Archives for category: Religion

Vernal Point

In the night following March the 25th John C. Wright was asking himself why so many good news were announced in a single day:

“Why today? Could it be a particular benevolent conjunction of stars? No, for astrology is bunk. What then?
There is a heaven higher than what stargazers see, one that delights in feasts days and fast days.
Look at the calendar. It is the Feast of the Annunciation. March 25.
Lady’s Day.

You may, if you wish, explain the glad coincidence of so much winning news on one day with other explanations. I know which one suits me.”

My comment on the title post (slightly edited):

“…astrology is bunk”

Absolutely, but astronomy, which was separated from astrology precisely at Christ’s birth, Christ being the real star of the Magi, is not.

March the 25th is close to the vernal point, the beginning of the sidereal year. It is certainly fit that the new Creation would begin on the inception of earth’s year.

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Thou Art All Fair, O Mary

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, who appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in the Pyrenees mountains, in Southern France. When, on a next visit, at the request of her priest, the young girl asked the name of the Lady, she answered: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

This was in 1858. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had just been proclaimed four years before, in 1854, by Pope Pius IX.

The belief was in the Church from the beginning. St Justin Martyr and St Irenaeus of Lyon, in the second century, and many other Fathers of the Church affirmed it, though not in the rather technical term that we use now, and most people believed in the incomparable purity of their Queen and Mother during all Church history. The Latin hymn which appears as the title of this post dates back to the fourth century. There was a liturgical feast and office in many places since high Middle Ages.

But the theology was uncertain and scholars did not find compelling arguments for one position or the other. As long as the controversy was not settled, believers and contradictors alike were allowed their opinion, and were forbidden to try and condemn the other side.

Then how could a girl from the back country, certainly devout but illiterate, have come up with an expression so sophisticated that only a small number of learned Catholics knew it at the time? And moreover, the Lady said it in the regional dialect of the Pyrenees, so the tiny possibility that Bernadette could have heard it in French in a sermon was also ruled out. The priest knew instantly that she was telling the truth.

For an overview of the biblical and patristic arguments on the Marian dogmas, Dr Scott Hahn published a book titled Hail, Holy Queen. In a very lively talk on the subject, he recounts how he became acquainted with the prerogatives of the Holy Virgin even before entering the Catholic Church. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o50ajVvJ5I)

The Latin hymn Tota pulchra es (Thou Art All Fair) follows.

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The 4 Teresas and the Cardinal Virtues

In episode 8 of his Catholicism series, Bishop Robert E. Barron presents four holy women of the last 150 years in regard to the cardinal virtue most evident in their life and apostolate. Saint Katharine Drexel exemplifies the virtue of justice, saint Therese of the Child Jesus prudence, saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein ) courage, saint Teresa of Calcutta temperance. Each one of them is of course a paragon of several other natural virtues, in addition to being heroic in faith, hope and charity, which is the main requisite for beatification.

I did not know Saint Katharine Drexel before and I am very pleased I do now. She is a an outstanding model of faith and love, especially for Americans and for modern times, but the fact that the other three bear the name of the great saint Teresa de Jesus (of Avila) gave me the idea to take my favorite saint, the one I know best, as another example of the cardinal virtue of justice. So we have a saint Teresa for each one of the four cardinal virtues.

Justice has some different nuances to it. Bishop Barron took the aspect of social justice to apply particularly to saint Katharine Drexel, because of her apostolate dealing with the effects of racism in the United States. His choice is perfectly worthy, but I will take my example from the very root of justice, which is supernatural justice.

God’s justice is a perfect balance of mercy and retribution. Fortunately for us sinners, the only merit necessary to be admitted in the presence of the living God for eternity is to love Jesus and obey the commandments. More precisely, the requirements consist in acknowledging our sins, repenting, giving back penance for the Lord’s mercy, and doing works of mercy in our turn. To make sure we have all the chances to accomplish that, even minimally, God lavishes his grace on us. If one yields to it, the power of grace can make even the worst sinner turn to perfect love, sometimes suddenly, like a saint Paul or, still more spectacularly, the Good Thief.

What the Good Thief did on the cross was to defend the Messiah’s honor against the blasphemy of his companion. Both knew well who Jesus claimed He was; only one of them recognized Jesus was the love of God in person, and gave back love for love. He did what was good and just, and thus became instantly a just man, that is, in essence, a saint. Holiness, or the lack thereof, is the only thing determining eternal retribution. It depends on our answer to the commandment to be good, just, and loving, as our heavenly Father wants us to be.

This was exactly the motivation of Saint Teresa de Jesus: she wanted God to be better known and loved, and rightly praised, honored and obeyed. She said as much many times in her writings, about her foundations and her ardent prayers for the conversion of sinners and heretics. She used all her gifts and influence to bring as many people as she could to do the same, because “God alone suffices”.

The poem “Let Nothing Disturb You, God Alone Suffices” by saint Teresa de Jesus follows. Read the rest of this entry »

Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014
Gospel of John 20:24-29 – The Incredulity of Thomas
Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II

Christ’s wounds are the permanent sign of God’s mercy. This was quoted by the priest where I went to Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. The priest said it was from John Paul II but I did not find the exact phrase. Then I heard the same truth in different words when watching Pope Francis’ homily at the canonization Mass : “The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.”

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Living Tradition

Catechism

To a Protestant who was under the impression that we Catholics consider the Catechism as more authoritative than the Bible, I pointed out that the Catechism has the authority the Church’s Magisterium lends to it. The Bible alike is authoritative only because the Catholic Tradition and Magisterium guarantee it is a faithful and inspired report of Revelation*. The Catechism is, in a systematic and technical way, a faithful report of all the important teachings of the living Tradition. Each phrase, and almost each word in it, like any other authoritative document of the Church, has many bearings in the Tradition and the Bible, as can be checked in the numerous references.

Bible

Most Protestants, it seems, practically equate the Word of God with the Bible, as if the divine Revelation was only present to us in Scripture. But it is not so: the Word of God is a real living bodily** Person, who promised to stay with us through a living organism that he entrusted with his Revelation.

The Bible is not historically prior to Tradition, nor has doctrinal precedence on it; the Old Testament was produced by the Jewish Tradition, the New Testament by the Catholic Church Tradition. As the Bible is all about Christ, His Bride the Church inherited the Jewish Tradition and the Jewish Bible from Him. Then the Old Testament, Torah and Prophets as well as the Greek books, is hers, too.

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Mark Shea wrote a nice article on the subject for the National Catholic Register. I particularly appreciated the quote from Chesterton, which was illustrated perfectly in the comment boxes on NCR and on Mark’s blog entry. As usual, comments from believers are reasonable and articulate, since relics and private revelations, no matter how potent and convincing, are never articles of faith, while comments from unbelievers are often heated and sadly misinformed. The Wicked Paedia — to borrow an expression from David Warren — article invoked by a commenter is not bad, but it is too short for so large a subject and misses one important point among others: the perfect three-dimensional image as revealed by the VP8 Analyzer.

To find reliable information on the Shroud of Turin, there is no other place to go but Barrie Schwortz’s outstanding website www.shroud.com (now maintained by STERA Inc., a nonprofit organization). I studied the question a good bit and translated in French a couple of articles from this website twelve years ago.  I never doubted that the Shroud is in fact the burial cloth of Jesus and that the image was formed at the precise moment of his resurrection by some kind of heating that made the superficial fibers of the cloth dry and agglomerate. The fact that the back and front images portray the subject at an equal distance from the cloth suggests the body was ‘floating’. The perfect three-dimensionality exposed by the VP8 Analyzer and the X-Ray quality silhouetting the bones (of the hands most of all)  suggest the light came from the interior of the subject.

It seems that the wealth of details revealed on this extraordinary cloth were meant for us, ‘postmodern’ people. Photography revealed how perfect the negative image was at the dawn of the 20th Century; forensic medicine described the torture inflicted to Jesus with almost unbearable precision; other tests in all sorts of science demonstrated that the cloth is in all probability of the 1st Century Middle East. The carbon dating alone cannot overrule all other tests AND history: the Shroud image with the holes in the cloth was reproduced in a manuscript from the 12th Century, and other mysterious cloths that could very well be the Shroud itself crop here and there as far in the past as the 6th Century (the image of Edessa). Thus the carbon dating appears to be far from infallible. Some reasonable hypotheses were advanced by physicists (if the image was produced by radiation) or archaeologists-biologists (bioplastic dirt coating) as to why carbon dating is not valid in this case, whether or not the dating was made on an area of the cloth more contaminated or more recent than the rest.

But if ever carbon dating is proved accurate and the Shroud origin is medieval, it would just render it more mysterious still, more miraculous in fact. Like André Frossard said about naturalist explanations of the Red Sea passage bordering to fantasy, there are explanations of miracles more miraculous than miracles. It would take much more serious objections to bother anyone who knows, by direct or indirect witness, that miracles do happen.

Three texts I liked about Benedict XVI’s resignation:

The first two are from David Warren on his blog Essays in Idleness (www.davidwarrenonline.com):
http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/02/14/benedicts-wager/
http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/02/28/father-ratzinger-of-the-vatican/

and the third by Bud Macfarlane, whose CatholiCity (www.catholicity.com) Message I have received since 1998 (two years after they launched their online apostolate). The newsletter is reproduced hereafter almost in its entirety (complete text at http://www.catholicity.com/message/2013-02-28.html):
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