instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, February 27, 2015

An unlosable proposition

I'm having a raggedy Lent so far this year, which on the upside means I'm not at risk of vainglory in how well I'm keeping Lent.

But I have managed to actually complete a novena -- to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots -- in the nine days since Ash Wednesday. (I probably complete on time about 10% of the novenas I start.) And just a couple of hours after I finished the ninth day's prayer, I received some fantastic news related to my prayer intention.

Correlation? Empirically so. Causation? Impossible to say, as impossible as when something good happened related to my prayer intention the other time I completed a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

Now, there's nothing at all miraculous about the good things that happened. I'm inclined to think -- even, in a way, hope -- they were purely coincidental. If it turns out to be the case that God wants to answer my prayers, then my lousy prayer life is responsible for a whole lot of grace missing in this world.

Frankly, though, it doesn't matter. The act of prayer is in itself a grace, which if maintained becomes the habit of prayer, and that's a good in itself. Whether or not we get what we pray for in some discernible way, we are sure to get what praying does for us, which we can then give to those we've been given to love.

Offer yourself to Jesus. Invoke Mary's aid. Trust.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Quotations from St. Teresa of Avila's The Way of Perfection

A timeless question:
"What is the matter with Christians nowadays? Must it always be the ones who owe You the most who afflict You?"
A timeless observation:
"Let those who are to come realize that if the bishop is holy the subjects will be so too..."
But before we murmur against our bishops, St. Teresa immediately adds:
"...and as something very important always ask this of the Lord in your prayers."
And while this is written to the nuns of her convent, it can be adapted for anyone who considers themselves a disciple of Jesus:
"Be determined, Sisters, that you came to die for Christ, not to live comfortably for Christ."
[From the Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume 2, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., published by the Institute for Carmelite Studies, Washington. DC.]


Monday, February 02, 2015

When is a fact untrue?

In his homily on Sunday's Gospel, the transitional deacon preached about the deceptions of demons. They're so slippery they can't even keep their pronouns straight.
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!
Last year, I went through the Gospel According to St. Mark to categorize all the quotations, and was somewhat surprised to find that, other than God the Father, the demons had by far the best and clearest Christology. It wasn't forced out of them by exorcism, they freely confessed Jesus to be the Holy One of God. If the people had just believed what the demons said, they'd have known Who Jesus Is.

But, as the deacon pointed out, you really shouldn't believe what the demons say. Even if it's true, they aren't saying it for your benefit.

In the case of the man from Capernaum with an unclean spirit, it may be that the spirit was trying to upstage Jesus, or at least throw Him off His game. It interrupts Jesus' teaching, asks the same sort of bogus question the serpent asked in the Garden, and announces the Messianic secret to a congregation wholly unprepared for it.

The people, meanwhile, are amazed at Jesus' authority over unclean spirits, but Mark says nothing about their reaction to the "Holy One of God" bit. Maybe they didn't follow that part, or maybe they knew better than to pay any attention to what unclean spirits say.


Sunday, February 01, 2015

Pay it forward a dozen years

I see Cath News swiped my joke without attribution. I'd be more put out if I hadn't swiped the joke without attribution myself.


The teacher appears

We're going through the parts of the Mass in RCIA class now. Participation in the work of God, dual character as sacrifice and meal, proper disposition for fruitful reception of a sacrament, foreshadowing in the Old Testament, looking forward to the Eternal Wedding Banquet, all that sort of thing.

I can't quite shake the sense that, if we could break the respectful silence with which most of this is received, we'd get to the real question: "When do we sit? After Communion, we're kneeling, but some people sit right away, and others wait for the priest to sit, and others wait for the deacon to sit, but when are we supposed to sit?"



Friday, January 16, 2015

Not exactly subito, but Santo!

Hot dog! Bl. Junipero will (Deo volente) become St. Junipero.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

We haven't reached disagreement about torture yet

Mark Shea writes about "more wearying attempts to avoid the bleeding obvious" about the CIA enhanced interrogation program. It could also be called the same wearying attempt that's been repeated over and over for a dozen years.

Directly countering a bad argument rarely changes the mind of the one offering the bad argument. It might, though, sway an undecided onlooker.

But if I might introduce one of my King Charles's heads into the discussion, I wonder if part of the problem is that a lot of people think of morality in terms of rules. If your idea of a good Catholic is a Catholic who follows the rules, and you are or try to be a good Catholic yourself, then you'll want to follow the rule, "Torture is prohibited."

If you've ever met a human being, you know what we do to rules. We get around them when we want to. "Torture is prohibited" offers two broad avenues for getting around. To the left we have "torture" and the endless arguments about definitions and fine lines and boundaries and splashing water in faces and making prisoners uncomfortable for a few hours. To the right we have "prohibited" and the endless arguments about exceptions and circumstances and differences in objectives and historical examples that overthrow the soft-hearted heresies of the last fifty years.

The arguments are endless because the counterarguments don't get at the actual point of disagreement. The one side says, "The rule 'Torture is prohibited' has not been broken," while the other side says, "No! Torture is objectively evil!"

If that's right, then the way out isn't to keep showing the logical weaknesses of the one side. It's to walk them past the rule-based morality to the more fundamental questions of virtues, vices, and the goods of human nature. Find some behavior everyone in the conversation agrees to call torture, find out whether everyone in the conversation agrees that that behavior is objectively evil and therefore always prohibited, and then -- rather than testing the rule just agreed to with real-world or hypothetical examples -- go into why that behavior is objectively evil, what makes it everywhere and always contrary to the good of a human being and God's will for him.

If you can get that far, then you can start looking at other real-world or hypothetical examples, not for whether they follow the rule, but for whether they are objectively evil. And when you reach disagreement, you have a chance of understanding why.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

"I observe in God a sincere desire to save you, but I find in you a decided inclination to be damned."

I came across this sermon by St. Leonard of Port Maurice, in which he argues two points:
  1. "[T]o fill you with dread, I will let the theologians and Fathers of the Church decide on the matter and declare that the greater number of Christian adults are damned...."
  2. "I will attempt to defend the goodness of God versus the godless, by proving to you that those who are damned are damned by their own malice, because they wanted to be damned."
Note that it's "the greater number of Christian adults" who are damned, according to St. Leonard's survey.
if to the number of Christian adults who die in the grace of God, you add the countless host of children who die after baptism and before reaching the age of reason, ... it is certain that the greater number is saved.
But, St. Leonard continues,
if you are talking about Christian adults, experience, reason, authority, propriety and Scripture all agree in proving that the greater number is damned.
Which, if true, is kind of a bummer, right?

Except St. Leonard goes on to say that, since God wants all men to be saved,
Whether there are many or few that are saved, I say that whoever wants to be saved, will be saved; and that no one can be damned if he does not want to be.
Then he explains that it doesn't really matter how many will be saved:
Imagine an Angel sent by God to confirm the first opinion, coming to tell you that not only are most Catholics damned , but that of all this assembly present here, one alone will be saved. If you obey the Commandments of God, if you detest the corruption of this world, if you embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ in a spirit of penance, you will be that one alone who is saved.

Now imagine the same Angel returning to you and con firming the second opinion. He tells you that not only are the greater portion of Catholics saved, but that out of all this gathering, one alone will be damned and all the others saved. If after that, you continue your usuries, your vengeances, your criminal deeds, your impurities, then you will be that one alone who is damned.
If even one person can be damned, then you can be damned. If even one person can be saved, then you can be saved. What do the statistics matter in a case like this? They certainly don't matter to God. He doesn't have a quota He needs to fill, and once filled to hell with the rest. He will look at each of us, individually, and see if He recognizes His Son.