stephen” as he stated, “I commit my life to God, from now until the end.”
“I decided to be baptized after reading the Bible,” he explained.
In a wheelchair due to stomach cancer, the new Catholic added: “I read the Bible and came across the name Stephen. This is a name for those who have endured hardships like me.”
Read the whole story.
We are near the end of the Easter season, in which Christians around the world have celebrated the resurrection of our Lord. For those of us in the West (i.e. Catholics and Protestants), the Easter season ends this Sunday, May 31st with the Feast of Pentecost. In the East, however, Easter season is a week later due to a different calendar in use by the Orthodox. So they do not celebrate Pentecost until June 7th this year.
But due to a coincidence in the calendars, we are fortunate that all Christians will celebrate a shared Easter for the next two years – 2010 and 2011. But after that we only have two shared Easters over the following 12 years.
The dispute over the dating of Easter goes back to the earliest days of the Church, and is related to how one dates the Passover, which is itself based on the lunar calendar. In 325, the Council of Nicea decreed that the date of Easter would be the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox. However, how the equinox is calculated has differed in the East and the West.
I have always thought this is a problem waiting to be solved. It is not doctrinal in nature and does not touch on the issues that still divide Eastern and Western Christians. Yet it is difficult to change traditions (see: Vatican II and its aftermath) and many would rather stick to “their way” of doing things than see unity on such an issue.
Recently, however, an ecumenical group came up with a plan to unite our Easters:
The problem before the advent of modern astronomy was calculating the equinox. Orthodox churches use March 21 in the Julian calendar, but since the 16th century the Western date has been derived in the Gregorian calendar. The resulting difference can be up to five weeks apart.
The council said theologians from the Vatican and various Orthodox and Protestant churches endorsed a compromise on May 15 that Easter should be held for all Christians using an equinox based on accurate astronomical data.
Under the plan the unified Easter usually falls as it would under the Gregorian calendar used by Catholics and Protestants, said Dagmar Heller, an ecumenical professor in Switzerland heading the council’s faith and order commission.
In the next 15 years, the only time Western churches would have to change Easter is in 2019 from April 21 to March 24. The bigger adjustment would be for the Orthodox Church, which has experienced several schisms in its history over the question of dates.
I sincerely hope and pray that this proposal gains traction, but the last sentence I highlighted touches on the problem of any unified plan. As it mentions, there have been schisms in the Orthodox Church in the past over dating issues, and there is no reason to think that wouldn’t happen again today. It would be highly ironic (and yet very typical) if a plan for a more unified Church led to more schisms.
Personally, I propose that the Catholic Church simply adopt the Eastern method – it doesn’t require any concession on doctrinal issues and I don’t think there would be as much of a fuss about it in our Church. Of course, it might also mean that the Protestants would not go along and then we would celebrate Easter separately from them. Sigh…
The sad story of Fr. Alberto Cutié continues. After being caught frolicking at a beach with a woman, he has left the Catholic Church and become Episcopal. Cutié eventually intends to become an Episcopal priest and marry his girlfriend.
For those who are not aware of who Fr. Cutié is, he is an immensely popular preacher in the Latino world. Nicknamed “Father Oprah,” his popularity with Spanish-speaking Catholics is comparable to Fr. Corapi and Fr. Groeschel combined. This is a devastating scandal and we need to pray fervently that Fr. Cutié returns to the Catholic fold. The bishop of his (former) diocese has beautiful advice:
In my nearly 50 years as a priest, I have often preached on Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son – which really should be called the parable of the Forgiving Father (Luke 15, 11-32). Perhaps the story told by the Lord so long ago is applicable to our discussions this afternoon.
A father had two sons. One of them took his inheritance early and left home, spending his money wantonly. The father waited patiently for the return of his prodigal son, who after he had seen the error of his ways, repented and returned home. Upon his return, the father lovingly embraced him and called him his son. I pray that Father Cutié will “come to his senses” (Luke 15, 17) and return home. The Catholic Church seeks the conversion and salvation of sinners, not their condemnation. The same is my attitude toward Father Cutié.
We must not forget, however, that there were two sons in the Lord’s story. The other son, who never left home, was angry that his erring brother was welcomed home by the father. To all faithful Catholics, I say what the father said to this second son: “You are with me always and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice. This brother of yours was dead and has come back to life. He was lost, and is found” (Luke 15, 31-32).
In this beautiful parable Jesus teaches us that God is a loving and forgiving Father. Each of us has experienced that love, each of us needs that forgiveness; for we are all sinners. If our brother comes home, let us celebrate with the Father.
Read the bishop’s entire statement here.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us!
If you are looking for someone to pray for, go to this page:
I have been continually impressed by the quality of priests ordained in the past few years – they love the Church, they love their vocation, and they love the people they serve. But we must remember that the enemy also sees this and his response will be ever greater attacks on them.
Pray for our priests!
Our Lady, intercede for all priests, especially those who are struggling right now.
I really hope that this story is the work of someone’s over-imagination:
Some of America’s leading billionaires met for a private powwow in Manhattan on May 5 at the home of Sir Paul Nurse, a British Nobel prize biochemist and president of the private Rockefeller University. It was so hush-hush that some of their aides were told that they were attending a “security briefing”.
Here is how the Sunday Times describes the meeting: “The philanthropists who attended a summit convened on the initiative of Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, discussed joining forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change. Described as the Good Club by one insider, it included David Rockefeller Jr, the patriarch of America’s wealthiest dynasty, Warren Buffett and George Soros, the financiers, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, and the media moguls Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey.”
The chief issue, at the suggestion of Bill Gates, was “overpopulation”.
In other words: the rich are getting a bit tired of all these poor people in the world, so they want to cull the herd a bit.
I am really, really hoping that this meeting wasn’t as nefarious as reported, but it does match what we already know about many of these super-rich: Buffet, Soros, Turner and Gates have all been publicly supportive of population control in the past (and perhaps the others as well, but I don’t know for sure). What is amazing is that all indications show that the developed world is committing demographic suicide by their refusal to reproduce, yet these super-rich would like to export these suicidal tendencies to the rest of the world.
I’m starting to think that the answer to the question “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” will be “no” because there will be no people left to greet him.
The Pope gave a teaching on the monastic St. Theodore yesterday:
The principles of poverty, chastity and sacrifice for the good of the community, which are characteristic of monastic life, are valid for all Christians, Pope Benedict XVI said.
During his weekly general audience May 27 in St. Peter’s Square, the pope used the example of the Byzantine monk St. Theodore the Studite to explain how the virtues that monks and nuns strive for should be emulated by all in everyday life.
St. Theodore, who was born in 759, emphasized the ideals of “renunciation of private property, freedom from material things, sobriety (and) simplicity,” the pope told the crowd of about 14,000 people. “This extreme form is valid for monks, but the spirit is valid for everyone,” he said.
Over the years, I have become more and more convinced that we all have a call to the religious vows of poverty, chastity and even obedience. Yes, for a non-religious they must be modified to fit one’s state in life, but each principle is a fundamental Christian principle, not an ideal for just a few.
I especially think the vow of poverty is a beautiful gift for all Christians, but perhaps it is too misunderstood today. Perhaps calling it a “vow of simplicity” would be better suited for it to be understood by your typical layman. Obviously a father must have enough money to support his family, but living a more simple life can prevent material attachments from choking the spiritual life.
A great book that I would highly recommend is “Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom” by Thomas Dubay. It is a wonderful treatment of how the Christian should treat material goods in their life.
If you want to know what life is like as an Eastern Catholic, read this. It is by Daniel Nichols, an Eastern Catholic living in Ohio. ECs live between two worlds: Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Their praxis and most of their theology is Eastern, yet they remain, often at considerable personal sacrifice, in communion with Rome. As such, they are often misunderstood and held in suspicions by both camps.
I have often thought that Eastern Catholics live the life of the Cross in a very real way their entire lives. We Roman Catholics should pray for our Eastern brothers that they might continue to be personal witnesses to a united Church – we need them desperately.
VirtueOnline, a traditional Anglican website, has an intersting article posted entitled “What Choices Do Traditionalists in the C of E [Church of England] Have?” The author, Roland J. Morant, discusses the various options for the traditionalist member of the Church of England now that their Church is slowly committing modernist suicide. Using the analogy of a ship, he gives the following options:
- STAY ON BOARD AND DO NOTHING (don’t leave the C of E and just endure the problems)
- TRANSFER DIRECTLY TO ANOTHER SHIP (join the Catholic or Orthodox Churches or even a Protestant denomination)
- CLIMB INTO A LIFEBOAT AND HOPEFULLY BE PICKED UP BY A FRIENDLY SHIP (join a more traditional Anglican communion)
- ABANDON SHIP BY JUMPING OVERBOARD (stop going to church)
What I found most interesting about this article was the importance Morant gives to practical concerns, such as one’s attachment to their parish (and parish building) and a person’s proximity to other churches (after all, what is the point of becoming Orthodox if the nearest Orthodox parish is 200 miles away). I think the importance of such concerns can be minimized when discussing the conversion of Christians from one tradition to another. But it should not be. The pull of one’s personal parish (“I was baptized in that church,” “Our parish has a wonderful, loving community”) can often trump doctrinal concerns. So too can personal connections: if all your friends go to a specific parish, it can be very difficult to transplant your whole family to another church over concerns that may not seem to directly impact your life – especially if the other parish appears cold and uninviting to you.
As Catholics, we should not simply dismiss such concerns out of hand. It is true that our Lord told us we would have to give up father and mother, sister and brother in order to follow him, but that doesn’t make it easy. We should make our own parishes as welcoming as possible so that if a Christian of another tradition decides to join, he or she will not need to feel like a complete alien.
In Ghana, there is a disturbing trend of many young Catholics leaving the Church to join various sects. One priest is not taking this lying down:
A leading priest in Ghana has proposed new initiatives to counter the exodus of young people to sects. His proposals include a local edition of the compendium of the Catechism.
The Italian-born Fr. Martino Corazzin told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that young people are leaving the Catholic Church to join various sects that have rapidly grown in the last 25 years. In that time the number of Ghanaians belonging to independent Pentecostal churches, which combine traditional magical beliefs with Christianity, has risen by 400 percent. Fr. Corazzin, who has worked in Ghana since 1991, said an ACN-sponsored Ghanaian edition of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will help stop the exodus by allowing youth to know their faith more deeply.
What a wonderful idea! I have often lamented over the fact that so many people join enthusiastic groups that only have part of the Truth – what would happen if all Catholics – who are graced to have the fullness of the Truth – were just as enthusiastic as Fr. Corazzin?
I also commend this priest for recognizing the root issues rather than superficial ones. The article states:
Fr. Corazzin said youth go to the sects’ churches because they want entertainment.
“It is merely superficial,” he said. “That is why the Compendium will be a great help to answer the questions and doubts they have.”
Exactly – you don’t respond to superficiality with more superficiality; instead, you present the full meat of the Faith, knowing that this is what people really desire underneath their yearning for a faith community.
God bless Fr. Corazzin and I pray that his work is fruitful.
The Catholic New Media Awards Nominees were announced yesterday, and this blog was nominated for the following awards:
- Best Blog by a Man (I’m honored that I was recognized as a man)
- Most Informative Blog
- Funniest Blog
- Most Entertaining Blog
- Best New Blog
Voting starts June 1st, and this year Chicago-style voting (vote early, vote often) will not be allowed. Be sure to vote!
I married my best friend. Since then she has been the best wife and mother I could ever hope for. I would write a long paean in her honor, but then I realized someone already wrote one about her:
When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands.
Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from afar.
She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household.
She picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms.
She enjoys the success of her dealings; at night her lamp is undimmed.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.
She fears not the snow for her household; all her charges are doubly clothed.
She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.
Her husband is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land.
She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.
She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.
Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too, extols her:
“Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.”
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.
I just sent off the complete manuscript for Who Do You Say That I Am? Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew to my editor at Our Sunday Visitor! The book will not be published until 2010, but this was a major milestone for me. Needless to say, I’m pumped.
From today’s saint, St. Philip Neri:
He who wants something other than Christ, does not know what he wants; he who seeks something other than Christ, does not know what he wishes; he who works and not for Christ, does not know what he is doing.
My previous post quoted Pope Benedict on how to read Scripture properly. If you want to know how not to read Scripture, follow the lead of that great Scripture scholar Donald Rumsfeld:
One passage plucked from the New Testament’s Epistle to the Ephesians instructs believers to “put on the full armor of God.” An excerpt from the Old Testament’s Isaiah directs them to “open the gates that the righteous nation may enter.”
As American soldiers fought in Iraq in 2003, these biblical verses and others reportedly prefaced intelligence reports approved by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.