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The mysterious case of the Extraordinary Synod and the missing books.
Did someone steal books from the Synod fathers' mailboxes?
There've been major news stories reporting the allegation that someone in connection with last fall's Extraordinary Synod of Bishops removed copies of an important Ignatius Press book on marriage, civil remarriage, and Holy Communion from some mailboxes of the Synod participants.
True? ------------------------ If so, what was it somebody didn't want the Synod Fathers to read? ----------------------- Read it for yourself .
Remaining in the Truth of Christ Edited by Robert Dodaro, O.S.A Softcover, 330 pages
Featuring essays by five Cardinals of the Catholic Church and four other scholars.
Detail from "Abraham's Sacrifice" (1655) by Rembrandt [WikiArt.org]
A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, March 1, 2015, Second Sunday of Lent | Carl E. Olson
Readings: • Gen 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18 • Psa 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19 • Rom 8:31b-34 • Mk 9:2-10
“God put Abraham to the test.”
Why? That is the natural question to ask when we hear the first line of today’s readings. What, exactly, was God trying to show Abraham? And why did it require such extreme, seemingly cruel, measures?
Notice when God told Abraham to take Isaac to be offered as a holocaust, or sacrifice, he described the patriarch’s son as the one “you love”. We are mindful that Isaac represented, in a most concrete and living form, the faithful promise of God to provide Abraham with an heir (Gen 17). When the ninety-nine-year-old Abraham was told he and Sarai would have a son, he laughed aloud. But God said the miraculously conceived son would be blessed, for “he shall give rise to nations, and rulers of people shall issue from him” (Gen 17:16).
So why would God then tell Abraham to sacrifice his son, who personified the covenantal blessings of offspring, land, influence, and, eventually, a nation?
The third-century theologian Origen wrote at length about this remarkable test. He suggested God described Isaac as beloved so that “by awaking memories of love the paternal right hand might be slowed in slaying his son and the total warfare of the flesh might fight against the faith of the soul.”
In other words, God not only tested Abraham, he intentionally intensified the test by accentuating the great love of the father for his son. This reminder, Origen further noted, “also produces hopelessness in the promises that were made…”
Rather than making sense of the test, this appears to make it even more irrational, even cold-blooded. Within Judaism, this story is known as the “Akedah”, or “binding”, the greatest (and, according to Jewish tradition, the tenth) test faced by Abraham. But, of course, if Abraham had no love for his son, the test would not have been so harrowing. After all, the sacrificing of children was hardly unusual within the ancient near Eastern world; in fact, it was a normal part of some pagan religions.
The horror of the approaching sacrifice was not so much in the command to kill one’s son, argued Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “rather, the horror lies in the fact that this son was miraculously given by God and destined to imitate and accomplish the divine promises.” It’s as if God turned his back on his promises, plunging Abraham into a darkness no mortal could hope to withstand alone.
And that, paradoxically, begins to shed a little light upon what is, without a doubt, one of the most perplexing narratives in Scripture. By stepping into the darkness of God’s will, Abraham cast himself into the light of God’s perfect mercy and love. The test was not meant to prove God can do whatever he desires, but that God desires to do whatever he can for man, who is the pinnacle of his creation.
Yet God’s grace must be met by man’s faith; that is, God’s “Yes” to man must be accepted by man’s “yes” to God. “I know now,” said God’s messenger to Abraham, “how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” That devotion—or, better, “fear of God”—refers specifically to a free and active obedience to God’s will. It is the emphatic “yes!” uttered and lived in faith.
With that in mind, we can better appreciate St. Paul’s explanation to the Christians in Rome that God “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all…” That gift is even more mysterious and confounding than what was asked of Abraham. And Jesus, who is called “my beloved Son” by the Father at the Transfiguration, was not a bewildered young man, but the Incarnate Word who in free and active obedience accepted and carried out the will of his Father.
If the Father freely gave his Son for us, and the Son freely gave his life for us, what will we freely give to God?
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the March 4, 2012 edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
These three novellas from the acclaimed German writer Gertrud von le Fort, newly translated for the first time into English for this volume, are from her later works of historical fiction, in which she displays her mastery as a dramatist of ideas.
The Wife of Pilate imagines the slow, arduous transformation of an aristocratic woman, who is mentioned in the New Testament, from a pagan into a Christian saint, as she is now honored in the Byzantine Church.
Plus Ultra takes us into the high politics of early 16th century Europe, and into the soul of a lonely young lady at court who knows she has attracted the intoxicating but dangerous attention of the Emperor Charles V himself.
At the Gate of Heaven takes the clash between astronomical discoveries and the Roman Inquisition trial of Galileo as the backdrop for harrowing reflections about man’s place in the cosmos.
In these novellas von le Fort vividly recreates scenes from distant places in bygone eras. Even more memorable are her lyrical portrayals of conflicts in the souls and minds of powerful people. These are thought-provoking stories by a keen observer of humanity.
Gertrud von le Fort (1876-1971) was a German novelist and essayist. A convert to Catholicism, she attended the universities of Heidelberg, Berlin and Marburg. She was a prolific writer whose poetry and novels, which have been translated into many languages, won her acclaim throughout Europe. She also wrote Song at the Scaffold and The Eternal Woman.
Praise for The Wife of Pilate and Other Stories:
"A book to be treasured. The times and places are beautifully and accurately evoked, and the stories are gripping to read." - Lucy Beckett, Author, Postcard from the Volcano
"von le Fort's serene and probing intellect examines with absolute honesty the dilemmas of our human striving for authentic faith and love during times of peril and confusion. There is clear light here, a profound, though unsentimental, confidence in the triumph of Christ as Lord of History." - Michael O'Brien, Author, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse
"von le Fort offers rich historical fiction and deeply spiritual reflections in stories that remain relevant to this day. At the Gate of Heaven is a particularly prophetic tale this age would do well to ponder." - Michael Richard, Author, Tobit's Dog
"Gertrud von le Fort masters the challenge of bringing to life relatable characters as well as conveying the outlook of bygone eras." - Roger Thomas, Author, The Accidental Marriage
Left: Icon of St. Gregory of Narek Matenadaran, in Yerevan, Armenia. Right: The 10th century Armenian monastery of Narekavank (now destroyed), Lake Van, Vaspurakan (modern Turkey). (Photos: Wikipedia.org)
St. Gregory of Narek: Was the New Doctor of the Church a Catholic? | Dr. R. Jared Staudt | CWR
St. Gregory is the first Doctor of the Church to have lived outside direct communion with the Bishop of Rome.
On February 21, Pope Francis announced his decision to make St. Gregory of Narek (950-1003) a Doctor of the Church. Once again, Pope Francis has caught us off guard and now many people are scrambling to figure out who St. Gregory was and what the implications of the new honor bestowed upon him are. One key question that is arising is: was St. Gregory a Catholic?
The short answer to this question seems to be no. He was a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is a non-Chalcedonian Church (sometimes referred to somewhat pejoratively as a Monophysite Church), because of its rejection of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.
However, the relationship of the Armenian Apostolic Church to the Catholic Church is long and complicated. I would like to provide a brief overview to help us consider the implications of the new Armenian Doctor of the Church.
This is only a short overview of the relations between these churches, and I hope the reader will be encouraged to explore the issue further and also to discover the writings of St. Gregory of Narek.
Armenia: The first Christian nation
Armenians recognize St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew as the first evangelizers of their nation. The territory of Armenia once stretched from the Ural Mountains southward across modern Turkey and even to northern Lebanon. Its first kingdom was established in the sixth century BC and remained mostly independent, even amidst the regional power struggle between Rome and the Persian Empire.
In about the year 301 Tiridates III, the king of Arsacid Armenia, proclaimed Christianity the official religion of his state, making Armenia the first Christian nation. According to the oldest accounts, Tiridates had imprisoned St. Gregory the Illuminator for the faith for 13 years before being healed by him. He then appointed Gregory as Catholicos, or head, of the Armenian Church. Following the adoption of Christianity, the Church forged the first Armenian alphabet, which was used for a translation of Scripture and for the Armenian liturgy.
The rejection of Chalcedon and initial reunion
For about 450 years, from 428 to 885 AD, Armenia lost independence to the Byzantine Empire and later to Islamic conquest.
The Creation of the Animals, by Raphael (1518-19).
What Does Authority Have to Do with Religion? | Fr. John Michael McDermott, S.J. | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
“Authority” is generally used as a derogatory term in our world. Nazism gave the word a bad name as German officials, one after another, at the Nuremburg war trials sought to excuse themselves by claiming that they were just obeying a higher authority. All totalitarian systems, fascist or communist, were derided as authoritarian. Actually the attack on authority has deeper roots. Before time began, Satan revolted against God’s authority and fell into misery. In more proximate history, the Enlightenment saw itself as a revolt against tradition, in favor of reason. All affirmations of truth were to be judged before the bar of reason. Kant summarized the Enlightenment position by dismissing authority as a condition of earlier, benighted humanity not yet come of age.1 Modern man intends to think for himself. Before Kant, the battle of the books between ancients and moderns had been fought with the moderns and Newtonian science carrying the day. Before that contest, authority suffered a debilitating defeat when Luther and his cohorts rejected ecclesial authority. But at least they respected the Bible as God’s authoritative word. Post-Enlightenment Scriptural exegesis, however, invented the historical-critical method, by which experts sought to go behind the Bible to tell modern readers how it was composed in answer to the needs of various first-century audiences, opening the way for an aggiornamento, whereby they would adapt God’s word to whatever audiences they thought needed the intellectual upgrade. God’s word was reduced to kerygma, the event of proclamation, which became quite protean since an event, as Plato (Timaeus 28a) and Aristotle (De interpretatione 9, 19a 35-b 3) noted long ago, is not subject to the law of contradiction. Needless to say, in the process of modern exegesis, God’s eternal word has suffered a loss of authenticity, and, it scarcely needs mentioning, authority. No wonder that Karl Barth excoriated it: in seeking to go behind God’s word, modern exegesis undermines it.2
An unprejudiced reading of the Bible reveals that it rests upon authority. Moses spoke with God, and then on his behalf, when he received and delivered the Ten Commandments from Sinai. The prophets constantly reiterated the phrases, “Thus says the Lord” and “Oracle of the Lord.” Serious repercussions were threatened if God’s word, articulated through their minds and mouths, was not obeyed. The New Testament is likewise replete with appeals to authority. From his mission’s initiation, Jesus spoke with authority, not like the scribes, and cast out demons (Mk 1:22-27). His Father thundered from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9:76). In fact, when the high priests confronted Jesus after his purification of the temple, they sought his authority. In Jewish religion, nothing higher counts in the final analysis: is your authority from heaven or from men (Mk 11:27-30). In the final analysis, authority counts over all else. Nothing higher than God’s word can be imagined by Jews. As God’s only Son (Mk 12:6), indeed his Word (Jn 1:1-14), Jesus communicated authority to the Twelve, sending them out to “preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk 3:14-15; 6:7.12). This continuation of his mission Jesus confirmed after his resurrection: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all days until the consummation of the age” (Mt 28:18-20). St. Paul insisted that, though he was least of the Apostles, he enjoyed apostolic authority and should be heeded and obeyed when communicating the Lord’s words (1 Cor. 9:1-2, 15-19; 15:9; Gal. 1:1-9). Moreover, he presupposed that his successors would also act and teach with authority (1 Tm 4:11-16; 5:7; 2 Tm 4:1-5; Ti 1:9-11; 2:1, 15; 3:1). Authority is so well attested in the New Testament that only spiritual blindness can overlook it.
Authority belongs inherently to historical religions, even if other religions have authority figures.
A Message in Blood: ISIS and the Meaning of the Cross | Fr. Robert Barron | CWR
When Christians boldly hold up an image of the humiliated, tortured Jesus to the world, they are saying: "We are not afraid.”
Last week, the attention of the world was riveted to a deserted beach in northern Libya, where a group of twenty one Coptic Christians were brutally beheaded by masked operatives of the ISIS movement. In the wake of the executions, ISIS released a gruesome video entitled “A Message in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”
I suppose that for the ISIS murderers the reference to “the Nation of the Cross” had little sense beyond a generic designation for Christianity. Sadly for most Christians, too, the cross has become little more than an anodyne, a harmless symbol, a pious decoration. I would like to take the awful event on that Libyan beach, as well as the ISIS message concerning it, as an occasion to reflect on the still startling distinctiveness of the cross.
In the time of Jesus, the cross was a brutal and very effective sign of Roman power. Imperial authorities effectively said, “If you cross us (pun intended), we will affix you to a dreadful instrument of torture and leave you to writhe in agonizing, literally excruciating (ex cruce, from the cross) pain until you die. Then we will make sure that your body hangs on that gibbet until it is eaten away by scavenging animals.”
The cross was, basically, state-sponsored terrorism, and it did indeed terrify people.
Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops (left), talks with Pope Francis during the morning session on the final day of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Carl E. Olson | CWR blog
The head of secretariat of the synod of bishops was reportedly "furious" about "Remaining in the Truth of Christ," which includes chapters by Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller
Both Kath.net and Edward Pentin are reporting that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of secretariat of the synod of bishops, ordered the interception of over a hundred copies of the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, which had been mailed to participants in last October’s Extraordinary Synod.
The book, which consists of essays by five Cardinals—including Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller—and four other scholars, was written in response to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s book The Gospel of the Family, and defends the Church’s teaching that Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried cannot receive Holy Communion. It was edited by Fr. Robert Dodaro, OSA, who was interviewed about it by CWR last September.
Reliable and high level sources allege the head of secretariat of the synod of bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, ordered they be intercepted because they would “interfere with the synod.”
A source told me that Baldisseri was “furious” the book had been mailed to the participants and ordered staff at the Vatican post office to ensure they did not reach the Paul VI Hall.
Kath.net reports that around 200 copies of the book were mailed, but only a few apparently made it into the hands of the proper recipients, a report that has also been confirmed by Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, of Ignatius Press. Pentin states that the books were mailed through "the proper channels within the Italian and Vatican postal systems", but that Baldisseri claimed they were mailed "irregularly," and so the interception of the books was legitimate.
In other words, Baldisseri has apparently admitted that the books were taken; the dispute is over why they were taken. Pentin further reports that the books were apparently destroyed after being taken.
Three months ago, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he knew nothing about allegations regarding the stolen/intercepted/confiscated books, and dismissed the sources for the allegations as not being “serious and objective." Pentin, a veteran and respected Vatican reporter who recorded a controversial interview with Kasper during the Synod, concludes his report by stating that since December, "the allegations have become more widely known and have been corroborated at the highest levels of the church."
What to make of this? First, as Fr. Z notes, these allegations involve a serious crime:
"The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope" (Henry Holt, 2014) was written by British journalist Austin Ivereigh (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Making Sense of Pope Francis | Carrie Gress, Ph.D. | Catholic World Report
Austen Ivereigh’s The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope offers many insights into Francis, but does have a serious weakness
“Who can figure this pope out?” was the question raised by friends at a recent lunch. The nine of us spent a lot of time voicing fear, concern, confusion, and speculating about what he is up to. (And as mothers to a collective 62 children, we had to discuss the pope’s “rabbit” quote.) A quick look around the blogosphere makes it clear we are not the only ones having this discussion.
Pope Francis is quite a mystery. After the long pontificate of John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI was a familiar successor. We knew who he was—or at least a little bit, if not his whole life story. And though Benedict brought his own ideas to the papacy, widespread confusion about the future of the Church didn’t set in.
When the former Cardinal Bergoglio stepped out to face the world as Pope Francis, he was a complete unknown. It took the news service I was watching several minutes to announce who the new pope was even after his name had been announced from the loggia. Resources are slim when trying to get a clear picture of this man who became pope.
Austen Ivereigh has done a great service for the Church universal in writing The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of Radical Pope, (Henry Holt, 2014). Ivereigh unfolds the life of Pope Francis, revealing how his life in Argentina has prepared him, in much the same way Karol Wojtyla was prepared by Krakow, to be the leader of the Church for our times.
The book brings to light several major themes in the life of Jorge Bergoglio that are crucial to understanding this pope and his papacy.
He is a son of Ignatius: Ivereigh makes clear that Bergoglio, through and through, is a Jesuit with the heart of St. Ignatius. His seminary formation, which took place before the chaos of Vatican II, instilled in him the deep treasury of Ignatian prayer and the discernment of spirits, which he has used as a guide throughout his life. Even today, the Argentine pope gets up at 4:00 am to pray and prepare for the day.
After Vatican II, the Jesuit Order in Argentina attempted to scuttle much of its theological traditions and practices (along with many other segments of the Church). Bergoglio, as provincial (who faced the added drama of Liberation Theology that affected so much of South and Central America), was able to hold onto many of the Society of Jesus’s treasures, ensuring that the province not only remained intact theologically, despite a percentage of Jesuits who disagreed with him among the ranks, but flourished under his leadership.
One Argentine leader speaking of Bergoglio, quoted in The Great Reformer, said: “Bergoglio was completely different from the Third World priests. … While they went into politics to make up for what was lacking in their faith, he stayed close to his faith and from there sought to enrich politics. He said what mattered was not ideology but witness.” (105)
Bergoglio expanded the Jesuits’ ministry to the poor, while also increasing the number of seminarians and priests who entered the society. Meanwhile, other provinces that abandoned the older traditions and teachings of St. Ignatius saw their ministries and numbers decimated.
Left: Detail from "Job and His Friends" (1869) by Ilya Repin [WikiArt.org]; right: British comedian and actor Stephen Fry [YouTube]
Stephen Fry, Job, and the Cross of Jesus | Fr. Robert Barron | CWR blog
The objection to God's existence and goodness uttered recently by the British writer, actor, and comedian is nothing new to Christians
The British writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry is featured in a YouTube video which has gone viral: over 5 million views as of this moment. As you may know, Fry is, like his British counterparts Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, a fairly ferocious atheist, who has made a name for himself in recent years as a very public debunker of all things religious. In the video in question, he articulates precisely what he would say to God if, upon arriving at the pearly gates, he discovered that he was mistaken in his atheism. Fry says that he would ask God why he made a universe in which children get bone cancer, a universe in which human beings suffer horrifically and without justification.
If such a monstrous, self-absorbed, and stupid God exists, Fry insists, he would decidedly not want to spend eternity with him. Now there is much more to Fry’s rant—it goes on for several minutes—but you get the drift.
To those who feel that Stephen Fry has delivered a devastating blow to religious belief, let me say simply this: this objection is nothing new to Christians. St. Paul, Origen, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and many, many other Christian theologians up and down the centuries have dealt with it.
In fact, one of the pithiest expressions of the problem was formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century.
Lent is a season of challenges and extremes, a dramatic confluence of opposites. As evidence, I offer Exhibit A: today’s readings, which contain stories about deluges and deserts, sin and salvation, and water that destroys—and saves. All of it is heady stuff, certainly, but it is aimed at the heart, meant to help us embrace more tightly and cherish more deeply the eternal purpose of our lives.
What does the story of the flood and Noah’s ark have to do with Jesus being tempted in the desert? The first connection is sin. The flood was necessary because “In the eyes of God the earth was corrupt and full of lawlessness” (Gen 6:11). Seeing the corruption and depravity of man, God told Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all mortals on earth; the earth is full of lawlessness because of them. So I will destroy them and all life on earth” (Gen 6:13). Although Jesus was sinless, he saw and felt the effects of sin. After being baptized, he went into the desert to directly confront the temptations of Satan, the Evil One responsible for bringing sin and death into the world.
This brings us to the second connection, which is a time of trial. The destruction of wickedness on earth, God told Noah, would require forty days and nights of rain (Gen 7:4, 12). That number, in both the Old and New Testaments, is closely connected with times of trial, hardship, and punishment, including the forty years the Israelites spent in the wilderness after the Exodus, made necessary by their sin and rebellion (Num 14:26-35).
The forty days spent by Jesus in the desert was a reenactment of those forty years. But while the people had failed to obey the word of God, Jesus obeyed completely. Whereas they had continually complained, Jesus complied with humility. And while Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God.
The third connection is covenant. Following the flood, as we hear in today’s Old Testament reading, God told Noah that he was establishing a covenant “between me and you” and “between me and the earth.” This was one of several covenants, each of them an invitation from the loving Creator for man to enter into “intimate communion” with him (Catechism of the Catholic Church, pars 54-73). The new and everlasting covenant, the perfect culmination of this plan of salvation, was established by the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man.
Finally, there is the connection of water and baptism. In the time of Noah, sinful men were destroyed by water even while the righteous man (and his family) was saved by that same water. In baptism, as today’s epistle explains, the flesh—that is, the old man—is put to death, while a new man emerges from the sacramental waters. “For Christ, being the first-born of every creature,” wrote Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho, “became again the chief of another race regenerated by Himself through water, and faith, and wood, containing the mystery of the cross; even as Noah was saved by wood when he rode over the waters with his household.”
Jesus, after being baptized—and thus preparing the waters of the world for our baptisms—faced the Tempter and then announced the Kingdom of God. In doing so, he proclaimed, in word and deed, that sin and wickedness would be dealt a fatal blow, which was soon delivered through his own suffering, death, and triumphant emergence from the tomb.
During his time in the desert, Jesus prayed and fasted. Pope Benedict XVI, in his  message for Lent, reminded us that the true fast is “directed to eating the ‘true food’, which is to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34).” Noah was saved because he chose holiness over earthly pleasures. Jesus brought salvation by choosing the Father’s will over the devil’s lies. The challenge of Lent is to choose holiness and hunger for the true food.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the March 1, 2009, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
Will the Other Sleeping Giant Awake? | William Kilpatrick | Catholic World Report
Despite widespread slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim lands, the Church currently seems unable to mount any kind of resistance to Islamic ideology
It is often said that when Admiral Yamamoto ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, he awakened a sleeping giant. Even though the Nazis had occupied much of Europe, bombed London, and advanced to the outskirts of Moscow, the United States was still slumbering on the morning of December 7, 1941.
Although we were aiding the anti-Nazi forces through Lend-Lease shipments and other forms of support, isolationist sentiment remained strong in America. The mood of complacency was succinctly captured in the 1942 wartime film Casablanca:
Rick: If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?
Sam: What? My watch stopped.
Rick: I bet they’re asleep in New York. I bet they’re asleep all over America.
America woke up, but barely in time. Our allies were in disarray, a major part of our Pacific fleet lay at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, and the Wehrmacht was well-armed, well-trained, and highly experienced. Another year of delay and the fate of Europe might have been sealed, and our own future made that much more uncertain.
The Cold War which followed on the heels of World War II kept America on its toes for four more decades, but after the fall of the Soviet system, the sleeping giant resumed its slumber. Then came September 11, 2001—an attack which cost more American lives than Pearl Harbor. It was a classic wake-up call. And for a while, the giant awoke. The American homeland went on high alert and forces were mobilized to attack the enemy’s base in Afghanistan. However, with the relatively easy defeat of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, the sleeping giant rolled over and went back to sleep. There seemed to be no more threat to our homeland and no serious threat to our military. As a result, the Army is being shrunk to pre-World War II levels, and the Navy to pre-World War I size. Meanwhile, social experimentation has become all the rage. Concern over the strength of the military has taken a back seat to concern over its sensitivity to diversity.
Because we went back to sleep, the Islamic threat to the world is significantly greater today than it was on September 11, 2001. Al-Qaeda is stronger than ever and active in numerous countries. ISIS controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, millions in Africa live in fear of Boko Haram and Al-Shaabab, Afghanistan looks like it will return to Taliban control, Iran will soon have nuclear weapons, and Turkey, with the second largest army in NATO, appears to have more sympathy for radical Islam than for its NATO allies.
America, the sleeping giant, may yet wake up again, but even if it does, it’s not at all clear that it’s up to the task of combating the ideology that fuels the fighting. The war with Islamic militants is both an armed conflict and a culture war. Some of the militants fight with machine guns and mortars, and some fight using weapons of propaganda and political intimidation. But the most powerful weapon that the jihadists wield is religion. The promises made by Islam to young warriors bring in the recruits, and the fact that Islam is a religion keeps the critics away. Islamic ideology is immune from criticism in a way that Nazism and Communism never were.
The other sleeping giant
And that is where the other sleeping giant comes in. I refer, of course, to the Catholic Church.
The inspiration for the publication of "The Didache Bible" was an address given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, shown here in an October 2008 photo. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)
Reading Sacred Scripture and the Catechism Together | Liam Ford | Catholic World Report
An interview with Rev. James Socias of the Midwest Theological Forum about The Didache Bible: Ignatius Bible Edition
The Didache Bible (RSV, Second Catholic Edition): Ignatius Bible Edition, recently published by the Midwest Theological Forum with Ignatius Press, is a 1960-page study Bible featuring extensive commentaries, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for each of the books of the Bible. The Didache Bible also includes over 100 apologetical inserts, over two dozen full-color biblical maps, and a 43-page glossary and a topical index. Rev. James Socias, Vice President of the Midwest Theological Forum, spoke recently about what inspired the creation and publication of The Didache Bible and how it can be used by Catholics for group and individual study.
Why did Midwest Theological Forum decide to publish the Didache Bible?
Fr. Socias: The primary inspiration for the Didache Bible was the address given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2002 on the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In this address, Cardinal Ratzinger strongly advocated the use of Scripture in the Catechism as a means to explain the faith and emphasized how it was important to read Scripture within the living tradition of the Church.
While the Catechism has greatly benefitted from its many references to Sacred Scripture, we found it surprising that there was nothing that would allow the reader to go the other way around; that is, a Bible with commentaries that referenced the Catechism. Such a Bible would facilitate a better understanding of how a particular verse or verses are directly related to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In reflecting on this, we came to see that a Bible with commentaries based on the Catechism would be a good companion to the Didache Series textbooks, which are also based on Scripture and the Catechism. This, in effect, was our inspiration to publish the Didache Bible.
What is the importance of consulting the Catechism when reading the Bible?
Fr. Socias: As Cardinal Francis George says in the preface, the Second Vatican Council “affirmed the importance of Sacred Scripture in the life of faith.” The Deposit of Faith, which is contained in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, is safe-guarded and transmitted by the Magisterium of the Church, and the Catechism is the basic summary of this great wealth of Catholic teaching. Catholics who desire to understand the faith more completely will naturally want to study the Catechism and read the Bible on a regular basis.
By basing the commentaries on the Catechism and by referencing the relevant parts Catechism, the Didache Bible provides the reader with a means to better understand how the teachings of the Church are based on Scripture and how the living tradition of the Church interprets those verses of Scripture.
How does the Didache Bible respond to the Second Vatican Council’s call to renew the Catholic faith in the modern world?
Presently Lent arrives. This is the forty days leading up to Easter, which also recall the forty days of Christ's temptation in the wilderness. There is a telescoping of things here, since His temptation did not in actual fact immediately precede His Passion, but "liturgical time" is such that spiritual significance may override chronological exactness. Lent, like Advent, is a time of penitence. Here we identify ourselves with the Lord's fast and ordeal in the wilderness, which He bore for us.
This raises a point worth noting in passing. There are some varieties of Protestant theology and spirituality that so stress "the finished work of Christ" and the fact that He accomplished everything, that they leave no room at all for any participation on our part. Such participation, encouraged by the ancient Church, does not mean that we mortals claim any of the merit that attaches to Christ's work, much less that we can by one thousandth particle add to His work. Nevertheless, the gospel teaches us that Christians are more than mere followers of Christ. We are His Body and are drawn, somehow, into His own sufferings. We are even "crucified" with Him.
My own tradition stressed this, but it was taught as a metaphor that meant only the putting to death of sin in our members. There was very little said about the sense in which Christ draws His Body into His very self-giving for the life of the world and makes them part of this mystery. Saint Paul uses extravagant language about his own filling up "that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." We had succinct enough explanations as to what he might have meant here, but these explanations allowed no room for any notion of our participating in Christ's offering. This was looked upon as heresy, violating the doctrine of grace .n which all is done by God and nothing by us. We are recipients only. That the gracious donation of salvation by God could in any manner include His making us a part of it all, as He made the Virgin Mary an actual part of the process, and as Saint Paul seems to teach, was not the note struck.
The ancient Church, in its observance of Lent, once more asks us to move through the gospel with Christ Himself. The most obvious mark of Lent to a newcomer is the matter of fasting. I had own about this practice all my life. My Catholic playmates would give up chocolates or Coke or ice cream for Lent. I also knew that a few devout people in my own tradition of evangelicalism practiced fasting now and again for special purposes—a time of especially concentrated prayer, for example.
I myself thought of Lenten fasting and also of the old Catholic practice of refusing meat on Fridays as being legalistic, and perhaps even heretical, since it seemed to entail some notion of accruing merit. Since Christ had done all, why should we flagellate ourselves this way? Was it not a return to the weak and beggarly elements condemned by Saint Paul? Was it not to be guilty of the very thing that the apostle had a sailed the Galatian Christians for?
Men and women everywhere are hungry and thirsty, voraciously yearning and seeking: rich and poor, wise and foolish, young and old, literate and illiterate, saints and sinners, atheists and agnostics, playboys and prostitutes. Some can explain their inner emptiness in words; most cannot, but everyone experiences it. That inner ache drives all our dreams, desires, and decisions--good and bad. Even your decision to pick up this book and read was triggered by this nameless desire.
Our abiding hunger for more than we presently experience does not have to be proved but only explained. Which is what we propose to do right now, before we even begin to think about what prayer is all about. Otherwise you and I cannot understand fully the splendid reality of communing deeply with our Creator and Lord and of our unspeakable destiny in and with him.
Mere animals do not and cannot have this inner aching need, for the simple reason that material things are satisfied with visible creation and their place in it. Because you and I have intellects and wills rooted in our profound spiritual core, nothing finite and limited does, or ever can, fill us. Deep in our humanness is an ache for fullness, for infinity. We are completely satisfied by no individual egoism, by no series of selfish pursuits: vanity, fame, money, lust, power, drugs. Always the sinner seeks more accolades, more money, more recognition, more lewd eroticism, more control of others, more drugs. Never is he satisfied, never really happy and fulfilled.
Why is this so? As spirit-in-the-flesh beings, you and I burst beyond the material order, beyond what our senses can attain, beyond the cosmos itself. By its limited nature nothing created can satisfy us. God alone, the sole infinite One, can fill our endless yearnings. As Karl Rahner put it, we are oriented by nature to the Absolute. Or as John Courtney Murray expressed it, the problem now is not how to be a man, but how to become more than a man. Or as St. Augustine put it in his classic prayer: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." Kittens and giraffes do not have this problem. They cannot. You and I do. (See CCC 27-30.)
Quenching and prayer
What does this have to do with a primer on prayer? Much, very much. Prayer is not merely a pious reaction to suffering or a means to get us out of trouble. We are the only beings in visible creation who cannot attain fulfillment without becoming more than we are, therefore without the divine. Ducks and camels, trees and stars need matter alone. In other words, you and I are transcendent beings whose needs go beyond this universe. That is why our destiny must be God and no one else. That is why prayer is absolutely basic. This is the divine plan, and no other plan comes close. At the heart of our human reality there must be a relationship and communion with the divine. Otherwise we simply do not make it; we do not and cannot flourish and attain our destiny. (See Evidential Power of Beauty, pp. 17-20.)
Prayer, therefore, is both simple and deep--and, as we shall see later on, immensely enriching, leading to unspeakable love and delight. Prayer is not complicated, because there is nothing more natural than to converse with your beloved, and most especially with your supreme Beloved. If all grows normally it becomes deep, because, as we have explained, it is rooted in your profound human and spiritual reality, in who and what you are as a man or a woman.
Lent: Why the Christian Must Deny Himself | Brother Austin G. Murphy, O.S.B. | IgnatiusInsight.com
We still ask ourselves as Ash Wednesday approaches, "What am I doing for Lent? What am I giving up for Lent?" We can be grateful that the customs of giving up something for Lent and abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent have survived in our secular society. But, unfortunately, it is doubtful that many practice them with understanding. Many perform them in good faith and with a vague sense of their value, and this is commendable. But if these acts of self-denial were better understood, they could be practiced with greater profit. Otherwise, they run the risk of falling out of use.
A greater understanding of the practice of self-denial would naturally benefit those who customarily exercise it during Lent. Better comprehension of self-denial would also positively affect the way Christians live throughout the year. The importance of self-denial can be seen if we look specifically at fasting and use it as an example of self-denial in general. Indeed, fasting, for those who can practice it, is a crucial part of voluntary self-denial.
But since we live in a consumerist society, where self-indulgence rather than self-denial is the rule, any suggestion to fast will sound strange to many ears. It is bound to arouse the questions: Why is fasting important? Why must a Christian practice it? Using these questions as a framework, we can construct one explanation, among many possible ones, of the importance of self-denial.
To answer the question "Why must the Christian fast?" we should first note that fasting, in itself, is neither good nor bad, but is morally neutral. But fasting is good insofar as it achieves a good end. Its value lies in it being an effective means for attaining greater virtue. And because it is a means for gaining virtue– and every Christian ought to be striving to grow in virtue–there is good reason to fast.
Some people point out that fasting is not the most important thing and, therefore, they do not need to worry about it. Such reasoning displays a misunderstanding of our situation. But, since the excuse is common enough, some comments to refute it are worthwhile. Doing Small Things Well
First, while it is true that fasting is not the most important thing in the world, this does not make fasting irrelevant or unimportant. There are, certainly, more urgent things to abstain from than food or drink, such as maliciousness, backbiting, grumbling, etc. But a person is mistaken to conclude that he therefore does not need to fast. He should not believe that he can ignore fasting and instead abstain in more important matters. Rather, fasting and avoiding those other vices go hand in hand. Fasting must accompany efforts to abstain in greater matters. For one thing, fasting teaches a person how to abstain in the first place.
Moreover, it is presumptuous for a person to try to practice the greater virtues without first paying attention to the smaller ones. As Our Lord says, "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much"  and so can be trusted with greater things. Therefore, if a person wants to be able to abstain in greater matters he must not neglect to abstain in smaller matters, such as through fasting.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets a cardinal before a consistory at which Pope Francis created 20 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring). Right: Jean Danielou, SJ (1905-74) in an undated photograph.
Benedict XVI, Cardinal Jean Danielou, and a Modern World in Crisis
How the retired pontiff and his "scandalous" hero addressed false interpretations of Vatican II and "a false conception of freedom"
Rome, Italy, Feb 15, 2015 / 05:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Theological giants Benedict XVI and one of his heroes – the controversial Cardinal Jean Danielou – have been hailed for illuminating through their respective works the ever-relevant answer to a modern world in crisis: Jesus Christ.
“If you want to be modern, you have to look at Jesus,” Rome-based theology professor Father Giulio Masparo told CNA Feb. 13.
And through the writings of the late French cardinal in particular, he noted, the Christian claim in today's world is infinitely superior “than what you can find by thinking that everything is relative.”
Fr. Masparo, a professor in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome, helped to organize a Feb. 12-13 conference titled: “Study days: Danielou-Ratzinger before the Mystery of History.”
Held at the University of Santa Croce, the conference explored the great continuity between Cardinal Danielou and Benedict XVI, who are both known for placing a historical frame around their theological writings.
Originally from Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, Cardinal Danielou was a Jesuit, and is considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. He is known for his clarity in explaining profound concepts in a comprehensible way for the unlearned reader.
Danielou was highly criticized following the Second Vatican Council, a false interpretation of which he faulted for the crisis in religious life and the increase in secularization which ensued.
In a controversial interview with Vatican Radio in 1972, the cardinal stressed that “Vatican II declared that human values must be taken seriously. It never said that we should enter into a secularized world in the sense that the religious dimension would no longer be present in society.”
“It is in the name of a false secularization that men and women are renouncing their habits, abandoning their works in order to take their places in secular institutions, substituting social and political activities for the worship of God,” he said.
Cardinal Danielou also faulted “a false conception of freedom” that devalued religious constitutions and “an erroneous conception of the changing of man and the Church” for many of the crisis that unfolded after the Vatican council.
However, despite the criticism directed at the French cardinal, then-Bishop Josef Ratzinger was an avid supporter of Danielou, and placed great value on his stance and writings.
Preaching, Music, and Acoustics | Deacon W. Patrick Cunningham | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
The work of the New Evangelization is identical to the work of evangelization in every age: to communicate to those who are unaware of the saving work of the Son of God those things that will bring them to accept the gift of faith, and come to new life through the sacraments entrusted to the Church. What is “new” is the environment and the means. The environment in which we operate most of the time is, at best, neutral to the work of the Church. At worst, it is actively hostile to the teachings of Christ in the Church. It is necessary, then, to use new methods and new communications media to help Jesus Christ and the Church become visible and attractive to modern humans.
Now the Catholic Church has many advantages in this mission, as she always has. These advantages are summarized in the “three Cs” which are creed, cult, and code/community. I prefer to speak of the three transcendentals that are embodied in the Church as they are in no other institution. They are Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. The fullness of Truth is preached, and always has been, in the Catholic Church. The sacraments and the doctrines of the Church have helped and continue to help many to attain to saintly Goodness. And in the sacramental forms, prayers, architecture, and music, there is Beauty that is truly a making present on earth the Beauty of the Kingdom of God.
In the 21st century, however, the Church operates at a distinct disadvantage within the culture, and some of that problem is of our own making. Relativism, as communicated through the media, universities, and political institutions, is rampant in society. Many believe that there are many truths, not just One Truth. When we preach the Truth, particularly in sexual and family morals, we are teaching things that annoy, rather than attract. The media have, since the dawn of the new millennium, made it a daily objective to find people, particularly clergy, doing evil in the Church. The sexual abuse scandal and occasional financial irregularity casts doubt on the moral integrity of the leaders of the Church. Thus the millions who find Goodness in the Church, and who daily do good for others, including their persecutors, are ignored.
Beauty, however, has a way of disarming the critic and providing an instant experience of transcendence. As Dr. William Mahrt says, “beauty persuades by itself.”1That is, as traditional philosophy teaches us, in the very perception of the Beautiful, “the intellect is delighted,” and that delight is intrinsic and immediate. By contrast, the apprehension of Truth must come from reasoning, and the apprehension of Goodness by a positive act of the will, informed by the actions of the intellect. These processes can be corrupted because of the weakness of the intellect and will, engendered by Original Sin. Our apprehension of the Beautiful is immediate, and so, is harder (but not impossible) to corrupt.
Thus, if the Catholic Church is to appeal to modern humans, we must “lead with Beauty.”
The Blue Mosque, left, and the Hagia Sophia Museum, right, are pictured at sunset in Istanbul in this Nov. 24, 2008, file photo. (CNS photo/Tolga Bozoglu, EPA)
On the "Reform" of Islam | Fr. James V. Schall, SJ | CWR
If violence, terror, beheadings, forced conversions, subjection of women, and intolerance of others are removed or “transformed” in Islam, is it still Islam?
The President of Egypt, at Al Azhar University in Cairo, recently did everyone a favor by putting on the table, from inside of the Islamic world itself, the question of its public conduct and inner soul as they relate to the Muslim religion. Does its conduct, as manifest in its deeds, flow from its religious beliefs? One and a quarter billion Muslims, President al-Sisi bluntly affirmed, cannot hope to eliminate the other six and a half billion human beings. A May 14, 2014, article in the American Thinker estimated that over the centuries some 250 million people have been killed in wars caused by Islam. The religion itself thus needs, in al-Sisi’s view, a thorough “revolution” or transformation.
The issue that I bring up here, in the light of these observations, is this: “Is such a revolution possible without, in effect, eliminating the basic content of what we know as Islam?” If violence, terror, beheadings, forced conversions, bad treatment of women, and intolerance of others are removed or “transformed” in Islam, so that they are no longer parts of the religion but condemned by it, is it still Islam? Would it not be something totally unrecognizable as the same Islam faithfully loyal to its founding by Mohammed? If so, it would follow that something is radically disordered in the founding itself and its development to its present form.
No one thought that communism could fall except, perhaps, Reagan and John Paul II. Some elements of it still strive to hang on, to be sure, but its evils have generally been acknowledged as inhuman. Is there a similar hope about an unexpected turn in Islam? Could it almost miraculously morph into something else? Or, if it changes in any basic way, does it not have to change into something already known, such as Christianity? Or Hinduism? Or even modernism? Are the violent manifestations within Islam towards itself and others simply an aberration? Or, are they essential to the mission to which Islam is committed, namely, to conquer the world for Allah? The authors of Charlie Hebdo hoped that Islam would become as “harmless” as Christianity has become. But is a “harmless” Islam an irrelevant Islam?
In 2011, I called attention to the work of scholars (mostly German) in establishing a critical edition of the Qur’an. It becomes evident that the text of this famous book could not be what it is claimed to be—that is, a revelation in pure Arabic delivered directly from the mind of Allah in the seventh century through Mohammed. Moreover, it is said to be unchanged in any way, not only from its first appearance, but also from eternity.
My assumption, of course, is that the Muslim mind—or any mind—when faced with facts, can recognize a contradiction in its own origins or practices if pointed out. If the Qur’an cannot be what it said it was, how can anyone uphold it? If it is a correlation to previously existing texts, its origin is not what it said it was. The effort to eliminate the scholars who even dare to wonder about this issue is not an argument in favor of the Qur’an, but against it, a sign of unwillingness to examine the evidence. One can only suspect that the failure of any source in Islam itself to produce a critical edition of the Qur’an, combined with the efforts to impede anyone else from doing so, is an indirect proof that many in Islam know there is something strange about the original text that is not explained by the theory of direct revelation.
Muslim thinkers, in the light of contradictory statements in the Qur’an, have had to devise a philosophical thesis about Allah’s nature that would, supposedly, defend the text from incoherence.
The sociologist Rodney Stark, in The Triumph of Christianity (HarperCollins, 2011; $27.99), confronted the notion that Christianity is a “pie in the sky” religion that attracted adherents in its first centuries by merely promising eternal life.
“What is almost always missed”, Stark writes, “is that Christianity often puts the pie on the table! It makes life better here and now.” He details how life in the ancient world was almost unremittingly filthy and unsanitary, and that disease and physical affliction “probably were dominant features of daily life.” Stark states: “In the midst of the squalor, misery, illness, and anonymity of ancient cities, Christianity provided an island of mercy and security. Foremost was the Christian duty to alleviate want and suffering. It started with Jesus.”
Some might be tempted, in reading of the miraculous healings performed by Jesus, to interpret his actions as primarily displays of power and divinity—as if the sick and possessed were props conveniently providing a way for Jesus to say, in essence, “You doubt that I am God, do you? Watch this!” But the power of Christ over sin and death is never separate from the mercy of Christ toward those who suffer from sin and the inevitability of death.
Put another way, God did not become man because he needed the praise of men. He became man so he could, in his divine humility, touch us and save us from both physical evils and spiritual destruction.
The reading from Leviticus 13 provides context for the Gospel reading in describing some of the measures required of those who had leprosy, which likely refers to a range of serious skin disorders including Hansen’s disease. Those afflicted had to present themselves to the priests, who would then diagnose the disease and, if necessary, “declare him unclean”. This was in many ways a sort of death sentence, at least relationally, because the leper had to live outside of the community, identifying himself as “Unclean, unclean!” Leviticus 14 describes the steps of ritual purification administered to those who recovered from their disease, a most happy if uncommon event.
The Law, then, could identify the disease and provided a practical means to protect the people from the disease spreading. But the Law could not cure the disease; it was able only to acknowledge when the disease had disappeared. This contrasts strikingly with Jesus, the great and holy high priest, who did not merely look upon the leper’s diseased body, but stretched out his hand, touched the unclean man, and healed him: “The leprosy left him immediately.”
Yet Jesus did not use this amazing act as a weapon against the Law, but told the man to present himself to the priests as directed in Leviticus 14. In fact, Jesus sternly warned the man to say nothing of the healing, an action described several times in Mark’s Gospel (cf. Mk 1:44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30; 9:9); he wished his identity as the true Messiah—not a military leader or political zealot—to be revealed slowly and at the proper time. Jesus knew how his miracles could be misunderstood and misused by those anxious to overthrow the Romans. But the real Messiah is revealed in humility and mercy, through acts of selfless love and life-giving sacrifice.
A paradox is then described. When the healed leper, contra Jesus’ admonition, did spread the word, it forced Jesus to live and carry out his ministry outside the town—that is, outside the camp. The holy one who had healed the leper became “unclean”, a sort of leper, having to remain in deserted places. But what happened then? The people “kept coming to him from everywhere”. The divide between what was thought clean—the sinful people in need of cleansing—and perceived as unclean—the mysterious man who touched the leper—was removed.
The limitations of the Law were revealed, but the Law was also fulfilled by the Law-giving Son of God, the only priest who can see our sins and heal both body and soul.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the February 12, 2012, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
The noonday devil is the demon of acedia, the vice also known as sloth. The word “sloth”, however, can be misleading, for acedia is not laziness; in fact it can manifest as busyness or activism. Rather, acedia is a gloomy combination of weariness, sadness, and a lack of purposefulness. It robs a person of his capacity for joy and leaves him feeling empty, or void of meaning
Abbot Nault says that acedia is the most oppressive of demons. Although its name harkens back to antiquity and the Middle Ages, and seems to have been largely forgotten, acedia is experienced by countless modern people who describe their condition as depression, melancholy, burn-out, or even mid-life crisis.
He begins his study of acedia by tracing the wisdom of the Church on the subject from the Desert Fathers to Saint Thomas Aquinas. He shows how acedia afflicts persons in all states of life— priests, religious, and married or single laymen. He details not only the symptoms and effects of acedia, but also remedies for it.
Dom Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B., has been the abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Wandrille (or Fontenelle Abbey) in Normandy, France, since 2009. He entered the monastery in 1988, earned a doctorate in theology from the John Paul II Pontifical Institute in Rome (Lateran University), and received from Pope Benedict XVI, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the first Henri de Lubac Prize for his thesis on acedia, La Saveu de Dieu.
Praise for The Noonday Devil:
"The simple, direct style of this work makes the reader feel involved and challenged to consider anew what is essential in his existence." - Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (Rome)
"A must read for anyone who takes the spiritual life seriously. Christ's passion and death on the cross is the most perfect answer to the terrible evil that tells man his very existence is meaningless." - Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., Author, The Ear of the Heart
"With clarity and penetrating insight, Abbot Nault unmasks the pernicious demon of acedia, showing how it tempts souls in every state of life and why it may well be the zeitgeist of our time. A most helpful and encouraging book on a long-overdue topic." - Johnnette Benkovic, EWTN host; Founder, Women of Grace®
"A revelation, a modern-day treatise on an ancient and yet familiar foe. This book can transform the spiritual life of those willing to dive in and go deeper." - Vinny Flynn, Author, 7 Secrets of the Eucharist
"Dom Nault's book shows how acedia is the unwillingness to ask the questions about the meaning of our lives. Hence those burdened by the vice busy themselves in all sorts of activities and distractions. Nault's reflections are most welcome in a world that sees so much darkness at noon-time and wonders why." - James V. Schall, S. J., Author, Reasonable Pleasures
I wrote this article about eight years ago, and it first appeared in the May/June 2007 issue ofThis Rock magazine (now called Catholic Answers Magazine). It was one of three articles on the theological virtues and apologetics, the other two being "An Apologetic of Hope" (Oct. 2006) and "Why Believe? An Apologetic of Faith" (Dec. 2007). Consider it a Valentine for all those who believe and all those who are skeptical.
Love and the Skeptic | Carl E. Olson
"The greatest of these," wrote the Apostle Paul, "is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). Many centuries later, in a culture quite foreign to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the singer John Lennon earnestly insisted, "All we need is love."
Different men, different intents, different contexts. Even different types of "love." You hardly need to subscribe to People magazine or to frequent the cinema to know that love is the singularly insistent subject of movies, songs, novels, television dramas, sitcoms, and talk shows—the nearly monolithic entity known as "pop culture." We are obsessed with love. Or "love." With or without quotation marks, it’s obvious that this thing called love occupies the minds, hearts, emotions, lives, and wallets of homo sapiens.
Yet two questions are rarely asked, considered, contemplated: Why love? And, what is love? These aren’t just good questions for philosophical discussions—these are important, powerful questions to use in talking to atheists and skeptics, for the question of love will ultimately lead, if pursued far and hard enough, to the answer of God, who is Love.
What is This Thing Called Love?
One man who spent much time and thought considering the why and how of love was Pope John Paul II. "Man cannot live without love," he wrote in Redemptor Hominis, his first encyclical. "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (10).
That is a statement both St. Paul and John Lennon could agree with, for it states something that is evident to the thoughtful person, whether Christian or otherwise: I need love. I want to love. I am made for love.
Casablanca: Love, Truth, and That Cosmic “Hill of Beans” | K. V. Turley | CWR
The 1943 classic offers a deep portrayal of love and the struggle to do what is right in the face of passion and temptation
This Valentine’s Day, there are movie theaters both sides of the Atlantic, in London and Washington DC, showing a film that for many is deemed to be amongst the most romantic ever made. (No, I'm not talking about that movie.) This famous film may be, however, a deeper exploration of the meaning of love than audiences at first imagine. And, as marriage is being attacked from all sides, Casablanca is worth revisiting.
Casablanca is more than just a movie. It is now a legend, almost a myth. Its world is as unreal to us today as, surprisingly, it was to audiences when it was released in 1943. Its background of espionage and world war was always more fantasy than it was historic. It is a hyperreality of sorts, with global conflict providing the backdrop for the deep emotions and the love triangle at the movie’s center.
Timely theme, timeless message
Watching it now, one is struck by how timely its themes remain, how modern its dilemmas, and above all how timeless its message: You cannot do right by doing wrong.
For all its legendary status, it is a movie that was “thrown together” rather than crafted with any foreknowledge—or even much of a plan, for that matter. Its genesis was the 1939 stage play, Everybody Comes to Rick's, by the then-husband and wife team of Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. The play was a moderate success, enough for it to catch the eye of Hollywood, which was always hungry for properties to turn into movies. Warner Brothers bought it and then turned it loose to its contract scriptwriters, as happened with so many other literary properties. In this case it was first with the Epstein brothers, who added some much needed levity; then it was sent over to Howard Koch, who put in the various political messages (such as they were) before it was bounced back to the Epsteins for some more light relief—and then back to Koch, and so on.
Did they think they were making a classic that would still be viewed some 70 years later? No, probably not. The creation of a 1940s Hollywood production line, Casablanca was just another movie, with little (so it appeared) to set it apart from anything else then in development.
The same lack of any sense of import was true also of the casting of the film's stars. George Raft, not Humphrey Bogart, was the first choice for the male lead. But Bogart was one of Warner’s’ contract stars and Warner had to find something for him to do, so he was eventually attached to the project. Unlike today, when some movie stars are barely willing to make one film a year, screen stars were then just another studio commodity and, like everyone else on contract, were expected to earn their money.
The other star, Ingrid Berman, was desperate to act in Casablanca, but not because of the movie; she was just desperate to escape into the fantasy world of film and away from an unhappy marriage in New York City. And, like Bogart, she was not a first choice; she wasn’t even really a “choice” as she was under contract elsewhere and only at the last minute was reluctantly loaned to Warners. In the end, both she and Bogart did what they had to do; they were distant with each other throughout, both distracted by unhappy home lives, with little by way of friendship between them when the cameras stopped rolling. Whatever chemistry did exist was confined to the screen, and was as fantastical as the movie’s sub-plot of the fabled exit papers needed to escape from Casablanca.
The other actors—Claude Raines, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Paul Henreid—turned up with varying degrees of interest, and did what they always did: gave first rate performances. All were essentially character actors, some of the best around, and they appeared in countless films. Thus, they had the advantage of steady and lucrative work but with none of the associated problems or projected fantasies that afflicted the leads. The film’s director, Michael Curtiz, was a Hungarian immigrant who churned out numerous films, some better than others, for Warners. A friend of the producers, Curtiz was an inevitable choice as director, if considered so on the basis of being a safe pair of hands. So, as the cameras rolled, it was just another movie on the slate, with a budget and a schedule to keep.
CWR: Your new book, The New Geocentrists, takes on a topic you’ve followed and addressed for many years. First, what is geocentrism? Second, when and why did you first become interested in it?
Keating: Just as heliocentrism is the theory that the Sun is the center of our planetary system, so geocentrism is the theory that the Earth is the center. Geocentrism is the ancient understanding, best known in the formulation given by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. The Ptolemaic theory was modified substantially in the sixteenth century by Tycho Brahe. Most modern geocentrists adhere to a variant of the Tychonian theory.
My interest in geocentrism goes back to my university days. I took a course in the history of science from Prof. Curtis Wilson, then and until his death in 2012 considered the top American expert on Johannes Kepler, who started out as Tycho’s assistant.
In Wilson’s course we took the ancient observational data, worked through the calculations, and discovered that, as observations became ever more precise, the Ptolemaic and Tychonian theories failed to account for the movements of the celestial bodies. It was this failure that led Kepler to develop his three laws of planetary motion, and it was this course that sparked my interest in geocentrism.
CWR: Why the need for a book-length treatment of geocentrism and its main proponents?
St. Valentine’s Day is coming up this weekend, and thoughts of love are in the air. Now, he may not be the first figure to spring to mind when thinking of romance, but here he is anyway: G.K. Chesterton. He was an incurable romantic, and spent years of his life wooing his wife, Frances—long after he was married to her, in fact. Here is a collection of poetry snippets and anecdotes, drawn from Joseph Pearce’s biography, Wisdom and Innocence.
“Here ends my previous existence. Take it: it led me to you.” —G.K. Chesterton, writing to his fiancée Frances
God made you very carefully, He set a star apart for it, He stained it green and gold with fields And aureoled it with sunshine; He peopled it with kings, peoples, republics, And so made you, very carefully. All nature is God’s book, filled with His rough sketches for you.
—Poem written for Frances Blogg by G.K. Chesterton
People sing during a Mass for young adults at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in December 2011.(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Remarriage, Repentance, and Reaching Young Adults | Bill Maguire | CWR blog
Changing the Church's teaching about Communion and remarried Catholics would create a major obstacle to the catechesis and evangelization of young people
Having spilled some ink on the topic of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics and after closely examining the vast body of definitive Magisterial teaching on the subject, the following is clear to me: Civil remarriage is always an objective grave evil if the first marriage is valid; consequently, the reception of Eucharistic communion and the sacrament of Reconciliation is not possible unless there is repentance and a firm purpose of amendment, which means separation or in cases where this is not possible — i.e., where there are children born from the second union — the commitment to live in complete continence.
The Church’s definitive teaching is unambiguous on this point and cannot change — that is, cannot change without at the same time undermining both her competence and authority to speak about marriage and family in the first place. Thus, I would like nothing better than to move on to the real question at hand: What pastoral approaches can the Church develop as effective means to bring about the conversion and repentance of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics — i.e., separation and/or complete continence — so they are able to once again be admitted to the sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic communion?
After all, the theme for last year’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family was: “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” It would seem that two constitutive components of the Church’s mission to evangelize include: (1) the effort to persuade us to accept and conform our lives to the truth and beauty of God’s will; and (2) the effort to call us to repentance, to change those areas of our lives that contradict God’s will.
As Mary said at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Or as Jesus himself said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mk 4:17).
With the publication of the Lineamenta for this year’s Ordinary Synod on the Family — which includes the rejected paragraph of the Relatio Synodi on the possibility of communion for the civilly divorced and remarried (n. 51), plus questions which call for yet further exploration of the topic — it seems, however, it is precisely these two components of evangelization (persuasion and repentance) that are off the table.