Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Thursday, May 31, 2012



I have updated my recent article on the Cristiada.  As I continued to research it, I realized I left out some pertinent information and was careless in some of my phrasing.  Also, I recently received an email with some updated information regarding my Embryonic Stem Cell Research post.  It doesn’t change the point of the post, but provides useful clarification.  Please see the email below and feel free to email me any useful information that can help clarify or update anything posted on this blog.  God bless!
First of all, I wanted to say that for the most part I thought the piece you submitted was well done. As I was reading through it I noticed a couple things that could probably be clarified, so I thought I would share in case you ever have an opportunity to use this piece again.

In the piece you wrote:

Why better? Because with adult stem cells, a donor can donate to himself. Why is this important? Because it eliminates the risk of rejection by the recipient and negates the need for immune-suppression.

While I cannot speak for all types of stem-cell therapies, in the case of therapies for cancers such as lymphoma stem-cell transplants do actually carry a risk of rejection. GVHD (Graft-Vs-Host Disease) still occurs, even for people who undergo an autologous (i.e., their own) transplant. In the cases where the transplant is syngeneic (from an identical twin) the rejection risk is supposedly non-existent, but there are at least 3 documented cases where rejection still occurred. (I am one of them.) Even with identical DNA there can be discrepencies on the RNA or protein level.

Also in the case of stem-cell transplants for lymphoma patients (as well as leukemia and multiple-myaloma) immuno-suppression is a must prior to the transplant and subsequent to it for varying amounts of time to avoid severe GVHD.

In another place you wrote:

Embryonic stem cells also have a nasty little habit of forming tumors, which adult stem cells do not (Stem Cells, November 2005).

Again, while I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this information as far as other types of therapies are concerned, in regards to stem cell transplants for lymphoma the transplanted stem cells do have a potential to form secondary cancers such as leukemia. With lymphoma patients it works out to something like 2.5%. It's probably difficult to properly discern the numbers since this sort of therapy is almost always accompanied by high-dose chemotherapy or total body irradiation.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

'For Greater Glory' Trailer

“For Greater Glory” opens in theaters Friday, June 1.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Link – Blessed Miguel Pro

One of the greatest heroes of the Mexican battle for the Faith during the 1920s was Father Miguel Pro, a Jesuit priest who ministered in secret during the persecution until he was arrested on false charges.  Although the men who committed the crime for which Fr. Pro was accused confessed, he was executed anyway.  At the link below is a wonderful article about Father Pro, and much great information on this 20th century martyr.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Mexico - The Cristiada

Once Upon a Time
in Mexico –

The Cristiada

Note:  Some changes were made to this article.  Most notably, President Calles had been referred to throughout as head of the Mexican government though his term officially ended in 1928.  Also, it was not previously noted that President Carranza did not support the anti-Catholic articles of the 1917 Constitution.

     Arc Entertainment’s “For Greater Glory” comes out in theaters this Friday, June 1. It is a film about the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico in the 1920s and the Cristero uprising that produced many martyrs but eventually put an end to it.

Many people in the United States, of course, have no idea what took place in Mexico nearly 100 years ago, or who the Cristeros were. The persecution the Church faced in Mexico may be unparalleled in the history of the Western Hemisphere, and the brutality suffered by lay and religious Catholics is almost unfathomable. How did the country where Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego become the site of so many martyrdoms?

The persecutions in Mexico had their root in the middle of the nineteenth century with the rise of Masonic influence in the government, particularly with the presidency of Benito Juarez, in 1861. Though the government was at times hostile to the Church over the next 50 years, there were many years of peace and nothing like the persecution that was to come.

The Constitution of 1917 had many anti-Catholic articles, but they were not enforced with consistency. That would all change with the presidency of Plutarco ElĂ­as Calles, beginning in 1924.

The persecutions would begin in 1924 and reach an intolerable level by 1926. Calles shut down all Catholic schools. All children were required to attend public schools, where atheism was one of the mandated subjects. In 1926 the “Calles Law” was passed. Calles took the most anti-Catholic articles of the Constitution, strengthened them, and demanded that they be enforced to the fullest.

Some of the immediate effects of the Calles Law were: 1) The Church lost all its property and clerics were not allowed to administer parishes; 2) Religious orders were outlawed, seminaries were closed and foreign religious were expelled; 3) Priests were required to register with the government and were forbidden to minister to the faithful outside of church grounds; 4) The phrase “Adios” was banned because of its inclusion of “Dios,” the Spanish word for “God;" and much more. Questioning these laws carried the risk of five years’ imprisonment. The government even went as far as to set up a schismatic “patriotic church.”

The Church, of course, could not accept these regulations or abide by these laws, and the result was that as of August 1, 1926, all public worship was to be shut down. The government took over many of the churches and turned them into stables or eating halls. More than one church became a cock fighting arena. At one such church, 14 year-old Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, outraged by the sacrilege, snuck in at night and slashed the necks of the fighting cocks. He was later captured, in a battle in which he was a Cristero flag bearer, had the soles of his feet slashed, and was forced to march to the cemetery, where he was stabbed and shot to death by government soldiers.

The Church spent six months trying, legally, to regain control of the churches, but to no avail. On January 1, 1927, Mexican Catholics began to fight back with force. The freedom fighters were known as “Cristeros,” after their rallying cry “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King!)

Over the next three years the struggle between the Catholic citizens and the Mexican government was fought on the battle field. Mexican Catholics who didn’t fight joined in boycotts.

During this period the atrocities continued. Non-combatants were routinely tortured and killed. One man, returning home from work, admitted to being a Knight of Columbus, for which he was murdered, and his body was delivered to his widow in a wheelbarrow. Priests and lay people were executed for having secret Masses, people were murdered during Confessions by government officials posing as priests, the heads of victims were put on stakes in public squares, and the bodies of priests were hung at train stations as a warning to visitors not to try and practice their Faith.

People often had their ears and hands cut off before being executed, and had their tongues cut out if they proclaimed, “Viva Cristo Rey.” Despite the persecution and the Cristeros’ inferiority in terms of weapons, they continued to fight, and the government could not defeat them. In fact, after three years the Cristeros had suffered 30,000 casualties, compared to the government’s 60,000.

Finally, with the assistance of the United States, both sides agreed to peace terms. The bishops had never sponsored the war and the Vatican was working for peace, so in obedience the Cristeros agreed, and laid their weapons down at the altars of reopened churches.

Unfortunately, the Mexican government was no more respectable in peace. Though pardons for the surviving Cristeros were part of the truce, the government did not honor them, and spent the next few years hunting down Cristero leaders and having them executed.

The lessons of the persecution in Mexico should be powerful to us today. The many martyrs should be an inspiration, and we should be reminded that we must be ever-vigilant as our freedoms are slowly being eroded now in our own country. If we do not fight with passion for Truth and our liberties now, peacefully, we will be destined to face the same choice our Mexican brothers and sisters faced in the last century.

Viva Cristo Rey!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day

          Lord Jesus, bless the men and women of our military.  May they glorify You with the courage, dignity, justice and self-control with which they serve.  May they always advance, according to Your Will, the cause of righteousness.  Protect them, Lord, and keep them safe.  Be with their families, who await their joyful return.  And receive all those who have given their lives in defense of our country into their eternal homeland, where they may reign with You forever.  Amen.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Fathers Speak - Letter to Diognetus

The Fathers Speak – Letter to Diognetus

          The Letter to Diognetus is a second-century work addressed to a high pagan dignitary.  Though the identities of neither the author nor the recipient are known for certain, it is an interesting apologetic work from the early Church.
          In the excerpts below we will find a common identity with the early Christians and their struggle to be “in the world, but not of the world,” particularly in a world they found very hostile.  There is also some treatment of the Trinity that we might find a useful apologetic tool.

          Like all others [Christians] marry and beget children, but they do not expose their offspring.  Their board they set for all, but not their bed.  Their lot is cast in the flesh, but they do not live for the flesh.  They pass their time on earth, but their citizenship is in Heaven… They love all men, and by all they are persecuted… They are put to death, and they gain life… They are poor, but make many rich… When they do good, they are punished as evil-doers; and when they are punished they rejoice as if brought to life.

          He sent the very Designer and Creator of the universe Himself, through whom He had made the heavens, and by whom He had enclosed the sea within its own bounds… But did He send Him, as one might suppose, in despotism and fear and terror?  Not so.  Rather, in gentleness and meekness He sent Him, as a king sending a son.  He sent Him as King, He sent Him as God, He sent Him to men.  He sent Him for saving and persuading, but not for compelling.  Compulsion, you see, is not an attribute of God.

          When you know what is the true life, that of Heaven; when you despise the merely apparent death, which is temporal; when you fear the death which is real, and which is reserved for those who will be condemned to the everlasting fire, the fire which will punish even to the end those who are delivered to it – then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world.

Link - Natural Law

Link – Natural Law

With the debate over gay marriage heating up, there has been a lot of talk about natural law.  However, many people are not at all familiar with the concept, and most don’t have a firm grasp of it.  At the link below, Zac Alstin gives a thorough treatment, from a philosophical perspective that should be accessible to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Living the Mystery of the Ascension

Living the Mystery of the Ascension

Earlier this week I ended my reflection on the Ascension with the statement, “The Ascension reminds us that this Earth is no more the lasting home of the children of God than it is for the Only Begotten Son of God,” and the question, “Is that how we live, though, even us Christians?” 
I know many heroic souls that inspire me to do just that, but certainly our culture does not encourage it, and my own weaknesses are the source of abundant reflection on the issue.
To be sure, this life is of supreme importance, because what we do here determines our eternity.  And there are temporal demands that we can not deny or ignore.  Scripture reminds us that we must live “in the world.”  But it also admonishes us not to be “of the world.”
I was walking through the mall the other day to meet my family for lunch, as we were celebrating my son’s fourth birthday.  It struck me the amount of goods that were being offered, and how they were being advertised.  From the picture of the 19 year-old surfer with no shirt whose glance demanded that there was nothing as serious in life as the cologne he was selling, to the billboard of the pre-teen whose look promised that her halter top could turn any child unto an oversexed near-adolescent with boys trailing her like puppy dogs, the mall encourages us to think of anything but Heaven.
I understand commerce and its importance to the economy, and I certainly don’t disparage cologne or clothing.  But really, the value our culture places on things that are so temporary, is ridiculous.  It has been said that the definition of sanity is living in reality.  Reality is that we are all going to die.  Heaven and hell are eternal and they are the only places we can be forever. 
This world is a gift.  This life is a gift.  We should enjoy the beauty of it.  But it is also a battlefield, and our souls are the spoils of war.  One of the devil’s main strategies is to convince us that we are not in a battle, that there is no war raging around us, and that there are no casualties.
Why, then, did Jesus warn so often of hell?  Was He just a “doom and gloom” preacher?  Of course not.  He died, took on the punishment of the entire world, so that not one soul would have to be lost.  He desperately wants us all to be with Him, in glory, forever.  We have to know we are in a battle.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Indeed, if we consider the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he can not imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.”
The Ascension reminds us that God has given us a destiny far beyond anything we can imagine here on Earth.  We should enjoy the good things God gave us in this life, and see in them foretastes of Heaven.  But we must place priority on the things we can take with us, namely our love: love of God and love of neighbor.  Our television will not be in Heaven, no matter how big it is, but our loved ones will.  We should cultivate our relationships because they last beyond the grave.  Temporal pleasures do not.  First among these relationships is our relationship with God.  He has freely offered us everlasting life.  We simply must decide whether we will accept or reject that gift.  Will we love Him, above all else, and enter joyfully into His Kingdom?  Our culture tells us that’s a waste of time.  By our previous definition, then, our culture is insane.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Link - The Pill's Infecting the Water

Link – The Pill’s Infecting the Water

          The devastating health effects of the birth control pill on women have long been known and scandalously underreported.  It makes sense, of course, that if you pump massive amounts of hormones into your body to disturb its natural functions there will be serious side effects.  The pill is a known carcinogenic that killed women even when it was being tested in the ‘60s.  What has also been known for quite some time is how women’s use of the birth control pill affects the health of the rest of us.  The article below explores some of the consequences of these contraceptive hormones, entering our water supply.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Feast of the Ascension

The Feast of the Ascension

          This past week we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension, that event 40 days after Easter when Jesus ascended to Heaven.  The Church reminds us that though the method Jesus took to leave the sight of His disciples was that of rising up on the clouds, we are not really to see the Ascension as a matter of locomotion as if Heaven were in outer space somewhere.  Jesus could have chosen any manner of returning to the Father, bringing His Humanity and Divinity back to Heaven, from which He had descended some 33 years earlier.
          It is important to note that the two angels that appeared told the disciples that when Jesus returns in the Second Coming it will be in the same manner (riding the clouds).  St. Paul affirms this as well.  Which is one reason why no Christian should be seduced by frauds who suddenly arise and say they are Jesus come again.  We will not have to wonder Who it is when Jesus returns.  It will be clear to all, believer and unbeliever alike.
          That, however, is not overly important to my reflection.  Why is the Ascension important?  As always, I must remind readers that I am not qualified or capable of giving a comprehensive treatise on the matter, but I can offer some personal reflections.  First, of course, Jesus tells us that it is better if He go because then He will send the Spirit.  And also, Jesus does remain with us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament.
          The Ascension is also, I think, a reminder to all of us of our own destiny.  Jesus, risen from the dead, no longer fits in this world.  His glorified Body is not subject to the laws of nature, as even His Humanity seems to belong on a higher plane.
          Jesus, although He is God, as the Son of Man is the “firstborn of many brethren.”  His Resurrection foretells our own, as does His Ascension.
          Catholics can sometimes fall into the trap of a sort of dualism, pitting the body against the soul.  I remember seeing a bumper sticker many years ago that read, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” 
          I liked it.  But I now realize that it is wrong.  We are human beings and human beings are spiritual creatures.  We are matter and spirit, body and soul.  We are not souls trapped in bodies; we are humans, body and soul.  Yes, it’s true that our bodies will one day die, and that it is impossible to kill a spirit.  Since they are not material, our souls will, by nature, last forever.  One thing we often forget, however, is that our bodies will also live forever.
          We say in the Creed that we believe in “the resurrection of the body.”  Our bodies will rise, and will be ours forever.  It makes no matter if they have decayed.  God created them once; He will do it again.  For those who are children of God, our bodies will be glorified, like Christ’s, and will enjoy the eternal and unimaginable joys of Heaven.
          The Ascension reminds us that this Earth is no more the lasting home of the children of God than it is for the Only Begotten Son of God.  Is that how we live, though, even us Christians?  I will follow with some thoughts on that question later this week.
Note:  I have tried to give an accurate theological understanding of the Ascension, though to be sure there are many who can do so with much more precision.  Please refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a starting point.  And feel free to email me some feedback.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Fathers Speak: St. Clement's Letter to the Corinthians

The Fathers Speak:
St. Clement’s
Letter to the Corinthians

St. Clement was the third successor of St. Peter; he was the fourth pope.  He reigned from about A.D. 88-97.  His letter to the Corinthians was sent at some point during that period in order to settle a schism that had arisen there.
          Clement’s letter was well known and was even considered as Scripture by some in the early Church.  When the canon of Scripture was formalized by the Councils of Hippo, Carthage and Rome, ratified by Pope Damasus, in the late fourth century, Clement’s letter to the Corinthians was not included, but it has continued to be highly regarded.
          Corinth is in Greece, quite a distance from Rome, and Clement’s letter is a useful apologetic tool because of its insistence on unity and as a first-century document that demonstrates the primacy of the bishop of Rome (the pope).  The fact that the Corinthians appealed to the bishop of Rome to settle a dispute and were obedient to his ruling demonstrates the authority of the pope from the beginning:
          We must acknowledge that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you, beloved; and especially that abominable and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-willed persons have inflamed to such madness that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be loved by all men, has been greatly defamed.
          Pope Clement continues by holding up examples of heroic faith given by the Apostles and other early saints.  He encourages the Corinthians regarding the resurrection of the dead and demonstrates how even nature prepares us for this reality:  Let us look, beloved, at the resurrection which is taking place seasonally.  Day and night make known the resurrection to us.  The night sleeps, the day arises…How and in what manner does the sowing take place?...[The seeds] fall to the ground, parched and bare, where they decay.  Then from their decay the greatness of the Master’s providence raises them up, and from the one grain more grow, and bring forth fruit…Do we, then, consider it a great and wonderful thing that the Creator of the universe will bring about the resurrection of those who have served him in holiness and in the confidence of good faith…?
          Clement then moves to a treatment of order in the Church:  Let each of us, brethren, in his own rank, be well-pleasing to God and have a good conscience, not over-stepping the defined rules of his ministration – in dignity.
          Pope Clement concludes his letter with an admonishment to end the schism and heal the community:  Do we not have one God, one Christ, and one Spirit of Grace poured out upon us?  And is there not one calling in Christ?...Shameful, beloved, extremely shameful, and unworthy of your training in Christ, is the report that on account of one or two persons the well-established and ancient Church of the Corinthians is in revolt against the presbyters….There is nothing vulgar in love, nothing haughty.  Love makes no schism; love does not quarrel; love does everything in unity.  In love were all the elect of God perfected; without love nothing is pleasing to God….Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Novena for Religious Freedom

Novena for Religious Freedom

Today (May 17) is the Feast of the Ascension.  Forty days after Easter, Jesus ascended to Heaven.  The Apostles, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit, made the first Christian novena.  They returned to the upper room, where they prayed for nine days before the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost.  In imitation of the Apostles, we are making a novena in preparation for Pentecost, from May 18-26.  Specifically we are asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten lawmakers of our nation and all nations to grant conscience protection and religious freedom to their citizens.  The prayer below, offered by the USCCB, will be posted at the top of this blog for nine days as an invitation to join in this prayer.

Father, we praise you and thank you for your most precious gifts of human life and human freedom.
Touch the hearts of our lawmakers with the wisdom and courage to uphold conscience rights and religious liberty for all. Protect all people from being forced to violate their moral and religious convictions.
In your goodness, guard our freedom to live out our faith and to follow you in all that we do. Give us strength to be bold and joyful witnesses.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Forty Years in the Desert

Forty Years in the Desert

After the Israelites passed through the Red Sea and out of Egypt, Moses went up Mount Sinai and received the Law.  The people, however, fashioned a golden calf and worshiped it.  Though they were only days from the Promised Land, they wandered in the desert for 40 years before actually entering it.
Jesus Christ began his public ministry around the year A.D. 30.  Forty years later, in the year A.D. 70, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
Forty years, one Biblical generation, that’s how long the Israelites wandered in the desert before their chastisement came to an end and they entered the Promised Land.  That’s also how long the Jews had to recognize the Messiah before the old sacrificial system came to an end.
Next year, 2013, will mark the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion for any reason, or for no reason, during all nine months of pregnancy and launched the Culture of Death into high gear.
This year, 2012, we will have a decision to make as we elect a President.  The incumbent, Barack Obama, is the most anti-life President in the history of this country, by far.  It would have been nice to see him square off against Rick Santorum, heroic as a defender of life.  As it stands, however, Mitt Romney is running as a pro-life candidate, and no one can doubt he will be a stark contrast to President Obama.
Now I am no professional Biblical scholar and I am certainly not a prophet.  I’m not checking my Mayan calendar or selling a “code” that identifies the Second Coming.
But I do find it very interesting that Inauguration Day is January 20, exactly two days before the 40th anniversary of Roe.  For 40 years the blood of countless children has been spilled.  And now we find ourselves at a point of no return.  Our society either reclaims the principle of the sanctity of life, or it collapses.  Will this 40-year mark be the end of our chastisement and the beginning of a return of the Culture of Life?  Or will it bring destruction because we choose not to repent and yet again worship the idol of the Culture of Death?
We’ll find out in November.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

God is Big Enough for Small Prayers

God is Big Enough for
Small Prayers

Last week, as I was praying, I asked God to kill a tree.  I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it led me into an interesting reflection.  Let me explain.
I’m having a dispute with my homeowners’ association board.  We own a small townhouse in a nice little neighborhood.  Between the houses is a walking path and there is one flat patch of grass which held a “tot lot” play area when we moved in.  A couple of years ago the tot lot was torn down and grass was planted.  It’s the only place in our entire neighborhood, outside of the street, where kids can run around, kick a soccer ball, play catch, etc. 
Well, a couple of months ago a tree was planted right in the middle of it.  I attended the next association board meeting, thinking the members probably hadn’t thought of the fact that the tree, once it is full grown, will take away the one spot the kids have to play.  To my surprise, they did realize that; in fact, that is part of the purpose.  They would rather parents drive their kids to a park than have them playing in the neighborhood.
I was furious.  I got their official response to my concern in the form of an email when I was at work.  This turned out to be a good thing because, working at a Catholic school, I could visit the tabernacle at lunch and ask Jesus to calm my anger and the uncharitable thoughts that were multiplying in my head.
Well, I resolved that I wasn’t going to drop the issue with a simple email response, especially since one of my sons has special needs and requires a place to run around, if only for a few minutes, throughout the day.  Not to mention that baseball is his favorite sport, and that grassy patch is the one place in our neighborhood where I can roll him grounders and play catch without dodging cars.
As I was praying, I asked God to grant me patience and charity even as I fought the board on this issue.  Then I thought, you know, it would be great if the stupid thing just died and I didn’t have to get into a conflict with them in the first place.  So, I prayed for God to kill the tree.
I remembered the fig tree in the Gospel that Jesus withered.  Now I know that was used to make an important spiritual point and my request was rather trivial, but I figured, well, at least it’s not like it would be the first time.  I felt very uncomfortable making such a request with so much suffering in the world.  People are dying, sinners are in need of repentance, Christians are being persecuted…and this tree is ruining our play space.
But as I reflected, it occurred to me that God is not too small for small prayers.  He is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives.  There are far more important issues in my own life, let alone the entire world, but this conflict over the tree is one small event in my life.  Is it silly to include God?  Of course not.
Of course it’s important to keep perspective when it comes to “small requests.”  I don’t consider this issue of any importance compared to the real needs of my family or the human family.  My prayer for patience and charity was by far the more important request.  And I recognize that I may be wrong, and there may be a greater good to having the tree where it is.  And perhaps I may benefit from doing the work of getting the tree removed, and having to deal patiently and kindly with people that are frustrating me.  If the tree is still alive when next month’s board meeting rolls around, I won’t blame God for not answering my prayer.  He knows what He’s doing.  But, if He sees fit that the problem is solved “naturally” before then, great.  Why wouldn’t I ask?  This may be a small thing, but if it’s big enough to dedicate some time and effort to, why would I do it without God?
 My point is, God is big enough to care about world events, life-and-death struggles, and also the minute details of our lives.  He wants to be present in every aspect of our lives.  Yes, we must keep our “small” problems in perspective, but we should invite Him into them.  There is no aspect of our lives, no matter how small it may seem, in which God does not belong.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Fathers Speak: The Trinity

The Fathers Speak: 
The Trinity

                The Fathers of the Church are some of our greatest apologetic tools.  We are blessed with many writings by Christians from the earliest centuries.  We can use them to show people that Catholic teachings were universal to Christianity from the time of the Apostles on.
          Most Christians believe in the Trinity.  In fact, for many people belief in the Trinity and Incarnation determines whether they will acknowledge someone as Christian.  However, there are a few groups (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Oneness Pentecostals) who profess to follow Jesus but deny the Trinity.  The following are just a few of the many quotes by Christians before the Council of Nicea that testify to belief in the Trinity.  Some deal specifically with the divinity of Christ, which many non-Trinitarians deny.

          “The Father of all has a Son, who is both the first-born Word of God and is God” – St. Justin Martyr – c. AD 150
          “What can not be said of anyone else, that He is Himself in His own right God and Lord and eternal King and Only-begotten and Incarnate Word, proclaimed as such by all the Prophets and by the Apostles and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth.” – St. Irenaeus c. AD 180

          “All are One – through unity of substance of course!...for the Unity is distributed in a Trinity.  Placed in order, the Three are Father, Son, and Spirit” – Tertullian c. AD 215

          “Although He was God, He took flesh; and having been made man, He remained what He was, God” – Origen c. AD 220
          Not everything taught by some of these men, notably Tertullian and Origen, was embraced by the Church, but history recounts their writings on the Trinity as orthodox and representative of the teachings of the Church in their day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Link - Evolutionism and Morality

Link – Evolutionism and Morality

          At the link below Ross Blackburn discusses the way we must defend the dignity of every human life in the context of our secularized culture.  Specifically, he comments on an article in Human Life Review that suggested we must do so with secular terms, on a secular playing field.  Blackburn disagrees.  Though we must have a grasp of secularist thinking, he points out that secularism / Darwinism is incapable of putting intrinsic value on human life, at least all human life, including the vulnerable.  Our culture has lost its mind.  But truth comes from God.  And Truth remains true even if our society has largely lost the ability even to properly seek it, let alone to find it.
We have as much reason to expect the secularist to abandon naturalist assumptions as he should have for us to remove God from our arguments.  One major problem is that an atheistic or Darwinist approach is incapable of accounting for morality.  If the last century has taught us anything, it is the perils of removing morality from a society.  We continue to face these perils.
At the link is a lengthy but brilliant analysis.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Inspiring Reverence

Inspiring Reverence

I am very blessed to work at a Catholic school at which we take the kids to Mass every Friday.  Though we work hard to teach them the importance of the Mass, and what’s happening at Mass, some kids get it and some kids don’t.  What is really hard to instill is a sense of reverence.  We live in a culture in which reverence as a concept has been almost completely thrown out the window.
We generally do not show reverence for God or holy things.  Men no longer show reverence for women; as a culture we don’t even have reverence for human life, by and large.  How many comedians or radio personalities advertise their “irreverent humor,” as if we could even tell the difference anymore.
And yet, we try to tell kids who are surrounded by and saturated with this culture, that they need to be reverent in Church.  It’s a losing battle.  To be sure, there are many kids who are reverent, and who are taught reverence at home, but particularly by the time they reach junior high, that virtue is often lost.  The kids aren’t trying to be disrespectful; they just don’t know how to act in the presence of sacred things.
However, this Holy Week we had an eye-opening experience.  Our all-school Mass is usually on Fridays, but we were not going to be in school on Good Friday, and we thought it would be a good idea to start off Holy Week with Mass.  So we had Mass Monday morning, which also happened to be the parish day of Adoration.  Occasionally individual classes will go over for Adoration, but we had never done it as a school before.
Well, Father thought it was a great idea and he decided he was going to pull out all the stops.  He brought out plenty of incense, we sang the Tantum Ergo in Latin, and finished with Benediction.  The result was astonishing.  The kids were transfixed, on their knees, with their gaze on Jesus.  When it ended, the entire school exited the Church in reverent silence, as opposed to their usual impression of a talkative herd of elephants.
Why the change?  We have been preaching reverence for years, and it hasn’t stuck.  Yet that day they all displayed it instinctively.  I think the difference was the extraordinary display of reverence in the ceremony.  We tell the kids that Church is special, but they come in and hear the same music that’s on the radio (on the Christian station), with hand motions, etc., and the atmosphere in general feels somewhat casual.
Now I am not disparaging contemporary music and I recognize that it is something the kids connect with, and that there’s value in that.  But I also think we would do well to have more ceremony, more tradition, even at children’s Masses.  We should feel when we step into Church for Mass that we are taking one step into eternity.  We are participating in Heavenly worship, so we should be lifted a little off this earth.  Things should be different.  The air should be different, at least occasionally perfumed with incense.  The music should be different, at least sometimes.  The language should be different, with the inclusion of occasional Latin prayers.
The Masses we have every Friday are wonderful and beautiful, but I think everyone was amazed to see how the students responded to the tradition and ceremony of Adoration that Monday.  Just the fact of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and seeing our priest on his knees doing the same, drove home the message that the Eucharist is something special, in ways words never could.
This is exactly what Pope Benedict was trying to encourage when he suggested that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the Tridentine Mass) could inform the Novus Ordo.  I hope many schools we will begin to consider ways in which we can truly make the celebration of the Mass feel like a participation in eternity.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Have a Say - Here Comes the Catholic Church

I Have a Say
Here Comes the Catholic Church
       Another in the series of Catholic responses to Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards’ request for videos titled “I Have a Say.”

Friday, May 4, 2012

Action! Oppose SB 1172 - Do Not Let More Children be Sacrificed

Do Not Let More Children be Sacrificed
Urgent! – Take Action!

Note: (Update added July 3): This bill has passed the senate and come out of committee in the assembly.  It will be coming to a full vote in the assembly.  Contact your assembly member and urge them to oppose.  Write to newspapers and Web sites, call radio shows, and tell friends.

In California a terribly destructive bill passed one senate committee last week and will come before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.  SB 1172 denies children under 18 access to any therapy to help with unwanted homosexual attraction, and requires those who offer such therapy to inform all adult clients that the therapy doesn’t work and will pose significant risk to their mental health.  It goes on to establish increased opportunity for patients and their families to sue therapists.
Forget for a moment the fact that the bill would require therapists to lie.  For people who compassionately practice a certain therapy to disclose to their clients that it is ineffective and dangerous, despite the fact that evidence demonstrates the opposite, is insulting and inexcusable.  Forget for a moment that the bill opens doors for people to seek such therapy only for the purposes of pretending to be harmed by it and suing the practitioners.
My first outrage over this bill is that it would be state-inflicted child abuse on those who are most vulnerable.  The bill states that no one under 18 will be allowed to undergo such therapy regardless of how desperately they want to. 
I have become somewhat familiar with therapists that provide therapy for people struggling with gender identity, unwanted homosexual attraction, or other sexual confusion.  They are among the most compassionate people in therapy and their work is often highly successful.  What’s more, children can struggle at a very early age with gender confusion, and these therapists often help them with extraordinary success.  This, I suspect, is the real motivation behind this bill.
The California state senate is on the verge of sacrificing many children on the altar of a political agenda and we can not let it happen.
I have worked for many years with many young people of many different ages and in many different settings.  In that time I can remember one who suffered from gender identity confusion.  I remember his struggle and discomfort.  I can still see his innocent eyes, his beautiful soul.  And I know there are people who can help him.
But if the supporters of SB 1172 get their way, he will never be able to take advantage of that help.  He will have to suffer in silence, for not only will they deny him the chance to heal, they refuse to acknowledge his suffering.  It does not fit their agenda.
To them he is anonymous.  One day perhaps he will understand that his suffering served, in their eyes, a higher good.  Well, to me he is not anonymous.  He is precious.  He is a child who simply needs help.  He is made in the Image and Likeness of God, and he is destined for greatness.  He needs people that will love him, help him, suffer with him, and succeed with him.
But if this bill passes what he will get from his state is a deaf ear and a cold shoulder.  He will become a statistic.  His pain will probably even be manipulated so as to justify more of these types of bills.  And if his life is ruined, well at least it was in the service of “progress.”  And yet some would say it’s the Church that’s repressive and bigoted.  Yeah, right.
We can not sit back and allow this to happen.  Yes, I know this bill is one in a number of steps being taken to rob me of my freedom of speech and to persecute religion.  Well, I’m a big boy.  And I can stand up and fight for myself.  But how can these children fight?  We must not allow them to be sacrificed for someone else’s agenda.
Now, I am sure there are senators who are supporting this bill that sincerely believe it is right.  They are sincerely wrong.  Whether their intention is to harm these children or not, that is what SB 1172 does.
We are Catholics.  We defend those who can’t defend themselves.  We stand up for truth, even when the whole world bows down to idols.  Stand up. If you live in California, call your state senator.  Ask him or her to oppose SB 1172.  No matter where you live, call Senator Tom Harmon, the vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee and ask for his help.  The fate of these children matters to us all, whether or not we live in the same state as they. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Knowing God

Knowing God

          Before we can develop a relationship with God we have to have a correct understanding of what the term “God” really means.  Father Robert Barron compares two common misconceptions of the term with the Christian understanding.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Political Insanity

Political Insanity

I’ve seen two political articles the past few days that I have found quite disturbing.  The first was from a disappointed Santorum supporter (which I happen to be) and seemed to suggest that Catholics should be disappointed enough with a Romney candidacy to consider sitting this election out.  The second referenced two polls regarding who Catholics are supporting now that the Republican nomination has been secured.

This is a Catholic blog, not a political blog.  However, it is the duty of all Catholics, particularly the laity, to bring our Faith to bear on public life, and do our best to “baptize the culture.”  This is not optional; it is a mandate.  If we compartmentalize our Faith or suggest that as Catholics we have no business making strong political statements, we are being remiss in our duties, both to God and country.

Our political statements can and must be highly critical of the actions of public figures that oppose the Law of God.  They must be honest, of course, and we must never wish ill on a person we oppose, or cast spiritual judgment on them.  This blog is called “Servant of Charity,” and I try very hard not to violate the demands of charity, properly understood.

That being said, I have some rather strong feelings about the articles I recently saw.  As a Santorum supporter I too am disappointed that Romney will be the nominee.  I suspect he is a good and decent man, but his record in Massachusetts causes me to question his commitment to the principles I would like championed by a President.

That being said, he is running against Barack Obama.  Sitting this election out is not an option. 

People say this election will be about the economy, and the truth is that the economy still stinks.  But the fact of the matter is that the dividing line that demands people come down on one side or the other is the line that separates the Culture of Life from the Culture of Death.  As long as that battle rages, we have no business casting our votes based on tax rates or the growth rate of GDP.  We are soldiers for the armies of the Culture of Life.  Mr. Obama is currently the general of the armies of the Culture of Death.  He has expanded abortion with his health care legislation, his judicial appointments and his HHS mandate.  He has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  He has waged war on conscience, especially when it comes to life issues.  His justice department has persecuted peaceful sidewalk counselors whose only crime has been to successfully provide women in crisis pregnancies with options other than abortion.  The list goes on.  In this war, he is the enemy.

Understand, I do not hate Mr. Obama or judge his soul, or wish to see him lose his soul.  I pray for him every day by name, but I will do what I can to defeat him.  And if the choice is supporting a candidate I’m not completely enthusiastic about, that is an easy choice to make.

The other article, from the National Catholic Register, cited two polls.  The first, from the Pew Research Center, showed all people identifying themselves as Catholics supporting Romney 50%-45%.  A Gallup poll, however, showed that the only group of Catholics supporting Romney at all were what they called “very religious,” by a spread of 50%-46%.  Obviously that makes no sense.  The numbers don’t add up, so there is serious error in at least one of the polls.

The Church will not tell us specifically for whom to vote.  However, she has made clear that while all social justice issues are of great importance, the right to life is preeminent.  Also, the bishops have unanimously stood up to the President in defense of religious freedom, which he is violating, to the point of promising civil disobedience.

With this background, it is impossible that 46% of “very religious” Catholics, no matter by what doctored criteria one defines the term, support Mr. Obama.

Cardinal Dolan has said, with regard to the HHS mandate, “We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.”  All Catholics must take that motto for their own as we approach the November elections.