Archives for August 2010

The communion of saints

We are never alone in our efforts to seek God and salvation. As Catholics, we know that we are in communion with each other and every person who ever lived – alive today in heaven with the angels. We are the Church, in fellowship and spiritual solidarity here on earth and in heaven. Collectively, we are the communion of saints.

The communion of saints is headed by Jesus with 3 states of the Church:

  • Church Militant – that is us.
  • Church Suffering – those in purgatory (a/k/a Church Penitent or Church Expectant.
  • Church Triumphant – those in heaven.

Communion in charity. In the sanctorum communio, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.” “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” “Charity does not insist on its own way.” In this solidarity with all men, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.

953 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

All people are created by God at their conception, not at birth nor at any time prior. There is no such thing as an “old soul” or “reincarnation.” We have one life here on earth but will exist eternally – either alive in heaven or dead in hell. We do not go to sleep when we die. The souls in heaven are temporarily separated from their bodies (until Jesus comes again), but cheer us on and pray for us. They are all saints, those we have formally recognized in heaven (canonized Saints) and a multitude or others.

One place all members of the communion of saints join together is at Mass. Heaven and earth are joined in the presence of Our Lord. In the Eucharist, we are joined with Jesus and through Him, with each other. Through the Eucharist we grow in communion of the Holy Spirit and reflect Him to the outside world.

Angels and saints are with us at other times too. Kathleen Beckman recounted this beautiful story recently in a Catholic Exchange piece:

I recall the special graces associated with the passing of an aunt. She was married but her husband preceded her into eternal life. She did not have children because she was always the caregiver of extended family. She was in the process of dying a natural death in the warmth of the family home. It was not necessary that she be hooked up to machines; no intravenous drips of morphine or any other painkiller was needed. We sat around her bed and conversed with her as she went in and out of consciousness. Suddenly she said, “The room is filled with them. There is hardly enough room for all of them. Don’t you see them? Angels are all over this room.” I believed her because she was credible and the existence of angels is part of Catholic doctrine. She continued, “Oh, John (her deceased husband) is here. He is extending his hand to me. There are other family members too. I see them.” Then, speaking first person to her deceased husband she said, “Oh John, I want to go, but I will miss all these people. I am not quite ready please.” This no nonsense woman of faith was utterly believable. It seemed the natural order of things for a good woman who served others selflessly all of her life. We told her that we would miss her but we would be together again; it would be alright if she went to meet the Lord and her husband. The next day, with her face illumined, she looked up as if acknowledging the presence of someone we could not see and then she closed her eyes and peacefully breathed her last.

We can and do pray directly to God, for ourselves and each other. We also ask our brothers and sisters here in the Church Militant to pray for us. We especially ask those in the fullness of God’s presence, the saints of the Church Triumphant to pray for us as well.

The Catechism summarizes quite eloquently:

The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”‘:

All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.

954 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Elsewhere: Pedophile priest myths

Earlier this year I wrote about about the sex scandal. It is a sad story that I doubt will ever be treated fairly in our lifetimes. Part of the problem is that there is just so much misinformation being passed around. Sometimes that is on purpose by those who attack the Church. Other times it is simply not knowing the facts.

Father Longenecker also wrote about this issue around the same time my piece was published. His piece is on a non-Catholic academic researcher’s findings. You may be surprised by the results (and even have to modify some of your own long-held assumptions).

As more pedophile priest scandals blow up across Europe we should be ashamed of the offenders and those who sheltered them and oppressed the victims. The guilty should be weeded out, removed from office and handed over to the civil authorities where they are guilty of crimes. Systems to avoid abuse must be established and rigorously maintained, and victims should be justly compensated for their suffering.

However, Penn State professor Philip Jenkins (who is not a Catholic) has written the most objective book on the subject, and he summarizes his arguments in this excellent article. In light of his work, we should remember some basic facts and principles:

  • Priestly celibacy is not the issue – married men are more likely to abuse children than unmarried
  • Most child abuse takes place within the home.
  • All religious groups have pedophile scandals, and the Catholics (while the largest religious group) are at the bottom of the list statistically.
  • Child abuse is prevalent in all areas of society: schools, youth organizations, sports, etc.
  • Statistically, of all the professions, Christian clergy are least likely to offend. Doctors, Farmers and Teachers are the professions most likely to abuse children–not clergy.
  • Among clergy offenders Catholic priests are least likely to offend.
  • Catholic cases of pedophilia make more headlines because of anti Catholic prejudice and because the Catholic Church is bigger and more lucrative to sue.
  • Pedophilia and Euphebophilia are different problems. The former is sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. The latter is attraction to teenagers. Most cases branded ‘pedophilia’ are actually ‘euphebophila.’
  • Most of the cases of euphebophilia are homosexual in nature, however the politically correct do not want this problem to be associated with homosexuality.
  • The number of Catholic priests guilty of pedophilia is very small.
  • What we now call ‘cover up’ was often done in a different cultural context, when the problem was not fully understood and when all establishment organizations hushed scandals. They did so for what seemed good reasons at the time: protection of the victims and their families, opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender, the avoidance of scandal to others. It is unfair to judge events thirty years ago by today’s standards.
  • When lawsuits are looming people smell money. We must be wary of false accusations.
  • The accused must be entitled to a fair hearing. The church should insist on hard proof of the abuse, and for the sake of justice, ensure that the innocent are not prosecuted.
  • When guilt is established the offender must be punished, not sheltered.
  • Distinctions must be made between types of abuse. Some offenses are worse than others. Verbal abuse or corporal punishment during a time when that was acceptable, while lamentable, is not the same as sexual abuse or extreme physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse of an adult, or a sexually experienced older teenager is wrong, and damaging, and should be punished, but it is not the same as the sexual abuse of a younger, innocent child.
  • Number of offenses must be considered. One lapse is not of the same seriousness as repeated, persistent and premeditated offenses.

I am in no way wishing to be soft of pedophiles and those who covered for them, however justice and truth demand an objective analysis of the facts.

With the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom, expect to see lots of poorly researched news stories and uninformed statements made all around.

Road trip of life

While researching a piece on the Communion of Saints, I mentally struggled not with the details, but with an overall framework in which to place it. There are so many related topics, indeed our entire Catholic faith, that it is easy to get sidetracked. Always a fan of analogies as vehicles (pun intended) for teaching concepts, a somewhat “fun” one occurred to me. I call it the road trip of life.

Humor me and for the moment and consider your life as a road trip. You are the driver of a car (the Church) that can easily “go the distance.” The destination is heaven but every journey will be unique. The car is not a remotely controlled vehicle, but may be freely driven by you in any direction you wish. Your trip had a starting point and will end at a specific time unknown to you.

Your car is a really fine vehicle (Catholic) with everything you need for a successful trip. It has an excellent owner’s manual (the Holy Bible), but trained mechanics (the Magisterium) are needed to fully understand (interpret) it. Even so, the owner’s manual does not contain everything knowable about the car. The mechanics have the complete picture (Sacred Tradition) from their training. Fortunately, your car comes with full service.

The car is propelled by a powerful engine (the sacraments) with an inexhaustible supply of fuel (grace). To insure that you do not get lost, it has the latest GPS navigation system (the Holy Spirit) available for your use. There are some nice additional features that can be used as needed, such as the (holy) water of the windshield washer.

At times during this trip you may have some additional passengers. They are on their own trips, but might ride part of the way with you. Sitting next to you at some point might be a spouse with whom you take turns driving. A little further down the road there may be some young passengers in the back seat.

There are a lot of other cars on the road. Some are going the same direction you are. Some are stopped or worse, going in the opposite direction. Many drivers are just lost and you try to help if you can. The goal is to get everyone to the destination while they still have time.

As you look around, you notice that not all the cars are the same as yours. None are better, but many are less capable. Some were once just like yours, but have been modified by their driver resulting in degraded performance. They may still reach the destination, but the trip will be more difficult. Usually their drivers think they have made the car “better” and are oblivious to its impaired safety systems and slower speed.

Some of the other cars are derivatives from an earlier model year (often about 500 years ago) and suffer from extensive modifications over the centuries. They too can reach the destination, but their incomplete cars hamper the trip.

Finally, some vehicles on the road are not even cars (through no fault of their drivers), but the resolve of their operators is so strong that they too may reach the destination.

Your top-of-the-line car performs well, passing many of the lesser vehicles. That is alright as long as they are headed toward the destination. You always give your fellow travelers a “thumbs-up” and encourage them along the way regardless of how they choose to make the trip. Hopefully they will upgrade to your model (available free of charge) to improve their journey and likelihood of success.

While the road is often smooth and straight, sometimes curves unexpectedly appear and some areas can be quite rough. In those times you particularly appreciate the fine engineering of your car. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it is guaranteed for life when properly operated.

The one sad thing is seeing stopped cars or those going the wrong way. Some are even the same fine model you are driving. Those drivers had the greatest opportunity to reach the destination yet chose another path. We can only hope that they come to their senses and turn around.

When the journey is over, some will be able to immediately enjoy the wonderful amenities available at the destination. Many of us will need to first freshen-up and recover from the ride. Either way, it is worth the trip and all who have made it are cheering for those of us still on the road!

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #9)

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. Without further ado:

— 1 —

Elizabeth Esther kindly hosts a feature she calls The Saturday Evening Blog Post. Published monthly every first Saturday, it features the best post in the preceding month on each of a few dozen Christian blogs. The “best” entries are chosen by the authors themselves (so they should know!).

It is a great way to discover new blogs. Be sure to check-it out. My entry last month was the burden of hate.

— 2 —

Catholics Come Home produces powerful television and web spots explaining the Catholic faith. I am a big fan and include 4 of their pieces on my Favorite Videos page (see the button in the blog header). Here is their latest:

— 3 —

The men and women of our Armed Forces sacrifice a lot to serve their country. They don’t all come home. Every minute they are gone and in harms way, their loving families carry a heavy burden. Imagine how they feel when unexpectedly, they are reunited with their soldier. That moment when the fears and worry can at last be put aside and they can pull their loved one close.

Thanks to Marcel over at Aggie Catholics for finding this.

— 4 —

Following in the ways of Saint John Bosco (19th century Italian Priest), Father Zoltan Lendvai (45) reaches Hungarian youth through his skateboarding skills. You don’t see this every day…

Thanks to Tom Peters over at CatholicVoteAction.org for this one.

— 5 —

Why do men choose to become priests? Watch…

(click here for part 1)

— 6 —

Pray for our Protestant brothers and sisters. All of their main denominations are facing internal struggles between progressive and orthodox (liberal vs. conservative, if you prefer) divisions. The ELCA (the largest US Lutheran denomination) tilted last year in the strongly “progressive” direction. Listen to Lutheran Pastor Tom Brock’s explanation in this video (and part two). May the Holy Spirit guide them to the truth.

— 7 —

Today’s quote:

All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.

Saint John Vianney

Juicy gossip

Psssst. Do you want to hear some really juicy gossip about Casandra? Well, I just happened to overhear a conversation and found out some big news! She and her husband are apparently having a really big problem. Here’s the scoop…

We can stop the story about the fictional Casandra right there. Such information would not be for public consumption and is damaging to Casandra’s reputation. Spreading such information may make one guilty of the mortal sin of detraction.

Have a care for your name, for it will stand by you better than precious treasures in the thousands; The boon of life is for limited days, but a good name, for days without number.

People have the right to their own good name. Reputations are built slowly over a long period of time and people place a very high value on their “public image.” Unlike other treasures, a good name continues even after death. However, what takes a lifetime to build can be damaged by the unjust and unauthorized disclosure by someone else. It does not matter that the disclosure is truthful.

Consider how you would feel if the situation were reversed. Perhaps you have committed a sin for which you are truly sorry, have confessed, received absolution, made reparation and truly wish never to repeat. Now imagine someone found out and took it upon themselves to share your private shame with others. Despicable. Their motivation would obviously be to hurt you and they would succeed. That is detraction.

There can be exceptions however, when harm to reputation may occur but that is not the honest intent and a greater offsetting good is achieved. For example, testifying against someone in court or to protect yourself or another person. A careful examination of conscience should precede making such statements.

A similar sin to detraction is calumny, which also harms the reputation of another but with the additional malice of falsehood. Both detraction and calumny demand reparation to the degree possible, but in the case of calumny it is particularly urgent.

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

– of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

– of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2477 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

2479 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

It is a sin against justice and charity to engage in detraction or calumny. It is likewise wrong to participate in someone else’s sin of the same. Guard the reputation of another as if it was your own!

Father Hardon covers this topic in his excellent paper Commandments of God – Detraction and Calumny.

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