Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Monday, June 07, 2010


I'm not sure why--whether it's a cultural thing here in Canada, or if the practice simply died out in past years due to the post-Vatican-II confusion, or if other reasons were at work--but Corpus Christi processions aren't that common here. Last year, the Legion of Mary wanted to renew the practice of Corpus Christi processions, and picked our parish, St. Margaret Mary, to host it. We had a great turnout and Fr. Bill Trusz, our pastor, thought it would be a good tradition to maintain and develop in future years. I heartily agree! So this year, we had our second annual Corpus Christi procession.
It is a wonderfully inspiring thing to see Catholics taking their faith to the streets in a public witness. Through rosaries prayed on the way, to meditations at three outdoor altars set up for the occasion, with litanies and Gospel readings, we announced the Gospel of Jesus--that He loves us and comes to be with us, desiring a relationship with us. He died for us and rose again to save us, and remains present with us in the Eucharist--through which we can experience intimate Communion with Him.

It had poured rain the entire night before, and was supposed to rain all weekend. It was even drizzling in the morning for Mass. But the skies cleared up in time for the procession, although the parks were a bit flooded. Nevertheless, the procession went off without a hitch, thanks to the careful planning of Laurie Jasvac.

It was fascinating to see the people on the streets and in the parks, and their varied reactions to the procession. Especially the children, who stopped their playing to gape and ask questions about what was going on--many of whom ended up tagging along (and "shh-ing" their friends!). There was a group of four girls, who had simply been playing in the park by one of the altars, who had a yellow ribbon. They had been twirling around with it when we arrived. After stopping and listening for a while, they began to dance innocently with the ribbon as we sang the Tantum Ergo (the last two stanzas of the hymn with which I closed yesterday's post). Now, you might not be a fan of liturgical dance during Mass. I'm not either. But this wasn't Mass. It wasn't even in the Church. And most importantly, these children weren't from the Church (so far as I know. They weren't part of the procession, anyway). They simply were responding in innocence to the Innocent One before them.

It reminded me of the reading Fr. Bill read to open the radio show I was a guest on (you can listen to that here), from St. Thérèse of Lisieux's autobiography, about her own childhood recollections of Processions when she was growing up. The wonder, innocence, and wholesomeness of the scene was very moving.

Growing up in the Evangelical Protestant world, vocal and public expressions of faith in order to evangelise are very much a part of my worldview. I recognise their need and their importance in the saving of souls. "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14). Yet here was a type of preaching that I'd never encountered in my Evangelical days. Here, just as Jesus is present to us in the Church, we simply made Jesus, and the Church, present in the neighbourhood. We prayed, we sang, we heard the Gospel--and we adored our Eucharistic Lord.

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste Spouse.
Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.
Amen. (The Divine Praises)
Thanks to Brian Bolt for taking the pictures for me, while I was busy being an acolyte!

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Sacraments--The Eucharist;
Catholic Devotions: Eucharistic Devotions)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Corpus Christi

Today is the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, or, as it's traditionally known, the Feast of Corpus Christi. Today we celebrate the most precious gift of Jesus Himself, truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, within the Eucharistic elements. This mysterious truth requires a great deal of faith to believe, but God does not leave us without help to believe it--He has confirmed it through other miracles throughout history that help bolster our faith in the Eucharist.

This video from Youtube documents one such miracle--a very recent one, in fact--and gives scientific evidence for what has taken place. Please watch it--you'll be glad you did!

For the next however long (until I'm done, really), I'm going to be writing about the Eucharist, which the Church calls the Source and Summit of our Faith. I can attest to this being the case in my own faith life--Jesus' real presence in the Eucharist is the reason I became a Catholic. I will write about that aspect of my journey in my next post. As soon as I can, I'll also post pictures from this years annual Corpus Christi Procession at my parish of St. Margaret Mary, Hamilton, ON.

After that, I will expound on the various dimensions of theological teachings about the Eucharist--the Real Presence and Transubstantiation, Communion with Christ, the Sacrifice of the Mass, etc.

Then I will recount other instances of Eucharistic Miracles throughout history, in order to inspire our faith further.

And I will conclude our series by advocating greater devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist through not only frequent participation in the Mass, but also through the custom of Eucharistic Adoration.

I leave you now with the words to that great Eucharistic Hymn, written by St. Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi--The Pange Lingua Gloriosi:

Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intacta Virgine,
et in mundo conversatus,
sparso verbi semine,
sui moras incolatus
miro clausit ordine.

In supremae nocte coenae
recumbens cum fratribus
observata lege plene
cibis in legalibus,
cibum turbae duodenae
se dat suis manibus.

Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
laus et jubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.

Amen. Alleluia.
God bless,
On the Feast of Corpus Christi

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Sacraments--The Eucharist)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 13)

This is the conclusion to my series of letters to Eric on the subject of the Trinity. As I said in the Edit of the first post, apparently, he and I really agreed about the Trinity all along. Where we disagree is in the necessity of a Christian believing in the Trinity. The misunderstanding has led to some frustration, but I hope the exchange itself might be profitable nevertheless for someone who has doubts or questions about the Triune Nature of God.

I admit to more extensively editing this letter than the previous ones, for the sake of maintaining the pertinent subject matter (the Trinity) at the fore of the discussion, and as well to keep the various trains of thought together; in case Eric reads this and wonders why this letter is rather different than the one I initially sent him. I hope Eric continues to strive to apprehend the truth. Our conversation is still ongoing, but the topic has switched back to something he seems more comfortable discussing--namely, what's wrong with the Catholic Church. I'm sure our conversation will find its way to the blog sooner or later.

Dear Eric,
The beginning of your last letter gladdened my heart. That is, you wrote that you can honestly say you agree. Of course, you didn't specifically say with what you agreed, but I'll assume that you agree with me about the Doctrine of the Trinity.

I'll reciprocate, and declare that I agree with you that someone who simply has an erroneous belief about the Trinity out of genuine ignorance or stupidity is not thereby damned for it. However, some people do choose to be wilfully ignorant, and many others outright reject the truth. These folks are indeed culpable for their lack of faith.

I am also very glad to hear that God has given you a desire to continue to search out the truth regarding His triune nature. I'm interested in hearing this deeper understanding that you feel God has given you once you can formulate it, but if, like Pelagius (whom you keep mentioning in surprisingly positive tones), your understanding is in error, I'll be sure to critique it for you and try to demonstrate why the error is error. Of course, it may very well be that you've hit on the truth, for which I will rejoice with you exceedingly.

In your letter, you made some rather disparaging remarks about the Catholic faith, which I would like to address before I close.

You claim, pertaining to dogma, that the Catholic Church has added dogmas that either weren't present in the early Church, or which render the Gospel weak or obsolete. I vehemently deny that this is the case. Every teaching of the Catholic Church today can be traced back, generation by generation, right to the Apostles. Now, of course, over time our understanding of the Church's teaching has grown and matured, but it was certainly present in seed form.

As for your claim that the Church adds other planks to salvation, I assure you that it teaches nothing regarding salvation that isn't in Scripture and which hasn't been handed down by the Apostles themselves. And I'm more than willing to have that discussion with you, as well as the discussion about dogmas rendering the faith obsolete. But, as you admitted, that is another discussion.

You again reference Pelagius, saying that you're somewhat reticent to elaborate on your new found understanding of the Trinity because if, like Pelagius, it differs from Catholic dogma, you'll be branded a heretic. This gives you some rancor, because you claim that if the Church is wrong, taking such an attitude will prevent it from ever coming to the Truth.

The thing is, if you don't hold the Church's line, like Pelagius, you are a heretic. Pelagius was indeed wrong--teaching that we could save ourselves without God's grace. He was right to be condemned.

As to whether the Church, holding to such a dogmatic position, can therefore be wrong, and, if wrong, whether it can then find the truth, first we have to ask whether Jesus did give us a Church that could authoritatively pronounce what is true and what is false in matters of Dogma. If there is no such Church, then His statements in Matthew 16:16-19 and Matthew 18:18 are meaningless, as is 1 Timothy 3:15. If there is a Church with such authority, then we are called to obedience to it, since as Jesus said, "He who hears you, hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and the One who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).

If the Church was wrong since the beginning, then the ultimate conclusion, the only one possible, is that Jesus couldn't keep His promise. That's not a conclusion I'm very willing to entertain.

The beautiful reality is, though, that Jesus did promise and deliver us a Church, guided by His Holy Spirit into all truth. He promised that this Church would never be overcome by error, but would proclaim the truth to the whole world. If we can trust Jesus, then we can trust the Church which He founded, which is His bride and His body. And no other Church out there can adequately make the claim to be that Church--no Church except the Catholic Church.

May God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It is here, of course, that our conversation on the Trinity came to an end, and our discussion of the Church and the Sacraments was taken up, and is still ongoing. Coming up next here, I'll be beginning a series on the Eucharist, starting tomorrow, the Feast of Corpus Christi. When my discussion with Eric of the Church and the Sacraments is over, I'll be sure to post it here.
God bless.

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 12)

Dear Eric,
Sorry for my delay in replying. This past week [May 2-9] has been pretty busy. Wednesday was my wife's birthday. Saturday was my own. Sunday was obviously Mother's Day. I'm starting a new shift at work this week, so hopefully that will give me more time and energy--rather than nights all the time...

Anyway, you wrote in your last letter, first, affirming that you agree with me that the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses make a false claim to a relationship with Jesus, but then you ask "What if their claim was true? What then?"

First of all, I'm not sure what relevance the question has, since we both don't believe their claims. "What if" questions like this are usually attempts at sophistry. However, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and answer your question.

If the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses actually had a true relationship with Jesus, then I would have a false one. Only one of us can be right (it's also important to remember that the Mormons would disagree as much with the Jehovah's Witnesses about Jesus as they would with you or me). That's why it's important to seek and to know the Truth, so that we're not led astray by every wind of doctrine, as Ephesians 4 tells us. And Ephesians 4 also gives us the antidote to being so tossed about: the Church--namely, the leaders, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. Each serves in their own role the function of preserving, proclaiming, and clarifying the Faith for the people, so that we can be sure of the Truth, so that when someone comes up with a new cockamamie concept of God, we can say "This is not true, because it does not line up with the historic faith handed down from the Apostles until now, faithfully and without change." Nowhere is such a consistent tradition preserved except in the Catholic Church. Every other Christian denomination, and every cult that has split off from Christianity, has changed their beliefs in some radical way since their inception. I'm not trying to sound arrogant or prideful in saying this--it's a matter of historical record.

You then state that if a particular dogma doesn't accurately describe the one with whom we are seeking a relationship--namely, God--then that dogma should be clarified so that it more truthfully describes the relationship, and not partially or incompletely.

If a Dogma doesn't fit the relationship, then yes, the Dogma should be clarified. But clarification doesn't equal rejection or change to the Dogma. What the Dogma says, if it's True, is True. But the fact that it's True doesn't mean it's easily understood. The role of the Pastor and Teacher of Ephesians 4 is precisely to help explain the Dogma so that, on the one hand, more people can easily understand it, while on the other hand, the truth of the Dogma is not lost. It's a very difficult tension to maintain. And, frankly, sometimes it's not the explanation that needs further simplification, but it's a matter of the learner becoming more educated.

When St. Thomas Aquinas wrote his Summa Theologica, it was written in such a way that those in the 13th Century who read it could easily understand it, even if they were only beginning to study theology. Now, some 800 years later, even with modern translations, it takes some effort to figure out. That's not because Thomas failed to make his Summa easily understandable, but because our society, quite frankly, doesn't have the same level of education in theological and philosophical matters as they did in the 1200s. So, on the one hand, we can seek to simplify the Summa even further, but there comes a point where we simply have to try to educate its readers.

But stepping back a second, this is why, even though Dogma doesn't change, it nevertheless develops. From the Early Church until now, the faith once for all handed down to and through the Apostles is the same as taught today in the Catholic Church. But what we believe today has expanded upon and clarified what the Early Christians believed in seed form. Even the dogma of the Trinity took many hundreds of years to really describe properly, avoiding one heresy on the left and the other on the right. But the core truth of the Trinity was believed by the very first Christians, even if it wasn't fully explained at that time.

This is why we can attempt to puzzle through the mystery of how there can be One God subsisting in three Persons, and seek to better explain and understand this mystery; and it's why we cannot and must not deny that there is One God subsisting in three Persons, either by saying there are actually three gods, or that there is only One God and He expresses Himself in three modes or representations. Neither of these is true, even if they are easier to understand.

The very incomprehensibility of One Being in Three Persons itself speaks to the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity. If infinite God could be truly comprehended, He wouldn't be infinite. In the end, if we can really fully understand God, it's because He isn't actually God.

May the God who is greater than anything we can conceive, richly bless you beyond all that you can ask or imagine.

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 11)

Dear Eric,
I'm afraid that I just can't agree that the Doctrine of the Trinity isn't all that important. I think that not only is the doctrine important, but is absolutely foundational to Christianity. Moreover, I don't believe that attempting to correctly understand the doctrine and to avoid serious errors about it can be constituted "over-analysing" it at all. For one thing, we are made as rational beings--possessing intellect. It's a part of what makes us the image of God. Now, the goal of the intellect is Truth. Since God is absolute Truth, we can hardly be accused of being overly analytical when it comes to trying to understand that Truth--even though here and now we may never fully succeed. We would be denying one of the very fundamental parts of what it means to be human if we didn't try.

That is not to say that everyone is equally equipped to plumb the depths of theological mysteries. I do think one can have a wonderful relationship with Jesus without ever delving deeply into the mystery of the Trinity (so long as he believes in It despite never "over-analysing" It). However, the problem is when someone offers an erroneous understanding of the Trinity. It can lead to significant problems in the rest of his theology. It can be a slippery slope between worshipping Jesus without thinking too deeply about Who He is, and ending up worshipping the wrong Jesus. A Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness could make a similar claim to yours, that they have a relationship with Jesus without ever thinking too deeply or "over-analysing" Who He is--but Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are wrong precisely because they deny the Trinity. The relationship that a Mormon or a Witness has with Jesus, is with the wrong Jesus.

As to your point about Saul, my point was that the "evil spirit" may very well not have been what we associate with "evil spirits" such as Jesus cast out of people in the Gospel. Even if it was, though, the point is that God did not send it to cause Saul evil, but to bring him to an ultimate good. That is, because of this evil spirit, Saul was ministered to by David, upon whom God's Spirit rested. Saul had the choice to accept David and find healing, but eventually he rejected even this gift from God.

It's similar to 2 Corinthians 12:7ff, where Paul writes about his "thorn in the flesh". It is described as being a "messenger from Satan", but it was sent for Paul's good--namely, to keep him humble, and to teach him about the all-sufficiency of God's grace. So even though it seemed "evil" to Paul, it really was good for him. Again, seeking one's good doesn't always mean doing nice things for them. The only reason that God allows evil is so that a greater good can result.

I completely agree with you that true is always true and false is always false. I would never, ever deny that. It's what I've built my life around. The problem is that you preface this maxim with the disclaimer that you're open to any understanding of God, even if that were polytheism. Yet you desire to argue so vociferously with my attempt to provide you with the historical, traditional teachings of the Church on the Holy Trinity. On the one hand, you claim to seek the truth, and on the other, you act utterly resistant to "prejudicing [your] mind" as you call it, by being humble and teachable enough to learn the truth from those whom Jesus entrusted with the task of passing it on to us.

You claim that your goal is a relationship. That's my goal, as well. That's what the Catholic Faith is all about--leading us deeper into that relationship with Jesus. That's why it bothers me so when people suggest that the Church stands in the way of a relationship with Jesus. The very opposite is the case. Since becoming Catholic, I've only experienced my relationship with Jesus grow stronger and more intimate.

But dogma is not antithetical to relationship, as you seem to think. A dogma is just an expression of truth about the one with whom we are in relationship. Just like there are true things and false things about my wife, and it's important that I know them, so there are true things and false things about God, and it's important to know them, too.

If someone came up to me and tried to assert that my wife was blonde, blue-eyed, and from Norway, I would know instantly that they've got the wrong lady, because their description is not true. If we view the dogmas about God as being like a physical description of my wife--that is, identifiers to make sure we've got the right Person, then we see why we need to at least have an understanding of the basics of dogmas, and know who has the authority to proclaim them. Just as I know my wife more intimately than anyone else on earth, so the Church, the Bride of Christ, knows Him more intimately than anyone else. The intimate details that I know about my wife are just like the Church's dogmas. They were revealed by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and passed on down to the bishops throughout every age, through a relationship with Jesus.

And just as a person who doesn't know my wife's hair colour (for example) can't claim that they really know her or have even met her, so a person who has contradictory teachings about Jesus than His Bride, cannot really claim to be in a relationship with Him, can they?

Yours truly,

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 10)

Dear Eric,
As I reread your last letter, I noticed that there was yet more that you said to be concerned about. So I am writing one more letter in response to it.

In your last comments in that letter, you claim that you're not negating the Trinity, but then you go on in the next sentence to claim that a Modalistic understanding of God is much more "palpable". That is, you claim that the Son and the Spirit are merely "representations" of God, and that such an understanding is easier to see and understand.

I wholeheartedly deny that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are only manifestations of God. Again, that would destroy the possibility for God to be in relationship before He created us--which would necessitate His changing, and thus His not being God. The very fact that we image God by being in relationship--and not simply with God, but with others of our own kind--demonstrates that God, whom we image, is eternally in relationship--with His Own Kind. Now, God is One. There are no other Gods for Him to be in relationship with His own kind, unless God is Trinity--three persons in that One God, who are each in a loving relationship with the others. Only if this is true can God be Love, and be unchanging, and be perfect from all eternity. Only if this is true can we be said to image God by our relationships.

Obviously, only in heaven will we see God as He truly is; but by saying that the Son and the Spirit are only representations of God, you are indeed negating the Trinity. The Trinity is indeed more plainly seen (palpable) when you look at it in its entirety. However, as you point out, we'll never do that until Heaven. In the meantime, though, through the use of right reason, we can see a glimpse of God's triune nature in His revelation to us, and by examining the logical consequences of competing understandings of who God is--which I've tried at length to explain to you. Simply denying the Trinity because it is difficult to understand does not make it more palpable.

You go on to make a comparison of the Trinity's "palpability" as understood in this modalistic sense by claiming that when one understands Sola Scriptura in its entirety, it is much more "palpable" as well.

In reply, I assert that I've seen it in its entirety. I lived and breathed it for twenty-four years, and all it's good for is breeding dissension and division in the Christian Church. Sola Scriptura is the reason why there are more than 20,000 Christian denominations in the world today. That's the palpable reality of Sola Scriptura, when seen in its entirety.

I eagerly await your reply,
God bless

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 9)

Dear Eric,
In my last letter, I mentioned that your last letter to me contained some worrisome ideas which I intend to address; namely, the meaning of "Good" and whether or not God is "mandated" to do good. I devoted my last letter to discussing the very concept of Good, and explored Genesis to gain some clues as to what our good is, and to see what we learn about God, whom we image. In this letter, I wanted to address that comment in your last letter which most concerned me--whether God is mandated to do Good.

When you wrote to me that you don't think God is necessarily mandated to do good to you, but that He could do evil to you and still be God, you make it sound as though God is forced to do good by some external source. But God is the ultimate source of Good. He is not constrained by something beyond Himself, but since He is good by nature, He cannot but do good. In fact, if God were to violate His goodness, He would absolutely cease thereby to be God. In other words, it is impossible for God to do something evil.

That's a different thing than saying that we'll always understand or perceive God's actions to be Good. Many times we'll wonder why He allowed, or even caused, sickness or suffering to afflict us, as we view suffering as "evil". But in God's omniscience, He knows that such suffering will bring us closer to our ultimate goodness--if we, through the exercise of our free will, allow it to. We can, of course, reject God's goodness in the face of such suffering, and thus the good effects of suffering will not take effect in us. But that does not make the gift and purpose of God any less good.

You argue against God's necessary goodness by pointing to the case of King Saul, whom God allowed an "evil spirit" to afflict (1 Samuel 16-18). In understanding this passage, though, we must keep in mind several things.

First of all, Saul had rejected God's goodness and his relationship with God, and so the evil spirit was a punishment and consequence of that rejection.

Second, as with any suffering, it can either bring us to our senses (as with the Prodigal Son) or it can harden our hearts against God. It is our choice.

Third, the term for evil, "ra`" in Hebrew, doesn't necessarily mean "evil" in the sense that we use it. It has a range of meanings from "sad" to "troubling" to "hurtful" to "worse than..." If we take 1 Samuel 16:14 in this last sense, we see that God's Spirit departs from Saul and a "worse spirit" takes His place. The Bible isn't teaching that God caused the devil to possess Saul, per se.

Fourth, the Hebrew conception of spirits was much less developed than ours, or that of the New Testament. Revelation was given to the Hebrews gradually, and we can actually watch it develop over time reading the Old Testament. Ideas such as life after death, Satan, and many other things are later developments in Scripture. So foisting a contemporary understanding of "evil spirits" onto 1 Samuel 16ff is somewhat inaccurate. This again is why not just anyone can pick up a Bible and interpret it for himself. There are subtle nuances and things that can only be discerned through much study--and not everyone has time or money for such study. If an unstudied person tries to interpret the Bible without knowledge of the languages, cultures, etc. they end up being very confused.

That's all that I'll say about King Saul for now. I hope it provides some food for thought. Ultimately, though, the point I'm making is that God is good, and cannot be or do anything else. Even the suffering and "evil" He permits is always and only for the achieving of a greater good, as St. Paul tells us, "We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good" (Romans 8:28).

This truth is plainly seen in every Crucifix--wherein we are reminded that the greatest evil ever perpetrated by mankind, the murder of God, is the very source and cause of our Redemption--the greatest Good.

God bless,

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)