Monday, April 27, 2015
But tonight, out of boredom, I checked her out. And then I sat down to write this blog. Thanks Simcha, for giving me the courage to share it.
We are a traditional Catholic family. Yes. It's a choice we made. But it's more than that. It's our lifestyle borne out of our strongly held value system. We actually really believe that our marriage is better and our children are better because my husband works and I stay home. We actually believe that the traditional teaching regarding the use of birth control is a serious matter. As each child came, and there are seven, we had faith that God would provide. As we watched our children develop in the decaying public school system, we began homeschooling because we actually believe that it's better for our children. We have had faith, regardless of our struggles, that God would guide us. But this past year has been a test.
I know exactly what Simcha is talking about. We depend a great deal on the generosity of others. In the past few years, friends have brought cases of food to our home. Many times, that has been the only food we have had in our cupboards. When my mother became ill last year, we had an amazing outpouring of Christmas gifts for our children. We always seem to pull things together, but it's never without cost. Each month, we play the past due bill shuffle. The only bills that get paid are the ones with a shut off notice. Sometimes, we have to plead for extensions on those. Any home or car repair puts us in crisis. And each year we wait anxiously for income tax time. Our only hope, sometimes, is our tax return. And this year, we had to go on food stamps. That $100 really goes far. But sometimes its a matter of whether or not our kids eat that week or not.
About December, I had a serious loss of faith. I knew how difficult our financial situation was and I became angry and afraid. Poverty today in America is a crime. If you don't have running water or don't have enough food in your refrigerator, the state, the government, will take your kids away. It's especially frightening when you homeschool because people assume that something sinister is happening in your home. So, we, as traditional Catholic parents with very limited resources, live in a state of anxiety. This is the reality of traditional parents: the constant fear that some legal authority will take your children because you are poor, or free range, or a homeschool, or natural, or anti-vaccines. I begged and bargained with God. I just did not understand why, after all the positive changes we had made in our lives, why we had to suffer financially like this. I even asked Him to give me a heart and love for poverty, so I wouldn't want the very few things I do have. Nothing changed. In fact, they seemed to have gotten worse.
Last month, my mother finally passed away. The cost for her funeral, though mostly paid, is still lingering. It is yet another bill added to the bills we already can not afford to pay. As such, tomorrow afternoon, I will return to the work force. Yes, we will loose our food stamps. My children will not have their mother in the evening around the dinner table. We won't have our family Rosary. My focus, now, will be outside my home, on a warehouse floor. There will be men flirting and gossipy women. My husband will not see me when he comes home from work, nor will he have me to talk through his work place frustrations. He will be asleep when I come home. Our marital time will be strained. Fortunately, we will continue to homeschool, but our focus will be shifted and the mornings for the children will begin with cartoons and pop tarts instead of mom and morning prayers.
I suppose many will read this and say "Welcome to the real world." We haven't wanted to be apart of this modern world. In fact, we have sacrificed a lot, to NOT be part of it. And tomorrow it comes to a screeching halt. It's a relief really, in some ways. Now we won't have to hear the whispers around the water cooler about my staying home with our children. We won't be the outcasts anymore. We will catch up on our bills. We will eventually get a second car, put some money in savings, repair the kitchen sink, and get a new washing machine. But our family, our relationships, our cohesion, that will change for awhile at least.
As I close, I would like to share this. Living in today's American culture is economically painful. We are a culture of debt, mandated insurance premiums, high housing costs, astronomical utility fees, and the fear of government intervention always looming. Those people who wade their way through it, do so sometimes with blinders on . Mothers have to convince themselves that their day care is terrific. Fathers have to remind themselves that working 70 hours a week, many nights away from home, puts food on the table. Parents have to overlook what their children are exposed to a school. Instead, we live in denial. We become paralyzed. We pray and we plead. And then eventually, we just concede.
So the next time you see a family of 6 or 8 or 10, pray for them. The struggles they face in this world are excruciating. They often don't have a lot of choices about where they live or where they work or how many hours. Many of them get food stamps, medicaid, and WIC. They don't do it because they are bums or lazy or ignorant. They do it because their backs are against the wall and they want to resist compromising their Christian values as long as they can. So be patient with them. Help them if you can.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
When I was growing up Protestant, I heard rather frequently the Biblical quote, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Most of the time, though, I heard it when a person was defending some sinful behavior they didn't want to be admonished for. It was usually followed by the declaration that all of us are sinners anyway. I always found it rather insulting and slightly Eyorish. Why bother trying to be better or do better? After all, we are all sinners anyway. It just always seemed, well, cowardly. It never occurred to me though, that this non-judgmental attitude was not really part of of Christianity, even Protestantism. Well at least I never quite thought about. Until now.
Way back before the 1930s or 1940s, I don't think there was that much difference in the behavior of Catholics and Protestants. Divorce was neither widespread or widely accepted. Sexual promiscuity was frowned upon and birth control wasn't readily available. Lying, cheating, and stealing were viewed by just about everyone as degenerate behavior. Whether you were Catholic or Protestant, if you did something morally wrong, someone was going to admonish you for it. Period. Misbehave at school? Mother knew before you got home. Steal eggs from the market? Grocer Johnson called your Dad. Got pregnant by your boyfriend? Shot-gun wedding or sent to help Aunt Betty for a few months. Almost everyone lived by the same moral standards of behavior. Heck, our laws even reflected this moral code. Stealing is a crime. Murder is a crime. And yes, adultery is a crime. During this time, what was considered normal social behavior closely reflected Christian moral behavior. As such, if some person was criticized for their immoral behavior, no one was screaming about being judgmental. Instead, most people either corrected their behavior, or in the case of the incorrigibles, they became more discreet.
But during this time period our society was slowly progressing. What had once been considered normal Christian behavior, now seemed to be unattainable for large majorities of people. During the Depression, women resorted to prostitution to put food on the table. Protestant Christians were given permission to use birth control methods to limit their family size in the face of poverty. Husbands abandoned their wives. A lot of women were left to give birth to their babies alone. Alcoholism increased. And at the same time, psychoanalysis became dominant, and social work became an profession. These social problems didn't seem to be going away, not even with the help of priests and ministers. In fact, they seemed to get worse and the people themselves seemed to be suffering from depression, anxiety, and suicide. And then came Psychologist Carl Rogers and his Person of Tomorrow.
Now before I explain what Dr. Rogers has to do with any of this, let me give you some background. He was born in 1902 into a Protestant Evangelical family. At first he wanted to become a minister and he headed off to seminary. Unfortunately, he rejected his entire religious belief system and left. Instead, he went on to study psychology and earned his PhD in 1931. In his personal life, Dr. Rogers embraced Eastern mysticism, spiritualism, and the occult. In the 1970s he reported that he developed much of his humanistic approach theory to his study of Taoism. Fundamentally, he taught that people were basically good, and that they only needed to self-actualize. To do this, they needed to do what feels right for them. In this way they could become a "fully functioning person." As such, a therapists goal in helping his clients "self-actualize" was primarily to listen---to be non-judgmental---to make no values judgment on their behavior or attitudes---only to help them figure out what was right for them. Self-actualized individuals he called Persons of Tomorrow and outlined in a book the qualities of such a person. You can read about that here. Good people, to Dr. Rogers, make their own moral judgments, are caring and empathetic without making moral judgments towards other people, and trust very little except their own experiences. His humanistic approach was novel when he introduced it in 1951, but it is absolutely predominant today.
Unfortunately, as the Catholic Church began to lose influence in the culture, especially in the United States, the door was opened for society to become increasing shaped by modern psychology and social work. After Vatican II, priests became "servant-leaders." They became counselors instead of confessors. They began to focus on the social needs of the faithful instead of their sacramental and spiritual needs. As such they encouraged the faithful to focus on their social and mental well-being. Fraternal correction was replaced with unconditional positive regard. As Catholics, we are now chastised for admonishing sinners. Instead, we are told we need to value each person as they move through their life journey, no matter what they choose. And this is absolutely, positively UN-Catholic. In fact, it's the exact opposite of Catholicism. It is a rejection of everything Our Lord taught us, in favor of the teachings of Laozi.
Our modern society has devolved rapidly. It is absolutely NOT Christian in any form. This non-judgmental psychotherapy approach to our family, friends, and even strangers is not helping them. In fact, it is dangerous for them. And if you are a Catholic reading this, you might want to take a look at yourself if you have adopted this attitude. In fact, fraternal correction, i.e. admonishing the sinner, is an obligation. Admonishing sinners is, in fact, one of the seven Spiritual works of mercy. As Catholics, we are bound under pain of mortal sin, to perform these works! So when we are quietly "valuing" people on their personal journeys, we are committing mortal sin. When we are avoiding correcting peoples ignorance regarding Catholic teaching for fear of confrontation, we are committing mortal sin.
So, yes, when someone sins, we are bound to correct them with charity. We cannot be mean, emotional, or irrational. We cannot call them names or shun them. But we must correct them privately, gently, and lovingly. St. Thomas Aquinas considered fraternal correction a great act of mercy. But sometimes correction can not be made privately but has to be made publicly. Today, I think that probably means in a forum like this one, a blog, a newspaper article, or some other social media. When can we do this? When the offense is public, when it effects a third party or the community, or when it causes scandal. Does this give us license to be cruel, through slurs, or damage a person's name or reputation? Absolutely not. It simply means we are bound to lovingly correct and instruct them. Perhaps they don't know what they are doing is wrong. Perhaps that person doesn't really understand what they are doing. Perhaps no one has even bothered to point them in the right direction. Unfortunately though, most of the time these people just continue down their own path of destruction. What are we to do then? We are to leave them alone and pray.
While I have brought up psychology in this post, I do not want this post to be about psychological principals I addressed Dr. Roger's and his humanistic theories simply to show how modern social work and psychology has shaped our thinking, replaced Christian principals as a way of living, and confused us regarding Catholic teaching. This non-judgmental attitude is absolutely not Catholic. If you hear a priest or bishop or pope suggest that we are to ignore people's sin and simply value their life journey as persons, then close your ears. This is New Church Speak, not Catholic teaching. When you hear your friends admonish you for being judgmental, remind them that you are Christian and have an obligation to correct sinners. When they call you a hypocrite or a hater, just bear it patiently for Our Lord. But most of all pray. Pray that the Church is restored soon. Pray that faithful Catholics can save themselves from the New Church. Pray that the people you love will allow their eyes to be opened. And pray that we all remain charitable, loving, and humble as we share and defend our Catholic faith.
But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. ~ Matthew 18:15-17
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Monday, April 7, 2014
When I was an evangelical Protestant, we were taught to see the devil everywhere. Got car trouble? It's probably the devil. Took a wrong turn? Again, probably the devil. The devil is talked about so much that it almost becomes paralyzing and one fears you can't really escape him. Ironically, when I became a Catholic, the devil was talked about fairly infrequently. So little, in fact, that one gets the impression that perhaps the devil doesn't really exist at all. But it has only been in the last few years really, that I have come to understand the devil and how he works. I owe that, honestly, to the instructions of a very good priest and traditional Catholicism. I am really grateful for this because I am not sure I would have had the graces to resist the devil just recently. Truthfully, I don't think I would have even realized I was being tempted at all. See this is how the devil works, actually. He is pretty wily. The less you recognize his temptations, the more freely you will succumb.
A few weeks ago, the devil was really working on me. Unfortunately, I didn't really recognize it. I just thought our family was having a financial crisis and that we would someone work through it. But it was more than that. It was temptation knocking and I almost opened the door. Let me explain a bit.
It is incredibly difficult to be a traditional Catholic in modern society. Everyone is modern. 4 out of 10 households have a mother who is the sole or primary breadwinner. And 75% of women with children work outside the home. I have no idea how this translates to Catholic women, but among the Novus Ordo women my age or younger, I knew very few who stayed home and/or had large families. It seemed to me, then, that our family was out of place in our local parish, especially when we had our 6th (and later 7th) child. Later on, when we decided to homeschool, we had friends who actually questioned our sanity. But once we found our way to traditional Catholicism, we found our SILK (single income lots of kids) way of life was pretty normal. Almost everyone we know in our traditional Catholic circles homeschools. And for the last 4 years we have been getting along pretty well. But then things changed....
For the last decade, my mother has been living with our family. Its been sort of a symbiotic relationship really. She was disabled and needed care, which we gave willingly, and she contributed financially with groceries, homeschool supplies, holidays, birthdays, and college. But in December, just before our son graduated from college, my mother had a massive stroke. It almost claimed her life. Instead, she is now living in the nursing home under constant nursing care. I am truly grateful to the Lord for her life and the wonderful nurses in charge of her care, but in addition to the loss of her financial assistance, I have to contribute a small portion the cost of her care. It has been a stressful time just dealing with her health issues, but also making the necessary adjustments in our personal life as well. And this is when the devil hit me....
Day after day, he planted in my mind the idea that I needed to go back to work. This would help, he said. You only need a few hundred dollars each month, he said. Your working is the simplest solution, he said. Don't cut your grocery budget, he said, just go back to work. Oh, yea, and put your kids back in school. It will be alright. They will adjust, make friends. And the voices around me, my own grown children who are fully modern, kept saying the exact same things. I was ready, really ready to give in. Until I saw the robins dancing in the yard....
In the midst of my anxiety, I realized that I hadn't prayed in over a week. I had been so focused on money and finances and worrying about making ends meet and buying groceries that I hadn't bothered to ask Christ for help or direction. I hadn't prayed a rosary. I hadn't sought the intercession of a single saint. I had just given into to despair and depression. But one morning last week, in anticipation of spring, I saw two robins dancing with each other outside my kitchen window. It was a reminder that this long, hard winter was drawing to a close and that spring was coming. And some how I heard these words: "All these things I will give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." It settled in my heart, I heard it, and I heard the twisted, lying voice who said it.
Through my fast, through my preparations, the devil had tempted me. I wasn't prepared. I almost caved. I was willing to put our children in public school, to risk their loss of morals and purity and innocence, their loss of faith, for a few dollars and a few groceries. I was willing to take myself, the mother, the heart of the home, away from the home, for a new car. I was willing to put myself into the workforce with all its sexual temptations, for a vacation. The devil had convinced me that evil was good, and I was willing to compromise my values and just do it!
The devil has one goal---to keep us from heaven. He searches and waits and plots and plans his attack. He creeps up on you and whispers things in your ear. He doesn't come to us in ugly forms because we would recognize him easily. Rather he comes to us in pleasing ways, in compromises, in practicalities. Once upon a time, the Catholic Church spoke out against evils and the whole world listened. In 1930, Pope Pius XI, in Casti Connubii, warned about the dangers of women working outside the home. He called the so-called emancipation of women a crime. He warned that it would lead to the loss of dignity of motherhood, the debasing of women, and a danger to the husband and children who would lose a wife and mother. How prophetic! Strange how the New Church, led by Wojtyla and Ratzinger, have encouraged women to work outside the home and pursue their interests and have given them prominent roles in the New Church! What the Church once called evil, it now calls good. Is this even possible??
Fortunately for me, I have been given graces immeasurable these days. I have come through this temptation. But I am exhausted, both physically and spiritually. In the kitchen that morning I cried out loud and clear, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and Him alone shalt thou serve." I've survived this temptation. Our family will weather this storm, this financial crisis. And we will continue to put our faith and trust in the Lord.
Pray many rosaries! Ask for intercession in these dark times! Never doubt that Our Lord will provide for us! And never forget the devil lurks like a serpent waiting for just the right moment, in your hunger, in your weakness, in your loneliness. He will tell you all sorts of things, convince you of anything, speak to you through your family and friends. So be prepared always! So stay true to your Faith. Know it. Study it. Cling to it! For without the Faith, we have nothing, and we certainly can't resist the temptations of the devil.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, ora pro nobis!
St. Joseph, Protector of the Church, ora pro nobis!
Above image: Satan Tried to Tempt Christ: James Tissot, 1895
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Now that I have wished you all happy Merry making, I'd like to get to the purpose of this little article. A few days before Christmas, another little article was making its way around Facebook with full support and glee of the secularists and so-called modern day Christians. It's an article from Tiffany Willis' blog called Liberal America. Here it is. (This link has been removed at Ms. Tiffany Willis' request.) If you wish to read her article, you will have to go to her blog and search her archives. You can read it if you wish, but be warned: it's neither pretty nor accurate. Now normally, I could care less what self-identified liberal Christians believe personally, but this topic---keep Christ out of Christmas---seems to be a popular theme among so-called Christians these days. As such, I felt like I needed to challenge this idea with some common sense and history.
First of all, I am not a professional writer. I have no experience whatever in writing. I've never taken a journalism or writing class. I've never had an article or book published. I am just a simple person, sort-of educated but a heart and mind geared toward knowledge and the love of Christ. I am drawn especially to history because I understand that our whole world, culture, and society is organic in that it has grown and adapted over huge periods of time. We do not just "invent" ideas or customs or traditions. They develop over time as our understanding grows and as the forces guiding our society change. There is so much evidence to support this statement that no further explanation is necessary. Any person who does not understand this is either grossly uneducated or highly closed-minded or possibly ignorant. I am certainly not going to accuse Ms. Willis of being anything. I don't know her personally, and honestly I believe she means well. But her article regarding keeping Christ out of Christmas is filled with gross misunderstandings, age-old propaganda, and under-researched statements. I hope to refute everything she has written except for her personal confession of her profound belief in Christ. I do not know her heart. I only know that she is misleading people who are ignorant of the facts themselves.
Ms. Willis begins her critique of Christmas by making the claim that Christ did not tell us, Himself, to celebrate His birth, and that, then is a primary reason for Christians not to do so. She contends that those who do celebrate Christmas are "misguided." This is an interesting comment and not one that I haven't heard before. In fact it is a common thread running through the Jehovah's Witnesses cult. Their arguments are simple: Jesus told us to remember His death, the Bible doesn't tell us when He was born, Christians didn't celebrate Christmas until the 4th century. Taken on face value, I suppose this is easy to accept, as Ms. Willis has, but a closer look at history reveals something interesting about the early Christians, and these details are important in many other statements Ms. Willis includes in her article.
At the time of Our Lord's birth, the world was plunged in darkness. There were multitudes of pagans and barbarians who had filled the earth. Primarily, Hellenism, or Greek culture, had influence the entire known world beginning about 300 years before Christ. History books are filled to the brim with all the influences the Greeks had in the world and on society. Hellenism had, in fact, left a huge mark on Judaism itself which led to a revolt among the Jews about 200 years before Christ was born. The Greeks had taken over Judaism, taken over the temple, taken over the culture, and Judaism was all but underground. There were only a few faithful Jews left and they had enough of the outrage. It came to a head when this group, the Maccabees, fought back and reclaimed the Temple from the invaders. It's a beautiful story, found in the Sacred Scripture, one of which was commemorated in Jesus's time called the Feast of the Dedication, to which Ms. Willis refers through one single reference. It is still celebrated today by Jews, marked with a week long celebration of parties and gift giving. They just call it Hanukkah. If Ms. Willis is a Protestant, she may well have never heard this incredible story or know why Our Lord was celebrating. The story is found in completion in 1st and 2nd Maccabees, books that were removed from the Protestant Bible by Martin Luther.
The discussion of the revolt and divisions among the Jews is historically significant, because this is the environment into which Our Lord chose to come into the world. His Incarnation and Birth are and have been the most significant invents in the world's history. However, He was born in obscurity to very poor and simple parents. He lived a quiet life until he was 30 years old at which time only a small group of people were ever to know him personally. During His earthly life, very few people believed Him, His own people persecuted and humiliated Him, and nothing was even written about Him until at least 40 or 50 years after His Death and Resurrection. Saint Paul, a diaspora Jew from Palestine, did not begin his ministry until this time as well. He wasn't even born when Our Lord was crucified! As such, it is fairly easy to understand how the small band of Our Lord's followers were hidden among the crowds within the Roman Empire. In fact, they remained hidden in many ways for fear of persecution, humiliation, and death. Yet for over 300 years, Christ's Church survived hidden underground in the catacombs until the Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Any information about the Christian Church before this time has to be gleaned from ancient documents and manuscripts which clearly suggests Christians across the Roman Empire were celebrating the Feast of the Nativity on January 6. In fact, the Orthodox Church still celebrates Christmas on that day. (The Catholic Church assigns January 6 as Epiphany.) Yet, we know from at least one ancient Roman document, the Philocalian Calendar of 336, that Christians celebrated Christmas on December 25.
This brings me to Ms. Willis' question, "Why December 25?" She claims that the December 25th date was chosen (by whom she never suggests) primarily because it was the date of the much celebrated Roman festival of either Saturnalia or Dies Natalis Soli Invicti. It is true that the Romans were festival celebraters. They loved leisure and they loved their gods, of which they had many. Saturn was a particular favorite. During Saturnalia, slaves traded places with their masters, and young men dressed up like King Saturn, drank in excess, and engaged in explicit behavior. Saturnalia was an excuse to set aside all sense of restraint. However, it has been refuted by many historians that the feast of Saturnalia began on the 17th and ended by the 23rd. As such the idea that Christmas is derived from Saturnalia has absolutely no merit whatever. However, the celebration of Dies Natalis Soli Invicti is worthy of a mention. As I noted above, the early Christians within the Roman empire were sparse and hidden from society. When they were recognized, they were often killed for refusing to participate in Roman society. But because Roman society itself was not opposed to cult worship of foreign gods, cults from outside regions often erupted and disappeared. One such cult to the god Mithras emerged in the 1st Century A.D. Not much has survived regarding Mithras and his cult, primarily because by the 4th century, the cult had completely disappeared. Not coincidentally, the Christians arose from the catacombs about this time. Records do indicate that Mithras cult followers had a banquet on December 25 in honor of Sol, the sun god. However, St. Justin Martyr, who wrote in the 2nd Century, accused the Mithraists of copying the Christians. This idea was held to be universal until the 1800s when philosopher Ernest Renan suggested that Mithraics and Christians competed with each other in the empire.
As to December 25th being the date of Christ's birth, I offer to you a book written by Dr. Taylor Marshall, God's Birthday. You can get a free e-book about this subject based on his research into the historian Josephus. For early Christians, Christ's birthday was incredibly important. They would not have just chosen some random dates based on celebrations of the gods they held in contempt. As Dr. Taylor points out in his work, going back through the Scriptures, weighing the important events of St. John the Baptists conception and birth, it's clear to calculate exactly when Christ was born. This event is so critical to our Christian faith, that declaring there is no way to know when Christ was born is tantamount to suggesting Christianity itself is a fabrication or purely an emotional experience. So to answer Ms. Willis' question: They chose December 25 precisely because it was the day on which Our Lord became Man.
As if it is not enough to attack Our Lord's Birthday, Ms. Willis goes on to present to her readers several Christmas traditions that she believes are rooted in pagan rituals. She mentions Christmas trees, presents, mistletoe, and holly. I have heard many of these arguments in the past and recently was involved in a discussion regarding the tradition of Christmas trees, but I was honestly surprised by Ms. Willis claim about something I had never heard: Asherah trees. Ms. Willis claims that Christians allowed the use of Christmas trees to convert the people of the Asherah cult who worshiped trees and brought them in their homes during winter solstice. Um. No. Was there an Asherah cult? Yes. However, the Asherah followers were actually a Canaanite cult in Israel. A little research about the Canaanites reveals that they lived during Biblical times and they had many strange gods, particularly Baal and Moloch and goddesses Astarte and Ashera. They were a great nation with a command of architecture and language. Evidence of their influence can be found in both Egyptian and Babylonian culture. But they were a vicious and hateful people. And as the land of Canaan became the land of Israel, many of the Canaanite practices remained. The Ashera pole or tree was one such practice where the cult followers would erect trees next to the altars of the Israelites. The Jeremiah reference Ms. Willis cites which refers to adorning trees is an admonition to the Canaanites and their idolatry. It has absolutely nothing to do with a comment on modern day Christmas tree use. The Christmas tree in Christian homes is a long held tradition that developed organically over several hundred years. The practice of decoration with trees and greenery of various sorts, including holly and mistletoe, is well documented dating back to the Middle Ages. As for the mistletoe and holly, they were important plants that grew throughout Europe. In fact, Pliny the Elder wrote about the seemingly mystical qualities of mistletoe in 70 or so B.C. But it was the Celts who were completely mesmerized by the ubiquitous plant. They had a fondness for bringing it into their homes, and because there was nothing particularly anti-Christian about it, they continued the practice after converting to Christianity. They holly plant was often called "Christ's thorns" when brought into the home at Christmas as a reminder that Christ was born to suffer and die as a symbol of His Crown of Thorns and Drops of Precious Blood. Nothing unChristian here at all.
Finally, I want to get to Ms. Willis's comments about the much loved and venerated St. Nicholas, particularly her commentary that the great Bishop's words were something harsh and hateful. Actually, St. Nicholas only repeated what Our Lord Himself said to the Jews of His time. Perhaps a good reading of Sacred Scripture might help Ms. Willis understand. Our Lord said this to the Jews:
You do the works of your father. They said therefore to him: We are not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God. Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your Father, you would indeed love me. For from God I proceeded, and came; for I came not of myself, but he sent me: Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof. John 8: 41-44Which brings me to a commentary on Judaism itself. Mosaic Judaism, the Judaism of the Bible, no longer exists. In 70 A.D. the Temple, which is a sacrificial requirement in Judaism, was destroyed. It remains in rubble. Jewish priests no longer have a place for sacrifice and their is no active priesthood. Current Judaism is a man-made religion based on the Talmud. Rabinnic Judaism was formed in 70 A.D. Our Lord was born a Mosaic Jew. He came to fulfill the Law. Our Lord was rejected by His own people. And Mosaic Judaism no longer exists.
As I close this long but important article, I would like to make one final commentary. The only solid reference Ms. Willis makes regarding a reason to reject Christmas practices because of its pagan origins comes from the Puritan minister Reverend Increase Mather in 1687. Now Reverend Mather was quite influential among the Puritans in Massachusetts. He became the first President of Harvard College and his son also went on to become a quite prolific Puritan minister. The good Reverend was highly superstitious and actively involved in the infamous Salem witch trials, until this own wife was accused of such shenanigans. In case you are unaware the Puritans absolutely loathed the Catholic Church and any traditions or rituals associated with Her. They hated the Church so much, they even rejected the English Anglican Church for being too "papist." When they settled here in the then Colonies, they outlawed all Christmas Celebrations, just as the English had done in the home country. English law prohibited any parties, merry making, decorations, singing, and or celebrating. Christians, particularly Catholics, caught participating in Christmas rituals or celebrations were fined, imprisoned, and killed. The Puritans extended this practice in the Colonies and Christmas celebrating remained illegal until the late 17th century. Although the laws were repealed, Christmas celebrating was discouraged in the United States and some people were inflicted with fines for closing their shops on Christmas. In fact, the Puritans were workaholics. Their calendar was the most leisureless ever, with 300 working days, and only time off on Sundays and a few other holidays. The Puritans had nothing but contempt for Christmas and the Catholic Church.
I am sure that Ms. Tiffany Willis is a well-meaning self-identified Christian. But her conclusions are not only ill informed, they are dangerous, and perhaps blasphemous. The Incarnation and the Birth of Christ are the single most significant point in history. My 7 year old can tell you that in pretty simple words: If Jesus had not been born on Christmas, the gates of Heaven would have been closed forever. We celebrate Christmas in all its pageantry and revelry because of that fact. I do agree with Ms. Willis on one point: Know what you practice and why. Educate yourself. You can not call yourself a Christian if you leave Christ out of your faith, your belief, and your practice.
Divine Infant, have mercy on us!
Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, pray for us!
Holy Family, pray for us!
On June 23, I received an e-mail from Ms. Tiffany Willis, owner of LiberalAmerica.org, requesting that I remove the link to her article. Thus, the link has been removed. You may read her comment below in the combox. As a note, the following can be found at the bottom of LiberalAmerica.org:
Any article on LiberalAmerica.org belongs to the writer of the article. LiberalAmerica.org allows for sharing with attribution. You can not sell our writer's articles, but you can use snippets of our articles with attribution and a link to LiberalAmerica.org and the author's name on your ad-supported blog or website. Please check with individual authors before using an entire work.
My article clearly attributes Ms. Willis and clearly provides a link to her website. Thus I can only conclude that Ms. Willis is unhappy primarily with the content of my article. As is the case for most liberals, you are not allowed to have a differing opinion or value system contrary to theirs. This is also the case with non-Catholic's who identify as Christians. When presented with clear and concise evidence to contradict their opinion, they are unable to defend themselves. Rather than admit their error, they resort to name-calling, irrelevant remarks, and threats.
Monday, November 18, 2013
There are traditional Catholics everywhere. They are sitting in the pews at your local Novus Ordo parish, where they are easy to spot. Most of them, though, eventually find a place where the Tridentine Mass is offered. Some of these places are within the various societies and establishments "officially recognized" by the Church. Other trad Catholics, for various reasons, attend Masses at other chapels not "recognized" by the Church but where they can receive the Sacraments and practice their Faith. And while everyone has made their decision based on prayer, thoughtfulness, and information, there is an awful lot of name calling and accusations thrown around in real life and in the blogosphere.
Considering the state of the post-concilliar Catholic Church, it's a real shame that traditional Catholics insist on stoking the tensions between them. The criticisms reach such heightened levels sometimes that many Catholics just simply begin to avoid each other out of fear of having to discuss "Faith issues." In spite of the one thing we can all agree on---that the post-concilliar Church is a danger to one's faith and quite possibly a new religion---the disagreements and divisions actually keep us from being able to make any real headway in the restoration of the Church.
Generally speaking, it's like a dysfunctional family rivalry. Those traditional Catholics who attend the Tridentine Mass under one of the official "legal" wings of the Church, like the FSSP or ICK, often totally reject those people who attend SSPX chapels by labeling them schismatics. Then there are the SSPXers who don't trust any priests except their own. Both of those groups reject and avoid those Catholics that openly challenge the validity of the person who is the Pope. And all of those often lament that the independent priests with private chapels have gone off the deep end. It has become a nasty mess of bickering, attacking, fighting, and down right shunning. It's worse than an episode of Survivor or Big Brother and nothing good comes of it.
You see, our salvation is at stake here. This is not about sitting on committees or singing in the choir. It's not about feeling good or important or finding your sense of belonging. It's not even about the Mass. It's about our Catholic Faith. If we lose that, then we lose everything, especially our place in Heaven. Isn't that what the devil wants after all? A generation ago, people knew where to look for their Catholic Faith. They could go to any Catholic Church and find a good, holy Catholic priest. They could send their children to Catholic schools and they could trust the nuns would teach them the Faith. But those days are gone for good. Now one must look for the Faith. One must know what it truly is and recognize if their priest or bishop actually has it. It's a crisis like that of St. Athanasius' time. How was the Church restored then when 95% of the priests and bishops were heretics? Did the "trads" in those days bicker and fight over who or who was not the Pope or whether or not their church was official?
Isn't it the same in our modern day? It's no secret that the post-concilliar Catholic church is infused with Modernism, which, as Pope Pius X told us, is the synthesis of all heresies. Everyday we hear a priest orbishop spouting some Modernist drivel, yet we are afraid to call them out. Our Pope openly professes Modernist thinking and we are afraid to say so for fear of being disobedient. We are afraid to leave our Churches where our children are loosing their faith, where our altars have been ripped out, where many no longer believe Christ is present in the Eucharist, where our priests are teaching us lies, where our very souls are in danger. We are afraid to be disobedient to our priests, our bishops and our Pope.
Unfortunately, traditional Catholics are no better. They criticize and condemn each other. They refuse to engage in real discussions, or consider the possibility that their priest or group is compromised or questionable. We must absolutely stop this bickering and in-fighting. Instead, we must do better to help each other find and keep our Faith. We can not do this if we are constantly fighting and accusing each other of not being real Catholics. How much could we accomplish together, how many souls could be saved if we just tried to work together?
In reality, it's not about where we attend Mass. It's about the Faith! Your cathedral may have a large group of young families and beautiful music, but without the Faith, they are just noisy makers. Your chapel may have monks and nuns still in habits, but without the Faith, they are just men and women. Your church may have a vibrant priest, nice vestments, and a marble altar, but without the Faith, these are just props. We must know our Faith. We must be prepared to fight for it, defend it, and be willing to hide it among ourselves to keep it. Let us never forget the Japanese Catholics who hid underground for over 200 years without clergy, without the Mass, without schools. They had only their rosaries, their scapulars, and their Faith!
Our Lord promised that the devil would not win this battle. The Church will survive. Of that we can be sure. But where is the Church? Where are the people of Faith? That is for you to search, to seek out, and hang on to as if your eternal life depends on it. After all, it does.
Viva Cristo Rey!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
St. Athanasius, pray for us!
Martyrs of Japan, pray for us!
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Modernism is, by nature, a nasty thing. I will leave you to investigate Modernism on your own, with a good place to start being Pascendi Dominici Gregis, promulgated by Pope Pius X in 1907. Ideas, from faith to family to science, that were contrary to Catholic doctrine were beginning to infiltrate the Church. The seminaries were filled with instructors, bishops, and priests who were teaching these modernist ideas and cloaking them in ambiguity so they could be passed off as tradition. It was so bad, that in 1910 Pope Pius X required all priests, bishops, and prelates to take the Oath Against Modernism. And though Modernism seemed to be kept at bay for awhile, it eventually infected the whole Church. No Catholic doctrine, truth, or tradition was spared. By the time Vatican II was convened in 1962, the stage was set to revolutionize and modernize the Catholic Church.
The hallmark of Modernism is the self-conscious break with tradition. Tradition is considered sentimental. There is only value in what one can experience or perceive, theoretically known as Phenomenology. These two concepts, Modernism and Phenomenology, are intertwined. Many, if not most, of the Cardinals and theologians that participated and directed Vatican II held to these philosophies. ( I don't want to go into a long discussion about Phenomenology at this time. It is not easy to understand and I have had to consult my husband who holds a degree in Philosophy to help me recognize it's impact. If you would like to understand more, you can begin reading here about Edmund Husserl and Phenomenology.) Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger were two of the most influential priests during the Vatican II Council and they were both heavily influenced by the Phenomenology of Husserl and another philosopher named Max Scheler. As such, every document that came out of Vatican II, every discussion, and every decree or Encyclical that flowed from Vatican II were all infected with Modernism in some form. All of it was in direct opposition to the Thomist Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas that had been the foundation of Church doctrine for 1,962 years. (You will find a brief analysis here.)
As I said previously, Vatican II infected the whole Church with Modernism under many different philosophical ideas. The nature of marriage was not immune to this infection. Prior to Vatican II, the doctrines and dogma of the Catholic Church were rooted in Thomist Philosophy. Essentially, St. Thomas taught and the Catholic Church formulated doctrine on the understanding that all human acts have natural purposes which are ordained by God and they must be respected as such by God's creation. In regards to marriage, St. Thomas spent quite some time discussing marriage in his Summa Theologica. His thoughts on the matter made up the foundation of what every priest taught and what every Catholic understood about marriage. The heart of the doctrine regarding marriage was based upon Sacred Scripture, formulated philosophically by St. Thomas, instructed in the Catechism of Trent, promulgated clearly in two Encyclicals; Arcanum by Pope Leo XIII in 1880 and Casti Connubii by Pope Pius XI in 1930, and re-confirmed by Pope Pius XII in his Address to Midwives in 1951 which he gave in response to the new philosophy on marriage that was beginning to take root.
Another student of the growing Phenomenological movement was Dietrich von Hildebrand. While he was personally and profoundly Catholic and openly critical of the changes in the Liturgy after Vatican II, his personalistic approach to married love was rooted in phenomenology and in direct opposition to Church teaching. Since Pope Pius XII help a deep and profound respect for von Hildebrand, it was precisely his new philosophy regarding marriage that he warned the Italian Midwives about in his address. (You can read more about von Hildebrand's philosophy of love here.) In the 1920s, von Hildebrand gave a series of lectures on the nature of marriage. He formulated the idea that there was not only a purpose or end of marriage, as had always been taught, but that there was also a distinct meaning of marriage. This meaning of marriage, von Hildebrand concluded, was the love the spouses feel in the marriage embrace. Ultimately, these lectures laid the ground work for this new philosophy and new understanding of marriage that developed out of Vatican II. That philosophy, the new way of looking a marriage, was finally decreed and promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1968 in his Encyclical Humane Vitae. While Pope Paul VI re-affirmed the Church's constant teaching against birth control, he instituted a new concept of marriage.
To see clearly the new orientation the Church has taken regarding marriage, I though it might be easier just to present the fundamental concepts from the traditional Church and from the post-conciliar Church. (For the sake of simplicity I will use the True teaching vs. the New teaching.)
- Marriage Debt: St. Paul outlines in 1 Corinthian's that married spouses are bound by their marriage debt, or the conjugal act. The marriage debt is designed for 3 ends or purposes in order: procreation, calming concupiscence, and fostering love and affection. In other words, conjugal relations are designed for first, the couple to have children, then to keep the spouses from falling into sin, and what grows from that is a mutual fondness and enduring love, often developed through sacrifice, submissiveness, and selflessness. The husband and wife are both obliged to pay their "debt" whenever the other spouses requests, provided that the request is not unreasonable. In this way, the marriage debt protects the spouses from incontinence: the inability to control one's sexual appetite.
- Begetting Children: The principal object of marriage is to have children, to bring them up in the true faith, and to teach them service to God. In other words, couples need to have always in their minds the birth of a child. They wait for children to arrive when God sends them, no matter how small or large a number. They have the duty and responsibility to bring up these children for Christ.
- Mutual Help: With the husband as head of the family and the wife as willingly submissive to her husband, the couple are able to work towards the common good of their family and the education of their children in matters of faith and morals.
- Sacrament of Matrimony: Matrimony is a word that comes from the Latin word, mater, or mother. Why? Because marriage is designed to make a woman a mother. Christ elevated the state of marriage to a Sacrament thereby giving graces to the couple. These graces enhance their natural love, increases the strength of marriage bond, and sanctifies the spouses, so that they grown in holiness and help to bring each other, and their children, into Heaven.
- Marital Embrace: This is a concept defined by Dietrich von Hildebrand. According to von Hildebrand, the marital embrace, or the conjugal act, is designed for the couple to grow in mutual love for one another. While procreation is naturally a purpose of the marital embrace, it is not the sole purpose or even primary purpose. He taught that the marital embrace has two designs, one unitive and one procreative. In other words, through the marital embrace couples grow to understand, respect, and love each other and then, as a secondary but equal consequence, they procreate. Couples can not engage in the conjugal act without first considering the "personal" and "reasonable" wishes of the spouses. Couples are encouraged to practice self-discipline in matters of conjugal relations through periodic continence. Only through self-control can spouses truly express their love for one another.
- Responsible Parenthood: The concept of responsible parenthood first appears in Catholic thought in Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae Vitae. Responsible parents are always aware of their social and physical conditions and "prudently" decide whether or not to have children, even for an indefinite period of time.
- Separate Interests: There is emphasis on personal respect and dignity of the spouses. Each spouse in encouraged to grow in understanding the other spouse and respecting his or her interests. Often times spouses are counseled to develop personal hobbies separate from their spouses. The education of the children, especially in matters of faith, is secondary. Often times there is a focus on the development of the children's personal interests as well.
- Sacrament of the Marital Embrace: In the marital embrace, the spouses are united spiritually. Through the conjugal act, the spouses "gift" themselves to each other. It is taught that the marital embrace, the conjugal act itself, is grace giving and sanctifying. The unity of the spouses is perfected and strengthened through sexual relations. And children are a "fruit" of this oneness. Sexual relations are to be enjoyed for the sake of their pleasure and through this pleasure, the spouses grow in love for each other. (Here a writer discusses what she has learned from her parish and Theology of the Body.) Proceed with caution!!!
Ultimately this new orientation of marriage has had a huge impact on the Church. In a prior time, large Catholic families were not only a fairly normal occurrence, but they pointed to a healthy and vibrant faith. In his Allocution to Large Families in 1951, Pope Pius XII said this:
Whenever you find large families in great numbers, they point to the physical and moral health of a Christian people, a living faith in God and trust in His Providence, the fruitful and joyful holiness of Catholic marriage.
In the modern civil world a large family is usually, with good reason, looked upon as evidence of the fact that the Christian faith is being lived up to...Catholics, when they married, expected to become parents of many children and they entered into the Sacrament of Matrimony with full faith in God that His Divine Providence would help them provide for every how many children He sent them. These families were not judged on their wealth or lack there of nor their financial ability to support their children. Catholic families who were blessed with financial wealth welcomed the opportunity to help these families meet their needs. In fact, Pope Pius XI remarked in Casti Connubii the following:
When these means which We have pointed out [diminishing material obstacles] do not fulfill the needs, particularly of a larger or poorer family, Christian charity towards our neighbor absolutely demands that those things which are lacking to the needy should be provided, hence it is incumbent on the rich to help the poor, so that having an abundance of this world's good, they may not expend them fruitlessly or completely squander them, but employ them for the support and well-being of those who lack the necessities of life.Today, it's not unusual for modern Catholics to view large poor families with criticism and skepticism. Due Pope Paul VI's new ideas regarding marriage and family, most modern Catholics consider "responsible parenthood" a Sacrament. They are unafraid to tout Natural Family Planning as approved Church Teaching, and it just may be a teaching of the New Church. In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI suggests:
With regard to physical, economic, psychological, and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or indefinite period of time.Does this sound anything like the trust in God's Providence that Pope Pius XII mentioned? Actually it sounds more like the secular idea that couple's should seriously consider all factors before they decide to have children. Lost in this declaration is the thought that God sends the children He chooses to whom He chooses. As a natural consequence of this new orientation, many Catholics have lost the charitable generosity of past generations. Rather than offer to help the large and/or poor families in the parishes, those families are often criticized for making the poor decision to have more children when they are unable to financially care for them. This has left a coldness in the post-Conciliar Church that has not gone unnoticed.
Something has gone terribly wrong in the Catholic Church. She lost her way in the 1960s after She was infected with Modernism. The whole Church and all the Catholics in it are diseased. Their whole way of thinking has been re-oriented. What was once considered evil--intentionally avoiding pregnancy without very, very grave circumstances--is now considered good. Large families, which were once considered the "flowerbeds of the faith" and a symbol of a living faith are now viewed with contempt.
There is so much to discuss on the topic of marriage and families that I plan to have another installment, not quite so long, regarding the marriage debt, a closer look at NFP, duties of parents, and natural child spacing (not NFP). There is so much of our Catholic faith that has been lost to us. It's time to reclaim it, one step at a time.
In recent weeks, Dr. Jay Boyd referenced this article on her blog Philotheo on Phire. Dr. Boyd has written a book on the subject of Natural Family Planning. I am very grateful and humbled that Dr. Boyd would consider my opinions and thoughts on this subject worthy of a reference. Thank you, Dr. Boyd, for your kindness. Since then, I have discovered just how controversial this topic is. Many Catholics, both traditional and modern, become very defensive regarding this subject. Without being overly critical, I suspect that Modernism is probably to blame. Sadly, it is becoming impossible to tell Catholic families from Protestant ones. I pray that, through the work of Dr. Boyd and more people like her, Catholics can begin to challenge that Modernism and rekindle their Faith.
St. Matilda, ora pro nobis.
St. Catherine of Siena, ora pro nobis.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Today, in the traditional calendar, is the 9th Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel is a familiar one from St. Luke where Our Lord has an encounter with the money-changers in the Temple. I think pretty much everyone, Catholic and non, is familiar with this story. You know the one---Jesus gets mad, flips over some tables, and calls people thieves. This Scripture has been interpreted 10 ways to Christmas, by Catholics and Protestants alike. But today, I heard this Gospel explained by a true Catholic priest and it opened my eyes just a little more to the beauty of our Faith. I would like to share it with you and hope and pray I stay true to Father's instruction.
It is impossible to understand Catholicism without a fundamental knowledge of Biblical Judaism. As such, a little explanation of Jewish law is necessary to grasp what was happening that day in the Temple and why Our Lord became so annoyed with it. According to a Jewish law established by Moses, each year, every adult male aged 20 and over was required to pay a tax to the Temple. The tax was the same for everyone---a 1/2 shekel or a shekel---paid once a year, and only in Tyrian coinage, a coin that was minted with near pure silver. Since it was a requirement for all Jews to make the pilgrimage to offer sacrifices at the Temple during Passover, the tax collection tables were set up around Jerusalem also at the time. Most people didn't carry around with them Tyrian shekels. Instead, they carried the coins used in their native lands and had to have it exchanged into shekels to pay their taxes. Ergo the money-changers. To make currency exchange easier, the money-changers set up their tables right in front of the Temple so pilgrims could exchange their currency and pay their taxes at the same. And in Jesus's time the money-exchange had become big business. Likewise, selling animals for the required Passover sacrifice also became big business.
Just like the rules for taxes, there were also specific rules for animals for the Passover sacrifices. While a spotless lamb was the usual Passover sacrifice, poor people could offer instead two turtledoves. But it was incredibly difficult for Jews during this time to travel to Jerusalem, let alone travel with lambs or turtledoves. As such, merchants often sold sacrificial animals along the way and in the city to make it easier for people to offer their sacrifices. Many of them could be purchased for small amounts. However, the Temple was set up with priests inside to judge whether or not a persons sacrifice was acceptable. More often than not, the priests did not accept the sacrifices but offered instead their own lambs and doves for sale at a much higher price. Thus the Temple not only became a market, it also became a way for the Jewish authorities and priests to exploit and oppress the poor for their own profit.
It was for this reason, then, that Our Lord became angry at the Jews and wept over them. They had become corrupt, money-loving thieves. They cared not if some poor old couple, devout in their prayers and faithful to God, could afford to buy doves for their sacrifices. They cared not about charging excessive exchange rates for taxes and pocketing the money. The Jews in authority, the priests, no longer were concerned about God's laws, they cared about themselves. They had been given the true faith, the only covenant and they were about to lose it all. And Our Lord could do nothing but let them be and cry.
Does Our Lord's statement to the Jews apply to us? Has the Catholic Church become a den of thieves? When the Jews set up their tables to exploit the poor, the Lord flipped their tables and ran them out of the Temple. In the Middle Ages, corrupt clerics took advantage of the poor and sold indulgences. As a punishment, the Lord allowed the Protestant Revolt to form, take root, and explode. In contemporary times, we have our own corruption---the Vatican bank is embroiled in more than one corruption scandal at the moment. And who knows how many money-grubbing "priests" there are like John Corapi. As a punishment for this, the Lord has allowed hundreds of Churches to shutter their windows, close their schools, and pay out millions to the little boys the priests have molested. And just as the Jews set out to silence and murder Our Lord for His Truthfulness, the modern Catholic Church sets out to silence and marginalize traditional Catholic clerics and lay people who refuse to support the concilliar Church and who remain faithful to the One True Church.
I am incredibly grateful, today, that I have the ability and means to a good priest, a true priest, faithful to the Magisterium, and unafraid to defend the True Church. I am grateful I have access to the True Mass and the Sacraments. It's an injustice of incredible proportions that the concilliar Church has become so corrupted, so pillaged, so desecrated, that most Catholics don't know what the True Church is must less where to find it. If only I had known, I would have flipped the tables long ago. Surely, our chastisement is coming soon.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
St. Joseph, Protector of the Church, pray for us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!