Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CATHOLIC MASS

I must sometimes remind myself that I love the mass. After mass yesterday morning my first unfortunate thought was why do we not do it better. I love nothing more than reception of the Eucharist and certainly that is the focal point of the mass and our faith but something is lacking in the way most masses in this country are celebrated. The pope has on numerous occasions expressed various ideas on improving the celebration. We have a rich history and language which continues to slip away in spite of some signs of recovery. If I were running the show the we would re-introduce more Latin, eliminate the practice of singing hymns that are one-time episodes for the congregation, and keep the priest on the altar during the exchange of the sign of peace. We Catholics are not ignorant or unteachable. Why not do the Our Father in Latin, why not Dominus Vobiscum, etc. We seem to be singing hymns every week that are new to us at each mass, thus giving those among us that are less than perfect singers another reason to keep silent. Why not not a core of songs the congregation can learn and be accustomed to singing. Heck, I might even join in. But I do love the mass. No greater joy fills me as profoundly as receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Dominus Vobiscum.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

VATICAN BASHING

There is no shortage of ignorance in the blogging world. The recent Vatican/Anglican news has given new fuel to those convinced the Church is on a campaign to recruit conservative, gay hating, anti-women in the pulpit, clergy and congregations. What nonsense. What the Vatican bashers fail to understand is that the Church is not a civil institution. The Church is obligated to teach the truth of faith. That the Church is opposed to homosexual behavior does not mean that the Church hates gays. That the Church does not allow the ordination of women does mean the dignity of women is lessened. These are matters of theology based solidly on clear biblical teaching and two thousand years of sacred tradition. One may disagree with the Church's teaching, but to characterize the Church as some sort of hate filled club is not only ignorant but displays a cruel bigotry.

VATICAN ALLOWS ANGLICANS TO COME HOME

The recent news from the Vatican regarding Anglicans returning to the Church is welcome. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the coming weeks and months. It certainly raises a host of questions. What will the number of returners be? What is the future of celibacy for those Anglican communities that return to Rome? What will be the effect of the initiative be on the dialog with the Eastern Church (positive, I think)? When will we know the details of the process?
There has been some criticism that Benedict is fishing outside of the Catholic pond. However, is not that the mission of the Church. Do we content ourselves with the status quo or are we obligated to share the true faith in order that all may come to the fullness of faith?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rapture

Reprinting this from the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Questioning the "Left Behind" RaptureDAVID BRISTOW
Many Christians today are falling into the rapture mindset due to the continued presence of the Left Behind series.
Co-authored by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, these books portray a certain fundamental belief that Christians will be taken up to heaven before the chaos of the "end times" begins. The theory is known as rapture, which literally means to be "caught up" (see 1 Thes. 4:17) and suggests that faithful supporters of Christ will not have to suffer during the final days of the deceptive Antichrist (1 John 2:18-22). The Left Behind series has produced millions of devoted followers and fans, but Christians in particular should refrain from blindly adhering to its rapture or end time mentality. Instead, the entire Christian faithful should carefully research this eschatological topic, and subsequently ask themselves if the rapture teaching was truly handed down by Christ. Listed below are four questions to consider before proclaiming the "rapture belief," and why Christians everywhere should be cautious in accepting it.
1. What is the real meaning of being "caught up?"
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord." - 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
Many Christians who believe in the rapture teaching point to 1 Thessalonians 4: 14-17 to state their case. They claim this verse logically proves rapture with its wording of "caught up together" located in verse 17. However, as Dr. Paul Thigpen2 and many others have noted, when this verse is taken in context to the books of Thessalonians, a completely different meaning arises. First off, the books have several references to Christ's coming (see 2 Thes. 1:7-8, 2 Thes. 2:1-2, 1 Thes. 3:13), which all refer to the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment of the world as a single event. In other words, the framework of these Biblical passages does not divide the "resurrection of the dead" or a "snatching of believers" from the judgment of the world as the rapture teaching declares. Rather, they imply one event where Christ will come, take up His believers, and then immediately judge the world and conquer evil.
Secondly, the Scriptural verses referring to Christ's return (including 1 Thes. 4:14-17) describe images of trumpets, the destruction of evil, blinding and penetrating lights, enormous clouds, and with a legion of angels and saints. Our Lord makes it clear on numerous occasions (see Matt. 24: 27, 30-31, Mark 14:62, Luke 21:23-24, Acts 1:9, Daniel 7:13-14, etc.) that His second return would be unmistakable, undeniable, and known to everyone. How does this contradict the interpretation of the Left Behind rapture? According to the Left Behind series, the rapture will be a silent and secret taking of believers to heaven. The problem with this theory, however, is that all the Biblical passages referring to the end times have nothing to do with anything secret, silent, or hidden! Why wouldn't Christ, who knew so much about His return, make some clear reference to a secret rapture, especially in light of the tremendous suffering going on during Jesus' day? It would have been the perfect opportunity for Jesus to pass this teaching on to His followers, yet neither the disciples nor the Gospel writers mention anything remotely "silent" about the events in the last days. Finally, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4,8 shows how these events will take place after, and not before, the reign of the Antichrist and his barbaric attacks on the Church. This implies that all people — including Christians — will witness the immense suffering associated with the end of the world (Thigpen, 110-112).
If 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 is not talking about the secret rapture, then what is it referring to? What does the "caught up together" mean? In St. Paul's time, it was customary for citizens of a city to welcome military leaders or other important people before they entered the city gates. In doing so, they showed their support and honored that particular person by entering the city with him. This happens to be the same treatment Jesus received upon entering Jerusalem during Palm Sunday (see Matt. 21: 1-17). Now, when Christ does come again, the believers on earth will be "caught up together" to meet with Christ as He approaches the world in triumph. They will be joined with all the angels and saints who have been with Christ in heaven (Rev. 6: 9-11), which is a similar analogy to citizens meeting a great military leader outside their city. Therefore, we will be "caught up" in God's glory by actually being with Christ as He approaches His earthly kingdom (Thigpen, 112-114).
2. Jesus' Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:37-41 — who is really "Left Behind?"
"As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left." - Matthew 24:37-41 Throughout the years, the passage of Matthew 24:37-41 (commonly referred to as the "Olivet Discourse") has been cited to preach the rapture belief. The obvious reason for this lies in the words, "Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left." Rapture believers often say this verse provides significant and conclusive evidence for their views. But does it? When examining the verses carefully, who are the ones that really get "Left Behind?" It wasn't the unrighteous, but rather the righteous who remained "Left Behind" and safe within the ark. Conversely, it was the unrighteous in the "days of Noah" that were "swept away" — not by God's grace and angels, but by the floodwaters. For Christians to use this verse to "prove rapture" is to say the opposite of what the Biblical verse actually teaches (Thigpen, 124-125).
In fact, even if we were to give the rapture believer the benefit of the doubt about their interpretation of Matthew 24:37-41 (the righteous are taken, the unrighteous are Left Behind), it still wouldn't prove their belief in rapture. Christians who oppose rapture do not deny that true believers will be taken up to Christ when He returns (see above); they only disagree on when and how it is Christians will be taken. Many rapture believers think all the suffering and anguish affiliated with the end times will be taken away from the true believers, while those who disagree with the teaching believe everyone — both Christian and non-Christian alike — will have to suffer during the final days before Christ's return.
Actually, within the history of Christianity, that is exactly what Christians have had to do — suffer. A belief in rapture basically cheapens all those who have ever had to suffer in the name of Christ, because it says only true believers during the last days alone will be spared from tremendous suffering. But what about the hundreds of first century martyrs in Rome, or the numerous missionary casualties in China or Iran? What about the Christian prisoners of war, or those Christians who have died in school shootings? Did they get a free pass to heaven with no pain or suffering? The point is suffering is both a good and necessary thing, because it draws us nearer to God and helps us to appreciate the heavenly kingdom that much more (see. Matt.10: 22-23, John 16:33). Christ tells us to take up the cross and worship Him, and that is exactly what we'll have to do both now and until the end of time (Col. 1:24, Phil. 3:10).
3. Where did the "rapture belief" come from?
When one honestly looks back at the history of the rapture teaching, he or she will quickly realize its beginnings are mentioned nowhere in the first seventeen hundred years of Christianity. It was seemingly unheard of during the time periods of the Middle Ages and Reformation, as both Martin Luther and John Calvin believed Christians would experience the end times here on earth (see Martin Luther's Preface to the Revelation of St. John , and Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion , IV, vii, 25: III, xx). The Nicene Creed (325 AD), which has its roots in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, proclaims the basic beliefs of the Christian faith, and has been recited by millions of Christians throughout history. Oddly enough, this creed mentions nothing about a secret rapture of believers before the end of the world, nor is there any creed that does within the early Church. Like the Nicene Creed, the early Church Fathers make no mention whatsoever of a literal "taking up of believers"(Thigpen, 130). St. Justin Martyr (100-165), St. Irenaeus (125-203), St. Hippolytus (died 235), and St. Augustine (354-430) are only a few of the many who write about Christian suffering in the final tribulation.
It wasn't until the early part of the nineteenth century when John Nelson Darby, an ex-Anglican priest, began to heavily promote his idea of "dispensationalism3," which included the idea of a secret rapture. With the help of The Scofield Reference Bible translated by Darby follower C.I. Scofield, the "rapture belief" began to spread widely among various Protestant circles. Over time, people everywhere were turning to find "divine relief" from the dispensationalist viewpoint, especially in light of the "political, social, and cultural" distractions of the decades following the reestablishment of Israel in 1948 (Thigpen, 147). Hal Lindsey initiated another wave of "Bible prophecy" and rapture believers with his book The Late Great Planet Earth in the 1970's. The book describes the end times by means of dramatic language and frightening images, using everything from the turmoil in news headlines to man made disasters in order to spark a relationship with Christ. Consequently, like Hal Lindsey, many other preachers continue to speak about the rapture belief today, implementing many of the same techniques as The Late Great Planet Earth to scare the public into a change of heart for Jesus.
In certain cases, this logically leads people to question if this is how Christ originally wanted His message to be made known. Did Jesus really want us to fear every moment about the end times and the events leading up to the final days? Does Christ, who perfectly illustrates the most beautiful and sacrificial love for humanity, truly want us to use constant scare tactics to get others to believe in Him? Is that the language of Christ in the Gospels? Christians should be more concerned about sharing God's love to others through their faithfulness, service, and joy, and not waste time predicting when the "last days" are going to be.
4. Is this the clear and straightforward interpretation of the "end times?"
Is the interpretation of the rapture as clear and straightforward as the authors of the Left Behind series say it is? There are literally hundreds of Christian denominations in the world today, which, interestingly enough, take a multitude of different views about the final days and rapture. Obviously, taking the "plain sense of Scripture" about these matters as LaHaye and Jenkins suggest is not as easy a task as they make it out to be. If the Bible is so clear on the rapture, why not, as Dr. Paul Thigpen points out, do all the Christian denominations believe in it as they do the resurrection or divinity of Christ (Thigpen, 150)? Taking it a step further, one would expect the Apostles, or early Church Fathers to proclaim such a doctrine, being that they were the direct descendants of Christ, however there is no such mention. Have Christians for the previous eighteen hundred years, including the Reformers, simply not read Scripture clearly enough to acknowledge the so-called truth of the rapture belief?
Perhaps the idea of the rapture is not as obvious and prevalent throughout Scripture as many think it is. Christians everywhere should fully examine this theological concept and ask themselves if it possesses enough evidence to support its claims. We should not be sidetracked, misled, or believe in something strictly because it makes for an entertaining and lucrative story; rather, we should research and study the Scriptures from both a historical and spiritual perspective for the true meaning of the Bible's words. Let us pray that all Christians, both now and in the future, will receive God's gift of grace to find His truth through the appropriate and necessary sources.
Endnotes:
The belief in rapture suggests that true believers will be taken up in a "secret and silent" manner to be with Christ. They will be snatched immediately from their cars, jobs, daily routines, or whatever else they may be doing to be with God, while leaving behind those who are less fortunate without a Christian faith. The Left Behind books do an excellent job illustrating how airplanes will crash, and cars will get into accidents, simply because the Christian pilots or drivers were "caught up," thus leaving their vehicles unmanned. This makes for an interesting story, but questionable theology. When examining Christ's descriptions about the end times to His followers, an exceptionally different picture is presented than the one in the Left Behind series.
See Paul Thigpen, The Rapture Trap (West Chester PA.: Ascension Press, 2001). For an in depth look on the Catholic's response to the end times and rapture, I recommend reading Paul Thigpen's The Rapture Trap (2001). The majority of this article is based on his research.
Dispensationalism — A system of theology that sees God testing man in different ways during different ages. Dispensationalists believe that in each age of testing (better known as dispensations), man has utterly failed to live up to God's standards.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
David M. Bristow. "Questioning the "Left Behind" Rapture." Catholic Educator's Resource Center (August, 2003).
This article reprinted with permission from David M. Bristow.
THE AUTHOR
David Bristow serves as the Youth Minister at St. Joseph Church in Herndon, Virginia. He is a member of the Youth Apostles Institute, an organization of priests, laymen, and consecrated men who devote themselves to strengthening our young people's Catholic faith. David converted to Catholicism in the spring of 2001, and enjoys reading theology and philosophy in his spare time.
Copyright © 2003 David M. Bristow

Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi had her meeting with the Holy Father this past week. I am glad the Vatican did not allow her to turn it in to a photo-op for Pelosi. It saddens me that she is able to claim that she is an "ardent Catholic" while promoting policies which clearly go against the undeniably clear teachings of the Church. How can one be an ardent Catholic and so ignorant of those teachings? A recent exchange on Fox News gives a decent representation of the meeting.
http://www.foxnews.com/video-search/m/21892525/holy_smackdown.htm

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Catholic News

The last few weeks have been interesting. We had the lifting of the excommunication of the nutcase bishop and the Legionaries of Christ revelations regarding their founder. Great stuff for all the anti-catholic folks and those who are not specifically anti-catholic but view us and the Church as just innocently mistaken. What to do? The Church needs to be very aggressive in its handling of both of these big news stories. Regarding the holocaust denying bishop, he needs to recant his absurd statements in a full and clear manner. I think Benedict has spoken out very clearly in the last few days on this issue, however, I do have mixed feelings on the lifting of the excommunications. While I understand the motivation and reasoning of the Pope, I am not sure it was the correct thing to do at this time. Part of me says let them go their own way. Let them fully submit to the Church or no deal.
As far as the Legionaries of Christ and their future, the Pope needs to step in and take firm control. The order should be disbanded and its priests given the option of joining a diocese or another order. The image of the Church has suffered greatly in the last years because of a few that have brought scandal upon it. How many Catholics have left because of those scandals and the hierarchy's mishandling of them?
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Well said, but will the media listen?

VATICAN CITY, 12 FEB 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations.
Speaking English, the Pope began his remarks by recalling his first visit to a synagogue, in the German city of Cologne in August 2005. He then mentioned his trip, in May of the following year, to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. "As I walked through the entrance to that place of horror, the scene of such untold suffering", he said, "I meditated on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews, who had trodden that same path into captivity at Auschwitz and in all the other prison camps".
"How can we begin to grasp the enormity of what took place in those infamous prisons? The entire human race feels deep shame at the savage brutality shown to your people at that time", he said.
The Pope then noted how today's visit "occurs in the context of your visit to Italy in conjunction with your annual Leadership Mission to Israel. I too am preparing to visit Israel, a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there".
"The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God's forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer"
"The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. ... It is beyond question that any denial or minimisation of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable".
"This terrible chapter in our history must never be forgotten. Remembrance - it is rightly said - is 'memoria futuri', a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship.
"It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews", Benedict XVI concluded. "It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church's irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance".



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Catholic Reading Lately

I am on a minor reading binge. I just finished Parish Priest, Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism. An excellent book though a bit short. It is an interesting look at the Church in America in the last half of the nineteenth century. I am inspired to read more about the history of the Church in our country its history of anti-catholicism.

My Life with the Saints is another great book. Loaded with funny and thought provoking material, it forces one to examine ones own life. The book has value for all, Catholics and other Christians.

I am about halfway through a biography of John XXIII and plan to read his journal next. What a great pope. Read Pacem in Terris.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sola Scriptura

There are many problems with the notion of sola scriptura. Firstly, there is nothing biblical about it. Nowhere does the bible state that it is the bible alone that is our source for our knowledge regarding God. Another problem is that the "bible alone" argument does not tell us whose interpretation of scripture is correct. One only has to see the multitude of denominations to realize there is a problem. All interpretations can not be right. How to know? We must remember the bible did not just fall from the sky. The canon of the New Testament was a later development. The canon was set by the Church's authority. To disagree is to be ignorant of history.