The Atlantic publishes a video on The Church Militant

The video is entitled “Church Militant: Right-Wing Media Empire in the Making”.

On the whole, it is a well-balanced short documentary. It allows Michael Voris and his organization to speak for themselves on what they believe. It also shows Voris as a human being who has fought his own demons and has worked tirelessly to care for his parents as they have dealt with cancer and aging.

One thing that struck me about Voris is that while his Catholicism is quite traditional, Church Militant operates very much in the spirit of how John Paul II acted while he was pope.

Voris and the Church Militant propose rather than impose. They make arguments, and they explain why they hold their positions. While they call out sins as sins, they do not seek to hurt anyone. If anything, Church Militant views their mission as saving as many souls as possible.

I’m sure that Church Militant’s views will not resonate with The Atlantic’s liberal audience. However, I’d go so far as to say that the manner in which Church Militant goes about their proselytizing is rational and respectful of each individual’s ability to think and decide for themselves the best course of action.

We certainly can not control how people react to an argument. However, we can control how we conduct ourselves when we make our own arguments.

In my humble opinion, Michael Voris and his colleagues at Church Militant are very good models of how one should conduct themselves when presenting controversial views to a hostile audience.

 

What does “Blessed are the poor in spirit” mean?

If there has been any passage in Jesus’s Beautitudes that I have struggled with the most, it is this:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3

The phrase “poor in spirit” has simply boggled my mind. I simply couldn’t understand what that phrase means.

Fortunately, Fulton Sheen explains in his small yet powerful book The Cross and the Beatitudes his interpretation of this critical passage:

Our Blessed Lord came into the world to destroy this acquisitiveness and this subservience of moral to economic ends by breaching the blessedness of the poor in Spirit. It is worth noting immediately that “the poor in spirit” does not necessarily mean the indigent or those in straitened circumstances of life. “Poor in spirit” means interior detachment, and as such includes even some who are rich in the world’s goods, for detachment can be practiced by the rich just as avarice can practiced by the poor.

The poor in Spirit are those who are so detached from wealth, from social position, and from earthly knowledge that, at the moment the Kingdom of God demands a sacrifice, they are prepared to surrender all.

The Beatitude means then: Blessed are those who are not possessed by their possessions; blessed are they who whether or not they are poor in fact are poor in their inmost spirit. – pp. 49-50

Finally, that phrase makes a lot of sense!

 

Coptic priest to ISIS: Thank you

Because ISIS’s two bombings of Coptic churches on Palm Sunday in Egypt is strengthening the Church in countless ways.

First of all, such attacks send the souls of those killed to Jesus that much more quickly. To die the same death as Christ did is the highest honor a Christian could receive.

Such attacks also bring to church people who would otherwise not go. They realize life can be short, and should turn to God for His grace.

Finally, even though radical Islamists may have attacked Christians, true Christians not only love them, but they are praying for them as well.

In many ways, this has been a very difficult Lent for me. Throughout this period, the anger within me has been almost persistent as I have observed (and in far too many cases, reacted to the) injustices around me.

However, here is a priest of a church that was just brutally attacked commanding that Christians not only love their attackers, but to pray for them.

This is a message I very much needed to hear.

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16

 

My lack of innocence is preventing me from gaining true wisdom. However, I can’t obtain such innocence by myself. I must rely on God’s grace to do that.

Saint Francis, pray for me.

h/t Eve Tushnet

The Beauty of the Rosary Novena

Rosary Novena

While I converted to Catholicism over 25 years ago, it is only within the last few years that I have been praying the rosary with any regularity.  As grateful as I am for the rosary, I am in awe by the elegance and beauty of the rosary novena.

The Rosary Novena to Our Lady, as it is known, is of relatively recent origin. It began in 1884, and an English booklet of the novena was originally published in 1924.

Basically, one prays a five-decade rosary each day for 54 days for a particular intention. The first set of three novenas (27 days) are said in petition for the intention, and the second set of three novenas (27 days) are said in thanksgiving, even if the answer to your intention was not yet given.

I have prayed this novena several times over the past few years. Not only has Mary led me closer to Jesus through this novena, she has indeed helped me on whatever intention I have prayed about. I can’t count the number of times when I am agitated and spiritually adrift before beginning a novena, only for the novena to calm my soul and bring me peace of mind. Alas, sometimes my memory is short. It is only when I begin a new novena that I remember its beauty, power, and grace.

One of the beautiful aspects of the novena is its sheet simplicity: three novenas in petition, three novenas in thanksgiving. When the novena was originally adopted, one merely cycled through the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries eighteen times. Now that are also the luminous mysteries on which to meditate, one can pray it after the joyful mysteries and before the sorrowful ones. However, right now I prefer the elegance of praying the three original mysteries nine times in two sets.

You can learn more about the rosary novena here. You can also purchase the prayer booklet if you’re interested.

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

We need this prayer now more than ever:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

St. Francis, pray for us!

 

Christianity and the Nagasaki Bomb

Gary Kohls, a retired physician, writes a compelling column about the irony, to put it mildly, of an all-Christian bombing crew dropping a nuclear weapon on one of the few Japanese cities with a Christian population. In fact, the city’s cathedral, because it was only one of two distinct landmarks from above, became Ground Zero.

You can read the article here.

Finding and Keeping Hope

Dr. Tom Neal provides a powerful meditation on finding the substance of hope at times when hope seems lost.

Here a few snippets from the piece:

  • A friend of his once wrote: “The future totally vanished. Everything became dark. Nothing awaited me. Everything seemed empty of meaning. I could remember nothing good in the past, only regrets and failure. I could see nothing good in the present and had nothing to hope for in the future. No compass. No center. When it was over and I emerged out of the depression, everything looked different. What I used to hold most important now seemed peripheral, and what I saw as peripheral now seemed most important. Money and work success fell away to the edges, while relationships and God wound up in the center. Almost magically, like it just happened. Only when you lose all your props can you see what’s left is what matters.
  • “Hopelessness is not simply an absence of hope, but attachment to a form of hope that has been lost, that lacks enduring substance.”
  • “Substantial hope thrives in adversity.”
  • “You can’t really call faith faith when you feel it’s all settled and obvious. When everything falls apart, the sun sets and night falls, faith begins.”

Read the whole thing here.

Memebuster no. 11: Thank goodness Noah saved the penguins!

It has been a while since I’ve addressed a New Atheist meme. However, whenever I find a new one, it rarely disappoints:

Noah is dope!

I don’t know know if there really are grown adults who really believe this. Maybe there are. However, far too many New Atheists get into their “Nailed it!” pose after making this “argument” alone. And their Inner Robert Frosts are most content. Don’t remember him? Allow me to remind you:

tolkien-pipe

He looks pretty happy, doesn’t he?

The problem with this meme, like most New Atheist memes, is extremely simple: it gets the basic facts wrong. Specifically, it assumes the wrong genre when interpreting Genesis. As Robert Barron writes:

One of the most important principles of Catholic Biblical interpretation is that the reader of the Scriptural texts must be sensitive to the genre or literary type of the text with which he is dealing. Just as it would be counter-indicated to read Moby Dick as history or “The Waste Land” as social science, so it is silly to interpret, say, “The Song of Songs” as journalism or the Gospel of Matthew as a spy novel. By the same token, it is deeply problematic to read the opening chapters of Genesis as a scientific treatise. If I can borrow an insight from Fr. George Coyne, a Jesuit priest and astrophysicist, no Biblical text can possibly be “scientific” in nature, since “science,” as we understand it, first emerged some fourteen centuries after the composition of the last Biblical book. The author of Genesis simply wasn’t doing what Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Hawking were doing; he wasn’t attempting to explain the origins of things in the characteristically modern manner, which is to say, on the basis of empirical observation, testing of hypotheses, marshalling of evidence, and experimentation. Therefore, to maintain that the opening chapters of Genesis are “bad science” is a bit like saying “The Iliad” is bad history or “The Chicago Tribune” is not very compelling poetry.

So what is the author of Genesis trying to communicate? In Barron’s words, an “exquisite theology”:

[T]he opening of the Bible gives itself to us in all of its theological and spiritual power. Let me explore just a few dimensions of this lyrical and evocative text. We hear that Yahweh brought forth the whole of created reality through great acts of speech: “Let there be light,’ and there was light; ‘Let the dry land appear’ and so it was.” In almost every mythological cosmology in the ancient world, God or the gods establish order through some act of violence. They conquer rival powers or they impose their will on some recalcitrant matter. (How fascinating, by the way, that we still largely subscribe to this manner of explanation, convinced that order can be maintained only through violence or the threat of violence). But there is none of this in the Biblical account. God doesn’t subdue some rival or express his will through violence. Rather, through a sheerly generous and peaceful act of speech, he gives rise to the whole of the universe. This means that the most fundamental truth of things—the metaphysics that governs reality at the deepest level—is peace and non-violence. Can you see how congruent this is with Jesus’ great teachings on non-violence and enemy love in the Sermon on the Mount? The Lord is instructing his followers how to live in accord with the elemental grain of the universe.

Secondly, we are meant to notice the elements of creation that are explicitly mentioned in this account: the heavens, the stars, the sun, the moon, the earth itself, the sea, the wide variety of animals that roam the earth. Each one of these was proposed by various cultures in the ancient world as objects of worship. Many of the peoples that surrounded Israel held sky, stars, sun, moon, the earth, and various animals to be gods. By insisting that these were, in fact, created by the true God, the author of Genesis was, not so subtly, de-throning false claimants to divinity and disallowing all forms of idolatry. Mind you, the author of Genesis never tires of reminding us that everything that God made is good (thus holding off all forms of dualism, Manichaeism and Gnosticism), but none of these good things is the ultimate good.

A third feature that we should notice is the position and role of Adam, the primal human, in the context of God’s creation. He is given the responsibility of naming the animals , “all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts” (Gen. 2:20). The Church fathers read this as follows: naming God’s creatures in accord with the intelligibility placed in them by the Creator, Adam is the first scientist and philosopher, for he is, quite literally, “cataloguing” the world he sees around him. (Kata Logon means “according to the word”). From the beginning, the author is telling us, God accords to his rational creatures the privilege of participating, through their own acts of intelligence, in God’s intelligent ordering of the world. This is why, too, Adam is told, not to dominate the world, but precisely to “cultivate and care for it” (Gen. 2: 16), perpetuating thereby the non-violence of the creative act.

That’s all well and good, one might say, but what about Noah and his blasted penguins? Barron addresses this, indirectly, in his review of the movie Noah. Rather than focusing on whether penguins waddled all the way from Antartica before the Great Flood, Barrons sees the ark as a theological metaphor of the church:

During a time of moral and spiritual chaos, when the primal watery chaos out of which God created the world returned with a vengeance, the Creator sent a rescue operation, a great boat on which a microcosm of God’s good order would be preserved. For the Church Fathers, this is precisely the purpose and meaning of the Church: to be a safe haven where, in the midst of a sinful world, God’s word is proclaimed, where God is properly worshipped, and where a rightly ordered humanity lives in justice and non-violence. Just as Noah’s Ark carried the seeds of a new creation, so the Church is meant to let out the life that it preserves for the renewal of the world.

It makes no sense at all to read the Book of Genesis as a scientific text. Rather, the reader needs to understand the theological lessons the writer is intending to teach. It may be convenient to laugh at those who might read the book more literally than it should, but that doesn’t mean those teachings aren’t there. Whether they are true is certainly a matter to debate. To ignore them, however, is to not argue.