Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday

Today is a day of fast and abstinence.  Let not the aroma of apple-wood barbecue waft its charms before your quivering nostrils.  Listen not to the hiss of rib-eye steaks landing on a hot grill.  Avert your gaze from that mouthwatering slab of juicy prime rib.  And don't even think about delicately crispy, maple-tinged bacon.

This is a time of year when one reflects on the affluence that has made us weak and effeminate.  There are only two days out of the whole year when the Church asks us to fast, and this is one.  And it is a wrench!  We devote so much time and energy to scoping out the outer limits of the Church's breathtakingly lenient regulations.  We rack our brains to come up with ways of getting away with as much as possible without actually breaking the law.  We go out of our way to avoid the slightest discomfort.

There is nothing wrong with affluence in itself, that we ought to feel guilty merely because we have everything we need, plus extra.  There is something wrong with the undue attachment to our stuff that makes it an end in itself.  There is something wrong with having the thought of parting with it, or even setting it aside for a time, disturb our peace.  And there is something wrong with not using it to further the Kingdom of God.  It all ought to further the Kingdom of God, even the stuff we keep for ourselves.  What we keep for ourselves ought ultimately to be geared toward getting us into heaven.

Am I pointing fingers?  No.  I suffer from the same disordered attachments to my stuff, of which I have far too much; and I am also far too invested in comfort and convenience.  I am a huge fan of indoor plumbing, and central heating, and iPhones, and wi-fi lights, and high-speed Internet; and I really, really love butter and bacon.  I'd hate to have to do without these things.  But, after all, that is what a fast day is about: learning to do without.  Fasting trains us in the regulation of our passions.

And, contrary to popular fears, a well-regulated fast does not hurt us.  Fasting is healthful.  

It's also very simple.  Maybe, instead of coming up with ways to play with the Church's fasting regulations, it would be a lot simpler to just not eat at all today and only drink water, tea or coffee?  Then we can know for sure we have complied with the law and not have to worry about it!

Just a thought.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Septuagesima Sunday: Pope St Gregory the Great’s Homily on Matt 20:1-16

Thanks to The Divine Lamp.

I. This Gospel containing many things which need explaining, I will try as far as possible to shorten my explanation, that it may not become tedious to you. The kingdom of heaven, so we are told by our Lord, is like to a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. Who, indeed, is more justly to be likened to a householder than our Creator, Who is the Head of the household of faith, ruling over those He has made, and being Master of His chosen ones in the world, as a master of those in his house? He it is that has the Church as His vineyard, a vineyard that ceases not to bring forth branches of the true Vine, from just Abel to the last of the elect that shall be born in the world. This householder, then, for the cultivation of his vineyard, goes out early in the morning, and at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, and the eleventh, to hire laborers into his vineyard. Thus the Lord, from the beginning to the end of the world, never ceases to gather together preachers for the instruction of His faithful people. The early morning of the world was from Adam until Noah; the third hour from Noah until Abraham; the sixth from Abraham until Moses; the ninth from  Moses until the coming of the Lord; the eleventh from the coming of the Lord to the end of the world. At this eleventh hour were sent forth as preachers the Apostles, who received full wages, though they came in late. For the cultivation of His vineyard, that is, the instruction of His people, the Lord has never ceased to send laborers into it. First by the patriarchs, then by the prophets and teachers of the law, and lastly by the Apostles, He dressed and tended the lives of His people, as the owner of a vineyard dresses and tends it by means of workmen. Whoever, in whatever degree, joined to a right faith the teaching of justice, was so far one of God’s laborers in God’s vineyard. By the laborers at early morning, at the third, the sixth, and the ninth hour, may be understood God’s ancient people, the Hebrews, who, striving to worship Him with a right faith, in company with His chosen ones from the beginning of the world, continually labored in His vineyard. And now, at the eleventh hour, it was said to the Gentiles: Why stand you here all the day idle? The Lord speaks of their carelessness and indifference concerning their salvation, for they had not yet done anything to be assured of it; yet, if you ponder upon their answer to the householder sending them to his vineyard, you will have cause of being ashamed. Their answer to the householder’s question, why they stood all the day idle, was: Because no man hath hired us. Indeed, they, unlike others, had neither patriarchs nor prophets to instruct them. No one had hired them, for no one had shown them the way leading to salvation. As to us, who neglect the practice of good works, and lead an idle life, what shall we answer for our justification? For we received the true faith, so to speak, in the womb of our mother; we heard the words of life when still in the cradle, and we drank the milk of Christian doctrine, given by our holy Church at the time when, for the life of our bodies, we were sucking the breasts of our natural mothers.

II. The different hours of the parable may also be compared to the different periods of man’s life. Childhood, on account of the small sphere of knowledge, is the early hour of morning; youth may be compared to the third hour, when the sun rises and the heat of years increases; the sixth hour represents manhood, the virility, when the sun has reached the zenith of his course; by the ninth hour, showing the sun slowly retreating from his height, we recognize the elderly age of man, when he loses the strength and power of younger years; whereas old age is figured by the eleventh hour.

Now, consider how some are called, already in their childhood, to lead a perfect and holy life ; others in their youth; these in their manly age; some others in advanced years; and lastly others in their old age. Do you understand that all of us are laborers, who may at any time be sent into the vineyard of the Lord? Again, beloved brethren, consider your own lives, and ask yourselves whether you are worthy laborers of the Lord, whether you are mindful of the work you are doing, and lastly whether you labor indeed in the Lord’s vineyard. Be sure that those who work for their own interests only, have not entered the vineyard of the Lord; for those only are accounted as His laborers, who prefer the glory of God to their own profit and interest. Such worthy Christians endeavor to serve God with ardent love and sincere devotion; they strive to win souls to God, and exert themselves to take others along with them to the habitation of the Saints; whereas those who live for themselves and try to satisfy their vices and concupiscences, are condemned as idle laborers, making no effort to work in, or care for, the Lord’s vineyard.

III. What shall we say of those who put off their conversion to the end of their life? Are they not like those laborers standing in the market-place until the eleventh hour, to whom the householder said: Why stand you here all the day idle? Our Savior wishes them to understand that, having spent their childhood and youth in the service of the world and far from God, they are called upon to begin to turn to God, at least, now at the extreme limits of life, and with greater courage to walk on the road of justice, that leads to perfection and eternal life; for the work they are bid to do cannot last very long, since they came so late. Thus this good Householder invites them to come back to Him, and often rewards them before those who had been called from their childhood, since very often the last comers are called away the first. Remember the Good Thief (Luke 23). He came at the eleventh hour; but by the capital punishment he suffered, he obtained a reward certainly not deserved by his former sinful life.  He recognized Jesus to be the Redeemer of the world, confessed Him publicly, and almost at the same moment gave up the ghost. We see thereby that the Householder, giving the promised penny, began with the last; for the Good Thief was received into Paradise before St. Peter. The same happened to many good and pious souls living before the Law and under the Law. They had to wait for their reward, whilst those called after the coming of the Messiah, at once went to Paradise. We may also say, in all truth, that the same reward that is, a penny, was given to them that had worked one hour only, as to the others who had been working the whole day and had borne the burden of the day and the heats. For the eternal happiness, that reward given to them that worked well, will be common to all of them, both to those who came at the beginning and to those who arrived with the Redeemer. This very equality was the cause of complaints: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. Indeed, the first comers can say that they have borne the burden of the day and the heats, since their life was longer than ours. They came at the beginning, when the life of man was very long, and they had to fight against their own self for many years. We also feel in us the fire of concupiscence, against which we contend, and which we try to extinguish; and this continual fighting may be compared to the burden of the day and the heats.

IV. Besides all this, I ask, what is the meaning of the murmurs of those who received the reward in heaven very late? Also in what sense can we say that they murmured, since heaven will not be given to those who murmur, and since those who have entered heaven neither murmur nor complain? I answer: If I consider that the patriarchs, though leading a good and holy life, could not enter Paradise before the coming of the Son of God, Who by His death reopened the gates of heaven, we find therein, that is, in the delay preventing them to receive the reward for which they worked so hard, the real motive of their murmuring. After fighting for justice’s sake, and thus deserving the crown of glory, their souls went to limbo, a place of rest and peace. To them, therefore, we may attribute the murmurs of the laborers after their day’s work. However, after this presupposed murmuring, the souls of the just, leaving their prison, that is limbo, wherein they had been detained for a long time, receive the promised penny, namely, the happiness of the eternal kingdom, of which they take possession. As to us who, though arriving at the end of the day, receive a penny, we do not murmur like those who arrived the first. Since the coming of the Redeemer into this world, we enter into the kingdom of heaven as soon as we leave this life, and we receive without any delay the crown of glory granted to the patriarchs after their very long waiting (see note below). On this occasion the master of the house said to one of the laborers: I will also give to this last even as to thee. And, as the place in heaven assigned to a soul is an effect of His generous will, He adds: Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? It would be man’s greatest folly to criticize the manner in which God’s goodness deigns to act. Indeed, we could murmur against God, were He to refuse that which He is bound to give, but not when He refuses to grant what He is not in justice obliged to give. He, therefore, that murmurs, deserves this rebuke: Is thy eye evil because I am good? Hence we conclude that nobody is to boast of his work or of the time spent in doing it, for the Eternal Truth tells us: The last shall be first, and the first last. Though we be aware of our good works, we know not how strictly they will be scrutinized by the great Judge; yea, each of us ought to feel exceedingly happy to receive even the last place in the kingdom of God.

NOTE: It would be a mistake to infer from these words that St. Gregory did not believe in Purgatory. Their meaning is that a soul, leaving the body and having nothing to atone for, will be at once received into Paradise, unlike the just souls of the patriarchs which, before the coming of Christ, descended into limbo.

V. The following words of this Gospel, many are called, but few are chosen, cannot but inspire us with terror; for many receive the light of faith, but to a few only is granted the happiness of heaven. On account of the festival there are now a great many gathered together here, and there is hardly room for all within the walls of this temple. Yet, who can tell how many of them will one day be found among the number of the elect? All voices are loud in confessing Jesus, but the lives of those who confess Him do not agree with their exterior acts of faith. The greater number of those here present think it sufficient to follow Jesus in words, whilst by their acts they are separated from Him. St. Paul points them out to us, saying: They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him (Titus 1:16). This is confirmed by St. James: Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). And the Psalmist repeats the words of God: I have declared and I have spoken; they are multiplied above number (Ps 40:6). By these words we understand that, when the Lord calls men through His prophets, the number of believers greatly increases. However, not all those who by the gift of faith obtain the knowledge of the truth will be numbered among the elect. It is certain that when a great number of wicked Christians are gathered together with true servants of God, because of the same faith that they profess, they nevertheless do not deserve to be numbered with the faithful on account of their unchristian lives. For it cannot be denied that, though the holy Church includes in the same fold the sheep and the goats, the Eternal Judge will one day separate the just from the wicked, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matt 25:32). Know ye, therefore, and recognize that none of those now given up to the pleasures of the world will be received among the elect; that the Judge will exclude them from the happy fate of the humble, since in this world they were lifted up on the wings of pride. They had received the gift of heavenly faith, but they clung to the earth, and heaven will not be opened to them.

VI. Meanwhile, though a great many people, whose lives are unchristian, may be found in the Church of God, I beseech you, beloved brethren, neither to imitate them nor to think them to be lost. We are aware of the unhappy condition of these people to-day, but we know not what they will be to-morrow. It often happens that those whom we see behind us on the road to holiness, soon precede us on account of their progress in spirituality; then it is with great difficulty that we follow those whom at some time we seemed to precede. When St. Stephen shed his blood for Christ, his murderers laid their garments at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul (Acts 7:57), and who may be accused of having also stoned St. Stephen by assisting the murderers; yet, by his great labors undertaken for the Church, Saul has gone before the holy martyr, to whose death he contributed. Let us, therefore, consider these two things greatly deserving our attention. First, knowing that many are called but few are chosen, no one can help himself without the grace of God, and, though being called by faith, no one is sure of his eternal salvation. Secondly, when we see our neighbor in the clutches of sin and vice, let us not presumptuously think that he will be lost, for God’s infinite mercy is unknown to us.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

"Brain Death," "Useless Mouths," and Making Ourselves the Enemies of What God Holds Dear

I first ran this story in 2012.  I have been thinking about this little boy since radical Democrats have openly come out in favor of infanticide in New York and Virginia.

Nicholas Coke was born in 2009 without higher brain functions.  This is because all he had was his brain stem.  He was not expected to survive more than a few hours.  Indeed Nicholas did die -- two years and 11 months later.  Today [November 1, 2012], the Solemnity of All Saints, Nicholas Coke breathed his last.  

Nicholas defies the culture of death.  Having no brain, was he not "brain dead"?  Shouldn't he have been aborted?  Shouldn't his organs have been harvested for the sake of "worthier" children?  Yet his heart beat on its own; he breathed on his own; he could take nourishment and medication; he could respond to treatment; he moved; he grew; he smiled.  Persons who are dead can do none of these things, with or without machines, to which Nicholas was never hooked up.  Nicholas could neither see nor hear, but he gave signs of awareness that he was being held.  Clearly, the child had a soul, and was therefore very much alive, even though his faculties were severely impaired.  He had a soul, with all the gifts of the soul, dormant though they were in his frail body, even though he literally had no brain.  That is not supposed to be possible -- yet there he was!  Thank God Nicholas was born into a family that cherished his life.  He was surrounded by love, and touched hearts in his turn.

Nicholas Coke is not only a testament to love and life, but also a rebuke and a warning.  He is a rebuke to the arrogance of a society that purports to redefine death for the sake of convenience.  He is a warning that we have made ourselves the enemies of what God holds dear, and that sooner or later we will have Him to reckon with.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

On “White Privilege”

If there is really such a thing as “white privilege,” then:

- Why don’t we ever hear anybody claiming it?  Why, for example, has former President Obama, whose mother was white, never invoked “white privilege”?  Ditto Shaun King of Black Lives Matter, who is most emphatic on the point that he is not white?  Why do so many white politicians and academics distance themselves from the idea of partaking in “white privilege”?  Why should all this be, if it is really more advantageous to be white than black?

- Why are there white leftist activists like Rachel Dolezal and Elizabeth Warren who claim to be minorities when they aren’t?  Why did they consider it necessary to have themselves numbered among ethnic minorities, if being white actually came with privilege?

- Why isn’t “white privilege” doing the Covington kids any sort of good whatever?  If they had the benefits of “white privilege,” then shouldn’t they not be getting savaged in the media, even if they had done something wrong?  Shouldn’t the leftist mob at the March for Life have feared to molest them in the first place, if their race really gave them a privileged status?

Just a few of the questions that never seem to get answered.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Passing Scene: 2018

1: California legalizes recreational weed.
2: Liberal heads explode as President Trump tweets that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong Un's, and that it actually works.
4: Attorney General Sessions rescinds the Obama-era policy of non-interference with states that legalize recreational weed.
5: At the U.N. Security Council, the United States declares its "unapologetic" support for the anti-government protests in Iran.  Also: Republican senators call for a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called "Trump Dossier."
9:  Mud slides in Santa Barbara County, California, claim at least 21 lives and result in $177 million in property damage.
13: An alert of an incoming ballistic missile is sent out over the state of Hawaii, and is declared a false alarm after 38 minutes.
14: The 13 children of David and Louise Turpin of Perris, California are rescued after being held captive, tortured and malnourished over the course of nearly 30 years.
21: A message in a bottle dropped from the German barque Paula on June 12, 1886 is discovered off the coast of Western Australia, breaking all records for the longest time such a message has remained adrift.
30: President Trump's first State of the Union address.
31: A total lunar eclipse, supermoon and blue moon all coincide.

Deaths: Ray Thomas (the Moody Blues); Thomas Bopp (co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp); Jerry Van Dyke; John Young (astronaut, ninth man to walk on the moon); Peter Wyngarde; Olivia Cole; Dorothy Malone; Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey cartoonist).


5: The discovery of exoplanets beyond the Milky Way Galaxy is announced.
6: Space X successfully tests its partly-reusable Falcon Heavy rocket.
7: The Canadian national anthem becomes "gender neutral."
8: Bermuda repeals same-sex "marriage."
14: Murder spree, Parkland, Florida: a 19-year-old former student guns down 32 students and teachers at Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17, before being apprehended.
27: President Trump formally announces his candidacy for re-election in 2020.

Deaths: Kenneth Haigh; John Mahoney; Michael White (Thompson Twins); John Gavin; Craig MacGregor (Foghat); Marty Allen; Billy Graham; Nanette Fabray.


4: The 90th Academy Awards.  Who cares.
6: Stormy Daniels sues President Trump.
13: President Trump fires Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
14: Toys "R" Us announces it will go out of business in the United States.
15: An unfinished pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami collapses, killing 6.
23: 200,000 French citizens take to the streets to protest Emmanuel Macron's economic "reforms."  Also: President Trump issues an order banning transgendered persons from serving in the military. 

Deaths: David Ogden Stiers; Stephen Hawking; Linda Carol Brown (appellant in Brown v. Board of Education).


11: House Speaker Paul Ryan announces he will not seek re-election.
13: President Trump pardons Scooter Libby.
16: The first woman in 33 years wins the Boston Marathon.
22: Murder spree, Nashville, Tennessee: a gunman kills four and wounds four at a Waffle House restaurant.  He is later apprehended.
23: Birth of Prince Louis of Cambridge, fifth in the line of succession to the British throne.  Also: the world's first successful transplant of male sex organs (not including testicles) is performed on a U.S. soldier injured in Afghanistan.
27: In an historic meeting at Panmunjom, North and South Korea declare an end to the Korean War.

Deaths: Steven Bochco; Susan Anspach; Soon-Tek Oh; Tim O'Connor; Art Bell; R. Lee Ermey; HarryAnderson; Barbara Bush; John Stride; Paul Junger Witt.


3: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences votes to suspend Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski for violating their standards of conduct, even though Polanski's conduct failed to bother the Academy for 40 years.
4: A magnitude 6.9 earthquake strikes Hawaii, and Kilauea Volcano begins erupting, prompting evacuations from the Leilani Estates subdivision.  Also: the U.S. Navy re-establishes the Second Fleet, which had been disbanded in 2011.  Also: a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected becomes law in the state of Iowa.
9: Death of Dale Moore, my father, 11 days shy of his 71st birthday.
12: North Korea announces the forthcoming dismantling of its Punggye-Ri nuclear test site.
14: Seventieth anniversary of the foundation of the modern state of Israel, and dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
18: All 34 Roman Catholic bishops of Chile offer to abdicate after the Pope accuses them of destroying evidence of sex crimes.
19: Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Essex.
29: ABC cancels the recently-rebooted sitcom Roseanne after Roseanne Barr issues what they considered to be an offensive tweet.
30: Harvey Weinstein is indicted for rape in New York.

Deaths: George Deukmejian (former governor of California); Margot Kidder; Tom Wolfe; Clint Walker; Alan Bean (fourth man to walk on the Moon).


11: Net neutrality ends in the United States.
12: Beginning of the historic summit meeting between the United States and North Korea in Singapore.
18: President Trump directs the Department of Defense to start laying the groundwork for a Space Force, as a sixth branch of the armed forces.
19: The United States withdraws from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is a joke anyway.
26: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds President Trump's September 2017 travel ban.

Deaths: Matt "Guitar" Murphy; Koko the sign language gorilla; Joe Jackson (Jackson 5 patriarch).


1: Vermont legalizes recreational pot.
9: President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
10: An international team completes operations to rescue a junior soccer team and its coach that has been trapped in a cave in Thailand.
17: Jupiter is discovered to have ten additional moons, bringing the total to 79.

Deaths: Tab Hunter; Roger Perry; Bernard Hepton (Pallas in I, Claudius); "Red" Ron Dellums.


2: Pope Francis purports to change the Catholic Church's immemorial teaching on capital punishment.
14: Pennsylvania's attorney general releases a grand jury report implicating hundreds of Catholic priests in the sexual abuse of children in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
18: A specimen of ancient Egyptian cheese, thought to be 3,200 years old, is discovered in a tomb in Saqqara.
21: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is convicted of eight counts relating to bank fraud and tax fraud.
22:  The Vigano Testimony.
30: The deadly Carr wild fire in California is finally 100% contained.

Deaths: Charlotte Rae; Aretha Franklin; Kofi Annan; Barbara Harris; Robin Leach; John McCain; Neil Simon.


4:  Police recover a pair of Judy Garland's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz that had been stolen from a museum in Minnesota in 2005.
22: The Vatican signs a breathtaking agreement with the government of communist China that gives the latter power over the appointment of Catholic bishops.
25: Bill Cosby receives a ten-year unified prison sentence after being convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.
29:  The second Vigano Testimony.

Deaths: Warren Jones (Idaho Supreme Court justice); Thad Mumford; Burt Reynolds; Sheila White (Messalina in I, Claudius); Peter Donat; Marty Balin.


1: North and South Korea begin removing landmines from the DMZ.
4:  Heavy floods begin that cost 69 lives and hundreds of millions of Euros in property damage across Europe.
6: After a lengthy and disgraceful circus of a confirmation hearing to rival that to which Justice Clarence Thomas was subjected to, Brett Kavanaugh is finally confirmed as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
10: The deadly and destructive Hurricane Michael makes landfall in Florida.
17: Canada fully legalizes Mary Jane.
19:  The third Vigano Testimony.
22: The Trump administration announces plans to define "gender" as a permanent genetic and anatomical condition fixed at birth.
23:  The discovery in the Black Sea of the oldest known intact shipwreck (c. 400 B.C.) is announced.
27:  Murder spree, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: a shooter kills 11 and injures 7 more at a synagogue before being wounded in a shootout with police.
29:  The Boston Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
30:  President Trump publicly challenges the concept of birthright citizenship in the United States.

Deaths: Peggy McKay; Wah Wah Watson (the Funk Brothers); Tony Joe White ("Polk Salad Annie").


1: Great Britain legalizes medical marijuana.
2: The Trump administration re-imposes all the sanctions against Iran that had been lifted in 2015.
6: The Democrats win control of the House of Representatives.
7:  Murder spree, Thousand Oaks, California: a shooter kills 12, including one police officer, at a restaurant, before turning the gun on himself.  Also: President Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
25: The Camp Fire in California, which left 86 dead, is finally contained.

Deaths: Sondra Locke; Katherine MacGregor (Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie); Michele Carey ("Joey" McDonald in El Dorado); Bishop Robert C. Morlino of the Diocese of Madison; Bernardo Bertolucci; George H.W. Bush.


4: In response to the grass-roots Yellow Vest movement in France, the government announces the suspension, for at least six months, of a proposed hike in fuel taxes.
17: For the first time in 800 years, the bridges across the river Severn in Great Britain are toll-free.
20: Secretary of Defense James Mattis announces his resignation, effective February, 2019.  Also: Prestige without merit: part of California's Ventura Freeway is renamed the President Barack H. Obama Highway.  Also: a priest of the Diocese of Boise, found in possession of an immense stash of child pornography, is sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole.

Deaths: Simcha Rotem (last survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943); Richard Arvin Overton (oldest American man and oldest surviving veteran of World War II); Sister Wendy Beckett; Herb Ellis; Donald Moffat; Norman Gimbel; Penny Marshall; Ken Berry

2018 has been a tough year, at least for me.  Let us pray to a merciful God for blessings of peace and freedom, none of which we merit on our own.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Mary, Conceived Without Sin, You DID Know

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the song "Mary, Did You Know?" within the precincts of a Catholic church.  I can't see you, but I know you're out there.  My hand is also up.  Somehow, because this song mentions the Mother of God, it has become a Christmas tradition in some parishes.  But although the gentleman who wrote "Mary, Did You Know?" clearly means well, this song is both musically inappropriate for Mass and subversive of the Catholic faith.

From a musical standpoint, "Mary, Did You Know?" is basically a pop song, and although the Mass has been saturated with such for a couple of generations now, the fact remains that it is not sacred music suited for use at Mass.  But even more objectionable, from the Catholic point of view, is the lyrical content.  

"Mary, Did You Know?" is based on some abysmally erroneous assumptions.  To begin with, it is supposed that Mary does not know that her holy Infant is the Son of God.  Some saints -- for instance, St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and Doctor of the Church -- are of the opinion that even before the Annunciation, Mary had a profound understanding of prophecies and Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah.  But even without such an understanding, it would have taken a high degree of inattention on Mary's part to the message of Gabriel and the inspired greeting of her cousin Elizabeth for her to labor under ignorance of her Son's divinity.  It is further supposed that Mary does not know that her Son will suffer for the redemption of mankind.  This would have required her to utterly gloss over the prophecies of holy Simeon concerning her Son as God's salvation, a sign of contradiction, and concerning the sword of sorrow that would pierce her own soul.  The idea of the Mother of God not being in possession of the most critical facts about her divine Son, particularly in view of explicit revelations received by her, is absurd on its face.

But there is an even more blatant error in the lyrics of "Mary, Did You Know?" that ought to induce in every Catholic a sharp intake of breath.  It is a defined dogma of the Catholic faith that the Mother of God was conceived without original sin.  On December 8, 1854, in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. 
Contrast this with the following lyrics from "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Whereas Catholics accept as revealed truth that Mary was free from sin from the instant of her conception by virtue of the anticipated merits of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross, the foregoing is based on the assumption that Mary was under the sway of sin at the time she gave birth to the Christ Child, and that she would remain so until His Sacrifice of redemption.  In short, it is a flat denial of the Immaculate Conception.  As such -- and for this reason alone -- it should never be sung in a Catholic church, or find any place in any Catholic liturgy, and Catholics should not embrace it.

Perhaps a fitting way to honor today's feast of the Immaculate Conception -- in addition to fulfilling our obligation to attend Mass -- would be to defend the dogma which this feast celebrates by doing what we can to see that "Mary, Did You Know?" remains unheard in our parishes during this and every Christmas season.

Potuit, Decuit, Ergo Fecit: Why the Immaculate Conception Must Be True.

I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me.  
Exodus 33:19

Years ago, a commenter in this space delivered himself of what must have been, in his own estimation at least, the following effusion of brilliance: 
Mary had to have sinned. She called Jesus "my Savior" and what is Jesus the Savior for? Sinners. She had sinned. And there is no biblical evidence for her having no sin.

Those of you with a kick against the Immaculate Conception always want to set limitations on God.  You generally have no problem acknowledging in theory that God is infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely perfect, infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful; but in practice, what you really want is a sort of bite-sized God, One that we can wrap our woefully inadequate brains around and Who does not confound our puny capabilities.  So when God actually goes and does something that only an infinitely good, holy, perfect, merciful and powerful Being could do, you protest.  The fact, however, is that God can do whatever He wants; and whatever is fitting, we may be sure that He will do.

God can do the impossible more rapidly and easily than we can blink our eyes or draw a breath.  It was perfectly within His power to preserve Mary free from the taint of sin from the instant of her conception.  This singular privilege of His grace was purchased for her by the limitless merits of Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.  God, not bound by the constraints of time or space, was perfectly capable of applying these merits beforehand and granting this privilege in advance of the Crucifixion.  Thus God really was Mary's Savior, and did not need her to sin in order to be her Savior: His intervention to prevent her from receiving the taint of sin that she would otherwise have contracted as a descendant of Adam was also a salvific act.  Have you never been prevented from committing sins -- by being deprived of means or opportunity, or because you have never experienced the temptation to commit particular sins?  These are also interventions of God's grace.  So you should know from experience that God saves us, not only by forgiving sins we have actually committed, but also by preventing us from committing sins we would otherwise have committed, perhaps to our eternal ruin.   Why, then, should it be so hard to accept that God, out of the abyss of His goodness and mercy, could exercise His infinite power to prevent the Mother of His Son from being tainted by the least stain of iniquity from the very instant she began to exist?

It is altogether fitting that God should preserve Mary inviolate and immaculate from the first instant of her life.  God always gives us the grace we need to do the work He gives us: the greater the work, the greater the grace given to carry it out.  Was ever a more important mission given to a mere human being than that entrusted to Mary?  It was her task to supply the matter out of which the all-holy Son of God would take flesh, to bear Him in her womb, to nurse Him and to rear Him to manhood, and to share in her soul in the agonies of His Passion.  This touches on a point raised by my correspondent in a follow-up comment:

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for dying for our sins because He was without blemish. If Mary had no blemish either, that would pretty much validate her for crucifixion too. Which would make Jesus less important.
Here my correspondent, though off the rails in the implications for the importance of Jesus, hits on an important truth.  Mary did in fact suffer with her divine Son, more than any other human being could have.  The saints (e.g., St. Alphonsus Liguori) are of the opinion that her sufferings were greater than that of all other men who have ever lived or will ever live put together, and that only a miracle kept her from dying of grief.  This is why Catholics honor her under the titles of Mother of Sorrows and Queen of Martyrs: only her Son's sufferings exceeded hers.  When she presented her Son in the Temple, holy Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed (Luke 2:35).  It makes sense that she should bear so great a share in her Son's Passion: not only was she his loving mother; she was also fully aware that He was God, and therefore of the horrible outrage that He should be murdered by His own creatures.  Moreover, would it have been possible for her to suffer entirely for his sake and not at all for her own if she herself had had a share in the sins that caused Him to be nailed to the Cross?  Still, this share of hers in Christ's suffering does not in any way diminish Him.  Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice not only because He was without blemish, but because He was God.  Mankind had outraged the infinite God, and therefore it would take infinite merits to repair the outrage; these could only be offered by the Son of God. 

If you do not accept the Immaculate Conception, then I am bound to ask you why you would want the Mother of God to have been a sinner.  Is this not tantamount to wanting an unworthy vessel for the Incarnate God?   Does it make sense for the woman entrusted with bearing and caring for and suffering alongside the Son of God to have spent even a single instant under the dominion of hell?  No: especially when you consider that the Woman of Genesis 3:15, between whom and the serpent God put enmity is none other than the Mother of God, and her Seed is none other than Jesus Christ:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Here is scriptural proof of the Immaculate Conception.  If God creates perfect and implacable enmity between the Woman and the serpent -- and surely it is unthinkable that if God creates enmity between the Mother of God and evil, this enmity will be imperfect and half-hearted -- then it follows that she could never be under the serpent's sway, or in allegiance with him, as she must be if she had sinned.  Thus it was fitting for God to preserve her without sin from the very beginning.

Since it was perfectly possible for God to preserve Mary free from sin from the moment of her conception, and it was fitting that He should do so, it follows that He in fact did do so.  It would be a gross omission on God's part, and incompatible with His infinite perfection, if He should leave undone that which was fitting.  Therefore, we may safely take it that He did not leave it undone.  

Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit! He could; it was fitting; therefore, He did it!

H/T Canterbury Tales

Sunday, November 11, 2018

One Hundred November 11ths Ago

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

I’m Calling B-arbra S-treisand on These Pre-Election Stunts

Like all the monstrosities allegedly committed by Trump and his supporters against poor delicate liberals, this stuff about the alleged “MAGA Bomber” just doesn’t pass the smell test.  

Look.  These incidents that supposedly target liberals — from the non-existent “hate crimes” right after the 2016 election to these “pipe bombs” — always look more like liberals’ cartoonish ideas of what Trump voters think than what Trump voters actually think.  I don’t recognize myself in these parodies.  Decent, law-abiding citizens are just not out there doing this kind of stuff:  

- We don’t go in for demonstrations, because demonstrations cut into the time we could be spending living our lives.  

- We don’t go in for violence, because we think unjust aggression is wrong, and plus, we don’t want to bloody up the clothes we worked hard to earn the money to buy.  

- We don’t go in for public indecency, because we still believe in modesty, and still think some things should be kept private.  

- We don’t go in for mailing “pipe bombs” to liberal celebrities, because we’re not terrorists, and because being in jail gets in the way of getting up and going to work in the morning — and besides which, we who are busy with life never heard of half the people who got these things anyway.  We certainly don’t have time to make a professional-grade, rolling billboard out of our vehicles, like this “MAGA bomber” is supposed to have done.  

No, it takes LIBERALS to think of these things — just like it took liberals to come up with the idea of Trump, who is a cleanliness fanatic, paying prostitutes to urinate on a bed, or to come up with the idea that Justice Kavanaugh, who is the quintessential Boy Scout, arranged rape parties in college.  That kind of stuff is not how decent people get their kicks, and those aren’t even ideas they’d come up with.  I call B-arbra S-treisand on this whole thing.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Our “Worship” Proves We Still Don’t Get It

The modern world, which denies personal guilt and admits only social crimes, which has no place for personal repentance but only public reforms, has divorced Christ from His Cross; the Bridegroom and Bride have been pulled apart. What God hath joined together, men have torn asunder. As a result, to the left is the Cross; to the right is the Christ...The Western post-Christian civilization has picked up the Christ without His Cross. But a Christ without a sacrifice that reconciles the world to God is a cheap, feminized, colorless, itinerant preacher who deserves to be popular for His great Sermon on the Mount, but also merits unpopularity for what He said about His Divinity on the one hand, and divorce, judgment, and hell on the other. This sentimental Christ is patched together with a thousand commonplaces....Without His Cross, He becomes nothing more than a sultry precursor of democracy or a humanitarian who taught brotherhood without tears.
Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ

Amid the revelations of deep corruption in the Church at the very highest levels, we are still deluding ourselves that Romper Room worship is cutting it: muzak-like campfire ditties played on piano and bass guitar and bongos and cymbals and tinkly chimes; girl altar servers with loose hair and flip-flops; people encouraged and even ordered to socialize with each other instead of getting recollected for Mass; a priest improvising Mass parts; the canon gone through hastily and almost carelessly; and applause at the end for Murph and the Magictones, followed by raucous yakking inside the church.

Such is the Cruise Ship of Peter, the favorite fantasy of so many Catholics from the laity to the highest of the hierarchy.

Unlike the Barque of Peter, constantly under assault and in danger of sinking, yet manfully plowing forward through rough seas, the Cruise Ship of Peter is nice.  Its worship is uncontroversial.  It is bland.  It is insipid.  It is jejune.  It is decadent.  It is effeminate.  It kindles no fires, stirs no ardor, pricks no consciences.  Its lifeblood is mediocrity.  It docks at any old port, and will strike any old compromise to do so.  It insulates man from the uncomfortable mystery of the supernatural, and protects him from transports of zeal.  There is little enough to distinguish it from any other organization calling itself a church, or even from secular society: its very furnishings are precisely those of a posh country club.  That is why it always has smooth sailing, at least for as long as this serves the purposes of the prince of this world.  Even when sailing is not smooth, the ship is so grand and luxurious that nobody on board notices.  One leaves the liturgy on the cruise ship feeling as though one has just been to a really nice wine and cheese reception.  With its affluence and its amphitheater layout and its cushioned pews and its polished wood and its orchestra pit next to the sanctuary and its soothing, tranquilizing liturgy, the Cruise Ship of Peter is all ordered, down to the smallest detail, with a view to sealing up Catholics in a soft, warm cocoon of niceness and upper-class comfort, making them forget, or even filling them with friendly feelings toward, the pirates and cutthroats that smile back, knives in their teeth, from their little boats that nevertheless daily increase and close in.

All are welcome aboard the Cruise Ship of Peter -- they even have a song about it that they sing at the beginning of Mass! -- all, that is, except anyone who might rock the boat.  What might the Cruise Ship do, one is tempted to wonder, with a Francis of Assisi, or a Dominic de Guzman, or a Catherine of Siena, or an Alphonsus Liguori, or a Fulton Sheen?  Would they have to walk the plank?  How much has the Cruise Ship liturgy to do with immemorial tradition?  Does it inspire missionaries and fortify martyrs?  Does it remotely resemble the Masses of Aquinas, wrapped in awe; or the fugitive worship of the Recusants in Elizabethan England, where it was death to be a priest; or the celebrations of Father Willie Doyle on makeshift altars in the muddy trenches of the First World War; or of the Cristeros in their secret refuges from the Masonic Mexican regime; or of the first and only Mass celebrated by Bl. Karl Leisner, secretly ordained in Dachau on Gaudete Sunday, 1944, desperately ill yet on fire for souls?  Can one picture Father Augustine Tolton on board, his soul blazing like a beacon from the crumbling lighthouse of his overworked body, his trembling hands raised amid the mellow strains of "On Eagle's Wings"?

Is it worth it to try to trade the Barque of Peter in for this new luxury model?  Does the Cruise Ship of Peter connect Catholics to their illustrious past?  Does it prepare Catholics to meet their adversaries in battle in these increasingly stern times?  Is it counter-cultural?  Does it provide Catholics with a distinctive identity apart from the secular society?  Does it actively promote unity, rather than Balkanization, of Catholics of differing ethnic and linguistic backgrounds?  Does it make Catholics know that we are not of the world, though we are in it?  Does it come remotely close to appeasing the God Who is being outraged by the predators and sexual perverts walking around in the garb of priest and bishops?

Or does it merely fatten and soften up the sheep for the slaughter, and add another log onto the bonfire of the punishment we are preparing for ourselves?

You decide.