Archive | June, 2011

Worship the Lord in Holy Attire!

27 Jun

Our family has always made a habit of trying to wear our “Sunday best” to Mass. Of course, this can be challenging when the “comfort index” reaches a decidedly uncomfortable level during the dog days of summer. Since I’m going to wear shorts and a t-shirt most of the day anyway, why go to the trouble of wearing one set of clothes to Mass only to run home an hour later to change?

Does the Bible have anything to say about this? Well, actually it does. In the Scriptures we read: “Worship the Lord in holy attire” (1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 29:2; 96:9). Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that even our clothing for Mass “ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” in Holy Communion (no. 1387).

There are many motives for dressing up for Sunday Mass. We want to make the Lord the priority in our lives and give Him honor and glory. Out of respect for our family and friends we dress up for weddings and funerals. Similarly, out of respect for our employer and colleagues we dress well for work. Doesn’t the Lord, our sovereign King, deserve at least as much? Continue reading

A Saint for All Seasons

22 Jun

One of the saints for today is St. Thomas More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. St. Thomas deeply loved his country and was a loyal advisor to the king, but in the end he accepted martyrdom rather than repudiate the Catholic faith.

He is an apt saint for us today, as we too strive to be faithful citizens of our country and, even more, loyal sons and daughters of the Church.

There are several excellent biographies of St. Thomas More that we recommend for your summer reading or viewing.  In particular, check out the following: 

Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage (Gerard Wegemer, Scepter): Wegemer delivers on his title, providing a meticulously researched overview of the saint’s life, in which a multi-faceted, truly human portrait of More emerges.

The King’s Good Servant, But God’s First: The Life and Writings of Saint Thomas More (James Monti, Ignatius): Comprehensive book, perhaps most notable for its extensive presentation and analysis of More’s apologetics works in Reformation England, particularly his exchanges with William Tyndale.  Excellent treatment also of More’s protracted drama with King Henry VIII.

And of course there’s A Man for All Seasons (Columbia Pictures): Paul Scofield provides an outstanding performance as Thomas More in a movie that won six Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Picture. Why not rent it from your local library or Netflix today?

Christian, I Presume?

16 Jun

When I attended UMKC Law School back in the early 1980s, I had a classmate named Barry (not his real name). At the time, I was not practicing the faith and by no means was a paragon of virtuous living. Despite my own low standards, I thought Barry’s carousing lifestyle crossed the bounds of propriety. He even confided to me that while he was home one weekend he made his girlfriend procure an abortion, because he was not willing to take responsibility for his actions.

One day, months later, Barry out of the blue told me, “It’s time for a revival.” It was only then that I learned that he was a part-time preacher who from time to time would go barnstorming through Missouri and Arkansas, inviting people to become “saved.”

I was shocked. I admitted that I had no room to talk, since in my estimation I was no longer a Catholic or even a Christian. Even so, the disparity between Barry’s faith and his ongoing debauchery confused and scandalized me. He eventually explained that I had to learn to separate faith from daily life. I told him–with less refinement and charity than I’d use today–what I thought of a religion I could test drive but not take home. My burning intuition was that a religion that did not affect who I was and how I lived was not worth my time. Continue reading

Are Hot Dog Eating Contests Immoral?

14 Jun

A relative of mine entered a hot dog eating contest. You know, the kind where one competes with others to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes. What do you think about the morality of this?

To be perfectly “frank,” I don’t “relish” having to come down on hot dog eating contests. I was an obese child, and as a youth, my eating exploits were legendary. And beyond my own personal struggles, gluttony is not considered a big deal by most people today.

Servant of God John Hardon gives the standard definition of gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins: “Gluttony is an inordinate love of eating and drinking. It means eating or drinking to excess, taking more than is needed or healthy, or indulging the appetite merely for pleasure, or beyond one’s means. . . .” 

St. John Vianney and many other saints affirm this teaching and write about the negative spiritual ramifications of gluttony.

I don’t know how one could take seriously this definition of gluttony and still find hot dog eating contests morally acceptable. It surely entails “eating . . . to excess, taking more than is needed or healthy.” It goes even beyond eating “for pleasure,” but makes it a quasi-sport/entertainment, completely detached from the satisfaction of one’s hunger. I think some analogy could be made to various “games” or “sports” that play on our lustful inclinations, such as wet T-shirt competitions, mud wrestling, and worse.

So, enjoy a dog or two at the Royals’ game, and leave it at that!

St. Anthony, He Me Find . . .

13 Jun

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, one of the most beloved saints in the Church. This 13th-century disciple of St. Francis of Assisi was known for his marvelous teaching and preaching–so much so that he has been honored with the title “doctor of the Church.”

He is also known as a wonder-worker, as many miracles over the centuries have been attributed to his intercession. In fact, most people now think of him primarily as the “finder of lost articles,” as countless people seek his heavenly assistance. As the prayer goes, “Tony, Tony, turn around. Something’s lost and must be found.”

I once had a friend who would jokingly pray, “St. Anthony, help me find a parking place . . . never mind, there’s one.”

I have a St. Anthony story from earlier this year that I would like to share. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Church!

10 Jun

What is the birthday of the Church: Good Friday or Pentecost?

Both! Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter Sunday, is commonly called “the birthday of the Church.” At the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Christ who were gathered in the Upper Room (Acts 2:1-41). Thus empowered by the Holy Spirit, the disciples—led by Peter and the other Apostles—emerged from the Upper Room as a child emerges from the womb. This marked the beginning of the “age of the Church,” in which Christ lives and acts in and with His mystical body.

At the same time, we can also say that the Church was “born” or came forth from the side of Christ on the Cross. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting St. Ambrose, teaches: “As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross” (no. 766).

When we speak of the “birthday” of the Church, we obviously are not speaking literally. Instead, we are using a metaphor common to our own experience to explain a profound, complex reality. In different but complementary ways, both Jesus’ death on Good Friday and the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost were life-giving events analogous to a human birth.

So as we celebrate the feast of Pentecost this Sunday, we’d like to wish all of you a happy birthday!

A Fifth Marian Dogma?

6 Jun

We recently received this inquiry via email:

What is the status of the fifth Marian dogma? How is it that Our Lady has asked that this dogma be proclaimed and we hear next to nothing about it? Is it even being considered? What’s the problem?

The question correctly implies that there are four teachings regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary that are already considered “dogmas” of the faith (see Catechism, nos. 88-90). They are:

(1) Mary as “Mother of God” or “God-bearer” (Theotokos), as solemnly defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

(2) Mary’s Perpetual Virginity (“Ever virgin”), as defined by Pope St. Martin I and local Church councils in the seventh century. It was accepted without question in the third ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 681 and reaffirmed at several subsequent councils.

(3) Mary’s Immaculate Conception, that she was conceived without the stain of original of sin (Catechism, no. 491), as formally defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854 in a document entitled Ineffabilis Deus.

(4) Mary’s Assumption into heaven (Catechism, no. 966), as formally defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in a document entitled Munificentissum Deus.  

In recent times, there has been speculation about a fifth Marian dogma on Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. These titles summarize Mary’s role as our spiritual mother, and are part of the constant teaching of the Church. Continue reading

Primary Education

2 Jun

The Church has always taught that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children. This traditional formulation dates back at least as far as St. Isidore of Seville, a seventh-century Doctor of the Church.

In 1944, the Holy See unequivocally affirmed in response to a formal question (dubium) that the procreation and education of children is the one and only primary end of marriage.

It is true, nonetheless, that over the past 50 years the Church has used slightly different terminology that gives greater attention to the unitive dimension of marriage. Yet the Church still affirms that marriage “is by its nature ordered toward . . . the procreation and education of offspring” (Catechism, no. 1601). This teaching can be traced to the first command given by God to man: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22).

With regard to the phrase, “the procreation and education of children,” the first part of this formulation gets most of the attention. After all, “procreation” conjures up a host of issues, from contraception and women’s “liberation” to the complementarity of the sexes and the intrinsic value of motherhood. It’s the second part of the formulation–the “education of offspring”–that is sometimes overlooked. What does the Church mean when she says that an objective “end” or purpose of marriage entails the education of offspring? Continue reading