IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.
A New Adventure with Steve Ray, the Catholic Indiana Jones!
presents ABRAHAM Father of Faith and Works
NEW YEAR – NEW FILM – NEW ADVENTURE WITH STEVE RAY! And ready for the “BIG SCREEN” in Your Parish in 2015!
Have you been following the Footprints of God from Ignatius Press and Steve Ray?
If you have, you already know there is nothing else like these fast-paced, entertaining, educational documentaries on our salvation history. If you haven’t, you’re in for a real treat!
These eight films combine the elements of a biography, travel documentary, Bible study and apologetics course all rolled into a remarkable, family friendly adventure! Each one is a 90-minute, stand-alone masterpiece taking the viewer to another time and place. With ABRAHAM you will travel with Steve back 4,000 years to Iraq, Turkey, Palestinian Territories and Israel. Have you ever seen a ziggurat? You will!
And now this much anticipated foundational film in the series, ABRAHAM: Father of Faith and Works, has been released as an exclusive parish screening program. Parishes, schools and organizations will be able to purchase a package that will include DVDs to have for sale or to gift, a free DVD for showing, promotional materials, and a 12-month site license to show the movie unlimited times in your facility or in a theater!
License holders will have 6 weeks of exclusive sales of the ABRAHAM DVD before general sales will start on March 17th.
FOOTPRINTS of GOD Parish Screening Program
And for those who would like to show all 8 Footprints of God DVDs now available: JESUS, MARY, PETER, PAUL, APOSTOLIC FATHERS, MOSES, DAVID/SOLOMONand ABRAHAM, we have packages that include a 12-month site license to show all 8 DVDs as well as a free copy of each DVD to use for showing, copies of all the DVDs to sell or gift, and promotional materials.
Both of these parish screening programs make great evangelization tools and can be used as a fundraiser as well.
Click here to see an overview of the Footprints of God films.
For more information on packages and prices available as well as the forms to order your packages, please go to www.IPMovieNights.com and click on SPECIAL SCREENING PROGRAMS.
The Mystery of the Annunciation is the Mystery of Grace | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) | Ignatius Insight
The mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a mystery of silence.It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace.
We feel compelled to ask ourselves: Why did Christ really want to be born of a virgin? It was certainly possible for him to have been born of a normal marriage. That would not have affected his divine Sonship, which was not dependent on his virgin birth and could equally well have been combined with another kind of birth. There is no question here of a downgrading of marriage or of the marriage relationship; nor is it a question of better safeguarding the divine Sonship. Why then?
We find the answer when we open the Old Testament and see that the mystery of Mary is prepared for at every important stage in salvation history. It begins with Sarah, the mother of Isaac, who had been barren, but when she was well on in years and had lost the power of giving life, became, by the power of God, the mother of Isaac and so of the chosen people.
The process continues with Anna, the mother of Samuel, who was likewise barren, but eventually gave birth; with the mother of Samson, or again with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. The meaning of all these events is the same: that salvation comes, not from human beings and their powers, but solely from God—from an act of his grace.
Detail, Ordination of St. Stephen by St. Peter, by Fra Angelico (1447-49).
New Testament Witness | Fr. John Navone, SJ | HPR
The faith of the early Christians in Jesus and the Kingdom of his Father constituted them as a community or Church. If it was their shared faith that formed them into a community, who and what they believed in would be the decisive factor in shaping their shared life as a community and their self-understanding as a Church. The self-understanding or their ecclesiology had to be shaped by their Christology, their theology of Jesus.
Christology and Ecclesiology
In both his Gospel and in the book of Acts, Luke associates the resurrection experience very closely with the notion of “giving witness.” In the speeches of both Peter and Paul that are narrated in Acts, this is a recurrent theme: “This Jesus God raised up, and, of that, we are all witnesses” (2:32; see also 3:15; 5:32; 1:31). In one passage, Peter sees the reason for the resurrection experience in the fact that they were chosen by God as witnesses: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses …” (10:39-41). In his Gospel, Luke makes this association in the final conversation between Jesus and his disciples, where Jesus tells them that they are to be “witnesses of these things” (24:48).
Moreover, the role of giving witness is associated, not only with the resurrection experience, but also with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In the Gospel account of the final conversation, the disciples are told to stay in the city until they are clothed with the power which the promise of the Father will bring (24:49). In the Pentecost event itself, the Spirit comes in the symbols of fire and a rush of mighty wind, and Peter stands to speak and give witness (Acts 2:2-14). The power which they received from the Holy Spirit was, in a special way, the power to give witness.
These associations of both the resurrection experience and the Pentecost experience with the call to give witness and the power to give witness suggest that Luke’s theology, both of the resurrection and of Pentecost, was formulated within the context of the delay of Jesus’ coming, and are Luke’s theological solution of this problem. Luke’s theology of the Ascension also makes sense within this context. When Jesus did not come in power and glory as they expected, his power and glory was portrayed as his heavenly exaltation “at the right hand of the Father.” The manifestation of his power is that power which comes with the outpouring of the Spirit. The opening scene in Acts shows the interrelationship of these various elements in Luke’s theology: the disciples are not to inquire about “times and seasons” for the coming of the Kingdom, but they are to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and they are to be his witnesses, and after saying this, Jesus departs from them. It was his absence that made witnesses necessary, and made the role of the Spirit in empowering to give witness so central.
The disciples, then, were constituted witnesses to Jesus through the resurrection experience and through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. What the nature of their witness was to be, however, and what all it was to include were things that they had to learn. Luke brings this out in Acts in the story which he tells about Stephen, who was one of the seven deacons chosen to take care of the daily distribution to the widows. We are told that Stephen was “full of grace and power, and did great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). So great were the wonders and signs, that they began to cause trouble for Stephen with the synagogue. Members of the synagogue began to dispute with him, but when they could not withstand the “wisdom and spirit” with which he spoke, “they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes” and had Stephen arrested (6:12).
There follows the story of Stephen being brought before the High Priest and the Council, and his lengthy speech about the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets, ending with the account of Jesus, whom Stephen calls the Righteous One, being betrayed and put to death (7:52).
Confusion in Ireland as 'Marriage Equality' Referendum Approaches | Michael Kelly | CWR
Changes in ambiguous wording, tepid warnings from Catholic bishops, and deep concerns about children are part of the tense lead-up to May 22nd vote
Just two months before a May 22nd 'Marriage Equality' referendum, many commentators predict Ireland will become the first country in the world to insert a constitutional amendment permitting civil marriage between two people of the same gender.
A distinctive feature of Irish democracy has been frequent recourse to constitutional referendums. May’s referendum will be the 35th time voters have been asked to amend the constitution in less than 80 years. The origin of this state of affairs may partly be traced to the unhappy split in the 1920s over a treaty with Britain, which led to a civil war after it was narrowly passed by a parliamentary majority. Prime Minister Éamon de Valera, who framed the 1937 constitution, felt strongly that future decisions on fundamental questions required more than a simple parliamentary majority.
Opinion polls currently predict that 77% of voters will back the constitutional redefinition of marriage while 22% of people say they will vote ‘no’. However, opinion polls on constitutional questions are notoriously unreliable in Ireland.
In 2013, for example, a referendum on children’s rights – which enshrined individual rights for minors in the constitution and granted the state greater powers to intervene in families – was just narrowly passed. An opinion poll had said just 4% of voters would oppose the motion, on polling day a significant 42% of citizens decided to vote against the children’s rights amendment.
There’s also the fact that many of those saying they are inclined to vote in favor of same-sex marriage have reservations.
According to John Downing, a political commentator and former government adviser, much of the apparent support for same-sex marriage in opinion polls is soft and many voters are not entirely convinced.
Only 59% of those who said they will vote ‘yes’ said they strongly held that opinion. The other 18% were more tentative about their voting intention. The pollsters also asked further questions about matters related to the issue of gay marriage. One-third of those prepared to vote ‘yes’ said they had reservations about gay couples adopting children.
Those who said they would vote ‘yes’ were further asked if they had reservations about the concept of the same-sex marriage referendum. In this case, 42% said they had reservations about the idea of the referendum.
When the question is a simple yes/no on whether the voter intends to support same-sex marriage the results are strongly in favor of a ‘yes’. However, when a series of more detailed questions are put into the mix, this number falls eventually to 44%.
Confused wording, last-minute changes
The Government’s ‘yes’ campaign has also been criticized by legal experts after Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was forced to make a last-minute change to the proposed wording after fears the move could inadvertently ban traditional marriage.
"A Field of Wheat" (1878) by Ivan Shishkin [WikiArt.org]
Unless we become grains of wheat... | A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for March 22, 2015, the Fifth Sunday of Lent | Carl E. Olson
Readings: • Jer 31:31-34 • Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15 • Heb 5:7-9 • Jn 12:20-33
“If a tree falls in a forest,” goes the philosophical riddle, “and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
In today’s Gospel we hear something similar, yet not it is not a riddle or philosophical puzzle, but a clear response and a spiritual challenge. “Amen, amen, I say to you,” Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Put as a question: if a grain of wheat does not fall to the ground and die, will it bear fruit? No, the Lord says, it will not. For although death is the enemy, it is also, paradoxically, the means to everlasting life. “By death,” the Byzantine Easter chorus announces, “he conquered death.” Such paradoxes appear contradictory and illogical, but they express a truth; it is a surprising and profound truth, as with the analogy used by Jesus.
But how is it that those who love their lives will lose them? What does it mean to say that whoever hates his life in this world will gain eternal life?
This strong language is quite similar to Jesus’ assertion that if “any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). We know, of course, that Jesus did not condone hatred of family or strangers. Rather, by using a common form of Semitic rhetoric, he brought into bold relief the two possible options: either put Jesus first, where he belongs, or put him somewhere else.
It is never wrong to love our family, but it is wrong to put our families or ourselves before Jesus and the things of God. The man who loves his life in this world is a man who puts more sweat, tears, and time into this world than he does into the kingdom of God. If we live as though this passing, temporal world is our highest priority, it necessarily means that we have placed something that is good, because it is from God, above the greatest Good, which in turn pits that good thing against God.
Some might argue—as many critics of Christianity do—that such thinking forms people who are so heavenly-minded they are of no earthly good. In reality, the Christian who is oriented toward his final destination and who lives with the hope of heaven is of the greatest earthly good, for he rightly perceives the place and value of this world.
After all, no man has ever been more heavenly-minded than Jesus Christ, and no man has ever done more earthly good than Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, human history is marked with the tragic and bloody remains of those destroyed by men who were so earthly-minded that they were of no heavenly or earthly good.
St. Irenaeus, in his famous work, “Against Heresies,” observed that a kernel of wheat “falling into the earth and becoming decomposed rises and is multiplied by the Spirit of God, who contains all things. And then, through the wisdom of God, it serves for our use when, after receiving the Word of God, it becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time.”
The God-fearing Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship during the Passover said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” This is the desire of those who know this world is not enough; they want to see and know the One who is Truth. And when the Eucharist is lifted up at Mass, we do see Jesus. We receive him completely. Having died with him in baptism, we will one day, by God’s grace, rise with Him at our appointed time.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the March 29, 2009, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
The Past is a Foreign Country: Liturgical Latin and Fiction | James Casper | IPNovels.com
Much we know about the world would be lost were it not for artistic renderings of the past. Memories otherwise would seldom outlive those who remember.
Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars forced professional historians and casual readers alike to revise assessments of the Catholic religion in England in the years immediately preceding the Reformation:
If medieval religion was decadent, unpopular, or exhausted, the success of the Reformation hardly requires explanation. If, on the contrary, it was vigorous, adaptable, widely understood, and popular, then we have much yet to discover about the processes and the pace of reform.
In the almost six hundred pages following this observation, Duffy develops support for this thesis: that the Reformation in England was more of a revolution against a popular, widely-revered institution than an effort to reform something rife with problems and corruption. He can only build his case by reference to contemporary written accounts and a study of Church artistic works that somehow managed to survive state-sponsored efforts to obliterate the past.
The Tudor and Puritan road he guides his readers down is littered with burnt books, defaced statues, destroyed altar screens, and melted down church vessels. Destroy the artistic creations and traditions of an age, and when the last person who remembers it dies, a world dies also. This is where the road ends.
In our own time, those of us old enough to remember the Catholic Church as it was prior to Vatican II are also living with an obliterated past on a road marked ‘Dead End’. Inevitably, as the days move along, we are a vanishing breed on an all but forgotten journey.
These days much is made of the Catholicity of celebrated writers Chesterton, Tolkien, and Waugh. The latter two lived long enough to experience firsthand changes wrought by Vatican II, and both railed against them. (Details are at hand in the Ignatius Press edition of A Bitter Trial.) Tolkien and Waugh would never again feel at home in the Church. G. K.’s childhood memory of successful businessmen, bankers, and shop clerks falling to their knees as Cardinal Manning passed by along Kensington High Street seems to come from a world other than this one. G. K.’s old nemesis, George Bernard Shaw, might think the Church has become a bit more palatable, but what would G. K. himself think? Given his sense of humor, he might have somehow managed whereas Belloc—had he lived to see the day—would have blown a fuse.
Tolkien is said to have been dismayed by the exiling of Latin to what would become in our time a liturgical antique shop.
The Importance of Knowing St. Joseph | Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. | The Introduction to The Mystery of Joseph by Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P. | Ignatius Insight
The publication of this serious, even profound study of a person intimately joined to the life of the Messiah and written by one of the most respected figures in our contemporary Catholic scene should cause serious attention to be paid to the often neglected figure of Saint Joseph.
Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P., an important French theologian who died only in 2006, was a man whose thought was of great influence and depth. He was also a man greatly devoted to the Church who founded the Community of Saint John. This new community is now recognized in several countries as a very successful attempt to restore a vibrant spirituality to the religious life, which in many places has seemed moribund for years.
The Brothers and Sisters of Saint John are a cause of hope to those who look ahead to the restoration of the authentic and powerful traditions of the religious life that have gotten lost in recent times. The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal have welcomed them with joy.
Father Philippe's book on Saint Joseph is very consistent with the new biblical theology called for by Pope Benedict XVI. The author very impressively examines the sparse facts that we have concerning the life of Saint Joseph, teasing from them material that connects easily and well with a very impressive structure of theological teaching. This then becomes a means of providing a firm foundation for devotion to the Foster Father and Guardian of the Son of God.
Except for Christ and Saint Paul, New Testament figures attract little attention from the secular world and especially the secular media – even when they are in a kindly mood. Occasionally a small amount of attention is shown to the figure of the Blessed Mother but rarely is Saint Joseph or any of the Apostles mentioned. Even in cities named Saint Joseph or San José are the inhabitants really conscious of the fact that their hometown is actually named for a person – a person who played a role of immense importance in God's plan of redemption for humankind. This apparent obscurity finds at its root a kind of Protestantism that is focused intensely on the figure Christ and on the writings of Saint Paul, but which seems barely acquainted with Saint Joseph and even the Mother of God, herself.
Catholic theology, which takes a less constricted view of such things, opened up a world of devotion to Saint Joseph the humble carpenter of Nazareth as well as to the Mother of God. How could it be otherwise? These are the figures who stood at the manger on the first Christmas; they are the ones to whom the care of the Word Incarnate was entrusted by God.
Charles Rubin's Eclipse of Man demonstrates the right way for scholars to grapple with the multi-faceted questions raised by advances in biotechnology, robotics, and computing
The only reason we are still alive is our inconsistency in not having actually silenced all tradition.” – Gerhard Kruger (1902-72)
In Sir Arthur C. Clarke's classic science fiction novel Childhood's End (1953), a mysterious alien race known as the Overlords land on Earth. Swiftly establishing a benevolent dictatorship, the Overlords put an end to war and want and transform the world into a tranquil, rationalist utopia.
They do this not for the sake of mankind per se, however, but to pave the way for the next leap in human evolution—a leap which occurs years later, when human parents mysteriously beget superhuman children. With the watchful Overlords as their guardians, these children eventually abandon human form and merge into a disembodied collective supermind which roves the galaxy at the speed of thought. Meanwhile and for reasons not entirely clear, the human race loses its will to live, which is just as well since the transformation of the mutant children into a new collective life form unleashes terrible cosmic forces. Said forces destroy the Earth.
As Charles Rubin suggests in Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress, Clarke's Childhood's End possesses virtues that should not be casually dismissed, however objectionable the novel might be in many ways. C. S. Lewis, of all people, regarded the novel with admiration. Whatever else Clarke got wrong, felt Lewis, his story was at least motivated by a sense of man's ultimate aim being grander and more marvelous than a cozy world of well-manicured lawns and secure pensions. That said, the story also reflects a regrettably fideistic attitude toward Progress. Such fideism remains strong to this day, even after all the ecological, social, and political catastrophes of the 20th century. Concerns about nuclear war, the greenhouse effect, and bioterrorism have even led some to “double down” on progressive ideology by calling for the transformation of man into an alien being.
The growing number who call for such a transformation are known as transhumanists. As Rubin explains,
Transhumanists argue not only that modern science and technology are giving human beings the power to take evolution into our own hands to improve the human species, and then to create some new species entirely, but also the ability to improve on all of nature. Much like the older apocalyptic visions [of the environmentalist movement], the transhumanists believe that mankind as we know it and nature as we know it are on their way out; but for most transhumanists, that is the deliberate goal sought, not a consequence of our hubris to be avoided. Indeed, the transhumanists believe that if we are to prevent some of the more common apocalyptic visions from becoming reality, we must redesign humanity so that our ruinous flaws can be eliminated. To avoid mere destruction, we must embrace creative destruction.
As with any movement, the sub-ideologies found within transhumanism are legion.
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it about the same number of times.
“It” is John 3:16, one of the most famous verses in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” I first memorized it at the age of four, reciting it before a small Fundamentalist congregation.
That verse, from today’s Gospel reading, is a beautiful summary, from the lips of the Savior, of the heart of salvation. As Pope Benedict XVI stated in the opening of his encyclical on love, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” And that is an apt description of the season of Lent: a transforming encounter with a person, the Son of God, who gives us life, direction, purpose.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, sought out an encounter with Jesus. He came at night, fearful of being seen with Jesus The nighttime, in John’s Gospel, symbolizes the spiritual darkness in which man lives apart from God, a theme introduced in the opening verses of John’s Gospel (Jn 1:4-5). This ruler of the Jews realized his need for spiritual light, readily confessing his belief that Jesus was “a teacher who has come from God.” Surely he must have been challenged by Jesus’ declaration that “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
A decisive direction was presented to Nicodemus. Yet the Apostle John does not describe what reaction Nicodemus had to the words of Jesus; the secretive visitor seems to have silently disappeared back into the night. Perhaps St. John did not immediately reveal Nicodemus’s choice because Nicodemus, in a certain way, is each of us. We have met Jesus, we have sat at his feet, and we have heard his words. What will we do?
This is one of so many brilliant qualities of the Fourth Gospel, which is a literary and spiritual icon offering a window into the mystery of Christ—and into the mystery of our own hearts. We can relate to Nicodemus, just as we can understand the joy of the woman at the well (Jn 4), the hunger of the crowds who followed Jesus (Jn 6), and the fear and anguish of Peter, who betrayed Jesus after the arrest in the garden (Jn 18). “Nicodemus,” wrote Monsignor Romano Guardini in his classic work, The Lord, “has been shaken by Jesus’ mysterious power; his wonderful teaching has struck home.” But, just like the woman at the well, the crowds, and Peter, there was at first bewilderment and confusion. He no longer wanted to be in the darkness, but he was not ready to step fully into the light. He would stay in the shadows for a while longer, pondering the person and words of Jesus.
But eventually Nicodemus did, cautiously, step forward a bit, coming to Jesus’ defense before his fellow Pharisees (Jn 7:50-52). But his appeal for fairness was met with suspicious anger. Perhaps he pondered again these words: “whoever lives the truth comes to the light…”
We meet Nicodemus one more time, after the Crucifixion. Pilate had given Joseph of Arimathea permission to remove and bury Christ’s body, and Nicodemus, “the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds” (Jn 19:39). He was finally in the light completely, revealing himself as a disciple of the Son of Man who had been lifted up “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Lent is a time to come into the light and to embrace the gift of eternal life. That’s worth hearing about a thousand times. Or more.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the March 22, 2009, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is pictured preaching in an undated photo. (CNS photo)
Fulton Sheen's Intense Life of Holiness Worthy of Sainthood, Biographer Writes | Joseph M. Hanneman | CWR
Thomas C. Reeves, author of America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen, has written a final chapter, now available for free online
Driven and sustained by his daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen lived an intense life of holiness, zeal to save souls and Christian love that helped make him the most influential Catholic in 20th-century America, biographer Thomas C. Reeves says.
Reeves has released a previously unpublished conclusion to his 2002 Sheen biography, America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen (Encounter Books). The concluding chapter, titled "Living Intensely," covers Sheen's spirituality, his inspiration and how others viewed his life. While Reeves does not directly promote Sheen as a candidate to be raised to the altars, his book's concluding chapter is a very tidy summation of Sheen's merits for sainthood. Reeves is making the chapter available for free on the internet, and has donated it for inclusion in his papers at Marquette University.
"To an extraordinary degree, his mind was on God," Reeves wrote of Sheen (1895-1979), the prolific author and Catholic evangelist best remembered for his 1950s television series, "Life is Worth Living." "This supernatural approach to life activated and sustained his enormous energy. He said late in life, 'the secret of my power is that I have never in fifty-five years missed spending an hour in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s where the power comes from. That’s where sermons are born. That’s where every good thought is conceived.' "
Sheen's commitment to keeping a holy hour began on the day of his ordination on September 20, 1919 and lasted until the day of his death on December 9, 1979. He was clearly devoted to the practice, but he viewed it not as a devotion but "a sharing in the work of redemption." For many decades, he urged brother priests, religious and all the faithful to make a daily holy hour.
"We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset, the face takes on a golden glow," Sheen wrote in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay. "Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way, as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain." The holy hour was also a source for intellectual ideas and preaching. "Theological insights," Sheen once said, "are gained not only from the two covers of a treatise, but from two knees on a prie-dieu before a tabernacle."
In September 2002, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially opened Sheen's canonization case and conferred on him the title "Servant of God." An investigation into Sheen's heroic virtue began in 2008. After a tribunal on a miracle attributed to Sheen's intercession, Pope Benedict XVI in June 2012 affirmed Sheen's heroic virtue and conferred on him the title "Venerable." In 2014, a dispute arose as to where Sheen's body would repose for the expected beatification and canonization. The Archdiocese of Peoria announced on September 3, 2014 that the Sheen cause was being suspended indefinitely.
A lifelong drive for holiness and purity was not just a Sheen hallmark, Reeves wrote, but a key to his success in spreading the Gospel and winning converts.
Supper at Emmaus, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi (1615-1625).
How to Read Christology and Still Keep Your Faith | Dr. Jake Yap | HPR
“Christology” is everywhere. That is, if we take its basic etymology and understand it simply as “speech concerning Christ.” People can utter his name flippantly, even blasphemously. Popular films and novels can be “christological.” And there are many serious books about Jesus, written for a mainstream, theologically-minded audience. As Gerhard Lohfink states in the preface of his Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was (2012): “There are innumerable books about Jesus. The reason is obvious: we can never finish with him, and every age must encounter him anew.”1 Lohfink says that, while some of these books on Jesus are very good, others are “very bad,” and the reason is that “they are far from understanding that the real ‘historical Jesus’ cannot be grasped independently of faith in him.”2 Here we can see three things: a judgment that some christological books can be “very bad,” the possibility of knowing and understanding the “real, ‘historical Jesus,’” and faith as one of the necessary criteria for interpreting him correctly.
Christology is also not immune to theological fashion. It is trendy. Theologians down the centuries, except for the few who are utterly “unworldly” and even saintly, compose their accounts of Christ not only to serve the truth, to enlighten believers, and to convince the skeptics; some also write Christologies to make a name for themselves, “to win a place in the biblical sun.”3
There are christological writings from various perspectives and contexts: liberationist, feminist, political, ecological, cultural, and so forth. Teilhard de Chardin’s “cosmic Christ” continues to appeal to certain readers. And if it could be argued that Christologies “from above” served well an earlier epoch when Christ’s divinity, robustly upheld, was gratefully received by believers, it is now asserted that such an approach fails to speak to a contemporary world that, on the one hand, has grown skeptical of the supernatural, and, on the other hand, sorely needs a human and humanizing Jesus. Lohfink writes:
So we see Jesus as an opium for the soul and as a political revolutionary. Here, he is the archetype of the unconscious, there a pop star. He appears as the first feminist and as the faithful advocate of bourgeois morality. Jesus is used by those who want to see nothing change in the Church, and he is used as a weapon against the Church. He is instrumentalized over and over again to confirm people’s own desires and dreams. At present, he must, above all, stand for the legitimation of universal tolerance, which is no longer interested in truth and, therefore, threatens to slide off into arbitrariness.4
So are there “many Christs”? Not at all. But the array of christological writings, each presenting an “interpretation” of Christ, can be bewildering. This essay addresses itself to Christians who are interested in reading Christology. More specifically, I write for those who wish to read and learn (and indeed there is much to learn) while keeping their creedal faith intact. I wish to help them to navigate the expansive terrain, the sheer scope of the literature, and to steer clear of landmines and trenches. For they will find it a formidable task, if no one will guide them through it. Any good theological library will have an extensive collection of christological literature. And every year, more and more books are being written, published, and promoted. Which ones should they read? By what criteria should they approach a particular author, adopt a particular perspective, embrace, or at least be sympathetic to, a particular interpretation? Let me offer six pieces of advice.
1. Trust the Gospels
“The key question for studying Jesus is,” according to N.T. Wright, “can we trust the Gospels?”5 This is a legitimate question, but to answer it more fully will take us far beyond an essay such as this. The short, correct, and defensible answer is: Yes, we can. Wright elaborates:
Good Catastrophes, Part 3: Recovering a Clear View | Holly Ordway | IPNovels.com
I’ve been arguing for the importance of a revitalized Catholic literature that is eucatastrophic, grounded in confidence of the truth of the Christian faith and nourished by the reality of the sacraments. I’ve repeatedly referenced Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as an example of what we need to do. But how are we to do it? Simply mimicking The Lord of the Rings on a surface level is most certainly not the answer. If it were, then the sheer quantity of Tolkien-derivative fantasy novels, not to mention Middle-earth film-tie-in merchandise, would have already put us into a full-fledged Catholic revival. This has observably not been the case. There is a lot to unpack about the influence of Tolkien (and that’s a large part of the academic writing I’m doing now), far more than I can even hint at in a blog series, but we can gain some valuable insight into the potential of Catholic writing from Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-stories.”
In “On Fairy-stories,” Tolkien addresses fantasy literature specifically, but the conclusions that he draws can be applied to literature more broadly as well. He finds three particular functions of Fantasy: Recovery, Escape, and Consolation.
Recovery, Tolkien writes, “is a re-gaining—regaining of a clear view.”
This award-winning movie is a beautiful representation of the mystical life of St. Maria Faustina, who became the "Apostle of Divine Mercy". It tells the story of her mystical experiences as a nun living in a convent in Poland in the early 20th century. It is to her that Jesus appeared and commanded that she be his instrument for promoting devotion to his Divine Mercy, and that the Feast of Divine Mercy be established and celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. He also requested from Sister Faustina that an image be painted and venerated of him and his Divine Mercy, and asked that we pray especially the Chaplet of Mercy.
The story and film are based on her own writings from her "Diary", which has become a worldwide best-selling spiritual work. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000 as the first saint of the new millennium. Actress Dorota Segda received great critical acclaim by European film critics for her stunning portrayal of Sister Faustina.
Film includes a 30 minute bonus extra of the "Making Of" the movie.
This DVD contains the following languages: Polish with English or Spanish subtitles.
William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. (Photo courtesy of CL: www.catholicleague.org)
Catholicism and Secular Media: 10 Questions for Bill Donohue | Sean Salai, S.J. | CWR
“I am a civil rights leader who is expected to combat injustice,” says the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, “so being sensitive to bigots is not a priority.”
William A. Donohue is a New York-based author, sociologist and political activist who has been president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights since 1993. He holds a PhD in sociology from New York University and is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation. His last book was the 2012 best-seller Why Catholicism Matters: How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century.
Mr. Donohue took over the Catholic League after the death of founding president Father Virgil Blum, S.J., in 1990. As president of the organization, he seeks to counter anti-Catholic bias in the secular media. I recently interviewed Mr. Donahue about his work by email.
You’ve spent much of your career fighting “defamation and discrimination” against Catholics in the American secular media. How do you understand these words?
We spend most of our time defending the institutional Church against defamation, and much less time defending individual Catholics against discrimination. Since the time of President John F. Kennedy, Catholic men and women have made great progress, but the defamation against the Church has grown much worse.
By defamation, I do not mean criticism; I mean insult. I do not have a problem with those who criticize the Church's positions on public policy issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, school vouchers, and the like. But if the comments hit below the belt—this is obviously a judgment call—that is a different issue.
What does defamation mean to you in the context of today’s public discourse?
It is not defamatory to harshly criticize a particular bishop or priest, but when sweeping generalizations are made about all bishops or priests, that is unfair and the offenders need to be called out on it. There is a difference between disagreement and disdain, and between statements meant to inform and those that are meant to hurt. For example, late-night TV talk-show hosts like to take pot shots at the pope, and when it is done in a light-hearted manner (most of Colbert's jokes are of this vein), then that is fine. But when the host becomes vile (Bill Maher is the classic example), then we are dealing with bigotry.
What do you believe is the biggest example of anti-Catholic bias in the U.S. today?
San Francisco, March 9, 2015 – What does it mean to be in true communion with Christ? Pope Saint John Paul II declared that the great challenge for the Church in our day is to become “the home and school of communion.” Saint Teresa Benedicta, known to many as Edith Stein, is a sure guide to attaining the communion for which every human heart longs.
A new book, Communion with Christ: According to Saint Teresa Benedicta of theCross by Sister M. Regina van den Berg,F.S.G.M., considers Saint Teresa’s life and writings in the context of the “spirituality of communion.” As a philosopher she was directed towards attaining communion with the Truth, and she discovered that Truth was a Person, Jesus Christ. As a Carmelite nun she gave up everything for communion with him.
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, in the foreword, says Edith Stein’s message “is above her time” and that the author, Sister M. Regina van den Berg, “is well qualified to write such a book.” Sister Regina explores in detail Edith Stein’s theory of empathy as developed in her doctoral dissertation, as well as her theory of community. Sister Regina has also used a number of Edith Stein’s writings which, until this work, have not yet been available in English translation.
Each chapter explores an aspect of “communion”, richly revealing how Edith Stein, “a Jew who became a philosopher . . . a convert to Catholicism who became a Carmelite nun and crowned her life with martyrdom.” Stein’s work “provides insights that can help us grow in the spirituality of communion, first by presenting to us the truth about the human person’s nature and vocation and then by showing us how we can arrive at a spirituality of communion in the various aspects of life.”
Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, declares, “Philosopher, convert and martyr Edith Stein is enjoying a well-deserved revival of interest these days. Readers of this clear and careful study will come away with a stronger sense of the depth and breadth of Edith Stein’s thought, which is as relevant today as ever.”
“This is an ideal introduction for anyone wishing to learn how one of the greatest saints of our time envisioned and lived the ‘science of the Cross’”, says Dawn Eden, author of My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.
Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, S.C.D., author of Artist and Image: Artistic Creativity and Personal Formation in the Thought of Edith Stein, says that “Sister Regina presents a deeply mature and incisive analysis of the heart of Stein’s teaching on communion as a union of hearts and minds ultimately united towards one eternal goal and divine destiny.”
“Sister Regina unveils the depths of Edith Stein’s insights, revealing Stein’s nuanced account of community between women and men, human and angelic communities, membership in the Mystical Body, etc. An impressive achievement that teaches much about how to be more fully human”, says Sarah Borden Sharkey, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College.
Fr. John Sullivan, O.C.D., from the Institute of Carmelite Studies, claims that “this book will help the reader deepen an appreciation for the significance of Teresa Benedicta/Edith Stein in contemporary debates.”
About the Author:
Sister M. Regina van den Berg, F.S.G.M., obtained her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She has served in various apostolates for her religious community and currently resides in Rome.
Sister M. Regina van den Berg is available for interviews about this book.
To request a review copy or an interview, please contact: Rose Trabbic, Publicist, Ignatius Press at (239) 867-4180 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Title:COMMUNION WITH CHRIST According to Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Author: Sister M. Regina van den Berg, F.S.G.M. Release Date: February 2015 Length: 168 pages Price: $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-58617-951-9 • Softcover Order: 1-800-651-1531 • www.ignatius.com
Called "the greatest saint of modern times" by Pope St. Pius X, Thérèse of Lisieux lived a hidden life in a Carmelite monastery and died at only 24 years of life. Yet, her "secret" of sanctity has made her not only a great modern saint, but a Doctor of the Church. She promised to spend her Heaven doing good on Earth. Her simple spirituality, humility and complete trust in God revolutionized the 20th century. Over 100 years after her death she continues to inspire millions of people, help them in their lives, and draw them closer to God.
This film tells the story of her life and message, intertwined with the personal stories of twelve people from around the world who testify to the great impact Therese has made on their lives. Including very rare footage of the inside of her monastery at Lisieux, we also meet a taxi driver in Rome, a famous radio priest in the Netherlands, a wedding dress designer in Paris, a teenager in Lebanon, a Protestant professor at Harvard divinity School, a mother of twelve children in Nigeria, a stock broker on Wall Street, and others, who share their moving personal stories of how Thérèse, and her "secret", has changed their lives. A secret so powerful, it confirms her mission to "Love Jesus and to make Him loved by others."
"I have the habit, when I do not know how things are going, of asking Saint Thérèse that if she takes care of some problem, anything at all, to send me a rose." - Pope Francis
Benedict XVI, in Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (2007), explained that Jesus Christ is the new Torah and the new Temple. “Jesus understands himself as the Torah—as the word of God in person”, wrote Benedict. And then, a bit later: “The issue of Jesus’ claim to be Temple and Torah in person also has implications for the question of Israel—the issue of the living community of the people in whom God’s word is actualized.”
This understanding is not unique to Benedict. For example, Dr. Matthew Levering developed it in his book, Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah and Temple (University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), emphasizing the insights of St. Thomas Aquinas. But, you ask, what does such high-minded theology have to do with living a Christian life, especially during Lent? Today’s readings, which focus on the Torah and the Temple, provide an opportunity to reflect on that question.
Let’s begin by asking: what was the purpose of the Torah? The Ten Commandments (and 603 other commandments) were given within the context of two key events: the Exodus from Egypt and the covenant at Mount Sinai. The Exodus was aimed at two things, the first obvious, the second less so: land and worship. We all know of the promised land flowing with milk and honey, but we often overlook God’s words to Pharaoh, given by Moses: “Let my people go to serve me in the wilderness” and “We must go a three days’ journey in the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord, our God, as he commands us” (Ex 7:16; 8:23). Freedom from slavery meant freedom to openly worship God.
Finally free, the people went to the base of Mount Sinai, where Moses eventually received the Torah. As Joseph Ratzinger notes in The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), the covenant established there united “the three aspects of worship, law, and ethics”—that is, how to relate to God and to others, in public and private relationships. The Torah was meant to lead to the fullness of life, which included entering the promised land. Rather than giving blind submission to an unknown, capricious deity, the people were to respond with love to the mercy and goodness of the Lord (see CCC 2062).
The Torah, then, was not legalistic or based in anger, but came from a rather stunning expression of divine, personal love. Just as God had created everything out of love, he also created a people of his own out of love and with a distinct purpose. Jewish scholar Maurice Samuel, in his introduction to Solomon Goldman’s commentary, The Ten Commandments (University of Chicago, 1963), wrote, “Just as Genesis is an explosive denial of the randomness of the physical universe, so the Revelation at Sinai is a repudiation of the meaninglessness of history.”
That repudiation culminated in the Incarnation. And Jesus Christ, by his life, death, and resurrection established a new and everlasting covenant that perfectly fulfilled the Torah (cf., CCC 2052-2055). Through him, we have life and purpose, for in him we share in the very life of God.
The Temple in Jerusalem was, of course, a place of worship; it was God’s dwelling place among his chosen people. Sacrifices were offered there for the atonement of sins, but it had increasingly become the home for a lucrative system of money changing and price gauging. The house of God had become, in many ways, a supermarket and a “den of robbers” (Jer 7:11). Rather than a sacred place where man be reconciled to God, the Temple was becoming a place of corrupt commodity.
Just as the covenant at Sinai established man’s right relationship with God, the cleansing of the Temple drew a line in the sand—not to repress, but to redeem. If God is not given proper honor and worship, love begins to die and relationships are perverted. We begin by loving God and accepting Christ’s mercy, grace, and life. All else follows.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the March 11, 2012, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
Pope Francis passes a video monitor as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Fantastic Francis Fantasies | Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille | CWR blog
Young leftist Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig is the latest breathless fan cheering madly at the 2015 running of the Ultramontane Sweeps
The media is so predictable. With Lent well underway, and Easter now just a month off, watch for an increasing spate of cover stories about whether Jesus was really resurrected, whether he ascended to heaven, or whether he fled to Morocco and married one of his apostles in a long-secret gay marriage only now come to light because of a scrap of undated papyrus containing a half dozen Greek letters. I last bothered reading one of these tedious stories around 1995. They never change.
But there is another cycle to media mischief, and it is tied to the forthcoming synod in Rome in October. After the shambolic affair this past October, we can expect reporters to descend on Rome again to report breathlessly on how Pope Francis is going to wave his magic papal wand and declare “gay marriage”, abortion, and Big Macs to be good things. In fact, the media campaign for him to make changes has already begun. Exhibit A is Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig article, “Fear of a Radical Pope”, just published in The New Republic.
If Bruenig, who describes herself on her website as a doctoral student who brings “a Christian leftist perspective to public discourse”, were one of my graduate students and she turned in such a sprawling and incoherent essay she would have received it back drowning in a veritable Red Sea of inky corrections. Leaving aside the fact that there is so very little serious content, and still less rational sequence, to this article, and overlooking its abundant and very adolescent sneering and sloganeering (“irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas” to re-purpose Trilling’s famous phrase), the most risible passage is surely this bit of armchair psychoanalysis:
Conservatives inside the Church and out will, in all likelihood, continue to rankle at Francis’s presence, his persona, his wildly successful evangelism. With every word, he offers an obviously superior approach to theirs.
When I was a graduate student, a professor once said to me: “watch your adverbs.” I offer the same counsel here to Bruenig because her careless usage offers very fat targets ripe for ready rejoinder: wildly successful evangelism? Obviously superior approach? Relative to whom—the Westboro Baptists? Such lazy, tendentious and noticeably fact-free generalizations have no place in the writing of any would-be serious scholar—and the fact she’s writing for a once-popular magazine does not excuse this evidentiary burden.
It never occurs to Ms. Bruenig for even a moment that people may disagree not with Francis’s presence or persona, but his practices and perhaps even his ideas, and that doing so is a welcome, necessary, and healthy practice of the Church going all the way back to the apostles themselves.
A compelling docu-drama that tells the whole story of the amazing life of St. Rita of Cascia, the very popular saint who lived in Italy in the 14th century. Famous as the patron of hopeless situations, St. Rita dealt with many very difficult, and tragic, events in her life. Through it all she developed a profound faith in God that was the source of her great strength, and why she is such a popular saint for all those dealing with difficult events in their own lives.
Her story combines high drama, great love, deep betrayal, profound forgiveness and strong faith, about this brave woman who married her knight, helped him overcome his dark past and convert to faith, happily bore him two children, and later endures immense pain as she loses everything in her life.
She finds peace and new hope through the generosity of a nearby convent of sisters, and with their help she develops a deep union with Christ that greatly inspires all who are near her.
Novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Harper Lee in 1962, two years after the publication of her novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Photos: Wikipedia)
It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird | Thomas M. Doran | CWR blog
News that Harper Lee, at 88, is publishing a newly discovered manuscript raises a number of difficult and troubling questions
Full disclosure: I'm a lifelong admirer of Harper Lee. My book, Terrapin, was inspired, in part, by her storytelling in To Kill A Mockingbird. We corresponded in the 1990s. None of this makes me an expert on Harper Lee or her forthcoming book (a story about an adult Scout returning to Maycomb), nor is my personal respect an argument for canonization. Like all of us, she surely has her flaws and weaknesses, but what I am reading leads me to believe that, in the evening of her life, she is being treated as a sensation and a commodity.
Is Harper Lee, at 88, truly making decisions about this newly discovered manuscript, Go Set A Watchman? If not, are the people making these decisions doing so with her previously expressed wishes and best interests front and center? We aren’t supposed to judge hearts, and I certainly don’t know the motives of the people who are driving this project, but we know there are people who will do anything for money, power, and notoriety.
To Kill A Mockingbird was published in 1962. Millions of copies were sold in the first year, and many millions more since. Harper Lee’s publisher wanted her to write more stories, but no new books appeared in 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000. If she had an almost-ready book on the shelf, why didn’t she, her editor, and publisher turn it into another bestseller? Isn’t this decision to publish a sequel to Mockingbird—though Watchman is said to have been written before Mockingbird—inconsistent with what Harper Lee has said for decades? Why has all of this happened after her beloved sister and advocate died? To what extent can the ostensible author of Go Set A Watchman be involved in the editorial process for this book?