02 April 2011

Vatican document on The Last Things

Jimmy Akin points us to a new document from the Vatican.  This one deals with issues in eschatology, the study of Last Things.  Jimmy notes that this most recent document is the latest in a long line of Vatican documents that clarify and reaffirm traditional Catholic teaching on heaven, hell, purgatory, etc.

We've just finished covering the Last Judgment in our Creed class here at St. Joseph's.  I wish had known about this document b/c it covers one very special aspect of eschatology that I'd never considered before.

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An early Dominican argument about Being

Two future Dominican friars carry on with a disputatio on the nature of being qua being. If you can't follow the argument, don't worry. . .it's highly technical.

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Coffe Bowl Browsing

This is why America is circling the bowl:  we've become a nation of unionized bureaucrats, "Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million)."

Sr. Elizabeth Johnson responds to the US bishops' critique of the warmed-over gnosticism in her recent book.  Ironically, while complaining that the bishops didn't "dialogue" with her, she refuses further comment.  Sister, the publication of your book and the bishops' statement IS "dialogue."

WI Supreme Court candidate is using the Church's sexual abuse scandal against her opponent. . .unfairly. 

On the morality of voting. . .is it our moral duty to be as informed as possible about issues and candidates before voting in an election?  Duh, yea.

Some of these strike me as false. . .Men and Women

Mitch Hedberg:  "I angered the clerk in a clothing shop today. She asked me what size I was and I said actual, because I am not to scale."

Famous insults. . .

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31 March 2011

Bishops' Cmte on Doctrine on Elizabeth Johnson

The USCCB's Committee on Doctrine has released a statement criticizing a recent book written Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, Quest for the Living God.

John Allen, writing in the ever-dissident, National Catholic Reporter, summarizes the bishops' problems with the book:

First, at the level of method, the statement accuses Johnson of questioning core elements of traditional Christian theology, including its understanding of God as “incorporeal, impassible, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.” Doing so, the statement asserts, is “seriously to misrepresent the tradition and so to distort it beyond recognition.”

Second, the statement faults Johnson for treating language about God in the Bible and in church tradition as largely metaphorical, implying that truth about God is essentially “unknowable.” Even if mysteries such as the Trinity and the Incarnation can never be fully grasped, the statement says, they can nevertheless be “known.” While Johnson bases part of her argument on early church fathers, according to the statement, her position actually has more in common with Immanuel Kant and “Enlightenment skepticism.”

Third, the statement asserts that in talking about the “suffering” of God, Johnson actually undermines God’s transcendence, suggesting that God differs only in degree, not in kind, from other beings.

Fourth, according to the statement, Johnson advocates new language about God not based on its truth but its socio-political utility. In particular, she argues that all-male language about God perpetuates “an unequal relationship between women and men,” and thus has become “religiously inadequate.” In fact, according to the statement, male imagery about God found in scripture and tradition “are not mere human creations that can be replaced by others that we may find more suitable.”

Fifth, the statement asserts that Johnson’s emphasis on the presence of the Holy Spirit in non-Christian religions “denies the uniqueness of Jesus as the Incarnate Word.” In effect, according to the statement, Johnson’s argument suggests that for the fullness of truth about God, “one needs Jesus + Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.”, a position it says is “contrary to church teaching.”

Sixth, the statement says, Johnson’s treatment of God as Creator ends in pantheism, undercutting the traditional understanding of God as “radically different from creation.”

Seventh, the statement faults Johnson’s understanding of the Trinity. Johnson treats traditional language about God as three persons as symbolic, according to the statement, thereby undercutting the church’s belief that “Jesus is ontologically the eternal Son of the Father.” 

If you read the comments on Allen's article, you will discover--completely unsurprisingly--that the bishops are mean-spirited patriarchs with minds hopelessly closed by Dark Age theology and anti-woman hatred. 

What's fascinating to me is that the commenters who trash the bishops reject magisterial teaching largely on the basis that it is ignorant of current scholarship, nothing more than a rehash of medieval dogma.  Why is this interesting?  Because Johnson's own theology is just a rehash of ancient heresies long ago identified and condemned by the Church.  If there is nothing new in the bishops' theology, there is certainly nothing new in Johnson's either. 

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Coffee Cup Browsing

We're bombing Libya with the permission of the U.N. . .but not the U.S. Congress.  

Catholics are too stupid to understand the new Missal translation. . .whines Irish priest group.  Some of the translations are a bit convoluted, even murky. . .but they are hardly unintelligible.

This isn't At All Creepy:  Muslim Messiah is on his way!  

Planned Parenthood is lying about providing "millions of women" mammograms.  Well, if you are willing to kill babies, I guess lying about cancer screenings seems sorta small change, uh?

More moonbattery in Catholic CA. . .

Converts and reverts to the Faith:  beware spiritual attack!

As close as you will get to Heaven on Earth during the Zombie Apocalypse:  a machete slingshot/crossbow.  My birthday is May 26th. . .hint-hint-hint.

Maybe it's time I trained for a Different Sort of Ministry. . .hmmmmmmm???

So much for the Leftie Fiction of Diversity

Priest who teaches the Church's position on same-sex attraction at a Catholic school is now the target of harassment. . .just a matter of time, folks, before it's illegal to teach basic Catholic moral theology. 

Agenda-pushing among Hollywood's writers, producers, actors. . .Yes, of course, we know all this, but now you have a name. 

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30 March 2011

From my Kindle Pal

Another BIG HancAquam Thank You to W.C. for the Kindle book!

I'm up to my habit belt in fascinating ancient Roman history. . .

God bless, Fr. Philip

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29 March 2011

To my English Angel

BIG HancAquam thanks to my English Angel, R.K. for the John Webster book. 

The invoice didn't have your return address on it. . .

God bless, Fr. Philip

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Coffee Cup Browsing

Planned Parenthood and the Jesuit Tradition:  SeattleU in bed with abortionists

The Courtyard of the Gentiles:  BXVI's outreach to non-believers.  This would be a great job for Dominicans.

The anti-Christian left has picked the wrong enemy.  This reminds me of a quote I read recently, spoken to a leftist protester:  "If [Christians, Republicans, Tea Partiers, etc.] are Nazis, why aren't you a lampshape?"  (Source unknown)

Uproar in New Orleans over corporeal punishment in a local Catholic school.  The archbishop is against it; the parents are for it. 

Newt worries that the U.S. could become an "atheist nation dominated by radical Islam."  Well, one problem:  Muslims aren't atheists.  The more likely scenario (though still improbable) is that the cultural Marxists of the Nanny State will assist radical Muslims to become the newest class of especially-protected victims. 

From Chris Johnson at MCJ:  "Do not judge a religion based on what it says when it is in the minority.  Judge it by what it does when it can do anything it wants to."  Good advice.

"Ya wore da hat!"  The biretta is making a comeback. . .I don't think religious priests wear birettas.  Too worldly (ducks and runs).

Modernist "art" opened the door to the divine for this atheist.  I'm a fan of modernist art in general, especially abstract expressionism.  But the "Shock and Sacrilege" school of postmodern art is just dumb.

St. Gregory of Nyssa: “Ideas lead to idols; only wonder leads to knowing.” The Anchoress reflects on faith and reason.

Heh.  I was thinking of a manati in Belgium with an imbe.

This is how creative writers fail their classes.  NB. the essays on the Stations of the Cross and Walt Whitman.  Hilarious!

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28 March 2011

Hear the truth and be blessed

3rd Week of Lent (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

Prophets aren't God's cheerleaders. Nor are they salesmen or politicians. Cheerleaders dance and sing in order to stir the competitive spirit of a crowd, especially when their team is losing. Salesmen draw a potential customer's attention to all the positive features of the products they're selling and do their best to disguise the products' flaws. Politicians gauge the mood of a crowd and try to stay ahead of the pack in order to appear as though they are leading instead of just following. Prophets don't try to cheer us up. They don't rush around trying to make a deal with us. And they never lie, cheat, or steal for power and popularity. Prophets see the difference between where God wants His people to be and where His people actually are; the difference between our potential for holiness and our actual holiness. And b/c they see these differences so clearly, they do the one thing that will guarantee that they will be universally despised and mostly ignored: they tell the truth, God's truth. Those who hear God's truth boldly spoken rarely call themselves lucky. More often than not, they call themselves offended, excluded, hurt, discriminated against, or just plain angry. Fortunately, the truth will set you free. Unfortunately, it will also really tick you off.

When Jesus says, “. . .no prophet is accepted in his own native place,” he's telling us that prophets in general are seen as a nuisance, and local prophets are welcomed to their own hometown as a natural disaster. In the synagogue, Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah that heralds the coming of the Messiah. Then he claims that the passage has been fulfilled in the hearing of the congregation. Though most are amazed at this revelation, they quickly begin questioning Jesus about his family and suggesting that a local boy can't be the Messiah. They know his mama and daddy. They remember him as a kid. How are they suppose to take this guy seriously when they know that he grew up just down the street? Jesus reminds them that when God's own people ignored the prophets He sent to call them to repentance, God sent his prophets Elijah and Elisha to a Gentile widow and an Syrian leper instead. The widow was fed in a time of famine and the leper cured of his disease. They listened to God's truth, and they were set free from their afflictions. Those gathered in the synagogue didn't want to hear this from Jesus. They grow angry and drive him out of town with the intention of tossing him over a cliff. 

When God's people won't listen to His truth spoken through His chosen prophets, He will send His blessings to those ready and willing to receive them. The starving widow shared what little she had with Elijah and was blessed with abundance. The leper, Naaman, obeyed Elisha and was cleansed of his leprosy. While these two Gentiles listen to God's truth, God's own people whine and complain, rejecting His truth by testing His fidelity to the covenant. Though they are thirsty, hungry, and wracked with disease, God's own people refuse to obey His law, refuse to receive His prophets, and refuse to give Him His due worship. Why are they surprised when His blessings go to those who listen to His truth? 

The Church is thirsty, hungry, and wracked with disease. Are we rejecting His truth by testing His fidelity to the New Covenant? Do we obey His law of love; receive His appointed prophets; and give Him worship worthy of His majesty? When we hear the truth spoken, are we offended, wounded, feel excluded? Or do we receive Him with all humility and give Him thanks for all that He has given us? His truth will set us free, and it will really tick us off. But it is far better to be free and blessed than it is to be enslaved and cursed. Freedom and blessings go to those who prepare their hearts with gladness and thanksgiving to listen to God's Word.

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27 March 2011

Share the well, or guard it?

3rd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

Can any of us doubt that we live in an anxious age? The differences between the goodness of our best intentions and the evil of our worst instincts are starkly evident. While producing megatons of food every year, every year millions die of starvation. While mapping the human genetic landscape, millions suffer and die from inherited diseases. While enjoying the good fruits of a free and prosperous democracy, millions labor under the burdens of depression, poverty, addiction, and violence. While free to believe and worship any god of our choosing, millions remain tragically enslaved to living a merely physical existence, trapped without any hope of a life beyond this one. While invited by the Living God to partake in His divine nature, to live with Him eternally, millions reject His invitation and choose instead to offer their worship to the false gods of science, wealth, popularity, and their own appetites. Anxious, bored, depressed, exhausted, fragile, indifferent, lonely, passive, and violent—we are a culture, a people desperately in need of rescue. If this desperate culture and these desperate people turned to the Church for help, would they find a well from which to draw the living waters of faith, hope, and love? Do the living waters of God's covenant flow within these walls and through each of us? If so, do we share from the well? Or do we guard it against outsiders? What do we do when we hear, “Please, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty”?

When the Samaritan woman begs Jesus for the living water of eternal life, he responds, “Go call your husband and come back.” She admits to being unmarried, and Jesus tells her that she has had five husbands and the man she is living with now is not husband. Jesus doesn't berate her for her infidelity; he doesn't accuse her of adultery or condemn her. So, what's the point of exposing the woman's sin? In his Angelus address, delivered in 2008, Pope Benedict said, “The Samaritan woman. . .represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who does not find what he seeks.” Existential dissatisfaction? This is the most basic sort of human failure, the failure to find one's purpose, the failure to reach for but never grasp that which one most needs to be happy. The woman moves back and forth between her home and the well. She moves from one man to the next, resigned to living the lie that her happiness will be found in the next guy or the next or the next. Jesus exposes her infidelities in order to show her the root of her dissatisfaction: she believes that she will find her purpose—to love and to be loved—in a series of dishonorable relationships. She worships what she does not understand. Jesus assures her, “. . .the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.” The hour of worship coming and is NOW here. 

“God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman confesses her belief in the coming Messiah, and Jesus reveals to her that he is the long-promised, the long-awaited Savior, “I am [the Christ], the one speaking with you.” What is her immediate reaction? What does she say to this astonishing revelation? We don't know. The disciples arrive and the woman leaves. She goes into town and begins telling everyone she meets that there is man by the well who claims to be the Messiah. Is this possible? The people of the town go to Jesus and listen to him for two days. Afterward, they say to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” This may seem to be an insult to the poor woman—“we no longer believe b/c of your word”—but we must keep in mind that the people who listen to Jesus teach do so only b/c the woman proclaimed his presence in the first place. Moved by the Spirit to reveal the Messiah, the woman speaks the truth and leads many to the well of the Lord's living water. For us, the Church, this woman is an example of how we can share the living waters of eternal life.

If the culture we live in is anxious, bored, depressed, exhausted, fragile, indifferent, lonely, passive, and violent—what can we say about the Church? Surely, now and in times past, all of these adjectives could describe Christ's people. In 2,000 years of ministry to the world we have often found ourselves wallowing in anxiety, depression, indifference, and violence. Confronted as we are in 2011 with almost daily revelations of clerical sexual abuse, parish closings, school closings, staggering debt due to lawsuit awards, heretical teachings, serious liturgical abuses, and internal battles over discipline, we cannot say that we are content, satisfied. We are plagued by our own infidelities—jumping around from one churchy fad to another; hopping into bed with secular ideas and practices; inviting foreign philosophies and theologies to our table. Sometimes we can't seem to distinguish between “living in the world” from “being of the world.” And this inability, this failure keeps us dissatisfied, keeps us anxious and edgy. If all this is true, then what do we have to give to a culture equally plagued by worry and vice? Why should anyone steeped in this world's mess allow us to lead them to Christ? For the very simple reason that despite all of our failures, all of our faults, we have drunk from the well of living water. We have experienced the liberation that comes from baptism, that comes with giving God thanks and praise for His abundant gifts. Not only have we seen and heard the Word, we are vowed to the task of sharing His Word, the mission of thinking, speaking, doing what Christ himself thinks, speaks, and does. Our job as Christians is not to guard the well. Not to prevent the unworthy from drawing water from the well. Our job is make sure that everyone knows where the well is, how to get here, why they should come, and who—above all—who waits for them here. We are tell them to bring their infidelities, their diseases, their doubts, all of their problems, as we did, and lay them at the well. We are tell them to bring their thirsts, their hungers, their worries and failures, as we did, and lay them at the well. When the sinner says, “Please, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty,” we are to run—not walk—to the well and give them their fill. Because at one time (and maybe still) we were that sinner. 

Paul writes to the Romans, “. . .only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” If Christ will die for us while we were still sinners, then it is no great burden for us to tell the truth: he is the living water of eternal life and nothing—not anxiety nor depression nor loneliness nor vice—can survive these waters to plague us if we will only drink. The hour of worship coming and is NOW here. Therefore, worship Him in Spirit and in Truth!

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Lord, give to me this [blog]!

When folks ask for HancAquam's address after Mass I tell them that if had I known anything at all about blogging in November of 2005, I would have never given this blog a Latin title.

Anyway, the usual question after getting the address down is:  how did you come up with that name?  Easy.  I found it.  We were reading Introduction to the Devout Life in my seminar on prayer at U.D.

At the top of the page where we had stopped for the day was a quote, "Domine, da mihi hanc aquam."  Lord, give to me this water.  Bingo!  

Why mention all this now?  The gospel reading for today's Mass is the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.  Upon hearing Jesus describe the waters of eternal life, the woman says, "Domine, da mihi hanc aquam."  

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