Frank discussions, advice, and opinions from a Catholic Director of Religious Education.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (November 14, 2011)

Indult: Temporary favor granted by the Holy See to bishops to permit them to do something not otherwise allowed. This does not mean that the Pope can give permission for something evil, but rather that he can dispense with certain aspects of the Church's law or liturgical practices. For those unaware, the reference to the "Holy See" is a reference to the authority of the Pope. In Catholicism, the bishops are invested by Christ Himself with authority to shepherd the Church. The Pope, or Holy Father, is the chief shepherd and all other bishops must be in communion with Him. For a good explanation of this relationship, see the Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus).


Monday, November 7, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (November 6, 2011)

Invincible Ignorance: A lack of knowledge for which a person is not morally responsible. For instance, if you were born in a remote region of Africa, and had never heard of Christianity (or Judaism), then you wouldn't be responsible for observing the third commandment (Keep holy the Lord's day). The reason you are not culpable for breaking the third commandment is because you could not possibly know of its existence. This is not the same as Christians who feign ignorance because they chose not to learn about God's commandments. It also does not apply to those who break the natural law (murder, theft, perjury, etc.) which all men can know through  reason and adequate reflection.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

You too can be the perfect parent!

...says someone who wants your money. I just got done reading an excellent post about parenting and heartache. I have to admit, every now and then I think, "If I just do this exactly right then my kids will be saints" or "If I can just work out this program properly then the teens will start going to Mass." Now, those thoughts don't last very long because inevitably I mess up and realize that God is their only hope (as it should be). Still, when you love your kids and know the dangers that are out in the world you want a certain degree of certainty regarding their everlasting soul. Unfortunately, out of all the amazing gifts God has given us, scientific, unquestionable certainty isn't one of them. Go check out What I'm Never Going to Tell You at In the Heart of My Home.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 10)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 149)

1. It's been a weird news week. So, apparently this seven year old boy is a cross-dresser? Besides his parents allowing this behavior, which is awful, the Girl Scouts are actually accepting him as a member! Really? Are we really going to do this? Put next to My Princess Boy and Storm (the genderless baby), I think we need to seriously ask whether modern feminism seeks domination rather than equality. What are we doing to our future young men? There is a balance and, like it or not, masculinity is a good thing. If someone feels trapped in their own body then something is wrong with that person. We don't need to pretend gender doesn't exist, we need to help that person be ok with who they really are. If nothing else, this has sealed the deal for me and, if God so blesses us, our daughters will never be Girl Scouts.   

2. Speaking of unnatural and wrong, some dude has 150 kids thanks to his "donations". Now, thanks to situations like this, everyone who has been conceived via IVF gets to wonder if they are attracted to their sibling. Yeah! Well, at least when they aren't thinking about that identical sister mom chose to  kill. But it's ok, honey, mommy loves you because you were on the left. She much prefers the left.

3. That concludes the pessimistic doom saying portion of my quick takes. On a more joyful note, Eddie had a good first Halloween. We didn't go Trick or Treating because I felt weird, as a grown man, going door to door with a baby who could barely crawl. Still, he wore his costume and looked really cute. We even did Facetime via iphone so that Grandma got to see the fun.   

4. Unfortunately, not all phone conversations are fun. I have the distinct displeasure this week of calling all the Confirmation students who have been skipping Mass and explaining to their parents why, if they don't start coming to Mass, their children will not be Confirmed. Why is this so hard? This isn't a party for your kid. It is a sacrament of God's Holy Church to strengthen your child to live life as a Catholic in a dangerous world. A life which, I might add, holds as foundational the nourishment of the Holy Eucharist which is, except for extreme circumstances, only to be had at MASS. If I offered $500 to Mass attendees I would have a full Church every Sunday. Unfortunately all we have is the body and blood of the savior of the world.

5. Sorry, I went back to doom saying... I know that I said I was done, but I'm weak. Its been that type of week. I feel like righteously smiting something. Anyone have a dragon?

6. G.K. Chesterton Quote of the Week: “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

7. In atonement for all my doom saying, I propose the counterweight of Nyan Cat!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Souls Day

"In the Christian faith, there is only one dogma, splitting like light into a rainbow of colors. This one dogma is like a living body expressing itself in manifold members, each dependant on the others."
- Hans Urs Von Balthasar

The "no contraception" block was very important...
If you've been reading this blog for a little while, you know that I tend to get a bit sore when people ignore portions of Church teaching for convenience. The quote above is a beautiful explanation of why that is a dangerous practice. If Von Balthasar is too lofty for you, though, I can simplify it. Doctrine forms the Jenga tower of faith. When you start removing blocks, your tower becomes that much weaker and, ultimately, can't support itself.

Now, this doesn't mean we teach third graders at a university level, but it does mean we don't leave gaping holes in their catechesis. In my experience, this temptation to gloss over Church teaching has been most powerful regarding death and the last things. This goes especially for purgatory. This teaching just doesn't fit in with the happy-clappy, "I'm ok, you're ok" view of catechesis. Hell? Well, yeah! That makes sense for people like Hitler and Stalin, but the rest of us just fall asleep and see our long gone puppies and eat ice cream all day while floating on a cloud. Yup!

We just don't want to consider the possibility that maybe we aren't all that great. The Church knows this, and that is one reason why we have All Souls Day. On that day we remember the faithful departed and pray for the souls in purgatory. In doing so, we both perform an act of charity for our brethren in need and remind ourselves that

"...the work of each will come to light...and the fire will test the quality of each ones work.
If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage.
But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss;
the person will be saved, but only as through fire. "
1 Corinthians 3:13-15

These are very important reasons for observing All Souls, but I think there is another reason, just as important, which strikes at the very heart of salvation and justifies Von Balthasar's statement. Before we delve into this, we need a quick introduction to the Catholic view of sin and purgatory.

Essentially, Catholics believe there are two types of sin: Mortal and Venial. The mortal sin is akin to spiritual suicide. It is a conscious rejection of life with God and is therefore the reason why people go to hell. Three conditions must be met, together, for a sin to be mortal. These are:

1. Full Knowledge: You need to fully understand that what you are doing is against God's will.

2. Full Consent: You choose this course freely.

3. Grave Matter: The sin must be sufficiently grave (serious). This is tricky, but generally the 10 Commandments are a good point of reference.  

If any one of the conditions above is lacking, the sin is not mortal, but venial. It wounds our relationship with God, but doesn't reject it. We have plenty of evidence both from Sacred Tradition and Holy Scripture to prove that this is the historical view of Christians, but the following verse will be sufficient for now:
"If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly." 1 John 5:16 

Now, we know from scripture that nothing unclean shall come before the Lord. We also know, from the discussion above, that some sins do not warrant damnation. It is reasonable to assume, then, that some poor souls die with sins on their soul, but without meriting hell. For the Catholic, then, purgatory is necessary as a state of purification before some souls can enter heaven. This explanation is the dime novel version, of course, but we need to have this foundation because we are now going to delve into Von Balthasar's comment.

Each doctrine of the Church bolsters the others and protects against heresy. You might choose to reject the Church's teachings on purgatory, but think for a moment about what you would be embracing. By denying the need for, or at least possibility of, purification, we must embrace the idea that many of our protestant brethren have already championed. Namely, we must embrace the idea that Christ's sacrifice only "covers" our sin. In other words, as the famous saying goes, we must look at the forgiven man's soul as a "snow covered dung heap", somehow fooling God into letting us enter paradise.

This idea presents Jesus more as a clever teen trying to sneak his friends past Dad in the middle of the night than a transforming, redeeming savior. It limits God by saying that He can't fix us and tries to make us settle for a new coat of paint. The Catholic view, on the other hand, states boldly that the savior of the universe cleanses and transforms His creatures. If that transformation is taking place, but not complete by the time of death, God finishes it in purgatory, thus bringing to fulfillment the work he had started.