Tuesday, July 26, 2011
St. Anne, the spouse of Joachim, was the mother of Our Lady and the grandmother of Our Lord. She is the Patron Saint of childless people, grandmothers, and of Brittany, France.
St. Anne is also the Patron Saint of our precious daughter Annabel.
Everything we know about St. Anne comes to us through tradition and apocryphal texts, especially the Protoevangelium of James. For Catholics, St. Anne's life is beautiful and remarkable. For Protestants, her name and life is completely unknown. As a Protestant I never heard anyone mention the name of Mary's parents and, of course, they would not since the information we have about her comes to us from some place other than the Scripture. I think that is one of the most unfortunate aspects of Protestantism because there is a wealth of information about the early Church and early Christians.
St. Anne was a descendant of a group of Jewish people called the Essenes. This group of Jews lived a very pious life in their own communities, away from the major cities and villages. To these faithful people, God granted many graces in a time in history where such graces were rare. All of the prophets in the Old Testament were from this group of Jewish people. When the Holy Scripture mentions people who were "highly favored of God," it is to the Essene's that the reference is being made. And it was into this group of grace-filled people that St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born.
St. Anne was not a very beautiful woman, but she was extraordinarily pious, pure, and innocent. When she was 5, her parents took her to the Temple to live where she stayed, in service to God, until she was 17. When she returned, she was married to Joachim, a rather rich young man from the line of David. Both St. Anne and St. Joachim were people with the highest moral virtue, quiet and soft spoken, and full of wisdom. St. Anne spent much of her time in contemplation and prayer.
As remarkable as she was, St. Anne suffered a public humiliation. She was barren. After 20 years of marriage, she and St. Joachim had no children. This was particularly troubling for a Jewish family and it brought a lot of ridicule upon their family. In this time, all Jewish couples were hoping and praying for God to bless them with the Messiah. This was a blessing that the Jews knew from the Scripture would come through them. For a husband and wife to have no children, in essence meant that God was withholding that blessing from them. Because of their sterility, St. Joachim was prohibited from making offerings in the temple and St. Anne was shunned for fear that she might be cursed.
In her old age, St. Anne began to pray in earnest for God to send her and St. Joachim a child. She often went out alone into the desert to offer prayers of suffering and lamentation. She pleaded with God to open her womb. If so, St. Anne assured the Lord, then she would give that child to God in total service. In her prayers, she asked God to bless her, as He had done with Sarah when she bore Isaac.
During one of these prayer times, an Angel appeared to St. Anne promising her that God had indeed heard her prayer; that she would, in her old age, conceive a child that "would be spoken of in all the world." The Angel also told her that St. Joachim, while working in the desert, had also been visited with this same greeting. Upon her husband's return, St. Anne rejoiced and recounted her angelic visitation. Since they both had total faith in God, they believed, and within 9 months, their daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born.
St. Anne was a devoted and loving mother who taught Our Blessed Mother well. And as promised, when Mary was of age, St. Anne and St. Joachim took her to the temple to live out her childhood in the service of God.
Although the date of her death is uncertain, St. Anne's body was brought to France 14 years after Our Lord's death on a boat with St. Mary Magdalene, St. Lazarus, and St. Martha. Her relics were brought to Constantinople in 710 where they remained until 1333.
The life of St. Anne is a model for Christians. Often God's plan takes a long time to bear out. It may seem that our prayers are unheard or that time is being wasted. Sometimes it even appears that we have been abandoned and forgotten by God. But God asks us to hope against hope, to rely only on His wisdom, to actively participate in His plan. St. Anne, though she suffered humiliation and rebuke, waited upon the Lord to fulfill His plan. For her perseverance, God entrusted her with the child who, from her Immaculate Conception, was to be the Mother of Our Precious Lord.
St. Anne, pray for us, that we are able to persevere in the times when our prayers seem to go unanswered.
St. Anne, pray for us, that we may fully give ourselves to trust in the Divine Wisdom.
Monday, July 25, 2011
I was not going to write about birth control for quite some time. I wanted my blog to reflect some of my spiritual progress as I read through lives of the saints or came to realizations about my personal life. But this last week birth control has been in the news and out in the blogosphere a lot. The Medical Advisory board hopes to convince the President that birth control coverage should be mandatory coverage for insurance companies and certainly for the Medicaid program. As expected, the discussion has drawn criticism from every avenue, even among individual groups of religious people where birth control is controversial. Birth control itself (not mandatory insurance coverage) is hotly debated in real life but especially in the blogosphere. Jill Stanek, a very popular pro-life blogger, even has a poll up over on her site. Sometimes advocates of birth control can be quite vitriolic. Families with large numbers of children are the brunt of cruel jokes and silent scorn. This type of reaction is almost expected of the secular world. By definition, secularists are interested in worldly things and care very little for the religious or Divine. But when this reaction is prevalent among those proclaiming to be religious, there seems to be something troubling about it.
Like the Old Lady mentioned above, I have a fair number of children. Seven, to be exact. Each and every one of those children is special and unique—a precious gift from Our Lord. As hard as it is in modern times to raise a family, I don't regret for one moment the sacrifices we have made to care for them. It is not easy. It is downright difficult, especially when the entire world in which we live is focused on getting and acquiring material things. That particular discussion, raising a large family in modern society, is better left for another day. A more pressing discussion regards a deeper subject and question that needs to be addressed. Why is a person who uses contraception considered a virtuous person and one who does not considered a miscreant?
I have always considered myself lucky to be alive. My mother was an early feminist and, from her own admission, used various forms of birth control. My parents were married in 1959 and my brother came along in 1961. Shortly thereafter, the Pill became available and was marketed as the woman's "liberator." That one scientific contribution was the catalyst to change an entire society and, surprisingly, a fundamental moral and religious belief.
When I was a young girl in the 70s, families had already begun to experience the after effects of oral contraceptives. Since I grew up in a predominantly Protestant area, a normal family size by then was about 3. There were some families with 4 children and occasionally I met a family with 5 or 6 but that was rare by the time I made it into elementary school. And most certainly by the 80s, most Protestant families, and many Catholic ones, had adopted the secular view that two children was enough. In less than one generation, the secular world view managed to uproot traditional Christian morality. Now that another generation has passed, traditional Christian morality is more than passé—it is archaic and irresponsible. How did this happen?
Before Christ ascended into Heaven, He established His visible Church, leaving the Apostles with full teaching authority in regards to faith and moral law. On Pentecost, Our Lord sent the Holy Ghost to aid the Apostle in this manner. All that the Catholic Church teaches is revealed Truth. It is Truth because it is revealed by the Divine Master, who neither deceives nor can be deceived. As such, the Church has always taught that using contraception in any form, except under certain conditions, is always gravely sinful. This knowledge permeated all of Christian society, even when the Protestant churches began to spring up.
In Christian society, using birth control in any form, intentionally making the sexual act sterile, was a clear violation of God's moral law. Protestant churches held this position for centuries, until the Anglican Church opened the floodgates on this issue in 1930 at its Lambeth Conference. The "bishops" at this Conference declared that if married couples felt compelled for moral reasons, then they could use whatever means necessary to limit parenthood or avoid it all together. That declaration laid the framework for all Protestant denominations to re-examine the nature of marriage and sexual relations. Now, after only 80 years, the Truth that contraception is morally sinful is now so watered down that Protestant and Catholics alike are counseled to simply "follow their consciences", even if their consciences are formed through secular relativism rather than Divine Truth.
Before I continue, I would like to clarify this. Before 1930, two decades before the "Pill", contraceptive was morally sinful. Married people didn't use it and unmarried people, well they got married. Now, according to almost all Christians, contraception in some form isn't a moral issue at all. What gives? Well, it's all about sex---what it is and what God designed it for.
Before you start shouting at the screen, I've heard all the usual arguments and then some. I have had my feet squarely planted in many worlds, the pagan, the secular, the Protestant, the modern Catholic, and, now, the traditional Catholic. "Sex is a natural bodily function, just like digestion." "Marriage is about companionship." "The Church doesn't tell us to have as many children as we can!" "Sex is love." While all of these rationalizations and feelings may have some merit or contain some truth, they are not the Truth. There is a Truth, though. Christ and His Church hold the Truth and the leaders of the Church have been quite negligent as of late in disseminating that Truth.
So what is the Truth, then, about contraception? Using contraception, in whatever form, is a mortal sin. Those are powerful words indeed. But before we can really understand why that is so, we must really understand marriage. I hope to write another post in the near future on the topic of marriage, but for the sake of this conversation, I will only address the main points. Marriage was designed by God for pro-creation. In marriage, the spouses have an immense love for God and each other. It is through this love that God brings new life into the world. It is only through sexual relations that the pro-creation can occur. In other words, the end or purpose of marriage is for the birth of children and their education. Since marriage was ordered by God in this manner, contraception, because it purposely seeks to frustrate or interfere with this purpose, is always morally sinful.
This is something our Christian ancestors seemed to have understood. Marriage was made for having babies. If you wanted to have children, then you got married. If you didn't want to have children, then you didn't get married. Now of course, there have always been exceptions to the rule. Some people got married for money or property or lust. Some people who got married, didn't really want the responsibilities of children. Others who wanted to have children didn't get married. There have always been illegitimate children and barren women. But the general rule was always understood---marriage was for having and raising children. And couples had the number of children that God intended for them to have, whether that be1, 3, 8, 12, or none. It was God's design and no one dared attempt to alter what God had established. At least not until the Anglicans in 1930.
Perhaps the Anglicans thought they were doing a great favor to their Protestant members. Perhaps they thought men and women shouldn't have to make that many sacrifices in order to raise a family. Maybe they didn't want people to suffer in poverty or to become overburdened. Whatever the reasons, I am convinced that they really believed it was a positive re-examination of marriage. Actually what they did was institute a new way of thinking about marriage and sex and that way of thinking has taken root in Christianity like a weed. Contraception allows for the possibility that marriage is not designed for having children, but simply having sex. Thus the natural sex act, in essence, becomes unattached to the conception of children. In other words, sex no longer means "having babies" and "having babies" no longer means sex. What we have in, then, is a "contraceptive mentality."
As the Anglicans were paving the way for the contraceptive mentality to take root in Christian culture, the Catholic Church was attempting to battle it. In response to the Lambeth Conference, Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical, Castii Connubii, on the last day of the year in 1930. It is an amazingly beautiful document outlining clearly the nature of marriage, the role of the spouses, and their responsibilities. The Pope reaffirmed what the Code of Canon Law of 1917 had already clarified: "the primary end of matrimony is the procreation and the education of children." (Canon 1013). Pope Pius XI specifically declared that "no reason, however grave" could make any act intrinsically against nature "conformable to nature and morally good." In other words, nothing that is morally sinful (contraception) can ever become morally good, regardless of the reasons or justifications for participating in the act. He goes on to explain that Christian doctrine makes it perfectly clear that humans do not have an "absolute dominion" over their bodies. We have control over its use, of course, but we must always use it according to the will of God.
Unfortunately, huge societal changes were sweeping across the world in those years regarding marriage, sex, and contraception. Before the birth control "Pill" came onto the market, the Protestants were poised to embrace the secular world's scientific contributions to contraception as commendable and helpful. By 1958, most Protestants had accepted the idea that responsibility for the number of children a family had fell onto the consciences of the husband and wife and they could utilize whatever means necessary in attaining that goal, including sterilization. Two generations later, every Protestant I know firmly believes that using birth control to determine for themselves when they will have children and exactly how many is responsible Christian parenting. They believe it and they will adamantly confirm that God doesn't have any problem with it. They also believe that if God really wants them to have children, then they will regardless of their use of contraception.
I would like to say that, in spite of the secular world and the Protestant sects, that the Catholic Church has remained steadfast and strong regarding the issue of birth control. Sadly, that would not be true. In wake of the 1960s societal changes and Vatican II, the leaders in the Catholic Church waited a very long time to address the issue. By the time Pope Paul VI issued his Encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, the damage had already been done. Priests and bishops across the world had been encouraging couples to "follow their conscience" regarding the use of birth control. Although Pope Paul VI's examination of birth control was quite prophetic, he did may have actually opened up an avenue for Catholics to change their views of marriage and contraception, as well. He identified fecundity as a "problem." He also emphasized and elevated a secondary aim of marriage—that it is "primarily ordered to the good of the spouses." That marriage is primarily for raising children has been de-emphasized in the modern Church. In fact, a large proportion of faithful Catholics use various means of birth control. Those that are particularly conscience of the Church's teaching now use a "natural" form of birth control entitled Natural Family Planning. While time does not allow for an analysis of this at the moment, I will say what the Church has merely tolerated for centuries among Catholics is now being taught in parishes and promoted as a moral good.
Sadly, we are living in a culture where even the Christians no longer know what is good or evil anymore. We are lost and no one knows how to read a map. The fruits of our contraceptive mentality are glaring us in the face---abortion, economic collapse, euthanasia, demographic decline, and homosexuality. Do we have the courage to change it? I certainly hope so.
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us, that we may welcome each child God gives us as another soul for heaven.
St. Girard Majella, pray for us, that childbirth is once again embraced and treasured.
Friday, July 22, 2011
St. Mary Magdalen, of Magdala in Galilee, was the sister of St. Martha and St. Lazarus. First a sinner, she was converted by Our Lord, Who raised Lazarus at her prayer. She stood at the cross "till Our Lord sent forth His spirit." After His victory, Christ showed Himself to Magdalen and made her His messenger to announce His Resurrection to the Apostles.
"Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less….And He said to the woman: Thy faith has saved thee: go in peace." (Luke 7:47-50)
St. Mary Magdalen was the sister of both Martha and Lazarus. Traditions and documents passed down through the centuries identified Lazarus as a high ranking member of society, possibly a prince, and, as such, quiet wealthy. Both Mary and Martha enjoyed this wealth and their status in society. At some point in Mary's life, however, she became lost in her own worldliness and became a public sinner. Tradition holds that she was a fallen woman, a woman of ill repute, an adulterer, perhaps even a prostitute. Whatever the case, she was proud and she was public.
St. Luke records in his Gospel that Mary Magdalen was filled with demons and it was Jesus who rid her of that evil. In gratitude and love for Our Lord, Mary Magdalen, from that day forward, used all her worldly goods to please Our Lord. It was she who came into the banquet feast to wash Our Lord's feet with her sorrowful tears and expensive perfume. It was she who dried his feet with her long, flowing hair. In this moment, she fell at the Lord's feet completely full of remorse for her sinful behavior, with only a desire to love and serve Him. And that she did.
In penance for her many sins, Mary abandoned her wealth and station in life to follow Jesus throughout his ministry. She completly rejected all those worldly things that led her into sin. The Lord's Mercy was so great, that Mary spent her time listening to and loving Him. When Jesus came to visit the family, Mary Magdalen opted to sit by his side rather than busy herself with housework. When her sister Martha chided her for such, Jesus reminded Martha that Mary had chosen a "better way." Mary's better way was a life of contemplation rather than activity.
It would seem that sometime during her contemplative life Mary came to cling only to Our Lord, believe only our Lord, and rest all her hopes in Our Lord. When all the Apostles, except for John, abandoned Jesus, Mary Magdalen, along with His Blessed Mother, followed Jesus to Calvary. She wept at the foot of the Cross. As she watched Him take His last breath, she never left his side. Indeed, she was insistent that she stay with Him as long as she could. She remained beside our Blessed Mother, both of them comforting each other with their tears. When all of Our Lord's Apostles hid in the Upper Room in fear of the Jews, Mary Magdalen went to anoint Our Lord's Precious Body with the finest oils she had. In spite of watching Him die, she longed only to see His Beautiful Face.
When all seemed lost, it was Mary Magdalen who persevered and held steadfast in her faith. When she discovered the empty tomb, Mary was filled with tears. When the Angels asked why she was crying, she only responded that "They have taken My Lord and I don't know where they have laid Him!" She was looking for Him when no one else was. She had hope when all hope was gone.
Surely it was Mary's penance, hope, and love that Our Lord rewarded when he choose to reveal his Resurrected Body, first, to St. Mary of Magdala. She became the Apostle to the Apostles when she ran with Mary, Our Blessed Mother, to bring the Apostles out of hiding by declaring "I have seen the Lord." What a great honor to be chosen by Our Lord in this way!
14 years later, Mary Magdalen was put out to sea on a boat by the Jews. Along with her brother and sister and the body of St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin, Mary Magdalen was left to drift without sails or oars. The group of Christians finally landed on the shores of Southern France, where Mary Magdalen lived out her contemplative life in a cave called Sainte-Baume. Her only food was the Holy Eucharist brought to her daily by the Angels. She lived to be 72.
The story of St. Mary Magdalen is one of the most remarkable stories in the lives of the Saints. The Church held her in such high honor that, in the Middle Ages, her Feast Day was one of the most celebrated. She became a symbol of a true penitent heart, a reminder that Our Lord came for sinners. Our Lord rewarded her for her penance and love not for her innocence or purity. For millennia, St. Mary Magdalen, the Penitent, provided for the Church the hope that even the most reviled sins could be overcome with a deep love for Our Lord.
However, in 1969, after Vatican II, Pope Paul VI changed St. Mary Magdalen's title to that of "Disciple" instead of "Penitent." Her Feast Day was downgraded to a Memorial and her image was "revamped." In those years, attempts were made to focus on her discipleship rather than her life of sin and penance. Instead of the symbol of hope and love, Mary Magdalen has become just like any other woman who loved Jesus.
Sadly, Mary Magdalen's exemplary life has become one of confusion and speculation. The secular world has twisted her pure love for Our Lord into a romantic love absent of all virtue or sacrifice. The Protestants have resigned to see Mary only in the Scripture verses that explicitly mention her name, and her demons range from mental illness to deception. In modern times, Mary Magdalen has been used by both Catholics and Protestants alike to illustrate that Jesus was a "feminist" and to advance a woman's role in the Church. All of these ideas are merely distractions and distortions of the Truth. Our Lord chose her because she loved Him so much. She loved Him so much because His Mercy was so great. His Mercy was so great because her heart was filled with remorse for her sins.
St. Mary Magdalen is a Saint for us all—a reminder that no sin is too great to overcome. A reminder that God is a God of Justice and Mercy. A reminder that penance for the love of Our Lord is rewarded.
St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us that we may not fall into despair over our sins, but repent and rely on Our Lord's Mercy.
St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us that we may learn to love Our Lord with our whole hearts so that we may overcome our sins.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Although my parents weren't particularly religious, my early childhood was directly influenced by the variety of Protestant religions prevalent in the Southern States. As such, my understanding of the "saints" was grounded in those doctrinal beliefs. The various different Protestant belief systems identify saints with all sorts of definitions. Who a Baptist defines as a saint is somewhat different to the Methodist and, likewise, to the Presbyterian. When I came to Catholicism, I had to consider ideas that were completely contrary to my upbringing. It was confusing then, but over the years I have had the wherewithal to understand it.
I would like to tell you that I came to understand the Communion of Saints and intercessory prayer upon my conversion to modern Catholicism. I would like to tell you that, but it would be a lie. Oh, sure we talked about the Communion of Saints, there was the acknowledgement that certain people are saints, but that was about the limit. I never heard a priest give a sermon about a saint, or why it is important to read about the saints, or why we should ask the saints to pray for us. Never. Until I became a Traditional Catholic.
When I was a bouncing around from one Protestant church to another, the "communion of saints" was, for the most part, a foreign concept. As a Baptist, which is how my mother still identifies herself, a "saint" is merely another Jesus believing Christian who is currently living. For a Methodist, the same definition applies, but they would surely include the Apostles or other people they consider who lived a holy life. So, a "communion" of saints would refer to several holy, Christian people currently alive, and perhaps those who have passed on. There is nothing really unusual or controversial about that definition. In general terms, yes, as Christians we are saints. But this is not a complete understanding of the Communion of Saints.
The incomplete picture of the Communion of Saints that the Protestants have comes from the distorted understanding the Protestant sects have of the Church. The Church is not simply a body of believers. It is composed of three separate and distinct groups. Together, these three groups make up the entire Church—the Communion of Saints. The Church Militant is all the Christians living on earth who, as the name implies, are fighting against the sins of this world and the devil who is wandering around seeking the ruin of souls. The Church Triumphant refers to all those souls who have ended their suffering on earth and have been assured the gift and joy of Heaven. The Church Suffering or the Church Penitent is all the souls who have completed their suffering on earth but are suffering the cleansing fires in Purgatory.
These three groups make up the entire Church, who are separated only by death. The members of the Church help each other through good works, good example, and prayer. The members of Church Militant, those of us here on earth, help each other through our charity, counsel, and prayer. We also pray for the members of the Church Penitent for their time in Purgatory to be shortened. Those in Purgatory, who are one step closer to attaining Heaven, offer their sufferings for the Church on earth. And the Church Triumphant, those who have finally attained Heaven, assist those on earth through their own prayers to the Lord. Reflecting on the Church in this manner, leaves one with a deeper understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that we would never be alone. The whole Church, whether living on this earth or living with Our Lord in Heaven, works together as one, helping each other. How incredibly beautiful and powerful!
Why the Protestant churches reject this long held understanding of the Church and the Communion of Saints, I cannot answer in this post, but all of them do. As for the modern CathoIic Church, I can only assume, since the New Catechism fails to mention the Church and the Communion of Saints in the traditional manner, that they have developed a more Protestant pleasing approach to sainthood. And as a result, they have lost an immense treasure left to us by our Lord—the intercession of the Saints—asking those who have already attained their eternal reward to carry our prayers to Our Lord's ears.
Since the beginning, the Church has not been afraid to declare that a person on earth, due to their most holy and exemplary life, has surely attained a seat in Heaven. The Church doesn't arbitrarily decide who should be in Heaven, but examines the life, works, and words of the person, and determines based on this evidence that this person is certainly with the Lord. As such, we, as members of the Church Militant, can and should follow the example of these persons and we should certainly ask them to assist us in acquiring virtue and to pray for us to the Lord.
Sainthood has long been an honored tradition among Catholics. Catholics, for centuries, have named their children after some saint they had particular recourse to or some saint with virtues that they hoped for their children to possess. Churches have been named after saints and no shortage of images of that person has graced the walls and windows. Many saints have been called upon because of the miracles Our Lord permitted them to perform. The saints have left us with prayers, meditations, miracles, insight into virtuous living, and ways to defend ourselves against the devil.
Long ago, the Catholic Church compiled a list of many of the saints in recorded history. Thousands of them are recorded in the Roman Martyrology. The Church has assigned a day, usually the day they entered Heaven, for that saint to be honored and remembered. That calendar, the Liturgical Calendar, remained unchanged for centuries. It was modified in the 50s and the 60s to add some saints and move some to different days. After Vatican II, many saints were completely removed from the calendar. In recent years, Pope John Paul II modified the criteria for declaring a person a "saint." During his papacy, he declared 482 persons saints and beatified more than 2000. He believed, much like the Protestants, that "all people" were saints. Many of these saints have been added to the calendar, but unless otherwise noted, I will not be writing about them here. Why I have made that decision will also be left to another post.
I often feel incredibly alone in a world filled with distractions. It is unusually difficult to be a Christian in a modern world. Even Sunday, the Lord's Day, is no longer a day of rest. It is just another "business-as-usual" day. Long held Christian principles have been abandoned by modern Christians. As our President declared recently, the U.S. is no longer a Christian nation. Since this is so, to whom to we seek for advice, guidance, and direction? Whose example can we follow? The Protestants will simply say, "Jesus." Modern Catholics will probably say this as well, but they will have overlooked an important point—Jesus was and is Divine.
Jesus, because He is God become Flesh, could never sin. We, as human beings, sons of Adam, have inherited Original Sin. We are sinners, and try as we might, we continue to struggle with sin. And while, as Christians, we are all striving to live like Christ, we often fall short and sometimes become frustrated or adopt the opinion that we are not capable of virtuous living. The Lord, of course, knew this would happen. As such, He has left the Church exactly what we need—real men, women, and children who overcame their sinful nature and lived exemplary lives. They have become for us the assistance and encouragement we need as Christians living in our world.
Is it possible to suffer patiently with cancer? Ask St. Peregrine. Is it possible to love the world and yet reject it for the Lord? Ask St. Augustine. Is it possible to remain faithful to the Catholic Church in a Protestant world? Ask St. Margaret of Clitherow. All the saints have a story to tell. They offer to us the very real possibility that we, as fully human and sinful, can overcome our nature only through the true love of Our Lord and the Sacraments.
These days, a whole treasury of amazing people, Saints of the Church, has been opened to me. I hope to share them with you here.
All the Saints in Heaven, pray for us that we may follow your example in hopes of meriting our own reward.
All the Souls in Purgatory, it is for you we pray, that you may soon see the Face of Our Lord.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
May my soul ever thirst for Thee, Who art the source of life, the fount of wisdom and knowledge, the brightness of everlasting light, the flood of all true happiness, the riches of the house of God. - St. Bonaventure
The Doctors of the Church were renowned for their orthodoxy and their theological learning.
St. Bonaventure was born in Italy in 1221. Unfortunately, very little is known about St. Bonaventure's youth except for a single story. When he was a small child, St. Bonaventure became very ill, near death. His pious parents sought the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi. With St. Francis's help, St. Bonaventure recovered. In an act of gratitude and love for St. Francis, St. Bonaventure entered into the Franciscan Order of the Friars when he was about 18.
The Seraphic Doctor, as he was called, had a quest for learning and the Truth. Although he was steadfast and sure of Christian doctrine, he was warm and charitable towards his fellow priests. He was a Defender of the Faith like no other. He grew to be an exemplary priest and teacher. He studied at the University of Paris along with St. Thomas Aquinas, where he earned his title of Doctor of Theology. He later went on to teacher at this same University and is regarded as one of the greatest theologians and thinkers in Christianity.
The Doctor's philosophy was simple--he believed that the primary person of man's intellectual being was to seek God. He loved God and he loved the Truth. He had a great respect for tradition and he held new ideas and philosophy with suspicion. He wrote extensively on dogma, doctrine, and prayer. His writings held great influence at many of the early Church Counsels and some of his ideas, especially regarding papal infallibility, laid the foundation for Church doctrine.
He dedicated his life to searching for the knowledge of God. While at University, he taught his pupils that the pursuit of Truth must be governed by authority or it is worthless. He warned that those who sought their own subjective truth would find a path filled with "dangerous pitfalls and treachery." His example clarified that education must never be separated from Christ. Today many institutions for education carry his name.
St. Bonaventure died under suspicious circumstances in 1274.
St. Bonaventure, pray for us that all our educational pursuits remain grounded in and guided by the Truth of Our Lord.
St. Bonaventure, pray for Our Bishops and priests that they may teach the True faith without comprising Tradition for novelty.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Yes, McKenzie is a lovely name, no matter how one spells it, so I don't want anyone to think I'm being rude criticizing it. I am not. It's also a name that, I'm certain, has graced a great many Certificates of Baptism in Catholic parishes across the U.S. So what's the big deal? Therein lies the heart of the matter.
When I was growing up, I didn't know very many Catholic families with children. The ones I did know, though, usually had 4 or 5 children who were generally my own age and, regardless of religious sentiments, we all had the same names: Lisa, Debbie, Kimberly, David, Mark, and Brad. Every now and then, a new student would show up in school with a name like Lady or Scooter, but for the most part it was pretty boring. I suspect young parents in the 60s chose names that either belonged to someone they had a fondness for or for some name they heard in a song or movie. I suspect they thought they were being original. I also suspect, if the family was unusually Protestant, as long as the name came from the Bible, they thought they were doing well.
I never really gave to much thought to onomastics until I was pregnant with our first child. We considered all sorts of names, from Biblical to exotic, in search for the "perfect" name for our first born. The only condition that had to be met was one of popularity. We didn't want our son or daughter to experience life in school, as we had, being known as David W. or Sarah W. because there were just so many. Finally, we agreed on something short, simple, without nickname potential.
We have never regretted naming our son in that fashion. He has a name that he's always been happy with and there has never been another classmate, or schoolmate for that matter, to share his name. We accomplished what we set out to overcome. However, if we had been Traditional Catholics and not secular people, we definitely would have taken a different path.
I know quite a few elderly Catholics born in the 30s or so. They almost all have a name like Mary Ann or Josephine, Albert or Leo. These names bring to mind the Saints that bore them, as I am sure their parents intended. I've also met a few Catholics born in the last few years and baptized at some parish or other. Many of them have names quite familiar to Catholic ears, but there are also many more Jennifers and Haylies and Chances and Zanes.
For a time, we fit squarely into the modern Catholic naming trend I just mentioned. We named most of our children while we were attending a "modern" Catholic Church. We didn't receive any counsel on choosing a name for our wee ones, and if we had, we would have been directed to this passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was published in 1992 which says: "In Baptism, the Lord's name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The "baptismal name" can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. "Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment." Due to lack of guidance in this, we chose names that we liked and chose a saint for the middle. I'm fairly certain this was common practice because I have been at their baptisms.
It was with this understanding that I searched the baby books last year when I was pregnant with our 7th child. When we discovered we were pregnant, we had just left the "modern" Catholic Church for our Traditional SSPX one. We didn't know many people at all and I am really terrible with names anyway. The names of the children there escaped me. But the more we kept going, the more it occurred to me that the expectations regarding the Baptism of our new daughter just might be a bit different.
Since I had begun homeschooling in the middle of my pregnancy, I received a Baltimore Catechism as part of our religious education curriculum. When I got to the section on Baptism, I concluded that my suspicions were correct. Here is what that Catechism, published in 1885 and used until after Vatican II, says: 163. Q. Why is the name of a saint given in Baptism? A. The name of a saint is given in Baptism in order that the person baptized may imitate his virtues and have him for a protector. The saint whose name we bear is called Our patron saint. This saint has a special love for us and a special care over us. People take the names of great men because they admire their good qualities or their great deeds. So we take saints' names because we admire their Christian virtues and great Christian deeds. We should, therefore, read the life of our patron saint and try to imitate his virtues, and the day on which the Church celebrates the feast of our patron saint should be a great day for us also. The Church generally celebrates the saint's feast on the day on which he died, that is, as we believe, the day on which he entered into Heaven. The realization that this expectation had someone "changed" was startling. Needless to say, our list wouldn't do.
Eventually, we agreed on a saint's name for our daughter. It is, however, not an ordinary one. Our priest had a hard time saying it during our daughter's Baptism and my mother still mispronounces it. I am not certain, but I believe it sparked a really harsh sermon from our priest on choosing appropriate baby names. But it is a saint's name nonetheless. We like it and it suits her. I hope she grows in virtue and is able to battle her way through this pagan world and bring it some light, just like her patron saint.
I, for one, would like to see the practice of naming children after saints return to the Church. Catholics would be better off leaving the Harpers, Harlows, Rivers, and Orions to the celebrity Teen Moms. The world could use more Josephines, Seraphinas, Felixes, and Dominics.
In an effort to help Catholic parents, I hope to begin a list of super Catholic saints names for our babies.
St. Gerard Majella, pray for us that we may bestow upon our children the name of a saint to emulate in character.
St. Monica, pray for us that we may be good parents to our children and strong in Christian virtue.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The spirit of interior sacrifice shows itself in works of mercy made out of consideration for our neighbor, without distinction of friend or enemy, and with the sole intention of pleasing God.
"But I say to you: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your Father Who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45)
St. John Gualbert was born into nobility in Florence, Italy in the year 999 A.D. According to the custom of the time and to his status in society, St. John was educated both in the humanities and in Christianity. When he was young, St. John's parents took great care to educate him, particularly in Christian doctrine and science. However, as he became an adult, St. John became involved in worldly concerns. Since his status provided him with considerable wealth, St. John was able to satisfy whatever appetite he had. He considered his vanity and worldly pursuits part of his privilege. He easily and eagerly replaced the humility of Christ with the pride of selfishness.
Due to his noble status and his worldly interests, St John accepted his role as Knight in the Army. His position gave him greater status, praise, and wealth. It also gave him the opportunity to avenge the murder of his only brother, Hugo. Hugo had been murdered by a gentleman of the country and his killer had never been found. The prevailing custom of the time was for a family member to seek his own revenge. It was precisely this custom that motivated St. John. His parents, being filled with Christian virtue, pleaded with John to soften his heart, but John was filled with resentment over the loss of his only brother. He refused to listen to the voice of God nor that of his parents. Vengeance permeated his thoughts.
On a particular Good Friday, some time after his brother's murder, St. John was traveling with his army through the countryside. At a precise point in the road, where meeting parties could not escape, he met his brother's killer face to face. Filled with the rage he had been carrying for years, St. John Gualbert drew his sword to avenge his brother. But at that moment, the young gentlemen, filled with remorse over his horrible sin, threw himself onto the ground, arms outstretched in the form of a cross, and begged for mercy in the name of Our Lord.
Overcome with the images of Christ's sufferings on that day, dying between two murderers and thieves, St. John was overcome with passion. He sheathed his sword, helped the young man to his feet, and replied, "I can refuse nothing that is asked of me for the sake of Jesus Christ. I not only give you your life, but also my friendship forever. Pray for me that God may pardon me my sin."
Upon his return home, St. John entered into the chapel at the Benedictine abbey to pray before the Lord on the Crucifix. He outpoured all his sorrow and remorse for spending his life filled with pride, vanity, selfishness, and vengeance. While on his knees in tears and remorse, he begged the Crucified Lord for forgiveness of his sins. While St. John continued his prayers, the Crucifix miraculously bowed its head toward him, as if the Lord were confirming his commitment and great sacrifice. At that moment, St. John fell at the feet of the abbot of the monastery and renounced all his worldly goods.
Immediately, his parents were neither pleased nor convinced of St. John's sincerity. His father went to speak to the abbot requesting that his son be allowed to return home. However, St. John stayed on, under no commitment, until he could proof himself worthy and sincere. After a time, with his parents' blessing, St. John completely abandoned the world and devoted his life to prayer and penance. The more John fasted and subdued his passions, the more graces the Lord bestowed upon him. The more graces John received from the Lord, the greater he grew in virtue, especially in meekness and humility.
St. John grew to be filled with all virtues. He later became Abbot himself, founded the Order of Vallombrosa, and demanded no less virtuous behavior from his charges. He was particularly devoted to the poor and, it is said, he never turned away a poor, hungry soul from the monastery. He expected when new monasteries were built, that the money was to be used wisely, and frugally, with all that was left over used to benefit those less fortunate living in the countryside. He devoted the rest of his life to ridding the unholy practice of simony, payment in exchange for the Sacraments, in Italy. He was so loved for his virtue that Popes and people often came to visit him for counsel, which he found himself unworthy to give.
St. John Gualbert died peacefully in his quarters on July 12, 1073.
St. John Gualbert, pray for us that we may offer forgiveness instead of seeking vengeance.
St. John Gualbert, pray for us that we may use our worldly gifts from God in a manner that is pleasing to Him.
Monday, July 11, 2011
The Christian Church after the time of the Apostles suffered terribly. It is certain from all the documents left in history from the age of the Roman Empire that the early Christians were arrested, tortured, and executed for their belief in the One True God. It wasn't until 313 that Constantine freed Christians from persecution that they began to crawl from the catacombs. And it has always amazed me that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, was able to survive those times.
Not only was the Church persecuted by the pagan Roman Empire, She faced countless attacks from within. One of the most pervasive problems within the Early Church was the philosophical movement termed Gnosticism, which means "knowledge." The Gnostics believed and taught a host of ideas that were contrary to true Christianity and their ideas flourished during the 1st and 2nd century.
In about 140, Pope Pius I became the head of the visible Church. Not much is really known about him other than his refusal to allow the Gnostics to continue to spread their beliefs and corrupt Christianity. During his pontificate, there were at least two leaders in the Gnostic movement at the time—Valentinus and Marcion. Valentinus taught, among other things, that God was undefinable and, therefore, unknowable. He concluded that Jesus was not the God of the Old Testament and that his physical body was just an illusion. Therefore, God, as Jesus, did not suffer and die for the sins of the world. Marcion, likewise, taught something similar—that the Hebrew God of the Scripture was wrathful and evil and entirely separate from the benevolent God who sent Jesus, the Savior.
Both of these men, Valentinus and Marcion, were quite influential and, at some point, were set to become clerics and quite possibly bishops. Pope St. Pius I was not to allow these heresies to infect the minds of Christians and the life of the newly structured Christian Church. Valentinus continued to draw in many adherents but lived his life in exile on the island of Cyprus. Marcion was excommunicated by Pope Pius I and he went on to establish a church with many followers.
Pope St. Pius I, in excommunicating Marcion, laid the foundation for the first Canon of Scripture. He declared that the God of the Old Testament is indeed the one and same God of the New. He made provisions for Jews to become members of the Christian Church by allowing them to denounce this heresy. He also mandated that the Feast of All Feasts, Our Lord's Resurrection, or Easter be moved to Sunday.
Pope St. Pius I also had a great love for the Eucharist and understood the enormity of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. He is known to have instituted various forms of penance for priests who dropped one morsel of the Precious Body of Our Lord or one drop of His Precious Blood.
Pope St. Pius I was martyred in 157 A.D.
Pope Pius I pray for us as the Church continues to battle attacks and persecution from our pagan society.
Pope Pius I pray for us as the Church continues to fight, from within, the various forms of Gnosticism that are once again thriving.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Just over 15 years ago, I converted to Catholicism. I hope in the future to go into more detail about my conversion but for now, I think it's best to simply say on Easter Eve 1996, I became a Christian. Even though I had gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults class, I still knew as little about Catholicism as I did prior. It's a shame really and part of the problem the Catholic Church faces today---poor catechesis. But whatever little I knew, I was still a Catholic, whatever that meant. The 6 or 8 months of classes and questions did very little except clarify that Mary was a virgin for her entire life and that Jesus is God.
After those classes and my Confirmation, there was very little instruction, preaching, or teaching. I went to Mass, heard some Scripture reading, listened to a sermon filled with little anecdotes, and sang a few songs familiar to my Protestant upbringing. Whatever beliefs or philosophies I brought with me to my new faith, I was assured, were quite compatible with Catholicism. It wasn't until much later that I learned Catholics have about as many beliefs and philosophies as American politicians. And it also wasn't until much later that I realized that the majority of Catholics in America don't really have the tiniest understanding of their own faith.
Probably because I came to Catholicism via Southern varieties of Protestantism, once I became a Catholic I wanted to know and understand it better. Before the internet was widely available, I spent some time reading books at the library. I learned a lot of information that way, but it was extremely limited, nonetheless. But in the recent years, I've discovered the internet contains a wealth of information and there is no shortage of opinions or facts regarding the subject. So it is there that, in the last decade, I have discovered truths and falsehoods about Catholicism.
I can safely say that, when I first became a Catholic, I was very much of the liberal variety. I'll say I was a "Cuomo Catholic" because I often said I was "personally" this or that but didn't have those expectations for anyone else. Abortion was something I considered I would not necessarily do myself, but I concluded I couldn't make that decision for anyone else. Homosexuality? Not my place to condemn. Birth control? My business. And so on.
Over the years, though, I have abandoned all those liberal views and adopted much more conservative ones. Initially, I think this change in viewpoint was purely directed by my own experiences or observations rather than by Catholic doctrine or dogma. After studying some biology classes in college, for example, I clearly understood that a human embryo is a real person and intentional abortion, for whatever purpose, was egregious. Because I had been exposed to so many Protestant beliefs, I understood that they were all different somehow and they couldn't all be the "only" true religion. I am sad to say that neither of these observations was brought to my knowledge in a Catholic Church. In fact, I don't recollect ever hearing much about either until just a few years ago.
Without revealing the particulars, I can say the first eye-opening revelations about Catholicism didn't come until about 5 years later, when a very "traditional" minded priest counseled me. Rather than humor my ideas, he chastised my behavior. He sent me to the confessional and let me know, gently, that Catholicism didn't necessarily make us "feel good" but required us to "do good." It was a shock to my system, but one that my soul desperately needed.
During this period, I spoke to my priest often and followed his direction. I prayed in the manner that he suggested and I prayed some more. I read books and I listened. The process was slow, but my attitude changed and the veil began to slowly lift. I counted myself as an "authentic" Catholic---one who wholeheartedly "agreed" with everything the Catholic Church teaches.
A priest I know often tells us that all Catholics must grow spiritually. If we aren't growing, then we are drifting backwards, just like a canoe sitting on a stream in a current. That is certainly how it appeared a few years ago after we moved from our "authentic" Catholic parish in the South to our "progressive" Catholic parish in the North. I will suffice it to say that it was spiritually painful. It would take another post to list all the abuses and scandals I witnessed and experienced in the last several years. And precisely because it was so painful, I began to pray and study yet again.
It was during this time that I began to realize there is great division in the Catholic Church. You see, the Catholic Church has a very unique and long history. It is the Church established by Christ in 33 A.D. There are ancient documents by honored theologians. There are collections of books and accounts of all the Church councils and dogmatic decisions. There is a history and it all traces back to the apostles. It is a Church that has remained unchanged through time. Until recently. And that is where the great division lies.
To those who are not Catholic, this information will be new and confusing. To those who were born after 1962, this information will also be new and confusing. To those born in the decade prior, this information will only be a vague recollection. And those born in the 30s or 40s, either are long gone or are the very ones who embrace and perpetuate the divisions. In the years between 1962 and 1965, the Pope called for a new council—a meeting to discuss what was happening in the Church and in the world and how the Church might be a bigger influence in a rapidly changing society.
To those on one side of the division, this council was a great success. Many changes were made and continue to be made that have brought life and freedom to so many Catholics. They don't particularly label themselves in any manner. They just consider themselves to be good and faithful Catholics. This encompasses a lot of individuals. There are the so-called "liberals" who profess many of the same values I held upon my conversion. They proudly announce their dissent from long held doctrine and dogma and advocate for safe access to abortion, promote "safe sex" programs, and support homosexual "love." But also on this side are the so-called "conservatives." They are quite "traditional" in their way of thinking—anti-abortion, anti-homosexual—but they still agree the council was a great success and gave new life to the Church.
But on the other side of this division are the TRADS—the Traditionalists who think the changes in the Church since the 60s have altered the Church in such a way that She is no longer distinct and recognizable. Just as the Modern Church encompasses a variety of views, so do the TRADS. That, too, is for another post. But what TRADS all share in common is the understanding that being a Catholic is more than language or ritual. Catholicism is a world view, an attitude, a philosophy, a life style that, throughout history, has had an amazing impact on the world.
I am one of those TRADS. And I hope to highlight all the things that the Modern Catholic Church is silent about. My spiritual growth is still merely a sprout. I continue to pray, only differently. I continue to go to Mass, only in a different manner. I continue to read about Catholicism, only with a new perspective. And I am finally learning what it really means to be Catholic.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I don't know where to begin. A year or so ago, Steve and I started a blog about Christian parenting. It's still around and he posts there occasionally. But for a long time now, I have been silent. I've convinced myself that I don't really have anything to say or I don't have the time to blog. But that is not the truth entirely. While I am very busy, my life has changed since beginning that blog and I haven't wanted to post there because my heart is not in it.
With that being said, I am leaving that blog to my wonderfully amazing husband. He will keep it going and moving in whatever direction he sees fit. As for me, I've started this new blog because I really do have plenty to say.
I am giving this disclaimer now so that there won't be any confusion. This is a blog for and about Traditional Catholicism. If you are new to these terms, I will explain it all in a post tomorrow.
All comments will be welcome, upon moderation of course.
Can't wait until tomorrow!!!
With that being said, I am leaving that blog to my wonderfully amazing husband. He will keep it going and moving in whatever direction he sees fit. As for me, I've started this new blog because I really do have plenty to say.
I am giving this disclaimer now so that there won't be any confusion. This is a blog for and about Traditional Catholicism. If you are new to these terms, I will explain it all in a post tomorrow.
All comments will be welcome, upon moderation of course.
Can't wait until tomorrow!!!