7 Quick Takes Friday (set #147)

A beautiful, vibrant church may be crushed. An amazingly evil abortion bill is proposed and solidly supported by 1 easily identifiable group. Many presidents from both parties have spoken on their Christian faith in the past, here is one. A black man rants about Ferguson, but from a different perspective than many. Antisemitism is the only explanation for the 1-sided support of Palestine (Hamas). Two good analysis videos are offered. The quality of Hamas staged scenes is slipping (the world will likely lap it up anyway).

— 1 —

The beautiful Holy Innocents church in New York City may be closed. It is vibrant, growing, self-sustaining and the only daily traditional Latin Mass available. I suspect it is that last fact which endangers it as no other credible reason has been offered. Take a look, this is brief:

Please consider signing this respectful petition to Cardinal Dolan.

— 2 —

ATTENTION DEMOCRATS: every voting Senate Democrat voted for S. 1696 last month. It was one of the most radical abortion bills ever before them. Its purpose was to, in one sweeping gesture, wipe out almost every pro-life law passed by states. We are talking about laws requiring informed consent, restricting partial-birth abortion, medical safety standards and use of public funds. They called it the Women’s Health Protection Act but a better name would have been the Gosnell Prerogative Act or The Real War on Women Act. Every single Democratic senator who voted (51 – only 1 did not vote) voted for this:

These are not evil people. Many are very nice, responsive to their constituents and support responsible government programs. Yet, when it comes to killing children in the womb, they can be counted on to support the most egregious proposals put before them. The people are not evil but their actions are extremely so. NOTHING trumps life. Will you vote for people who do everything in their power to make this possible?

— 3 —

A president speaks from the heart on Christian faith:

Real hope and change, not what we have now.

— 4 —

An angry black man speaks about Ferguson, MO and the sorry state of black America.

— 5 —

Why are so many people protesting against Israel with so much anger, while nary a peep is heard against Muslims anywhere?

— 6 —

The quality of Hamas staged scenes is slipping. Here we have a display of victims of “Israeli aggression” upon the innocent and peace loving people of Palestine. The martyred are lying in an impressive display in their burial shrouds:

— 7 —

The hypocrisy surrounding the Hamas attack on Israel is incredible. Do people really not know any of the history? Do they even care about truth? Here, Pat Condell gives a good summary of the big picture which somehow is being completely hidden:

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

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Priest or Christ?

Hamburgers do not have ham. English muffins are not. Strangely, an alarm goes off when it is on. Language can be very misleading indeed. As a convert, I noticed that Catholicism has added to this list a good bit!

One rich area of saying one thing while meaning another is on the role the priest fulfills in the sacraments. We say things like:

  • The priest absolved my sins in confession.
  • Father Joe confected the Eucharist at Mass.
  • They were married on Saturday by Father Paul.

Strictly speaking, it is not the priest who absolves your sins or who confects the Eucharist. He does not have the power, but he does stand-in for Christ who most certainly does. By virtue of Holy Orders, passed in an unbroken chain directly from Christ Himself (apostolic succession), priests are uniquely configured to the one High Priest. It is Jesus who, in these examples, absolves our sins and transubstantiates ordinary bread and wine into His Body and most Precious Blood.

“Stand-in” is not the best way to describe the priest’s role. More precisely we say that he is acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). He is, to put it another way, acting sacramentally for Christ (“another Christ” or alter Christus) from whom sanctifying grace is conferred. It is Christ and His power at work, through His ministerial priesthood (we are all in His common priesthood via our baptisms).

The distinction is important. Consider a confession where the penitent knowingly omits a mortal sin (a/k/a a “bad confession”). The priest, if given no reason to suspect this, will say the words of absolution. Never-the-less, the sins are NOT absolved and the penitent remains in a state of mortal sin. Priests can be deceived, Christ can not. The priest acts for, not in replacement of, Christ.

The traditional words of absolution were actually clearer than the current formula:

May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Thereupon, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My third example (marriage) is a tricky one. In this case, the priest is not the minister of the sacrament – just a witness. It is the couple themselves who are the ministers…   even if they are not Catholic. Barring impediments, every validly baptized man and woman enter into a sacramental marriage (whether they realize it or not).

Back to my main point, when a non-Catholic says only Christ, no man, can forgive sins they are correct. It is Christ working in the confessional who absolves our sins, doing so through the ministerial priesthood He commissioned and ordained.

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The Narrow Gate

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

As I look at the world today, it’s easy to understand Jesus’ warning above. So many want to believe, and would have others believe, that they are the chosen ones, the spiritual ones, God’s elect. However, many of them do not follow the path that Jesus has laid out before us. They refuse to accept the hardship and difficulty of finding the narrow gate. Even if they should stumble upon it, they lack the spiritual strength to enter through it.

Making it to church on Sunday and living the rest of the week for themselves is not the answer, yet many follow that pattern. They trot out their “Sunday Best,” not only in clothes, but also in spirituality, and then put their Christianity back in the closet with their suits and finery until the next Sunday. Some don’t even wait until Mass has ended to slip out the doors and get back to their own lives. If they can’t even devout one hour to God on Sunday, why should they expect that God will be welcoming them with open arms? What other relationship could grow and flourish if ignored the way many ignore their relationship with God? Imagine trying to sustain a marriage by devoting an hour a week to it and living the rest of the week selfishly and without concern for your spouse. Your marriage would fall apart very quickly. So will your relationship with God if you aren’t willing to devote the time necessary to make it grow and flourish.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:31-39)

Once again we are told that there will be difficulties to overcome if we are to follow Jesus. If we will only look around, we see that Jesus’ words are very true in many lives today. How many of us have relatives who refuse Christianity and live their lives in sin? How many of us have the courage to confront them? That’s what Jesus was telling us He came to do; to turn us against our own family if necessary in order to serve and follow Him. A very hard teaching that few put into practice. There used to be shame in our society. When someone chose to ignore morality and live in sin, there was a price to pay. Even their own families would shame them and, in some cases, refuse to consider them a part of their family as long as they continued to live in sin. That shame is practically non-existent in society today.

Jesus tells us that we must love Him more than our earthly family. Members of our family may turn from God. Our son or our daughter may live a sinful life. Our brother or sister may be living in a sinful relationship. If we truly love Jesus and wish to follow Him, we must be willing to confront those persons and, with great love and tenderness, gently point out their sinfulness.

Our family should also extend to those people with whom we associate and, in a larger sense, to society at large. Sadly, our society has reached a level of decadence that threatens all of us in its sinfulness. Acts that would have brought shame and the reproach of others are ignored, while those who truly practice their Christianity are under attack from every corner. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear or read of the death of an innocent at the hands of someone who simply has no regard for human life. Kids enter schools and kill other kids; children shoot total strangers out of boredom. Girls and women are drugged and raped and it’s passed off as “date rape” and almost snickered at rather than condemned. We have failed miserably to instill respect for others in our younger generation. If fact we’ve taught them that life isn’t sacred if it’s inconvenient. Through abortion and assisted suicide we’ve taught our children that an innocent in the womb or an elderly in a nursing home is of no value. They can be discarded along with the with the trash if they are an inconvenience. We offer no choice to the unborn; how long will it be until we no longer give the choice to the elderly or the infirm. Are we to decide whose life is of value and whose isn’t? We do not give life, God does. We have no right to take innocent life. It is our responsibility as Christians to combat the sinfulness and lack of morality so common in our society today. Jesus expects that of us if we are to be His followers. He also expects that we will experience some difficulty and even rejection by those we love when we confront these issues in a Christian way. The narrow gate is not for those who refuse to live their spirituality rather than just proclaim it.

“And behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed; what do I do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure I heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:16-24)

The gospel doesn’t tell us if the young man took Jesus’ advice and sold his possessions and came back to follow Him. However, this teaching again reminds us that following Jesus will have some difficulty and discomfort to overcome. What we hold most precious on earth can rob us of the true treasure of eternal life with God. We must be willing to sacrifice those blessings God has provided without thought to their earthly worth. If we refuse to be good stewards of the gifts of God, we risk losing salvation and eternal life as well.

Thankfully, Jesus also gave us the path to salvation, “When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 16:25-26). With the help of Jesus we can turn from our earthly wants and desires and seek those things that will bring us eternal life. But He is also telling us it is not possible without God. We can’t do it alone, we must have the grace, mercy and help of God.

The path, then, requires God’s intervention. If we consider our sinfulness and weakness as Christians, we must know that our salvation isn’t the result of our efforts, but of the mercy of God. Yes, we must do those things that our Christian beliefs would require; prayer, forgiveness; loving others; sharing the blessings we have received. But if we are to enter the kingdom of God, he must invite us through His loving mercy and forgiveness. We don’t have the cost of the ticket, Jesus had to pay that price for us. Only by the intervention of God can a camel “go through the eye of a needle.”

As we have seen, Jesus gave warning to all that the way to paradise is not going to be easy. It will be hard and difficult. Many will think they are headed in the right direction, but find out too late that they have gone through the wide gate that leads to destruction. Many will start down the right path, but turn away when the going gets hard. Still others will try their best to remain on the path to the narrow gate but won’t understand that they don’t have the strength to get through the gate. Without God, it isn’t possible. But with God all things are possible. Even though we are sinful humans, incapable of obtaining salvation on our own, that promise is offered if only we turn to God for his help.

Throughout Christian history many have said, and many today, continue to say they are following the path, but few truly are. “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus told us that those who find the narrow gate are few. Even those who work miracles in His name aren’t assured of heaven if they haven’t entered through the narrow gate. How can we know which gate we are approaching? Especially in the world today, the narrow gate is not only difficult to enter, it’s hard to even find. It’s hidden among the sinfulness and secularism prevalent in today’s society. Some might think it beyond the hope of anyone to find that gate and enter the kingdom through it.

Yet, in His teaching, His parables and the guidance given to His apostles Jesus leads the way to the narrow gate. He repeatedly points out the error of those who believe they are righteous, admonishing them to change their ways before it is too late. Some did, but many ignored the warnings and will spend eternity in hell rather than heaven. Today, also, some heed His word, believe what He said, and produce good fruit. Many would have the world believe they are the faithful, righteous followers of Christ, but they ignore His word in many ways and produce no fruit. These are the ones who will be cast aside on that judgment day.

Don’t think that you aren’t capable of finding the narrow gate. Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t enter through it. Is it difficult? If we believe Jesus, the answer is yes. Is it impossible? Again, if we believe Jesus, no, it’s not impossible. We must strive to do our best while realizing that we will fail from time to time. We must recognize that we can’t earn our way into heaven, but must have the help of God to get there. He waits for us to ask; He waits to forgive us; He waits to welcome us into His kingdom.

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords.

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Elsewhere: Ecumenism and the Church of England

I have written many times about downfall of the Episcopal church. They are the American version of the Church of England (the main Anglican church). The Episcopalians have been out-front on hard-left ideology for some time while the Anglicans have been at least a little more restrained.

A big obstacle to Christian unity, at least in the hope of full communion with Rome, is the ordination of women. For us, the male only priesthood is unchangeable dogma and not open to discussion. Anglicans have “ordained” women since 1994. I put that in quotes because the Vatican has formally declared that Anglicans do not have valid holy orders (and thus any valid sacraments requiring a priest as minister). If the Church of England were to be reunited with Rome, those who would become priests would have to be validly ordained. That is possible only for males. The women could be many things in the Catholic Church, but never priests.

In July, the Church of England, via vote (being separated from the Magisterium, this is how they decide matters of faith), decided to now also “ordain” women bishops. This doubles-down on the existing situation making full communion an even more distant possibility.

William Odie, writing for the excellent UK Catholic Herald looks at the situation:

It was, of course inevitable, having ordained women to its “priesthood” that the Church of England, mother Church of the Anglican Communion, would in the end ordain women to its “episcopate” (I place the key-words in inverted commas, not to be insulting but to indicate simply that most Anglicans use the words to describe something very different indeed from our notions of priesthood and episcopacy).

The General Synod has now decided on women bishops. All the obstacles are down. The mystery was why it took them so long: in the Catholic understanding, if a person is a priest, he is, if suitable, eligible to be ordained bishop; perhaps the fact that the Anglicans thought that special legislative procedures were necessary to make such a thing possible for women is yet another theological indication of how different our ideas of what is involved in priesthood really are.

What we all, Anglicans and Catholics alike, now need to register clearly is that this brings definitively to an end any last remaining hope of ultimate corporate reunion between us. Even Cardinal Walter Kasper, as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, some time ago declared that the ordination of women to the episcopate “signified a breaking away from apostolic tradition and a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.” He also pointed to the internal disunity within Anglicanism, describing the protective legislation for those opposed to women’s ordination in the Church of England (‘flying bishops” and so on) as the “unspoken institutionalism” of an “existing schism.”

The possibility that the reunion of Canterbury and Rome might still be possible has of course become ever more and more obviously delusional as the years have gone by. But still it has been fostered not only by Anglican ecumenists (most Anglicans have always thought that our doctrinal objections were preposterous, since they think that doctrine is intrinsically divisive, and best made up as you go along) but also by our own dwindling – but highly placed – band of Catholic ecumenists of the old school.

Provincial episcopal visitors (a/k/a “flying bishops”) are assigned when an Anglican parish refuses to accept their normal, local ordinary. These bishops provide “alternative episcopal oversight” and are males who have not “ordained” women. This concession is meant, at least for the near term, to appease more traditional parishes.

The only real hope Anglicans have of full communion with the Church is via conversion, either at the parish level through Pope Benedict’s Anglican Ordinariate or individually. The Ordinariate should be a particularly attractive option, as a parish can move as a group keeping much of their Anglican patrimony while coming into full communion with the Church founded by Christ.

Read Odie’s whole piece: Now the Church of England has decided on women bishops, ARCIC III is futile. As the CDF says, it is the Ordinariate now which is “ecumenism in the front row”.

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7 Quick Takes Friday (set #146)

This week: The latest issue of New Evangelists Monthly is ready and calling you. A question on “discriminating” against homosexuals in marriage. The Chosen program’s clip on happiness (right now). A surprising quote from Richard Dawkins. A reunion makes a young dog so happy he faints. The Bell Telephone picture phone remembered. Hamas has their […]

New Evangelists Monthly – August 2014, Issue #20

This is the August 2014 issue of New Evangelists Monthly. With this announcement, participating Catholic bloggers link their best stories from last month right here at NewEvangelists.org. Revisit anytime to see up-to-the-minute posts in this dynamic format! Contributor links are accepted beginning at noon (ET). Most contributions are received in a day or two. To […]

Elsewhere: media deception on Hobby Lobby

There has been much press coverage of the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case. Unfortunately, most of it has been political activism and not journalism. That is not surprising and is to be expected. What is somewhat surprising is how far they will go to deceive the public, twisting the facts, citing highly biased sources and […]

Baltimore Catechism: on our 1st and 2nd obligations

Lesson 35 389Q. Which are the chief commandments of the Church? A. The chief commandments of the Church are six: To hear Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. To fast and abstain on the days appointed. To confess at least once a year. To receive the Holy Eucharist during the Easter time. To […]