Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Land of Rationalia

Neil deGrasse Tyson Just Proposed a Whole New Country. His posting on Twitter reads:

Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence

We've been here before - it was called the French Revolution, where the main enemy was the Catholic Church and all her allies. The revolutionaries expelled priests and bishops who would not take a vow to the new Republic's constitution and those laypeople who opposed to the point of armed rebellion were viciously exterminated, an estimated 170,000 people. The revolutionaries closed down churches, cathedrals, and monasteries and executed priests, religious, and lay people, giving us many more saints on our calendar. Much of the monastic artwork I saw in the Philadelphia Museum of Art were originally parts of French monasteries and convents that were torn down during and after the Revolution. In the glorious Notre Dame Cathedral, the revolutionaries tore down all the religious artwork and declared that they now worshiped the Goddess of Reason, rejecting religion as superstitious and unscientific. According to James A. Herrick in his book The Making of the New Spirituality, inside Notre Dame "a special ritual was held for the Feast of Reason: the nave had an improvised mountain on which stood a Greek temple dedicated to Philosophy and decorated with busts of philosophers. At the base of the mountain was located an altar dedicated to Reason, in front of which was located a torch of Truth. The ceremony included the crowd paying homage to an actress dressed in blue, white, red (the colours of the Republic), personifying Liberty." These "temples of Reason" popped up all over the country, with its foundation on atheism and humanism.

Now, I don't believe any of these atheists are calling for our murder (only those of us still in the womb or too old or sick to be of "value"). However, this belief that faith and reason are incompatible is an outcrop of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. In terms of the Reformation's blame, it has to do with the fact that most of (if not all) the great universities of Europe were built and run by the Catholic Church, so it was important to "liberate" the universities from Rome's control. Galileo, wanting his theory to be taught as a fact, was the sticking point for atheists and Protestants - do we want the Pope or a bishop to tell us what we can and cannot believe? That was the first wedge - divorce the university system from the Church that founded it. With the Enlightenment, they pounced on this and have perpetuated the false belief that religion and science can never go together, even though nearly all the major significant scientific discoveries over the past 1,900 years were attributed to devout Christians (even the Big Bang Theory was devised in part by a Belgian priest).

And all the Millennials, the most educated, yet ignorant, people on the planet, will cheer Tyson on, regardless of the fact that to make many of his points he has been caught fabricating quotes of his critics, making them sound stupid. Truth doesn't matter to this group who pretend to be seeking the truth - as long as religion (and especially MORALITY) is silenced, they are happy regardless of what the truth is. And we, as Christians (especially Catholic Christians) are to blame for their delusions, as usual.

"One of the greatest problems of our time is that many are schooled, but few are educated."

--- St. Thomas More

First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church

From the Catholic Culture website:

This memorial is in honor of the nameless followers of Christ brutally killed by the mad Emperor Nero as scapegoats for the fire in Rome. The pagan historian Tacitus and St. Clement of Rome tell of a night of horror (August 15, 64 A.D.) when in the imperial parks Christians were put into animal skins and hunted, were brutally attacked, and were made into living torches to light the road for Nero's chariot. From AD 64 to 314 "Christian" was synonymous with "execution victim."

There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the "Apostle of the Gentiles" (see Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in A.D. 57-58.

There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in A.D. 49-50. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city "caused by the certain Chrestus" [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius' death in A.D. 54. Paul's letter was addressed to a church with members from Jewish and gentile backgrounds.

In July of A.D. 64, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, a "great multitude" of Christians were put to death because of their "hatred of the human race." Peter and Paul were probably among the victims.

Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in A.D. 68 at the age of thirty-one.

Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his suffering and death. But no human force could stop the power of the Spirit unleashed upon the world. The blood of martyrs has always been, and will always be, the seed of Christians.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Blessed Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul



From the Catholic Culture website:

Veneration of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, has its roots in the very foundations of the Church. They are the solid rock on which the Church is built. They are at the origin of her faith and will forever remain her protectors and her guides. To them Rome owes her true greatness, for it was under God's providential guidance that they were led to make the capital of the Empire, sanctified by their martyrdom, the center of the Christian world whence should radiate the preaching of the Gospel.

St. Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero, in A.D. 66 or 67. He was buried on the hill of the Vatican where recent excavations have revealed his tomb on the very site of the Basilica of St. Peter's. St. Paul was beheaded in the Via Ostia on the spot where now stands the basilica bearing his name. Down the centuries Christian people in their thousands have gone on pilgrimage to the tombs of these Apostles. In the second and third centuries the Roman Church already stood pre-eminent by reason of her apostolicity, the infallible truth of her teaching and her two great figures, Sts. Peter and Paul.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Relics of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More

I was blessed with being able to venerate the relics of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More while at a visit to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, PA.

From the Catholic Culture website:

His belief that no lay ruler has jurisdiction over the church of Christ cost Thomas More his life.

Beheaded on Tower Hill, London, July 6, 1535, he steadfastly refused to approve Henry VIII's divorce and remarriage and establishment of the Church of England.

Described as "a man for all seasons," More was a literary scholar, eminent lawyer, gentleman, father of four children and chancellor of England. An intensely spiritual man, he would not support the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the church in England, breaking with Rome and denying the pope as head.

More was committed to the Tower of London to await trial for treason: not swearing to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. Upon conviction, More declared he had all the councils of Christendom and not just the council of one realm to support him in the decision of his conscience.

Four hundred years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint of God. Few saints are more relevant to our time. In fact, in 2000, Pope John Paul II named him patron of political leaders. The supreme diplomat and counselor, Thomas More did not compromise his own moral values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority wants. Henry himself realized this and tried desperately to win his chancellor to his side because he knew More was a man whose approval counted, a man whose personal integrity no one questioned. But when Thomas resigned as chancellor, unable to approve the two matters that meant most to Henry, the king felt he had to get rid of Thomas.

John Fisher is usually associated with Erasmus, Thomas More and other Renaissance humanists. His life, therefore, did not have the external simplicity found in the lives of some saints. Rather, he was a man of learning, associated with the intellectuals and political leaders of his day. He was interested in the contemporary culture and eventually became chancellor at Cambridge. He had been made a bishop at thirty-five, and one of his interests was raising the standard of preaching in England. Fisher himself was an accomplished preacher and writer. His sermons on the penitential psalms were reprinted seven times before his death. With the coming of Lutheranism, he was drawn into controversy. His eight books against heresy gave him a leading position among European theologians.

In 1521 he was asked to study the problem of Henry VIII's marriage. He incurred Henry's anger by defending the validity of the king's marriage with Catherine and later by rejecting Henry's claim to be the supreme head of the Church of England.

In an attempt to be rid of him, Henry first had him accused of not reporting all the "revelations" of the nun of Kent, Elizabeth Barton. John was summoned, in feeble health, to take the oath to the new Act of Succession. He and Thomas More refused because the Act presumed the legality of Henry's divorce and his claim to be head of the English church. They were sent to the Tower of London, where Fisher remained fourteen months without trial. They were finally sentenced to life imprisonment and loss of goods.

When the two were called to further interrogations, they remained silent. Fisher was tricked, on the supposition he was speaking privately as a priest, and declared again that the king was not supreme head. The king, further angered that the pope had made John Fisher a cardinal, had him brought to trial on the charge of high treason. He was condemned and executed, his body left to lie all day on the scaffold and his head hung on London Bridge. More was executed two weeks later.

YHWH

One of the things I had to get used to when I became a Catholic was that many Catholics insist on pronouncing the name of God. I would say that I am greatly influenced by the Protestant and even Jewish writings that I have read throughout my youth and I resist that trend, even to this day. One of the reasons why I resist is that God is our Father - do you call your father by his first name? Or do you call him Dad, Abba? Another reason is that I don't believe the awe (fear) that God is deserving to receive from me can still be given to him with such a familiarity; if I'm talking to God as if he's a buddy from work, I still don't want to just throw his name around as if it doesn't deserve my awe and respect. I couldn't imagine hearing YHWH at the Presbyterian church, nor even at the fairly modernist Episcopal church I attended; it wasn't until I became a Catholic did I hear the Lord's name used very casually. At one point in an RCIA lesson, the guest speaker used His name about a dozen times and even tried to get me to repeat after her as she prayed, using the Lord's name a couple times, and I stopped her and politely said I was uncomfortable using His name and she kindly changed to say "Lord" or "Father" instead.

One of the several sects of Christianity I explored before going to the Episcopal church was Messianic Judaism, which is mostly of a Protestant flavor; I bought The Complete Jewish Bible which, although not totally accurate in its assumptions, did indeed allow me to appreciate the Jewishness of the New Testament (we often forget how the NT was written and read with Jewish eyes - NT Wright reminds us that we need to remember that when we read its message). In the CJB, they would not dare use the Lord's name and often you saw Adonai in its place; this must be what helped cement my feelings about this subject, not that those who use YHWH are somehow wrong or not good Christians - it's just that I personally didn't feel comfortable with saying the Name.

The Holy Ghost must have been moving many at the same time because shortly after I became a Catholic, the Vatican announced in 2008 that Catholics should not use YHWH in our hymns, liturgy, or prayers anymore. Francis Cardinal Arinze, by request of then-Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a letter explaining the reasons behind this request. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a copy of this letter and welcomed the clarification by Rome, "as it helps to emphasize the theological accuracy of our language and appropriate reverence for the Name of God so consistent in our tradition." Of course, SOME fundamentalists (who never do any research) started shouting that the Vatican was "denouncing" the Name of God. You can't please everyone.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Sacraments of Initiation

“The sacraments of Christian initiation - Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist - lay the foundations of every Christian life” (CCC, 1212). Each build upon the other, assisting us in grace in our climb towards Christian perfection. As a child's nutrition begins with his or her mother's milk, and then moves on to solid food, so does the Christian grow in holiness and participation in Christian life through these Sacraments. Eastern Christians will combine the Sacraments of Initiation into one rite, which the Western church also does during the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, but the Western church will typically spread the Sacraments out over several years when dealing with the young. “By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity” (Ibid.).

Baptism is our entry into the Body of Christ; as circumcision was a sign of God's covenant with his people (Gen 17:10), we enter the New Covenant through a circumcision not made by human hands (Col 2:11), but a circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit (Rom 2:29); thus, we are born again of water and the Spirit (Jn 3:5). We are baptized by one Spirit and thus enter one Body (1 Cor 12:13), having our sins washed away (Acts 22:16), being buried with Christ in baptism and therefore being raised with him at the Resurrection (Col 2:12). Being baptized into Christ, we have clothed ourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27) and whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk 16:16). We enter into the People of God, becoming sons and daughters of Abraham (Gal 3:29), grafted onto the olive tree of Israel to share in the richness of God's promises (Rom 11:11-24).

From the earliest writing of the Church, the Fathers of the faith described the Sacrament of Confirmation as distinct from baptism, symbolized by the laying on of hands (CCC, 1288) and the anointing with perfumed oil, also called chrism (CCC, 1289). St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote in AD 253, “It is necessary for him that has been baptized also to be anointed, so that by his having received chrism, that is, the anointing, he can be the anointed of God and have in him the grace of Christ (Epistle 69:2).” When the apostles in Jerusalem had heard that Samaria had received the faith, Peter and John traveled there and laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Ananias was sent to Saul (Paul) of Tarsus, laying his hands on him, and invoking the name of Christ that Saul be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). The author of Hebrews referred to the laying on of hands as part of the “mature doctrines of Christ” (Heb 6:2) and when Paul was in Ephesus, he laid hands on the disciples there; they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy and speak in tongues (Acts 19:1-6). Strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, we invoke the Holy Spirit, first come upon us in Baptism, for the seven gifts of the Spirit promised to us: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear (awe) of the Lord (1 Cor 12:4-11).

The culmination of the Sacraments of Initiation, and the end to which all the Sacraments point, is the Holy Eucharist, which is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ (Jn 6:1-71). “Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist” (CCC, 1322). The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC, 1324) in which we unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy in anticipation of eternal life (CCC, 1326). In the Eucharist, the People of God (those on Earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven) are united to each other; Benedict XVI said, “Christ and my neighbour are inseparable in the Eucharist. And thus we are all one bread and one body. A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused” (10 Dec 2008). We eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood to fulfill his commandment to do this in his memory (Lk 22:19), proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes again (1 Cor 11:26).

God does not want anyone to perish (2 Pet 3:9), desiring that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). St. Seraphim of Sarov said that the goal of a Christian's life is “the acquisition of the Holy Spirit” (Alfeyef). As a Christian journeys through the Sacraments of Initiation, he or she ascends a ladder towards holiness in a life of grace, reaching for the fullness of the Christian life, bringing us “into communion with the Divine nature, animating, deifying, and restoring us to life eternal” (Ibid.).

References

Alfeyef, H. (1998). Membership of the body of Christ: sacraments of initiation. Retrieved from http://www.apostoliki-diakonia.gr/en_main/catehism/theologia_zoi/themata.asp?cat=dogma&main=SK_texts&file=15.htm

Benedict XVI. (2011). The mystical body of Christ comes alive in the sacraments. Retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/b16stpaul16.htm

Catechism of the Catholic Church (2011). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm

Cyprian. (253). To Januarius and other Numidian bishops, on baptizing heretics. Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050669.htm

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1966).

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Historically-speaking, today is the day in which we celebrate the Marian title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This text is from the Catholic Culture website.

Also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, is celebrated on June 27 by the universal Church.

The devotion to this Marian advocation revolves around the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, painted on wood, with background of gold. It is Byzantine in style and is supposed to have been painted in the thirteenth century. It represents the Mother of God holding the Divine Child while the Archangels Michael and Gabriel presenting Him the instruments of His Passion. Over the figures in the picture are some Greek letters which form the abbreviated words Mother of God, Jesus Christ, Archangel Michael, and Archangel Gabriel respectively.

The icon was brought to Rome towards the end of the fifteenth century by a pious merchant, who, dying there, ordered by his will that the picture should be exposed in a church for public veneration. It was exposed in the church of San Matteo in the famous Roman street of Via Merulana, which connects the basilicas of Saint Mary Major and Saint John Lateran. Crowds flocked to this church, and for nearly three hundred years many graces were obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The picture was then popularly called the Madonna di San Matteo. The church was served for a time by the Hermits of Saint Augustine.

These Augustinians were still in charge when the French invaded Rome (1812) and destroyed the church. The picture disappeared; it remained hidden and neglected for over forty years, but a series of providential circumstances between 1863 and 1865 led to its rediscovery in an oratory of the Augustinian Fathers at Santa Maria in Posterula.

Pope Pius IX, who as a boy had prayed before the picture in San Matteo, became interested in the discovery. But at that time, the ruins of San Matteo were in the grounds of a convent of the Redemptorists -the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer-, founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787).

The Father General of the Redemptorists, Most Rev. Nicholas Mauron, decided to bring the whole matter to the attention of the Pope. The Pope listened attentively and felt sure it was God’s will that the icon should be gain exposed to public veneration and the logical site was their church of St. Alphonsus, standing as it did between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. The Holy Father at once took a piece of paper and wrote a short memorandum ordering the Augustinian Fathers of St. Mary in Posterula to surrender the picture to the Redemptorists, on condition that the Redemptorists supply the Augustinians with another picture of Our Lady or a good copy of the icon of Perpetual Help.

The Icon meant much to the Augustinians, but when the two Redemptorists came armed with the Pope’s signed memorandum, what could they do but obey? On January 19, 1866, Fathers Marchi and Bresciani brought the miraculous picture to St. Alphonsus’ church. Preparations were now made to inaugurate the new public reign of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. On April 26th, a great procession was staged in which the picture was carried throughout the Esquiline region of Rome. Upon returning to the church, the picture was enthroned over the high altar, in a resplendent shrine-niche especially constructed for it.

The report of marvelous healings spread rapidly throughout the city of Rome and people came by the hundreds to visit the shrine. Soon the whole area around the altar was filled with abandoned crutches and canes and several whole glass-covered cabinets were filled with gold and silver thanksgiving offerings in the shapes of miniature hearts, arms, legs and other votive offerings. Scarcely two weeks after the solemn exposition of the picture, Pope Pius IX himself came to visit the shrine. He stood quietly before it for a long time and then exclaimed: “How beautiful she is!”

Pope Leo XIII, the next pontiff, had a copy of the picture on his desk so that he might see it constantly during his working day. St. Pius X sent a copy of the icon to the Empress of Ethiopia and granted an indulgence of 100 days to anyone who repeated the phrase: “Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.”

Pope Benedict XV had the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help placed immediately over his chair of state in the throne room. Here it could be seen by all just over his head, as if to say: “Here is your true Queen!”.

Pope Pius IX told the Redemptorists, in speaking to them of the treasure he had committed to their care: “Make her known!” It seems as though they hardly needed the exhortation. In the United States, they built the first Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in the Roxbury section of Boston, and it was eventually raised to the honor of a “Papal Basilica” by Pope Pius XII.

Symbolism of the icon of Perpetual Help

The influence of Eastern icons in the West, around the XII and XIII centuries brought a class of icons called Cardiotissa, from the Greek word kardia, meaning heart. Cardiotissa means “having a heart” or showing sympathy and mercy and compassion. In them the face of Our Lady appears full of sorrow, yet supremely dignified in her contemplation of the sufferings of her Son. His passion is represented by angels holding instruments of His passion, most often the cross, the lance, the sponge, and the nails.

The Our Mother of Perpetual Help icon is of this type. The angels holding the instruments of the Passion have their hands covered with a protecting veil as a sign of reverence in handling sacred objects.

The Child Jesus is shown with an adult face and a high brow, indicating His divine Mind of infinite intelligence. As God, He knew that the angelic apparition was prophetic of His future passion. Yet in His human nature as a small child, He is frightened and runs to His Mother for protection. Our Lady hastily picks Him up and clasps Him to her bosom. This action is indicated by the fact that the Lord’s right foot is nervously curled about the left ankle and in such haste that His right sandal has become loosened and hangs by a single strap. Further action is indicated by the way the Child Jesus clasps His Mother’s right hand with both of His, holding tightly to Our Lady’s thumb.

Our Lady is clothed in a dress of dark red which was long reserved in the Byzantine world for the Empress alone, indicating the Queenship of Mary.

Some commentators on color claim that bluish purple became the color of penance in the Western Church (during Lent and Advent) because purple is a combination of blue and red. The blue reminds us of heaven, to which we wish to arrive by our penance, and the red recalls martyrdom, because all penance requires a dying to oneself, especially mortifying inordinate desire for food and pleasure. The archangels Gabriel and Michael were tunics of purple since they carry the instruments of the passion and death of Christ. The figures of the icon are identified with abbreviations of their names and Mary is designated by her chief title to glory: Mother of God.

Our Lady’s face is of unspeakable majesty and calm and yet her large eyes, partly closed, express ineffable sorrow and sympathy. Our Lady is not looking at Jesus, but rather to us, to express compassion for us in our fears and sorrows.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Breasts

America is a strange place. We have some people who are convinced that a woman's chest is no different from a man's chest and want the "right" to walk around topless like men do; then we have people who are so puritan that the moment a mother tries to breastfeed her child in public, she's berated and shamed as if she was caught filming a porn in a convent.

Let's get a grip (no pun intended).

I agree with the "free the nipple" crowd in this one sense: breasts were made for feeding children. Their opinion is that breasts "are just skin" and that "men have them, too". They believe that breasts have been over-sexualized by our society (true - which is why women with no health issues, like cancer, voluntarily choose to get implants). These supporters of public nudity are correct in that way, but only in that way. This is because a woman's chest is different than a man's chest; websites aren't making billions from showing topless men, are they? Topless male protesters don't get all the news headlines, do they? Because we knew a woman's chest is different and "changing society" isn't going to change that biological fact: men like boobies.

However, on the other side of the same extreme coin, we have the puritans of America (and probably some in Europe) who shriek at the image of a mother breastfeeding her child. At one point in art history, the Virgin Mary was portrayed breastfeeding our saviour - yes, Jesus was breastfed. When I was in Costa Rica, on two separate occasions women we were talking with just whipped out a breast and started to feed their child as if it was nothing - and my ex and her friends would laugh when I would stare at the floor or look at the ceiling - they couldn't figure out why it was a big deal. Yes, it's a bit unusual for Americans, but it's natural throughout the world. Most of the world is poor; most of the world is not buying formula - you are breastfed. But in the US, if a woman dares to breastfeed in public, she is harassed and shamed; America is truly becoming an anti-family place. The most feminine thing a woman can do is have a child; this marvelous miracle of nature is compounded by the fact that God also allowed women to feed their children with their bodies. But recently when a woman at a casual restaurant started to breastfeed her child, a man (caught on a cell phone) berated her, even calling her a WHORE! Are you kidding me?

This insanity has to stop - on both sides. No, you shouldn't be walking around topless (neither should men, but that's another posting). A woman's chest is different from a man's and both men and women need to show more modesty. However, a woman's chest was MADE for feeding her child and if we want to be a pro-life people, a pro-family people, and if we truly want to celebrate real feminism, then we must support women who want to feed their child in peace - not hiding in a dirty bathroom, not hiding in their homes or under blankets, but in showing them and their children the respect and dignity they deserve by not making a big deal about it, but in letting nature take its course and letting that child eat in peace in the loving and tender arms of his or her mother.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Eating Organic and Catholic Social Teaching

Readers of this blog are not strangers to the fact that I've been struggling with my weight for most of my life; it's a cross that I've been chosen to bear, for whatever reason. I've been told that if I want to be taken seriously as a candidate for the diaconate, I'll have to work on my weight because having an out-of-control appetite is a red flag for other issues (I've written about unruly passions before).

Even if I wasn't interested in the diaconate, I still want to get the weight under control. I've tried Atkins, with a little success, before piling all the weight back on; same thing with South Beach, at least twice. I've been moderately heavy when married, and morbidly obese now that I'm not. One thing that is perfectly clear is that all the radical diets out there - Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Sugar Busters, etc. - can work for you, but I don't believe they are long-term solutions unless you are extremely disciplined, which I am not. I've written before that the "secret" to weight loss, in my opinion, is to eat "real" food; basically, the less processed, the better. I'm not a lunatic like some of the extremists out there that want us to go back to eating only raw vegetables or something radical like that - I'm only saying that the best way to lose weight and eat healthy is to find foods that when you buy them, it's as close to being right from the farm as you can get.

This hasn't always worked for me, though, because my food addiction is strong; it reminds me of when I was trying to quit cigarettes over and over and over again - it's going to take many tries to get it right, and LOTS of grace! It's obvious I'm not strong enough to do this, but I know a guy who is! My Lord, Jesus Christ!

ALWAYS STRUGGLING WITH MY WEIGHT

The last time I lost weight prior to becoming diabetic, it was after I read a wonderful book called Cravings; it was written by a Catholic woman who had struggled with her weight (for her, the struggle was with bulimia) and her advice using the Saints and Scripture was very helpful. She also mentioned the Rule of St. Benedict several times, which reignited my desire to become an Oblate, and her suggestions also prompted me to buy several cookbooks put together by a Benedictine monk. Feeling much more spiritual about food, in the sense of seeing it as God's blessings and being truly thankful for everyone and everything involved in getting it to me - the Lord, land, the plants and animals, the rain, the farmers, the truckers, the supermarket, etc. - I thought a lot more about where my food came from and how much work went into getting it to me. My food waste went down dramatically, feeling the pain of the farmers and of the poor if I was forced to throw away food because it spoiled while I was busy eating junk food for dinner. My meals also got a little simpler, thanks in part to those Benedictine cookbooks, which naturally reduced the amount of meat required for recipes. Prompted by all of this, I started to buy more natural ingredients, including more organic products, and I started to make more items at home (I even attempted to make my own vegetable bouillon - it wasn't great). I lost about 25 pounds and felt great! And then I fell off the wagon, pigging out at some BBQs, and then all the junk food came back into my life and a couple years (and about 70 pounds later) I found myself in physical agony, diabetic, and wondering if I'd ever lose weight again.

What has always drawn me back and filled me with hope was my experience with the Benedictine cookbooks and the Cravings book. They lead to books on the spirituality of fasting in the Judeo-Christian faith traditions, and as I continue my journey as an Oblate candidate (and as a member of the Ordinariate), opportunities to fast arrive each and every week (my monastery fasts every Wednesday and Friday, which is an ancient Christian tradition, and the Ordinariate has additional opportunities to fast with the Ember and Rogation days). In my (usually failed) attempts to fast on those occasions, it still reminds me of the time when I felt so close to Creation and all the people and animals connected to my diet; I miss that.

I don't let it stop me from trying, though; every trip to the supermarket is another opportunity to transform my diet and change my life for the better. I have ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. My weight at its height was around 345lbs. and now I've been hovering at 300 pounds (+/- 5 pounds) for a few months; most of that weight loss was from the beginning of my life as a diabetic, spending all day and all night peeing my brains out as my blood sugar raged out of control. Since being put on medication, all of that has stopped (including my weight loss); now it's up to me and what I choose to put into my body. I have a Fitbit and keep trying to talk myself into getting my 10,000 steps a day, but in four months I've only done that thrice. I've quit the gym to save $23/mo, based on my experience that at my healthiest weight and lifestyle, I wasn't a member of a gym, but had instead exercised around the house and at local parks (thinking I can always do it again, with God's help).

WHAT WAS THE POINT?

But what about the purpose of this blog entry? What does any of this have to do with eating organic or Catholic Social Teaching? Please let me develop the story a bit further before tying this all together. I have many critics who think my postings are too long, but if I were to post only the gist of everything, then people might wonder how I could have arrived at certain beliefs or decisions "from out of the blue", when in reality it wasn't out of the blue, but over a long period of discernment and prayer.

Years ago, my wife and I lived in an apartment that was on the edge of a 20-acre farm, which was nestled in an area of NJ with lots of open space, farms, horse stables, forest, and wildlife; it was an amazing area to live in. While I was there, I was unemployed for 13 months and over that time, I was given an itch by God that caused me a lot of stress and discernment; for years I was a big advocate for political solutions to problems, being very passionate about politics and even getting involved with a third party that I was convinced would save the country. However, I was always left with this gnawing hole in my stomach, where something just didn't feel right. I discovered the obvious fact that America's problem is spiritual, not political (our spiritual problem is twofold: half the country isn't religious and the other half is motivated by bad theology). But after coming upon the realization that the problem is spiritual, I dropped politics as my purpose in life, especially since I barely find myself having anything in common with the Republicans anymore; I find myself having more in common with the American Solidarity Party and the Democrats For Life of America than I do with the GOP, especially with Trump at the top.

These days, politics disgust me because I see it for what it truly is: dishonest and biased groupthink. Politics is our excuse to stay divided. As GK Chesterton said, "It is the mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the sense that a football match is popular." That is why I now allow my religious beliefs to influence my voting and not the other way around; it is also why I am no longer a slave to the two-party system and encourage everyone to looked at write-ins and third parties if they are struggling to find a candidate. Don't believe the lie that you are wasting your vote - you only waste your vote when it is for the candidate you don't truly believe is the best choice.

After the realization that the two-party system was dead to me, I started to also have a bad taste in my mouth from unbridled capitalism, because I saw the relentless pursuit of wealth in the West today as unchristian and uncharitable. I didn't accept the Libertarian viewpoint of things, partly because so many atheists were attached to libertarianism (and they resisted any religious influence in political movements), and partly because I didn't agree with the "anything goes as long as it doesn't *hurt* anyone" mentality, especially morally speaking. I could sense that the typical solutions we were faced with - Democrat vs Republican, capitalism vs socialism/communism - were unfair limitations that we were being forced to believe in - there had to be something else out there that "felt right", that allowed us to live a life without overbearing control by the government, but also without the anarchy so many libertarians were calling for; a way of living that allowed us to still protect and help the most vulnerable among us without having to install a socialist, faceless bureaucracy that would enforce death panels, abortion, euthanasia, and sterilization as ways in which to run our healthcare and welfare system with the limited funds we have due to the rich hiding their money overseas and Americans no longer giving birth to new taxpayers.

Relentlessly I wrestled with these issues, fighting against the accepted norms, but having no alternative to hang my hat on; but then came Benedict XVI's trip to the UK and the establishment of the Anglican Ordinariates. All of a sudden, EWTN was awash in all thinks Anglican. I started to learn about GK Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and the "return to the land" movement, when Catholics were being encouraged to flee from the cities and back into the rural life. That made sense to me, since from the moment we moved out there, I was convinced that I wanted to get a house in the country and have livestock and grow fruit and veg. I then learned about a system of economics devised by Chesterton, Belloc, and others - a system called distributism - and all that I had struggled to create on my own as a Christian solution to our current economic problems, was in fact already suggested by the Church in her social doctrine and put into theory and practice in the writings on distributism. It was finding that eureka moment, that instant when the clouds parted and the sun shown on my face for the first time! My walls that I had built around Catholic social teaching - mistaking it for a Christianized version of communism - fell into rubble and the great wisdom of the Church's teaching regarding Christian economic and political principles entered my life, and I've never looked back.

DOING IT FOR ME, AND THE WORLD

This brings us to what I really would like to write about today, which is the subject of this blog posting: eating organic and its place in my diet, as well as its role in Catholic Social Teaching. Permit me to explain my thoughts through the prism of distributism, the Catholic Worker movement, Catholic Social Teaching, and the Church's teachings on the environment and proper care of Creation.

One of the hallmarks of the Catholic Worker movement and distributism is to encourage local economies, saying no to the giant corporations with their genetically-modified food and products made with slave labor, and yes to the farms and businesses owned by your friends and neighbors. Whenever I travel to trendy-ish places like Portsmouth, NH, Halifax, NS, and Princeton, NJ, I am thrilled to find so many restaurants that stock their kitchens with only locally-sourced fruit, veg, meats, and dairy. Whenever I drive to my Ordinariate parish, I always pass giant signs for an organic farm that sells eggs, fruit, and veg; on my way home, I pass another farm that sells pastured eggs, chickens, and pork. I pass local food stands filled with Jersey tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, and berries. There's so much local produce out there, most of it organic, and it's almost all at your fingertips. Also, in many of these small towns and cities, you'll find locally-owned stores that are always fun to wander into to see what they are selling; you see that a lot on Long Beach Island in NJ - rarely a chain store in sight. As a popular internet meme says, "When you buy from a small business, you're not helping a CEO buy a third holiday home; you're helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy his team jersey, and Moms and Dads to put food on their table. Buy local." Yes, you won't get the low prices you've come to expect, but that's because you no longer have child slaves making your products.

And that's what it boils down to: being responsible in your buying habits. We don't live in a vacuum. When we buy from the big stores, and when we buy the GMO fruit and veg soaked in pesticides, we are saying 'Yes' to that system. We are voting with our wallets that we support child slavery, that we support corporate farms over small, local farms. But money is tight - it's practically toilet paper these days and we have to stretch the dollar the best we can. Yes, you're right. But for me personally, the expense is part of the way in which I am trying to reduce my spending on food.

I know it's expensive to eat organic foods. It's ridiculous, actually, but that's what happens when your company isn't getting millions in corporate welfare because you're large enough to grease the palms of the local Congressman or Senator. For my situation, though, the high cost of eating organic (and shopping local and/or fair trade) is that, not only am I helping people earn a living wage, but I'm also cutting back on the amount of food I consume, thanks to the high cost of eating. When I can walk out of a store week after week with a shopping cart packed to the top with $200 worth of food, it's easy to take that for granted. However, when I walk out of a store with only a few shopping bags in each hand and it cost me nearly $200, then I have to stop and think about what I should or shouldn't buy; what do I want vs what do I need? When I'm shoveling a $2 bag of junk food into my mouth, it's easy to do that day after day and not think much of it. But when I came home with that $8 jar of organic peanut butter, I couldn't help but decide that I was going to use it sparingly and cherish each expensive bite.

So, I've decided to transition over to a 90% Organic lifestyle (I'd say 100%, but that's not realistic for me - I don't expect friends and family to offer me organic things to eat and drink, and when you're on vacation or at a pub, you can't expect to get all organic sustenance). I'm not going to rush things because if I do, things will get too expensive too quickly; I'm thinking that I'll reach 90% organic perhaps by this time next year, the very latest. Right now, I'd say that I'm at about 20% organic; as I buy new items for meals, I've been buying organic, but I still have a lot in the house that isn't organic and I'd like to finish that up first. But I've noticed that even when I buy junk food, I'm trying to make it organic and the result is that I make it last longer (since it's much more expensive than other food) and chances are that it has better ingredients and therefore I feel fuller longer.

The other day I came home from the store with organic air-popped cheddar cheese popcorn ($3.29) and 85% cacao organic, fair trade chocolate from Green and Black ($2.99). I went to the "Organic and Natural" section at Shop Rite (be careful, "natural" is just a description and the product can be just as unhealthy as anything in the "normal" sections of the store). I was shocked (and pleased) to see how many items are offered organically these days: broths, soups, pastas, Ramen noodles, beans (dry and canned), canned tomato products (diced, stewed, whole, etc), cereals (hot and cold), coffees and teas (also fair trade), juices, junk food, honey, vinegars, oils, mustard, mayo, ketchup, international ingredients, canned veggies, meats, rices, purées, yogurt, milk, creamer, cheeses, ice cream, frozen food - like fruit, veg, pizza, microwave dinners, bread, bagels - peanut butter, boxed mac & cheese, pasta sauces, and more. You can even find organic beer (with some diligence) and organic wine (not too crazy in price - that organic Merlot was under $10) at local liquor stores. Stop n' Shop, Whole Foods, Wegman's, Trader Joe's - even the one locally-owned tiny health food store a few towns away - between these places and the internet, I can find nearly every organic item I could ever desire. So, "not being able to find a particular item" is no longer an excuse; the only legitimate excuse I can use still is price, but I have to put that into perspective; I pay $10,500 a year in rent, and last year I spent nearly the same amount on my stomach (ordering out, going to restaurants, trips to the supermarket, eating on vacation). Most people spend a LOT less on food and I believe that switching over to organic foods, and eating proper portions and cutting out the junk food and ordering out, I would probably STILL spend less on food than I do now while eating like a pig. A great internet meme says, "If you think eating healthy is expensive, just wait till you see the medical bills from eating cheap crappy food."

I've often prayerfully contemplated the "theology" of food. Once I wrote that our dietary habits are like any other activities we have - they can be good activities, or sinful activities. I have often seen gorging on junk food or grossly overeating food from restaurants as the "mortal sin" of food (not speaking specifically about the mortal sin attached to gluttony). Every sin is an abuse or distortion of something good: food is good, but gluttony is bad. Alcohol is good, but drunkenness is bad. Sex is good, but fornication is bad. With eating, we can enjoy eating as God intended, if you will; he gave us the fruit of the earth and the animals of the field, air, and waters. We've been blessed with being able to create products from these gifts, such as bread, beer, cheese, and the various delicious recipes that have been created since human life began and developed.

However, now we have an abuse of food - not just overconsumption, but food filled with chemicals, preservatives, food stripped of its nutrients to protect shelf-life. Quite often, most of the shelves at the supermarket are not filled with food, but are filled with food-like products, not sold for its nutritional value, but for the pleasure we gain by its consumption. Sadly, this pleasure contributes to the various health problems we have today (high blood pressure, diabetes, morbid obesity, etc). Watch Food Inc. and be horrified that the food industry purposely uses chemicals that increases our hunger and which make us addicted to certain kinds of food. This is what I mean by some foods being the "mortal sin" of nutrition; whereas mortal sin cuts us off from God's grace, these kinds of food cut us off from the nutritional benefit from eating real food. When I eat real food (and products/recipes made with real food), in a way I feel closer to God, because I'm eating at a level of food that's closer to the farm, closer to his Creation. Oftentimes in Scripture, Heaven is described as a wedding feast or a banquet; the "promised land" was described as a land flowing with milk and honey, where no one will be hungry (the promised land of this world is an image, a symbol, for the true promised land, which is eternal life with God). This is why eating can very much be considered a spiritual moment, especially when sharing a meal with others (you see this emphasis on fellowship strongly with Middle Eastern and religious, rural cultures). In growing real food (or raising a humble amount of livestock) we are more conscious of the cycle of seasons, the rain, the soil, the cycle of life (along with the cycle of the liturgical year). Yes, there is definitely a "theology of food" that we normally don't pay attention to, but I have been trying for years to open my eyes up to what God is trying to tell me about it.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED

I've learned a lot about food quality over the last couple of years, especially because of what I've seen and read on Facebook. For one thing, there are a lot of strange opinions on Facebook! People who insist that humans aren't *supposed* to consume wheat or dairy, or that if you don't eat a vegan diet, you're going to die at any minute; or the only true and healthy human diet is to eat raw fruit and veg, or only meat products. There are others out there that insist that you don't need modern medicine, doctors, or dentists at all and all you need to do is use this ingredient or that supplement. All of that is hogwash. Use common sense. My opinion is that, for the most part, what God has given us - with proper use and portions - we should be able to use it today. When people insist that eating bread is unhealthy and that it makes us sick, I think to Christ giving us his Body to eat, using bread as the host, and the fact that Scripture records our Lord eating bread or giving bread to the people to eat - if Jesus Christ ate it, I should be able to eat it; the same with wine, fish, and anything else common to eat in Biblical times.

Obviously, I'm not a fundamentalist and Scripture isn't my only prism of seeing things, but you get my point. There's no doubt that eating a vegetable-based diet is a lot healthier, but many people agree that this is also based on the fact that our meat portions (along with the frequency with which we eat meat) is way out of proportion compared to earlier, poorer times in world history. I went to a Vietnamese restaurant once and ordered a dish that had three tiny skewers with tiny portions of thin, grilled pork on them, served on top of about 400 pounds of vegetables; that's the portion that is normal in other parts of the world, not the 1lbs bacon cheeseburgers or 40oz steaks that we can get here. Regardless, you can't argue with the fact that so many Religious Orders eat a vegetarian diet in their monasteries and convents (as a form of asceticism, as well as for cost and health reasons, eating meat or fish very rarely and usually on great liturgical feasts). I've also learned about the quality of ingredients thanks to the couple of times I've lost weight on South Beach, buying rice, grains, and breads with their natural bran and fiber still intact.

I've learned about GMO ingredients; for many people, these are safe and our apprehension of them is unjustified - for others, such as myself, I believe not enough research has been done on them and I cannot help but notice that since we started genetically-engineering so much of our food, we've never seen so many food allergies. I just can't ignore that there might be a connection. When eating organic foods, they are never genetically-modified; when you buy a product that has a Non-GMO stamp on it, even though it doesn't have GMOs in it, that doesn't mean the product is organic and it might still contain plenty of chemicals and other hazards.

I've always tried to get myself to eat fish three times a week, as recommended, and the Mediterranean-style diet, which often includes more fish and seafood than the Western way of eating, is sometimes used as proof that eating seafood often can be healthy for you. However, not only do we have to worry about mercury and even birth control hormones in our seafood, but we're also over-farming our oceans empty due to our ravenous appetite (oh, how many all-you-can-eat seafood fests I have been part of or have seen advertised). Seafood Watch is a wonderful tool that can be used (either online, as a printed list, or even as a smartphone app) and you use it in order to find out the types of seafood you should buy in order to let the over-farmed types of seafood to replenish their populations.

Fair Trade products are important, especially as a Catholic. I spend every day insisting that people should be able to earn a living wage, but then I go to the store and buy my $1.99 coffee or my $1.25 pound of chocolate; fair trade products mean that much more of the profit of selling an item goes to the producer, the person who did all the work. Fair Trade coffees, teas, chocolates, clothing, and other products allow us in the First World to spend a bit more on items so that the people in the Third World can earn a living wage and survive where they live. The internet makes it possible to find many fair trade products (and, in many cases, these products are also organic).

OUR CHOICES MATTER

And this is how all of this ties into Catholic Social Teaching. We're asked to live a Christian life, caring deeply for the plight of the destitute among us, and we can often make a big difference in the lives around us by how we spend our money - not just with charitable giving and tithing, but also with how we choose to live our lives. In buying local, we support the smaller farms (many of them truly family farms), instead of sending our money to the giant corporate farms that buy and sell politicians who make laws based on kickbacks instead of based on our health needs. When we buy fair trade items, we say 'no' to the many forms of slavery around the world that allows us to buy cheaper items, but at the expense of human dignity and freedom. When we buy organic, again we say 'no' to the factory farming that is ruining our health and contributing to the gluttony that is plaguing the West, especially the United States; we are also saying 'no' to the style of farming that poisons our drinking water and the waterways with chemicals and pesticides that seep into the water supply or runoff into the local waterways, poisoning people and sea life.

On May 25, 2015, Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si', which I believe is his best document to date. It builds upon the legacy of St. John Paul II and "the Green Pope", Benedict XVI, in the proper care and consideration of the environment. The secular world saw it as the Catholic Church's endorsement of man-made climate change, but that's a warping of its true intent. Christians (at least Catholics) have always seen the universe as the work of God. The First Vatican Council stated that it is reasonable in our observation of the world around us to come to the conclusion that we have a Creator; for me, any exploration of the scientific world has only cemented my belief in God. Sadly, even Christians have forgotten over the centuries (especially since the Industrial Revolution) that Creation is here for us to share with future generations; the Eastern Christians have done a marvelous job reminding themselves of seeing Creation as an icon of God the Creator. It might have even been before becoming Catholic when I read a book about the proper stewardship of Creation written by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, "the Green Patriarch". Benedict XVI, the Green Pope, often wrote about the importance of protecting the environment from destruction, and he made the "greening" of the Vatican a priority of his pontificate; a Newsweek article from 2008 (Benedict XVI, the Green Pope) stated:

"It may be known for sending out iconic smoke signals when a new pope is elected, but the Vatican is actually the world's only sovereign state that can lay claim to being carbon-neutral. That means that all greenhouse gas emissions from the Holy See are offset through renewable energies and carbon credits. Last summer the city-state's ancient buildings were outfitted with solar panels intended to be a key source of electricity, and an eco-restoration firm donated enough trees in a Hungarian national park to nullify all carbon emitted from Vatican City, which takes up one-fifth of a square mile."

Pope Francis picked up the baton and wrote about our responsibility towards Creation, whose destruction always affects the poor the most. Worried about our over-consumption in the name of comfort and greed, he warns us how the Earth "now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life" (LS, 2).

This all ties in with how we live our lives. War destroys the environment, as does the way in which we see our natural resources as sources of wealth and power. Speaking for only myself, I can see that my voracious appetite contributes to all the things I hate about the current way in which we do things: over-consumption, low wages, poisonous ingredients, factory farming, destruction of the environment. When I run my air conditioner 24/7, or when I eat my weight in cheese fries, or when I buy things at the cheapest prices (ignoring the plight of the illegal immigrant picking my fruit or the woman or child forced to work in a sweatshop to make my clothes or electronics), I keep that system alive. I'm encouraging the advertising firms to keep inundating me night and day with ads. I'm keeping the pharmaceutical industry wealthy due to my need for diabetes medication (along with all the other health problems I'm going to have). I keep people enslaved in factories or on farms or in food plants, making slave wages so that I can keep more of my money to keep me fat and happy. I keep the big energy companies, and this nation, addicted to the fossil fuels that are ruining the environment and keeping us a slave to evil empires like Saudi Arabia and Russia. I keep factory farms in business, the same farms that get video taped horribly abusing livestock and killing them in the most horrific fashion imaginable.

On a personal level, if I vote irresponsibly I help put people in power that only care about how much money and power they have; people who want to keep baby killing legal; people who endorse torture and endless warfare; people who won't allow any common sense gun laws to be passed; people who wage war against the poor and middle class while protecting the rich; people who think the family, marriage, and morality is anything lawmakers and the popular culture say that they are. Subsidiarity and solidarity are integral parts of the Christian faith, so that means supporting local businesses and living a lifestyle that doesn't harm others; I've been ignoring both of these methods regarding how I've been living my life. In America, especially thanks to our version of Protestantism, there is a deeply ingrained characteristic of wanting to do things by ourselves, for ourselves, which is a contradiction of solidarity and subsidiarity; this is why any conversation about these issues ushers name-calling, that the faithful Catholic is a liberal or a communist; it's just a very foreign concept to most Americans since "rugged individualism" is something that we treat like a badge of honor - any way of life that condemns this Americanism is dubbed as unpatriotic, socialist, communist, liberal, etc. and is dismissed. However, for the Catholic, this is a way of life that Christ asks us to live consistently - a way of life that I've been failing at due to my food addiction, my pride, my stubbornness, and my laziness.

Speaking of laziness...one of the ways in which I am working on my appetite is through exercising; at this point, mainly walking. The American Heart Association suggests that we need at least 10,000 steps a day; on a typical work day, I only get anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 steps. On the days in which I get 10,000+ steps, I don't want to eat garbage - I feel as though my walk was a waste if I'm going to throw away that effort by consuming junk food or a large meal after all that effort.

By changing over to an organic and fair trade lifestyle, allowing myself to follow the principles of the Catechism regarding subsidiarity and solidarity, being loyal to the ways of distributism and the Catholic Worker Movement, and finally seeing my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:12-20), made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27) for the glorification of God, therefore treating my body with the dignity it deserves, presenting it as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1) in part by abstaining from the passions of the flesh that wage war against my soul (1 Pet 2:11), I hope to finally open myself up to God's grace regarding my health and appetite. It's hard - impossible even - but with God all things are possible (Mat 19:26). At the end of the day, I'm just trying to live the adage that St. Augustine wrote about when he said, "Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever, and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"Most Marriages Today are Invalid"

From CNA:

A layman asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help educate youth in love, help them learn about sacramental marriage, and help them overcome “their resistance, delusions and fears.”

The Pope answered from his own experience.

“I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said ‘I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.’ It’s the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life,” he said.

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”

[Pope Francis approved a revision to the official transcript to say that “a portion” of sacramental marriages are null, instead of “the great majority.”]

Pope Francis said that marriage preparation is a problem, and that marital problems are also linked to social situations surrounding weddings.

He recounted his encounter with a man engaged to be married who was looking for a church that would complement his fiancée’s dress and would not be far from a restaurant.

“It’s [a] social issue, and how do we change this? I don’t know,” the Pope said.

Uber-traditional Catholics are having yet another conniption due to the Pope's comments about the validity of many of the world's sacramental marriages. However, chances are these Traddies haven't had to endure the pain of a divorce, nor the challenge of the Marriage Tribunal, where you learn a lot about yourself and your marriage. At least in my part of the country, in my current company, nearly half of the workforce are unpracticing Catholics - and are either on their second marriage or are divorced and living with someone who is not their spouse. The Pope is right - people have a fear of lifelong commitment or they have a misunderstanding of what marriage is, I believe in part due to the Protestant Reformation and the opinion that marriage is more an event and not a Sacrament. For many Catholics, they would never accept a priest celebrating the Eucharist with a Graham Cracker and milk, but we don't consider marriage with the same respect as a Sacrament. I don't believe it's done consciously; as the Pope said, it's in the culture; society has influenced us instead of Catholics influencing society. I believe that most people just don't realize it - I've always believed marriage was forever, because that's what Scripture says, but for many people - especially Protestants - that's just one more line of Scripture that can be explained away with bad theology. So, I was not offended by the Pope's comments - he is right. And if we truly believe in "Biblical Marriage", then that also means believing in marriage "till death do us part." Until we truly believe that, then yes - our vows may be defective and our marriages may be sacramentally invalid. Only a review by your local Marriage Tribunal will determine that for sure. The pope's comments certainly don't mean for everyone to get a divorce and seek the Marriage Tribunal, but it does mean that if you find yourself divorced and wanting to pursue a new relationship, there's nothing but your own ignorance, fear, or pride stopping you from that - marriage tribunals are now free and the process has been shortened; now the Pope is pointing out the truth that most of us have no idea how serious our marriage vows are, which may mean our vows were defective, which means we may - with a vote of nullity by the Tribunal - be free to pursue a new relationship, which means a valid marriage and a full Sacramental life. Don't be lazy, or scared, or prideful - if you find yourself divorced and remarried, or divorced and living with someone, and you want a 'regular marriage' and Sacramental life, contact your diocese's Marriage Tribunal. The peace of healing alone is well worth your effort.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How I Hope to Live My Life From Now On

The Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker

Reprinted from The Catholic Worker newspaper, May 2016

The aim of the Catholic Worker movement is to live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ. Our sources are the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures as handed down in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, with our inspiration coming from the lives of the saints, "men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses to Your unchanging love." (Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for holy men and women)

This aim requires us to begin living in a different way. We recall the words of our founders, Dorothy Day who said, "God meant things to be much easier than we have made them," and Peter Maurin who wanted to build a society "where it is easier for people to be good."

When we examine our society, which is generally called capitalist (because of its methods of producing and controlling wealth) and is bourgeois (because of prevailing concern for acquisition and material interests, and its emphasis on respectability and mediocrity), we find it far from God's justice.

--In economics, private and state capitalism bring about an unjust distribution of wealth, for the profit motive guides decisions. Those in power live off the sweat of others' brows, while those without power are robbed of a just return for their work. Usury (the charging of interest above administrative costs) is a major contributor to the wrongdoing intrinsic to this system. We note, especially, how the world debt crisis leads poor countries into greater deprivation and a dependency from which there is no foreseeable escape. Here at home, the number of hungry and homeless and unemployed people rises in the midst of increasing affluence.

--In labor, human need is no longer the reason for human work. Instead, the unbridled expansion of technology, necessary to capitalism and viewed as "progress," holds sway. Jobs are concentrated in productivity and administration for a "high-tech," war-related, consumer society of disposable goods, so that laborers are trapped in work that does not contribute to human welfare. Furthermore, as jobs become more specialized, many people are excluded from meaningful work or are alienated from the products of their labor. Even in farming, agribusiness has replaced agriculture, and, in all areas, moral restraints are run over roughshod, and a disregard for the laws of nature now threatens the very planet.

--In politics, the state functions to control and regulate life. Its power has burgeoned hand in hand with growth in technology, so that military, scientific and corporate interests get the highest priority when concrete political policies are formulated. Because of the sheer size of institutions, we tend towards government by bureaucracy--that is, government by nobody. Bureaucracy, in all areas of life, is not only impersonal, but also makes accountability, and, therefore, an effective political forum for redressing grievances, next to impossible.

--In morals, relations between people are corrupted by distorted images of the human person. Class, race and gender often determine personal worth and position within society, leading to structures that foster oppression. Capitalism further divides society by pitting owners against workers in perpetual conflict over wealth and its control. Those who do not "produce" are abandoned, and left, at best, to be "processed" through institutions. Spiritual destitution is rampant, manifested in isolation, madness, promiscuity and violence.

--The arms race stands as a clear sign of the direction and spirit of our age. It has extended the domain of destruction and the fear of annihilation, and denies the basic right to life. There is a direct connection between the arms race and destitution. "The arms race is an utterly treacherous trap, and one which injures the poor to an intolerable degree." (Gaudium et Spes)

In contrast to what we see around us, as well as within ourselves, stands St. Thomas Aquinas' doctrine of the Common Good, a vision of a society where the good of each member is bound to the good of the whole in the service of God.

To this end, we advocate:

--Personalism, a philosophy which regards the freedom and dignity of each person as the basis, focus and goal of all metaphysics and morals. In following such wisdom, we move away from a self-centered individualism toward the good of the other. This is to be done by taking personal responsibility for changing conditions, rather than looking to the state or other institutions to provide impersonal "charity." We pray for a Church renewed by this philosophy and for a time when all those who feel excluded from participation are welcomed with love, drawn by the gentle personalism Peter Maurin taught.

--A decentralized society, in contrast to the present bigness of government, industry, education, health care and agriculture. We encourage efforts such as family farms, rural and urban land trusts, worker ownership and management of small factories, homesteading projects, food, housing and other cooperatives--any effort in which money can once more become merely a medium of exchange, and human beings are no longer commodities.

--A "green revolution," so that it is possible to rediscover the proper meaning of our labor and our true bonds with the land; a distributist communitarianism, self-sufficient through farming, crafting and appropriate technology; a radically new society where people will rely on the fruits of their own toil and labor; associations of mutuality, and a sense of fairness to resolve conflicts.

We believe this needed personal and social transformation should be pursued by the means Jesus revealed in His sacrificial love. With Christ as our Exemplar, by prayer and communion with His Body and Blood, we strive for practices of:

--Nonviolence. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." (Matt. 5:9) Only through nonviolent action can a personalist revolution come about, one in which one evil will not simply be replaced by another. Thus, we oppose the deliberate taking of human life for any reason, and see every oppression as blasphemy. Jesus taught us to take suffering upon ourselves rather than inflict it upon others, and He calls us to fight against violence with the spiritual weapons of prayer, fasting and noncooperation with evil. Refusal to pay taxes for war, to register for conscription, to comply with any unjust legislation; participation in nonviolent strikes and boycotts, protests or vigils; withdrawal of support for dominant systems, corporate funding or usurious practices are all excellent means to establish peace.

--The works of mercy (as found in Matt. 25:31-46) are at the heart of the Gospel and they are clear mandates for our response to "the least of our brothers and sisters." Houses of hospitality are centers for learning to do the acts of love, so that the poor can receive what is, in justice, theirs, the second coat in our closet, the spare room in our home, a place at our table. Anything beyond what we immediately need belongs to those who go without.

--Manual labor, in a society that rejects it as undignified and inferior. "Besides inducing cooperation, besides overcoming barriers and establishing the spirit of sister and brotherhood (besides just getting things done), manual labor enables us to use our bodies as well as our hands, our minds." (Dorothy Day) The Benedictine motto Ora et Labora reminds us that the work of human hands is a gift for the edification of the world and the glory of God.

--Voluntary poverty. "The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge and belief in love." (Dorothy Day) By embracing voluntary poverty, that is, by casting our lot freely with those whose impoverishment is not a choice, we would ask for the grace to abandon ourselves to the love of God. It would put us on the path to incarnate the Church's "preferential option for the poor."

We must be prepared to accept seeming failure with these aims, for sacrifice and suffering are part of the Christian life. Success, as the world determines it, is not the final criterion for judgments. The most important thing is the love of Jesus Christ and how to live His truth.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Coming in Contact With the Risen Lord

Christians are blessed with being able to come into contact with the Risen Christ, most especially through the Sacraments and the Church's liturgy. As the Venerable Pope Pius XII wrote in Mystici Corporis Christi, “[T]he Savior of mankind out of His infinite goodness has provided in a wonderful way for His Mystical Body, endowing it with the Sacraments, so that, as though by an uninterrupted series of graces, its members should be sustained from birth to death, and that generous provision might be made for the social needs of the Church” (MC, 18). Vowing to never leave us as orphans (Jn 14:18), Jesus Christ is present to us in a most profound way through the Church's liturgical actions, such as in the person of His ministers, through the reading of Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, and in the singing and prayers of the gathered People of God (SC, 7).

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “What the soul is for the body of man, that the Holy Spirit is for the body of Christ, that is, the Church” (Sermones, 267.4). The Sacraments are the actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body. “When the Sacraments of the Church are administered by external rite, it is [Christ] who produces their effect in souls” (MC, 51). Being justified through the Holy Spirit by baptism, we participate in Christ's passion, death, resurrection, and ascension (CCC, 1987-1988), becoming temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) for the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12).

From the very beginning, God has longed to communicate with us, to be in a relationship with us, revealing himself over the centuries and guiding us through the Spirit. In our love and hunger for him, we are drawn to God through the sacred mysteries of the Church, participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the public worship of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ (SC, 7), “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed [and] the font from which all her power flows” (SC, 10). Our earthly liturgy is an anticipation of eternal life, “when God will be all in all” (CCC, 1326); it is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy (SC, 8), where as our High Priest, Jesus offers our worship to the Father, at the altar on high (Rev 8:3).

Christ, our Pasch, gives himself to us in a most profound and mysterious way through the gift of his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. “Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love...Let our adoration never cease” (CCC, 1380). This Bread come down from Heaven (Jn 6:51) always makes himself available to us. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it” (CCC, 1324). Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35), unites us with himself in Holy Communion, “that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us” (DW, Prayer of Humble Access). When we draw closer to God, he draws closer to us (Jas 4:8) “so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ, a member of his Body, one with him” (Benedict XVI, Homily of Corpus Christi), which not only unites us with our Lord, but also with one another:

Those who recognize Jesus in the sacred Host, recognize him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need (ibid).

God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and he so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Through the Pascal Mystery of Jesus Christ, we are blessed with his presence in our lives, for our deification and salvation, that through his power we may be strengthened on our pilgrimage through this vale of tears. In the Sacraments of initiation – baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist – we are fully incorporated into the holy priesthood of God's People. “Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist” (CCC, 1322). The Sacraments of healing – Confession and the Anointing of the Sick – bless us with further reconciliation with God when we are weakened due to the effects of our Original Fall. Through the Sacraments of Service – Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders – we are given grace to faithfully live out the Gospel in our particular state in life. We are hopeless and helpless without God, but through the Sacraments and liturgy, he has made himself always available to us, so that we may have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10).

References

Benedict XVI. (2011). Solemnity of Corpus Christ. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20110623_corpus-domini.html

Catechism of the Catholic Church (2011). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm

Finigan, T. (2012). The Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church. Retrieved from http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/2012/02/holy-spirit-soul-of-church.html

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1966).

Paul VI. (1963). Sacrosanctum concilium. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html

Pius XII. (1943). Mystici Corporis Christi. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html

USCCB (2015). Holy See Confirms Divine Worship: The Missal For Ordinariates. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/newsletter/upload/newsletter-2015-10.pdf

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What I Am Reading Now

I am discerning a call to the permanent diaconate in the US Ordinariate...

And, of course, there are plenty others on my Amazon wish list...