For this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict has encouraged you to study and reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Well, here’s an easy way to do it. Simply subscribe to this List and – starting October 11, 2012 – you’ll start getting a little bit of the Catechism emailed to you every morning. Read that little bit every day and you’ll read the whole catechism in a year.
By Abby Bloom Esposito
Just before we leave the house to run our daily errands my 4-year-old daughter Nyelli finds her sparkly handbag. She fills it with anything in close proximity: a handful of crayons, vanilla lip-gloss, and a spray of dried Gingko Biloba leaves we found on our walk that morning.
She plops her feet into pink cowgirl boots. Right foot on left, left foot on right. I don’t have the heart to tell her of her mistake. I quietly savor the tender image of tiny feet walking with toes out.
Dressed in sparkles, she leaps out the door, “Let’s do this day!”
We arrive at the Cancer Center. Nyelli takes a mint from the basket at the front desk and sneaks another into her purse when she thinks I’m not looking.
She informs Sandy, the receptionist, that she will be starting school soon. Sandy smiles and offers Nyelli a mint “for the road”. She thrusts the third into her purse next to the crayons and Gingko leaves.
We proceed back to the “Infusion room” where my husband Roddy is receiving his Chemotherapy treatment.
Nyelli knows the rules, past the colorful carpet we have to be on our best behavior. But she sneaks in a few somersaults before we get there. Her pink tutu flops up to her shoulder as she rolls and rolls and rolls down the hall. I know I should correct her, but all the nurses smile… so I don’t.
As we come to the entrance, Nyelli’s demeanor changes. Walking with her hands at her side she speaks in low tones and minds her manners.
She is regal. I feel proud to be her mother.
The infusion room is filled with patients receiving Chemotherapy. Some are wrapped in blankets, some having lunch while others rest with pained looks on their faces.
Nyelli smiles at people who smile at her.
When she finds Roddy, she climbs up next to him in his chair. She asks him about the medicine and strokes his tired face.
It was no place for a child. I know this. A Nurse once criticized me for bringing her to the treatment center, but I knew he was going to be sick, lose his hair, and be down. I wanted her to a have a frame of reference with which to relate his condition, so I brought her with me to visit…it was a choice I made. I stand by it.
As well as she handled Cancer; I know she has been affected by it.
The presence of her imaginary friend named Puss in Boots seemed to have become more and more prevalent while Roddy was sick. Puss came with us everywhere and had his own car seat next to hers.
She informed me that he was a songwriter in San Diego and wrote a song called “Rock and Roll down the Stream”.
(She plays the Tuba in his band.)
She told me that if she had boots like Puss, people would say that she was a “very fine lady to see.”
(Where does she get this beautiful stuff?)
The only time Nyelli cried was when Roddy came home from work without hair. It had happened suddenly and caught us all off guard.
She had never seen him without a beard and I suppose he just didn’t look like Dad anymore.
When he sat on the couch to be with her, she turned her head and wouldn’t look at him. She went in the other room and felt scared and cried.
I went in and got her. I took her back to Roddy.
I remember him swallowing back his own tears as he reassured Ny that it was just hair and that it would grow back soon. She lay in his arms until she was sure that he was the same Daddy. She patted his shoulder and they lay like that until dinnertime.
The Vocation of motherhood has been a blessing to me. It has given me something to protect…a constant to attend to during these tempestuous times.
But, there is only so much pain that we can absorb on behalf of the ones we love. In our family we leave the rest up to prayer and Gods goodness.
I am grateful for the abundant graces that have preserved my daughters innocence during this very difficult time.
I marvel at the little girl she has become and regardless of the boots I say that she is already a “very fine lady to see!”
END OF POST
By Dr Peter Kreeft
Machiavelli – inventor of “the new morality”
We need to talk about “enemies” of the faith because the life of faith is a real war. So say all the prophets, Apostles, martyrs and our Lord Himself.
Yet, we try to avoid talking about enemies. Why?
Partly because of our fear of confusing spiritual with material enemies; of hating the sinner along with the sin; of forgetting that “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12).
But that fear is more unfounded today than ever in the past. No age has been more suspicious of militarism, more terrified of the horrors of physical war, than ours. And no age has been more prone to confuse the sin with the sinner, not by hating the sinner along with the sin but by loving the sin along with the sinner. We often use “compassion” as an equivalent for moral relativism.
We’re also soft. We don’t like to fight because fighting means suffering and sacrifice. War may not quite be hell, but it’s damned uncomfortable. And anyway, we’re not sure there’s anything worth fighting for. Perhaps we lack courage because we lack a reason for courage.
This is how we think as moderns, but not as Catholics. As Catholics we know life is spiritual warfare and that there are spiritual enemies. Once we admit that, the next step follows inevitably. It is essential in warfare to know your enemy. Otherwise, his spies pass by undetected. So this series is devoted to knowing our spiritual enemies in the struggle for the modern heart. We’ll discuss six modern thinkers who’ve had an enormous impact on our everyday life. They have also done great harm to the Christian mind.
Their names: Machiavelli, the inventor of “the new morality”; Kant, the subjectivizer of Truth; Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed “Anti-Christ”; Freud, the founder of the “sexual revolution”; Marx, the false Moses for the masses; and Sartre, the apostle of absurdity.
Niccolo Machiavelli (1496-1527) was the founder of modern political and social philosophy, and seldom in the history of thought has there been a more total revolution. Machiavelli knew how radical he was. He compared his work to Columbus’ as the discoverer of a new world, and to Moses’ as the leader of a new chosen people who would exit the slavery of moral ideas into a new promised land of power and practicality.
Machiavelli’s revolution can be summarized in six points.
For all previous social thinkers, the goal of political life was virtue. A good society was conceived as one in which people are good. There was no “double standard” between individual and social goodness-until Machiavelli. With him, politics became no longer the art of the good but the art of the possible. His influence on this point was enormous. All major social and political philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Dewey) subsequently rejected the goal of virtue, just as Machiavelli lowered the standard and nearly everyone began to salute the newly masted flag.
Machiavelli’s argument was that traditional morals were like the stars; beautiful but too distant to cast any useful light on our earthly path. We need instead man-made lanterns; in other words, attainable goals. We must take our bearings from the earth, not from the heavens; from what men and societies actually do, not from what they ought to do.
The essence of Machiavelli’s revolution was to judge the ideal by the actual rather than the actual by the ideal. An ideal is good for him, only if it is practical; thus, Machiavelli is the father of pragmatism. Not only does “the end justify the means” — any means that work — but the means even justify the end, in the sense that an end is worth pursuing only if there are practical means to attain it. In other words, the new summum bonum, or greatest good is success. (Machiavelli sounds like not only the first pragmatist but the first American pragmatist!)
Machiavelli didn’t just lower the moral standards; he abolished them. More than a pragmatist, he was an anti-moralist. The only relevance he saw morality having to success was to stand in its way. He taught that it was necessary for a successful prince “to learn how not to be good (“The Prince, ch. 15), how to break promises, to lie and cheat and steal (ch. 18).
Because of such shameless views, some of Machiavelli’s contemporaries saw “The Prince” as a book literally inspired by the devil. But modern scholars usually see it as drawn from science. They defend Machiavelli by claiming that he did not deny morality, but simply wrote a book about another subject, about what is rather than about what ought to be. They even praise him for his lack of hypocrisy, implying that moralism equals hypocrisy.
This is the common, modern misunderstanding of hypocrisy as not practicing what you preach. In that sense all men are hypocrites unless they stop preaching. Matthew Arnold defined hypocrisy as “the tribute vice pays to virtue.” Machiavelli was the first to refuse to pay even that tribute. He overcame hypocrisy not by raising practice to the level of preaching but of lowering preaching to the level of practice, by conforming the ideal to the real rather than the real to the ideal.
In fact, he really preaches: “Poppa, don’t preach!”-like the recent rock song. Can you imagine Moses saying, “Poppa, don’t preach!” to God on Mount Sinai? Or Mary to the angel? Or Christ in Gethsemane, instead of “Father, not my will but thine be done”? If you can, you are imagining hell, because our hope of heaven depends on those people having said to God, “Poppa, do preach!”
Actually, we have misdefined “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is not the failure to practice what you preach but the failure to believe it. Hypocrisy is propaganda.
By this definition Machiavelli was almost the inventor of hypocrisy, for he was almost the inventor of propaganda. He was the first philosopher who hoped to convert the whole world through propaganda.
He saw his life as a spiritual warfare against the Church and its propaganda. He believed that every religion was a piece of propaganda whose influence lasted between 1,666 and 3,000 years. And he thought Christianity would end long before the world did, probably around the year 1666, destroyed either by barbarian invasions from the East (what is now Russia) or by a softening and weakening of the Christian West from within, or both. His allies were all lukewarm Christians who loved their earthly fatherland more than heaven, Caesar more than Christ, social success more than virtue. To them he addressed his propaganda. Total candor about his ends would have been unworkable, and confessed atheism fatal, so he was careful to avoid explicit heresy. But his was the destruction of “the Catholic fake” and his means was aggressive secularist propaganda. (One might argue, perhaps peevishly, that he was the father of the modern media establishment.)
He discovered that two tools were needed to command men’s behavior and thus to control human history: the pen and the sword, propaganda and arms. Thus both minds and bodies could be dominated, and domination was his goal. He saw all of human life and history as determined by only two forces: virtu (force) and fortuna (chance). The simple formula for success was the maximization of virtu and the minimization of fortuna. He ends “The Prince” with this shocking image: “Fortune is a woman, and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her” (ch. 25). In other words, the secret of success is a kind of rape.
For the goal of control, arms are needed as well as propaganda, and Machiavelli is a hawk. He believed that “you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow” (ch. 12). In other words justice “comes out of a barrel of a gun,” to adapt Mao Tse-tung’s phrase. Machiavelli believed that “all armed prophets have conquered and unarmed prophets have come to grief” (ch. 6). Moses, then, must have used arms which, the Bible failed to report; Jesus, the supreme unarmed prophet, came to grief; He was crucified and not resurrected. But His message conquered the world through propaganda, through intellectual arms. This was the war Machiavelli set out to fight.
Social relativism also emerged from Machiavelli’s philosophy. He recognized no laws above those of different societies and since these laws and societies originated in force rather than morality, the consequence is that morality is based on immorality. The argument went like this: Morality can only come from society, since there is no God and no God-given universal natural moral law. But every society originated in some revolution or violence. Roman society, e.g., the origin of Roman law, itself originated with Romulus’ murder of his brother Remus. All human history begins with Cain’s murder of Abel. Therefore, the foundation of law is lawlessness. The foundation of morality is immorality.
The argument is only as strong as its first premise, which-like all sociological relativism, including that which dominates the minds of writers and readers of nearly all sociology textbooks today-is really implicit atheism.
Machiavelli criticized Christian and classical ideals of charity by a similar argument. He asked: How do you get the goods you give away? By selfish competition. All goods are gotten at another’s expense: If my slice of the pie is so much more, others’ must be that much less. Thus unselfishness depends on selfishness.
The argument presupposes materialism, for spiritual goods do not diminish when shared or given away, and do not deprive another when I acquire them. The more money I get, the less you have and the more I give away, the less I have. But love, truth, friendship and wisdom increase rather than decrease when shared. The materialist simply does not see this, or care about it.
Machiavelli believed we are all inherently selfish. There was for him no such thing as an innate conscience or moral instinct. So the only way to make men behave morally was by force, in fact totalitarian force, to compel them to act contrary to their nature. The origins of modern totalitarianism also go back to Machiavelli.
If a man is inherently selfish, then only fear and not love can effectively move him. Thus Machiavelli wrote, “It is far better to be feared than loved…[for] men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared. The bond of love is one which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so, but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective” (ch. 17).
The most amazing thing about this brutal philosophy is that it won the modern mind, though only by watering down or covering up its darker aspects. Machiavelli’s successors toned down his attack on morality and religion, but they did not return to the idea of a personal God or objective and absolute morality as the foundation of society. Machiavelli’s narrowing down came to appear as a widening out. He simply lopped off the top story of the building of life; no God, only man; no soul, only body; no spirit, only matter; no ought, only is. Yet this squashed building appeared (through propaganda) as a Tower of Babel, this confinement appeared as a liberation from the “confinements” of traditional morality, like taking your belt out a notch.
Satan is not fairy tale; he is a brilliant strategist and psychologist and he is utterly real. Machiavelli’s line of argument is one of Satan’s most successful lies to this day. Whenever we are tempted, he is using this lie to make evil appear as good and desirable; to make his slavery appear as freedom and “the glorious freedom of the sons of God” appear as slavery. The “Father of Lies” loves to tell not little lies but The Big Lie, to turn the truth upside down. And he gets away with it-unless we blow the cover of the Enemy’s spies.
“Something about this (Just Faith) material is really bothering me. I don‟t know why, but I am disturbed and irritated when reading it…”
That’s because the (Just Faith) material presented is toxic and poisonous to both faith and the full authentic social teachings of the Catholic Church… Get the facts:
END OF POST/HAT TIP: John 2: 24-25
VISIT THE SOURCE: Catholic Culture
Intimations of Immortality
by Dr. Jeff Mirus
When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, my world was a Christian world, at least nominally. My earliest efforts at apologetics were all designed to explain the “oddities” of the Catholic Faith to Protestants, and to show why their version of certain Christian ideas was wrong while the Catholic version was right. Since then much has changed. Now we are just as likely to be starting from scratch with people who don’t accept any version of Christianity, or perhaps any serious version of God either.
So from time to time we may profit from reviewing some of the reasons people ought to be interested in God, and especially interested in seeking a revelation from God that can set us on the right path. While people are often brought to a serious examination of the existence of God and the truth of the Christian Faith through personal experiences—whether tragic or triumphant—there are also some intellectual starting points that can get us wondering about these things. I’ll briefly review four of them here.
Our Own Sense of Continuation
There are several indicators of the existence of an immaterial, intellective soul that is necessarily immortal, but the one that impacts us most is simply our own sense of identity and our continuation in that identity. There is no evidence that any other creature has such a sense, that any other bodily creature understands itself as a unique individual with an identity which “ought” to continue beyond the vicissitudes of this earthly life. And no other creature manifests anything like a religious sense.
It is otherwise with us. No matter what age we are, no matter how many changes and struggles we’ve lived through, no matter how many times our cells have died and been replaced in the constant cycle of growth and decay, we still think of ourselves as “ourselves”. I look out from a 62 year-old body feeling exactly like the same “me” who was once fifteen. I am astonished that I should be old, and that life should be drawing inexorably to its close. This is unfathomable; it is a contradiction of everything I instinctively feel about myself. I cannot imagine my own non-existence. I cannot imagine a time when I will be unable to reflect on myself, on who I am. So it is with every man and woman who has ever lived.
Ralph McInerny, in his memoir of his life at Notre Dame (see I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You) makes the telling statement that even after his beloved wife of 50 years died he went on each day feeling immortal. That captures what it means to be human very well. We expect to continue as ourselves, and this leads us inescapably to ponder whether we have a persistent spiritual identity capable of transcending our current bodily existence. This in turn opens our minds to a spiritual world, and to the possibility of a God who is the very ground of our being. As the expression goes, nature abhors a vacuum. If we instinctively expect continuation, yearn for continuation, and seek continuation, then this is reason enough to presume that we will continue, and to examine carefully the question of whether in fact what our instincts tell us is so, and how this can be.
Our Perception of the World
Another profitable line of thought which is very near to us arises from our normal reactions to the world around us. There are at least two questions concerning our experience of the world which strike most of us fairly forcefully in a rather philosophical way. The first is the question of where it all came from. Ultimately, the human mind is not satisfied with the idea that the universe is eternal (which is far harder to believe than that an eternal God created it, given that everything we know about the material world suggests that it is contingent). Nor are we satisfied with the idea that the universe “just happened”, a concept which makes no logical sense to anyone who can think his way out of a paper bag.
It is not even too much to say, I think, that the human mind tends to be unsatisfied with the notion that the world could have evolved randomly from some primordial chemicals without any teleology (or tendency toward an end) having been built into it from the beginning. On the one hand, pure atheistic evolutionism simply pushes the God question beneath a few more layers of cosmic dust. On the other, the imagination has to stretch farther to see the plausibility of atheistic evolutionary theory than it does to see the plausibility of an uncaused Cause. We don’t claim to be able to encompass the Cause in our minds; but logic drives us to assume Its existence. Thus the questions “Where did this come from?” and “How was it designed?” set both the human mind and the human heart to work.
The other obvious question is why, in such a highly ordered universe, so many things are out of sync. How is it that the law of the jungle rules the beasts, that natural disasters occur, that men mistreat each other, that we lack so much in equality, justice and peace? No sooner does our experience of reality enable us to see how things are supposed to work than it shows us the proverbial sticky wicket. It is almost as if something that began flawlessly has somehow been broken, but we don’t see how. In Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton explains that the doctrine of Original Sin fit his experience of reality perfectly, and Blessed John Henry Newman saw things exactly the same way. We anticipate in this Christian doctrine the answer to the question, but the question itself should at least prompt us to seek an answer.
Our Sense of Justice
In An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, Newman also offered a third line of thought, a highly developed argument based on the personal conscience (see Newman’s Final Argument). It is a universal experience, Newman rightly states, that we instinctively apprehend a difference between right and wrong; we also apprehend that we are under an obligation to do what is right, and we sense strongly that we will be subject to some sort of judgment on this score. Very few indeed are those who have never entertained such thoughts, or who manage to keep them at bay so continually as to forget them altogether.
At the same time, we cannot escape the observation that what is right is very frequently ignored, and that justice in this world is so imperfect as often to be laughable. Too often justice is a standard to which men are more likely to hold others than themselves, yet it remains a standard all the same, and people very typically look forward to a harmonious day when perfect justice will be achieved. Some, it is true, have sought this perfect justice through utopian schemes, and have ended by attempting (unjustly!) to effect it by force. But many, many more have thought it likely that the imbalances of this life would be redressed in another life. If we find ourselves with an outraged sense of justice then, and if nature really does abhor a vacuum, we must be made for a time and place when justice will be done.
Now a sense of right and wrong presumes some sort of law, which in turn presumes a lawgiver; and a judgment rather obviously demands a judge. This realization actually suggests two parallel lines of thought. First, it reinforces the idea that there must exist a God who somehow represents the Good and cares enough to punish those who violate it. Second, it leads us to a near-certainty that such a Judge would certainly wish to reveal Himself so that we should know clearly what He approves and what He abhors. In other words, the argument from conscience points directly at Revelation. It leads us naturally to inquire whether such a revelation has, in fact, been made.
Though destined for universal acceptance, Christ entered the world at a particular time in history; His person, His preaching, and His works impress themselves upon the minds of men now at one time and now at another. It cannot be said that every human person, in his lifetime here on earth, will have heard about Jesus Christ. For many, indeed, He would be the end of a sincere search for revelation, if they could but know Him. But not all have known Him; not all, through ordinary human means at least, can know Him.
Nonetheless, a great many have now heard of Him, or have the opportunity of hearing of Him if they are in fact sincerely searching for God and His Revelation—as their consciences and personal reflections naturally lead them to do. For it is again a universal experience of the human mind (unless a man is in proud rebellion or has been carefully taught to the contrary) that one would expect to find a revelation from God precisely in that realm of activity which deals with God most directly, namely religion. And so one who has not already found this revelation ought to be spending some reasonable amount of time and energy in examing the different religions on offer throughout the world.
Now in thus canvassing the various religions, great and small, which vie for our allegiance, it becomes evident that very few claim to be based on a divine revelation, as opposed to the mere insights of their founders. And of those which claim a divine revelation, even fewer (exactly two, Judaism and Christianity) claim to be based on a revelation which was objectively validated by wonders that God alone could perform. Of these two, one claims to be the fulfillment of the other, and its founder is said to have risen from the dead—a claim as arresting as it is unique, and a claim also supported by a considerable historical testimony. My point is simply this: Someone who sincerely seeks answers, and who has heard the claims made on behalf of Jesus Christ, truly owes it to himself to take a closer look.
The Big Picture
The larger issue here is that too often atheists and agnostics dismiss believers by arguing that the claims of religion cannot be proven absolutely, such that on rational grounds doubt becomes impossible. That is true, but it puts the shoe on the wrong foot, as if the unbeliever has no call to look into the matter unless someone first convinces him of a particular religious position. To the contrary, any person who reflects on himself, on the world around him, on the moral order, and even on what he has heard of the claims of Christianity ought to be very serious about exploring and answering the God question. He certainly ought not to seek to ignore it, to isolate himself from its influence, or to heap scorn on those who do not give up so easily. Inquiring minds—which are the very best minds and the only responsible minds—really do want to know.
END OF POST
A Woman Pope is not coming…
This past week the Vatican announced changes made last May to procedures for dealing with what it calls “exceptionally serious crimes”. The revised list addressed serious crimes (graviora delicta) directed against both morals and the celebration of sacraments. Certain dissident groups within the Catholic Church having long sought the ordination of women–a serious abuse concerning the celebration of sacraments–were angered that the attempted ordination of women would be set on par with the moral crime of pedophilia. This wasn’t the case. But, it was an opportunity to gain some badly needed press for their long-frustrated and empty cause.
Most of the fringe press releases following the Vatican’s annoucement were filled with the same-old angry diatribes directed against “those mean old patriarchal types and the institutional church”, but at least one clever fellow was creative in his own criticisms–Although clear proof before both God and man that Catholics should never, ever, sing Negro spirituals…
For an accurate report on the Vatican annoucement: [CLICK HERE]
Hat Tip to Fr. Z at WDTPRS
END OF POST
Think, Dutch Catechism…
A CATHOLIC priest in the Netherlands who held an orange-themed Mass in support of the national soccer team before last weekend’s World Cup final has reportedly been suspended.
The Reverend Paul Vlaar wore an orange robe and decked out his church in orange before Sunday’s match against Spain, the BBC reported.
He even acted as a goalkeeper as a parishioner kicked a soccer ball down the aisle.
Footage of the unique service in the village of Obdam north of Amsterdam was seen around the globe after making it on to YouTube.
Bishop of Haarlem Jozef Punt was not impressed however, saying it had not paid sufficient respect to the sacred nature of the Eucharist.
In a statement, he said the service had “caused outrage” in the Netherlands and overseas, and he ordered Vlaar to enter “a period of reflection”.
The Netherlands lost the World Cup final one-nil in extra-time to Spain.
This from the fine blog In Caelo et in Terra who broke the story:
The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam has published a statement regarding Father Paul Vlaar and his World Cup Mass, about which I wrote a few days ago. Here is my translation:
On Sunday 11 July, Pastor Paul Vlaar of Obdam celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the spirit of the Football World Cup, wearing an orange chasuble, and did insufficient justice, in text and form, to the sanctity of the Eucharist. The footage of this has caused indignation among faithful here and abroad.
In the past the bishop had impressed upon Fr Vlaar not to mix the Holy Eucharist with profane events. The pastor has said to fully support this and promised to abide. The pastor’s pastoral zeal and commitment are not under discussion.
Following this new incident the bishop again met with Fr. Vlaar, imposed an immediate time of reflection on him and relieved him of his priestly duties for the time being. Things will once again be considered at a later date.
The situation created by the ‘orange Mass’ was a difficult and painful one for many people. The comments in my blog reflected that. I am glad to see that Bishop Punt made the best decision at this time. Change must ideally not be imposed from Rome, but must come from the person in question. A time of reflection allows for that.
Let’s keep Fr. Vlaar in our prayers, that his time of reflection may be fruitful.
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