Wednesday, June 28, 2006

June 2006. Pacific Daily News Photo for feature story on our bookstore: John Paul the Great Book and Gift Shop at the Agana Shopping Center, Agana, Guam.

Our Lady of Wolf River (and the “Diego Code”)

August 6, 2005

No it’s not a new apparition; it’s an old one, and an approved one at that. As a matter of fact, Our Lady of Wolf River is one of the most beloved “Our Lady’s” in all the world. Her appearance occasioned the largest single mass conversion in history (8,000,000 people) and the subsequent conversion of many more millions over the past five centuries.

In 1544 a pilgrimage of children to her shrine resulted in the cessation of a deadly plague that had already killed at least 12,000. A painting of her image played a significant role in the world-turning battle of Lepanto. (We might do well to employ this same “Our Lady” and her sacred image in our modern day Lepanto – look it up if you know not to what I refer.) In 1737 a typhus plague that had claimed 700,000 lives ceases when she is proclaimed Patroness of the country.

In 1921, there was a miraculous preservation of her sacred image when a bomb, planted by an anti-religious government agent, exploded directly beneath the sacred image and did not even crack its glass cover.

Many more miracles and pontifical honors can be accorded the Lady of Wolf River, but perhaps the most wonderful and amazing thing is what she herself has revealed to us through the name she chose. Three hundred years before Lourdes, Our Lady of Wolf River identified herself to a dying Indian as the “Immaculate Conception” and the woman of Genesis 3:15.

The old Spanish word for “river” is “guada” (today it means bog or marsh), and the Spanish word for “wolf”, which today is “lobo”, is etymologically descended from the old Spanish word “lupe”. “Guadalupe” literally means “Wolf River”. Our Lady of Guadalupe! Our Lady of Wolf River! So how did she get this name and what’s the connection with “Immaculate Conception”?

What follows is speculation, but extremely well documented and professional speculation. (See The Wonder of GUADALUPE by Francis Johnston.)

In Spain, there is a statue of the Blessed Virgin holding the Child Jesus in one hand and a crystal scepter in the other. The pose signifies Mary’s Divine Motherhood. Tradition has it that Pope St. Gregory the Great venerated it in his private oratory. He eventually gave it as a gift to the Bishop of Seville where it was venerated until the Moorish invasion of 711 A.D. Legend has it that it was hidden away in a cave on the banks of the Guadalupe, “Wolf River”, and probably so named for obvious reasons. In 1326, Our Lady is said to have appeared to a herdsman and revealed the statue’s location. The statue was entrusted to the Franciscans and a monastery was built on the spot. It soon became the most celebrated shrine in Spain. Christopher Columbus is said to have prayed there before he embarked on his momentous voyage. Indeed, he christened the island that providentially saved him, “Guadalupe”.

Now, back to Mexico. Though Juan Diego became the hero and now saint of the “Our Lady of Guadalupe Story”, it was not to him that Our Lady revealed her name, but to his uncle, Juan Bernardino, whom she visited and miraculously cured at the very moment she was instructing Juan Diego, many miles away, to gather the flowers that were to turn into her sacred image on his Tilma.

Like, his nephew, Juan Bernardino was an Aztec. He did not speak Spanish, but the Aztec language of Nahuatl. Of course our Lady spoke to him in his own language and the word she used to identify herself was most likely not “Guadalupe”. Johnston (in the aforementioned book) points out that not only does the word “Guadalupe” have no connection at all with Mexico; the word itself was not pronounceable in the Aztec language because it had no letter or sound for D or G. (The Aztecs have always rejected the Spanish name and have given their beloved Virgin various Aztec titles.)

In 1666, when depositions on the apparition were forwarded to Rome to Pope Innocent X, it was pointed out by the coordinator of these Apostolic Proceedings, that Our Lady in fact did not use the word “Guadalupe”, but most likely used the phonetically similar Aztec word Tequantlaxopeuh (pronounced Tequetalope), which literally translates as “Who saves us from the Devourer”.

A little bit of Aztec history here in order to understand what a baptized Aztec, such as Juan Bernardino would have understood. The great “Devourer” was the dreaded Aztec feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. Over 20,000 live victims every year had their living hearts gouged out of their chests to appease this fearful, blood thirsty Aztec deity. To the baptized Juan Bernardino, “the great Devourer” meant both Satan and this terrible pagan god, behind whom, of course, was Satan.

A history of the apparitions, “Estrella del Norte”, published in 1688, concurs with the earlier speculation about the use of the Aztec word and its meaning, and the author further inferred that Our Lady had identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception”, the One who would vanquish Satan, indeed the Woman of Genesis 3:15. Though the actual institution of the dogma was yet a couple centuries away, this description of Our Lady was known well enough for the then Bishop of Mexico, Bishop Zumarraga, to refer to her as the “Immaculate Conception” in a communication to Cortes (yes, that Cortes) in 1531, inviting the Conqueror to participate in a procession with her sacred image.

Before we go on and tie this all together, it is important to note and easy to see how the phonetically similar word used by Juan Bernardino in his native Aztec language and spoken through a Spanish translator (Juan Gonzalez) would invoke the word “Guadalupe” from the Spanish mind as devotion to Our Lady of “Wolf River” in Spain was well known, and indeed, at its peek at the time.

More recently (1895) an intensive study of the word Guadalupe was undertaken with the conclusion that the Virgin used the word Coatlaxopeuh, which means “she who breaks, stamps or crushes the serpent”; again, the equivalent of the Immaculate Conception. Johnston also points out that in their catechesis of the Aztecs, the Franciscans at the time referred to the Virgin as “she who crushes the serpent”, knowing that the Aztecs would draw the obvious parallel between Satan, and their own horrific pagan god.

One last study and I’ll get to my point. Helen Behrens, credited as the 20th century’s foremost authority on the sacred image, studied the Aztec word even further and made the following observation. The words “te Coatlaxopeuh” which the Aztec Juan Bernadino probably used, and which sounded like “de Guadalupe” to the Spanish ear, can be translated thus: “te” means “stone”; “coa” means “serpent”, “tla” can mean “the”, and “xopeuh” means “crush, or “stamp out”. Thus the Virgin of the Tilma should be known as “Our Lady who will crush, stamp out, abolish or eradicate the stone serpent”.

So, in a way, Our Lady was trying to tell us, exactly what the Catholic Church has always told us, and eventually proclaimed, that she is the Immaculate Conception, the Woman of Genesis 3:15, through whom redemption would come. And just as our Redemption did come through her body in the person of Jesus through her to us, He still comes through her to us.

However, we have a modern problem. As pointed out in one of my previous articles, modern translation have either virtually eliminated or effectively downsized the Woman of Genesis 3:15 as the One who will “crush and “stamp out” the serpent”. The Bible that the Church has used for 1,600 years, the Old Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome says: “…ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius” , or, in English, as translated in the Doauy Rheims Bible, “…she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel”.

This of course fits perfectly with everything our Church has taught about the role of the Blessed Mother in salvation history. All those statues of her crushing the head of the serpent come from this verse. And of course, it fits exactly with what she revealed about herself in the above account. However, perhaps to appease our separated brethren in the name of ecumenism, modern Catholic biblical scholars have opted to leave Jerome and nearly two millennia of Catholic tradition and follow the Protestant lead as you can see here. (Some of the attempts to eliminate Mary are almost comic as in the JB’s use of the neuter and the NEB’s use of the plural.)

Catholic Bibles
“He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” – NAB
“…he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” –CSRV
“It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.” – JB & NJB

Protestant Bibles
“They shall strike at your head, and you shall strike at their heel.” –NEB
“…he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” –NIV
“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” –NKJV
“…he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” –NRSV

Perhaps Our Lady of Wolf River anticipated this rewriting of her redemptive role in her visit to Tepeyac Hill in 1531. Perhaps we should listen to her name. Perhaps we should learn to pronounce “Coatlaxopeuh”.

The Evil Beyond Abortion

November 7, 1999, Revised: September 5, 2005

I was not going to take on this subject so early in my weekly-columnist career. In fact, with this article I may be inviting the end of my career, for this subject is probably the most unpopular subject in all of Catholicism. However, here goes. But before I begin I must beg the forgiveness of those who are the exception and to please bear in mind that this is only a "view from the pew", and really only one guy in one pew of one church. (Also, it is a given here that God opens and closes the womb as He wills.)

I applaud the Bishop and the other writers who advanced the pro-life position in last week's Pacific Voice. There can be no doubt that abortion is a great evil. Not even science doubts now that life begins at conception. The question being debated is not whether this center of activity in the womb is a life, but whether or not it has a legal right to exit the womb alive. I, for now, will leave that debate to others.

As a Catholic community, we may or may not be able to overturn Roe vs. Wade in our lifetime. We may or may not even succeed in having abortion banned in our own island. We can however accomplish, in my view, something more significant and eternal. We can do something, as Catholic parents, teachers, and preachers that all the pro-life marches and speeches and petitions can never do.

We can teach our children of God's sacred plan. We can teach them about what sex is for. We can teach them how our almighty and omnipotent Father, maker of heaven and earth, ruler of all creation, humbled Himself beyond all understanding by relegating to lowly man and woman, the power to create the one thing He wants more than all the stars and solar systems: immortal souls.

For though we do not create the immortal soul ourselves, God has mysteriously deigned that there be no other channel for creation of this soul than that of the human seed. Thus, we hold within our bodies the key to God's ultimate desire. For without our cooperation in creation there will be no future citizens of heaven. We need to teach our children that not only CAN we have babies, but that we MUST.

In fact, the very FIRST commandment ever given to man was, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth..." (Gen. 1:28) . Notice it does say "multiply" and notice that it also says "fill the earth". We have not yet fulfilled this command. Just for the record, and especially for the "standing-room only" anti-populationists, the current population of the world, which is figured near 6 billion, could fit in its entirety into the state of Texas with approx. 1300 square feet per person. (You can do the math yourself.). We have a long way to go.

But I am not here to argue logistics. My real point is that we will never make any headway in the abortion battle so long as we simply battle abortion. For abortion is not the real evil here. It is only a symptom of the evil. The real evil is our denial of this very first commandment by our unquestioning embrace of the Enemy's ultimate weapon against God in denying Him souls, CONTRACEPTION! For what is abortion really other than the most extreme means of contraception?

I can hear the howls already, how it's not the same thing, that abortion kills and contraception prevents. I've heard it all. But the effect is the same. Whether we use the knife or the pill we have interfered with God's absolute right to the womb and new life- the only possible home for the immortal soul.

For it is here, in the deepest intimacy of two united beings, in the eternal dance of the sexes, cooperating in unison with God for that which He created them, man and woman, that the Lord of Hosts comes down from highest heaven and His word becomes flesh once more: the precise intersection of the human and divine. Oh, if we only knew what we were doing.

"Oh", but you say, "We are Catholics, we don't believe in artificial contraception." Really? Where are the once glorious witnesses of large Catholic families? Have Catholics suddenly become naturally infertile in the last 20 years? "Oh, but you must understand, economic times have changed", etc. Odd, we now have more TV's than we have kids. For want of cars and comforts we forsake children and the conjugal command.

"Oh, but we practice Natural Family Planning (NFP), it's been okayed by the Church." And of course you are right...partly. BUT! It is critical for us as Catholics to remember that the use of NFP is morally permissible only when there are serious reasons for spacing offspring.

When this natural form of birth-control first came to be known, Pius XII told us "that observing the non-fertile periods alone can be lawful only under a moral aspect", and that to avoid children always and deliberately without an extremely serious reason would be "a sin against the very meaning of marriage." (Pius XII-"Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives" to warn against the selfish use of natural family planning, Oct 29, 1951)

Lest you think that I am some sort of self-righteous moralist, allow me to offer a bit of personal testimony and confession here. I am a product of the 70's, which should say enough about my doctrinal background-almost none. I, like many of you fell under the pseudo-doctrines of "if it feels good do it", and “whatever turns you on", etc. At 29, I was not only still not married; I had no intention of being married, let alone any thought of children.

God of course always has the last say. And now married and 10 children later, I can attest to His oft mentioned “sense of humor”. I don't have time or room here to recount the conversion story, but it really wasn't till after our 4th child that I totally let God in and gave Him control of "that" too.

Of course, parading around the town with 10 children draws attention and almost certain questions. My wife usually answers them all kindly with a smile. "Yes, they're all mine." "No, I don't run a day-care." "No, we're not done, we're leaving that up to God", etc. But the question that always irks me is, "How are you going to put them all through college?" If only we were half as concerned about getting our children (and ourselves) into heaven as we are about getting them into college!

We just happen to believe, by the grace of God and courageous teachers, that the best way to direct our spiritual charges towards heaven is by living in loving response to that very first commandment. Indeed, it is only through the obedience to this command that there is even another soul to show heaven too.

And it is here that we give thanks for the wonderful gift of the Catholic Church and those who have the courage to teach its truths. For we have a Church that is not only willing to condemn the evils of abortion, but is now practically the only Church left standing still crying out in the wilderness that the use of contraception is a grave violation of the moral order, that "each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church).

It is only in the Catholic Church that we are taught that of the two inseparable aspects of conjugal sex, the unitive and the procreative, the unitive must remain subordiante to the procreative, wherein is hidden the key to the lasting mutual love we burn for.

And until we understand, embrace, and teach this, the babies will die.

The Best Book I Ever Read


She was a born-again Jewish divorced librarian who thought Catholics weren’t saved. Her name was Avi, and we worked together for four years at a Catholic high school in the Caribbean. Last I heard she was hiding in the mountains of Morocco where she worked as an undercover missionary, distributing bibles to Muslims. The fact that Avi loved Brother Lawrence, in spite of the fact that she would rather burn anything Catholic, is a testament to Brother Lawrence.

I can’t quite explain what affect THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD: Conversations and Letters of Brother Lawrence has on me other than to say that all the noise of my life disappears the minute I open the cover to any page and read any sentence.

Who is Brother Lawrence? He was born Nicholas Herman in 1611 to humble French parents. The foreword to the present volume tells us that “He served first as a soldier, then as a footman in a great French family, where he annoyed his masters by breaking everything. At the age of fifty-five he entered the Carmelite Order in Paris as a lay brother, became a cook, and adopted the name of Brother Lawrence.”

Another note remarks that he lived in an “irreligious age”, and amongst “a skeptical people”. But basically that’s the end of the story…except that he left fifteen short letters and a brief record of conversations which for 400 years have continued to appear in print and move the most tired and hardened hearts with the simplest expressions of love and gratitude for God.

St. Teresa of Avila once remarked that God was “in the pots and pans”. For Brother Lawrence there was no distinction between “the time of business” and “the time of prayer”. God was in every moment and everything.

For most of us who live the “terribly busy life”, perhaps the words of Brother Lawrence will help us to find God “in the pots and pans” by learning THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD. Thanks, Avi.

This article is sponsored and paid for by John Paul the Great Book and Gift Shop located at the Agana Shopping Center. THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD is currently available. (477-7647)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


by Tim Rohr, 2/22/06

She lived in a time (1850-1917) when travel was slow, arduous, and danger-filled. Being of frail health, she also had no business traveling anywhere. She had no money of her own and could not speak the language of the countries where she spent most of her mission life. Yet, she traversed the globe, visited more countries, and established more institutions than probably any other saint. By the end of her life she had drawn over four-thousand sisters to her community, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and established over fifty houses in countries all over the world.

Small, sickly, poor, a woman in a time when women had little influence, she, almost single-handedly, built the Catholic Church in a country that was, at that time, very hostile to Catholics, or at least barely tolerated them. Chicago, New Orleans, Denver, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many more places in the United States were blessed with the presence of this saint-to-be as she tirelessly opened up countless schools, hospitals, orphanages, and community houses for her sisters.

Her reputation for her willingness to do for the faith what others would not dare to do soon spread around the Catholic world and bishops everywhere clamored for her to come to their diocese and establish a community of her sisters. An example of her all-for-Jesus missionary spirit is the work she did in such far flung lands as Argentina, Chile, Peru, Nicaragua, and malaria-infested Panama (she would die of malaria).

Many miracles are attributed to St. Francis Cabrini. An amusing one is “the miracle of the stockings”. One of her sisters had a severe case of varicose veins and had been instructed to wear support stockings. One day, unbeknownst to the sister, she put on a pair of Mother Cabrini’s stockings. By the next day her varicose veins were gone and legs completely healed. Upon learning of the miracle, Mother Cabrini rebuked the sister for crediting her for the miracle and insisted that it was her faith that healed her.

But perhaps more striking than her miracles, and intriguingly instructive for us today, is how she stood up to the challenges of the surrounding culture. In Denver, she was confronted with a Catholic population that was indifferent about attending Mass. Here was a demon more powerful than the demons that goaded the Roman emperors to enact their horrific persecutions. If Satan failed to turn early Christians toward hell with the threat of boiling oil, he would later make up for it with the twin infections of apathy and indifference. Mother Cabrini wasted no time. She attacked the menace with education and soon Sunday Masses were over-flowing with Catholics passionate about their faith.

In Nicaragua she was faced with a new and prickly challenge that would make her a singular public enemy. She openly challenged what she considered immodesty in women’s dress. Despite the tropical clime of Nicaragua, she brokered no excuse for the way the women dressed and refused to let her sisters visit or eat in the company of women who were dressed immodestly. There was great resistance, but eventually Mother had her way. This was a small issue, however, compared to the one that would lead to near riots at her convent doors.

Despite being Catholic, many of the fathers and mothers of the children attending her schools were unmarried. What we now call “shacking” was seen in Nicaragua in the early 20th century as cultural or traditional. Church leaders seemed to overlook it and most people accepted it. Mother Cabrini didn’t. She refused to allow the children of unmarried parents to attend her schools. This caused a major uproar. Who was this foreign woman who was trying to change their way of life? Mother stood her ground despite the threats and riots. Finally after several dangerous days, the people gave in and there were many marriages soon after and many dissenters became her staunchest supporters.

Italian by birth, Mother Cabrini became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1909, died eight years later and became the first U.S. citizen to be raised to the Communion of Saints when she was canonized in 1944 by Pope Pius XII.

There’s also another story here. Much effort is put into catechizing and evangelizing and sometimes even “wooing” and “wowing” our youth, yet there remain the ever-persistent problems of distraction, apathy, and general malaise about the Faith. Historically though, it was not instruction and lively events that moved young men and women to follow the path to sainthood, but the stories of the saints themselves. How many young boys and girls over the centuries learned the heart of the faith by hearing the stories of the saints at the feet of their parents!

Let your children hear the “greatest stories every told”. Read to them the lives of the saints. A great series, and very readable, is Bob & Penny Lord’s Super Saints Book I, II, & III from which the above story of Mother Cabrini was condensed. And since we all want to go to heaven, we might as well get to know some of the folks that we’ll be (hopefully) spending eternity with.

Material Witness
by Tim Rohr, 08/20/2000

The thought evolved within me the other day while watching young Brother André courageously and confidently profess his permanent vows that the Son will continue to dawn on our beloved Church as long as there is at least one more who will say “yes”.

I have been privileged to know Brother André for about a year as an altar server at the weekly Latin Mass at the Friary which I attend with my family whenever possible. Brother André has also taught two of my sons how to serve the Latin Mass. But more than that, I can tell that something of his spiritual dedication and personal reverence for the sacred has been imparted to my sons. And who knows. Maybe they will follow in his sandaled footsteps.

This brings me to my point! There seems to be much talk and hand wringing these days over the vocations-crisis. There are all kinds of reasons given for it and all kinds of solutions too. Depending on whom you listen to one can get the feeling that some priests and religious are ready to throw in the lavabo cloth. Well, from my view of things, Brother André just picked it up.

You see, what we have here is an example. And if anything, we don’t need more books, opinions, and conferences about the subject; we need more examples, personal witnesses, and living testimonies to the unique call of God to a young heart to the ordained ministry.

Unfortunately, Br. André has already been whisked away to the novitiate, which I understand is in Berkeley, California (pray extra hard for him). But if I had anything to do with it, I’d have this young brown robe speaking in every Catholic classroom and CCD class on the island. Perhaps we can still do that when he returns.

Only God knows how many young men and women had the spark of a vocation fanned into flame by the personal witness and testimony of a new (or old, for that matter) on-fire religious such as Brother André. And only God knows how many sparks are allowed to die for want of fuel that only a living example can provide.

I don’t know about you, but I never tire of telling how I met and fell in love with my wife. I understand that the experience can be likened to what a Religious experiences when he or she first comes to realize the unique call to a love affair with Jesus. I would love it if our pulpits would ring with such stories. Priests, Nuns, Brothers, Monks, all the ordained, should never tire of telling how they met and fell in love with Jesus in their vocation and should look for every opportunity to vigorously do so.

And how about we parents inviting priests and religious over to our homes and ask them to tell their stories to our children and us? And teachers, why not seek out more opportunities to invite Father or Sister into the classroom to tell about their calling? Or how about reading to our children stories about the saints who answered the call to religious life and using those stories to inspire our children to think about a religious vocation for themselves? (Apologies to you who already do all these things.)

And, alas, (this will make me even more unpopular) how about men and women of the cloth actually recognizing and taking seriously perhaps their most powerful tool in the business of vocational recruitment...the collar, the veil, the cloth, the...okay, I’ll say it, the habit. The habit: the silent yet deafening witness and testimony to your perpetual vow. Call it your “material” witness.

Wait, wait! Before you banish me to the lead mines of Sardinia, let me ask you to do the math. Check to see which Religious Orders are increasing in vocations and which ones aren’t. I’ll bet you a cassock that the ones who have adhered to the more traditional, distinctive religious garb are, in the majority of cases, attracting new postulants in much greater numbers.

Don’t argue with me. Argue with them. See for yourself and then ask why? Of course it may also have something to do with the fact that they are also obeying the law and the personal wishes of the Pope. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon Law 669 requires that members of religious institutions wear a distinctive religious habit (notice the word “distinctive”). Our Pope has personally expressed his deep desire that Religious do exactly that.

I don’t think he’ll have a problem with Brother Andre though. I understand he left his clothes at the door. Meanwhile, God and St. Francis guide you, Brother. The little ones await your example.
Further Adventures of Protestant Pete and Catholic Cathy on the Question of the Immaculate Conception
By Tim Rohr, 11/30/05

“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 491

There are many things we can say about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but the following “dialog” begins with the most common objection.

PP: How can you Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin when the Bible clearly says in Romans 3.23 “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”?
CC: Pete, how is a sin committed?
PP: Well, when a person rejects God and does something against his will.
CC: Can a baby reject God?
PP: Of course not.
CC: Then at what point is a child capable of committing a sin?
PP: When they reach the age of reason.
CC: And when is that?
PP: Most people think it’s at about seven years old.
CC: So then when Paul says “all have sinned” is he including children before the age of reason?
PP: No, but what’s your point?
CC: The point is that Paul simply does not mean “all” in the sense of every living being who ever lived without exception because obviously children before the age of reason are excluded simply because they are not capable of sinning.
PP: Maybe that’s true, but Paul means that we are all born with original sin.
CC: Does Paul say that in this passage?
PP: Well not exactly, but…
CC: Well, he doesn’t. He uses the words “have sinned” implying that an active, conscious sin has been committed. He is not referring to the sin we are born with, is he?
PP: Well, no, but you Catholics claim that Mary was born without original sin. How can you believe that? It’s not in the Bible?
CC: Well, what about Genesis 3:15?
PP: What about it?
CC: Let’s look it up. It says here “I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed.” Pete, what is the seed that God is referring to?
PP: Well, Jesus of course.
CC: Then the woman has to be Mary, right?
PP: Yes. So?
CC: Can you define “enmity” for me?
PP: Well, I think it means hostility or hatred.
CC: You’re right. The word in Latin is “inimicus” which means “enemy”. God says in fact that He will make Mary an enemy of Satan. Our Catholic Church simply takes the Sacred Scriptures literally here and clarifies that the enmity between Satan and Mary is total. It had to be. God is infinite goodness and Satan is infinite evil. To say that Mary was born with original sin is to deny what God means by “enmity” in Genesis 3:15.
PP: Well, I still don’t believe it. That’s just your interpretation.
CC: Look, Pete. I know I’m not going to convince you, but let me ask you this.
God is all powerful, correct? He can do anything.
PP: Yes.
CC: Then He could have made Mary sinless if He wanted to, right?
PP: Well, yes, theoretically.
CC: Well, if he could have, theoretically, the next question is do you think He would have wanted to? After all, God himself was going to have spend nine months in her womb.
PP: Well, I suppose, yes.
CC: Well, then, Pete. We’ll just leave it at that for now. God could have and He would have. The Catholic Church simply teaches that He did.

Learn more about how to defend, explain, and advance the Catholic teaching on Mary in Beginning Apologetics Vol. 6: How to Explain and Defend Mary available at John Paul the Great Book and Gift Shop at the Agana Shopping Center.
Dressing with Dignity
by Tim Rohr, 04/15/06

My daughter, Michelle, was recently accepted to summer program at a Catholic college. Along with her acceptance package she received something I hadn’t seen in a while: instructions for dress. It struck me enough to want to share it with you. Here it is:

The dress code for classes, Mass, and lunch during the week is as follows:
The Dress Code requires a dress, or a dress skirt/dress pants and blouse, and dress shoes. The neck of all dresses/blouses must not be lower than one and a half inches below the collar bone. All skirts/dress are to be no shorter than the crease of the back of the knee. If a skirt/dress has slit in the front or sie, the slit shall not be more than one inch above the knee cap. If the slit is in the back it shall be no higher than two inches, measured from the crease of the knee. No form-fitting dresses, skirts, tops, or pants are allowed at any time.
At all other times:
Properly modest and dignified attire is not only a trait of Christian people; it is essential for the high school program morale, to show respect for oneself and others. At all times, dress must be modest (i.e. not tight nor too loose, no low cut in back or front, not too short, no spaghetti straps, etc.) and respectful. All shorts must be long enough so that the wearer’s fingertips do not go past the hem of the shorts. Women’s swimwear must be modest one-piece. Clothing must be worn over the swimsuit when walking to and from the pool.

If you have any questions about this dress code, please contact us prior to your arrival.

The last line is amusing. It sort of hints that if you don’t like it, don’t bother coming. I happen to know that they have no shortage of applicants.

These days, Modesty is not spoken of much, but it is still one of the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is also included under Temperance which is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues. These virtues are called “cardinal” because, as the Catholic Encyclopedia says, they are the virtues “upon which the rest of the moral virtues turn or are hinged”. It’s not hard to understand how Immodesty can lead to more serious sin.

Given that so many of our social ills have their roots in un-chastity and by extension, immodesty, perhaps it would be good to turn our attention once again to our Church’s wise and eternal teaching on this matter.

An excellent resource for a renewed examination of this neglected virtue is Colleen Hammond’s book: Dressing with Dignity. A couple of bullet points on the back cover caught my eye: “How to talk to teenagers about the privilege of femininity so they will want to dress with modesty and dignity”, and “How to awaken chivalry in men and be treated with respect”.

As a father of five beautiful daughters I am intensely aware of how important it is to ward off problems before they are problems. Addressing the issue of Modesty is a lot easier than addressing the issues that inevitably come from not addressing it. Dressing with Dignity will help you do that.
This is a paid advertisement by John Paul the Great Book and Gift Shop at the Agana Shopping Center. 477-7647
Letter to the Editor - 01/11/06

This letter is in response to the Voice of the People, January 11 letter of Mr. Alfred Sevillo who was responding to a certain Mr. Yana who in his turn was responding to …, was responding to …, etc., over the Catholic understanding of “Purgatory”. First, please allow me to assert my personal distaste for any sort of religious haranguing in a public forum that should be reserved for community issues. I would encourage the editors of this paper to re-evaluate the purpose of publishing such letters in light of their value to the public discussion and the overall integrity of our community newspaper.

That said, I must address Mr. Sevillo and all those who feel it incumbent upon themselves to publicly bash the Catholic Church and its teachings. Last I heard there was still freedom of religion in this great country and we are free to believe and follow whomever and whatever we choose. Should Mr. Sevillo and others antagonistic towards the Catholic Church feel it their duty to speak out against our Church then I would encourage them to find a forum where true & fruitful dialogue can take place. The present “letter to the editor” tactic smacks of guerilla or even terrorist tactics: from a safe distance, the perpetrator sets off his bomb in the public square.

But since I have no jurisdiction over the editors of this paper and small hope that my advice will be entertained, I must address the “it’s not in the Bible” issue that Mr. Sevillo here employs, but is standard fare for other such attacks on the Catholic Church. Here’s the bottom line deal: Jesus didn’t leave us a book, He left us a Church and a teaching authority that He would protect with the Holy Spirit. The fact that we interpret Matthew 16:18-19 to mean Peter and his successors is our practice of freedom of religion. No one requires you or anyone else to believe the same.

By the way, Mr. Sevillo, thank you for the purchase of the two books from which you quote. It’s quite obvious that you bought them from my bookstore at the Agana Shopping Center. Next time you are there, may I recommend “Where We Got the Bible” by Henry Graham? Also, please feel free to introduce yourself.

Tim Rohr
Consistories, Canonizations, and Michelangelo
By Tim Rohr, April 26, 2005

Oops! I recently sent out an email to my Catholic friends describing my attendance at the 1977 consistory of cardinals at St. Peter’s. Turns out I had my years and my visits mixed up. The year was actually 1976. 1977 was the year I attended a canonization (St. John Neumann – first American male saint. Obviously the first American saint was a woman. Who was it? A little pop quiz for you!) Well, Consistories…Canonizations…whatever! That’s a lot of stuff for a 19-year old (that’s how old I was then) young skull full of mush to keep straight and even harder for an almost 50-year old (that’s how old I am now!) to remember.

Well regardless of my getting my years mixed up, I was indeed in the Eternal City for two fantastic occasions. First, a little background as to how I came to be in Rome. I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and had become involved in the music ministry of my parish after high school. I’d like to tell you that my involvement in this ministry (we didn’t call it a ministry then) was because of some calling or desire to serve, but it was much more basic than that. I liked to play guitar and liked the girls in the group who liked me to play guitar, even more. (Come on you youth group guys, admit it!)

My pastor thought he saw a vocation in me so he invited this uncultured prospect to accompany him on a trip to Rome. The occasion was the elevation of an American bishop to the office of the “red hat” (cardinal). That bishop was Archbishop Cardinal-to-be Baum of Washington D.C. If his name sounds familiar it’s because you’ve been hearing it mentioned in the news these last weeks. He and the former Cardinal Ratzinger were noted by the media as the only two cardinals voting in this conclave that had voted in the last.

Now, back to 1976. The reason my pastor was attending this event in Rome (called a Consistory of Cardinals) was because he was the guest of then Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Timothy Manning. My pastor and Cardinal Manning had been seminary classmates and that little fact of history proved to be a great boon to a poor young guitar strumming folk group (that’s what we called them) leader. And that is how I came to be standing that May day next to the massive bronze pillars of Bernini’s magnificent baldaccino inside the grandest church this side of Heaven while the soon to be cardinals processed up the aisle amid the glorious strains of the Sistine choir and the press of thousands.

As much as I’d like to tell you about all the goings on I was privy to inside the Vatican enclave as a member of the cardinal’s privileged party, about the papal audience with His Holiness, Paul VI, the private Vatican tour of that hallowed place, the introduction to minor members of the curia who are television names today, and of course the singing Cardinal’s wonderfully raucous “Arrivederci Roma” party at the end of it all (he was Irish – I shan’t say more as he has since past), a party to end all parties in a catacomb turned restaurant beneath the street. Yes, I would love to relate to you all that happened, but I am rather inspired to tell you of something much more quiet…and profound.

You’ve seen the pictures of St. Peter’s Basilica on TV, the colossal façade, the grand embrace of the Bernini colonnade, the great dome of Michelangelo that reaches up to heaven in an eruption of massive stone to a height that exceeds a football field in length and embraces below the great altar of the most glorious church in all of Christendom, under which lie the bones of the great Apostle himself. The great dome shelters not him alone but also the sacred remains of many successors to his Petrine office, including now the spent body of our most beloved John Paul II, which has at last attained its well-deserved rest in the sacral dirt of that Holy Grotto.

I swallowed hard as I approached the massive bronze doors of San Pietro. The crush of centuries seemed to bear down upon me in proportion to the growing size of the imposing, soaring façade. Crowning the great entrance to the church were the thunderous figures of Christ and the twelve apostles, marble presences that loomed ever more terrible and wonderful in the increasing backlit glare of the afternoon Roman sun.

St. Peter, hanging on his upside down crucifix, stared at me from his centuries-old bronze cast as I approached the great doors. I was relieved to get past his damning glare and enter the coolness of the vast church.

To this day it’s beyond me how anyone who is not a Catholic does not become one immediately upon entering that glorious Palace of Peter. One cannot help but be spiritually staggered by the sheer dimensional immensity of what boldly defies any attempt to imagine an edifice of mere human construct.

And yet it is! What sort of faith builds something like this? “My Lord and My God”, words usually reserved for the transubstantiate moment, issued from my lips in a confessionary sort of way, as if to purge my soul of any trace of sin lest the very vault of the central nave condemn me.

And what of the lukewarm Catholic who walks past the hard stare of the inverted crucified saint into the cool shadows of this colossus of Christianity? Does not his cool religious apathy implode and his proud demeanor bend at the very awareness of where he in fact now stands? “KNEEL!” shout the stones!

Pardon my poetry, but English is a poor language to express the glories of such a moment. Perhaps that why they still speak Latin there. However, I have not yet related that which surpasses even this and my reason for writing.

Immediately to the right as one enters this inexpressible monument to the Prince of the Apostles is a small white statue, smaller than I had thought from the pictures I had previously seen. At once, everything else in the glorious basilica disappeared and I was drawn to what seemed too real to be a statue, a product of mere stone, a work of art. And then, there was her face, her face, her face.

Anyone who has gazed at the Pieta of Michelangelo need read no further for I’m sure you have fallen under the same spell. Yes, there lies the dead body of our crucified Lord in the most exquisite treatment of stone ever engraved by hammer and chisel, human hand and holy imagination. But the face of the Madonna…I fell in love, truly, truly. I shan’t attempt to explain, but only say that a motionless half-hour passed as I was caught up in what I can only describe as a contemplative paralysis. I could not break my gaze.

I was “awakened” by a soothing coolness on my cheeks. A sudden breeze came through the great open doors and brushed across the tears on my face that I had been unknowingly crying. In my 19-year-old male pride I felt a rush of embarrassment and looked hurriedly around to see if anyone had noticed my unrestrained emotional display.

It took me a moment to realize…everyone else was standing just as transfixed and teary eyed as I had just been: living, breathing statues, themselves, gazing at what seemed to be the living Madonna at the moment the mangled body of the Son of God, and her little boy, was laid across her grieving lap.

I wandered around the rest of St. Peter’s for hours, examining the awesome architecture, contemplating the incorrupt bodies of dead popes and the corrupt bodies of other ones laid out in glass cases beneath various altars in the basilica, marveling at the incredible size of the unimaginably massive pillars that support that other wonder of Michelangelo, the great cupola that makes St. Peter’s St. Peter’s!

I set out to write about consistories and canonizations and the concomitant brush with fame that it afforded me in light of the election of His Holiness, Benedict XVI. But the cool marble of the Virgin’s face that haunted me throughout the rest of my stay in Rome and upon my return the following year during which I spent many hours in front of her, haunts me still. The beauty of her marble face, shaped under the loving hand of the greatest artist mankind will ever know, nay, shaped indeed by the hand of Him whom she bore through the passion and sinews of a young Michelangelo. It’s a face that makes one anxious for Heaven where we hope to behold it beneath the twelve-starred crown for all eternity.
Why Not Believing that Mary is the Mother of God Is Hazardous to Your Marriage
by Tim Rohr, 06/12/06

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
By Tim Rohr, 10/12/05

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 I 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 give us a Bible or did he give us a Church?” 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 give us a Bible or did He give us a Church? (“He gave us the Bible!”) “Oh, where does it say that? As far as I know Jesus never wrote anything, AND He never told anybody to write anything. As a matter of fact, He never even said to read anything. From what I read, Jesus gave us a Church and a leader 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. If Jesus had intended us to rely on the written word alone He would have left us His written word. He didn’t. As Catholics we can appreciate the Holy Scriptures even more because we do not divorce the Sacred Writings from the Church who 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.

This article has been sponsored by John Paul the Great Book and Gift Shop located at the Agana Shopping Center. 477-7647. ,

Surviving Questions About Purgatory

by Tim Rohr, 2/10/06

Purgatory is a favorite topic of those who oppose and challenge the teachings of the Catholic Church. Their favorite line is “show me the word ‘Purgatory’ in the Bible”. Not withstanding the fact that nowhere in the Bible does it say that everything we believe has to be in the Bible; and notwithstanding the fact that the Jesus didn’t give us a book but a Church (as we have discussed before); and notwithstanding the fact that there are plenty of other words or concepts (such as “Trinity” and “Incarnation”) or even their own doctrines of “sola fide” and “sola scriptura” that challengers to the Catholic faith cannot show explicitly in the Bible. And not…okay, enough with the “notwithstanding’s” (there are more)! The deal is that it is actually quite simple to show Purgatory in the Bible, as we shall see in a moment.

First, we must be reminded that a bible-only challenger will in fact accept only that: a bible-only answer. So don’t waste your time with explanations from the Catechism or “I believe…etc.” Second, we must remember that the person challenging you is usually not interested in an answer at all, even if it IS from the Bible. So what are we to do? Well, the answer in a minute. And by the way, never mind 2 Maccabees where it mentions prayers for the dead. They don’t have that book in their Bible.

First, a short course in Purgatory: 1) The Bible tells us plainly “nothing unclean shall enter heaven” (Rev 21:27); 2) Rarely (probably only a martyr) does anyone ever die completely clean. 3) Where do our souls go if “nothing unclean shall enter heaven” and (assuming) we are not condemned to hell by un-repented mortal sin? Catholic answer: Purgatory-a state of purgation or purification before we are allowed to enter into His presence.

Now, back to our challenger! The most common scripture used to “prove” purgatory is 1 Cor 3:14 where St. Paul tells us that some of us, despite our impurities, can be saved “but only as through fire”. This is a very sound verse, but is often easily dismissed by our challengers because of its metaphorical context.

So here’s what I suggest (by the way I only own a bookstore, I’m not a certified anything).

First, prove from the Bible the existence of a “third” place.

Non-Catholics swear that the Bible proves only heaven and hell and that there is NO third place. However, the Bible DOES prove the existence of a third place. (Note: Don’t worry about the word “purgatory” for now, or what happens there, or how long you’re there. Just get them to question there own presupposition that there is no third place. You can move on from there later.)

Here’s how you do it: Revelations 20:14 states very clearly that at the end of time “death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire” The question is then what is “Hades”? “Hades” cannot be Hell in the sense of that place of eternal damnation because the “lake of fire” is obviously that place. So how can hell be thrown into hell? No... Hades is a third place.

Now be prepared for the argument that “Hades” WAS a place for the dead who died before Jesus opened the gates of heaven. On that you can both agree. The problem is that “Hades” is still hanging around at the “end of time”. And what’s more, there ARE folks in it! (“…and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them” - Rev 20:13) So what are people doing in a place called Hades that is neither heaven nor hell at the end of the world? There’s only one answer: There’s a third place, we just happen to give it name.

But the key here is NOT to give the answer but to lead your challenger to it. Force yourself to ask questions, not give answers. Let’s say you are confronted with “where is “purgatory” in the Bible?

Here’s an idea of how it can go:

  • Well, John, what’s your understanding of Rev. 20:14? What is “Hades”?
  • It can’t be “hell” can it, hell is obviously the “lake of fire”, so what do you think “Hades” is?
  • And why is it still around at the end of the world if there was no need for it after Jesus saved us?
  • And who are these people who are in it and why are they there?

By the way, it would be good to familiarize yourself with these scriptures before you use them. Get your bibles out and mark them up!

Narnia for Catholics
by Tim Rohr, 11/15/05

Many of us, if we reflect, can count at least 2 or 3 turning points or significant moments in our lives, where, in hindsight, we realize that we are different because of them.

One of those moments came for me on a busy street across from Disneyland in 1979. I was with a campus ministry group from Loyola Marymount University and had just finished having dinner together with the famed Bob (“Be Not Afraid”) Dufford, S.J., and Dan (“Here, I Am Lord”) Schutte, members of the then fabled Saint Louis Jesuits. Our little group from campus ministry had been recruited to be the local backup choir for their performance at the Los Angeles Archdiocesan CCD Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center.

All of that has nothing to do with the actual point of this article save to illustrate how vivid that moment is still after more than a quarter of a century. Inspired by the fantastical evening glow of Disneyland just across the street, I commented to Bob Dufford how much I loved Disneyland and fantasy as only Disney could present it.

He commented that, speaking of fantasy, I should read the “Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. I confessed to never hearing of them, but the mere mention of the title seemed to “tug” at me the way Peter, Edmund, Susan, & Lucy were “tugged” into Narnia right off the bench of a train station (you’ll have to read the books). I found the set of seven books the next day at a vendor’s stand at the conference. I’ve never been the same.

Though always deeply Catholic, I have to say that my “conscious” spiritual journey and growth in the faith began the minute I opened the first page to the first novel in the series, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”. I couldn’t get enough.

The Chronicles of Narnia is a complete retelling, an epic parable, of God’s saving plan from the fall, through the crucifixion and resurrection, and all the way to “The Final Battle” (which is the title of the last book). Written during World War II for his nieces and nephews, the Chronicles vie with Lord of the Rings (Lewis and Tolkien were personal friends) as perhaps the greatest allegories ever written.

Over the years there have been several attempts to bring the Chronicles to the screen, but the story, characters, and setting are so fantastic that nothing could ever come close until movie-making technology could catch up with the imagination of C.S. Lewis. It never quite will. But the upcoming Disney release of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe will get close.

What’s so exciting and delightful is to see how, Hollywood, despite its post-Chrisitan self and its own brand of “Turkish Delight”, cannot help but be tugged through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Hollywood and Disney find themselves face to face with the irresistible Christian story. Jesus still teaches us and reaches us through parables.

Perhaps the spirit of Walt Disney, and all the wonderfully good things he did for children these many decades, still does live. It’s no secret that the Disney machine has acutely strayed from its wholesome roots in recent years. But “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” will be the biggest, most profitable, most popular movie ever to come out of the Disney studio. And it’s only the first of seven books. Wow, have they got a franchise here! There’s no way they are going to turn away from the success that the movies made from these stories will bring so I expect that all seven stories will be brought to the screen and will replace Star Wars as the greatest stories ever told on the silver screen.

Meanwhile, there is a terribly great opportunity for us at hand. Reading the Chronicles of Narnia prepared me to read the Bible and for the full import of the teachings of my Faith. Read the books. Read them with and to your children. Use all the great study guides and commentaries that are now available about them. “To teach as Jesus did”, this is what C.S. Lewis is doing here, teaching the truth through story.

Because this article is also a paid commercial I can encourage you to visit our bookstore at the Agana Shopping Center and check out all the books and related materials. I’ll never know for sure, but I do believe that I am the Catholic that I am today because someone once told me to read the Chronicles of Narnia.

This article is sponsored and paid for by John Paul the Great Book and Gift Shop at the Agana Shopping Center: “Your Catholic Place in the Marketplace!”

It's only a's only a's only a movie

Why The Da Vinci Code Is Not a Fictionby Tim Rohr, 5/25/06

One of the more amusing things about the hoopla surrounding The Da Vinci Code is the recent shift in rhetoric from its proponents. At first there was the euphoric condescension that inevitably accompanies being privy to secret or “new” knowledge. The book’s proponents, led by the author, seemed to take a certain arrogant delight in making Christians scramble to defend their sacred truths.

It took a while but soon both sacred and secular sources were crying foul. We can easily understand why Christians would be upset, but what would rile the feathers of secular critics? Well it seems that the manufacture of facts is not allowed even under the label of fiction. A writer of fiction is still expected not to make up fictional locations of actual places, or conjure up new historical accounts of recorded historical events. Author Brown errs in that and much more.

In addition, Brown breaks another rule. The fiction label implies either fictional characters in fictional events, or, if it’s historical fiction, fictional characters in actual events. An example of both of these applications is found in the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.

At the beginning of the story, the Pevensie children are sent to stay in the country because of the German bombardment of London during WWII. Though the Pevensies are fictional characters, the German bombardment of London is not. Lewis does not have the Russians bombing London. Lewis can make up anything he wants about the Pevensies but he cannot make up anything he wants about the historical events of WWII. And once the events of WWII no longer figure in the story the fiction begins in earnest.

According to the rules, author Brown produces neither a genuine fiction nor an historical one, but a gross revision of real history which he masquerades as a fiction. And this is what draws the ire of secular critics, many of whom could care less about the defamation of Christianity. Author Brown must have realized that the gig was up for his “visibility” has decreased in proportion to the exposition of his errors.

But most movie goers and readers of pulp fiction pay little attention to critics. Studios and publishers know that the average consumer of their wares is driven by the satisfaction of curiosity or the desire for distraction and even more by an itch for scandal. And the bigger the person, the bigger the scandal, and the bigger the itch! And how much bigger can you get than the person upon whom all history centers?

We’ll leave that discussion for another time. Meanwhile, it is instructive to see that once confronted with both the historical impossibilities of the claims in The DVC and laughable reviews of the movie, the DVC crowd has shifted from the aforementioned euphoric condescension to a defensive “Why are you taking this so seriously? It’s only a fiction!”

This rhetorical realignment is reminiscent of what happened a few years ago when the pro-abortion crowd changed their tune from “abortion rights” to “a woman’s right to choose”. Overwhelming medical evidence necessitated the change. Pictures from inside the womb as well as those of what was left of an aborted fetus at the bottom of a medical bucket did not square with the purported “blob of tissue” that the pro-aborts would have us believe a fetus was. Lies are by nature chameleon in their ability to morph themselves into whatever language the perpetuation of the lie necessitates.

In any event our challenge now is not how to refute the errors of The DVC, but how to respond to the charge that we Catholics are taking this too seriously since “it’s only a fiction”. The real question, however, is not whether this or that is a fiction, but whether this or that has the power to influence. This is the primary concern. And anyone who believes that fiction is only entertainment and has no power to influence has no understanding of Hollywood where the manufacture of influence is a full time enterprise.

Perhaps history’s greatest lesson (I say “lesson” euphemistically since the term assumes something was learned) in the power of fiction to influence was the Third Reich. The fact that Hitler was a madman is no secret of history and the German intelligentsia of his time wrote him off as such. To them, he was a mad little cartoon, a freak, a “fiction”. It was in fact this label that allowed his unimpeded, mercurial, and ultimately catastrophic rise to power. No one was looking.

Hitler rivals Christ as the figure in history about whom the most books are written. Why? The one great question that arose from the ashes of 1945 was how could this have happened, and happened under our noses? How could a funny little caricature of a man with a looney tunes moustache almost take over the whole world? Authors, philosophers, psychologists, historians, etc. continue to be fascinated with the question.

There are many theories about what contributed to the making of an Adolf Hitler. History has had its share of powerful madmen, however, none who took a country from impoverishment and starvation to near world domination in just a decade. How did he do it? Consider this:

Hitler was a master of the stage because he was a product of it. He was a devotee of the composer Richard Wagner. Wagner’s grand music dramas elevated Germanic mythology to reality in the mind of Hitler. Eventually Hitler became the romantic center of an operatic myth of his own creation. He surrounded himself with Wagner’s music, demanded that his cohorts attend Wagnerian operas, and played Wagnerian overtures at his infamous rallies.

Hitler understood the intoxicating power of spectacle and myth and employed it to horrific ends. It mattered not that he envisioned a Germanic heritage that never existed. His subjects believed and followed the glorious drama lockstep to the tune of ten million dead and ultimately his own Gotterdammerung.

I can hear the critical guffaws over the stretch from Brown to Hitler. But I am sure that the intelligent reader will see the point: the far-reaching and potentially destructive power of myth (fiction). Don’t forget the number of Christians who suffered and died violently at the service of myth (the Roman gods). It mattered not that the Roman gods were fictions, Christian blood flowed nonetheless.

History and experience continually show us that what matters is not “what” is true, but “who” believes that it is. After all, do you really believe the 9/11 hijackers are resting on a cloud in the company of 70 virgins? … They did.

The further issue is not that fiction is bad. Of course it is not. But fiction that masquerades as truth is bad. What makes The DVC particularly culprit is that the “fiction” label is part of the masquerade. Nothing new here, Satan employs the same label. His greatest weapon is propagating the belief that he is not real. For further insight read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters…or the Gospels for that matter.

To the dismay of some I will say that I harbor no ill-feeling toward Dan Brown, Doubleday, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Sony Pictures or anyone else associated with the promotion of this ill “fiction”. In fact we are in their debt. The Lord has allowed similar challenges to the faith throughout history in order to move, cleanse, and restore His people.

To our credit, the Catholic response to the threat of The DVC has been intelligent, well-crafted, and in terms of “seizing the teaching-moment”, something to be proud of. But the real question is not how wonderfully we responded but why we even had to. The fact that so many Catholics even wonder if the claims of The DVC might be true illustrates for us that the real problem is not the Code’s false and “novel” claims but the lack of authentic Catholic teaching.

On the Question of Women Priests

by Tim Rohr, 11/07/2005

(In response to a debate between Fr. Francis Walsh of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and Professor James Giles of the University of Guam)

Unlike Fr. Walsh or Mr. Giles I have no letters before or after my name and probably have no business wandering into their crossfire. But though I am neither priest nor professor, I am hoping that our local newspaper, in which the debate has been ensuing between these two esteemed intellects, might allow a simple voice from the pew to weigh in on the matter minus any theological or philosophical references. Also, as a married layman I have a certain related interest in the matter since I cannot attain to ordination in the Catholic Church either.

That said, I understand that as a Catholic I have no inherent right to a “satisfactory” explanation on the matter. I emphasize “satisfactory” because in fact there is an explanation, but the Church has no obligation to assuage my personal need for one that I would deem “satisfactory”.

I signed up for the Catholic Church. They said, “Great. If you want to be on the team here’s the rules”. I am a Catholic out of no compulsion other than an inner one that tells me this is true. I choose to follow the rules because I want to be on the team. Lots of other places you can go, you know.

Now, I have no idea if this is theologically correct or not, but besides the fact that my Church owes me no explanation, the fact that Jesus chose twelve guys and no gals is enough for me. Let me tell you why.

The common argument to this is that women would not have been respected or listened to in Jesus’ day. I realize that this is like TOO simple, but you know, Jesus was God, and like, if had wanted women on the first string, he could have and would have done it.

I mean the guy wasn’t afraid to be counter-cultural and politically incorrect. They killed him for that, you know. And being male didn’t seem to help the apostles out much either in the respect and credibility categories. They killed them too. (Okay, one killed himself and another was left to die on an island.)

So, bottom line is, Jesus chose guys only and then those guys chose other guys and then those guys… So, yah. It’s a guy thing, okay. People start new churches every day when they disagree with something in the church they are in.

Also, why pick on the Catholic Church alone. Do an internet search and check out all the other churches that do not allow the ordination of women.

Okay, one last thing. Fr. Walsh tried to make the point of what a priest actually is. The title “priest” designates a very specific function in a very limited sphere. There is nothing that keeps any woman (or married man for that matter) from being a teacher or a leader in our Church. In fact, three of the greatest and most beloved Doctors of the Church, a title of the highest honor that has only been given to 33 people in the 2000 year history of the Church, are St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Theresa of Lisieux. In Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) we have an example of a woman (in the Avignon episode) actually telling a Pope what to do (go back to Rome). He beat it back to Rome and never left.

I can already here critics on both sides: “Guys like this are what’s wrong with the world.” “Another ignorant-whatever-the-Pope-says Catholic!”, etc. Well, guilty as charged. I make no defense. For those who oppose my opinion within my Church, well that’s family business and we’ll take care of it. But for those outside our Church, when would be a good time for me to come over and tell you how to arrange your living room furniture?

Meanwhile, to my Catholic family members; shall we remember that the real deal is not be a this or a that, but to ultimately be with Him. For as Chesterton says: “The only real tragedy is not to be a saint.”

Tim Rohr
Husband & Father

Creeping Sola Scriptura

by Tim Rohr, 5/26/2005

Note: Hope no one takes personal offense to this little essay. I’ve spoken to many of you about this topic and my feelings about it, but just thought I’d put it on (virtual) paper.

As most of you know I operate a small Catholic book distribution operation called Veritas Books. Because of this and because we are often present at different parishes around the island on various Sundays, we often receive requests and inquiries for certain resources. By default I am able to see certain trends and the main trend is a desire for more resources for Bible study.

This is a good thing, but I am bit alarmed at how we may unthinkingly just be “chasing the Protestants” here. The main motivation for Bible study seems to be “to get our kids back” ala: The Bible church down the street has a great Bible study and its attracting some of our kids, so we need to have a Bible study too.

Well, we’ve already followed our sep-breth down that slippery slope in the music arena (indeed the whole area of liturgy it sometimes seems), let us think twice before we do the same here. Let me explain.

We would do well to recall once in awhile the 70’s mantra “the medium is the message”. There are three things in operation here:
Our kids can see that we are scrambling to compete with the Protestants – what does that say?
Studying the Bible before studying Church Teachings contradicts the example of the Catholic Church, which uses Scripture to support doctrine and not the other way around, as is the way of our sep-breth.
Prioritizing Bible study over Catechism teaches (the medium is the message) our kids that the Bible came first and not the Church, and by extension that we should the Bible is the foundation of truth and not the Church. In short we are teaching “sola scriptura”.

Here’s a short solution. But first let me say that I do know of fine Scripture studies taking place on our island that are in no danger of imputing a “sola scriptura” mindset. But for the rest of us I propose that we use the Catechism as the template for our Bible study. The Catechism is full of Scripture references on every page. We read the Catechism and reference the Scriptures.

This allows us to take an approach that says, “here’s what we believe (Catechism) and here’s why we believe it (Scripture) -though it will still be very important to show that the first reason we believe anything is because the Church says so. If we don’t do this we run the danger of not only imputing the lesson of “sola scriptura” (or at least “scripture prima”), but also the inevitable next step of private interpretation. At that point we might as well let them go to the church down the street because they’re probably doing a better job of it than we can.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t delve into the Bible as the great story of God’s plan of salvation and enjoy all its history and meditative depth. Certainly, we should! But how much richer that experience will be when we are grounded in the great teachings of our Mother, the Church, the “pillar and foundation of truth”! No need to chase the Protestants.

Apologetics for Those Who Don't Know What They're Doing

by Tim Rohr, 10/04/2005

You're busy doing what you're supposed to be doing at work and a co-worker makes an off-hand anti-Catholic remark. You're mowing the lawn and a group of nicely dressed people with umbrellas and handbags wave to catch your attention. You're preparing dinner for the family and you answer a knock on the door and find your Catholic faith being challenged.

Would that we all would take the time to learn our faith not only well enough to defend it, but to advance it. We can all work toward that. Meanwhile, because of the everyday, on the spot nature of the majority of the challenges to our faith, many of us find ourselves in immediate need of a way to deal with a co-worker, a family member, or fellow students who question and challenge or even impugn our Holy Mother Church.

Listening to the likes of Scott Hahn, James Akin, Patrick Madrid, or even our own Fr. Eric, or my good friend, Dr. Robert Morgan, can be quite daunting. Their grasp of scripture and their skill can leave many of us, including me, inspired, but thinking "I could never do that".

Well, the good news is that you don't have to, at least not right away. You can handle any challenger to the Catholic faith with a simple two-step method: 1. Buy Time; 2. Run for help!


Protestant Pete: "Why do you Catholics worship idols in clear violation of the teachings of the Bible!?”

Catholic Cathy: “You know Pete, that's a good question. I'd really like to talk to you about that. But now's not a good time. Could we get together tomorrow after work? “

If it was a comment instead of a question just change the words around a bit: "You know Pete, that's a really interesting thought..."

Buy as much time as you want. It could be next week or whenever. The main thing is not to get stuck trying to answer the other person's question or respond to his or her comment without proper preparation. Also, make the sign of the cross and say a short prayer before opening thy mouth.

Now, run for help. It would be best to find a knowledgeable member of the clergy to actually meet with you and Pete, because not only do you want to answer Pete's challenge, you want to use the opportunity to begin brining him "home to Rome". So try your pastors first.

There are also a number of excellent resources that you can consult, but before I tell you what they are I need to advise you about your upcoming meeting with Protestant Pete. Of course if you can get a pastor or an informed lay person to come with you then all you have to do is let them do the talking. But since most often you'll probably have to deal with challenger alone, keep the same two step method in mind. Prepare your answer, but be prepared for Protestant Pete to take your answer apart or change the subject. If that happens, simply say something like: "Pete, I can appreciate your point of view on this, however, I would like to think more about what you said before I reply. Can we get together again tomorrow?"

Now here are a few resources that you can begin adding to your apologetics library.
1. The whole Beginning Apologetics Series Vol.1-7, but Volumes 1 and 2 will definitely be enough to get you started.
2. Beginning Apologetics on tape. This is an in depth discussion of the above Volume 1. You can learn much listening to these in your car, your bathroom, or wherever you have a tape player.
3. Catholic Verse Finder. This is a single laminated sheet that functions like an Apologetics concordance.
4. Topic Tabs - enable you to set up your Bible so that you can quickly and easily find the bible verse that supports the Catholic teaching.

Also, one more note. It's best not to quote the scripture itself, but to quote Chapter and Verse and put it in the form of a question. Example. When you reply to Protestant Pete's original question, instead of saying "well God certainly didn't mean not to make graven images because later on He says to Moses to make a bronze serpent”, try it this way: Well, Pete, what is your interpretation of Numbers 21:8?

Well, more later.
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