instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thanks be to God

Children are taught to ask for things politely and to say thank you when they get them. This is true whether they are asking for something from a parent, another child, or even God.

A lot of people never really grow out of a childish relationship with God, even if they do have good manners:

It usually doesn't take many tries to learn that you don't always get what you ask for from God. Our Faith teaches us that all things work for good for those who love God, so we may perhaps advance to the point of accepting God's will whether we like it or not:

Perhaps, though, we ought to separate asking God for things we want and thanking Him for things we get:

Here the "Prayer of Thanksgiving" that follows the "Prayer of Supplication" is a prayer of thanksgiving for the prayer of supplication; we thank God for allowing us to ask Him for things, for the grace by which we've just asked for one particular thing, and for whatever good He does in our lives in answer to our prayer.

But that's just a special case of the more general "Prayer of Thanksgiving" process, in which we thank God for everything He gives us. Breaking the supplication-obtaining-thanksgiving chain teaches us to be thankful, not just when we get what we ask for (like children), and not even when we don't get what we ask for (like philosophers), but when we get anything at all.

And this thankfulness is not the pro forma kind we offer when, say, a sales clerk hands us an item we have just purchased. God giving us something we've prayed for is just as much a gift as Him giving us something out of the blue. That it's something we've asked for may add to our gratitude, but as a circumstance of our gratitude, not it's essence.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Self-guided study in the School of Mary

On Vox Nova, Michael Iafrate has a post taking "a radical view of the Rosary," in which he writes of his personal history praying the Rosary. When he gets to the present day, he says:
it is still difficult to integrate the rosary as it has been traditionally practiced into my self-understanding of what it means to follow Christ, to be a Christian.
And he lists the five "subversive mysteries of the Rosary" developed by a Capuchin novice named Br. Vito.

I'm all for rolling your own mysteries (assuming you aren't in some way obligated to pray the traditional ones). The school of Mary doesn't offer bad courses.

Still, a risk to picking out events from the Gospel to fit a certain theme is that it can lead to a distortion of the message.

Just looking at the first "subversive" mystery, for example, the Magnificat is of course a part of the Visitation. To meditate on the Magnificat as a model of liberation may be fruitful, but to see those verses only in those terms is to lose the larger context.

Here are the themes of the traditional mysteries of the Rosary:
  • The Incarnation of Christ.
  • The Passion and Death of Christ.
  • The Resurrection and Glory of Christ.
With the Luminous Mysteries, the blessed Pope John Paul II added the theme of
  • The Public Ministry of Christ.
And that's about it. It doesn't imply a perspective, or point of view, or theology, or vocation, or need, or circumstance. The one who prays the Rosary supplies that. The Rosary supplies the template of Jesus' life from Mary's eyes.

So if you're going to develop your own mysteries for regular use, I would merely ask whether you will be praying to form yourself according to the Gospel, or forming the mysteries according to yourself. And if you're doing it because you find that meditating on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is difficult to integrate into your understanding of what it means to follow Christ, then maybe the difficulty lies in your understanding, not the mysteries.



Why don't I become one of those permanent deacons?

I'm asked that question every couple of years. The short answer is, "Aha, haha, no."

Now Deacon Greg Kandra points out a Scriptural argument against the suggestion that I might have a vocation to the diaconate.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Let our adoration never cease

I don't really know much about the theology professor and columnist Fr. Richard McBrien. I know the basics, the things you can't help but know about him if you've spent years among Catholics on the Internet, but I've read too little by or about him to say much about his theological or spiritual positions.

I have, though, read his latest column, which he concludes:
Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward.
And that tells me this:

Fr. McBrien does not know Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

This column fits my overall impression of him as someone who's too smart and au courant to listen to the Church, someone whose ecclesial program is the substitution of study for piety and of Acadamia's teaching authority for the Church's.

And this, the penultimate sentence of his column, is consistent with a bizarre minimalism that confuses theory with the Living Person of Christ:
The Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually.
But my overall impression of Fr. McBrien is based on a very thin slice of the total amount of information available on him, and I could be altogether wrong.

What I am not wrong about, though, is that no one who knows Jesus Christ in the Eucharist could write that Eucharistic adoration is a step backward.

That a priest of Jesus Christ does not know Him in the Eucharist is cause for great sorrow.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Which ones are the chimps

Scott Carson, in a rare post, offers an example of human nature that applies in many more cases than the intra-philosophical squabbling that is the subject of the paragraph from which it is drawn:
Just as chimps and humans differ only very slightly in their genetic makeup, so, too, analytic and Continental philosophers have more in common than some of them may like to admit. (Some of them don't mind admitting it, just so long as we are straight about which ones are the chimps.)


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Just a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules

A question: Is there a feminine religious attraction to heresy analogous to the [alleged] feminine romantic attraction to "bad boys"?

If so, I'd guess it would have to be most prevalent in religious congregations and among women raised in traditionally religious families. If you don't have any rules, you can't have any rebels.

Moreover, it wouldn't be an attraction that could be overcome by reason. The sounder the proof that a belief is heresy, the more attractive the belief would become.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September is Bourbon Month!

National Bourbon Heritage Month seems like an event that ought to be observed responsibly in some fashion. But how? What activity involving America's Native Spirit could be undertaken by way of celebration?


If it's Tuesday this must be progress

It's my fault, of course.

I'm the one who wasn't satisfied reading just one tendentious NCROnline article on the wicked institutional Church. (Handy Hint for Conscience Formation of Vowed Religious #7: Quoting Martin Luther approvingly is a bad sign.)

No, I had to see whether Sr. Joan Chittister wrote anything particularly objectionable in her latest column.

She did, of course. But at least most of what is objectionable is reflected in her conclusion: "Evolution gives us a God big enough to believe in."

Sorry, Jesus, maybe You'll do better next time.

But what particularly struck me, in and amongst the flirtation with Spong's Law of Theophysical Inanity (though Sr. Joan mishandles cosmology and biology rather than quantum physics), was the interior of this sentence:
The unfolding of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and the launch, ironically, of the priest Georges Lemaître's big bang theory -- you can imagine how popular that made him in the church -- changed everything.
Do we really need to imagine how popular Lemaître's big bang theory made him in the church? Can't we Google it?

Per Wikipedia, Lemaître published an expanded version of his theory in 1933, and he became famous throughout the world. In March 1934, "Lemaître received the Francqui Prize, the highest Belgian scientific distinction, from [the Catholic] King Leopold III." Two years later, he was elected to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; he became president of the academy in 1960 -- a year in which he was also made a Monsignor by Pope John XXIII -- and served as president until his death in 1966. Pope Paul VI asked him to serve on the commission investigating oral contraception (he turned it down, citing ill health (and, at least privately, doubt that a mathematician would have much to contribute to the question)).

So his big bang theory made him remarkably popular in the Church, if public honors are any indication.

Yet Sr. Joan implies the opposite. Why?