Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Real Reason THE NATIVITY STORY did not do well at the Box Office

Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and New Line Cinema’s THE NATIVITY STORY both cost about the same amount to produce (35 million). The PASSION grossed 80 million it’s first weekend, NATIVITY grossed 8 million. Gibson’s film went on to gross about 370 million in North America alone. The NATIVITY is limping to a close at a less than break-even 25 million.

It’s extremely entertaining to see how the Christian press is handling this “bad” news. Everything from snow storms to Mel Gibson is being blamed. (Mel’s not being blamed directly but not having a name like Gibson’s attached to the movie was seen as one of the causes for the movies poor showing. See Christian Movie News - What’s up with The Nativity?)

It’s not like God fearing, Bible waving Christians are overwhelmed these days with choices at the theater. So “Whither the Nativity Crowd?” asks

One of the sadder comments appeared in The Catholic Register:

“We’re disappointed that it has not made it big at the box offices,” said Sister Mary Peter Martin, FSP, of Pauline Books and Media Centre in Toronto. “This is the first time since the 1950s that a large company in Hollywood has put on a major Bible-based Hollywood story.”

Sister Martin said she worries these types of films won’t continue if Catholics don’t support them.

The comment amazes me on several levels.

First it reveals an ignorance of how markets work; something the Pauline sisters should be well aware of since they are in the business of making and marketing media materials (

Economics Lesson Number One is that folks buy stuff because of the value of the stuff itself. Ideology, propaganda, advertising, and whatever external forces one can exert will only carry a product so far. Ultimately the “thing” must be capable of “selling itself” to the end user or the market will kiss it good bye. Though some will always support a thing because of the cause it represents, consumers in the main do not support or buy that which does not return value for value.

It would be more instructive for Sister Martin to contemplate the reasons why this movie is not selling rather than bemoan the lack of support from Catholics, especially since it seems that her company is investing in a big way into related "Nativity Story" products (DVD’s, study guides, pamphlets, etc.)

The other thing that amazes me is the Pauline’s gun-ho promotion of the movie without regard to the very serious affront to the person of Mother of God that the movie presents. And I’m not just talking about the afore-discussed issue of Mary’s labor pains. (See my blog – The Problem with THE NATIVITY STORY)

The larger issue is what Fr. Angelo Mary Geiger, FI calls a “virtual coup against Catholic Mariology” .

"Taken as a whole, tradition indicates a most exalted view of Our Lady, who was preserved from both Original sin and its effects, including even the slightest inclination to sin. Off hand, I can not think of a single saintly spiritual writer who would suggest that the Immaculate Conception went through a rebellious period during Her teen years. However, this is precisely the way in which filmmakers portrayed Our Lady.”

He continues:

"As I point out in my review, Hardwicke (the director), a Presbyterian, was interested in writing a growing up story, i.e., one about transformation through the rebellious teen years. She was chosen for the job precisely because, when it comes to portraying the crises that teens experience when growing up, especially girls, She is an expert filmmaker (see my review).

One may argue about what an artistic representation conveys in regard to the psychological experience or moral responsibility of a character, but the Mary of The Nativity Story compares very poorly with the tradition. Find me a saint that meditated on Our Lady after the manner of Hardwicke. There aren’t any. The result of viewing this movie will not be a clarifying one for Catholics in regard to the Church’s praise and veneration of the Mother of God (emphasis added).”

Leaving aside these deeper issues I also think that the movie hasn’t done well simply because the girl who played Mary is pregnant by her 19 year old boyfriend. Sorry, yes it’s only a movie, but we plain folks really do like to believe that Silvester Stallone is not really Silvester Stallone, but Rocky Balboa and that he really did beat Apollo Creed. And who didn’t want Superman to really be Superman, and Spiderman, and… You get the idea. We want our heroes to be real.

Go ahead and call us names but you won’t get our dollars. I’m not alone in thinking this. There have been several blog entries like these:

“I can tell you what lessens my interest in Nativity: the news that the actress
who portrays Mary has become pregnant by her boyfriend. I am embarrassed to see
Nativity and tout it as a fine Christian film, since I know the actress is a
fornicator. I suspect I'm not the only one with this opinion.” -Ronald Jones

“A young, unmarried pregnant actress playing Mary was enough to turn me off this
movie.” -Jim Foulkes

But now for the real reason a la Tim Rohr. I think the movie has not done well because Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is quietly protecting His Mother. Like a knight in shining armor going to battle to protect the unsullied integrity of his maiden, Jesus is guarding the dignity of His Mother in all aspects of who she was and is.

Ultimately it is our salvation that He is after, for there is no salvation without Christ, and there is no Christ without Mary. She, the Immaculate Conception, the Ever-Virgin, the Theotokos, the Queen of Heaven… SHE…is the GREAT SIGN. And ultimately the movie fails because its creators do not recognize her as such.

Ride on, Jesus!

THE NATIVITY STORY - The problem with the movie

Following is a letter to a priest friend regarding the labor issue.

Hi Father,

You may have seen reference to this in a previous email of mine, but just curious as to your feedback. I know you don’t have time to read the whole article so I condensed the key points that the author makes.

I only bring this up because of the Nativity movie that is out and its depiction of Mary in labor. I understand Protestants (who produced the movie) would have no problem with that, but am curious as to why there is seemingly no Catholic concern. Certain local Catholic leaders have intimated also that the physical “intactness” of Mary during and after the delivery of Jesus is not an issue and we can believe what we want about it.

The author of the present article points out that the Virginal Motherhood and the Divinity of Jesus are inextricably united. I happen to agree and I wonder to what extent we are promoting heresy, or at least exposing ourselves and others to the beginning of doubt about both the Immaculate Conception and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary by promoting the current movie.

Here are the main points:

The sensus fidelium practically from Pentecost expressly witnesses this (that Mary’s physical virginity remained intact before, during, and after the birth of Christ).

One of the mysteries of faith most frequently denied from the beginnings of the Church was the virginal motherhood of Mary in reference to Jesus: at conception, at childbirth, and thereafter. (Virginal motherhood as distinct from the Virginal Conception…referring to her delivery of Jesus)

The decrees of the Synod of Capua of 392, which also condemned the position of Jovinian which centered on a denial of the miraculous character of the birth (and not merely conception) of Jesus…(and that)…the miracle of the Virgin Birth consisted concretely in the absence of physical lesion, viz., maintenance of the integrity or incorruptibility of the body of the Mother of God.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II assisted in the celebration of the 1,600th anniversary of the Synod of Capua and commended its teaching on the integrity of Mary's Body during child-birth as the perennial belief of the Church.

The teaching of the Magisterium from day one of the Church (Pentecost) was predicated on …the premise…that Mary is a perpetual virgin from her Immaculate Conception, and that therefore in each moment of her motherhood: at the conception of Jesus, in HIs birth, and thereafter in her spiritual motherhood of the rest of His brethren, that virginity remains intact.

It is clear from such 4th century documentation as the so-called Creed of St. Epiphanius that "born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit" means born of the "ever-Virgin".

(The miracle of the Virgin Birth) is summed up in one phase, subsequently repeated over and over by the Magisterium: whom Mary virginally conceived, she bore or begot incorruptibly: incorrutibiter genuit. Because of this absence of lesion, Mary is the unopened door of the Temple, though which only the Lord enters and exits without opening it, either at His conception or at His birth.

The essential teaching of the Roman Synod of 393 centered on the phrase: "incorruptibly" or "integrally" begot, that is without opening of the womb.

It is found in the "Tome to Flavian" of Pope St. Leo the Great (449):
"she gave birth to Him preserving her virginity, just as she preserved her virginity in conceiving Him without seed". Each moment of the virginal gestation is miraculous in a distinct way. This document of Pope Leo is the basis for the teaching of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.

How the final moment or birth is distinct, is expressly articulated in a decision of Pope Hormisdas (521): "a birth without corruption.”

Pope Pelagius in 557 elaborates on this:
"preserving the integrity of her virginal maternity, so remaining a Virgin during child-birth, as she had during conception without seed."

What is considered a solemn definition by a majority of theologians is the declaration of the Lateran Synod of 649 in Rome under Pope Martin I, who in signing the decrees (in both Greek and Latin) of this Roman Synod extended their obligatory force to the entire Church. Here is the text of canon 3, in which anyone who denies the truth asserted in the canon is condemned:

“If anyone does not confess that the holy and ever-Virgin and immaculate Mary
did not conceive without seed by the power of the Holy Spirit the very Word of
God, give birth to Him without corruption, thereafter that very virginity
remaining ever integral, let him be anathema”.

The phrases: "without corruption" and "ever integral" concretely meant and still mean without the mother incurring corporal lesions from the child's exiting the maternal womb, therefore without pain and afterbirth.

Further, this definition of the Synod of 649 and the solemn proclamation of Pope St. Martin I, is but a paraphrase and authoritative explanation of the much earlier and popular
“virgo concepit, virgo peperit, virgo post partum remansit.”

This explanation is also found in the Constitution of Pope Pius IV (1555: during the Council of Trent) against the Unitarians…the denial of the virgin-birth in the sense defined has always been connected with unitarian or sabellian tendencies to deny the Trinity.

In 1952, the Austrian theologian physician, Albert Mitterer, author of Dogma und Biologie der hl. Familie (Dogma and Biology of the Holy Family) reproposed some ancient notions long since condemned by the Church, viz., that at child-birth Mary's virginity consisted merely in spiritual virginity, that it did not involve any distinctively miraculous elements (like integrity, painlessness), and that before the fall every human birth would have been virginal in this sense.

This opinion triggered lively discussion, first in scholarly circles, and then in popular journals toward the end of the 1950's, including its promotion as licit for Catholics.

With this the Holy Office with the approval of Bl. Pope John XXIII intervened and in a monitum to Bishops and major superiors of religious orders forbade any such further promotion or public discussion.

From all this it should be clear, particularly taking account of the intervention of the Holy Office and of the 1992 address of Pope John Paul II that a Catholic cannot maintain doubts about the physical aspects of the Virgin Birth as traditionally and authoritatively defined, "without running afoul of defined doctrine".

Read more at:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Buy Something - "Materialistic" wrongheadedness

‘Tis the season when we will once again hear warnings about the evils of “materialism”, warnings to which I used to whole-heartedly add my “amen”. But then something happened! I actually had to start earning a living.

For awhile I was able to insulate myself from the bothersome reality of the marketplace by being a teacher. Teachers are not immune from economic realities, but it takes awhile to get to them as their level of pay is not immediately linked to performance in the way a salesperson’s is.

Well, I’m now a salesperson. And unless someone buys children don’t eat.

I used to abhor the Christmas decorations going up after Thanksgiving (now it’s after Halloween). I scoffed at those “greedy” store owners trying to milk good God-fearing people like me out of money that I thought should otherwise be used for some "good purpose". (Whatever that is!)

God loves to teach me humility. So he made me a businessman and gave me a store where I have to sell stuff or my bills don’t get paid. (I started putting Christmas stuff out in September.)

I don’t scoff anymore. I thank God for every breathing person that walks into my store.

I only relate this little conversion episode to get at a bigger point: As we enter the “Christmas shopping season” I want to encourage pastors, preachers, teachers, and anyone who may publicly hold forth on the topic, to rethink their traditional “Christmas -
materialistic” speech.

Here’s an illustration. I recently heard a talk in which the speaker criticized a wealthy person’s purchase of a yacht. The purchase was said to be “materialistic”. Presumably the money spent on the yacht could have been used for “better” purposes.

I understood the point, but I wondered if the speaker understood just how many people got to eat that night - and many nights thereafter - because someone bought a yacht...and “someones” keep buying yachts.

And it’s not just the people who build the yachts; it’s also the people who make the stuff that they use to make the yachts. And it’s the guys who sell yachts, and who work at the marinas where they park yachts, and so on.

The sad part is that by putting so much emphasis on the perceived evils of the accumulation of "things" - the actual evils of personal selfishness and greed often escape unchallenged and are even emboldened by a certain pride as we whisper to ourselves: “I thank thee O God that I’m not like other (business) men.” (I inserted the word “business” in case you didn’t notice :>)

A very wealthy person I personally know was recently criticized by a fellow church member for his purchase of a private plane. The charge was typical: “that money could have been put to better use”. (Funny how people who don’t have money always know how to spend the money of people who do!)

My friend’s reply was “What did you buy today that gave somebody a job?”

We must remember that the Nativity story not only included the shepherds and their poor gifts, but the Magi and their very expensive ones.

Give somebody a job. Buy something.

PS. What makes the "materialistic" sermons even more hollow and vapid is that Christmas is the only time of the year that is dedicated to buying "things" FOR OTHERS. We go shopping with the express purpose of wanting please someone else. The season itself, be the shoppers good Christians or not, embodies and enforces the Christian ideal of selflessness. Let's go shopping. Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fr. Mitch's Challenge - and some help from his audience

A man called into Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s show on EWTN the other day and asked the following question:

“Why is there more praying to Mary on your network than there is to Jesus?”

It was immediately obvious that Fr. Mitch was perturbed and even angry. The man had called in before with the same question and was an obvious heckler.

I was interested to see how Fr. Mitch would handle it. Unfortunately, I think his anger got the better of him. He tried to show restraint, but fumbled around quite a bit trying to defend the network and even claiming to not know everything that goes on with the programming, which unfortunately put him in an even bigger hole with the assailant.

In the end he claimed to not know what the caller was talking about and he moved on with the rest of the show. But I was left with a little bit of an empty feeling and a little upset with Fr. Mitch for not being Mother Angelica.

Of course he can’t be Mother Angelica, but the situation highlighted how much EWTN will change (it already has) without her. I wish she could have taken on the man. I’m sure she would have said something that would have turned the caller on his ear and at the same time would have been instructive to the viewers.

Some think that such an action would not have been charitable, but “charitable” is a difficult thing to pin down. Jesus turned such insincere questioners on their ears many times throughout the Gospel. But be that as it may, I began to think of how I would answer that question.

The question falls into the common anti-Mary category of anti-Catholic attacks, a category that easily sends Catholics over the edge as per Fr. Mitch’s ruffled response. This is because from the outside the attack seems to have substance. We do “pray” to Mary more than we do to Jesus. I find myself saying “Hail Mary’s” several times a day. EWTN devotes two half hour segments to the recitation of the Rosary and of course the listener hears “Hail Mary” over and over.

The real deal is of course that we don’t distinguish prayer to Mary or prayer to the saints from prayer to God. We believe that regardless of who we are addressing that God hears our prayers and that our prayers through Mary and other heavenly benefactors are augmented by their saintly merits (…the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. - Jam 5:16).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I wouldn’t even go there with this at this point. Here’s how I would respond (assuming of course that I didn’t get mad and forget my lines):

Caller: Why do you pray more to Mary than to Jesus?
Me: That’s an interesting question. What makes you think we do?
Caller: Well, I’m always hearing prayers to Mary and Jesus is rarely mentioned.
Me: Is that so! May I ask you a question? How do you define prayer?
Caller: Prayer is worship and we should worship God alone.
Me: Do you think we are worshipping Mary when we pray to her?
Caller: Of course you are.
Me: Well then let me ask you your definition of “worship”.
Caller: Worship is the praise and honoring of God.
Me: Do you think that Jesus is offended when we praise and honor His Mother?
Caller: Of course he is, you should only praise God.

(At this point you have come upon the distinct difference between the “dulia”, “hyper-dulia”, and “latria” properties of the word “praise”, but no need to go there just now. Just shift gears as per the following.)

Me: Do you think that Jesus ever praised and honored His Mother while He was on earth?
Caller: Well, probably, but..
Me: Don’t you think we should imitate Jesus in all things including honoring His mother?
Caller: Well…
Me: Do you honor Mary?
Caller: Well no, but…
Me: Don’t you want to be like Jesus in all things?
Caller: Well yes but…
Me: Perhaps you should consider why your Church has not taught you to imitate Jesus in this area. Listen, I’d love to talk to you more about this. Is there a number I can call you back at?

(Remember the ultimate goal is to bring them “home to Rome”…so never leave a conversation without setting up a time to get back together.)

I’m not picking on Fr. Mitch. I’ve reacted as he reacted more than once. We’re just so caught off guard by the complete lack of appreciation for the Mother of God by non-Catholics. The idea is to count to 10 before you answer…and say a Hail Mary :>)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Voting on Guam - Why I'm not registered


In a few days we'll have another election here on Guam (as in the states). Every time there is an election I am usually asked several times "Did you vote?". I always say no and then normally have to explain myself. So by writing this I'll just say no and send inquirers to my blog.

I don't begrudge anyone for asking me. It's a normal question, but my answer isn't normal, so here it is.

First of all I never vote for people. I vote for issues and for whichever people who will best represent those issues. Actually there is only ONE issue that I care about so I'm one of those dreaded "one-issue voters".

I only care about the issue of Abortion simply because the issue of protecting the most innocent of life is so fundamental that not only do other issues pale in comparison, in my opinion there are no other issues. If we can't protect the most innocent of life and allow living children to be torn limb from limb then nothing else we do to better society will matter.

The devil is already in the room and everything and everyone is already mortally infected. Any attempt to "better" society without first carving out the putrid and gangrenous evil of abortion is like putting a band-aid on a person with cancer.

So what does that have to do with why I'm not registered to vote in Guam?

I live in Guam but am registered to vote in California. In order to vote in Guam I would have to register locally and give up my status as a registered California voter. So why don't I do that?

Because of Guam's territorial status (not one of the 50 states) a registered Guam voter cannot vote in the Presidential election. By maintaining my California registered voter status I can vote in the Presidential election.

And why do I want to do that? Since I live in Guam shouldn't I be more concerned with local issues?

The only way to outlaw abortion in the United States is through the same process that it became lawful to begin with. The Supreme Court will have to overturn Roe v Wade and outlaw abortion in America. The only way for that to happen is for pro-life judges to gain the bench. The only way for that to happen is to first have a pro-life president.

So, let me repeat. I only care about abortion. The only way to stop abortion is with a pro-life judiciary. The only way to get a pro-life judiciary is to first have a pro-life president (a pro-life congress would help too).

By keeping my ability to vote in the presidential election I am keeping alive one more vote that may someday mean keeping alive one more child who would otherwise be dismembered and sucked down a vacuum hose.

Yes, I know we have to change minds and hearts too and that outlawing abortion won't mean that abortion will stop. But we didn't wait to change minds and hearts before we outlawed theft and murder (of humans after they're born).

Currently our country legally sanctions the mutilation of millions in the name of sexual gratification. That's what this is really all about anyway. It's about having sex without consequences. It's not about reproductive rights and a woman's right to choose. It's about getting your sexual kicks whenever and with whomever you want: Sex without consequences! But a baby is a consequence. So we kill it.

I'll repeat: Satan is already in the friggin room folks. So go ahead and talk about your better education and your economic plans. Satan loves watching us fiddle with our “issues” while he burns Rome from the inside out.

Now there is one thing that would make me register to vote here on Guam. Last year the state of South Dakota passed a law that banned abortion for any reason except to save the life of the mother, not the "health" of the mother, just the life. Catholicism goes further and would not kill the baby even if the mother's life was in danger (it get's complicated here, but that's the jist of it and something I've personally had to face).

The law is currently tied up in the courts, but the point is that the people of South Dakota and their political leaders DID SOMETHING to outlaw abortion. Why couldn't we do the same thing on Guam? With a mostly Catholic legislature and judiciary we should be able to pass the law and enact it pronto!

But abortion never comes up in the local elections of this mostly Catholic island. It's a major hot topic in every stateside election, but not here. We're content, at least politically and legislatively to let the babies be destroyed.

And in my opinion so long as we lift not a finger to outlaw this mass murder in our midst we can expect family violence to get worse (and it's already bad), for school violence to get worse (and it's already bad), for drug abuse, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and the whole stream of demons to continue their parade into Guam and into the souls of the people who live here. The fabric of our society here will continue to deteriorate with every mutilated baby no matter who's in office.

How interesting that the majority of the political “waves” take place at the “ITC intersection” in the very shadow of the infamous “Women’s Clinic” Satan smiles from its windows.

By the way, there will be those who will claim that they are active in the "pro-life" arena and they do this and they do that. And yes they do, and they should keep doing it. I'm not talking about protesting abortion. I'm talking about legally stopping it. And there's NOTHING being done in that arena.

I would register to vote here if there was at least one candidate who was willing to try to put a law in place like the one in South Dakota. There's no reason it can't be done. It already has been done. I would put my time, money, energy, effort, and life into supporting a candidate who tried to save the babies.

Oh, and I’m NOT talking about candidates who say they’re pro-life. I’m talking about candidates who say they’re pro-life and stand up and say “If I’m elected I will immediately submit a bill to pass a law to ban abortion on this island for any reason!” Let them go ahead and add the exemption for the life of the mother. I’ll settle for that for now. (It’s so rare anyway.)

I've shared this with many. Everyone thinks it’s a great idea…but obviously not a good enough idea to do something for nothing has. We’re all busy with our COLA's and our fiddles I guess.

Okay, perhaps I just talked myself into running for office. Well, if no one else will do this, then I will. Guess I'll be needing to register so I can vote for myself.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Just Ask Most Women - a response to a masturbation advocate

This is a response to the column (Pacific Daily News) by Professor James Giles entitled “Only a thorough, honest sex education can prevent teen pregnancies on island.”

Professor Giles states “sex and pregnancy are far from necessarily connected”. His answer to the problem of teen pregnancy is to teach our children to satisfy themselves sexually by teaching them “alternatives to sexual intercourse”.

The list of alternatives would be a very short list. Actually there is only one entry (though there are various forms of it).Given this we must assume that for Giles the primary reason for sexual activity is self-gratification. But then sex and sexual gratification aren’t “necessarily connected” either (just ask most women).

Like it or not, sex is about babies. Always was, always will be. That’s what nature has designed sex for. For that to be otherwise there has to be some sort of chemical or mechanical intervention, a disruption of nature.

Now, if you haven’t noticed yet, I haven’t made any appeal to God or religion or morality. And I’m not going to. There is no need. Nature speaks loud enough for itself.

Since there can be no doubt that sex is for babies, the next question is what are babies for? (Sorry for the dumb questions.) Nature has a simple answer: propagation of the species. All living things are designed to make more of whatever it is they are. (I’ll leave it up to you to answer the question “designed by who?”)

Now, since the big answer is propagation, the next question is then how best to raise the baby so that he/she will in turn have the best chance to propagate in turn.

First, as per human beings, nature has designed that there needs to be a man and a woman involved. Second, since childbearing will necessarily incapacitate the woman for awhile it falls to the man to provide protection and nourishment. Simple survival dictates this arrangement.

From this point on societies begin to differ on the means of how best to integrate the child into the larger community. And this is the real question that Guam has to answer for itself: What is the best context in which to raise up a child?

Should there be some sort of brave new world methodology? Or should there be a kind of “it takes a village” approach that just sort of absorbs the responsibilities of raising up a child and liberates the propagating humans to procreate with abandon? (That’s sort of what is happening now.)

Or should there be the traditional model of one man and one woman committed to each other for life and to their family? If so, then we should continue to preach and teach the maxim: “not ready for marriage, not ready for sex”.

I don’t deny Professor Giles his right to state his mind or teach his children to masturbate if he wishes, but I won’t be sending any of my kids to his classes anytime soon.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Latin Lesson for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Back at the dawn of the Internet Age Bill Gates was purported to have prophesied that the Internet’s greatest contribution would be the empowerment of the individual. Twenty years later, the fulfillment of the prophecy is so ubiquitous and integrated into daily life that few even consider this tool as an “empowerment”. But just let the “net” go down for a couple minutes and its like oxygen being cut.

I suppose that’s an odd paragraph to introduce another installment of my ongoing personal reflections on what the Church actually says (Latin) and what the English translators have made it say. But prior to the Internet, the average individual (me, in this case) would not have had access to such handy tools as the official Latin texts and an online Latin-English dictionary.

Well, to the lesson for today, Sunday, September 03, 2006, Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B. At issue is the Psalm Verse.
The Latin says: Dominus, qui habitabit in tabernaculo tuo?
The English says: “The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”

Before we do any translation we can easily note that the Latin ends with a question mark and the English with a period. Hmmm. The Latin is a question, the English is a statement. What’s up?

Let’s take a look at the Latin, word for word:
Dominus = Lord
Qui = who
Habitabit = to live in, or dwell, inhabit
Tabernaculo = tabernacle
Tuo = your, thy

Translation: “Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle?” Now how hard is that?

The English not only does not translate this as a question it goes on to insert an answer. It’s not just a bad translation (my opinion), it’s not even A translation. It’s a completely different set of words. In addition (more of my opinion) the English destroys the effect of the verses that follow.

First let’s look at the very next verse in English:

“Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.”

There’s the answer to the question. The original Q&A setting of the Psalm hammers home the point. The question “Who shall dwell…” is asked 3 times and 3 times an answer is given. (By the way, again with the 3 times that we have so often discussed before). Look at the effect of this:

Whoever walks blamelessly and does
justice; who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue.

Who (ever) harms not his fellow
man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is
despised, while he honors those who fear the Lord.

Who (ever) lends not his money at usury and accepts no bribe
against the innocent.
Who (ever) does these things shall never be disturbed.

The psalm verse is supposed to be THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION. The translators have purposely eviscerated the effect: eliminating the question and substituting something else altogether. But for what purpose?

The word “justice” is the clue (my opinion). “Justice” was the rallying cry of the age in which the English translation was born (1960’s and 70’s). “Social Justice” jumped out of Vatican II like a hungry tiger looking to satisfy a centuries-long appetite. This isn’t the main topic of this entry so I don’t want to spend much time on it here. But basically what materialized under the banner of Social Justice was more Social (-ism) than Justice, probably most poignantly epitomized by Catholic university students lining up to assuage their middle-class guilt in Tortilla Marathons and token stints at soup kitchens.

Okay, not all of you. Relax! But let’s face it. The emphasis, energy, and resources dedicated to helping “poor Mexicans” (a metaphor for the larger picture – and I’m Mexican, by the way) was suspiciously disproportionate. Consider this: have you seen the same “emphasis, energy, and resources dedicated to helping people live chaste lives? Okay, you get the point. It’s not there. And the list could go on of course.

By the way Social Justice was not unique to Vatican II and the new “enlightened Catholic”. It used to be called “Charity”, and people used to practice it quite on their own. I can recall seeing my mom feeding burritos to homeless guys on our back porch. I can recall going with my dad to fix a toilet at the home of an elderly person. I have lots of memories like that. I can recall something called the St. Vincent de Paul Society that cared for the poor quite without the help of government grants which didn’t exist then anyway. Perhaps the saddest effect of the Social Justice mentality has been a move away from personal charity and a reliance on institutionalized charity, which is more welfare than charity.

I have very good personal friends who are very involved with Social Justice issues and I don’t wish to offend them. I am not attacking any individual involved with the true care of those in need. I am, though, singling out “justice” in the context of the over-eager Social Justice agena that here even invades Scripture and rewrites it.

Well, that was quite a digression. Let’s go back to the Latin lesson because there’s something else that our translators are denying us in this short verse: the word “tabernacle”.

What a sad replacement is the word “presence” (“…will live in the presence of the Lord”) for the word “tabernacle”. “Tabernacle” is of course a word with great biblical significance. God’s “presence” is everywhere, but He always was (and still is) especially present in His Tabernacle. The Tabernacle, in the days of Moses, as it is now, was and is: “God with us”.

And there’s another dimension of the word “tabernacle” that is not spoken of much, which is odd because it is the very meaning of the word. Most of the time it gets translated as “tent” or “dwelling”. But it’s more than that. It’s not just a place to come in to; it’s a place to get fed. It’s where we get the word “tavern”, literally a public house for travelers – a place where one could come in out of the weather, find safety, warmth, and nourishment.

And of course that would line up with what the “Tabernacle” was and is. The Tabernacle of Moses housed the Ark of the Covenant which itself held the manna. The Tabernacle that was Mary kept the Jesus in her womb safe, warm, and nourished. The Tabernacle in our churches holds the Bread of Life Himself.

It’s not surprising that the modern translators did away with “tabernacle” from the psalm verse. It’s the same folks (and those of like mind) who have done their best to do away with the actual tabernacles in our churches. And no surprise that while they were at it, tried to get rid of images of that most special tabernacle, Mary, the Mother of God.

This brings me back to my major contention that the Catholic Church, at least in America, has been sickened from within by the translations the ICEL has foisted upon us. No amount of parish programs, workshops, youth groups, etc. will stop the bleeding because the bleeding is internal.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

To Teach as Jesus Did

When I was first recruited to teach religion in a Catholic high school, I was told to read a document entitled "To Teach as Jesus Did". It was put out by the USCCB and is still available from their website. The description reads:

"The bishops outline the themes of message, community, and service in this timeless statement. Discusses educational ministry to people of all ages and encourages planning and collaboration in developing educational programs."

Like so many other documents of the type, the well chosen words, the neat paragraphs, and the appropriate references give the reader a sense of grounded and noble direction. There's a sort of "well here's what the Bishops say" feeling one gets upon reading this kind of authoritative missive. But it's a feeling that disappears quickly upon opening the classroom door...nay, upon even thinking about opening the classroom door.

The chasm between the sober, well-scrubbed, air-conditioned offices that produce these noble directives and the challenging chaos of the everyday life of the average classroom is vast. The Bishops’ words quickly become a dim echo amid the din and drone of classroom life and the once inspired teacher is reduced to figuring out a creative way to make it to Friday...if not just hanging on til the day's final bell.

I was one of those teachers. I marched into my classroom armed with the clear and authoritative directives of no less a body than the U.S Council of Catholic Bishops and promptly fell into survival mode. A few minutes into my first day and I wasn't even thinking about Friday, or even the final bell. I was just thinking about making it to the NEXT bell. If the terminology reminds you of a boxing match, you could easily be forgiven for drawing the analogy. The goals and objectives outlined so clearly in the course syllabus were forgotten as the goal and objective quickly deteriorated into a sole focus of just staying on one's feet from bell to bell.

I stray here, I suppose, into some bad memories, but I would wager that my experience is not unlike many teachers, especially those who hope to impart the truths of the Faith in the context of a "religion class". And the sort of “searching” look I see on the face of teachers who prowl my Catholic bookstore looking for some sort of magic activity book that will keep their students busy for the rest of the year attests to validity of my suspicion.

A few years ago I heard a motivational speaker refer to the early self-help staple THINK AND GROW RICH. He pointed out that the whole deal was in the title: THINK…and grow rich. The obvious implication was that most of us don’t think, we just do…which is why most folks are broke.

The answer to our catechetical quandary is similar: the whole deal is in the title: TO TEACH AS JESUS DID. As a teacher, I didn’t need more academic discussion and reverencing of high-flown themes. I needed a process, a working model, something I could use, that I could immediately implement, and I needed it TODAY, as in RIGHT NOW!

Well, in fact, the answer was in the title and is still in the title. So how DID Jesus teach… at least insofar as religion class is concerned. Ever watch Mother Angelica on EWTN? She does it. She sits there with her Bible, reads a little from it, and then teaches from what she read. It’s not a Bible study she’s doing, it’s Catechism class. She teaches the Catholic Faith from the Bible. But she first uses the story, the Bible story.

That’s how Jesus taught. He told stories, employed metaphor and analogy, even riddle. And then, he drew out the lesson, the principle, and the application.

By happy accident I came across a book entitled A PRACTICAL COMMENTARY ON HOLY SCRIPTURE, first published in Germany in 1923. The book isn’t really a commentary, it’s a catechism built on Scripture. Here’s a note from the preface:

“Bible History may be made to render most valuable service in religious instruction. The illustrative light it throws on doctrinal truths makes them more easily intelligible. They become invested with a concrete form, are clothed with flesh and blood, breathe the breath of life, and move like living truths before our eyes. In the Catechism, they appear as cold abstracts and mere outlines. Thus Bible History becomes an object-lesson in faith, a veritable pictorial Catechism”. (Example: “The Catechism tells us, indeed , how and why Christ suffered, but Bible History gives a full and detailed account of His suffering, and so enables us better to realize the infinite love of God and the enormity of sin.”)

“A veritable pictorial Catechism” are the key words. Humans think in pictures, not in words. It’s why Jesus used pictures (stories), and it’s why we gravitate towards that which is illustrated, be it pictures, theater, television, or the big screen.

But the answer is not more coloring books about Jesus. The answer is more stories about Jesus, and the stories Jesus told, and all the stories in the Bible, for they all point to Jesus.

What impresses me is that children - and the book is written to be used in the instruction of children - must have been a lot smarter back in 1923. A brief reading of the first few pages of this book will verify that impression.

Rather than launch into a lengthy dissertation on that tangent, let me encourage you to get A PRACTICAL COMMENTARY ON HOLY SCRIPTURE and re-catechize yourself. You'll find it a lot easier then to "teach as Jesus did".

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

First Mass Last Mass - Which is it?

We had a question come up last week in one of our parish workshops:

“Jesus was very simple and humble in his preaching…in his attire…why do our
priests don themselves in glamorous attire during the Mass…when did this begin
and why?”

It’s an irksome question that belies a deeper antagonistic attitude towards the perceived wealth of the Church if not the Church itself. But it’s irksome also because at first blush the antagonist seems to have a point, if not the higher ground: certainly Jesus was in fact simple, humble, wore no special vestments or fancy hats, and, in great contrast to the grand affair the celebration of the Mass eventually became, conducted the first Mass with a small group, reclining at table, with probably the simplest of vessels.

I’ve never heard the challenge satisfactorily answered. There are the usual references to giving honor, glory, respect, etc., but the accusation seems to stick and most are left wondering if somehow the Catholic Church got on the wrong track with this.

Certainly there are many who thought that to be the case which is why for the last 40 years or so we’ve done everything possible to simplify our liturgical celebrations, to bring it down to earth, to make it more relatable to the common man. Vestments were made more plain, architecture dulled, and sacred vessels downsized and downgraded to earthenware (in many cases).

The Mass itself was stripped of all “non-essentials”, simplified, translated into the vernacular, and made to hearken back to the supposed “Mass of the early Christians”. The people followed suit…or should I say…got rid of the suit. No more dressing up like before, no need for all the pomp and fuss. Jeans, t-shirts, and sandals became Sunday attire. After all, Jesus didn’t wear a suit and tie.

Music…? Well no need for any of these fancy choirs. Things are “simple” now, back to basics. Away with chant, polyphony, the organ and the likes of Palestrina! Now all one needs is a guitar and a heart for Jesus. After all, Jesus doesn’t care what we sing or how we sound. Jesus loves me, yes he does…

In addition ecclesial communities and movements continue to sprout up clamoring for a return to the ways of the “early Church”, some even forsaking the Mass of the whole community for small intimate affairs in private “cata-homes”. It’s hard to argue with these folks for they point to the example of the early Church and indeed to the First Mass itself.

I do not need to go through the litany of things that have been done in the name of “getting back to basics”, but obviously we have witnessed radical change with all things liturgical over the last four decades.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s all wrong! Actually, I’m here to tell you that the Catholic Church itself says that it’s all wrong. It’s in the Catechism. But before I tell you where, let’s take a look at this from a “phenomenological” perspective.

Since this is my blog and not an article that I have to keep to a certain length I’d like to ramble just a bit. First, we need, for the sake of those of us who are new to this word, define “phenomenological”

I’ve been fascinated with the word ever since I learned that John Paul II was a phenomenologist. His revolutionary Theology of the Body is not only an exercise in phenomenology but the very reason why said Theology is revolutionary...and a "phenomenon".

Phenomenology, at least how John Paul II uses it is “an approach to philosophy that begins with an exploration of phenomena (what presents itself to us in conscious experience) as a means to finally grasp the absolute, logical, ontological and metaphysical Spirit that is behind phenomena.“ (Wikipedia definition)

In other words it’s an approach to understanding the essence of something by beginning with what it looks like, smells like, sounds like, feels like... That's the attraction of JP's Thelology of the Body. It basically says: “Look, here’s what a man looks like naked and here’s what a woman looks like naked. Now, putting everything else aside, let’s try to understand, just from what these two creatures look like, their reason for being made that way.” It cuts to the quick. There’s no arguing with it. It’s like your mouth. “Look it opens, has teeth, a tongue, saliva glands. Huh! Wonder what it’s for?”

Now phenomenonologically speaking, the one thing we can say about the externals of divine worship, the vestments, the vessels, the places of worship, the music, and all that stuff is that there has been a consistent trend towards the more ornate, the more beautiful, the more expansive, the more massive ever since the Church came out of the catacombs.

There was the occasional revamping, refining, & renewing of liturgical worship and all that surrounded it over the course of almost 20 centuries, but in general things always progressed toward the “more is better” and away from sandals and pottery.

Now why is that? That’s the phenomenological question. Did the Church lose its marbles right from the beginning? Why didn’t it keep the model of the Last Supper, the simple table, the small group, the “sandals and pottery”? Why did the Church, as soon as it was able, build bigger and bigger churches? Why the massive Cathedrals instead of some sort of recreation of the "Upper Room" (with brown shag carpet)”? Why the ornate vestments and vessels and polyphonic grandeur instead of sandals, pottery, and "If I Had a Hammer"? Is all this just more evidence that man is fallen and will always try to re-erect the tower of Babylon?

This question is more than just a curious inquiry. It’s at the root of all that has gone afoul in the liturgical life of the Church in the last 4 decades and the cause of immeasurable damage to the faith life of many. The stripping of the altars was but a metaphor for the stripping that occurred at all levels in the Church. Seemingly, “not one stone was left upon another”. The Faith of many Catholics, simple, humble, and molded to follow the directions of “Father” or “Sister” was severely damaged when the Church of their fathers was ripped from them in the name of “a return to the early Church” and the ubiquitous lie of “in the Spirit of Vatican II”.

Before we go on we must once again examine the phenomenological fact that for the better part of two millennia, the Church, for the most part, saw nothing wrong with building Her places of worship ever larger, ever more ornate, ever more massive, and adorning both it and its ministers with that which was ever more precious and beautiful.

To say that this was wrong and a departure from a simplicity that Christ supposedly intended is to tread on the likes of everyone from Augustine to Aquinas and every Pope to ever wear the “sequined shoes of the fisherman”. I mean, here’s the deal, they had 2000 years to figure out that something was wrong and revert back to “sandals and pottery”…but they didn’t

So here’s the easy answer: the model for our liturgy is not the First Mass, it's the Last Mass - the heavenly liturgy found in the Book of Revelations, not some "birkenstock" replay of the events of the upper room, but a participation in the “wedding feast of the Lamb”.

1090 “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy
which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as
pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the
sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army
we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we
hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our
Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life shall appear and we too will appear with
him in glory.”-Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoted from Sacrosanctum

“Foretaste” is the word! A foretaste of the "wedding feast of the Lamb, not an “aftertaste” of the Last Supper: Paragraphs 1136-1139 go on to explain more fully how it is that the earthly celebration of the sacraments is in fact a participation in the eternal liturgy found in Revelations. (Of course the Church is not negating anything about the Last Supper, She is telling us that the First Mass and the Last Mass are the same...a participation in the heavenly liturgy.)

This is a fascinating discovery for me personally because I can’t even begin to explain the “decimation” (that’s the only word I can find for it) I have felt for as long as I can remember (and still feel) whenever I encounter liturgical worship that seems aimed at me.

Remember, it was John who was taken up to heaven (“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”) not Jesus who was brought down to earth. And what did John do upon arrival? He “fell at His (Jesus) feet as though dead”. Most of us don’t even bother to genuflect anymore. Perhaps one of these days God will remind us of where we really are (in His Presence) and we will be made to fall at his feet, but NOT as though dead, but dead - just a small reminder. Has happened before!

Scott Hahn’s book The Lamb’s Supper develops this truth further and offers a list of scripture references from Revelations where we find the elements of the Catholic Mass. I’ve listed them for you here with the scripture quotes from the Douay Rheims version.

Sunday worship

10I was in the spirit on the Lord's day…

(Note: We know this is Sunday because the early Christians met on the first day of the week to break bread – Acts 20:7)

A High Priest

13And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps (chest) with a golden girdle.

An Altar

3And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. 4And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel.
1And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and it was said to me: Arise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar and them that adore therein.
18And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire; and he cried with a loud voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying: Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vineyard of the earth; because the grapes thereof are ripe.

Priests (presbyteroi)

4And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats, four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold
16And the four and twenty ancients, who sit on their seats in the sight of God, fell on their faces and adored God, saying:
4And the four and twenty ancients, and the four living creatures fell down and adored God that sitteth upon the throne, saying: Amen; Alleluia.

(Note: The word “ancients” is used interchangeably with “elder”, the Greek word being “presbyteroi”.)


13And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
4And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats, four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold.
11And white robes were given to every one of them one; and it was said to them, that they should rest for a little time, till their fellow servants, and their brethren, who are to be slain, even as they, should be filled up.
9After this I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands:
6And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed with clean and white linen, and girt about the breasts with golden girdles.
13And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, THE WORD OF GOD. 14And the armies that are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

Consecrated Celibacy

4These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb:

Lamp Stands, or Menorah

12And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks:
5Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and do penance, and do the first works. Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance.

Chapters 2 and 3
(Here’s one excerpt from 2:5)
5Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and do penance, and do the first works. Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance.


8And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints:
3And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. 4And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel. 5And the angel took the censer, and filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it on the earth, and there were thunders and voices and lightnings, and a great earthquake.

The Book or Scroll

1And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a book written within and without, sealed with seven seals.

The Eucharistic Host

17He, that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna, and will give him a white counter (stone), and in the counter, a new name written, which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it.

(Note: The white counter or stone is a reference to the custom of showing a little stone, with some appropriate mark on it, to gain entrance to a feast or banquet. The name inscribed on the stone referred to here shows that the Christian has a right to partake of the good things which the Lord reserves for those who win the victory. – Navarre Bible Commentary)


7And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden vials, full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
16 (several references, here’s one)
1And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels: Go, and pour out the seven vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
9And there came one of the seven angels, who had the vials full of the seven last plagues, and spoke with me, saying: Come, and I will shew thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb.

Sign of the Cross

3Saying: Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we sign the servants of our God in their foreheads.
1And I beheld, and lo a lamb stood upon mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
And they shall see his face: and his name shall be on their foreheads.

The Gloria

3And singing the canticle of Moses, the servant of God, and the canticle of the Lamb, saying: Great and wonderful are thy works, O Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, O King of ages. 4Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and magnify thy name? For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come, and shall adore in thy sight, because thy judgments are manifest.

The Alleluia

1After these things I heard as it were the voice of much people in heaven, saying: Alleluia. Salvation, and glory, and power is to our God.
3And again they said: Alleluia. And her smoke ascendeth for ever and ever.
4And the four and twenty ancients, and the four living creatures fell down and adored God that sitteth upon the throne, saying: Amen; Alleluia.
6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord our God the Almighty hath reigned.

Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts)

12And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying to them: Come up hither. And they went up to heaven in a cloud: and their enemies saw them.

The Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)

8And the four living creatures had each of them six wings; and round about and within they are full of eyes. And they rested not day and night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.

The Amen

4And the four and twenty ancients, and the four living creatures fell down and adored God that sitteth upon the throne, saying: Amen; Alleluia.
21The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

The Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)
5:6 and throughout

6And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes: which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth.

The Prominence of the Virgin Mary
12:1-6, 13-17

1And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: 2And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. 3And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: 4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. 5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne. 6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.

13And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman, who brought forth the man child: 14And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert unto her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman, water as it were a river; that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. 16And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 17And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Intercession of Angels and Saints

8And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints:
9And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. 10And they cried with a loud voice, saying: How long, O Lord (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
3And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. 4And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel.

Devotion to St. Michael

7And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels:

Antiphonal Chant

8And the four living creatures had each of them six wings; and round about and within they are full of eyes. And they rested not day and night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come. 9And when those living creatures gave glory, and honour, and benediction to him that sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever; 10The four and twenty ancients fell down before him that sitteth on the throne, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 11Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory, and honour, and power: because thou hast created all things; and for thy will they were, and have been created.
9And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. 10And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth. 11And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the ancients; and the number of them was thousands of thousands, 12Saying with a loud voice: The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction. 13And every creature, which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them: I heard all saying: To him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction, and honour, and glory, and power, for ever and ever. 14And the four living creatures said: Amen. And the four and twenty ancients fell down on their faces, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever.
10And they cried with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb. 11And all the angels stood round about the throne, and the ancients, and the four living creatures; and they fell down before the throne upon their faces, and adored God, 12Saying: Amen. Benediction, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, honour, and power, and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.
1And after these things, I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power: and the earth was enlightened with his glory. 2And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen; and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every unclean spirit, and the hold of every unclean and hateful bird: 3Because all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her; and the merchants of the earth have been made rich by the power of her delicacies. 4And I heard another voice from heaven, saying: Go out from her, my people; that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. 5For her sins have reached unto heaven, and the Lord hath remembered her iniquities. 6Render to her as she also hath rendered to you; and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup wherein she hath mingled, mingle ye double unto her. 7As much as she hath glorified herself, and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her; because she saith in her heart: I sit a queen, and am no widow; and sorrow I shall not see. 8Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be burnt with the fire; because God is strong, who shall judge her.

Readings from Scripture
Ch. 2, 3, & 5

Priesthood of the Faithful

6And hath made us a kingdom, and priests to God and his Father, to him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.
6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection. In these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ; and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Catholicity or Universality

9After this I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands:

Silent Contemplation

1And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour.

Marriage Supper of the Lamb

9And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true.
17 (whole Chapter)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Novus Novus Ordo


The current activities surrounding the Vatican directive to bring our current English translation of the Mass more into line with the Latin, and thus what the text actually says, continue to fascinate me.

Not ever having seen the Latin of the Novus Ordo, the Mass that most of us know, I never gave the English translation a thought, other than I thought it incredibly dry. But I just chalked that up as my own spiritual problem.

However, now that I have this beautiful Daily Roman Missal published by Midwest Theological Forum which has the Latin text alongside the English, I can’t help but be fascinated by the contrast between what the text actually says and what the English translators made it say.

The Novus Ordo, or the New Order of the Mass (as opposed to the traditional Latin Rite), was promulgated by Paul VI in 1969. The English translation soon followed with what I will call the Novus Novus Ordo, simply because there are so many liberties and deviations from the original Latin Text as to almost be a new order of the Mass in and of itself.

Of course the translation in question is completely valid and licit and I will never take issue with what has been approved by the appropriate ecclesial authorities. But since the Bishops have been ordered to redo the thing, it is fair to say what I have always thought…that there is something definitely wrong or at least incomplete with the current text.

One of those is the famous “mea culpa”. I was surprised to see that “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” is still part of the Novus Ordo. I thought that all that apologizing was done away with in the “spirit of Vatican II” and the new liturgy. But there it is…on the left side of my missal.. The English, as you know, flatly reads “through my own fault” as opposed to the literal “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”. Again, this is not the Latin of the Tridentine Rite. This is the Latin of the Novus Ordo. It’s what we are supposed to be saying.

The threefold apology reminds me of the famous 70’s dictum “the medium is the message”. Huh? Let me illustrate. In many languages there is no recourse to the comparative and superlative senses of a word. And even where the language affords such recourse, the cultural application may supersede. Here’s an example. I was a teacher on an English speaking Caribbean island for several years. It was common when one wanted to emphasize something to repeat it three times (e.g. “The wave was big, big, big!”). The description was usually accompanied by both the appropriate physical and facial gestures and ended with the colloquial “missun” as in “big, big, big, missun!” (You had to be there.) Somehow, saying the wave was “very big” or even “very, very big”, just didn’t get the point across.

Same reason why we say “Holy, Holy, Holy” instead of “very, very Holy”, or why we say the Lamb of God or the Lord Have Mercy, three times. There is also the scriptural echo of Peter’s threefold denial and the later threefold “Do you love me?” There are scriptural and linguistic reasons for repeating something three times. The creators of the Novus Ordo, despite seeming to have no problem with massive revisions on other parts of the Mass didn’t mess with the threefold mea culpa. That in itself should say something. However, enter the English translation and it's gone!

Now, one more, and this one really get me. I hope the Bishops will vote to change this one. It’s in the Gloria, 2nd line where it says “and peace to his people on earth”. It’s just amazing to me at how the English not only does this not come anywhere close to the Latin, but completely negates what the original text actually says.

The Latin says “et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis”, literally translated it says “and on earth peace to men of good will”. It’s “peace to men of GOOD WILL”, not “peace to his people”. And I’m not even arguing the inclusive language thing. They could have translated it “peace to people of good will” for all I care, but the main deal is they left out “good will” altogether. No need to be good. Peace is for everyone. That’s not what the Latin says and that’s not what the Church says.

History Quiz

Every Friday I receive an email newsletter from CT at the Movies. CT stands for Christianity Today and I enjoy their movie reviews as well as appreciate their fair and open treatment of all Christian religions.

However, every once in awhile I am amused by a very obvious, albeit probably unconscious, anti-Catholic slip. I say “amused” because, the slip bespeaks an anti-Catholic understanding of history that is so inbred in most protestant Americans that they haven’t even the foggiest clue that their comments have all the grace and tact of the proverbial bull in the china closet; assuming of course that the Catholic reader actually knows something of history other than what he got from the Discovery Channel or the Da Vinci Code

Sadly, or perhaps, mercifully, most Catholics, since they’ve been spared the task of learning any real history for the last two generations, will never know the attack that was just leveled against their Faith, and will go on their merry way whistling “all is well, all is well”.

The “slip” in question is the following statement taken from the CT at the Movies email newsletter of 8/18/06:

World Trade Center illustrates how people can respond when under attack— when
their fellow human beings, under the veil of terrorism disguised as religious ideology, turn into mass murderers.

Variations on this theme have certainly happened before, many times in the course of human history—the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the Rwandan genocide being just a few examples.

The context of course is a review of the recent release of the movie “World Trade Center”. Now, Catholics, here’s your history test. Can you spot the problem, the error, the gross error, the hostile anti-Catholic bigotry, the… Okay, I’ll stop. It’s actually not that bad simply because it was unintended (or at least I think so). But it’s still an error, an error which first bespeaks the aforementioned inbred anti-Catholic understanding of history in this country, but second, an error that has the potential to undermine the faith of unaware, but otherwise sincere Catholics.

The more I looked at “it”, the more “bothered” I became and decided to get the attention of the writers by sending a nice message with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. However, the last paragraph mentioned the name Steven D. Greydanus. Steven is an Catholic movie critic and publishes his excellent reviews on Decent Films and in the National Catholic Register. His name was mentioned because CT was welcoming him as a new contributor.

In the spirit of God sparing Sodom at the insistence of Abraham (which of course He eventually didn’t do), I mercifully chose to spare CT the “unsubscribe” notice on account of their addition of Greydanus. However, I wasn’t about to overlook CT’s grievous transgression but decided to complain via Greydanus as per my following email which will also provide the answer to the above history quiz…which by now you should have answered.

Hi Steven,
I almost unsubscribed to CT at the Movies just now, but then saw your name in the last paragraph of the I decided to stay on and voice my concern to you. Though I normally like everything they write I took strong exception to their throwing the Crusades into the same category as the Holocaust and Rwanda. (typical protestant mistake). There were bad men and bad things associated with the Crusades, but the original cause was noble, or at least thought to be. It was the Pope who called for the crusades. To allow for the conection that CT is trying to make is to equate the Pope with Hitler. Just my opinion. Hopefully you'll be able to help these guys.
Thanks for all you do.
Tim Rohr

I have very up close and personal experience with certain persons’ Catholic Faith shaken and sometimes shattered by this type of anti-Catholic historical revisionism. The three favorite topics in this genre are the Avignon Papacy, the Crusades, and of course the Inquisition.

By the way, I do not blame those whose faith was “shaken” or “shattered”. I will not just write them off with a casual “Well their faith was weak”. Where would a Catholic learn of these things, and even more important, learn the truth about these events in order to combat the constant harangue of both the secular media and anti-Catholic propagandists?

Alas, we shall leave that discussion for another day. Meanwhile, may I recommend “Triumph – The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church” by Harry Crocker III. This is an excellent and very readable history, a history we should know.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Christ and the Bomb - August 6

August 6, 2006

Today is August 6. It’s one of those dates that will bounce around inside your head until you remember why you should remember it. Oh that’s right: Hiroshima, the Atom bomb, World War II. Most of us give it a brief thought and don’t think about it again until the next time the same date pops up and the little remembering ritual is repeated.

Usually any connection to Christianity with this event centers on the moral question. But there are some interesting analogies between Christ and the Bomb:

Both Christ and The Bomb split history in two. There is B.C. (Before Christ) and there is A.D. (Anno Domino – "In the year of Our Lord" or since the coming of Christ) As per The Bomb, there was the world "before The Bomb" and the world "after The Bomb", a world forever altered by an unimaginable power to split atoms and literally undo Creation.

Heavenly Origins and Something Else
Both Christ and The Bomb came from above. And both came as a child: Jesus coming as a baby boy; The Bomb coming as “Little Boy” (as it was so named).

Signs in the Heavens
Both events were marked by a sign in the heavens that could be seen from a great distance: For Jesus there was an unusually bright star which many scientists claim was a supernova, a phenomenon caused by an unimaginably powerful stellar thermonuclear explosion, a description that would aptly describe 8:15am, August 6, 1945, 1,900 feet above Hiroshima.

And One More
But there is one analogy, a metaphor even, which is especially appropriate for today. The Bomb emitted a light brighter than the anything the world had ever seen. Of course, one could not even “look upon it” (sound familiar?) lest their eyes be burnt. The world has only known one other instance of similar “eye-burning” brilliance.

It happened on Mt. Tabor, circa 32-33 A.D. and was witnessed by three guys named Peter, James, & John. The Gospels describe the brightness as “shining”, “exceeding white as snow”, “glistening”, “intensely white”, “brilliantly white”. In this moment, Eternity intersects Time, Heaven fuses with Earth, , Creation is undone, Christ is transfigured, and Peter is left babbling something about going camping (well, he mentions pitching tents).

“Transfigured” is a word that could well be used to describe Hiroshima’s “atomic moment”. In one blinding flash 70,000 people were instantly "transfigured" into little piles of ash and Creation was once again undone.

Those who planned the morning visit of “Little Boy” were probably not aware that the chosen day was the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Superman Returns and the New Translation


“The father becomes the son. And the son becomes the father”, whispers Superman to his sleeping son, echoing the words he himself heard from his own father in the first Superman movie.

For anyone who has seen any of the Superman movies, especially the first one and more so this one (Superman Returns), the allegorical allusions to the Christological story, though not necessarily intended, are profound and fun to follow: a father sends his only son to earth to save its people and to light their world; he comes as a child and grows into manhood and awareness of his super powers; his father dies before he begins his “ministry”, the list goes on.

In the current movie, we even have a sort of “passion, death, and resurrection”, all very “allegorical” of course. There is even the subtle allusion to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb (the empty hospital room). I could write much about it but it’s already been written. I would refer you to for “the rest of the story”.

I was particularly intrigued, though, (as my opening paragraph suggests) with those words: “the father becomes the son – the son becomes the father”. I thought of how at 50 (and I was watching the movie on my 50th birthday) of how much I have become my father in so many ways. I was also watching the movie with my son, Michael Martin, who not only shares my birthday, but bears my father’s name as his middle name.

But personal reverie aside it put me in mind of the current response of the American Bishops to the instruction of the Vatican to revise the English text of the Mass to more faithfully reflect the Latin of the Roman Missal.

I have no idea of how things are going with the project as a whole, but I am aware of one particular item that the Bishops have chosen NOT to re-translate due to what they call “pastoral concern”.

The phrase in question is “one in Being with the Father”, from the Nicene Creed. The Latin is “consubstantialem Patri” which translates literally (and quite obviously I think) as “consubstantial with the Father” or “of the same substance of the Father”. The New Catholic Dictionary defines it thus:

A translation of the Greek, homousios, chosen at the Council of Nic├Ža (A.D. 325) as the only correct word to express the nature of the Son of God. He is not inferior to the Father, nor posterior, nor merely like unto Him, but identical in substance and in essence with Him. He is truly God, God of very God, consubstantial with the Father, as the Nicene Creed has it, having, or rather, being, the Godhead no less than the Father
I want to emphasize the part of the above definition where it states:

“the only correct word to express the nature of the Son of God”.

We must understand that the words of the ancient Creeds, especially the Nicene Creed, were not written on a whim, but hammered out, and sometimes even literally battled out, over the course of many years.

The words were chosen in an extremely exacting way, especially in this instance where the Church Fathers were attempting to describe the very nature of the Godhead, upon which all other points of the faith must rest.

The “pastoral concern” of the Bishops (or at least the majority in this case) is that the word “consubstantial” would be too difficult or archaic for us to understand and that “one in Being with the Father” is easier for us.

Uh, no disrespect dear Bishops, but not only are we, the unwashed masses, capable of learning new words (or old words in this case), I personally believe that the meaning of “consubstantial” is a lot easier to grasp than the completely abstract “one in Being”.

“Of the same substance” is concrete, like from the same board, or from the same stone. We can picture it. “one in Being” is…well, it’s….it’s out there. And what’s more, it’s NOT what the Roman Missal says.

I’m no Greek scholar but it’s quite easy to look things up on the Internet these days. The Greek word, which was the original language of the creed in question, is “Homoousios”, which is a combination of two words: “homo” which means “same”; and “ousios” which is the Greek word for essence or substance. Thus “consubstantial” or the Latin “consubstantialem” is an exact translation of the Greek and faithful to the intent of the Fathers.

But even if the Bishops want to stay with the “Being” translation, Scholars point out that in order for the phrase to at least be dogmatically coherent with “Homoousios, the phrase should be translated "…Of One Being with the Father", whereas "One in Being" is “open to speculative misinterpretation”.

In looking at the liturgical, theological, and doctrinal confusion that today pervades, corrupts, and cripples the Church (though I gladly acknowledge all the signs of renewal), and the tremendous amount of time, energy, and money spent on defining, redefining, and clarifying that which was already clear in the sacred language of the Church (not to mention the printing and reprinting of the Liturgical books), the majority of the fault must be laid at the feet of the jump to the vernacular.

Bear in mind that the headlong dive into the vernacular was another attempt to be “pastoral”. Perhaps its time for our Bishops to stop worrying about what is pastoral and start worrying about what is true (which in fact would be the pastoral thing to do).

I’ve pointed out in the past that Latin remains the language of Science and Medicine precisely because of the specificity demanded by those disciplines. It remains so for our Church for precisely the same reason. Trouble is most of us do not speak the language of our Mother. Any wonder why there is dissension in the family!

Okay, so there’s no serious tie-in with Superman Returns, in case you were still waiting for one. So go see the movie and start learning some Latin.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Why Not Believing that Mary is the Mother of God Is Hazardous to Your Marriage

Virtually all Christian religions other than the Catholic Church allow for divorce and remarriage. Their reasons may differ and they may preach vehemently against it, but ultimately they allow it.

Most Catholic apologists will point to the protestant misinterpretation of Matthew 19:9 where Jesus seems to allow divorce for reasons of “fornication” or “adultery” depending on which version you are reading. Whereas Protestants take this passage as permission to divorce and remarry, the Catholic Church, while allowing for the physical separation of the spouses for a variety of good reasons, still does not allow for remarriage.

(Some scholars point out that the original Greek word used in this passage – and still used by some translations- is “pornea”, and that “pornea” does not refer to adultery but to illicit union such as a marriage between two close relatives.)

Dr. Robert Morgan, in his recent visit to Guam, pointed out that the further away one gets from Catholic truth, the further one gets from the true understanding of the person of Christ. As evidence of this he pointed out that most Protestants will not refer to Mary as the “Mother of God”. To not accept Mary as the Mother of God and address her as such is to deny the fundamental truth of the Trinity: that there are three persons in one God, that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, and that Mary is His Mother.

So what does this have to do with divorce? The Catholic Church teaches that though a full understanding of the Trinity is not possible in this life, there are some things we do know:

  • That God is a community of persons: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit
  • That it is the Father eternally loving the Son that begets the Spirit
  • That we are made in the image of the Trinity (Gen 1:26-27)

There is only one other reference in Scripture to a community of persons comprising a single being and that would be Marriage: “…and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). This union physically manifests itself in the birth of a third person and thus images the Trinity in an earthly way.

Because the Trinity is indissoluble, Marriage is indissoluble. The Godhead cannot be broken and reassembled. Neither can Marriage. Jesus reminds us that this in fact is God’s design when, commenting on the leniency of Moses to allow divorce, He says “from the beginning it was not so”. (Mat 19:8) Emphasis is on the word “beginning” which is the word “genesis”.

It follows then that if one does not accept the Trinity as an indissoluble community of persons, then one can easily allow for the dissolubility of that other community of persons. In fact, this is exactly what happens. The willingness to allow for divorce and remarriage evinces a fundamental denial of the nature of the Trinity.

Protestants will argue otherwise but the litmus test remains whether or not they can address Mary as “Mother of God”. “Mother of God” is more than just another affectionate title, it is our guarantee that Jesus is in fact: “God with us”, God Himself. To deny that Mary is the “Mother of God” is to deny that Jesus is God. To deny that Jesus is God is to deny the Trinity. To deny the Trinity is to deny all that God has revealed to us about Himself…including His Son.

Divorce then is both symptom and cause: symptom in the sense that divorce evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of the Trinity and God’s design for Marriage; and cause in the sense that divorce, because it negates the indissoluble community of persons signified by the words “one flesh” inevitably and logically leads to a negation of the ultimate community of persons upon which Marriage is modeled.

This fundamental error also inevitably leads to the ultimate manifestation of the denial of the Trinity by also admitting contraception which completes the denial of the Trinity by negating a “third person”. Is it any wonder that the same religions that allow divorce also allow artificial contraception? Having denied Mary her rightful title as “Mother of God” they have inevitably denied the Trinity, rendered the marriage vow void, and the nuptial act sterile.

This is why our Church CANNOT change its teaching on the indissolubility of marriage or the sacred openness to life in the nuptial act. She would first have to deny the Trinitarian God.

The One Thing You Can Say

Few things stir the warrior juices in any red-blooded human more than an attack on one’s mother. The relatively meek person who may be willing to endure many wounds to his or her personal pride can become Attila the Hun when the same injuries or even much lesser ones are directed at his mother.

At least this is how I’ve been able to explain to myself the overwhelming hostility I feel towards the detractors of my Catholic Faith. The Church is my Mother. And when you mess with my Church you mess with my Mom, and “me and you have a problem!”

For us Catholics the injury is usually multiplied by the fact that not only are they picking on “Holy Mother Church”, the assault often comes as a slight against our Blessed Mother Mary. Now we REALLY have a problem!! Assaults against the Blessed Mother just send me through the roof!

But dangling by your neck from a hole in the roof is not the best place to defend your faith…or your Mother. So let’s see what we can do to keep our feet on the ground, save money on roof repairs, and maybe even bring our wayward brother “home to Rome” and to the Mother he or she has just (most of the time unknowingly) insulted.

My friend and noted Catholic Apologist, Dr. Robert Morgan, used to tell us at our Catholic Evidence Guild training sessions that there was “no slam dunk”, meaning that there isn’t just one scripture that we can lift out of the Bible that proves the truth of the Catholic Church and use to beat our detractors over the head with. Obviously, if there was, then someone much smarter than you or me surely would have used it in the 500 years since Luther nailed his 95 gripes to the door of a German church.

But there IS one thing that we Catholics can ask that (in my experience) will stop any detractor cold in his tracks. Now, remember from our last article, that the idea is not to just win the debate, but win the person, i.e. to 1) make a friend, and 2) make a Catholic. And to do that we have to buy time and prepare. So I offer this suggestion in that context.

All of us should practice the following question over and over so that we have it ready when needed. With this question you will be able to buy time AND cause the other person to question his own presuppositions which is a prelude to opening him up to hearing the truth about the Catholic Faith.

Here’s the question: “Did Jesus write anything?” Now here’s the context. Usually assaults upon the faith come from “Bible wavers”: “you Catholics... (fill in the blank) and that’s not in the Bible”, or “the Bible says… (fill in the blank) and you Catholics (fill in the blank).

“Wait a minute. Can I ask you a question?” (What?) “Did Jesus write anything? Did Jesus ever tell anybody to write anything? Don't you think that if Jesus intended us to base our faith on the Bible alone He would have left us one? From what I read, Jesus didn't leave us a Bible but He did leave us a Church and a teaching authority for that Church! What does your Bible say?”

Well space does not permit further development of the conversation, but you get the idea. Now of course, we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but the only way we know that is because our Catholic Church says so. Jesus gave us the Church. The Church gave us the Bible.

The problem with our non-Catholic challengers is their own rigid adherence to “sola scriptura” (everything has to be in the Bible). This view proves too much. If everything has to be in the Bible then there is no Bible because the Bible is not in the Bible. As Catholics we can appreciate the Holy Scriptures even more because we do not divorce the Sacred Writings from the Church that gave us them, nor from Him who gave us the Church.

For further reading on this topic see “Where We Got the Bible- Our Debt to the Catholic Church” by Henry Graham (a protestant minister who became Catholic and ultimately a priest and a bishop). It’s due in our store sometime this week.

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