Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Catholic Phony

Peter Kreeft has a fascinating way to describe how Catholics have been losing the culture war over the past few decades in a talk called “Winning the Culture War”, available on CD from Lighthouse Catholic Media. He describes how Satan plots to destroy Catholics à la Screwtape Letters. In case you are not familiar, The Screwtape Letters is a book by C.S. Lewis about an older demon, Uncle Screwtape, writing a series of letters to his nephew, Wormwood, about how to land a Christian in Hell.
The talk begins by explaining that God is being itself and the goal of Satan is to move us away from true being or “the real”, and move us toward non-being or “the unreal”. Moving toward the unreal makes us phony, and he used the acronym of P-H-O-N-E-Y to make some powerful points. Ironically, even the acronym of PHONEY is phony since it’s spelled incorrectly. The speaker seems intelligent enough to have planned it this way, but whatever the case, it is a very clever approach to bringing out problems within the Church that may not seem like problems on the surface. It acts almost like a modern-day examination of conscience. Are you P-H-O-N-E-Y?
Now hear this!
PLEASE NOTE: The following is paraphrased from Dr. Kreeft's talk and is written in the context of Satan giving instructions to other demons on how to completely destroy Catholics (along with the rest of civilized society), while at the same time making them think they are really faithful and quite helpful to the world.

P is for Politicization:
Make them treat politics as religion and religion as politics. Make them worship the elephant or the donkey instead of God. In this way they will make politics absolute and religion relative.
H is for Happy-Talk:
Keep them focused on peace, love, tolerance and non-judgmentalism. Convince them that the spiritual battleground is really a spiritual playground. Make them forget that in the past few decades they have lost about half their priests, two thirds of their nuns, Mass attendance went from 75% to 25% and confessions have been reduce by even more.

Don’t let them see that Catholic families are being destroyed at about the rate as non-Catholic families. They abort, contracept, sodomize, fornicate and divorce at about the same rate as everyone else, but make sure to convince them that all this is “progressive”. Of course we know that calling someone who supports these things “progressive” is like calling a cannibal a chef.
O is for Organizationalism:
Make sure they see the Church as an organization, not an organism; an earthy business instead of a supernatural mystery. Make them want success and not sanctity. Make them fear failure and not sin. Keep them busy and distracted; make them Marthas instead of Marys.
Do not allow any silence in their lives; prevent it at all costs because silence can lead to the “one thing” spoken of by Him at the house of Mary & Martha. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Use all the power and principalities at your disposal to keep them from contemplative silence which leads directly to the “one thing”. Nothing is more devastating to us and we have no defense against it (see Luke 10:38-42).

N is for Neo-Worship (worship of the new or fashionable):
Teach them that what is new is true and what is old is false. Make sure that they dismiss their “old’ weapons against evil and refer to them as “pre-Vatican II”. These things should include the Mass, the Eucharist, Eucharistic adoration, frequent confession, the Rosary, any traditional devotion to Mary or the saints, all dogmas and the whole idea of infallibility. In fact, it may even be possible to convince them Jesus himself is “pre-Vatican II”.

E is for Egalitarianism, especially among the sexes:
Men are superior to women at being men, and women are superior to men and being women, but make them think that men and women are the same. In this way the beauty of men and women is negated like making the beauty of black and the beauty of white into a dull gray. Make certain that any non-physical difference noted between men and women is immediately labeled as sexist bigotry. This will keep them quiet about the reality of the sexes.

Y is for Yuppiedom or Hedonism:
Make them shoppers instead of saints. Addiction to the comforts of this world will make them unwilling and unable to practice sacrificial love or embrace suffering. Make them want Christ without the cross, which is the same as no Christ at all.

Some Final Instructions:
Turn strength into weakness, but call it compassion. Make faithfulness faithlessness and have them call faithfulness fanaticism. Make them think of humility as stupidity and obedience as cowardice. Don’t overestimate them when they are lacking God’s Grace. In this state it is possible to convince them that good is evil and evil is good. Don’t underestimate yourselves; you can coax them into believing that snow is black if you need to. Make everything lead away from reality which will lead them to insanity. The unreal is the same as non-being, which is the same as non-living, which is exactly where we want them. Remember, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

The 2nd part of Peter Kreeft's talk deals with how Catholics can ultimately win the culture war. I’ll share some notes & thoughts on that part in a week or two. Until then, God bless.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Marian Month of...JUNE

May is the month of Mary, but now it’s June and Catholics should move on to other things. In case you can’t tell I‘m being sarcastic; I purposely held back this post until June just to keep some Marian thoughts going.

Our Lady should indeed be revered every month as a Queen of great goodness and power in her intercession for us, for she loves all the children of God who are born with the image & likeness of her own son. Her powerful love is often forgotten or not understood in the blindness & foolishness of the world.
It must be especially painful for Mary (and Jesus) when she is ignored by devout Christians. At the foot of the cross, St. John can represent all of us when Jesus says to him, “Behold your mother”. This seems to be more of a command than a suggestion, especially since Jesus said it as He was being tortured to death (see John 19:27). Also, if He chose to say it at this time, it must be a part of the redemptive process and not merely a domestic arrangement. I sometimes wonder what non-Catholic Christians think of Luke 1:48 “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed,” Do they ever ask themselves, “How does my generation ‘called her blessed’ and how do we do this at our church? Do we even ‘call her’ at all?”

God chooses to work through people and He went through Mary in the most intimate way imaginable for she is not only a daughter of God like any woman, but also a Mother and a spouse. We may often think of Mary as the Mother of God, but perhaps not as often as the spouse of the Holy Spirit (CCC #507). We can say the job of the Holy Spirit is to make us Holy because He is the Sanctifier. We can also say that two become one in spousal union; therefore we should be able to say that the Holy Spirit is pleased to work and act through His spouse for the sanctification of the human race. Every person is invited to be transformed through Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into Christ’s own image. Of course, God did not have to be so united with Mary, it was His free choice and He takes delight in it.
God going through Mary might be easier to internalize if we imagine light passing through glass. If we are in a room with a window, the sunlight passes through the glass to light up the room whether we know the glass is there or not; whether we like the glass or not. The glass is in no way the source of the light, but the light goes through the glass regardless. The glass can also help to keep bad things out of the room like insects, wild animals and cold air. Incidentally, if God were to make a piece of glass for the light of the world to shine through, would He choose some dirty, cracked or chipped glass that would block and distort His magnificent  light, or would He create an immaculate piece glass? Think about it.
And think about this; Mary in terms of three things: passion, baptism and gift. The Holy Spirit wants to work wonders in our day and raise-up great saints with great passion. Why does this happen so rarely? Perhaps it is because He rarely finds a soul willing to be more perfectly transformed in Christ through His spouse Mary.
At baptism we are made into “other Christs” by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was pleased to first form Christ through Mary and He continues to form “other Christs” through her. Remember that baptism is a beginning not the end, and the goal of any devotion to Mary is our ongoing post-baptismal transformation and consecration in Christ.
Consecration to Jesus through Mary is a gift that gives back infinitely more via magnification. Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord (see Luke 1:46). Think of a magnifying glass placed in the sun. The rays of the sun that go through the glass are concentrated and the heat & light is greatly magnified. Mary acts as the magnifier of God’s Grace and magnifiers tend to work both ways. If we give Mary our meager efforts, she will purify and magnify them for us while at the same time protecting us from evil and temptation. St. Louis de Montefort says that going through Mary is the quickest, easiest and surest way to Jesus. If we were to fully realize what a great gift this is, we’d never stop praising God for it.

The proceeding was inspired by a book called “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley and the teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Louis de Montefort.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's Your Trigger?

I recently finished a book called “By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition” written by Mark Shea. Mark even signed it for me over at one of his favorite places and mine, Marytown. The book made me think of “triggers”.

NO, not this Trigger!!!

Some background explanation would be helpful:
I deal with some complex problem solving (troubleshooting) for a living. To do this effectively one needs to be very cognizant of what is fact vs. what is opinion vs. what is an assumption; an awareness of what mental “lens” you are viewing a problem through is needed because we all see things through filters. This is not a bad thing as long as you are aware of the filters.

Once a seemly complex problem is separated & clarified into manageable items, you can ask a simple question which can eventually lead you to the root of things. Ask “What’s your trigger?” In other words, what are you experiencing that tells you there is a problem?
This is what I'm talking about.
Everyday Examples:
Ø  Someone says, “I have a problem. My car is out of alignment.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you your car is out of alignment?
Answer: While driving, the car pulls to the left.
There are different things that can cause a car to pull to one side, like low tire pressure on one side for example. Being “out of alignment” is actually an assumption which could be true or false. You’ve heard of jumping to conclusions; where I work, this would be called a “jump-to-cause”
Ø  Someone says, “I have a burned-out light bulb.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you there is a burned out light bulb?

Answer: I turn on the light switch and there is no light.

There are different things that can cause a light not to turn on other than a burnt bulb.  A brunt out bulb is another assumption or jump-to-cause.

Understanding triggers also helps with evangelization.
Religious Examples:
Ø  Someone says, “The Catholic Church hates gay people.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you the Catholic Church hates gay people?

Answer: They are against same-sex marriage and that’s just mean.

An informed person will know that the Church defining marriage as one man & one woman has nothing to do with hating anyone, but has everything to do with marriage being something permanent, unitive, mutually exclusive AND PROCREATIVE.

Ø  Someone says, “Catholics worship statues.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you Catholics worship statues?

Answer: I saw a Catholic kneeling in front of a statue.
Though kneeling is used as a posture in worship, not all kneeling is worship; it can just be an indication of respect.
So what does any of this have to do with an Evangelical Christian discovering Catholic Sacred Tradition? The author of the book was an Evangelical Christian (now Catholic) when he came across the teachings of the some modernist Christians (i.e. The Jesus Seminar) who taught things like:

Ø  The miracles of the Jesus (walking on water, multiplication of loaves/fish, the resurrection, etc.) are not to be taken literally, they are parables told in dramatic form to make a spiritual point.
Ø  St. Paul’s self-loathing, self-criticism, and his sense of being controlled by something he had no power to change could only be explained by the fact that he was a homosexual in denial of the truth.
Ø  Mary giving birth as a virgin is a false tradition. In fact, it was probably made-up by the early Christians to cover-up a rape or some other unthinkable scandal.
Ø  The canon of scripture is another false human tradition that left out many good writings like the Gospel of Thomas, the Didache and the epistles of Barnabas & Ignatius, just to name a few.

Meet the Modernists
Of course, a good Evangelical Christian will be prepared to defend “true” Bible Christianity, inspired by 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The first three points above can be argued, more or less, using the Bible ALONE, but the fourth point poses a serious problem to which we can ask our question, “What’s your trigger?” or “What are you experiencing that tells you there is a problem?”

Instructions for canon NOT found.
The trigger for this case is the fact that the Bible is not self-attesting to its own canon. Why exactly would a non-Catholic Christian accept the present canon of biblical books as something other than human tradition?  As the author states in his book, without a clear answer to this question a “purely biblical argument for Christianity was a series of neatly fashioned logic links attached to a hook hanging on a nail hammered firmly into…nothing.”
Beyond the canon of scripture there are other doctrines firmly held by non-Catholic Christians that are not explicitly found in the Bible. Marriage should be defined as one man and one woman, right? You may be surprised to learn that there is nothing in scripture that says a man cannot have more than one wife. In fact, when this question was posed to Martin Luther he said, “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife, he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God”.
How about the doctrine of the Trinity? There are plenty of verses in scripture that seem to hint that Jesus is NOT God, and the Holy Spirit could be seen as just an allegory for power of God, NOT an actual third person. The author flashed back to a Christian radio talk show he once heard where a caller was giving the host good Arian-type arguments that say Jesus was not God. After a lot of back and forth with various scripture verses, the radio host basically fell back on an interpretive Christian tradition as the final authority, saying that the caller’s interpretation is not consistent with Christian history. After all, how could twenty centuries of an interpretive tradition be wrong, and the caller’s interpretation be right?
As mentioned, we view reality through mental lenses or filters which is natural and not a big obstacle as long as we have an awareness of them. As we have seen, non-Catholic Christians can be so focused on the Bible that they forget all about the interpretive lens through which they read the Bible. As Catholics, we can be so out of touch with our own faith that selfishness, secularism and politics become our interpretive lens.
Thinking about triggers can also help clarify the circumstances involving non-practicing Catholics. They’re not practicing for a reason because every effect has a cause. Whether it’s something specific like a divorce or bad childhood experience, or something general like the “Don’t Know, Don’t Care” church policy. Once you know the triggers, you can start working on the answers.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from the end of the book which has some striking & beautiful imagery about the fullness of the Catholic faith:
“I found my little kernel of Bible-only wheat, once dead, put down roots as deep as the whole of Sacred Tradition and grew up under the towering sky of Catholic light into a Christian faith far stronger, greener, and more fruitful than ever before – and one more rooted in inspired scripture than it ever was.”