Freitag, 26. Juni 2009

Mary always helps - a small miracle

On Thursday (25th of June), I decided to go to a farther away city where the Franciscans have a church. I decided to go there because the Franciscans have a regular schedule for hearing confessions which our church probably only has on the great feasts of the Church.

Considering the distance, I had to go take a train. The train already did not come on time and I thought I would not make it for confession anymore, but gladly I did.
As I arrived at the Franciscan church, I noticed a man there, waiting. I went to the confessional, but there was no priest in I asked the man I saw and he said there hasn't been anyone in there yet. He seemed to have been waiting for a while since the priest was not there for more than half of the time already. Anyhow, the man - after waiting a couple more minutes - decided to leave.

So there I was in the Franciscan church, alone, without a priest. I waited a couple of minutes; still no Franciscan showed up. I was getting more and more uneasy and I started to go back and forth and I noticed the Marian statue near the confessional; it had a kneeler in front of it.
I then decided to light a candle, kneel down and pray.

I still know that I told Mother Mary she would not abandon a child asking for her powerful intercession and that all who entrust themselves to her motherly love would be helped. With that thought in mind, I asked her to pray for me and ask for God's mercy that a priest may come so I would be able to go to confession that day.

And then it happened: a Franciscan priest came!

Thank Mary, the Mother of God, I was able to be reconciled to the Lord through confession.

Sub Tuum
We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.

Deo gratias!

Dienstag, 23. Juni 2009

"What is your Religion worth?"

Two days ago, I was asked by an atheist friend of mine the question "what is your religion worth?". This question came as a response to me having asked him beforehand what his atheism was worth.

It is actually a very good question if one thinks about it. What is any philosophy worth? There are so many ideas, worldviews, religions out there, but we do not accept or even follow all of them.

One of the wisest statements on this issue I found is the following by G.K. Chesterton:

"What matters about a religion is not whether it can work marvels like any ragged Indian conjurer, but whether it has a true philosophy of the Universe."

A true philosophy about the Universe is what he uses to judge the value or worth of a religion.
Now what is a true philosophy about the Universe? It is a true philosophy about life.

My religion offers a philosophy about the Universe revealing a purpose to being. With purpose comes meaning. Meaning -in turn - is quite essential for life. This may seem like a rather trivial question, but "what do you live for" is actually a very good one. We have to have a basis from which we operate in our life, so that there is a certain amount of stability and thence we can think out the different directions we want to follow. Without such a basis, we are simply lost.
To provide a short example, Boris Becker - after winning a competition - was asked what he was thinking about. His answer was quite remarkable considering his success at a young age: "I am trying to figure out why I shouldn't commit suicide".

Without knowing what one lives for, one does not really have a reason to live.

And in terms of purpose, I hold the view that only an eternal purpose gives true meaning to life. There will be people who say that they give their lives the purpose they need. They confuse the general purpose of their being with the temporal goals they set for their lives. That this philosophy is wrong is evident in the experience of those who have almost everything. An example would be a Chinese billionaire who one night talked to his wife saying: "I have everything, still I feel empty inside." Temporal goals may be achieved, what then if one manages to achieve all the temporal goals one has set for himself? Is one's life then made void of a purpose? Is life then not worth living anymore?

There is then a need for a transcendental purpose, an eternal purpose, which is not dependent upon temporal matters. Only with such a transcendental, eternal purpose can we find true meaning in life: meaning which does not depend upon our successes or failures in life.

Atheism as such offers no purpose. It is a worldview of a universal negative. It offers no positive, but merely exists as a negation of theism. I ask myself how this can even be used as a basis for life: it cannnot. Atheists - when not all too bothered by their sad attempts to argue against religion - try to figure out philosophies that would give their existence a meaning (without - of course - pointing to any type of transcendental purpose). Some even say "the purpose of life is to be alive". It's is like saying that the purpose of a hammer is to be a hammer - not to be used as a tool, but to simply be what it is - without really giving a reason as to why there even is or should be a hammer. Such thinking is obviously absurd and a sad attempt to offer an alternative to what my religion intrinsically has.

That being alive alone cannot be the purpose is actually quite evident. For if it indeed were the purpose, then why are we not content with simply being alive? Why do we seek answers to the question "why"? Why do we seek meaning in life?

There was a rather brutal experiment with babies in the past wherein a number of babies were given all things necessary to sustain their vital functions: food, drink, warmth, etc.. What they were not given was any type of affection. The babies all died. Isn't it odd that we learn from the very basic stage of human development that it is impossible for us to live without love?

The Bible teaches in Luke 4:4: "Man liveth not by bread alone"

And this is where my Religion steps in. It tells me that the reason and purpose is love. We are made by God out of love to be loved and to love eternally. And God is love (1 John 4:8). Wherefore I live my life knowing that it has true meaning since it has an eternal, transcendental purpose.

This Christian Religion offers a philosophy about the Universe which gives peace to those who accept it. As it is said: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

One may still disagree with certain points of Christianity. However, I would ask everyone who reads this with an open mind to actually honestly examine himself and ask himself the question about the source of true, i.e. lasting, happiness in one's life. The only answer I can come up with is love - which in turn leads right back to the unique philosophy offered by Christianity.

So what is my Religion worth? It is worth living and dying for.

What is your atheism worth?

Montag, 22. Juni 2009

Hitler waves hello to moral relativists

Some people may be shocked at the title of this blog entry, however I found it to be quite fitting.

When a Catholic is in a conversation with an atheist, the topic of morality often comes up. While the former argues for objective morality - not dependent on our personal liking - the latter argues against certain moral codes of Catholicism (often times those moral codes the atheist himself refuses to follow) and then goes on to argue against the notion of "objective morality".
"Morality", so some of them say, "is subjective".

I never cared so much about this topic, but in a debate last night with an atheist friend of mine, this issue was brought up.

We have to connect the whole argument for subjective morality with the atheist's claim to "reason and logic".

With the existence of subjective morality, logic dictates that no man can then condemn the morality of another as being inferior or even outright wrong and at the same time be objectively right. With that being said, I could then legitimately ask the question why e.g. murder would be morally wrong (in the objective sense)? Was it morally wrong for the Nazis to murder Jews, Christians, gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.?
I'm quite certain that most people would say yes. But such an answer would have no bearing whatsoever if morality is subjective. In fact, moral judgement would then be rendered meaningless. To the Nazis what they did was right and as there is then - according to the moral subjectivist - no objective morality by which we can objectively judge the morality of a certain action, we would have to refrain from judging the atrocities committed by the Nazis as "evil". That would be "intolerant" and "arrogant" as it would mean that we superimpose our own understanding of morality upon those who disagree with us - this is precisely what many atheists accuse theists of doing.

Subjective morality would also lead to the conclusion that our societies are intrinsically irrational.
We have laws prohibiting murder, incest, theft, etc.. But why? Why should a certain group of people be able to dictate what a person may or may not do if what they are doing cannot be argued as being "right" or "wrong"?

The idea of subjective morality leads to a moral code that is dependent upon the opinion of the majority; that is if we have a 'democratic system' (the majority rules). What the majority deems to be okay is "morally good" and what it does not approve of is then "morally evil".

Does majority-rule not remind us of "das Recht des Stärkeren" (the right of the stronger)? It is a worldview closely connected to Social Darwinism; an ideology employed rather well (no moral approval intended) by the Nazis. The majority - the stronger block - has the power over the weak(er) minority. Likewise, the majority can superimpose its collection of subjective morals upon the minority - whose "right to subjective morality" is then bypassed and de facto nullified.

Now, the final statement sounds pretty much like a "dictatorship of the majority" which many atheists would probably object to. However, this is how our system works. If then "subjective morality" is true, then the existence of Law would be highly unreasonable and illogal; but Law is necessary since it prevents a breakdown of order which in turn stops our societies from imploding. Furthermore, we would still not be able to judge such a "dictatorship of the majority" as being "evil" or "morally wrong" since we lack an objective moral code from which such a judgement could even follow.

So practically speaking, "subjective morality" would lead to nothing other but a rule of the majority which in turn superimposes its own opinions unto others as though they were objective and thus would create a situation of self-contradiction. And since such morality would depend on the majority of people through the ages, it would mean that morals would always be changing; that which was deemed to be "evil" and thus illegal, could be "good" and thus legal in the following age - and vice-versa. The Nazis thought it was "good" and even necessary to liquidate all the people they slaughtered. We obviously think otherwise.

As moral subjectivism leads to the de facto meaninglessness of morality itself, my conclusion is:
Subjective morality - obviously - is absurd.

Sonntag, 21. Juni 2009

Domine salva nos perimus

Lord, save us, we perish. (Matthew 8:25)

I believe everybody knows of this famous story in Matthew 8:22-27; it is the story of the storm while Jesus and His disciples were on a boat.

I never really thought much about this very short story in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. However - today - as it was being read during the Holy Mass, it occured to me that the story is of great relevance to the Christian life. Actually, the story is an analogy of the Christian life.

We have Jesus and His disciples on a journey. Their means of transportation is a boat. And we also have the storm. As the storm arose and threatened to sink the boat, Jesus was asleep.

What can we learn from this?

First, let us realize that the Christian life too is a journey. As in the story, it is a journey with Jesus Christ - without whom we will not reach our destination; heaven. It is also a journey with many dangers (the storm) that threaten to destroy us before we can even reach our goal.

In the story, the disciples woke Jesus up that He may calm the storm and save them.
But how did the Lord react? He said: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 8:26)

This is a very important part of the story in my view. We know that Jesus was with His disciples all the time. But He was asleep.


Jesus Christ is the one whom we - as His disciples - follow. So, we can conclude that we can learn from His actions. What can we learn from His sleeping amidst a storm so great it filled the hearts of the disciples with fear? We learn that we need not be scared. "Do not be afraid" is the Lord's message in the words of the late Pontifex, Pope John Paul II.

In the words of David:
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 26:1)

If God is with us and we truly believe, then what reason do we have to be afraid? Hence Jesus responded with the words:

Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 8:26)

We will experience many storms in our lives. But we need not be afraid, for God is with us; even in times when He seems to be asleep.
Jesus did calm the sea to show that He has power over all things.

The boat in our journey to salvation is the Catholic Church, the universal sacrament of salvation, and the Christ is here with us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Therefore, let us remain on this very boat where the Lord is with us all days (Matthew 28:20). So long we remain with Him, our Saviour, in the unity of His Church, there is nothing we have to fear.

Samstag, 20. Juni 2009

non Pacem, sed Gladium

Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. (Matthew 10:34)

It's a rather unusual part of Christ's ministry that I am focusing on today. However, I just got back from arguing with a friend of mine who turned to a militant atheist (baptized a Catholic).
I admit that such arguing with friends tend to get to me, especially if the friends I argue with are those I have come to respect.

The whole situation does not make me waver in my faith. On the contrary, it leads me to a deeper understanding of the Christian life. One could say the following: "if there isn't any suffering, then something is not right".

Not peace, but the sword. Yet according to Isaiah 9:6, the Christ will be called the Prince of Peace.

The peace from the Lord is twofold. One is the inner peace we attain through His Holy Spirit. That peace we feel when we are set free upon knowing the truth (John 8:32). The other kind of peace will be a universal peace which will come to the world when He comes again to reign forever over all.

For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household. (Matthew 10:35-36)

Why this discord? This opposition of one against the other has its root in the fact that some will accept the Lord, but many will refuse to follow Him; many will even directly and explicitly oppose Him.

And what of us? Can we expect good treatment being disciples of Him whom they mock?!

The disciple is not above the master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the goodman of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? (Matthew 10:24-25)

As they treat the Lord, so too they will treat the servant.
Indeed, life is not easy. But we have to choose: either this life or life eternal, either this world or the next, either the flesh or the spirit.

He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

You shall love the Lord your God above all else. Above your family, above your friends, above yourself. Trying our best to follow Jesus Christ is not always easy, but neither was His life. The Lord gave up His own life that we may live. We cannot expect a life without hardships!

And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)

To truly live, we must die. We must die to this world and not let anything of this world pull us away from Him; from Him who loved us so much He became lesser than angels to suffer with us, to suffer for us and ultimately to die for us.

He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it. (Matthew 10:39)

All things of this world will pass away. It is therefore wise to follow Him who is "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6).

Family, friends, co-workers, etc...
They all may turn against us, they all may abandon us. I'm not saying that they all will, but some may; who knows?

But in the end, we suffer no loss.

Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: (Philippians 3:8)

Deus Caritas Est (on the Trinity)

God is charity (1 John 4:8 & 16)

Christians believe in the Triune God, the God who is described as being love (charity). In this post, I will examine why the claim "God is love" is only logical and reasonable when we speak of the Triune God, the one God and Creator of all. Actually, one could go further and say that - if God is love - then - by necessity - only the Triune God is the one true God and no other.

Now this may be a scandalous claim to non-Christians. Therefore, we should proceed with the examination of this claim.

I will start right away with the great monotheistic religions; Judaism and Islam. One thing to note is that Jews and Christians believe in the same God. The only difference is that Jews who do not accept Jesus as the Christ have then refused to accept Divine Revelation regarding the essence of the nature of God. God revealed Himself as a Trinity, as love.

While the anti-Christian Jewish view of God certainly cannot come close to the truth stating "God is love", we have to realize that the error is not on part of God, but on part of those people who refuse to accept Divine Revelation. Wherefore, the Jews still believe in the same God, but have a lesser understanding of - the same - God than Christians.

Muslims on the other hand believe in Allah. It is important to point out that Allah and God are not the same. While some Jews and all Muslims are strict monotheists - thus denying the Trinitarian nature of God - it does not follow that both believe in the same God, for this is not true. The concept of "Allah" is one created from aspects "borrowed" from other religions (mainly Christianity and Judaism). Since the Qur'an (Islam's "holy book") explicitly states that Jesus is not God and thus authoritatively denounces the truth as divinely revealed in the New Testament (the continuation and fulfillment of the Old Covenant), we cannot say that both the Qur'an and the Bible are from the same God; truth does not oppose truth. Judaism came before Christianity making Christianity the organic progress in terms of Divine Revelation. Islam however does not progress but seeks to destroy that which has been revealed in the New Covenant. Therefore, Allah is not God.

It is now time to compare the two: Allah and the Triune God (the God of Jews and Christians).

Allah is one. While one can say that "Allah loves", one cannot reasonably argue that "Allah is love". And that is precisely the important difference. If Allah is love, then - before all creation - love must have existed within the singularity of Allah. Since Allah is strictly monotheistic (alone), then he would have to love himself. But if Allah is love, then the love with which Allah loves himself has to be Allah too. So Allah becomes subject and object of love with the act of loving being Allah too. This notion however comes close to the Triune God which the Qur'an explicitly negates. Thus the love with which Allah loves himself cannot be Allah, therefore Allah is not love.
Furthermore, there is no true "sharing of love" as Allah would only be "loving himself".

Let us compare this with the Triune God:

The Bible says that God is love. Before anything was created (even angels), God alone must have been love already - otherwise His nature of being love (which ought to be intrinsic) would depend on things created and thus would not be an eternal aspect of His nature. The Trinity is described as being tres personae in una substantia; three persons in one substance.
So we have to have three distinct persons: the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, but all make up only one God while each one person is fully God. It is hard to understand, but it makes sense.

Now consider: before creation, God alone was this: The Father and the Son loving each other as one God. For the concept of "love" to work, we need a lover, a beloved and the love that is shared by the two. And since we claim that "God is love", the love shared between the two has to be God: it is not created. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit - the love shared between the Father and the Son - is also God. None of the three distinct persons may be created since we are speaking of a situation prior to any creation; and that which exists prior to all creation is uncaused and eternal; it is God.

At the same time, we speak of three distinct persons - bearing in mind that love has to be shared, otherwise it ceases to be love and since God is eternal and God is love, then love too has to be eternal; thus the relationship between the three distinct persons has to be eternal too.

This relatio inter tres personas uni Dei (relation between the three persons of the one God) is one of love - as explained already. Now it is time to explain the distinction between the three persons without which we cannot claim to actually have a Triune God.

The distinction is best understood and explained by Catholic theology (based on the works of St. Thomas Aquinas). Since all three persons are God and thus co-equal and co-eternal, there may not be a type of subordination between them in terms of power. The distinction therefore is made based on the procession - in terms of origin - of each person. Since we are discussing the intrinsic relationship of the three distinct persons, it would seem reasonable to base the explanation on it.

For the relationship to work, we have:

a) the Father who is without origin: the prime principle
b) the Son who proceeds from or is sent by the Father
c) the Holy Spirit who proceeds from or is sent by the Father and the Son (Filioque)

So, the Father sends the Son who proceeds from Him. Thus the Father has authority over the Son - not in terms of power, but in terms of origin. Therefore the Bible teaches that the Father and Jesus are one - being one God (John 10:30) - and that the Father is greater than the Son (John 14:28).
Likewise the Father and the Son both have authority over the Holy Spirit since He is sent by both the Father and the Son as one principle (John 15:26; John 16:7).

It has to be stressed that the Holy Spirit has to be understood as being sent by the Father and the Son, otherwise - if the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father alone - there would be no real distinction between the Son and the Holy Spirit and one would absorb the other. Wherefore, we could not really speak about a Trinity: this is a problem in Eastern Orthodox theology.

In terms of God being love, this can be understood as: the Son comes from the Father and both love each other. The Son does not only receive the love of the Father but also loves the Father. Therefore the Holy Spirit - the shared love - proceeds from both.

In conclusion, we have established the following:

a) that if we believe in a God who is love, then we would have to accept the Triune God as professed by the Christian religion
b) that if we wish to truly follow the Triune God, we must follow Catholicism which - unlike its sister Church - has preserved and taught through the ages the correct understanding of the relationship between the three persons of the Triune God.

Mittwoch, 17. Juni 2009

Domine, exaudi orationem meam!

Lord, hear my prayer!

Isn't this something we often think about when praying? I personally can say that I add this short plea to the Lord in my prayers. At times we may feel as though God is distant, absent;
as though He has abandoned us!

"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Many Christians get a bad feeling regarding these words of our Lord on the cross thinking our Lord truly felt Himself abandoned; forsaken.

These words from the beginning of Psalm 22 are of great value in my opinion. It captures the two seemingly paradoxical states we can be in in our relationship with God we enter into in prayer: the moments of doubt and despair, and the moments of firm trust and joy.

We pray and pray and pray; often times it seems as nothing happens, as though God has abandoned us. This has certainly lead to the apostasy of some people; and also to the mockery of Christianity by non-believers; after all, the Bible does say "ask and you will be given".

So how come we don't get everything we ask for right away?

This is a question I used to ask myself in the past. I'm sure most Christians have had something they prayed for a lot for an extended period of time and it seems that nothing happens or the total opposite of what we ask for takes place.

Take illness as an example! Christians would pray for sick people and still some die.
Where's the "ask and you will be given" slogan now??? Where's God who heals the sick?

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?!!

I once was very confused about this whole issue. I ask and I am not given: at least that's how the case seems to be quite often.

Now, I have to admit that I am quite far away from fully understanding this: after all, it is a journey that takes a life-time to complete. However, I can offer my personal thoughts from experience on the issue:

When we ask God for something, we should realize that He is the Master and we are the servants, not vice-versa. God does not owe us anything, we owe God everything that is good.
God is therefore not "forced" to grant us all wishes, but rather He does so freely as a gift to us; wherefore we have to closely check our attitude. We may not view God as a type of "wishing-machine" that gave us the right to demand certain things from Him which He would have to do.
Grace is a gift from God.

Now, I know this is not sufficient, so let's continue:

In the past, I was frustrated whenever I prayed for help and still failed and sinned. I sometimes even thought God was not even helping me. However, if we are honest to ourselves, we realize that God gives us the necessary grace we ask for to persevere. Whenever we sin, there is a moment when we decide to simply not think too much of the spirit anymore, but rather shift the focus onto the flesh. Grace does not destroy our free will: we can persevere with God's help if we are willing (that is to avoid mortal sin). Our cooperation therefore is necessary. We cannot expect God to bypass our freedom and turn us to mindless slaves that would not sin; that cannot free us from sin if sin is a departure from God because the lack of freedom would mean we cannot love God and thus cannot come to Him: so the lack of freedom/free will itself would be a "sin".

Slowly, but surely the responsibility is being shifted from God to man. Interesting, isn't it?

So, onto another part: often times this "perseverence" is connected to suffering. The process of sanctification is full of suffering! You fall every now and then and feel bad!

Why oh why do you allow this, oh Lord?

Here also I would look at us. We all have to remember that God is perfect and His ways thus are always good. Therefore, we should not be seeking the error on God's part, but rather on ours. Why should I even suffer? Can there be something good in my failings?

Here I would point onto the sacrifice of the cross: the greatest evil imaginable was turned to the greatest good the world has known!

So, yes, there is something good we can get from all the suffering we have to endure in life. Suffering - when it takes place in the right context; i.e. joined to the sacrifice of the cross - makes sense and is valuable. Mortification sanctifies. Our suffering reminds us of our weaknesses, our dependence on God, our need for God, our gratitude for God's love for us expressed so greatly on the Holy Cross of the Christ. God Himself suffered for us! Was that bad? Did He complain? No! The Lord Jesus Christ knew what He was doing, why He was doing it and for whom He was doing it; for us humans. He chose to suffer out of love for us: He showed us the way of defeating the reign of the flesh through mortification, through long-suffering.
Suffering makes me appreaciate the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ even more.

So whenever you suffer, just take a look at your crucifix at home and see what incomparable suffering God freely subjected Himself for us.

With that being said, one has an idea as to why certain prayers are not answered immediately. We ought to be trained in patience and humility. Prayers are rather educational and our view on prayer will reveal a lot about the maturity of our faith. At times, we think a prayer has not yet been answered, although it already was. We just have to be more attentive to the Holy Spirit.
So much good happens day by day that we do not even notice!

But what of the prayers for sick people that die? Here I will have to say that we shouldn't be all too focused on this life. Surely, it is tragic to lose someone in this life; but how is that a loss if our loved-ones get life-eternal with God instead of a prolonged time of suffering here on earth?
We should mourn when someone is in danger of perdition; which in turn shows us again our great responsibility: to preach the Good Message and live it that the people around us may be converted and attain eternal life. How can one be sad or disappointed about gaining eternal life?!
"In death is life."

In essence, we can break down the whole dilemma with a particular conclusion:
God does not need prayer, but we do!

Prayer is not a wishing-mechanism, nor magic. It is the teaching class of God wherein He is the Teacher and we are the pupils. Through prayer, we ought to come to a better understanding of what really matters in life. Once we get our lessons from our prayers, we will soon realize that we are feeling more conciously the effects of what is called "sanctification": we get closer to getting the "A" from our Teacher.

Dienstag, 9. Juni 2009

Oh Vanity!


"Excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements."

It is interesting to note that it may also mean emptiness according to the etymology of the term "vanity" coming from the Latin "vanus" (= emptiness / a void).

"Thou shalt not appear empty in the sight of the Lord." (Jesus Sirach 35:6)

Why the emptiness? It is because we have nothing to justify vanity with since all that matters is a gift from God, it is not our sole achievement:

"CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema. " ~Council of Trient

What is so interesting about vanity? The Old Testament states:

For the bewitching of vanity obscureth good things, and the wandering of concupiscence overturneth the innocent mind. (Wisdom 4:12)

Vanity obscures good things. How does this relate to us today?

I believe that vanity is a big problem nowadays, especially amongst those who profess to be Christians. Many indeed "profess that they know God: but in their works they deny him" (Titus 1:16).

Let us look at the great number of self-proclaimed ministers and evangelists and the great discord between the different Christian denominations. If all were speaking truth and being truthful to the Gospel and to Sacred Tradition, then there should be unity: but there is not.

How can this be?

It seems quite plausible to me that to many "Christians" the message is only about God on the surface, but deep down it is about themselves, about self-glorification. Since if it were truly about God who is Truth, then most certainly there should be unity amongst those calling themselves Christians. And I do not mean a superficial unity, i.e. a pluralistic and relativistic "Church" (a "Hyper-Ecclesia" as a good friend of mine calls it). After all, truth does not oppose truth.

So what am I saying? I am saying that - in many cases - vanity is a major issue which prevents Christians from coming back to the doctrinal unity we all ought to have. We only have to check Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and we would easily find out that all protestant denominations (including new-age "non-denominational" and revisionist groups) fall short and thereby cannot be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has founded to which He promised indefectibility (Matthew 16:18) and perpetual existence without the lapse of a single day (Matthew 28:20).
This examination leaves us with the Catholic Church and the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches to choose from.

But before I continue, I will analyze the protestants first since I believe that the aforementioned statement - which basically accuses them of vanity - may not be well accepted.

First I would like to clarify that not all protestants are guilty of departing from the doctrines we have to follow for our salvation due to vanity. There is a large amount of Christians - of all types - that are ignorant of their own faith for the most part.

Now, I did say that doctrinal unity is necessary and that we have to follow certain doctrines, i.e. Sacred Tradition, for the sake of our salvation. This would be an idea that many protestants would oppose because of their understaning of the heretical man-made doctrine of "sola fide".

The Holy Bible teaches: "Take heed to thyself and to doctrine: be earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." (1 Timothy 4:16)

Yet for some odd reason, there will be those who will say the following:

"I follow noone, but Christ!"
"Doctrines are man-made, we do not need to obey them."
"Following doctrines is adding up to the sacrifice of Calvary and is thus evil."
"We should not be arguing about doctrines, but focusing on what unites us: faith in Jesus."

Now, I can say that the above statements are not simply made-up strawman arguments that I have malevolently created in my mind to speak against protestants: on the contrary, these statements are such that I have heard from protestants again and again when confronted with doctrinal issues that we are commanded to obey.

So we have an issue of disobedience here. How does this connect to vanity?

First let us remember that we are commanded to obey our prelates:
"Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you." (Hebrews 13:17)

And then the New Testament gives us Christians a warning against disobedience and against those who wish to usurp ministerial authority not given to them by God - basically that sin which self-made ministers and evangelists are guilty of:
"Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain: and after the error of Balaam they have for reward poured out themselves, and have perished in the contradiction of Core." (Jude 1:7)

The important part in this quote is the "contradiction of Core". Notice it says that they "have perished"! Therefore, this is not an issue that Christians should simply set aside - as many protestants sadly do.

What did Core do? The Old Testament gives the answer:
"His sons, were Namuel and Dathan and Abiron. These are Dathan and Abiron the princes of the people, that rose against Moses and Aaron in the sedition of Core, when they rebelled against the Lord" (Numbers 26:9)

The original story is found in Numbers 16 though - a story I find extremely remarkable in its importance for Christianity's current situation:

1 And behold Core the son of Isaar, the son of Caath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiron the sons of Eliab, and Hon the son of Pheleth of the children of Ruben, 2 Rose up against Moses, and with them two hundred and fifty others of the children of Israel, leading men of the synagogue, and who in the time of assembly were called by name. 3 And when they had stood up against Moses and Aaron, they said: Let it be enough for you, that all the multitude consisteth of holy ones, and the Lord is among them: Why lift you up yourselves above the people of the Lord?

There are three things we have to note here:

1) The sin of these people who were so greatly punished by the Lord (Numbers 26:10) was that of disobedience. They rose up against the leadership of Moses and Aaron as instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ.

2) This disobedience against the earthly hierarchy set up by the Lord is understood as a rebellion against God Himself (Numbers 26:9).

3) The question "why lift you up yourselves above the people of the Lord" denoting a hatred for hierarchy and a false understanding of equality is the exact same attitude we get from protestants nowadays who criticize and oppose the Catholic Church!

Now we have to realize the nature of God's Church in terms of hierarchy:

"In the Old Testament, there was the high priest (Aaron, cf. Exo 28:3), the ministerial priests (Aaron’s sons, cf. Exo 28:40-41), and the universal priests (Israel, cf. Exo 19:6). The New Testament priesthood also has three offices: High Priest (Jesus Christ, cf. Heb 2:17; 3:1), ministerial priests (the ordained bishops and priests, cf. Rom 15:16; 1 Tim 3:1,8; 5:17; Titus 1:7), and the universal priests (all the faithful, cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6). The whole of salvation history evidences this hierarchy within the People of God."

Likewise we have the issue of the disobedience of the schismatic Eastern and Oriental Churches. They refuse to submit themselves to the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff, the Pope who is the visible head of all Christians, the Vicar of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ (John 21:15-17).

How does vanity relate to disobedience though?

I believe it is something in our sinful nature that seeks the glorification of onesself which leads to such rebellious and prideful attitude. We are to be like children, children are humble and obey their parents. However, when we seek to do things on our own so we can glorify ourselves with our own achievements, then this will certainly lead to a conflict with the virtue of humilty and obedience.
Many of "Christians" are guilty of using Christianity as a tool for their own fame. To them it is not really about the Truth anymore, but about their own popularity. Now, of course many start with good intentions. However, a wise proverb says "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".

Furthermore, we also have to see that vanity brings with itself bad fruits:

"A sinner is caught in his own vanity, and the proud and the evil speakers shall fall thereby."
(Jesus Sirach 23:8)

Just think about all the drama and false witness you will get from certain "Christians" that are not really about Sacred Tradition, but rather about the ideas they themselves have created and want to see imposed upon others. Instead of obedience to God and His Church, they want people to agree with or even obey them.

How can we know if someone is operating out of vanity and not out of truth?

There are a couple of things:

1) Does the person speaking of the Lord actually point to Christ or merely to His own interpretation of the Gospel and thereby ultimately to himself?

2) Does he teach obedience and the doctrines that we find in Sacred Tradition or does he rather say "read the Bible for yourselves and decide yourselves what is right and what is wrong"?

3) Does he appeal to the Church hierarchy or does he appeal to himself as his final authority?

4) Does the following seem true in regards to that person: "And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me." (Galatians 2:20)

5) Does his message lead to true doctrinal unity or a fake, superficial "unity"?

a lot of the aforementioned questions can be summarized in a single question:
Is the person Catholic or not?

That does not mean that Catholics cannot be guilty of vanity. In fact, I believe that some popular apologists have a harder time to grow in the virtue of humility and this certainly proves itself to be a problem.
However, it also means that - for the most part - I believe that non-Catholic "preachers" out there are guilty of disobedience due to vanity.

In the end, let us contemplate on the very words of our Lord Jesus Christ from the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 18:

3 And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.

Donnerstag, 4. Juni 2009

"the smokes of hell have entered the Church"

Pope Paul VI spoke of the smokes of hell entering the Church.

While I have no idea as to what he exactly meant, I would like to examine a situation of "traddies" vs. "libs" in the Church of today: we have two opposing groups that classify themselves either as "traditionalists" or "liberals".

I would like to point out that I would use neither of the above labels for myself: the only thing that matters to me is orthodoxy in the faith: that is to say: loyalty and obedience to the Magisterium.

Listening to a sermon of Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Devil, I gathered one very important aspect: the diabolical is shown in discord. Now, consider this in regards to the Church, the Eucharistic people united as ONE Body through the sacrament of Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 10:17).
With that in mind, remember the words of the Lord asking the Father to keep us in His name that we may be one (John 17:11-12).

I believe that we can see the works of the Devil in the Church today in discord. Precisely in this "traddies" vs. "libs" mentality. They fight over the Council (Vaticanum II), the Form of the Mass of the Roman Rite (either ordinary or extraordinary), the way of receiving the Body of Christ (on the tongue or hand), etc..
What these two opposing groups do have in common is that not a small amount of them forget the obedience and loyalty they owe the Magisterium. There are those - from both groups - who deem themselves smarter or wiser than the Pope and the College of Cardinals together. The hierarchy based on loyalty and obedience breaks down (see: Hebrews 13:17). With that, unity is disturbed at best or totally destroyed at worst. You will have certain sectarian groups claiming to be "true Catholics" but explicitly disobey the visible head of the Catholic Church (e.g.: the Society of Saint Pius X, a.k.a. SSPX).

One hears excuses such as "I am only bound to obey dogmas" from both sides, however the Church teaches that not only dogmas have to be obeyed:

One side views everything from Vaticanum II onwards as being "unCatholic" or "too protestantized" while the other views the reforms as "not being enough" and "still too conservative". Then you have the ones who start acting autonomously - as though they were not any longer members of a visible Church with a system of hierarchy.

In the end, you have the same result: both groups are hurting the visible unity that God wants from the Church. One is not truly united with the Catholic Church when one refuses to obey and remain loyal to the Magisterium.

The opponent is indeed very smart and cunning: he has a method for each type: for the "traddies" and "libs". Both deal with disobedience and arrogance: thinking that one is better qualified to make theological judgements on Conciliar decisions and decrees from Rome than the Church's teaching Body. Oddly enough, disobedience and arrogance are what caused the fall of Satan.

Humility, loyalty and obedience would help us overcome the current discord. It does not matter how "nice" certain things sound to us: if these things are not in line with the Church's position, then they have to be disregarded.

You are commanded to "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).


"We are of God. He that knoweth God, heareth us. He that is not of God, heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6).

If one promotes an idea that would lead to disobedience (even if it is claimed to be "partial" or "temporary" only), then we know that it will lead to discord...

..then we know that it is smoke from the darkest pits of hell!