Monday, August 24, 2009

Mother's Song

This is an AWESOME song by a girl who was in the same household, the Handmaids, as my girlfriend Amy. For those who don't know, households are Franciscan University's version of fraternities and sororities. The artist, Kelly Pease, is a Catholic musician with at least one album out. This is the only song of her's that I've heard. I know a lot of specifically Catholic music doesn't make it mainstream, but I really feel like this song could be huge. The Handmaids have adopted this song as their "household song" for obvious reasons, as you'll soon see. The lyrics are posted below the youtube video.

I will hold and I will love Him, until He's big enough to walk
And even then I''ll pick Him up, and I will teach Him how to talk
To say the words that will save, all the people of every nation
I will feed the flesh, that will bring about salvation.

And when He kisses me goodnight, I'll be living my reward
Be it done as you have said, I am the handmaid of the Lord.

I will walk these roads behind Him, and I will follow where He leads
I will beam at His good works, and I will love the mouths He feeds.
I'll be a mother to my Son, and a mother for the world
If You can set them free through Moses, then You can do it through this girl.
And when He brings the dead to life, I'll be living my reward
Be it done as you said, I am the handmaid of the Lord.

Lord is this what you've called me to, to watch Him lose His life?
I am bending, but will I break? How can I just stand by?
All of heaven be with me now. He's my only Son.
Help me pray that prayer with Him. Father, let your will be done.
And when He walks that lonely road, my heart will go with Him
And when He falls my spirit dies, and when He bleeds I hate this sin
And when He utters those last words, and when He finally hangs His head
I'll be planted in the ground, my whole life my soul is dead.
But I will stay here at this cross
Where He brought you your reward
Be it done as you have said I am the handmaid of the Lord
Be it done as you have said I am the handmaid of the Lord.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thanks Newt

The other day I happened to come across this article about Newt Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism. It really isn't that informative and seems to try quite hard to show what a lukewarm Catholic Mr. Gingrich is. Now I don't know much about Newt or his conversion or how fervent he is, but it irritates me how the author was just out to prove that "Newt is still Newt." To discredit his embrace of Catholicism by any means possible.

Anyways, the reason I'm really posting is because of a quote by Newt that I agree with 100%:
Gingrich describes the appeal of Catholicism for him in just these terms. "When you have 2,000 years of intellectual depth surrounding you," he told me on a recent summer morning, "it's comforting."
Comforting. Bingo. To think of the great minds that have contributed to our understanding of the faith is not only humbling, but immensely reassuring - to feel as if my back will never be up against a wall. This is why evangelization shouldn't worry us! Too often we focus only on the personal dialogue between us and the other person; we worry about what we're going to say, and what questions they're going to ask and we worry about how little we really know about the faith. If we just took a step back and realized that though we might not have all the answers, they are there! As I mentioned in a previous post, you may just have to politely disagree with someone and tell them that you'll get back to them with a definitive answer. There is a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. Sure it helps if that knowledge is within us but what is so comforting (at least what should be so comforting) is that we have Truth on our side. And we have 2,000 years of geniuses answering the same questions that people are still asking.

2,000 years and numerous remarkable intellects is a force to be reckoned with. Is it pride that keeps people from the Church? Pride that keeps them from accepting authority and having the answers almost given to them? To me it is borderline (if not flat out) arrogant to think that we truly know better than the Church. How can you argue with a history such as Her's? I understand personal doubts and skepticism, those are good if they lead us to find answers, and I also understand that many people are just plain ignorant, that is, they aren't really seeking truth and understanding. But to be an intelligent person, or a person who "understands" the faith, and still to think that you know better than the Church, well to me that's just ludicrous. Many will disagree with me (well they would if they read my blog) on this. I might not even blame them because I don't feel as if I'm expressing myself just the way I'd like, but I stand by my words.

[The following is in red because it was added after the initial posting]
Thankfully when I can't find the right words, C.S. Lewis has my back.
A few hours after I published the post, I was reading Mere Christianity and came upon this very relevant passage. In it, Lewis is talking about Christian Theology, but I think it holds true even more so for Catholic Theology.
...if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun that looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map.
This is what I was trying to say before. On our own, we only have our "single glimpses" but the Church as a whole is like a much more detailed map drawn from the "masses of experience." Only an arrogant person would shun a map in favor of using his glimpses when navigating the Atlantic. Thank God for C.S. Lewis.

The fact is, the Church is greater than you or me. If you're pride won't let you accept that, well you may just be missing out on eternal life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Best of Benson

On the Catholic Church and Faith and Reason:

So, then, [the Church] goes forward to victory. "First use your reason," she cries to the world, "to see whether I be not Divine! Then, impelled by Reason and aided by Grace, rise to Faith. Then once more call up your Reason, to verify and understand those mysteries which you accept as true. And so, little by little, vistas of truth will open about you and doctrines glow with an undreamed-of light. So you come indeed to the unveiled vision of the Truth whose feet already you grasp in love and adoration; until you see, face to face in Heaven, Him Who is at once the Giver of Reason and the Author of Faith.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More on Medj

I am not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje or apparitions in general. I have not been to Medjugjore. However, I have researched Medj and that, combined with discussions I've had with other people have made me a skeptic of the alleged apparitions.

It should also be noted that skepticism is not a bad thing, though it may become sour if it turns into simple bull-headedness. Such as if I were to continue to reject Medj even if the Vatican were to declare it legit. I have said though that I will accept whatever the Church decides on the matter.

Because I am not an expert on this topic (and even if I were) it is not my intention to prove or disprove the alleged apparitions. I am merely stating the case for my skepticism. Though this post is mainly in response to a comment left by Timothy, in no way am I attacking his position. I simply intend to answer his protests to the best of my ability. I should also apologize beforehand for the length that I fear this post will go too.

Let us start with this passage from an an excellent (and unbiased) article on Medj which can be found here, from the EWTN website:

Catholics may go to Medjugorje. Such pilgrimages may even include priests acting as chaplains, as opposed to officially sponsoring them. Also, the Church has not suppressed discussion of Medjugorje, therefore, it is allowed. Common sense, however, says that Catholics on both sides of the Medjugorje issue should exercise prudence and charity in speaking of others who believe differently. Medjugorje is not a litmus test of orthodoxy, though every Catholic will have a moral obligation to accept the judgement of Rome, in the manner Pope Benedict explained, should it ever be rendered.

Though I am skeptical of much of what is happening at Medjugorje, I do not doubt that something is happening there. Obviously there are many good things happening as a result of Medj - such as people finding their faith. Regardless of whether the apparitions are real or not, from what I understand there exists an aura of holiness around the site. My qualm is whether or not the apparitions are real, not whether good things are happening there or not, for surely they are.

Timothy, in your comment you bring up the "miracles" that have been occurring there. And as you say, how do we explain the "miracles" other than by saying that they are just that, miraculous. However, I think you are mistaken when you use the "miracles" as proof that Mary is appearing there. It may be proof that something is happening, but it does not mean that the apparitions are real or that they come from Mary. They may very well be from heaven (though not necessarily from God) and they may very well be angelic, but keep in mind, as the following EWTN article points out, demons are angelic creatures as well.

Mystical Phenomena. The presence of remarkable phenomena is for many sufficient evidence of the validity of an alleged apparition. For others the judgment by local Church authority that there is no evidence of supernaturality at a site suggests fraud, mental illness or the demonic. The Church for her part, however, takes great care before affirming the certain supernaturality or non-supernaturality of phenomena. . . There are likewise few examples of outright condemnation. When they do occur it is usually on the basis of doctrine which is contrary to the faith.

The reasons for such caution are rooted in the Church's common teaching. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross both assert that as a general rule mystical phenomena (whether in the lives of saints or in apparitions) are the work of the angels. Unless God Himself needs to act to immediately produce an effect (such as to create out of nothing or to infuse sanctifying grace into the soul), He works through creaturely instruments. Thus the intellectual lights granted in contemplative prayer, the visions and locutions of private revelations, the levitations of the saints, the ecstasies of mystics and visionaries, and most external phenomena associated with mysticism, are produced by the angelic nature. Since both good and evil spirits possess the angelic nature the presence of such phenomena alone is an equivocal sign of authenticity. This means that a great deal of unexplained phenomena can occur without indicating positively that the event is from God. This is why the Church looks, among other things, for evident supernaturality, that is, for effects beyond the ability of men or angels which can be attributed to God alone.

Theologians remain divided in judging which phenomena fall clearly into the category of strict supernaturality. However, the practice of the Church in the canonization process of recognizing as miraculous those cures which meet certain strict criteria is a standard that has been applied in approving apparitions, as well (e.g. Lourdes, Beauraing, Banneux). At Fátima the Miracle of Sun likewise fell into the category of a natural prodigy. It is clear, however, that the phenomena which many laity have experienced in connection with alleged apparitions in our days, and which they consider to be proof that they are authentic, do not in fact rise to the level of evident supernaturality. Angelic or demonic activity would be sufficient to explain them. Without a proof of the supernatural order there is little likelihood of the Church affirming an apparition as authentic.

In the case of Medjugorje the commissions found that nothing directly connected with the apparition met this strict standard. As the earlier quoted statements show, the Church remains open to new evidence of supernaturality should it occur and has not judged that Medjugorje is NOT supernatural, much less condemned it.

Timothy also brings up the point of the content of "Mary's" messages: "the Blessed Mother in Her apparitions focuses on being devout to Christ and His Church." I take you at your word on this as I have not personally read the messages. Obviously if they were anything but faithful, we would not be having this discussion. However, you have missed a crucial step. You are still assuming (I do not mean that to sound harsh) that the someone or something is actually appearing to the visionaries. If this is the case, then I believe you are correct, it is not of Satan. Here I think I must make my skepticism more clear: my doubt is as to whether there is anything appearing to the visionaries, not just whether what may be appearing is of heaven or hell. That being said, if the visionaries are "making this up" then the content of their message means little.

And as far as ecclesiastical obedience goes, there seems to be something lacking in that department as well:

Bishop Perić reminded his people of the restrictions that he has imposed on activities in Medjugorje. The parish church is not formally a "shrine," he said, and should not be characterized as such. Pilgrimages to the church are discouraged. Priests there are "not authorized to express their private views contrary to the official position of the Church on the so-called 'apparitions' and 'messages,' during celebrations of the sacraments, nor during other common acts of piety, nor in the Catholic media."

The bishops urged the "seers" of Medjugorje to "demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish." [They did not. -Me]

Some of the Franciscan priests assigned to the Medjugorje parish, he said, have been expelled from their order because of their refusal to accept Church authority. "They have not only been illegally active in these parishes, but they have also administered the sacraments profanely, while others invalidly," he said. As Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, he said, he felt obliged to warn the faithful "who invalidly confess their sins to these priests and participate in sacrilegious liturgies."

As I have mentioned previously, one of my biggest problems with Medj is the fact that it makes no sense (to me) that the visions do not stop, as that is the only way for the site to become approved. Would Medj not bear much more fruit if it became official? Timothy, I believe you gently rebuked me by saying "Who are we to question how the Blessed Mother chooses to appear?" I think it's a slippery slope when we start to say, "who are we to..." Should we question nothing merely because we are inferior to God? If that were the case I think we would live in a vastly different world. The fact is, Mary has appeared before, and based on those official apparitions She has set a precedent. And frankly, Medjugorje is very different from the other apparitions. Granted, that in itself is not much, Mary could decide to appear any way She pleases, but by doing so the way She allegedly has at Medj, much discord has been sown.

For example, at Fatima Our Lady appeared only six times from May to October of one year and at Lourdes She appeared only 18 times from January to July of only one year. But at Medj She has now allegedly appeared over 40,000 times over the span of almost 30 years! Again, this is not enough to "debunk" Medj but it is enough to add to my skepticism.

Timothy, you also made this comment:
If we as Catholics believe in the presence of the Lord in each of the millions of Eucharistic Hosts presented throughout time and throughout the world, how is it so difficult to believe that His Mother would appear and give us messages of hope, love and a path to Her Son?
To which I would say that I do not find it difficult that Mary would appear and give us messages. What I do find difficult to believe is that She is appearing at Medjugorje. I respect your position that the apparitions are real at Medjugorje, I just cannot bring myself to believe it - based on what I know. Though I can't say this enough, I will accept the Church's ruling.

One final question, Timothy. What was it about Medj that brought you into the Church? Was it the message of the seers or the atmosphere of the place, or some other aspect? And - please keep an open-mind - if the Vatican were to officially rule that the apparitions were not real, what would your response be, seeing as how you were brought into the Church because of Medj?

More Links to happenings at Medjugorje:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Apologetics 101

This is only a brief post and I don't claim to be an expert on apologetics. The information here is from my own experience but I'm sure there are better resources out there.

When engaging in a "discussion" or "debate" or "dialogue" with someone not of the Catholic faith, I think there is one especially important thing to keep in mind - if you don't know the answer to a question, or if you just aren't sure how to respond accurately - for Heaven's sake don't TRY and answer it off the top of your head! More often than not whoever you are talking to will seize on this error and use it to his advantage. In the long run it will weaken not only your cause but the cause of the Church.

The truly beautiful thing about the Catholic faith is that we do have the answers. Personally we may not know everything there is to know, but if you look hard enough you can find what you're looking for. If a question is asked of you and you are not sure how to respond, simply say, "I can't answer that right now but if you give me a little time I will get back to you." No harm done.

Nobody has complete knowledge of their faith. However strongly you may disagree with someone, if you cannot answer the argument with a sound, justified answer of your own, don't answer at all. Ask for time and get back to the person. Use prudence.

When the current situation you face is less in the realm of apologetics and more of evangelization, keep these words of C.S. Lewis in mind:
Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history, which ought never to be treated exept by real experts. . . And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. . .Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.
- from the preface to Mere Christianity
I believe we must first simply lead unbelievers to God, and then hopefully to the Catholic Church. If the person you are engaged with is truly seeking the truth, how else can he end up any where but the Church?

Friday, August 7, 2009


Ever since I first started to really hear about Medjugorje about five years ago I've been a skeptic. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not expert on the subject, but I have had intelligent conversations with people who know much more about it then I do and I have read various articles for and against. Catholic Thing has an excellent article today about Medjugorje and I believe the author has almost the exact same view/attitude towards it that I do. It is definitely worth reading. One piece of information that the author didn't mention - the one piece that above all makes me a skeptic - is the fact that the Church cannot make its final decision one way or another (yes, the visions are real or no they are not) until the apparitions stop. There is so much controversy over the alleged apparitions that I can't figure out why Mary wouldn't cease appearing so that the Church could make its decision. If She is appearing there then the Church could make it official and resolve the whole issue. I can't imagine that Mary would desire all this confusion and debate. For me, I will remain a skeptic and accept whatever the Church decides in the end.

Quote Catch-up

Again, I apologize for the long hiatus in between posts. I thought a good way to get back into the swing of things would be to post some great quotes from some books I've read over the past couple weeks. One of the authors, Robert Hugh Benson, was recommended by Sara and I have to admit that he is now one of my favorite authors and you'll be seeing a lot more of his work in my posts.

First up, Josef Pieper's slap in the face to modern art in the book Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation (I especially love this passage):

The artist may perchance be tempted - all the more so, the more he has acquired and mastered the "creative" possibilities of his craft - to produce an opus decidedly "different" from the accustomed and everyday experience of reality, yet in essence false, and in its banality a mere ruse. As is well known, fabrications of such a sort are quite assured of the public's applause.

I'm only going to post one passage by Benson here but expect much more of his work to be posted. I'm thinking about a recurring piece called "Benson's Best"... This passage is from his sermon on Meekness and Violence in the book Paradoxes of Catholicism.

The Catholic Church then is, and always will be, violent and intransigeant when the rights of God are in question. She will be absolutely ruthless, for example, towards heresy, for heresy affects not personal matters on which Charity may yield, but a Divine right on which there must be no yielding. Yet, simultaneously, she will be infinitely kind towards the heretic, since a thousand human motives and circumstances may come in and modify his responsibility. At a word of repentance she will readmit his person into her treasury of souls, but not his heresy into her treasury of wisdom; she will strike his name eagerly and freely from her black list of the rebellious, but not his book from the pages of her Index. She exhibits meekness towards him and violence towards his error, since he is human, but her Truth is Divine.

I'll leave it at that for now. I've recently begun to read C.S. Lewis as well and am finding out what a joy his writings are. My next post will include a great and practical quote by him. God bless!