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.




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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009