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Catechism Project, #160-165

If I were to boil what struck me in this section down to one quote, it would be in Paragraph 162 which quotes 1 Tim 1:18-19: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”  This world in which we live is not simply a path down which we must walk, a series of static obstacles for us to conquer.  It is a world at war, and our fight is as St. Paul says, “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)  This is a war fought with immortal beings of infinite intellect, infinite malice, and infinite spite.  Armed only with our own strength we will most assuredly lose, but armed with “the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:13) triumph is assured – but the long, hard slog of a fight with a guaranteed end can test our willingness to continue on.  I know for my own part wanting to drop sword and shield, if only for a little bit, just to rest, is a persistent temptation.

Paragraph 164 is an excellent summary of this temptation and could cause one to despair if it were not for the fact that it is followed with the reassurances in Paragraph 165.  One of the reasons God allowed so many of our saintly forebears to be tested and tried is that their example might provide a witness to us that we can, indeed, come out of this battle ahead if only we maintain our faith in God.  The quotation of Heb 12:1-2 is incredibly apt, and a perfect place to close this brief reflection:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.all saints


Catechism Project, #150-159

When reading through this section I couldn’t help but thinking of an online discussion I was recently a small part of with a gentleman who wanted to challenge Christian epistemology.  Epistemology is, boiled down, the study of knowledge – how we know, and how we know what we think we know.  For this gentleman if you couldn’t apply the scientific method to it, you couldn’t know it, and if you couldn’t know it chances are it either didn’t exist or wasn’t true.  That’s a very common problem for people today, idolizing as we so often do the scientific method and the scientists who use it (or at least, we hope they do).  Yet the Church teaches that just being able to measure it and test it does not mean you actually know a thing – to know requires a relationship that exceeds mere instrumentalization.

But how do you get there?  Paragraph 153 puts it quite well: “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him.”  And again in Paragraph 156: “What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe ‘because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.’(Dei Filius 3)”  At some point we have to make the decision to accept the invitation that God through the Holy Spirit is always placing before us – to trust in Him enough to start learning about and getting to know Him.

Once you open up to the possibility of a God who made and knows everything, you begin to make yourself open to a faith which transcends mere human knowledge.  Paragraph 157 tells us that:

Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.” (STh II-II, 171, 5, obj. 3)

Faith is an invitation to trust in something that “can seem obscure to human reason and experience” but because of the one in Whom the trust is placed the result is even more sure than anything we come to find through measurement.  Although ignored by many modern people as simple medieval credulity, God has also offered miracles as evidence both of His existence and His benevolence.  Paragraph 156 again:

Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind.” (Dei Filius 3)

So… are you willing to take a chance and see what God is calling you to trust?  The possible result is something far greater than can ever be found at the end of a ruler or a microscope – these point us the way but they are not the end of the journey.


Catechism Project, #142-149

We have made our way now to Chapter 3, with Article 1 focusing on “I believe”.  There is a necessary precursor to this however in Paragraph 143 – when we say “I believe” it is by faith we do so, and by faith “man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.”  To believe, to “have faith”, in God is at one and the same time to also submit to His Will.  That can be a rather hard pill to swallow, particularly these days.

Paragraph 144 has a critical observation: the word “obey” comes from the Latin ob-audire, to “hear or listen to“.  You might notice a distinct echo of the previous section we covered in the last post here – to know God requires that we listen to, or in many cases read the words given by, Him.  We cannot properly obey that which (or whom) we do not know.  Now we find ourselves forming a perfect triangle – to know God is to come to love Him, and to love and know Him is to come to obey His Word.  Surrounded as we are by those who think they have a better plan than the one God has given, this willing obedience can be incredibly difficult.

Perhaps that’s where this comes back to what we saw in the previous section – to love Him is to spend time with His Word.  The more time we do that, the more of an effect it will have on us and the more we will want to obey rather than feel obligated to do so.  We may not have to travel to a distant land as did Abraham, nor bear the reaction to an unwed pregnancy of Mary, to experience in our time a final aspect of this knowing, loving, and obeying – trust.  God knows better than we ever can what is best for us but it is only through knowing, loving, and obeying Him that we can come to trust that what we don’t now understand really is for our benefit.  It all starts with His Word.  I do believe it’s time for me to go read the Bible some more, how about you?


Catechism Project, #131-141

One day in and I’m already slacking off.  I might just have to ding myself on this next paycheck if I don’t straighten out here…

Today’s selection includes just three short paragraphs of new material, #134-141 forming the “In Brief” section that summarizes the preceding Article 3 on Sacred Scripture.  That said, however, we are not left without some significant insights into what the Bible means to the Church and Her members and indeed some strong and all too frequently ignored directions pointed at each and every parish and every Catholic out there.

Paragraph 132 leaves no real question as to what it expects out of parishes and parish Priests (and, yes, Deacons too).  Quoting Dei Verbum #24 it states:

“Therefore, the ‘study of the sacred page’ should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too—pastoral preaching, catechetics, and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place—is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture.”

I love the term used here – “the very soul of sacred theology“.  The study of the sacred page is not just another tool in the toolbox for people who want to learn about God or even for people who are preparing to preach or teach – it is the soul of the work undertaken.  Now I’m going to be honest here, I’ve lost count of the number of homilies I’ve heard that once started never refer back to the text just proclaimed or at most touch on it only as a way to talk about something that quickly becomes entirely unrelated.  If we say that when the soul leaves the body it is death, what does it say for the body of preaching that is separated from the sacred page?  This paragraph is one that ought to be contemplated deeply by anyone preaching or teaching.

That’s not to leave the rest of us off the hook, however, as the quote says “theology” not just preaching and teaching.  We are all called to “do theology”, to the study of God.  If the soul of preaching and teaching is the study of the sacred page, it is no less so the soul of our own coming to know God.  He has chosen to share with us His most intimate thoughts and plans in book form – if we are to know and love Him, the most direct route is laid before us in those words.  Commentaries, studies, the writings of Saints and theologians are all useful and necessary tools in this endeavor so that we might understand what is meant by the words we read, but they alone cannot replace study of the Word itself.

I also, at the risk of running a little too long, want to look just briefly at Paragraph 131.  Quoting Dei Verbum #21, it states in part:

And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting font of spiritual life.

The reason this struck me involves a very short story.  A few years ago I was chatting with our parish Evangelist (who now runs the wonderful Splendor of Truth Ministries) and he mentioned his amazement at how successful his classes on the different parts of the Bible had been – far outpacing any expectation.  I told him that in all humility he had to understand two things: first, that he is an incredibly gifted speaker (so if you’re in the area for one of his classes, run don’t walk to get to it) but even moreso that Catholics seem to have an innate understanding both of the importance of Scripture in their lives and how very much they don’t know about it.  You can wax poetic on philosophy, theology, morality, social justice, and some people will come; but give a class that really teaches about the Bible and you’ll have to find more chairs.  Parishes, men’s and women’s groups, and any other organizations out there looking to help people come to know and love God – just think about what that implies.  Find a way to make Scripture better known and better understood and you will find people coming from all over to join in.  Maybe you’ll even have to move to a bigger room, and that’s a problem everyone would like to have.


Catechism Project, #120-130

I think if I were to summarize this section in one phrase it would be, “remember always the unity of Scripture”.  While some may think the canon (i.e. the defined list of books) of the Catholic Bible was first set at the Council of Trent it in fact traces back all the way to the Council of Rome in 382.  We find the canon delineated for us in Paragraph 120.  That kind of misunderstanding seems to be a recurring theme – that Councils or Popes define something new for belief that was never thought of before.  The reality, however, is precisely the opposite – Councils and Popes codify that which is already believed so as to prevent confusion and confute error.

After this we are reminded not once but twice (in Paragraphs 121 and 123) of the importance of the Old Testament.  To me, at least, it is still amazing that after all this time the Marcionist heresy still makes its rounds, but Paragraph 123 states the continued validity and importance of the Old Testament forcefully, “The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void.”  We’ll hear about this in another distorted way from the New Atheists who will cheerily chime in with erudite observations as, “you shouldn’t be eating pork or shellfish either”.  That fundamentally is not how the Church understands the continued validity of the Old Testament.

Indeed I would say that the New Testament is virtually impossible to understand to any great depth without some attention paid to the Old and, truthfully, the Old Testament only begins to truly make sense when read in concert with the New. “Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen.” (Paragraph 129)  We do not read lines or paragraphs or chapters or even whole books in isolation but rather take the entirety as the organic whole that it is.  Only in this way can you properly understand what God is trying to tell you through His Word given to us down through history.  As Augustine once heard, “tolle lege” – “take up and read”.


Welcome Back

So, yeah, it’s been a long time since I’ve been blogging at anything approaching a consistent rate, but as it’s now the first Sunday of Advent and thus the first day of our liturgical New Year I think this is an excellent time to try to reboot once more.  (Hey, if it works for Windows…)  I’ve made a commitment to restart the Catechism Project as well, but today I spent almost all of my available time updating the blog bits to WordPress 4.0.1 and Thesis 2.1.9 – the move from Thesis 1.8 to 2.1 was far more work than someone like me should probably do, so please do let me know what I’ve missed and forgotten, I’m sure the list will be long and (relatively) important.  If nothing else, this project has spurred me to start a class on HTML and CSS at Khan Academy – things have changed just a little bit since I learned how to edit HTML manually in vi lo those many years ago.

I hope to be able to post earlier in the day than I have in the past, which might just mean scheduling the posts for the next morning so they don’t get lost in the reader list quite as easily.  For now, perhaps a look back through what I’ve managed to cover in the Catechism so far would be good as that will get moving in earnest tomorrow.  This should be fun. 🙂


Dominicans + Rosary = Win

With a hat tip to Father Z.


The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Murillo

Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Murillo

Even though it has been overrun in the past few decades with rampant commercialism and a thick layer of kitsch the world still seems to recognize that there is something special about the Nativity of Our Lord.  Today’s feast of the Nativity of his Mother is a subtle reminder that even miracles take place in a context, at a specific time and at a particular point in history.  Before Jesus could be born He had to be conceived.  Before He could be conceived His Mother had to give her consent.  Before she could give her consent she, too, had to be born.

Perhaps in the midst of all that’s whirling around us these days, in the tumult of what we’re told are simply unprecedented times, this Feast can remind us that God not only has a plan but His plan has been in the works from the beginning of time.  Today is a very good day to pray for the grace to trust in God’s plan and when we hear His invitation to us to follow down a path we know not, to utter with Mary, “fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” – “be it done unto me according to your word“.



…man and society inevitably become dehumanized.  His laws were established for the protection and preservation of that human nature by means of which the individual is to find his personal dignity and reach the goal for which he has been created.

With the evidence of these bitter fruits before our eyes, we Christians must respond generously to the call we have received from God to be salt and light wherever we may be, however limited might appear the field of activity in which we live our lives.  We must show by our deeds that the world is more human, more cheerful, more honest, cleaner, the closer it is to God.  Life is the more worth living the more deeply it is penetrated by the light of Christ. — Fr. Francis Carvajal, In Conversation with God

Even though it was originally written in the long ago year of 1987 the facts and the situation largely remain exactly the same:  the world seeks to put away God and in the process does great harm to itself and anyone caught in its keepcalmandpraywake.  Meanwhile, well-meaning Christians everywhere find themselves frozen at the immensity of the corruption in the world and dazzled at the array of possible ways to help address it.  Fr. Carvajal here also gives the immemorial response – live your life well, solve the problems around you, and trust in God to take care of the rest.  Others currently under the sway of the world will eventually see your example and be intrigued by the calmness with which you make your way through the riptides of the world.  St. Pio famously said, “pray, hope and don’t worry” – in a world so full of worry that example will shine like a beacon.

And, yeah, I need to follow my own statement a lot better too…

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Five questions from my morning Rosary

I’ll admit it right up front – I’m not the best when it comes to praying the Rosary.  Try, try, try as I might, many days I find myself at the fifth, sixth, eighth Hail Mary and realizing I haven’t contemplated the current Mystery at all.  (If you can see me typing with my head hung a bit in shame, that’d be pretty accurate.)   Sometimes I’ll really get right in that prayer groove – you know the one, where everything else melts away and the object of your contemplation is the only thing in your mind and it becomes so real you can almost touch it.  Then…


Go ahead.  Tell me that’s never happened to you.

Anyway, this morning I could tell it was going to be one of those days.  Even as I could feel the first Mystery fading out of my mind I heard, “Fiat.  Do you trust Me that much?”  Yeah, um, that one kinda hurt.  God has good aim like that.  Every subsequent Mystery was like that as well.

Do you love enough to put everything aside to help another?

Do you offer Me your best, as the wise men did after My birth?

Will you stay with me through the glory and the cross?

Do you know where I am always, or do you look for Me in all the wrong places?

I’m sure many theologians and saints over the centuries have had far deeper experiences in the Rosary, but that was mine.  Even in the midst of my distractions God was able to break through and whisper questions that, to be honest, still haunt my thoughts.  I hope and pray that over time my answers to each of those questions improves.  Has God ever whispered in the ear of your heart?  What did He say?