04 January 2009

Many more questions. . .(Updated)

Questions (some are even serious!):

1). Did the child Jesus throw temper tantrums in an age appropriate fashion?

Yes. Fully human, fully divine. I should say that we do not know that he threw tantrums, but he was certainly capable of it.

2). Will I have stretch marks in Heaven? They might be considered meritorious "wounds."

No, no stretch marks in heaven. We will be given "glorified bodies." Of course, we could say that our glorified bodies will reflect the perfection of our intended ends. So, mothers, women in the perfection of their motherhood, may have stretch marks as a sign of their perfection!

3). What is the line between gossip and legitimate venting about a situation that is difficult?

Intent is everything here. Gossip can be defined as "spreading news that thrills the inordinate desire to hurt others with words." You might share with a friend that Susie is getting a divorce and ask for prayer for her. Or, you can share this news as an attempt to hurt Susie or in some way discredit her. Venting is fine so long as it is truly just blowing off steam. It's best to do it with those who know you well. My big mouth gets me in trouble all the time. Audience is everything. I have non-Catholic friends that bear the brunt of my venting.

4). If you are a married woman, is it disrespectful of your marriage vows to let your physical appearance "go," or is it ok to say that doing other things to benefit your family or others trumps looking pretty?

I don't think that maintaining one's "looks" in a marriage is an absolute obligation. There's a difference between the natural change of our appearance over time and just "letting go." If "letting go" means ignoring one's health or actively abusing one's health, then that's a different matter. Body and soul are intimately bound together. Ignoring one's physical health could be a sign of spiritual malaise. This is definitely a question for a married couple to discuss openly and honestly. That means a willingness on your part to hear your husband out. Same goes for him. Are you willing to hear, "Honey, you've let yourself go, and I would find you more physically appealing if you lost a few pounds and dressed up occasionally"? Could he hear you say that?

This link is for MEN ONLY! (I mean it. . .)

5). Under what circumstances is being overweight problematic from a moral perspective, ie. an expression of the sin of gluttony?

You're hitting close to home on this one. Being overweight as a matter of over-eating or eating junky food or a refusal to get the proper exercise is a moral problem. Again, body and soul are united to make the person, so if one is being neglected the person suffers. Being overweight is not always a sign of gluttony. Genetics often plays a huge role in one's weight. So, the question is: why are you overweight? My own problem is the lack of proper exercise. Considering my size (6'1" 320 lbs) I don't eat nearly as much as most people would expect. However, I don't always eat the best food, and I hardly ever exercise. This is a moral problem for me that I have working on since high school.

6). What is the good from drinking alcohol?

All things in moderation. . .even moderation! Alcohol can be a good addition to a social occasion in that it tends to free people temporarily from inhibitions that might keep them from being as approachable as they can be. Some of my best "work" has been done with a bourbon in hand. Being less guarded, more open, freer to interact, we show ourselves more truly. Of course, like all goods, alcohol can be abused and overindulged. At some point, inhibitions are completely removed, and we do stupid things that hurt us and others. This is why drunkeness is prohibited in scripture but not drinking alcohol as such. I think the questions are: why am I drinking alcohol? Why am I drinking it now? Serving as a campus minister, I am all too familiar with the binge drinking of college students. Often, alcohol becomes the reason for getting together. Not good. However, a gathering that includes alcohol is not a problem. Europeans are much better at this than Americans. From a very young age, children here are taught to drink wine and beer as matter of course. Our somewhat Puritan standards in the U.S. make alcohol disproportionately attractive to adolescents by making it something forbidden.

7). I have had two miscarriages. My husband and I would have had both children baptized if they had been born. Does our intention to have these children baptized "count" toward the eternal destination of our unborn children?

Yes, it counts. If the parents' intent to baptize a living infant "counts" toward that infant's salvation, then it counts for the unborn as well. The Catechism defines Hell as the "state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God. . ."(CCC 1033). Infants and the unborn cannot exclude themselves from God. In purgatory, we experience directly and fully our longing for God's love while being immediately denied the fullness of that love until we are ready to enter His presence. Purgatory "burns away" the last vestiges of our reluctance and resistance to embrace fully God's will for us. The pain of purgatory is the difference between this unmediated desire for God and our temporary distance from Him. Infants and the unborn have never willingly established any resistance to God's love. The theological question becomes: how do we think about original sin (in the absence of actual sin) and its consequences for unbaptized infants and the unborn? Traditionally, the Church has speculated that since baptism is necessary for entry into heaven, and since we cannot say that these children choose Hell or need purgatory, unbaptized infants and the unborn enjoy a diluted experience of heaven called limbo. Recently, Pope Benedict XVI and his International Theological Commission took up this question. They concluded, ". . .that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation." The Catechism teaches, ". . .the Church can only entrust [unbaptized infants] to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved. . .allow[s] us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism" (CCC 1261). My conclusion: given that it is the will of God that all should be saved, and that infants and the unborn cannot exercise a free-will to thwart God's salvific will for them, through actual sin unbaptized children are admitted into heaven. Now, do I know this? No. No one does. The Church calls us to hope. This doesn't mean the Church calls us to cross our fingers and make wishes. Hope is the sure expectation that God's will will be done!

8). What is the best way to articulate analogia fidei within the wider frame of analogia entis?

God's providence is great indeed! Just minutes after receiving this question, I received an email from a friend working in Hong Kong, linking to an article that handles this very question quite admirably: "Who's Afraid of the Analogia Entis?" Check it out!

9). On the question of devotional practices, what is the proper use of sacramentals like holy water and statues?

Sacraments are signs of God's grace; that is, they are outward and visible pointers to the presence of God's grace AND they effect what they point to. In other words, signs are not mere symbols. Symbols point to that which they symbolize. Signs point to AND effect God's grace. For example, we use water in baptism. Water is the symbol of baptism. However, baptism is not a symbol; it is a sacramental sign. Washing a person with water in baptism points to God's grace in cleaning away our sins AND baptism actually cleans away sins. In the actual practie of the sacraments, intent is vital. The minister of the sacrament and those receiving the sacrament must intend the goal of the sacrament. Otherwise, they are pretending. Imagine a group of Hindu schoolchildren putting on a play where one of them is "baptized" by a "Catholic priest." They use water, the Trinitarian formula, all the correct props. But there is no intention to perform a Christian baptism. No intent, no sacrament. Sacramentals like holy water, statues, and medals should do the same thing: point to and effect the presence of God's grace. Literally, a Catholic statue is just a piece of plaster or wood or resin shaped into the figure of a saint or Jesus or an angel. Used with the proper intent, God's grace is pointed to and made present. The danger, of course, is using sacramentals in some magical way. There is nothing magical about any of these. It is the grace of God that grants blessings. We do not manipulate reality to get what we want from the saints or from the angels. Using sacramentals in this way is idolatrous. For example, I have seen Catholics "punish" saints by turning them to face the wall or putting bags over them. These punishments continue until the saint grants the desired wish. Also, burying statues of St Joseph in order to sell a house is common. These are superstitious for Catholics and should be avoided as such.

All for now! More later. . .


  1. Anent Q.1, "temper tantrums," a Catholic friend/columnist recently mentioned a book (Prot-written) which speculated that J. C. might have taken a few corrective spankings from Joseph.

    I had to remind my friend that that was impossible. No Original Sin (besides the Divine Nature.)

  2. typo: "Infants and the unborn cannot exclude themselves from Hell" I think you mean from God, in the context.

  3. "Also, burying statues of St Joseph in order to sell a house is common. These are superstitious for Catholics and should be avoided as such."

    I was at ACE Hardware -- the hardware store, of all places! -- and they had a bunch of miniature Statue-Of-St-Joseph-Kits on hand, "instructions included," for those trying to sell their homes. ACE Hardware! Wow.

  4. Dad29, we would have to assume that a child's tantrum would be sinful. Not sure it is. What do we do with the scourging of the moneychangers from the temple? Hmmmm...

  5. I would like to comment on looking pretty for your husband.

    I do think, looking as nice as you can for your husband (wife) is an act of charity. Even if it is as simple as putting on lipstick, combing your hair and not wearing sweat pants all week, even if it is just for dinner. It will help your marriage.
    Of course, other motherly duties will dictate how much time we get to spend looking pretty, sick child, or even a new baby. But even when you have infants, looking pretty once a week helps you and your husband.

    Also, I have never viewed Jesus' childhood as like ours in every way. Neither would I assume Mary's was either. They do not have the broken nature that original sin (besides Jesus being the second person of the blessed Trinity) brings with it, that we are prone to sin....and a tantrum would mean someone is not doing their job...Mary?...I can not reconcile that thought with the nature of Christ and Mary.

  6. to Dad29's comment....

    some tantrums are based from selfishness..."I want the TV remote...you're not letting me have it...therefore I throw a tantrum to see if you'll give it to me." I don't know if this selfishness in a child too young to know better (which is why we spank, to teach) is considered sinful. But other tantrums are not in any way sinful. "I'm sick or tired or hungry or angry and have no way of voicing this except to scream my head off." Jesus wasn't born talking in complete sentences. Therefore it would go to reason that he threw his fair share of these tantrums. And we know he got POd periodically. As our God is SLOW to anger...not WITHOUT anger.

    It's always bugged me when folks want to portray Jesus as having been an infant/toddler who never cried. Sure he cried, every time he was hungry, hurt, or angry.

    Did he get spanked by Joseph...sure he did. The first time he went to play with a saw as a normal inquisitive 2 year old will, he SHOULD be spanked and told "no touch, danger" or whatever the Arabic equivalent is.

    Again, he was born a baby, not a talking, reasoning adult. Makes as much sense as saying Jesus never had dirty stinky diapers!!

  7. Opey,

    Christ was born as a human person like every other human person in all ways except w/o original sin. Of course, he did not commit actual sin.

    Now, for us to believe that he never messed up as an infant/child, we have to believe that messing up as an infant child is a sin. Keep in mind: sin is an act of intentional disobedience. Making mistakes like dropping a vase or spilling a glass of milk are not sins. We cannot sin by mistake or through ignorance...sin requires intent and knowledge.

  8. Fr,
    I still have a hard time reconciling the thought of Jesus having a tantrum. It is not, in my opinion, based on whether or not a tantrum would be a sin, so to say, but the nature of Jesus, fully human and fully divine, would mean that some things that children do, he would not because his will is perfect. The nature of a tantrum, from my experience, is a child who doesn't get what he wants. Jesus would have perfect control of those passions. He was perfectly obedient, in my understanding, to Joseph and Mary. I used to think otherwise because we were taught, falsely, that Jesus disobeyed his parents by being in the Temple and causing them to search for him. Not so. He was doing his Father's will which trumped theirs. I have not problem thinking that he may have had accidents, cut himself, etc. But tantrums, that would mean he didn't have perfect control of his passions OR that he wanted to do it for the heck of it.
    So "messing up" doesn't necessarily have to mean that it is a sin or not. It would be hard to think that he would since he would have to have perfect control and also, a perfect personality and temperament (as we do not because we are not God). And if that is a correct understanding of the nature of Jesus, then how can I reconcile the belief that he would/could have a tantrum?

  9. Opey,

    Keep in mind: fully human...

    One person, two natures: one human, one divine...

  10. Fr,
    But even that human nature was perfect in temperament and personality. I can't reconcile the two because he would not have to overcome what would be present in us to cause the tantrum to begin with.
    I would like to think on this some more and maybe blog about it later this week. I realize where I am in my understanding, but I feel strongly on this point. If I am able to do this I would like your opinions.

    God Bless

  11. Opey,

    Please understand that I am not trying to turn Jesus into a little monster. Every heresy in the Church's history has been an exaggeration of a simple truth. We have to be extraordinarily careful that we do not in any way diminish the one person, two natures doctrine of Christ. We are often tempted to downplay Christ's humanity in a misguided effort to "spare him" the foibles of being human. This has invariably produced an untouchable, unapproachable Jesus who is not really human at all.

    Christ did not sin. Everything else humanly possible was possible for Christ.

  12. Anonymous9:24 AM

    What I am having trouble with is this: temper tantrum was NOT likely because he, Jesus also retaining the divine nature would have a perfect temperament. That would also follow logically with the righteous anger displayed at the temple, there was nothing in the least bit wrong with that anger.

    I see the humanity part as this: being cold, being hungry, being dependent on his mother and father, having to work, having human emotions (but perfect control) such as sadness, joy, etc. As far as his temperament and personality, wouldn't that remain or have been perfect to begin with because of the divine nature?
    God Bless

  13. Opey,

    What is a "perfect human emotional temperament"?

    You seem to want to overwhelm Christ's human nature with his divine nature. We must have both and both completely.

    A human nature that is overwhelm by the divine is no longer human but divine.

  14. Anonymous9:57 AM

    I realize my limit to understanding this because of the Mystery of God. But in CCC 481 "Jesus Christ possess two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God's Son."
    That means to me that everything we have was PERFECTEd in Jesus because his very nature was divine and human. Such as we could not categorize him as a certain temperament because he could be seen a perfect blend perfected.

    And, following that logic, knowing that all children are not disposed and do not have tantrums, then it would also flow logically that Christ wouldn't as a child, IF these were perfected by the divine nature.
    Such as Jesus clearing our the temple would be an example of PERFECT anger and applied perfectly to the situation.
    Such as my temperament, I would have avoided those in the temple to begin with.
    Maybe I am missing something but I can not grasp the idea of Jesus have a temper tantrum.


  15. Evelyn10:37 AM


    Do you have kids?

    There have certainly been times when my kids have tantrumed because they are selfish, but we also see tantrums from being overwhelmed. If I have to drag my kids through airports all day because of a family emergency, and they are too wired to sleep, then you can bet when we get into the cab to our final destination, somebody is going to start to cry. Preverbal kids sometimes just can't tell us what they need, until they are knocked over by it. There is an acronym for avoiding tantrums, called HALT. We monitor our kids to be aware that if they are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, it takes much less in the way of circumstances to tip them over the edge into a tantrum.
    As an adult I have the faculties to know when I need a hug, a conversation, time and space alone, a glass of wine, etc, so I can avoid cracking up. Kids develop that insight over a period of years. I expect Jesus had to develop that part of his humanity, too.

  16. Yes I do have children, 3 right now.

    But one thing that I am not able to reconcile is this:
    IF because of Original Sin (and I am not saying that tantrums in small children are sins but bear with me) we have a weakened nature, our intellects are darkened and our wills are weakened, AND through Baptism our relationship with God is restored BUT we still have these tendencies because of original sin, THEN Jesus having a tantrum would only be logical IF he had the same effects of original sin, which he did not. It would also not coincide with the belief that we hold, he, Jesus, was perfectly obedient in every way to Mary and Joseph.
    SO, Jesus being fully human and fully divine would not have to overcome the things we would have to as a result of our fallen nature. His temperament would be perfect. He would not have to learn how to deal with his anger because his passions would be rightly ordered to begin with. He would have cried when hungry, wet, etc and Mary I am sure changed many diapers but I can not comprehend that he would have tantrum meaning a fit of bad temper. That would be something that would have been perfected because of his other nature, being God.

  17. Opey,

    Can a perfected human temperament be tempted to sin?

    If not, then we must say that Jesus as a man was never tempted. Is this consistent with scripture?

    If so, then a then being tempted must be part of what it means to have a perfected human nature.

    I'm having difficulty understanding how you distinguish the human and the divine. It seems that you want Jesus' humanity to be divine.

  18. CCC 540 "Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him.244 This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: "

    So yes he was tempted but because he is the Messiah he could and did vanquish the Tempter or Satan.

    It is like us becoming a dog, I believe that is how the late Bishop Fulton Sheen put it, when God became man. There is no comparison possible because God is so far above humanity YET he loved us so much he was willing to become one of us in every way except sin.

    If Jesus' humanity wasn't divine also, then how did he ascend into heaven?

  19. "If Jesus' humanity wasn't divine also, then how did he ascend into heaven?"

    And there's the problem! Jesus' humanity wasn't divine.

    Christ was one person with two natures--human AND divine, united but not to be confused. The formula of Chalcedon makes this clear (http://www.theopedia.com/Chalcedonian_Creed).

    It is very, very easy to forget that it was Jesus the Person who ascended...not Jesus the Man. And not Jesus the Divine. But Jesus the one person with two natures.

  20. Anonymous2:42 PM

    Then help me with this, how can we venerate images of Christ if his isn't divine?

    God Bless

  21. Opey,

    There's nothing preventing us from venerating images of Christ.

    You're confusing Christ's personhood with his divinity and downplaying his humanity.

    You are a person with a human nature.

    Christ is a person with a human nature and a divine nature.

    He is fully human (except for sin) and fully divine.

    This means that in his human nature he has all of the distinguishing characteristics, functions, and temptations of any human being.

    The other side of the question most debated these days is God's impassibility: does God suffer with us? The liberals say: of course! The answer is: yes, in the person of Chirst in so far as he is human. But no, in so far as he is divine.

  22. joanne9:03 AM

    Some of this argument, not the important part about the divine/human nature of Jesus, is hung up on a word that is understood subjectively. If we think of a tantrum as a child's crying/yelling that cannot be stopped quickly by parental intervention, there's a lot of leeway for context. If we think of it as a child "acting out" as a brat rather than trying unsuccessfully to communicate something important (the house is on fire, there's a big scary dog right behind you, there's a diaper pin sticking in my bottom, an ear infection is overwhelming me with pain, etc) our answer to "Did Jesus have tantrums?" will differ.
    To say that Mary would not have been a good mother if she did not intuit the needs of Jesus (she would have had to if Jesus did not cry before He could speak)seems as unfair as insisting (and some do) that Mary was so holy that she did not feed Jesus at Her breast. That would not have been holy modesty; it would have been maternal negligence, and Jesus would have starved to death.
    Is it safe to say that Jesus, being fully human, could well have had long bouts of crying during His infancy? And that Mary, as the best of mothers, labored as every good parent must, even doing the "trial and error" work of figuring out what was troubling Her crying infant, at times?