Archive for April 2007

Archbishop Burke in the News

April 29, 2007

I thought about marking this under humor, but it really isn’t that funny.  Archbishop Burke recently stepped down from the board of Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital because they were using abortion and embryonic stem-cell supporter, Sheryl Crow, at a fundraiser.  The archbishop wanted to avoid the scandal of having such a public supporter of a horrible evil to be involved in such an event.

Unfortunately, this has created what my mom called a firestorm in St. Louis.  Every ignorant blockhead and his dog feels entitled to their poorly formed opinion.  I have too much of a life to have read all of the 550+ comments that were posted, but the quality of the comments were so low, and the discussion so irrational, that you might be led to believe that Aristotle was wrong in saying rationality is essential to human nature.  Here’re some samples: 

Comment 48: The Church is supposed to love sinners, but not letting Crow speak is not liking sinners.  Therefore, Archbishop Burke does not love sinners, contra Jesus’ teachings.

(Comment 55) “One has to wonder what St. Louis, who has a large Catholic population, and has always been conprised of what was thought of as good Catholics, has done to the Vatican to send us Burke. Is there perhaps a church policy similar to transferring sexual deviates from parish to parish, also a church policy to transfer bigoted crazy priests.We seem to have
gotten the the number one nut.

You do have to give him credit for taking a stand, no matter how outlandish and prejudiced it is. I think the question is this: Should we listen to our hearts and help the sick and dying little children of the St. Louis area or listen to another tirade from the man who should be in a hospital himself?”

Contra 48:  Of course, if a notorious Klu Klux Klan member was invited to speak, we would be so morally outraged that we would run him out of town.  But what ever happened to loving the sinner?  Perhaps there is a distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin.  Or perhaps was can just choose to get outraged when it is politically correct to do so.

Contra 55:  Of course, we all know that Archbishop Burke is crazy.  As a matter of fact, the last time I saw him he was eating babies and lighting kittens on fire.  And as if that weren’t enough, then he resigned from a hospital’s fundraising board for…moral considerations.  Yup, that last one definately makes him crazy.

Read through the rest of the comments if you want.  You aren’t missing much if you don’t, however.  So I’ll conclude:  if Archbishop Burke is crazy, I’ll take his insanity over the insanity of my beloved hometown any day of the week. 


Mount Carmel Update

April 28, 2007

Blogging may or may not be light next week; I’m really not sure.  It’s exam week, so it seems like I should be busy.  However, I usually find that I’m usually not half as busy as I think I’m going to be on exam weeks, and I spend more time on procrastination breaks than I do actually studying or taking exams.  Therefore, you must stay awake, for you do not know when the next installment will come.

Until then, I have a profound question with an even more profound answer:  What is the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist?

You can negotiate with a terrorist.  Gfaw! 

St. Louis University is NOT run by a Religous Creed!

April 24, 2007

See the article here.

“The Supreme Court affirmed a summary judgment handed down July 14, 2005, in St. Louis Circuit Court by Judge Steven Ohmer. It concluded SLU is not owned or controlled by a religious creed even though it’s president, Lawrence Biondi, is a Jesuit priest and the university’s bylaws support Jesuit and Catholic ideals and beliefs.”

Of course SLU isn’t a Catholic institution.  We’ve known for a long time that it’s runs by the Jesuits.  HA!

All jokes aside, I’m not quite sure this is anything new or anything particularly horrifying.  Most schools–even those with traditional religious ties–do not hire based on creed anymore, and it’s difficult to see how a university can require any creed of its students nowadays.

I’m not denying that SLU is a secular institution that has strayed from the faith based on other arguments, but I don’t think this ruling proves anything new.  Heck, Biondi was one of the big pushers from the stem-cell initiative in St. Louis, no doubt due to the money it would bring SLU.  I think THAT says more about how bad SLU has gotten than some silly court ruling.

He’s a St. Louis Guy, Too!

April 23, 2007

Cathedra Unitatis posted a link to a series done on the history of Vatican I and the definition of papal infallibility.  Bishop Kenrick, former bishop of St. Louis, is mentioned at one point as a “fiery” opponent to the ultramontanist definition of infallibility.  From what I’m told by one of the history buffs at Kenrick-Glennon, he was quite an important theologian at the Council. 

See the article in which Kenrick is mentioned here.

New Categories!

April 22, 2007

For your categorization edification, I have added liturgy and vocation categories to my list.  Come on, people?  Why read Aristotle’s Categories when you have me?

Reflections on John Chrysostom

April 19, 2007

Recently, I posted a passage from St. John Chrysostom.  That reading is my favorite reading in the entire breviary.  It’s nice to see a Chrysostom reading in there to break up the monotony of Augustine, Augustine, and more Augustine. 

I don’t want to spend to much time going over old ground, but I’ll spend a paragraph doing so before I get to the reflection.  I think St. John pretty much sums up my problems with conservativism in the liturgy.  It’s not that I think “having nice things” is such a bad thing, especially in liturgy.  On the contrary, I would prefer people spending their money on Christ in that way rather than spending it on themselves.  However, Christ makes it perfectly clear where our priorities should be.  If anything, His most constant commentary on the liturgy was to avoid become pharisaical.  If people would be content to a) follow Jesus’ teachings on helping the poor spiritually and corporeally while having nice liturgy, I wouldn’t complain.  Granted, I never saw the appeal of what most people call “good” liturgy, but I admit that that opinion is a matter of taste, not of dogma. 

But that’s not what I want to write about.  Why is it so important to help the poor?  I’ve worked with the less fortunate long enough to know that they are not saintly people like many on the left make them out to be, nor are they lazy people like people on the right like to say.  They are just regular people, with bad apples and good apples.  Nor do we help the poor because we somehow think that we can solve the problems of poverty.  Catholicism is not reducible to social justice work.

Rather, Jesus commanded that we help the poor because all people are broken by our own sinfullness.  And yet, the rich are often not aware of their own sorry state:  we can surround ourselves with all the luxury we want and ignore the true state of our souls.  The poor don’t have that advantage.  They have been beaten down by life.  For many people, there is nothing more humiliating that relying on the charity of others to feed yourself.  We help the poor not because we can solve all or even a sizable chunk of their problems.  We help them because we see Christ in them.  And in seeing Christ living among broken people, we are reminded of our own brokeness, our own need for repentence, our own need to love and be loved. 

I have to admit, despite finally realizing how essential such work is to the Gospel, I find myself incapable of actually doing it.  I worked at the Missionaries of Charity last semester even though I wasn’t required.  I felt so inadequate.  While I was busy doing easy tasks with great difficulty, the sisters were cleaning sores, and doing other demeaning jobs.  I found myself so repelled to such things that I had to force myself to go back every week.  I couldn’t return this semester due to difficulties in my schedule; therefore, this semester I feel like I’m doing very little.  I do the minimum required by the seminary, and I punch my time card and leave, only to do my three hours again next week.  I keep asking myself for the grace to see the humanity of these people beyond their disabilities, to see Christ concealed by their broken bodies.  Thus far, I have failed pretty miserably. 

However, I try not to take myself too seriously.  Christ is undoubtedly working on me and through me, guiding me slowly towards being able to serve Him as He wants me to.  Christ knows me better than I know myself, and He knows how to fix me better than I do.  It’s all a matter of me submitting fully to the grace He gives me. 

Yes, we can and do encounter Christ in the liturgy; but the grace that we receive at the altar does us no good if we don’t respond to it.  We can only go to Mass once a day, and have Him within us for such a short time everyday.  If we truly desire to be united to Him for eternity, we should seek Him with our entire being while we are on this earth.  Jesus made it perfectly clear where we would find Him:  among sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors.  What’s preventing us from going to Him?

Photius Jones’ Objection to the Immaculate Conception

April 14, 2007

I have seen the following point brandished about on several occasions, and I want give a critique of it:

“The reverse is in fact true, the IC doctrine is most illustrious example of irresistible grace (to sound Augustinian). Here’s the objection: if God CAN do that to Mary (in my view this isn’t a logical possibility even in the garden, unless God were to “create” an uncreated hypostasis), why doesn’t he just do this to everybody and save us all a whole lot of trouble?


To answer frankly, I don’t have an answer to this question.  I don’t know why God created the world the way He did, or how this hell hole we live in is the world best suited to carry out God’s will.  Nevertheless, I do have a few objections to this paragraph.

To get the quibbles out of the way first, I don’t think that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception completely blotted out Mary’s freedom to participate with said grace.  If she was sinless, it was because she cooperated with that abundance of grace that she was given.  Of course quibbles aside, the substance Mr. Jones’ objection is that if God could give Mary enough grace that she possibly could (and did) avoid sinning, why doesn’t He give others the same grace and save us all a bunch of trouble?  Mr. Jones presumedly thinks it is easier to deny the Immaculate Conception than to be stuck with such a problem. 

The problem is, Mr. Jones seems to be objecting to something that seems empirically obvious, something not necessarily related to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.  It seems self-evident to me that God gives some people an abundance of graces that He does not give other people, graces which, with the cooperation of individuals, saves them from a multitude of sins.  St. Paul was about to kill a great number of Christians before God intervened.  The effect of that theophany was a complete change of St. Paul’s life.  He no longer persecuted Christians, and the very fact that He encountered God in this way served as a springboard towards virtue.  Mary, whether she was immaculately conceived or not, was given the privilege of seeing angels and bearing our Savior in her womb (I doubt Mary could ever doubt God’s existence after that one!)  The Apostles–who were scared out of their minds after the death of Jesus–were given the opportunity to see the resurrected Christ in his risen glory. 

Some modern day examples:  I am a convert.  God did not “compel” me to convert, but He revealled Himself to me in a way that so many of my numerous struggles with my faith immediately fell away.  I would probably not be Catholic today had Christ not intervened so directly in my life:  and yet, most people do not receive the metaphorical “smack in the head with a 2×4” like I did.  In addition, some saints seem to be graced from their youth with gifts from God, such as the ability to be an instrument of God’s miraculous intervention in the world e.g. St. Padre Pio.  In his later years, Padre Pio sometimes said that he does not know what God is thinking, but God sometimes allows him to “look off of His notebook.” 

God might not be able to guarantee that a person will cooperate with His grace so fully that they never sin (i.e. even a sinless Mary needed to cooperate with grace), but it seems obvious to me that God graces some people so much that, at the very least, they reduce their sinfulness drastically (in the case of St. Paul) and allows them to grow more deeply in virtue than they could have without the theophany.  These gifts are gratuitous, and have nothing to do with how well the person had previously cooperated with God’s grace e.g. St. Paul was no saint before God chose him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles; but of course, he reached sanctity afterwards, something that probably wouldn’t have happened without God’s gratuitous intervention.

On the flip side, I also know several people who seem to have had few opportunities to encounter Christ in their daily lives.  Not only do they not see miraculous things, but they see only the worst side of life.  At my current ministry, several of the kids grew up in AIDs-infested homes.  They encounter gang-violence every day, often watching their own relatives die before their eyes.  Most of them had sex before they ever entered high school, and some have seen such evils that they are self-proclaimed atheists by the age of 12.  So it seems like God gives some people so much grace that they would be idiots not to turn their lives around, and there are some people who seem like they are “on their own,” so to speak, to seek out and find Christ.

So here’s my question for Mr. Jones:  if it is possible for God to make such a difference in people’s lives–even without God compelling them to be virtuous by forcing consent of their wills, but by presenting Himself in theophanies to people–then why doesn’t He do so more often?  Why doesn’t God give every struggling atheist or militant persecutor of the Church the opportunity to hear his voice like St. Paul did?  Why doesn’t He allow them to “read off his notebook” like He did for Padre Pio?  As a matter of fact, why doesn’t God rearrange the stars in the sky so that they read “I, the Father, Son, and Spirit, exist” in every possible language?  Sure, some people may still be unconvinced  by such miracles, but I’ll bet a lot of people would be convinced, becoming ardent Orthodox in the process.  To use Mr. Jones’ own words, this would save us all a whole lot of trouble. 

Mr. Jones and I may disagree on whether God could give a person as much grace as Catholics say He gave Mary, but Mr. Jones seems to fall prey to his own objection.  I am at a loss as to how my objection here is substantially different than his objection to the Immaculate Conception.  I don’t understand why God does a lot of the things He does.  But one thing is certain:  there are a lot of things within God’s power that He chooses not to do.  This seems undeniably true, whether we are talking giving people enough grace that they potentially (or actually, in Mary’s case) remain sinless, or giving people the grace to cease doing many sinful things.  

I probably won’t ever know the answer to a lot of things on this side of the eschaton.  All I can do is have faith that God has all of our best interests in mind, and that He is leading all of us to our ultimate happiness, as long as we cooperate with Him.  Thus far, I have seen God’s providence working so clearly in my life that I have not yet been disappointed.  I don’t expect that to change.