Archives for May 2012

Review: Heart of the Christian Life

In the dozens of books written by Pope Benedict XVI, some will be remembered as major influences on Christian thought. Others are of a different genre and focus like this one. Heart of the Christian Life, Thoughts on Holy Mass, is a compilations of homilies that touch on the Mass and Blessed Sacrament.

The book is described as: “the celebration of the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ becomes present, is the center of the Catholic faith. This volume brings together substantive texts of the Holy Father on the many aspects and dimensions of the Mass and the Mystery of the Eucharist, a rich source for every Christian and a spur to reflection and personal prayer. Delivered in addresses and homilies to a wide variety of audiences, these reflections reveal the depth and breadth of Pope Benedict XVI’s profound and life-long love for the Holy Eucharist.”

I enjoyed the thought provoking and fresh insights the Holy Father shares in these pieces. Even topics like the parable of the prodigal son, well known and thoroughly discussed already, is presented from a new vantage point. The story does not change, but is instead presented in a way that seems current and with which we can readily identify.

It was then that he began to reflect and wondered if that really was the path to life: a freedom interpreted as doing what I want, living, having life only for me; or if instead it might be more of a life to live for others, to contribute to building the world, to the growth of the human community…

So it was he set out on a new journey, an inner journey. The boy pondered and considered all these new aspects of the problem and began to see that he had been far freer at home, since he had also been a landowner contributing to building his home and society in communion with the Creator, knowing the purpose of his life and guessing the project that God had in store for him.

[…]

The son realized that it is precisely work, humility and daily discipline that create the true feast and true freedom. So he returned home, inwardly matured and purified: he had understood what living is.

Of course, in the future his life would not be easy either, temptations would return, but he was henceforth fully aware that life without God does not work; it lacks the essential, it lacks light, it lacks reason, it lacks the great sense of being human. He understood that we can only know God on the basis of his Word.

Speaking of the mystery of the Eucharist, the Holy Father said:

And still, we have not yet explained in depth the message of this sign of bread. The Lord mentioned its deepest mystery on Palm Sunday, when some Greeks asked to see him. In his answer to this question is the phrase: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

The mystery of the Passion is hidden in the bread made of ground grain. Flour, the ground wheat, presuppose the death and resurrection of the grain. In being ground and baked, it carries in itself once again the same mystery of the Passion. Only through death does resurrection arrive, as does the fruit and new life.

This is a good book to read in “bite-sized” chunks. Although each homily is related to the Mass and Eucharist, each stands alone and most can be read in a few minutes. It is probably best to read them one-at-a-time, reflecting on the each message.

The book is hardbound, 117 pages in length and contains 17 homilies. They are:

  • The Bread of Life
  • Without Sunday We Cannot Live
  • Mary, the Eucharistic Woman
  • In the Hour of Jesus
  • The Wine of True Love
  • The Eucharist as the Way to Holiness
  • Jesus Christ: Incarnate Love of God
  • Friends of Jesus Christ
  • The Hope of the Grain of Wheat
  • The Church as Eucharistic Community
  • God Is Not Far from Us
  • Sacrament of the Life of God
  • Eucharist: Source and School of Love
  • The Passion of Jesus
  • The Gift of the Self-dedication of Christ
  • The Soul of Sunday
  • To Stand before You and to Serve

The book is followed by 7 pages of acknowledgments, detailing the date, location, event on the liturgical calendar and references. Dates range from May 2005 through March 2008. The book itself was published in March 2010 by Ignatius Press.

I like and recommend the book, especially for those who are already Catholic. I found it to be particularly fitting at Eucharistic adoration.

Obama’s war on religion (update #7)

Last week 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions throughout America announced lawsuits against President Obama’s attack on religious liberty. This raises significantly the number of federal suits filed over the blatantly anti-Christian (other religions are effectively exempted) moves by the administration.

Among those suing is Notre Dame. The Notre Dame administration has been a staunch supporter of Obama, awarding him an honorary doctor of laws degree at their 164th commencement. This they did before his attack on religious freedom but over the strenuous objection of the bishops who cited Obama’s atrocious record in support of abortion. Their complaint is online as are comments from Fr. Jenkins, their president.

Overall, the list (currently) includes 23 separate cases filed by 55 individual plaintiffs. The Beckett Fund has published a complete list with details about each case.

My last summary was 1 month ago. This is the latest update. To see the whole series, click here.

Video Announcements

The bishops of the Michigan Catholic Conference explain the lawsuits:

Another very, very good video comes from the Archdiocese of Washington:

Cardinal Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) simply describes the effect of Obama’s policy as strangling,” “straight-jacketing,” “handcuffing” and “choking” the Church:

Father Barron

Father Barron puts religious liberty in a historical context after his recent trip to the UK.

Mary Ann Glendon

The best written overview of the situation comes from Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon. It was published in the Wall Street Journal last Tuesday. This is the 1 piece I would send to someone who is confused on this issue. Many are confused too, as the administration and their proxies in government and the media do their best to make it something else (e.g. “war against women” or “Catholics taking away your birth control”).

This week Catholic bishops are heading to federal courts across the country to defend religious liberty. On Monday they filed 12 lawsuits on behalf of a diverse group of 43 Catholic entities that are challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) sterilization, abortifacient and birth-control insurance mandate.

Like most Americans, the bishops have long taken for granted the religious freedom that has enabled this nation’s diverse religions to flourish in relative harmony. But over the past year they have become increasingly concerned about the erosion of conscience protections for church-related individuals and institutions. Their top-rated program for assistance to human trafficking victims was denied funding for refusing to provide “the full range of reproductive services,” including abortion. For a time, Catholic Relief Services faced a similar threat to its international relief programs. The bishops fear religious liberty is becoming a second-class right.

Along with leaders of other faiths who have conscientious objections to all or part of the mandate, they hoped to persuade the government to bring its regulations into line with the First Amendment, and with federal laws such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that provide exemptions to protect the conscience rights of religious institutions and individuals.

On Jan. 20, however, HHS announced it would not revise the mandate or expand its tight exemption, which covers only religious organizations that mainly hire and serve their co-religionists. Instead, the mandated coverage will continue to apply to hospitals, schools and social service providers run by groups whose religious beliefs require them to serve everyone in need.

Continued attempts to solve the problem by negotiation produced only an announcement by the Obama administration in February that insurance providers would pay for the contested services. Since many Catholic entities are self-insured and the others pay the premiums, the bishops’ concerns were not alleviated.

The main goal of the mandate is not, as HHS claimed, to protect women’s health. It is rather a move to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, forcing them to facilitate and fund services that violate their beliefs, within their own institutions.

The media have implied all along that the dispute is mainly of concern to a Catholic minority with peculiar views about human sexuality. But religious leaders of all faiths have been quick to see that what is involved is a flagrant violation of religious freedom. That’s why former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared, “We’re all Catholics now.”

More is at stake here than the mission of all churches, including the Catholic Church, to provide social services like health care and education to everyone regardless of creed, and to do so without compromising their beliefs. At the deepest level, we are witnessing an attack on the institutions of civil society that are essential to limited government and are important buffers between the citizen and the all-powerful state.

If religious providers of education, health care and social services are closed down or forced to become tools of administration policy, the government consolidates a monopoly over those essential services. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it, we are witnessing an effort to reduce religion to a private activity. “Never before,” he said, “have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith.”

With this week’s lawsuits, the bishops join a growing army of other plaintiffs around the country, Catholic and non-Catholic, who are asking the courts to repel an unprecedented governmental assault on the ability of religious persons and groups to practice their religion without being forced to violate their deepest moral convictions.

Religious freedom is subject to necessary limitations in the interests of public health and safety. The HHS regulations do not fall into that category. The world has gotten along fine without this mandate – the services in question are widely and cheaply available, and most employers will provide coverage for them.

But if the regulations are not reversed, they threaten to demote religious liberty from its prominent place among this country’s most cherished freedoms. That is why Cardinal Dolan told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on April 8: “We didn’t ask for this fight, but we won’t back away from it.”

I marked the bold text above as the key. Father Zuhlsdorf has also added his commentary and support.

Father Henry

Father Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University, discusses how Obama’s mandate impacts his institution:

Further Reading

Here is a sampling of some new articles written on this topic in the last few weeks:

  1. 2012 National Religious Freedom Conference: Rising Threats to Religious Freedom
  2. A Sleeping Church Wakes Up
  3. A Sunny Side to the Obama Mandate?
  4. A sleeping church wakes up
  5. ABC Skips Catholic Lawsuit Over Birth Control Mandate; NBC Allows 20 Seconds
  6. Archbishop urges people of all faiths to stand for religious freedom
  7. Becket Fund Praises Courageous Institutions for Joining the Fight for Religious Liberty
  8. Biggest Religious Lawsuit in U.S. History Launched, Liberal Evening News Shows Ignore It
  9. Bishop Morlino Decries Georgetown Invitation To Sebelius
  10. Cardinal Dolan Applauds Church Agencies As They Challenge HHS For Violating Religious Freedom
  11. Cardinal Dolan of NY, Cardinal Wuerl of D.C., Notre Dame–And 40 Other Catholic Dioceses and Organizations–Sue Obama Administration
  12. Catholic Business Leaders File Federal Lawsuit Challenging HHS Mandate
  13. Catholic dioceses/organizations, including OSV, file massive religious liberty lawsuit
  14. Catholic organizations file religious liberty lawsuits against the federal government in a dozen jurisdictions
  15. Centennial moment: Archbishop Noll on church-state relations
  16. Defending Religious Freedom in Full: A Generation’s Challenge
  17. Dolan: White House is “strangling” Catholic church
  18. Federal lawsuits by Catholic dioceses, groups seek to stop HHS mandate
  19. Forced Abortion Converage: It’s Next
  20. Forty-three Catholic organizations file lawsuits against HHS mandate
  21. Franciscan University Drops Student Health Insurance Due to HHS Mandate
  22. Fury Spreads: Catholic Leaders Join MRC Outrage Over Network Silence on Catholics vs. Obama Lawsuit
  23. Good for Religion, Good for America
  24. HHS Information Central
  25. Inside the Beltway: Lawsuit, what lawsuit?
  26. Mary Ann Glendon explains why Bishops and Catholic institutions are suing the Federal Government
  27. Massive Religious Lawsuit Eclipsed on CNN by ‘Stroller Brigade’ Protest of About 100
  28. National Day of Ironic Prayer
  29. Nine Lawsuits for Religious Freedom – A Brief Rundown of the Arguments
  30. “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” and the State
  31. Pelosi: No to Provision Protecting Chaplains From Being Ordered to Act Against Faith
  32. Pres. Obama is finally going to be properly vetted – before an election
  33. “Sober Determination” in Defense of Religious Freedom
  34. Surprise! MSM Ignoring Catholic Lawsuits against Government
  35. The Declaration of Religious Independence
  36. The Triumph of Ideology Over Law
  37. This Is A Serious Attack on Religious Freedom
  38. We Cannot Be Silent: Obama Supporting Gay Marriage
  39. White House Lie: Our Door is Open to Bishops
  40. You Should Be Worried!
  41. Your Move, Obama

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #65)

This week: An excellent video on religious freedom. An update on the unjust imprisonment of Father Gordon MacRae. The story of an autistic kid, a kind gesture and how it worked out. The official biographies of American presidents from Calvin Coolidge on get an update. Will proposes to Jennifer. Andrew Klavan on “talking crap.” A quote of the week.

— 1 —

This Sunday, the 8th summary in my War on Religion series will be posted. It’s focus is the unprecedented 43 federal lawsuits against the Obama administration filed last week by Catholic dioceses and institutions. One of the many included videos is this excellent one from the Archdiocese of Washington explaining religious freedom:

— 2 —

In February, I wrote about the sad story of Father Gordon MacRae – an unjustly imprisoned, innocent priest. His case may be an extreme example of a falsely accused priest but is far from unique. David Pierre’s recent book Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories details many more.

Michael Novak has also explored this recently on his blog in A Different Priestly Scandal. Father Zulhsdorf covers and expands on Michael’s work.

— 3 —

Jason McElway is a bit different and does not always “fit in” with everyone else. He has autism. Jason liked basketball and his high school allowed him assist their team. This video from a couple years ago tells the story of his last game:

Spotted by my friend Tom.

— 4 —

Placing Obama in the context of American history has just become easier, thanks to Obama himself. He has modified the official biography of every president since Calvin Coolidge (except Gerald Ford) to include himself. You just don’t see narcissism like that every day.

You can’t make stuff up like this. Go look yourself. For a quick sampling, see Commentary Magazine‘s piece: Obama Drops His Name Into the Other Presidential Biographies

— 5 —

Will proposes to Jennifer…

Spotted by Larry D at AotA

— 6 —

It is election season again and our sitting president asks us to give him another chance. Andrew Klavan gave a reasonably good overview last year of how Obama has done so far in his 3-part video series called President Obama, Talking Crap:

That last video mentions Catholic Paul Ryan’s budget proposals. I mentioned Ryan’s most recent budget proposal in a previous 7 Quick Takes. Pope biographer George Weigel has also commented.

— 7 —

The quote of the week:

When Barack Obama made his unsurprising announcement today that he has finally evolved far enough to endorse homosexual marriage, ironically an evolutionary dead end, he made two other interesting statements.

First, he attributes his evolution to his Christian faith. This is sort of odd, speaking as a Trinitarian Christian, because it puts Christ in the position of disavowing himself. This is not surprising. Anyone who learned Christian theology from Jeremiah Wright is bound to have imbibed a substantial number of heresies.

The most surprising statement was this:

[W]hen I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf

Really. Our troops are fighting on his behalf? I had always imagined they were fighting on behalf of the nation.


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!

Finding a church home

Here in the South, upon moving to a new community, it does not take long before someone will ask if you have found a new “church home.” I love it when people are not afraid to openly live their Christian faith and work to fulfill the Great Commission.

There are other reasons people seek a new church home too. The loss of a much loved pastor, internal political battles and changes in direction of the church community or the individual — to name a few.

So, what might be a “check list” of considerations when looking for a new church? Here are some that are common:

  • A welcoming environment: how does the church make you “feel”? How much do they want you?
  • A comfortable environment: is parking easy and seating comfortable? Is the sound system awesome and are big screens used to bring everyone closer to the action?
  • Physical proximity: is it the closest church? If not, how much further must you drive to get there and how many other churches will you pass?
  • Spiritual proximity: are their apparent beliefs compatible with yours? Do they agree with your position on homosexuality, abortion, women clergy, the death penalty, forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation? Pay special attention to this point because you certainly don’t want to hear a bunch of sermonizing on things you reject.
  • Rules: are they easy-going or do they have a bunch of “rules” that you are expected to follow such as attendance, tithing, music, dress, alcohol, dating, displays of affection and so on. You are an adult and don’t need to be told what to do, right?
  • A powerful preacher: does the pastor preach well? Are his or her topics interesting and pertinent to your life? Do you feel engaged by his manner of presentation? Can she extensively quote scripture to support her points?
  • Moving / uplifting music: does the music “do something for you”? Do you enjoy it and look forward to each performance?
  • Size: do you prefer a large or small church family?
  • Ease of joining: are you accepted as a baptized Christian or do they force you to attend classes before letting you join?
  • Member neighbors: will membership improve and strengthen your social standing in the community? Will it give you another thing to have in common with your neighbors?
  • Professional benefits: does the church have a lot of members who are “movers and shakers,” whose shared affiliation at church could be a professional asset?

These and similar points are on many folks’ lists, explicitly or implicitly, when (for whatever reason) they look for a new church home.

If I might be so bold (and indeed I might!) gentle reader, these are all wrong-headed. These questions do not bring you closer to the truth taught by our Lord, lead to increased holiness or necessarily keep you on the path to salvation. This is consumerism.

Don’t get me wrong, we live in a consumer driven society and there is nothing wrong with optimizing our personal interests per se. Common examples are buying a new house or car, choosing a gym or doctor, searching for a new job, joining an organization or even deciding which charities to support. All of these things can be approached from the perspective of a consumer.

Your faith is a completely different matter. There is only one God, the Creator of all things, who became incarnate in His Son, who revealed His Father’s will and through His blood our sins are atoned. Your questions should be pointed to Him, not yourself:

  • When was this church founded and by who? Jesus was very clear that there is 1 Church and He expects unity within it. He promised it would be protected against the forces of evil until the end of time.
  • How was the organization of this church determined? What are the requirements to be a leader in the church.
  • Does this church teach the truth? By what authority is it guaranteed? Truth is not relative to what you want or a democratic vote. There are not multiple, conflicting truths.
  • Has the church modified, added to or removed from its teaching over time? Have adjustments been made to accommodate modern thinking and social changes or have the teachings of Jesus been preserved.
  • In what manner do you worship as a community? How does it differ from the early Church?

Only the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Himself. It is the universal (consistent, unchanging, “catholic”) Christian Church. Jesus selected and formed the apostles and appointed Peter as their leader. The Catholic Church maintains direct, uninterrupted succession to them. The Church is NOT empowered to change or redefine the deposit of faith, but rather preserves it under the protection of the Holy Spirit. We have taught the same thing for 2,000 years. The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was first celebrated by our Lord himself at the Last Supper and His Passion. We canonized (compiled) the Holy Bible and through our Magisterium, guided by the Holy Spirit, alone interpret it without error.

We were not founded by men – with differing beliefs – 1,500 years after Jesus. We do not have newly invented doctrines (after 1,500 years) such as Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory). All faithful Catholics worldwide share common beliefs, the same today as they were 500, 1,000, 1,500…   2,000 years ago.

Christians in other communities are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They too form the Body of Christ. They too are part of the Communion of Saints. They too are partially Catholic! There is only 1 Christian Church, the Catholic Church. Some are in full communion with the Church (faithful Catholics) while other Christian communities, to varying extents, lack the fullness of the faith and are burdened by error. Come home.

“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.”

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #64)

This week: From the Susan B. Anthony list…   Welcome to the Bureau of Womanhood Conformity. The Fathers of Mercy: supporting the new evangelism since 1808. A child’s story of survival, born 4 months premature. Candid comments on the abortion business, from a former clinic owner. A whole new market snuffing-out life at the other end – Planned GrandParenthood. The liberal magazine cover craze.

— 1 —

Welcome to the Bureau of Womanhood Conformity. Independent thoughts are considered subversive. Rule #1: all must agree with Our Leader. Deviations will not be tolerated.

Tell President Obama to respect a woman’s choice to practice her beliefs…   not his. It is not Obama’s opposition who is waging a war on women.

— 2 —

This is not the first time the Church has had a call for a new evangelism. The Fathers of Mercy were founded in 1808 to fulfill this very purpose. They are still going strong! Stop by their website to learn more about them or visit their YouTube channel for some excellent homilies. For example, there is this one on superficial preaching:

…or this on on the warnings and prophecy of Pope Paul VI in his 1968 masterpiece Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life):

Fallen away Catholics and those interested in the fullness of the Christian faith might be interested in the basics:

Spotted by John Bedard

— 3 —

Only 1 pound, 2 ounces and 12 inches long – Ezekiel Cal Lugo was born 4 months early. This beautiful video tells the story:

Spotted by Matt Archbold at CMR

— 4 —

Pregnancy services such as abortion protect a woman’s right to choose and make it the “safe, legal and rare” option that it is today. Women’s health, not profit, is the motive. Yea, right.

Spotted by Matthew Archbold at CMR

— 5 —

Laugh now, but for the culture of death, the implications of this are not at all far-fetched:

— 6 —

Thanks to a new California law, school students will now receive mandatory indoctrination instruction on the historical contribution of homosexuals. California lawmakers are determined to brainwash teach their young children that which is necessary to become successful adults. Apparently, that does not include things like science. California now ranks 47th in the nation in science at the 8th grade level. Only 22% of California 8th grade students managed to even pass the national standardized test.

Oh, and while California lawmakers are focused on honoring the gay agenda, the state itself is sinking fast. Governor Moonbeam (Jerry Brown) announced the deficit is now $16 billion (up from $9.2 billion in January). Expect drastic cuts and huge tax increases, followed by an exodus of individuals and companies to…   anywhere else.

— 7 —

Newsweek, irrelevant as ever, pays homage to their candidate. If you have been under a rock, that first cover is real. The others are products of The Looking Spoon and The People’s Cube.


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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