Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Weak Eye

Joe’s recent post about a third eye reminded me of another outstanding analogy from Frank Sheed that involves vision.
We all have a secular eye and a spiritual eye. Many Catholics end up with a weak spiritual eye because they don’t know or exercise their faith.
What happens if we have one weak eye? There is lack of focus; we cannot see reality clearly. This can explain how those who are highly educated in secular things can lack spiritual common sense. We can even be educated out of our faith as the secular eye gets stronger and stronger, while the spiritual eye is ignored and grows weaker and weaker (no exercise).
Once we find that reality seems unclear, what can we do? We can either exercise the weak eye and build its strength or close it entirely and forget it. Too many Catholics opt to close the weak eye because this is the easiest way to maintain focus, the path of least resistance, the wide road. Closing one eye will cost us our depth perception, but what are we to do? Exercise is so very hard and we are so very lazy!

It’s not too early to ponder a New Year’s Resolution. Many revolve around physical fitness, which is a good thing, but try exercising that spiritual eye more often in 2012.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Third Eye

Peter Kreeft has an interesting way of explaining how we see with the eyes of faith.  He refers to seeing with our "first" eye as using our bodily senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste), seeing with our "second" eye as using our mind or our reason, and seeing with our "third" eye as using our heart.

Anyone, animals included, use the first and the second eyes to see with.  The first is simple data gathering.  There is a wall there.  There is light coming in through the cracks in the wall.  The second eye reasons.  The wall is old and must be broken to be letting in the light.  The third eye however is used only by humans.  We go beyond reason just as reason goes beyond data gathering.  The third eye will look at the same crack in the wall and see along it.  It will see the hole reveals a world outside.  That the light is coming from the sun (which cannot be seen directly via the crack) and that it indicates a way out of the room.  There is more here than what meets the eye.

This third eye is how the heart sees.  It is also referred to as seeing by faith.  Animals do not understand a book, for example.  The dog sees the page.  It sees the markings on the page.  However it does not understand that the markings point beyond themselves to concepts beyond the print.  Only human beings can make the leap from a thing to what that thing symbolizes, to what it points to.

To a materialist, science is the limit of what can be seen.  The second eye, while very powerful for understanding and connecting the physical universe, is not sufficient to understand what cannot be seen by it.  To a materialist, a marriage is a simple pair bonding wholly explained by physical interactions, hormones and mutual advantage.  There is no more because the second eye can see no more.  On the other hand, the third eye can see that a marriage points to something beyond itself.  It is a sign of the love of God in the Trinity.  It understands that a man and a woman are created to be united as one in marriage, expressed in part by the physical, but the ultimate meaning of the marriage dwarfs the mere physical.

Just as reason makes sense of the data, the heart makes sense of reason.  This is not to say the heart is irrational, but that it goes beyond the merely rational.  As Pascal puts it, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Sacraments Map

As Christmas approaches, we prepare for the coming of Emmanuel which means God is with us. How could the joining of the physical and the spiritual happen more profoundly than God incarnate? Catholics believe that the physical world is good, although flawed, and that God becoming man somehow elevates it to a new level; for not only had God created it, He also dwelled in it.
Stop and think about Catholicism and the use of physical things from incense for smell, art for the eyes, music for the ears, motion for the body (kneeling, genuflecting, crossing ourselves, etc.). Sacraments take this even further with the required use of corporal things like bread, wine, water, oil, touch, garments, physical speech. Catholics understand how the physical relates to the spiritual and vise versa, and how reality encompasses both. This is mirrored perfectly in the sacraments and can even be expressed as a kind of map that parallels our earthly life. God is truly “with us” all the year and all our life through the sanctifying grace of the sacraments.
 Just as we are born into physical life we are born again into the spiritual life of Christ in baptism. By the way, if you are a baptized Catholic and someone were to ask you “Are you born again?” The answer is unequivocally “Yes”. Although we can sin afterwards, Catholics are “born again” at baptism. This is the reality.
At some point in our physical life we are considered an adult by the rest of society. In the United States we are legal adults at age 18. This happens regardless of how we feel about it or how mature we may think we are. With Confirmation we are considered adults in the Church with the same basic mission to go forth and preach the good news, whether we like it or not or whether we think we are mature enough or not.
Sacraments of Vocation (Marriage, Holy Orders):
As we grow and mature we discern some duty within society; some type of job/career or perhaps raising a family. In the spiritual life there are vocations and certain sacraments to help us advance the Kingdom of God.

As we live, we continuously need physical sustenance (food/water) for our physical journey. Jesus gave himself as our spiritual food; our daily bread (body/blood) for our spiritual journey.

As we go through life we experience sickness and injury which require healing. Many never experience serious injury or disease, but no one gets through life without the slightest sniffle, cough, bruise or cut. With no healing it gets worse and worse to the point of death. What these things do to the body, sin does to the soul, thus the need for spiritual healing.

After all, we can injure our own flesh whenever we want, but to heal it we look for a doctor who has skill, training & medical authority. In the same way we are perfectly able to sin and injure our soul, but to heal it we seek the help of “another”, a spiritual doctor.

Anointing of the sick:
Our physical life eventually comes to an end, and so there is a sacrament for this as well. Although the anointing of the sick is not always administered just before death, it should be received at some point before we die.

This sketchy outline of the sacraments is very simple (almost pathetic). But like so much in this blog, what is here is only a beginning; we have the rest of our lives to draw out Truth from an inexhaustible well.
Click on the mini-map below for a larger version of The Sacraments Map & Merry Christmas from Two Catholic Men and a Blog!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Structure of the Mass

With the recent changes to the English translation of the Mass, it is a good opportunity to talk about a diagram that I created based upon a "Mass of explanation" I saw a few years ago.  It was given by our Pastor to the second grade Religious Education children I was teaching.  I took some notes and turned it into the diagram below.

Click here for a PDF version

Here's a quick overview.   The Mass is divided into two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  There are two movements within each.  In the Liturgy of the Word, we first speak to God in the Processional Hymn, the confiteor, the Gloria and the Collect.  Then God speaks to us in His Word and in the presider's Homily.   The two Liturgies are connected by the Creed.  In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we first offer to God in the Offertory, the prayers over the Gifts and the Consecration.  Then God takes what we bring, transforms it and offers it all back to us from the Prayer after consecration, the great Amen and reception of Communion, finally sending us forth changed.

I very much liked creating this diagram because it helped me to break down the parts and find an underlying structure to the Mass.  I hope it's helpful to you too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Two Fish

One day two fish were conversing in the ocean. The first fish said to the other “I’ve learned of something astonishing called Water. This Water is all around us, provides everything we need and we could not exist without it.” The second fish was intrigued, but skeptical and set out to learn more about this remarkable thing.
After being gone sometime, he returned to report back to the first fish. He explained, “I’ve been all over this ocean from east to west, north to south, top to bottom and I have not seen anything that remotely resembles this Water of which you speak. I’ve seen nothing that could possibly surround & support everything.” He continued, “During my long and tedious swim, I have deduced that Water is a delusion which exits only in the imagination of fish. Furthermore, belief in Water evolved as a social construct from various fish cultures to help us explain how we can swim, breath and live.” With that, the second fish swam off.
The first fish was left floating there and thought, “Wow, if a fish can’t believe in Water, how will he ever comprehend Earth, Air & Fire?”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Aquinas Regarding Almighty

St. Thomas Aquinas falls into that category of people I like to call scary-smart”. Reading his work can result in a peculiar experience. I may read something translated to English well, using perfect grammar, and understand the meaning of each individual word, yet somehow, not understand what was said. Does Aquinas write nonsense or am I not the sharpest knife in the theological drawer? The later is much more reasonable.  Here is a case in point from the compendium to Summa Theologica:
“The more remote a potency is from act, the greater must be the power that reduces it to act.”
With help from other Catholic theologians that explain Aquinas and my blog buddy Joe, I can make sense of such a sentence. Rephrasing in more common language, it may read something like this: The less one has to make something potentially happen, the more power needed to make it actually happen. But what does this mean when contemplating ultimate things?
Analogies are most helpful………
Suppose you have a new car you wish to start. All that is needed is the key and the ability to turn the ignition; not very difficult. Now take away the gasoline. You now need the ability to get some gasoline, put in the car and then start it. More resources are needed. In a sense you might say that you need more “power”. Now take away the battery as well. You’ll need even more “power”.
The more that is taken away from the car, the more power needed to make it actually work. Taking away things to infinity becomes nothingness. Adding power to infinity becomes all powerful. If left with not a single molecule to work with (nothing), the only way you could make a car first exist and then start it, is if you had infinite power. To create from nothing, then, requires infinite power.
All of this to get one word in our Creed. The word “Almighty” is not used simply because it sounds lofty and majestic. It describes, from logical necessity, the kind of power needed to bridge an infinite gap between potency and act.
St. Thomas Aquinas
1225 - 1274

Monday, November 21, 2011

The third way

Watching Fr Robert Barron's series Catholicism this week and I was struck by his explanation of Jesus's statement: 
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  (Matt 5:39)
There are two typical reactions to violence.  Fight or flight.  Reacting with violence simply escalates the violence.  The tougher person wins.  Flight confirms the aggressor in his actions and allows the aggression to continue.

Jesus espouses a third way.  In those times, you did not use your left hand for most uses since it was typically considered unclean.  A person would strike with his right hand.  If he strikes your right cheek, he would be using the back of his hand, like you would strike a bad animal.  It would show a contemptuous, you're-not-worth-it attitude.

Turning the other (the left) cheek does two things, it forces him to not use the back of his hand, making him unable to strike with the same dismissive attitude and it shows your defiance to his violence in that you are not running away.  You mirror his violence back to him as if to say, "I am not cowed."

He gave a wonderful example.  Mother Theresa on the streets of Calcutta held a starving child by the hand and took the child to a bakery.  She approached the baker and begged some bread for the child.  The baker contemptuously spat full in her face.  She stood firm, looked at the baker and said "That was for me, now can you give something for the child?"

The baker would have been taken aback by the woman who did not fight back nor flee, but stood firm, showing him her face, asking gently again for bread.

Turning the other cheek is an oftentimes confusing phrase that does not mean pacifism, but resistance to evil without violence and without abandonment.  It requires facing the enemy, come what may and showing him that you are not beaten, nor are you even harmed.  Nothing he can do can touch your resolve as if to say "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Thinking Means Connecting Things

Apologist G.K. Chesterton once said that thinking means connecting things. Never were truer words spoken. To really understand what something is we must first understand what it is for and then how it connects or relates to other things.
Suppose I were to bring someone from the 17th century into a car class with the first lesson being on the fuel injection system. He may say, “Excuse me, but what is a car?” I’d respond, “It is a mode of transportation to get you from point A to point B.” The time traveler may think of a horse in this context and ask, “How would a car relate to a horse?” I could explain, among other things, that a car is a machine that is generally bigger, faster and can hold more people & cargo than a horse.  A better understanding of a car emerges when we can understand its purpose and how it connects or relates to other things.
This “knowing” and “relating” is key to understanding some basic facets of life and how they connect. The Catholic faith has always taught that the following are inexorably linked ………
God» Male» Female» Marriage» Sex» Children» Family» Community» Nation» World
I teach a course in troubleshooting in which a negative is always used to help confirm a positive and vice versa. If thinking means connecting things, the opposite of thinking (lack of thinking) MUST involve some kind of “disconnect”.
Let’s look at some lack-of-thinking that breaks (attacks?) the connections above:
• Marriage and sex have nothing to do with each other. If you want sex, just do it: This disconnect results in treating others as objects among many other societal ills, such as unwanted pregnancies, STD’s and an unknowable amount of emotional pain.
• Marriage and having children have nothing to do with each other. If you want a baby, find a partner somehow or go to a sperm bank:  This disconnect results in the break down of the family unit.
• Sex and children are not necessarily connected. The purpose of sex is pleasure, children are an optional byproduct. A pregnancy (side effect) can be terminated as a personal choice: This disconnect results in legalized murder.
• Male and Female? That doesn’t mean anything. Love is love regardless of what genders are involved: This disconnect results in an unintelligible definition of marriage.
In an age of internet surfing, texting and tweets we are getting good at looking at many different things very quickly, but in a shallow way. We are losing the ability to dig deeper to see how ideas link up. We lose the big picture. We lose the connections. Thinking is indeed connecting things.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton
English Writer
1874 - 1936

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All Statements are False!

If the title of this post is true, it must also be false since it too is a statement. It is a self-contained contradiction. It fails a basic rule of logic called the principle of non-contradiction. The only way to reconcile it logically would be to say, “All statements are false except this one.” From here we would need to explore and question the premises and sources for the exception. The point of this post is not to play word games, but to help us think through the things we believe in.
Let’s look at some more…..
Ø  A Square Circle: This is fairly simple to understand.  It is not possible to have a geometric shape that fits the definition of both a square and a circle at the same time.
Ø  An Achieved Unachievable:  Also simple. If you achieved it, it cannot be unachievable.
Ø  All Truth is Relative:  We’ll need to think harder now. For this statement to be true it must also be something relative, which by definition cannot be universally true.
Ø  Truth is Unknowable: Is this statement true? How can we know for sure if truth is unknowable?
Ø  Nothing is True:  Very similar to the title of this post; if true, it must also be false.
Ø  The Bible Alone is True (Sola Scriptura): A contraction arises because “Bible Alone” is not found in the Bible. We need to go to some source outside the Bible to get it. It is unbiblical as well as illogical. Additionally, we find scripture like 1Timothy 3:15, where the pillar & foundation of truth is said to be The Church, not scripture itself.
Here’s one on Papal Infallibility just for fun…..
Ø  No person can be “infallible”: If true, no person could declare this “infallibly”.

Self-contained contractions are also used as amateur attempts to mock the existence of God. For example, “Can God make a four sided triangle?” or “Can God make a weight so heavy that He cannot lift it?” These kinds of things are meaningless. In a certain sense they are nothing…………. and nothing is impossible with God!!
WARNING: Contemplating the photo below can lead to insanity. It’s really nothing. Just let it go.

Friday, November 4, 2011


"A Mystery, in short, is an invitation to the mind. For it means that there is an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind can drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind's thirst." - Frank Sheed

This is a reassurance that when we fail to wrap our puny brains around a mystery, we are fundamentally incapable of full knowledge, of "getting it completely."  We are encouraged not to despair at it but to continue trying.  To put on the mind of Christ.

And how "anti-modern" is that reassurance?  The mind of materialism wants to believe that we CAN reach the bottom of the well.  A "mystery" by that definition offends them.  They don't WANT there to be something about which they cannot fully know, dissect, understand down to the bottom.  There is no room for a transcendent God who is not fully knowable and so must be excluded.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Day of Rest

A relationship in which two parties can “rest” in one another can conger up images of a comfortable, self-giving union in which nothing is hidden or held back. This may remind us the Catholic ideal of marriage or the idea of “covenant”, as it should. This should also remind us of this day, All Saints Day, since the saints enjoy an eternal rest with God.

 I’ve never heard The Day of Rest explained so well as in the Great Adventure bible timeline during the early world sessions in Genesis. Catholics do well to treat Genesis, not as history book or a science book, but as the story of the beginning of a relationship; the relationship between God and man.

A Review of Creation:
• Day 1 and 2: Creation of time & space (see Genesis 1: 3-8)
A day is not necessarily 24 hours, but some segment of time. “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day.” 2 Peter 3:8. Could day 1 and day 2 be part of the first nanoseconds in the Big Bang Theory? (just my own musing here)

• Day 3: Space on the earth & the creation of life (see Genesis 1:9-13)

• Day 4 - 6: All about how the presence of God fills voids. In this case voids in the sky, sea & land
(see Genesis 1:14-31)
It is important to note that the creation of man & beast is on the same day; day 6. We should stop and contemplate why. Isn’t man set apart from animals with a soul; made in the image & likeness of God? Why don’t we get our own special day?!? We’ll get back to this.

SIDE NOTE: One of my confirmation students once asked “What about dinosaurs?” I replied, “What about dinosaurs?” She continued, “How can man & beast be made on the same day if there were no humans around when dinosaurs were around?” I restated, “A day is just some segment of time; it could be billions of years. Dinosaurs could have come and gone in the earlier part of the “day” and man at the later part. It’s really not important. Dinosaurs are just another beast.”

• Day 7: God blessed the 7th day and made it holy because he rested on that day (see Genesis 2:2-3)
God does not need physical rest. The Sabbath day is for us. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

The beasts made with man on day 6 do not know or love God. They were not given the will or the intellect to do so; it’s not what they are made for. How many people do we know who relate to God the same way an animal does? They do not know or love God, even though they were given the capacity.

Man is called to leave the beasts behind in day 6 & find “rest” with God in day 7, the kind of rest described in the opening paragraph, the kind of rest a saint has. Will we choose to “rest” with God in day 7 or remain with the beasts in day 6?

Remember too that the number 7 in scripture always represents perfection, fullness or completion. The number 6 is 1 less than 7 and always corresponds to evil, imperfection or…..…The Number of the Beast!!!

A visual is always helpful. Click upon the earth below to view all of creation!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I was so happy to run across this at the Catholic Knight's blog.

Fr Robert Spitzer on the existence of God

A few weeks ago, Ben saw Fr Robert Spitzer on EWTN and described him to me as "scary smart."  I quickly downloaded a series of his talks from the EWTN Audio archives and found that Fr Spitzer is a great example of how the Catholic faith works hand-in-hand with reason.

Reason and logic uncoupled from reality can lead to really silly conclusions, but, even worse, an antagonism to God (militant atheism) can lead you away from where the data leads and therefore away from good science.

For example, the teleological argument for the existence of God as put forth by Fr Spitzer is a fascinating story of how the values of the physical constants of the universe (the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity) are very fine-tuned to allow the universe to exist as it does (galaxies rather than black holes).  It also tells of how the resonant force within the carbon atom is just strong enough to allow Helium atoms to combine, producing a very efficient production of Carbon, the chemical element of all life.  There is a long list of such constants whose settings are not necessitated, but just happen to be values ideal for the production of our universe with our life.  A small change in any of them would be enough to complete disallow life to have developed.  As an aside, these values are not adjusted or changed over time to accommodate other settings, like a feedback loop.  They were set at the time of the Big Bang, before any interactions were made. They are truly "constant."

The probability of those constants being set to just exactly the values they are that support our universe with our life on it is on the order of 10 raised to 10 raised to the 30th power against.  If that number were written out with each zero the size of a micron, the universe would have a hard time holding just the number.

An amusing response by atheist scientists is to postulate a myriad of other universes, inaccessible to us, all of which have different combinations of those constants.  We are just lucky to be in the one that worked.  That postulate has no evidence (remember science needs data) to back it up, but since it is assumed there is no intelligence turning the dials they have to come up with a way to make that infinitesimal possibility more likely.  That's just circular logic. You can't assume there is no God and then come up with a new, unprovable theory that is based on it in order to show there is no God.  These are the lengths they will go to in order to deny the reasonable conclusion.

It is, in my opinion, disingenuous science to say "you have no evidence for God that we can see, yet we will assume a myriad of unseeable, unknowable universes to allow us to not accept a God."

This is merely a snip of ONE of Fr Spitzer's "New Arguments for the Existence of God."

Scary smart indeed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reality II: The Sequel without Equal

The “What is Reality?” post on October 15 dealt with reality in general. Let’s move on to the reality of the soul.
There are different ways we can examine how we are made in the image & likeness of God. God is pure spirit and our souls are pure spirit. God has a will and an intellect as do we. We have the ability to know a thing (with our intellect) and act upon that thing (with our will).
Our will desires Goodness and our intellect desires Truth because we are made for God. The effects of sin weaken the will and dim the intellect, so that we no longer seek what is good or understand what is true. In others words, sin makes us spiritually lazy and stupid.
We either move our will and our intellect toward God or toward “self”. The closer we move toward God the closer our desire for truth and goodness is satisfied. The beatific vision or Heaven is when we are one in union with the source of all truth and all goodness.

An eternal and inescapable state of dissatisfaction and loneliness comes when we have permanently moved our will and intellect toward “self” and away from God; this is Hell.
We must ask ourselves….. What choices am I making each day? Where do I spend my time and money? Where do my idle thoughts go? Am I moving toward God or toward “self”?
A visual will help explain. Click photo below to see your soul!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pro-Life or Social Justice?

I have been struck lately by the perceived dichotomy among Catholics to be either "pro-life" Catholics or "social justice" Catholics.  I believe this comes from the traditional political conservative and liberal extremes.  Hence, conservative Catholics define themselves primarily as pro-life and place social justice in a secondary position "because if you are not alive, all the other rights don't matter."  Liberal Catholics are "social justice" activists because Jesus and a vast array of saints worked for social justice, and therefore place their pro-life views in a secondary position, perhaps because the poor and oppressed are here now and unborn babies aren't..

Catholic teaching, however, embraces both of those positions in a typical "both/and" fashion, so politically, we are forced to choose a majority party and swallow the wrongs of that party in order to achieve the rights.  This has the unfortunate (planned?) effect of splitting Catholics into separate, opposing camps.

Denying the right to life does indeed undermine the US Declaration of Independence's affirmation of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which places Life in the primary position.  All other rights are useless if your life can be taken away by law.  Therefore the inherent right to life is foundational.  By any definition, however, social justice assumes the right to life.  Social justice activists would never assert that the lives of the poor and oppressed should not be protected!  Looked at that way, protecting life can be seen as a fight for the equality of all, born and unborn, therefore it is also social justice.  The dichotomy, then, is a false one and all Catholics should embrace both pro-life and social justice teachings and, better, fight for the rights of all people!

When will the irrationality of professing equality for all, while protecting some but not others, end?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What is Reality?

Modern-day Catholic Theologian, Frank Sheed, wrote with crystal clarity and what I would call devastating logic. I’ve read three of his books so far and I hope to read them all one day. The one that stands out for me the most is Theology and Sanity; probably the best book I’ve ever read.
The premise for the title is that reality consists of two things; the physical and the spiritual. If you don’t understand both, you don’t understand reality. Not understanding reality is called insanity.

I put together a visual representation of some of the concepts he describes in his books.
Please click here to see reality.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What's this blog about?

Men tend to lead with logic. It is hoped that insights about faith and reason in this blog will assist anyone on the journey from the head to the heart.
These thoughts will set the tone nicely................

"Growth in faith is growth in the right perception of all reality."
Thomas Keating

"Faith devoid of reason becomes blind superstition. Reason devoid of faith becomes self-absorption with a detachment from reality."
George Weigel

"Faith and reason are the two wings that elevate the soul of man to the knowledge and love of God."
Pope John Paul II