Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Devil Wants the Church to Be "Relevant"

The last time I found myself in the unfortunate situation of attending a LifeTeen Mass, it made me so damn mad I felt I couldn't receive Holy Communion.  The music (average age of the band: well over 30) was as sophomoric as it was objectively sacrilegious, and a football stadium atmosphere prevailed inside the Church.  And as if all that weren't bad enough, (a) the celebrant was the bishop, and (b) he was singing along with the tunes.

I can already hear the howls of protest.  It's no use trying to inform me that rock music at Mass "can be reverent," and "brings the kids into church" and "draws them closer to Christ."     Secular music is not fit for worship, period.  There was a time, still within living memory, when the consensus on drums and steel guitars inside a Catholic church would have been that they're simply sacrilegious.  And before you start getting on my case about "rash-judging" the souls of those who like and participate in rock concert Masses, go back and notice that I called the music at the Mass I got stuck at "objectively sacrilegious," thereby giving the band and the organizers the benefit of the doubt.  Persons who are poorly formed in their faith cannot be expected to know any better, especially when they have priests and bishops setting a bad example.

As to what it is exactly that kids are being "drawn to" by rock bands in church, surely that calls for closer examination.  Authentic Christianity has never been about manipulating people's emotions: quite the opposite.  We read over and over again in the great spiritual works that good feelings during prayer and worship are gifts that God gives to beginners for their encouragement; but sooner or later He withdraws them, to test whether we love Him for Himself or because He gives us candy.  We know from the saints that prayer is often arduous work, devoid of sensible consolations; otherwise, how could we gain any merit by persevering?

But this rock band stuff makes the candy an end in itself.  Mass becomes all about what we are getting out of it, with little or no serious thought for whether we are giving God the worship that is His due.  (Question: if the band isn't even good enough for a garage -- let alone a recording contract -- why is it good enough for the Creator of the Universe?)  Rock band Masses are in direct opposition to the Gospel injunction to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and then all these other things will be added unto us.  It sends the message that we're not really engaged in authentic prayer and worship unless it makes us feel good, and that if God's not giving us candy, then we must not be right with Him.  So, then, when the non-stop gratification of the senses ceases, so does Mass attendance.    

Finally, the Church is not supposed to be "relevant" in the sense the world means "relevant."  The world defines "relevance" as going along with the Zeitgeist.  But the Church is decidedly and emphatically counter-cultural.  Her Founder, after all, commands us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek and not lay up to ourselves treasures on earth.  And Christ warned us that the world will hate us because it hated Him first.  Yet the same people who prattle on and on about how Jesus was a "revolutionary" and "shook up the Establishment" have striven might and main for decades to bring the Church into lockstep with this same world.

The Catholic Church has the Truth in its fullness.  Truth is always relevant.  Truth needs neither frill nor dressing: people hunger for it on their own without the artificial stimulants.  People hunger for something higher, and beautiful, because that is what we were made for: we're not supposed to be satisfied with lying in our own personal gutter.  The devil, on the other hand, wants the Church and her worship to be "relevant" in the worldly sense, because "relevance" distracts us from Truth.  And the devil is all about lowering expectations to the point they're already met, because that keeps us from striving for the perfection we're called to.  When are we going to figure this out?    

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Party of Civil Rights...?

Gov. George Wallace, Democrat, tries to prevent desegregation at the University of Alabama in 1963.
In the age of slavery, the Democrat Party was the home of those who supported, or were willing to tolerate, slavery.

After the Civil War, the Democrat Party was the home of white supremacists, paramilitary groups dedicated to the disenfranchisement of blacks, and politicians who enacted black codes and Jim Crow laws.

The Democrat Party was the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, in 1942, ordered the forced internment of more than 100,000 Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry.  (It was Republican President Ronald Reagan who apologized for this action in 1988.)

The Democrat Party was the home of all but one of a bloc of 18 Senators who fought hard to kill the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Some of these Senators -- especially former Ku Klux Klansman Robert Byrd of West Virginia -- continued for decades as respected and prestigious members of the Party.

The Democrat Party was the home of Lyndon Johnson who signed the Civil Rights Act into law with one hand, and with the other hand created the Great Society, and with it the burgeoning modern welfare state, which has destroyed the black family and trapped many blacks in moral and economic servitude for decades.

The Democrat Party is the home of Barack Hussein Obama, fanatical opponent of the right to life of unborn babies, and launcher of perhaps the most blatant and explicit assault on religious freedom in our time.

Yes, indeed...the party of civil rights.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I have a question for some of you whose consciences are shocked by the idea of executing persons who have been tried for and convicted of rape.

How can you support executing the untried and unconvicted child who is conceived in an act of rape?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Splinter of the Cross

How fearful is the suffering of unrequited love!  How the rejected heart oscillates, dazed and confused, between tears and anger, between hurt and humiliation, between the urge to cut off the beloved forever and a longing for reconciliation!  The worst physical pain, or all the physical pains of one's life put together, cannot equal it.  Its description is beyond the reach of human language.  It is a tribulation compared to which the death of the beloved would be a blessing.  It is a wound that will not stay closed, a broken bone that never sets.  True love is selfless; yet the broken heart, still prostrate, is pierced with emptiness and sorrow at the sight of the beloved happy with someone else.  Because we are made to love and to be loved, these sufferings are as real as they are dreadful.  Pretending that they are trivial or non-existent is foolish; stoicism is useless.  The broken heart can only be mended without anesthesia.

How heavy and overwhelming is the cross of unrequited love!  How huge and unwieldy!  In Catholic grade school, our teachers used to tell us that in the cross, Christ bore on His raw and bleeding shoulders the weight of every last sin that ever has been or ever will be committed.  It is the infinite weight of His unrequited infinite love for creatures who, made to return it, despised it instead.  The cross of unrequited human love, finite as this love is, and tainted by self-interest, is just a splinter of His Cross.    

Yet how terrible, how crushing is its weight!  How little and weak we are, to be so nearly overcome by so small a thing!  And its weight increases with the knowledge that it is not undeserved.  If our love is scorned, we ourselves have scorned love.  The pain that crushes us is a fitting punishment.

But in another way, this crushing is undeserved.  That we should be allowed to suffer and atone for having scorned love in this life, instead of having to suffer in eternity, perhaps without atonement, is a free and wholly unmerited gift.  That we should be given in chastisements the means to correct our faults is the sign that we are sons and not bastards.  That a tiny share of the Passion should be bestowed upon us is a pledge of great treasure to be laid up for us in heaven.  All we need is to be in the state of grace, and to pray, over and over, for the actual grace to be protected from turning this great trial into an occasion to sin.

And to recognize the hand of God in everything that happens to us, however blinded we are by tears.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dining with the Enemy

Sorry, but there is nothing good about this invitation of Obama to the Al Smith Dinner. Of course it is scandalous, and no amount of intellectual gymnastics can make it otherwise. 

This is not the same as pouring hot coals upon the enemy's head by doing him good. Cardinal Dolan is not bringing a starving Obama in off the streets. Nor is it the same as Jesus reaching out to prostitutes and tax collectors. The prostitutes and tax collectors believed the Gospel and repented, whereas Obama has made it quite plain that he intends to continue on his present course. What this is is the extending of a gratuitous and completely undeserved honor to an enemy of the Church. It is the latest in a long line of Catholic clergymen cozying up to unfriendly and even pro-abortion politicians over the last half-century. It is one more log on the bonfire of cynicism, and a source of distress and confusion to the faithful. 

Obama is at war against the Catholic Church, and has proven it by his actions. Why do so many in the Church not believe him? I guarantee Obama and his minions view this as a sign of weakness, and have even more contempt for the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, and the Church, than they did before. This is the way to prolong the war, not to win it. 

 And how can the bishops hope to rally Catholics in the pews against enemies of the Church whom they invite as honored guests at a dinner? William F. Buckley put the problem very succinctly 42 years ago, ruminating about the failure of Catholics to repel the forces of abortion in New York state (Inveighing We Will Go, New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972, pp. 326-328): 
When the time came to rally protests against permissive abortion laws, the troops were simply not there. It is very difficult for a Catholic fundamentalist to go on about Murder, while his Cardinal is photographed speaking amiably to the leader of the Assembly that passed the abortion bill a few months before. How would it have appeared if, let us say, Cardinal Spellman of New York had been seen shaking hands and chatting amiably with Martin Bormann? The answer is that Cardinal Spellman would have avoided doing any such thing. And that Cardinal Cooke’s willingness to traffic with legislators from New York who voted for the abortion bill seems to suggest that New York Catholics must regard permissive abortion policies as something less than the kind of thing that inspires mutinous relations between the subject and the state. 
We are obliged to be civil to our enemies, to pray for them, and to be generous to them in their need. But we are not obliged to be intimate and chummy with them. In fact, when being intimate and chummy saps our will to stand up for the Faith, surely we would be obliged NOT to.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

August 8th (New Calendar): Holy Father Dominic

Today is the Memorial of St. Dominic de Guzman, on the new calendar.  On the preconciliar calendar, his feast is August 4th.

Some interesting facts about St. Dominic:

-- The name "Dominic" means "belonging to God."  Before his birth, his mother, Bl. Juana de Aza, had a vision of her unborn son as a dog with a torch in its mouth, lighting the world on fire (see the picture above).  It is perhaps a coincidence, perhaps not, that the name of the Order he founded would turn out to be a pun on Domini canes, "hound of God."

-- The Rosary is an ancient devotion based on the Psalms.  The daily recitation of the Psalms was a practice of religious life centuries ago.  Since this was not practicable for the average working layman, the recitation of 150 Hail Marys was substituted -- one for each Psalm.  This is why the Rosary is also known as Mary's Psalter.*  St. Dominic is credited with giving us the Rosary in its present form, particularly the coupling of the vocal prayers with meditations on the Mysteries of Christ's life.  It was given to him by Our Lady, as a weapon against heresy when all his own efforts came to nothing. 

-- St. Dominic worked many miracles, including curing the sick and raising the dead.  One of his most notable miracles took place during a debate with the Albigensians, when he put both their works and the works of the Church to a trial by fire.  When he put writings containing their doctrines into a fire, they burned up at once; but when he put writings containing Catholic doctrine into the fire, they survived.

-- St. Dominic walked so far in his missionary travels over Europe that he is known as "God's Athlete."

-- At his baptism, a star was seen to shine from baby Dominic.  This is why St. Dominic is frequently portrayed with a star over his forehead, and why he is the patron of astronomers.  How fitting that the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity should coincide almost exactly with his feast on the preconciliar calendar!  No doubt his intercession played a role in its perfect landing.  God is reflected in all of creation, and therefore the study of nature enables us to know Him better.  This is why the Church has always supported legitimate scientific pursuits.  One of St. Dominic's greatest sons, St. Albertus Magnus, was a naturalist. 

-- At his death, which he foretold, St. Dominic consoled his grieving brethren by promising them to do them an abundance of good from heaven. 

Fulfill, O Father, what thou hast said, and help us with thy prayers.

*Thus, the Rosary, right down to the number of Hail Marys in the traditional 15-decade Rosary, is based squarely on Scripture.  This is the answer to the Jimmy Swaggart theorem of the Rosary, which holds that because it contains 10 Hail Marys to 1 Our Father, this proves that Catholics prefer Mary to Jesus 10 to 1. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Primacy of Peter

Just a few days ago, I acquired my own copy of a book I remember from childhood (not, alas, from Catholic school): the silver jubilee edition of My Catholic Faith, by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow, S.T.D. (My Mission House, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 1961).  Bishop Morrow served as the Bishop of the Diocese of Krishnagar, India, from 1939 to 1969; his book originally came out in 1936.  My Catholic Faith is a concise summary of the Faith and is divided into three parts: What to Believe; What to Do; and Means of Grace.  This worthy book unfortunately appears no longer to be in print, and was one of the many treasures swept out into the sea of oblivion by the flood of modernism that followed Vatican II.  Sadly, many of the devotions, ceremonies and liturgical accoutrements that it describes were also swept away and are now foreign to most Latin Rite Catholics; but, thanks to our current Holy Father, they are beginning to come back.  If you can find a copy on Amazon or from a used book seller, My Catholic Faith is a good place to learn about and rekindle a love for these once-common features of Catholic life.

One striking lesson in My Catholic Faith is Lesson No. 50: The Primacy of Peter.  One of the defining characteristics of Protestantism is the rejection of this doctrine; and unfortunately, it is now all but rejected by many Catholics.  Many in the pews have been raised to view the Pope as a semi-comical figure in a white dress and fancy headgear who leads a sheltered life, ignorant of the concerns of everyday people, and just wants to ruin everybody's fun.  Even many priests and bishops do not seem to see the need of obeying the Pope in the exercise of his rightful authority, as the response in some quarters to Summorum Pontificum clearly demonstrates.  But here Bishop Morrow brings us up short.  "The true test of loyalty to Christ," he says, "is not only to believe in Him and worship Him, but to honor and obey the representatives He has chosen.  Our Lord chose St. Peter as His Vicar.  It is rebellion against Christ to say to Him: 'I will worship You, but I will not recognize Your representative.'  This is what Christians do, who deny the authority of the successor of Peter."

How do we know that Christ has a Vicar on earth, and that the Vicar is Peter?  The good bishop gives us his point-by-point analysis:

-- Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter after his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi.  "Peter" means "Rock," signifying Peter's role as the foundation of the Church.

-- Jesus gave to Peter, and to no other Apostle, the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Keys are a sign of authority.

-- After the Resurrection, on the Lake of Gennesareth, Jesus asked Peter three times  if Peter loved Him, and three times told Peter to feed His lambs and His sheep.  The "lambs" are the laity; the "sheep" are the clergy who nourish the lambs.  By this Jesus signified the entire flock.  He gave to no other Apostle the responsibility of feeding His entire flock.

-- Jesus gave Peter a new name; chose him as a companion on the most solemn occasions; appeared to him first among all the Apostles after the Resurrection.  These marks of distinction were conferred on no other Apostle.

-- Jesus is the Invisible Head of His Church, but, like any other society, the Church needs a visible head; St. Peter was chosen to be the visible head of the Church to take Christ's place among men.

-- Peter actually exercised his primacy.

1. Peter's name always comes first in the list of Apostles, just as the name of the Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, always comes last.  St. Matthew calls him the first of the Apostles (Matthew 10:2).  He was not the first in age (his brother Andrew was older) nor in election (here again, Andrew preceded him), so he must have been first in authority.

2. It was on Peter's advice that the Apostles chose a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21-26).

3. Peter preached the first sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36).

4. Peter admitted the first converts from both Judaism and Paganism, shattering the taboo against Jews and pagans consorting with one another (Acts 2:38-41; 10:5 et seq.).

5. Peter worked the first miracle by curing a man lame from birth (Acts 3:6-8).

6. Peter meted out the first punishment, against the cheaters Ananias and Sapphira, who fell down dead at his rebuke (Acts 5:1-6).

7. Peter cast out the heretic, Simon Magus, who wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:19-20).

8. Peter made the first visitation of the churches (Acts 9:31-32).

9. At the first ecclesiastical council in Jerusalem, after much debate, all submitted to the judgment of Peter (Acts 15:7-12).

10. St. Paul presented himself to Peter after his conversion (Gal.1:18).

11. As the See of Peter, the Church of Rome ranked highest among the early churches established by the Apostles.

And, of course, the successors of Peter down to this day succeed to his primacy and his authority.  

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.  
Matthew 16:18-19 

UPDATE: A commenter has just drawn my attention to the fact that My Catholic Faith is indeed back in print, under the auspices of Angelus Press.