Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

My Photo
Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Bail-Out" Plan for Haiti

In January, Prodigal Daughter and I will be heading down to Port-Au-Prince to hold a medical clinic for the parish of Sts. Simon and Jude. Though I have been to PAP many times over the past 12 years for medical missions, this will be the first time we are doing a medical clinic in the Catholic Church in Haiti. We are excited and thankful to God for the way He opened the doors for this opportunity in the archdiocese of Port-Au-Prince. Fr. Laborio, the pastor, had been praying for a way to provide medical care to his parish and this may be the beginning of the answer to that prayer, Lord willing.

Next Saturday at 7:30 PM (EST), I will be performing a benefit concert to get funds for the medicine and supplies we will need. This is where you come in! Come to St. Ann's Catholic Church
on South 6th Street in Emmaus, PA to hear some good folk music on a plethora of stringed instruments. I will also be doing some traditional yuletide music on hammer dulcimer and autoharp as well as selections from my upcoming CD (Yeah, I know, it's been upcoming for over a year now)
If you donate to the Haiti Medical Mission that night you will receive a free CD!

Now for my daily readers in Helsinki, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Omaha, I know you won't be able to come to the concert. But if you contact me here I will tell you how to donate and receive a free
Russ Rentler Just Yulin' Around CD in time for Christmas. But hurry now, this offer won't last :)

The economy in the US is bad, but only you can provide the "bailout" to our brothers and sisters in Haiti where its immeasurably worse. Whatsoever you do for the least of these.....
Thanks and God bless.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy New Year!

Today marks the eve of the beginning of the new Church year. Last week, the daily readings in the Mass pointed us towards the coming of Christ, building our expectation and hope. As we enter the season of Advent and the beginning of the New Church Year , we are once again given the opportunity to "let our hearts prepare Him room."
I have so appreciated these last four years as a Catholic because of the way the Church helps us to grow in grace by celebrating the events of salvation history. Prodigal Daughter and I have integrated our lives into the rhythm of the Church calendar and have seen the supernatural way that God uses this to continue to draw us to heaven.
As a Catholic, if you never had the opportunity to go to a retreat, hear Catholic teaching on radio or TV, read blogs, or read inspirational books, you could still be fed and grow as a Christian, by the Mass alone. For the Mass* is the most perfect prayer of worship and the daily readings of Scripture along with the reception of the Eucharist is all one needs to live a faithful and fruitful Christian life. As a matter of fact, for the first 1500 years of Church history, that is all the believers had....and they did alright.

*From the Catechism: The Benefits of the Mass

Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."227

On the feasts of the Lord, when the faithful receive the Body of the Son, they proclaim to one another the Good News that the first fruits of life have been given, as when the angel said to Mary Magdalene, "Christ is risen!" Now too are life and resurrection conferred on whoever receives Christ.228

What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh "given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,"229 preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.

Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:

For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.230

As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins.231 By giving himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in him:

Since Christ died for us out of love, when we celebrate the memorial of his death at the moment of sacrifice we ask that love may be granted to us by the coming of the Holy Spirit. We humbly pray that in the strength of this love by which Christ willed to die for us, we, by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, may be able to consider the world as crucified for us, and to be ourselves as crucified to the world. . . . Having received the gift of love, let us die to sin and live for God.232

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I started my day thinking of the many things we have to be thankful for and opened my e-mail to receive a Thanksgiving message from Fr. Andrew in Port-Au-Prince. Despite the past 6 months of horrendous hurricanes and worsening food shortages that have afflicted the Haitians, this is his message:








Father Andrew:
We will keep you and the people of Haiti in our prayers today as well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving is Really A Catholic Holiday

Here's an interesting link my good friend Fr. Ezaki sent me. We often think of Thanksgiving as a pilgrim/puritan holiday, but check out this article. Looks like Squanto Crossed the Tiber before the Puritans could get to him!
Also, the Greek word Eucharist means Thanksgiving, referring to when Jesus took the bread in his hands and gave thanks and broke the bread and said "This is my body."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Church Fathers and The Assumption of Mary

It's hard to prove the assumption of Mary into heaven from just the Bible alone. The Bible doesn't speak very much on the concept of the Trinity either! But it's obvious that the early church must have been talking about it enough so that it found its way into their writings. I wonder what I would have thought if I had been exposed to these writings earlier.
I was told that the Catholic Church created this doctrine out of thin air.
Even if one does not agree with these writings because they are not Scripture, it tells us that Mary was held in a place of high regard for the early believers. These writings are like little theological snapshots to give us an inside view of the mind of the early Church.
Sometimes the early believers had some heterodox views, but these were weeded-out and smacked-down by the Church because Jesus promised that He would give the Holy Spirit to lead us in all Truth. You may argue that Marian doctrines illustrate that the early Christians were "starting to get away from the Scriptures" but my argument is the Church would not have allowed them to be promulgated if they were heretical, as my post about the Collyridians illustrated. Thanks to Stay Catholic for this collection of ECF quotes below.

Pseudo – Melito

If therefore it might come to pass by the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death, do reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your Mother and take her with you, rejoicing, into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: "Be it done according to your will" (The Passing of the Virgin 16:2-17 [A.D. 300]).

Timothy of Jerusalem

Therefore the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption (Homily on Simeon and Anna [A.D. 400]).

John the Theologian

The Lord said to his Mother, "Let your heart rejoice and be glad. For every favor and every gift has been given to you from my Father in heaven and from me and from the Holy Spirit. Every soul that calls upon your name shall not be ashamed, but shall find mercy and comfort and support and confidence, both in the world that now is and in that which is to come, in the presence of my Father in the heavens". . . And from that time forth all knew that the spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise (The Dormition of Mary [A.D. 400]).

Gregory of Tours

[T]he Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord's chosen ones. . . (Eight Books of Miracles 1:4 [A.D. 575]).

Theoteknos of Livias

It was fitting ... that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinised, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory ... should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God (Homily on the Assumption [ca. A.D. 600]).

Modestus of Jerusalem

As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him (Encomium in dormitionnem Sanctissimae Dominae nostrae Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae [ante A.D. 634]).

Germanus of Constantinople

You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life (Sermon I [A.D. 683]).

John Damascene

It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God (Dormition of Mary [A.D. 697])

Gregorian Sacramentary

Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten Thy Son our Lord incarnate from herself (Gregorian Sacramentary, Veneranda [ante A.D. 795]).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Late I Have Loved You- Studio Version

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."
(St Augustine 4th Century)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marian Devotion: Too Much and Not Enough.

I recently posted about the Early Church Fathers and their view of Mary. If marian devotion (read veneration not worship) was not accepted by the early Christians as an orthodox practice it would have been quashed soundly as other heresies were. There is so much the early Church has written positively about Mary, it becomes obvious that this was not the case.
So I got to thinking. Well, maybe I'm just reading Catholic web sites and maybe were just "cherry picking" quotes from the ECF as we are often accused of. (which seems to occur equally on both sides of the Tiber) So I did a little searchin' and found a Catholic bishop from Salamis named Epiphanius who was a close friend of St. Jerome in the fourth century. Turns out he wrote a treatise against two heresies regarding Mary. One, called Collrydianism was a heretical cult that sought to make Mary divine and offered sacrifice to her. They adored her which is clearly against the 1st commandment to worship God alone. So this bishop did the "canonical smackdown" and soundly denounced their error here:
"It is not right to honor the saints
beyond their due" ( "Now the body of Mary was indeed
holy, but it was not God; the Virgin was indeed a virgin and revered,
but she was not given to us for worship, but she herself worshiped
him who was born in the flesh from her.... Honor Mary, but let the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be worshiped, but let no one
worship Mary, . . . even though Mary is most beautiful and holy and
venerable, yet she is not to be worshiped"

So there you have it. Some wacky Christians got off base
and started worshipping Mary
and the Church intervened.
Heresies have a way of popping up again though and
may still be Christians who focus too much emphasis on
Mary, but I have not heard of or met any
Mary worshipers
since I have been Catholic,( and I do make a point of asking the
random Catholic.

The second marian heresy at the time was
antidicomarianitism. These folks debased Mary and her
virtues and claimed that she was not a virgin after the birth of Christ.
Epiphanius addressed this as well. This heresy continues to
be propagated to this day.

Personally speaking, Marian devotion
has grown slowly with me and was not
an overnite change of view. After returning
to the Catholic Church, I began to
ask Jesus to show me how he wanted
me to see His mother and He has been
answering that prayer. The Hail Mary prayer
alone and in the rosary have
become favorites of mine. During my
daily rounds with patients who are near death,
I ask Mary's intercession for them.

"Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour
of our death." Not worship, just asking
her help for us as the early Christians did.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Church Fathers Weigh in On Mary's Role in the Church

Mary, you are the vessel and tabernacle containing all mysteries. You know what the Patriarchs never knew; you have experienced what was never revealed to the Angels; you have heard what the Prophets never heard. In a word, all that was hidden from preceding generations was made known to you; even more, most of these wonders depended on you. (270 A.D., St. Gregory Thaumaturgus),

Blessed Virgin, immaculate and pure you are the sinless Mother of your Son, the mighty Lord of the universe. You are holy and inviolate, the hope of the hopeless and sinful; we sing your praises. We praise you as full of every grace, for you bore the God-Man. We all venerate you; we invoke you and implore your aid...Holy and immaculate our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and are holy in the sight of God, to Whom be honor and glory, majesty, and power forever (373 AD, St. Ephem of Edessa)

It becomes you to be mindful of us, as you stand near Him Who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God Master Who was born of you. For this reason you are called 'full of Grace'..." (373 St. Athanasius)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mary in the Early Church

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.
We fly to thy patronage,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.
A recent comment from George got me started looking for Mary in the early Church. She's not so hard to find!
This Coptic Christian hymn dates to 250 AD. It was originally written in Greek, then translated to Latin for the western Church. Again, I ask, could these Christians with the teachings of the apostles "still ringing in their ears" have gotten so far off the rails so early on? I guess it's possible, since heresy was always popping up like weeds in the early Church. But we don't find any writings, historical or liturgical, that condemn this type of devotion (not worship) of Mary. If the early Church did indeed think the veneration of Mary was heretical, why didn't we see Augustine, Jerome and some of the great fathers of the early Church writing against it? They certainly wrote against many other heresies: Arianism, Donatism, Maniachism, Monophysitism Pelagianism, Montanism, Marcionism, Ism-Ism etc.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American Bishops Getting Forceful About Abortion

"Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow--die tomorrow!--to bring about the end of abortion,"
Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting this week. It appears that abortion is taking a front seat in the discussions. Thank God. Before the election, over 50 bishops made it clear that voting for a pro-abortion candidate was cooperating with evil. Lord willing, if this continues and gets down to the parish level across the country, things could change. I know that among conservative Catholics, there is a lot of anger towards the USCCB because of their lack of leadership in the past regarding abortion, but I see this as a hopeful sign that things may be starting to turn around.

Personally, I am praying for a change of heart in President-elect Obama and hoping that someone influential in the pro-life community, such as the niece of MLK, can get his ear and explain how abortion is an insidious genocide of the African-American population.
How ironic that he promised Planned Parenthood to pass the Freedom of Choice Act as his first priority. The first African- American to be president promises an organization founded by a white supremacist (Martha Sanger) that he would do everything in his power to remove any restrictions on abortion to the end that even more African- Americans will be denied their rights, most importantly the right to life.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Feast of St. Leo the Great.

Today the Church celebrates the life and heroic virtue of St. Leo the Great. He was elected pope in 440 AD. He spent a lot of time quelling the rapidly rising heresies (pelagianism) of the time but was also noted for his pastoral care of the sheep in his flock.

I find it incredibly difficult to believe that the early Church had departed from the "True Gospel" when one reads something like this below (Pope Leo's Christmas Homily) from one of its chief shepherds in the fifth century. He even mentions the Immaculate Conception, which acccording to some detractors was an invention of the Church in the 1850's!
(NB: The reason for his many references to the terrestrial bodies was the fact the sermon was given on a day that had previously been a feast day to a pagan sun god.)

Having therefore so confident a hope, dearly beloved, abide firm in the Faith in which you are built: lest that same tempter whose tyranny over you Christ has already destroyed, win you back again with any of his wiles, and mar even the joys of the present festival by his deceitful art, misleading simpler souls with the pestilential notion of some to whom this our solemn feast day seems to derive its honour, not so much from the nativity of Christ as, according to them, from the rising of the new sun!

Such men's hearts are wrapped in total darkness, and have no growing perception of the true Light: for they are still drawn away by the foolish errors of heathendom, and because they cannot lift the eyes of their mind above that which their carnal sight beholds, they pay divine honour to the luminaries that minister to the world. Let not Christian souls entertain any such wicked superstition and portentous lie.

Beyond all measure are things temporal removed from the Eternal, things corporeal from the Incorporeal, things governed from the Governor. For though they possess a wondrous beauty, yet they have no Godhead to be worshipped. That power then, that wisdom, that majesty is to be adored which created the universe out of nothing, and framed by His almighty methods the substance of the earth and sky into what forms and dimensions He willed. Sun, moon, and stars may be most useful to us, most fair to look upon; but only if we render thanks to their Maker for them and worship God who made them, not the creation which does Him service.

Then praise God, dearly beloved, in all His works and judgments. Cherish an undoubting belief in the Virgin's pure conception. Honour the sacred and Divine mystery of man's restoration with holy and sincere service. Embrace Christ born in our flesh, that you may deserve to see Him also as the God of glory reigning in His majesty, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit remains in the unity of the Godhead for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Feast Of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Boy that's a mouthful! Why is this important and why do I as an ex-protestant get jazzed up about it? Here's the story:

In the fourth century, Emperor Constantine donated land that had been given to him by the wealthy Lateran family for the basilica to be built. (No, he didn't make a deal with the devil to import paganism into Christianity, as Jack Chick would have us believe!) The pope (AKA the bishop of Rome) needed a place to celebrate Mass. Constantine being sympathetic to Christianity after his epiphany ended the persecution against the Christians. A palace had previously stood in the place of the basilica and this palace was given to the Church. (I suspect this is where some of the fundamentalist's myths regarding paganism and Catholicism come from.)
So every bishop needs a place to celebrate Mass and as St Ignatius said in 107 AD, "Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church." But the pope is not only the bishop of Rome but also of the worldwide Church. The Basilica of St John Lateran is not only the see of Rome but is the spiritual home parish for Catholics throughout the world.
This jazzes me because it ties a 'physicality' to our faith and illustrates a unity to our faith that is not found in non-Catholic christianity. The Church truly is a "lamp set on a hill", to be seen, not invisible and under the radar. There could never be a seat of all the other churches because there is truly no agreement among them regarding the essentials of faith. Any Catholic in the world can go to Mass at St John's and will feel "at home." Because the faith is the same and Jesus becomes present on the altar of sacrifice during the consecration as He does on all the altars throughout the world.
So as a Catholic, I can point to the Basilica of St John Lateran and say: "Hey, there's a real physical church that represents the center of all that we believe. Even more importantly, this Church can trace its physical and spiritual roots to Jesus and the apostles!
Finally, this basilica, the physical and spiritual home of the Catholic faith contains some amazing relics:
1)Part of the table on which the Last Supper was celebrated is said to behind a bronze depiction of the Last Supper.
2)Inside the main altar is a wooden altar upon which Peter said Mass when he was in Rome.
3)The stairs of Pilate's house on which Jesus walked were moved to the basilica by Constantine's mother in the fourth century.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

More on the School Collapse in Haiti

Since there is no public education in Haiti, the churches, both Protestant and Catholic, have provided the bulk of the education of those who can afford to go. This was a Christian school with the children's parents making incredible sacrifices to enroll their kids there.
How can anyone possibly adhere to the health and wealth gospel in the face of situations like this? These are children of God whose faith in Christ is much stronger than mine.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Friday, November 07, 2008

More Disaster in Haiti

Please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers. A school near Port-Au-Prince with 700 students collapsed today and they are trying to remove the survivors. When we were in Port-Au-Prince in August, between hurricanes, the priest pointed out a new church that had just been completed right next to St. Simon and St. Jude parish, where we will be doing a medical clinic in January. He said that the construction was exceedingly shoddy and the materials were suboptimal and he feared that it would be at risk for collapsing. The Haitian economy doesn't allow for high quality materials and architectural consultants when people need a new building. God have mercy on the brothers and sisters in Haiti. Our current economic problems pale in comparison to the horrific life they face every day, with no hope
for change. Check out the story.

Hail Mary,Full of Grace,The Lord is with thee.Blessed art thou among women,and blessed is the fruitof thy womb, Jesus.Holy Mary,Mother of God,pray for us sinners now,and at the hour of death.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Grave Mistake and an Abiding Hope

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life

Americans have made a grave mistake in electing Barack Obama to the presidency. Yet America herself remains great and is not a mistake, which is why so many of her citizens will continue, with even greater energy and determination, to defend her founding principles.

The man elected to the Presidency said during the campaign that he does not know when a human being starts to have human rights. How can one govern from that starting point of ignorance? Governing is about protecting human rights; to do it successfully, you have to know where they come from, and when they begin.

The President-elect has already failed that test miserably.

The American people do not share Barack Obama’s extreme and offensive views on abortion. They never have and they never will. The coming four years will see a widening gap between the people and their President on this fundamental issue. As Americans come to know how extreme his position is, the intensity of the struggle to protect these children will only increase.

The pro-life movement has made significant gains in the courts and in the law in these last eight years. For the next four, the movement will work to prevent the erosion of that progress.

It would be a serious mistake for people to think that this election means the pro-life movement has no political power. All politics is local. Political power is about people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was once told that given the political realities, civil rights legislation would be impossible to pass. “We’ll just have to see about that,” he replied. And the civil rights movement was born, stirring the hearts of the people to lead the nation to the victory of justice.

So it is with our movement. The vast majority of Americans are pro-life. They will fight abortion on the local level, opening pregnancy centers and closing abortion mills, activating their Churches and educating their children, proclaiming the message in the media and demonstrating in the streets. The pro-life movement is winning this battle in the hearts and minds of the American people, as opinion polls show and as the shrinking number of abortion mills and abortion providers prove.

Political races are always a swinging of the pendulum. As soon as you win, you begin to lose, and as soon as you lose, you begin the ascent again to winning. In the next two election cycles (2010 and 2012) the pro-life movement will make up for political ground lost in this one.

It is all right to be disappointed at the end of an election season, but one must never walk away. Amidst disappointment is abiding hope in America, where everything remains possible, and where a new chapter of the pro-life movement has just begun. The efforts that were made, and the sacrifices endured in this election season made a difference, and we will build on that difference to see another day when the work and the ballots of pro-life people will dismantle the Culture of Death. We will keep marching toward that pro-life America we seek, and won’t stop until we get there.

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172
Staten Island, NY 10314
phone: 718-980-4400
fax: 718-980-6515

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting for Pro-Abortion Candidates is Gravely Sinful

Catholic World News (CWN)
Feature Stories

Blunt statements for US bishops: Voting for pro-abortion candidates is gravely sinful (Subscribe to RSS Feed)

Nov. 4, 2008 ( - In the final hours before today's American presidential election, several US prelates have strongly suggested-- or even openly stated-- that Catholics who support Senator Barack Obama may be guilty of serious sin.

In a Monday radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in a clear reference to presidential candidate Obama, said that it is gravely sinful for a Catholic to "support a person who wants to go to complete full-scale war against the unborn."

"I just don’t think there’s any question that in all of Church teaching that the life issues, particularly the protection of unborn children against the crime of abortion, has to be our greatest priority," said Bishop Finn. "This is an ongoing slaughter of 4,000 children every single day for the last 35 years. And if we don’t do anything about it, we bear a lot of responsibility. If we support and promote persons who have pledged to extend it and intensify the slaughter, then we bear a great responsibility with them."

Hewitt then asked, "When you say bear a great responsibility, does that rise to the level, in the eyes of the Church teaching, to grave sin?"

Bishop Finn responded:

I think it is, of course. You know, how important is, you know, someone might say how important is my vote. Well, ask somebody if they think what they think if their vote was taken away from them, or if they felt that they had been defrauded of their vote. And I think all of us as Americans would say my vote’s very, very important. So…and then we’re talking about the willful destruction, direct destruction of a human life. And so when you couple the gravity of the sense of our vote, and the gravity of the action of abortion, and we see candidates pledge that they’re going to, for example, in addition to promoting everything that we have right now, they’re going to enact the Freedom Of Choice Act, removing all reasonable limitations. So many Americans say they want limitations on abortion. The Freedom Of Choice Act would remove every single limitation that’s been put in place by well-meaning folks for the last 35 years-- parental notification, mandatory waiting periods, counseling, the use of ultrasounds, and not to speak of the fact that taxpayers will have to pay for abortions, and also the conscience clauses will be removed from individual healthcare workers, or even institutions. So you can’t support a person who wants to go to complete full-scale war against the unborn.

Later in the interview, Hewitt asked, "When you say they will be held accountable for their votes, do you mean that it could cost someone their eternal soul?" Bishop Finn responded:

Well, of course. I mean, the decisions that we make are important, and they have…you know, these people who get elected, they don’t just arrive all on their own. We elect them. We, you and I, support them, or we don’t. And so we have some participation in that. Now you know, someone wrote to me and said well, you know, ‘I voted for Obama, I’ll repent later.’ And well, you know, I hope that God does change a heart if they feel that they’ve made a terrible mistake and to have to repent. But it’s much more important and vital that we make the right decision when it’s before us.

From Rome, Archbishop Raymond Burke offered similar views in an interview with Inside the Vatican Archbishop Burke, who was Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, before he arrived in Rome this year to head the Apostolic Signatura, told correspondent Andrew Rabel: "My fellow citizens of the United States of America should be deeply concerned about any candidate for the presidency who supports legislation which permits the destruction of human life at its very beginning, the killing of babies in the womb, or legislation which violates the integrity of marriage and family life." Stating the case positively, the archbishop said: "A good citizen must support and vote for the candidate who most supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life, and the integrity of marriage."

A vote in favor of a pro-abortion candidate cannot be justified by the argument that the candidate takes more morally acceptable stands on other issues, such as the war in Iraq, Archbishop Burke said. He explained:

One can legitimately question the wisdom of the decisions taken in the war in Iraq, but war in itself is not always and everywhere evil, as are, for example, procured abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and the so-called "marriage" of persons of the same sex. Engagement of the nation in a war cannot be placed on the same moral level as the nation making laws which permit the wholesale killing of the unborn or the artificial generation of human life or experimentation on embryonic human life or "marriage" between persons of the same sex.

In North Dakota, where he delivered a homily at a November 2 Mass concluding the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo agreed that no Catholic can ever vote for someone who supports intrinsic evil.

"An intrinsic evil is anything that is always and at every time wrong-- that can never be seen as a good,’’ said Bishop Aquila. "No society, and no person if he is Catholic, can ever support an intrinsic evil nor can he or she ever vote for someone who supports intrinsic evil. It is important to understand that, and to understand that truth especially in the upcoming election. Because, yes, all of us will be judged by how we vote. And, yes, there are many Catholics with erroneous consciences who have made prudential judgments that are wrong and have consistently made prudential judgments that are wrong. Either they do not fully understand the teaching of the Church or they choose to ignore that teaching and they choose an evil, and an intrinsic evil."

Taken at face value, the bishop’s words would not permit a Catholic to vote for candidates who support legalized abortion (such as Obama) or embryonic stem-cell research (such as either Obama or Senator. John McCain). The bishop’s words also appear to contradict the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2007 document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, #36, which states, "When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods."

Bishop Aquila added, "We must recognize that first must come the fundamental right to life…the respect for human life from the moment of conception to natural death … It is important for us to never give up the battle that is taking place within our country.” He continued, "I encourage each of you to continue to stand for the gift of life. I encourage you to continue to pray and fast in your own homes. I encourage you to pray in front of the abortion clinic, to pray for the conversion of all those who support a so-called right to abortion, because, by doing that, they are risking hell. When one looks at the Gospel, and looks at the teaching of Jesus, that is what they are risking."

In another interview broadcast by the American Papist blog, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said that he had made a deliberate decision to speak out often during this election year for several reasons. "One reason is that Senator Obama is the most active pro-abortion politician to run for the Presidency since Roe v. Wade," he said. "He has committed himself to do things the Church would resist."

Archbishop Chaput went on to acknowledge that for years the American hierarchy has generally avoided public confrontations on the abortion issue. He concluded, he said, that this "quieter approach to these things has not been effective." The archbishop even conceded that the US bishops' collective statement, Faithful Citizenship, is "not very clear" and has allowed for manipulation by partisans seeking to justify votes for candidates who are directly at odds with fundamental Catholic teachings.

Counteracting those partisan efforts, Archbishop Chaput made another statement that seemed clearly directed at Senator Obama:

It would be foolish to say that someone who endorses abortion as an option and runs on a party platform that has no regret at all about abortion ... to call that position pro-life is really strange.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Souls Day and Purgatory

Today the Church remembers to pray for those souls who are in purgatory.
This has been a practice dating to the early days of Christianity with its roots in the Jewish religion.
In Maccabees we read how it is a good thing to pray for the souls of the departed to release them from their sins.
In the fourth century St Augustine said: "If we had no care for the dead, we would not be in the habit of praying for them."

Purgatory is not a "second chance" for salvation if you blew it in this present life. Those souls in purgatory have already been judged by Christ and found to be sheep, not goats.( Matt 25) Purgatory is a time/place/process of purification so that when we do indeed get to meet the Lord, we will be undefiled because only the pure will see God. Because of the interchange of goods through the Communion of Saints, by the merits of Christ, we are privileged to pray for those who have gone before us. Our prayers can "assist" the process of purification.
BTW, the sale of indulgences to "release" souls from purgatory has never been approved by the Church and has always been condemned, though some still practiced it.

We must not make purgatory into a flaming concentration camp on the brink of hell or even a hell for a short time. It is blasphemous to think of it as a place where a petty God exacts the last pound or ounce of flesh.... St. Catherine of Genoa, a mystic of the 15th century, wrote that the fire of purgatory is God's love burning the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted (Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Believing in Jesus).

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Saints Day

The Church has honored the martyrs/saints since the very early days of the Church. This can be seen as early as the 3rd and fourth centuries, so it's not a "meeeedeeevil invention of the Catlik' Church." When the early Church wanted to honor a martyr who had died for the faith, they chose the day on the anniversary of their martyrdom and often remembered them at the actual site where they gave their lives. Is this a gruesome and superstitous practice of a group of christians who "went off the rails?" No, actually, it is human nature to honor those who have gone before us with ritual, reverence and ceremony. The Jewish people reverenced the bones and graves of their spiritual fathers so this tradition of honoring the saints and martyrs is not a novel concept.

In modern times, the solemn celebrations that occur on the anniversary of 911 and Memorial Day show us that humans still sense the need to honor "those who have gone before." Thousands of average folks, including the families of those lost who loved ones on 911, still gather at the site to be close to the memory of their loved ones. So there is something in the very nature of man, found in every culture and religion that wants to keep the memory alive of their loved ones.

Now back to the early Church. After the persecution of Diocletian, there were so many martyrs that a separate day could not be assigned to everyone. So the Church chose one day to remember all the martyrs (who we call saints, after the formal process of canonization developed). So that is why we have All Saint's Day. Not an evil necromantic practice of a deluded cult but part of the great tradition of Christianity.

Now finally the best part: Not only do we remember and honor the saints but we are still in communion with them! As the Church clearly enunciated in the Nicean Creed in 325 AD we believe in the Communion of Saints. (They weren't talking about gatherin' at the Lord's table as I used to read it) Check this link for my more detailed explanation of the Communion of Sts.
The saints still intercede for us because they are more alive now than ever! We can access them by the grace of Jesus Christ.
The Eucharist was probably the best part of becoming Catholic, but the Communion of Saints is an added benefit that I am so thankful to have discovered. I suspect they've been praying for me for quite some time.

Pope Benedict said, “our looking upon the luminous example of the saints ignites in us the great desire to be like the saints: happy to live close to God, in His light, in the great family of the friends of Godand this is the vocation of each of us.”