Monday, December 01, 2008

Very gratifying fact

The Blessed Mother knits. And she likes circular needles too!

Hat tip: The Pious Sodality of Church Ladies

Image source

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Does God have one right choice for me in every decision?

I've always known Peter Kreeft is out there somewhere, but I hadn't ever gotten around to really exploring what he has written. Boy, what a mistake that was. First I listened to an audio CD I found in the narthex of a neighboring parish called something like "Seven Reasons to be Catholic." I was extremely impressed and resolved to find more.

His website -- -- offers a generous helping of writings and audio recordings. And that's where I found his essay, Discernment, which leads off with the question asked in the title of this post. I found myself alternating between exclamations of "Amazing!" and "Well, of course!", always a sign that I'm in the presence of good thought and good writing.

Here's an excerpt, though I strongly encourage you to check out the whole thing:

Five general principles of discernment of God's will that apply to all questions about it, and therefore to our question too, are the following:

  1. Always begin with data, with what we know for sure. Judge the unknown by the known, the uncertain by the certain. Adam and Eve neglected that principle in Eden and ignored God's clear command and warning for the devil's promised pig in a poke

  2. Let your heart educate your mind. Let your love of God educate your reason in discerning his will. Jesus teaches this principle in John 7:17 to the Pharisees. (Would that certain Scripture scholars today would heed it!) They were asking how they could interpret his words, and he gave them the first principle of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation): "If your will were to do the will of my Father, you would understand my teaching." The saints understand the Bible better than the theologians, because they understand its primary author, God, by loving him with their whole heart and their whole mind.

  3. Have a soft heart but a hard head. We should be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves," sharp as a fox in thought but loyal as a dog in will and deed. Soft-heartedness does not excuse soft-headedness, and hard-headedness does not excuse hard-heartedness. In our hearts we should be "bleeding-heart liberals" and in our heads "stuck-in-the-mud conservatives." [Ed. note: Is this not the most delightful and incisive sentence you have read all day?]

  4. All God's signs should line up, by a kind of trigonometry. There are at least seven such signs: (1) Scripture, (2) church teaching, (3) human reason (which God created), (4) the appropriate situation, or circumstances (which he controls by his providence), (5) conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, (6) our individual personal bent or desire or instincts, and (7) prayer. Test your choice by holding it up before God's face. If one of these seven voices says no, don't do it. If none say no, do it.

  5. Look for the fruits of the spirit, especially the first three: love, joy, and peace. If we are angry and anxious and worried, loveless and joyless and peaceless, we have no right to say we are sure of being securely in God's will. Discernment itself should not be a stiff, brittle, anxious thing, but—since it too is part of God's will for our lives—loving and joyful and peace-filled, more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking final exams.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good for what ails you

Well, this was good for at least one of the things that was ailing me.

Reading an excellent book on Abraham Lincoln's leadership earlier this year heightened my desire for one thing that perhaps really was present "back in the old days" -- politicians responding to a genuine call to public service. I saw it this year in friend and fellow-parishioner Jack Lynch's run for Congress (he was running against John Dingell of Detroit -- need I say more?), and Amy Welborn has tipped us off to another.

Joseph Cao is a Catholic lawyer and former Jesuit who is running the December 6th election for Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District. His story is different from most:
There is only one part of the story that makes me sad. Joseph and his brother immigrated to the United States after his father was imprisoned by the Communists after the fall of Saigon, so he will never be eligible to be President of the United States.

Friday, November 14, 2008

All things old are new again

A hat tip to Chantblog for this. Who'd have thought that the terms "Gregorian chant" and "trendy" would ever belong in the same paragraph? (Click on the text for the full article.)
It doesn't have much of a beat, the kids can't dance to it, and it's sung in a dead language, but Gregorian chant seems to be the hottest thing in sacred music right now.

If you're interested in polyphony and chant (or are interested in becoming interested), see the link in the sidebar to a Sacred Music Colloquium next June in Chicago. I wonder if I can add it to my Amazon Wish List?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How shall we then live?

[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2240

But will the dashboard hold my paczki?

This may be interesting even if you're not a Catholic from the Motor City.

The Evolution of the Popemobile

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Companions in the adoration chapel

"When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.
Bl. Teresa of Calcutta

"I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on the earth.
J.R.R. Tolkein

In point of fact, God is less concerned to make us perfect than to attach us firmly to him.
Jacques Philippe

Monday, November 10, 2008

Something good from Chicago

Cardinal George's plenary session address to the U.S. bishops:
The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice. If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be president[-elect] of the United States. Today, as was the case a hundred and fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good.

And his closing prayer, in which I suggest we all join:
With you, I pray that all the topics we consider in our meeting now and all we do in the difficult days to come will be done together in the charity of Christ, who is the source of our unity and our strength. In so governing, in calling all to join us in listening to the incarnate Word of God from within his body, the Church, what we do now will have consequences for eternity; and we will be good shepherds to our people, good servants in our society and good disciples of Our Lord.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

This is not how we do it around here

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I'm starting to come around to St. Therese, finally

Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk

– St. Therese of Lisieux

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What I think

I've been asked my thoughts about the election outcome. I don't want to go on at length, but I responded to a post of Amy Welborn in which she quoted Greg Sisk:
And when emboldened pro-choice Democrats move to enact the Freedom of Choice Act that would strip away even the minimal protections currently in place for unborn life (and they will), we should expect that Catholics for Obama will speak forcefully against it and insist that its enactment would undermine the Obama pledge to unify the country. And when pro-choice Democrats seek to repeal the Hyde Amendment and use taxpayer money to finance more abortions (and they will), we should expect that Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec will speak as publicly and vigilantly as they did urging his election to remind President Obama that using the wealth of government to fund the industry of death contradicts the theme of the Obama campaign to move beyond the politics of division.

(Okay, are you all with me through that confusing trail of attributions?) Here's what I had to say.
Something about all this has not been sitting well with me. If we discuss the implications of the election and the “what comes next” with the assumption that the results are a result of rational processes, we risk careening off into unreality.

In my view, the tide of popular enthusiasm of Barack Obama cannot be attributed simply to the media’s bias, voter registration drives and the imbalance of campaign funding. Mark Levin of the National Review Online expresses something we ought to ponder:

“I honestly never thought we’d see such a thing in our country - not yet anyway - but I sense what’s occurring in this election is a recklessness and abandonment of rationality that has preceded the voluntary surrender of liberty and security in other places. I can’t help but observe that even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical. And the pull appears to be rather strong.”

The rationalizations of “Catholics for Obama” that at some level Obama was the preferable “pro-life” candidate are a sterling example of the victory of wishful rationalization over reasoning. In Barack Obama’s own words:

“With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”

If prominent Catholics not only supported Obama but went as far as to begin political organizations based on such fatuous foundations in the face of the avalanche of evidence that was available, how can we expect that rational accountability and re-evaluation will ever take place? If we are dealing with elements that are (dare I say it) delusional, it is equally delusional to expect them to play by the rules of the Rational Game.

I don’t mind making logical arguments in the public forum. I just think it’s a misguided use of resources to expect that they will have much impact. Amy, I don’t know anyone who was directly influenced by Catholics for Obama, but they didn’t need to be. The tide sweeping the U.S. (of which Cs for O is a symptom, not a cause) picked them up and carried them off just fine.

So what do we do now? I’m feisty and I’m not just going to sit here. And, figuratively speaking, I can see Russia from my house.

Reparation Day

A private litany for God's people of the United States of America:

R. Lord, have mercy on us.
Jesus, we trust in you.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your kindness.
In your compassion, blot out my offenses. (Ps 51)


You have seen the trouble and sorrow,
You note it, you take it in hand.
The helpless trusts himself to you
For you are the helper of the orphan. (Ps 10)


God of hosts, turn again we implore.
Look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
The vine your right hand has planted. (Ps 80)


And the apostles said to the Lord,
"Increase our faith." (Luke 17)


God is our refuge and strength
A very present help in distress. (Ps 46)


"Be it done to me according to your word." (Luke 2)


You sit enthroned, judging with justice.
Have pity on us in our sufferings,
You who save us from the gates of death. (Ps 9)


On this rock I shall build my church
And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mt 16)


I will remove disaster from among you
So that none may recount your disgrace. (Zeph 3)


Many conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ,
But our citizenship is in heaven.
Stand firm in the Lord, beloved. (Phil 3-4)


Mortal man is no more than a breath.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
O Lord, turn your ear to my cry.
Do not be deaf to my weeping. (Ps 39)


Whatever gains I had, I count as loss
Because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Phil 3)


He, the Lord, is our God.
Throughout the eath his judgments prevail. (Ps 105)


Before my people call, I will answer;
While they are yet speaking,
I will hear and answer them. (Is 65)


Wait for the Lord with courage --
Be stouthearted. Wait for the Lord. (Ps 27)


Hold onto the word of life. (Phil 2)


My soul clings to you;
Your right hand holds me fast. (Ps 63)


I say to God, my rock, "Why hast thou forgotten me?"
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
O send me thy light and thy truth,
My help and my God. (Ps 42-43)


Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver us. (Ps 40)


What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
It is sown in dishonor -- it is reaped in glory.
It is sown in weakness -- it is raised in power. (1Cor 15)


Behold, a white horse. He who sits upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed -- King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Rev. 19)


Adonai says to my lord, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Ps 110


Be exalted, O God, among the heavens. (Ps 108)


Let us pray.

O God who makes all things new, accept our sacrifice of contrition and praise, and glorify yourself in us.

Give us the grace to be conformed to your will and your heart in every particular.

Do not dispose as we deserve but have mercy on us as we offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

We ask all these things with the help of all the saints and angels and in submission to our Lord, Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord, and the King of all Kings.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dipping my toe back in the water

Found a good quotation while cruising blogs about knitting:

"A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her."

-Maya Angelou

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

We continue to observe an unintended blog silence here, sorry. Roz is enjoying a brisk and full family life, and my blogging time has been reduced by a crackdown at work on non-business internet use (with monitoring by the IT people made necessary by all the dumbkopfs downloading music and viruses and pictures and viruses and just plain viruses, I guess). I got used to blogging at lunchtime, and haven't learned to fire up the computer when I get home.

Until I get my mental schedule adjusted, I pray for your growth in the Spirit and for myself, to be freed from my sinful weaknesses. Lord, have mercy!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shallow observations

1. I'm almost to the point of trying to put all my clothes into the washing machine and/or dryer inside-out, so that maybe, just once, they will come out rightside-to.

2. A bad thing about Reality TV is when your
favorite show is not anybody else's favorite show at the office. You have nobody with whom to talk about it, and you'd feel stupid going on the show's blog.

3. We each got a heart cookie in the office today for Valentine's Day, and everybody acted like pleased toddlers. Is that our inner child, or our immature adult talking?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Then grant us, Lord, like them to be, full oft in fast and prayer with Thee

'Tis Ash Wednesday and I'm linking you to cooler places than here:

The Church Signs talk to each other about the tradition (If you haven't seen the Church Signs series, you've missed out)

40 Ways To Improve Your Lent, a 2004 article from the Milwaukee Catholic Herald newspaper. A nice and occasionally quirky balance of the three elements of Lenten practice: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Some people are being silly in the office, offering to draw ashes on each other's heads with a magic marker. Why be so jumpy about the simple need to purify ourselves, to clear our hearts and minds to listen more intently to the Gospel?

I left about half my ashes on - Father really smoodged me good and big this morning, and I had to cut them down a little and shake the extras out of my eyebrows! There's no regulation about what to do with them - worrying about that is superstitious. You can wipe them right off (the Europeans, who get ashed on the top of their heads, are expected to shake them right off, or brush them off), or leave them on and be a witness or bear a little embarassment for humility's sake. I left some on for both of those reasons, and they'll wear off through the day

So let's be thoughtful and a little more silent, thinking about what keeps us alive and what keeps this world turning, what gives us hope and propels our faith.

HT to Amy Welborn for some of the links and The Internet Monk for the cool graphic.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Like Your Cross"

If that isn't a Christian-spotting gambit, I don't know what is. A new employee in our company was in my office and we were getting to know one another, swapping industry war stories, playing "do you know so-and-so?" Her parting statement was a gesture to my little bulletin-board San Damiano Cross as shown above, the cross that St. Francis of Assisi prayed before.

Now we'll see what the next move is. I like this game! I remember feeling my way through the staff when I got here, looking for the code words:

Church names? "St. Female Name?" Catholic, easy one, with the exception of "St. Mary's," which is always Episcopalian. "St. Gospel-Writer-Name?" Could be Catholic, but could be Episcopalian or Lutheran. "All Souls/All Saints?" Episcopalian 9 out of 10 times. "First?" Mainline probably already fallen into liberalthink. "Willow/Harvest/Freedom?" Non-denom, Emergent, and sincere, probably.

Phrases? "It's a blessing that...."
"The kids drew that in Sunday school..."
"Yeah, a normal weekend, shopping, yard work, church,......"

Then comes the next level of discovery, waiting for something funny the celebrant said and then listening for whether you call them a pastor, a minister, a priest. It's like a pinball game, as the ball rolls down through the various alleys. "Priest?" Easy one. "Pastor?" Probably Lutheran. "Minister?" Who knows, reset the sights and try might not even have a Christian yet with "minister."

What's your lure of choice to draw out the Christians in the crowd?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

(Liturgical) life intrudes - Ordinary Time

We have the earliest Lent since 1856 rushing up on us: Ash Wednesday is February 5th, Easter will be March 23rd. Since Easter floats on a moon-timed cycled just as its predecessor Passover did, it's hard to put it mentally in place a year in advance, much less a month in advance.

So, here we are, moving serenely through
Ordinary Time ("ordinary" as is "ordinal" or "counted" time, not "ordinary" as in, well, uh, boring, unexciting, predictable) today is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. We'll have the Fourth Sunday and then bam! Lent! That's forty days, then Easter, then 50 days, then Pentecost.

When we pick up Ordinary Time again, we'll resume in May after Pentecost with the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time. The Fifth Sunday goes poof! this year, because of the number of weeks remaining in the year, so that we fit in the rest of Ordinary Time before Advent.

Ordinary Time has become more special to me in past years because the Scripture readings of the time have a theme: of Christ's active life, or of prophecy of His Coming. I like to read the larger chapter of Scripture the day's Mass readings are from, and I learn a lot of Scripture and a lot of Old Testament-New Testament connections during this time. Also, saints' feasts and memorials get nice prominence because they're not set aside by larger Advent or Lent markers. It's just like average secular life, that goes on between birthdays and weddings and funerals and Christmas (in its secular sense) and the Superbowl and the annual flu.

I didn't realize fully until this year that Ordinary Time doesn't continue to tick along underneath Lent and Advent, so that those readings are set aside during the times of preparation for the celebrations of the Birth, Passion and Death of Christ. We're not "gypped" out of those simpler times; Ordinary Time simply stops and starts. The big events just fit in.

Too bad real life isn't like that: when someone dies, regular life just stops, work stops, ballgames stop, holidays stop. Or when a baby is due. Or when we marry. God's Church is very considerate. I want to look around on the Internet and see why the liturgical calendar works that way.

Either way, enjoy this happy interesting calm before the "storm" of Lent, when we begin the long walk with Christ on the Way of the Cross.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who are the happier people?

I can't resist picking these two photos out of Pipeline News:

What went through the two women's heads, as they dressed that way to confront a walk full of families, of children? Don't they have jobs? Don't they have friends who could talk them out of the public behavior, at the very least?

Pause and reflect

Today our bishops ask us to offer penance for the national crime of abortion. 35 years after Roe v. Wade, we hear in the media that abortion has dropped to ONLY 1.2 million per year in the US (but they don't point out that Plan B abortions have tripled). Who have we killed? Doctors, priests, generals, inventors, peacemakers?

There but for the Grace of God go I. I was careless and sinful and not well catechized in my younger years and bought into the 1970's sexual freedom culture. I could have so easily found myself pregnant and, being an efficient sinner, snuck off to obtain a silent and "safe" abortion. Living with a murder for the rest of my life.....

Embryology 101 in college made me a pro-lifer decades before I came back to faith, but a chicken one, never speaking out in conversation, never putting my charitable money where my mouth was.

Pray today for all who have died, all who killed them. Pray for those women who felt that they had no other choice. Pray for those whose consciences are so hard that they think they feel nothing about the baby who should be 30 today, or 20, or 8. Pray for the clinic workers and the doctors and nurses, and the civil governments that allowed them to move into our communities. Pray especially for those patient pro-life workers who demonstrate, who legislate, who volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers and come alongside pregnant women and girls who need friends as well as financial help.

We are one Body of Christ. Let's do some penance for the good of all the Body.

...and a quiet little "Yay" for the Catholics who are among the most visible leaders of the pro-life movement!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Candle in the Window

Personality and Evangelism

I just finished reading the biography of St. Francis by G.K.Chesterton. It's a fine essay, the life of that amazing saint sketched with a sure and supple mind. Reading GKC is like swallowing an eel; it's complicated, muscly but smooth, longer than you thought, but if you relax and remain open, you find yourself receiving an entire idea from opening to conclusion; there are no loose pieces to grab at or lose in the process.

The image emerges of an irresistable man, magnetic not by calculating charm but in his simple and direct rush towards God. People could not help then, or now, but be drawn along in his headlong pursuit of the true, the good and the beautiful at their Source. In a matter of a few years, first two, then a dozen, then hundreds of people joined him in his various orders for the vowed religious and the laity. Read the book yourself, good Lenten reading, and I can't do justice to the amount you can understand about the saint in such a short presentation.

What the book did for me in the end was to illuminate the path that saints take, and urged me to consider the question of saintly personality. How should a saint behave?

In our parish, we have a woman whose real name is quite a gift from her parents, something along the lines of Cecilia Rose Melody, a name that predicts graceful purity and beauty. In life, though, she is a little, dark, silent, pattering person, faithfully present at church for many devotions, including daily Mass and weekly Adoration. She may be shy; I've met her a few times at the grocery store, where I've met other parishioners who, relieved of the requirement of silence in church, are delighted to exchange names and friendly remarks. But instead she is very withdrawn and avoids easy conversation. Is this a sign of someone concentrating on an inward ecstasy or is she just dull? Is there something she knows about God that would be a valuable witness to me or others? Does she owe anybody that witness?

There are some Christians in my life who are magnetic because they are so open with their passion for Christ and His Truth. They have the courage and confidence to open a conversation with "I just learned a beautiful thing about God; let me tell you" and you are swept along with their discovery, framed with their particular intellect and education, heart and wit. I know others who are also silent and stay to one side, but whose joy and serenity are there for anyone to see when they meet your eye. I am attracted to them, waiting for and usually being rewarded by witnessing or receiving some statement or action that is really Jesus teaching me through them. There are still others, usually surrounded by their families, whose slightly frazzled happiness expresses itself in friendly but ordinary chats that last but a few minutes, before their loving and patient attention is claimed by one child or another, or whose endless generosity in volunteering takes them to the donut table or the book sale or the fun fair.

Does a Christian owe the world an open face and an open hand of greeting? Should there be a "candle in the window" to make a quiet house inviting? Or can they turn inwards, close down and ponder the treasure they have discovered, trusting community in His Spirit instead of social interaction?

This meditation grabbed me, I think, because I tend to be friendly, who is (sometimes unfortunately) not averse to the sound of my own voice. I think I'm a riot. When I am seized with the love of God, do I need to ask for courage and add that to my normal social style and witness to it, just like I might witness to the excellence of a local store, or the hilarity of a TV show? Or is the holier and more humble way to become quieter and more internal, "pondering all these things in my heart?" Which one is evangelism? Can evangelism be deliberate or does the act of evangelizing in itself become manipulative and showy?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

And in His temple all say "Glory!"

Happy end of the Christmas season! Today's readings are triumphant, in a quietly confident way:

Isaiah 42: from 1-7

Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Psalm 29: from 1-10

Response: The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Give to the LORD, you sons of God, give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name; adore the LORD in holy attire.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters, the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty; the voice of the LORD is majestic.

The God of glory thunders, and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood; the LORD is enthroned as king forever.

Acts 10: 34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

Matthew 3: 13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God
descending like a dove and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

There's a certain "Na na na nee na NAAAAAH, toldja toldja toldja, He's the Lord!" tone to this, if that makes sense. No veiled mystery, no difficult metaphysical constructs, no knowledge of philosophy. A thundering voice, a Spirit like a dove, the heavens opened, what a moment of ecstasy! Could it be more direct? Jesus is so clearly who Isaiah prophesied about, the power of God is so clearly upon Him! John, whom I think everybody thought was a irresistably appealing guy but a little bit of a whackjob, is vindicated up, down, left and right.

One reason to love feasts like this one is that they have no cultural baggage. We don't have to worry about getting our Baptism of our Lord cards sent or our baking done. (The Orthodox traditionally have their houses blessed at this time of year, and the blessed water is called "Jordan Water," so they're probably in a frenzy of housecleaning, so somebody somewhere all the time is dealing with cultural baggage, I guess). On feasts like this, and others like Ascension and Pentecost, coming after Lent, Holy Week and Easter, it is a gift to us to simply raise our hands, rare back and say with all in the temple "Glory!"

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Comments I would like to have made

The respected TSO's server won't show comments. (At least, that's his story, and he's sticking to it.) So, when my interest is piqued by one of his posts, I have no recourse but to turn to my own blog to air my thoughts. If this has the side effect of steering anyone to his blog, so much the better.

* * * * *

TSO cites Mark Shea's post on Calvinism (specifically the facet of personal assurance of salvation) which is worth reading in its entirety. He goes on to comment:
"I can certainly see that part of the attraction of Calvinism. Interestingly, the evangelical at Internet Monk writes, 'I’d far prefer the out and out Roman view of 'assurance,' plainly stated as something you can’t have with certainty, than the advice to look at my own life for evidence I’m a real Christian. As Catholic convert and commentator Mark Shea says, 'I became more secure in my relationship with God once I was no longer certain I was going to heaven.' This is where we end up when we self-reference assurance.'"
In my view (as a non-theologian who spent 15 adult years in a Reformed congregation before returning to the Catholic Church), the emphasis on personal assurance of one's own salvation (actually more common in Baptist and other traditions) is a weakness of Reformed churches, though not a fatal one. It appears to be a response to the natural concern about one's own eternal fate that, in Catholics, might have its expression in a paranoia about falling into sin characterized by an over-scrupulous adherence to the less-critical aspects of faith and moral teaching (such as 'I can't miss Mass on Sunday unless I'm so sick I absolutely can't drag myself out of bed.').

But, Calvinism is all about God's Sovereignty. Rightly understood, Calvinist teaching about "irresistible grace" and "perseverance of the saints" expresses this emphasis on the sovereignty of God rather than the felt experience of man. That doesn't mean this belief is always expressed in the life of the believer. Just as a Calvinist might try mightily to feel saved, so a Catholic might strive to convince himself that he had made a "good" confession. Both miss the point. It is the mercy of God in the redemption of Christ in which we hope. His love for us is stronger than our sin, so long as we place ourselves in his hands. So we do the best we can and trust him, whose nature is Love, to make up for our incapabilities.

[By the way, for a really excellent treatment of the five hallmarks of Calvinism and the ways they are like or different from Catholic teaching, I recommend "A Tiptoe Through TULIP" by Jimmy Akin.]

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