Insights From Psalm 23 – Are you Smarter than a Sheep??

Sometimes a text gets so familiar we lose sight of its meaning. Consider a two thoughts from Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd – Sheep only recognize one shepherd. If another shepherd calls to them they flee in fear because they do not recognize his voice. (see John 10:5) Are you as smart as a sheep? Too often when false shepherds call to us we do not run. We listen to their voices, even though they do not sound like the Lord. These false shepherds tell us to indulge our greed and passions, to give way to lust and vent our anger. Hardly the voice of Jesus. But we listen and often follow them! Sheep have brains enough to run but what about us?

He [the Lord] has prepared a table for me in the sight of my foes, my cup is over flowing. Have you ever thought that the Mass, the holy Eucharist, the altar and table of the Lord are a great sign to you of the victory the Lord has in store for you? Did he not say in John 6: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I will raise him on the last day.”  An old Latin hymn (O Sacrum Convivium) says that in the Eucharist, “a pledge of future glory is given to us.”  Our ancient enemy the devil must cringe with disappointment as he sees us approach the table, the altar of the Lord to be fed with the Body of the Lord.  The Lord has indeed prepared a table for us in the sight of our foe the devil and the devil isn’t happy! Our cup overflows because the Lord’s grace in this sacrament is super abundant for us. It is never lacking and the more we grow the more we can receive. With this promise attached to the altar, why would you or I ever stay away?

Picturesque Papa

I have updated my video on Pictures of the Pope. As you know he is a very photogenic man and this little video I put together has some of the more humorous pictures I have seen of Him. Enjoy a 1 minute diversion:

Ugliest Church Art Contest

Well OK, Let’s admit it, the modern age hasn’t exactly been known as the golden age of Church architecture. The following website has collected some of the more “unusual” Church art of the past decades.

Ugliest Church Art Contest

Enjoy, and submit your own entries! By the way, I don’t agree that all the sites listed here are ugly. This is just for fun. It is well to remember the old Latin admonition: De gustibus non diputandem – In matters of taste let there be no disputes. According TO ME some of these entries are authentically ugly, even scary, but some aren’t so bad. You be the judge. And remember it’s just for fun. No polemical ugliness intended here.

And are some more really awful Church exteriors:

Really Ugly Church Buildings

On a more positive note, here is a video I recently put together on some of what I CONSIDER to be some beautiful Church interiors.

The Teaching in the Title: Caritas in Vertitate

The Pope’s New Encyclical is entitled Caritas in Veritate. Simply translated, Cartias in Veritate means “Love (or Charity) in Truth”. But what the title really sets forth is a teaching that Love and Truth need each other for there to be balance.

Consider charity or love without reference to the truth. Too easily it becomes soft and affirms what should not be affirmed. Charity without truth can easily enable bad behavior. By this it can, though with good intentions, further enslave people in self-destructive behaviors. Charity without truth can lead others into error and sin by failing to correct. Charity without truth can rob others of their dignity through a kind of “soft bigotry” of low expectations. This kind of charity is patronizing and presumes that the poor and needy cannot be expected to attain higher goals, so it simply moves the goal posts. Charity without truth can rob others of the discipline they need to discover self-mastery. Without the truth Charity, or love,  is soft and can become downright poisonous.  Charity (or love) needs reference to the truth to be true charity, true love.

But Consider truth without charity. Without Charity, or love, the truth too easily becomes a club to swing at others, merely an argument to be won. Without Charity the truth can seem harsh and demanding, something to be avoided and feared. Without Charity the truth can seem unattainable. Without Charity, people usually lack the self-esteem necessary to even consider they could live the truth. When I was a child I needed my parents reassurance that I was able to do what was right and true. Without that love and encouragement the truth could seem crushing and impossible.

So there it is, a title, but more than a title, a teaching.

Familiar???? By the way Washingtonians, this title should seem familiar to you. The Late Archbishop of this Archdiocese James Cardinal Hickey had this for his motto: Veritatem in Caritate (Truth in Charity).

Marriage Survey Finds Significant Generational Differences – But Wait There’s Hope!

I was alerted to the following CNS Article on a recent CARA survey of Catholic Attitudes on Marriage. I post excerpts of it here below with some comments in red by yours truly.

Catholic attitudes about marriage differ by generation, says survey

By Maria Wiering, Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Catholic attitudes on marriage in the church are different among generational groups, according to results of a 2007 survey of U.S. Catholics by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.

Social scientist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead talked about the survey results in a keynote address June 25 in St. Paul at the annual conference of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers.

The survey showed that older Catholics — those who were adults before the Second Vatican Council — are more likely to look to the Church as the source for meaning and expectations for marriage than are baby boomers or members of Generation X or the millennial generation. Older Catholics also are more likely to be familiar with the Church’s teaching on marriage, to believe in marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman, and to think of marriage as a sacrament that extends beyond the wedding day, it said. Whitehead attributed this attitude to being raised in a time of a distinct Catholic identity that included an emphasis on the church’s teachings on sex, procreation and marriage. (I have commented before on this blog that, beginning in the 1960s many began to reinterpret the basic meaning of marriage. No longer were children and raising a family the central focus. The focus came to center on the happiness of the spouses. Hence easier divorce came to be seen as “essential” since without it happiness might be hindered. Prior to that time, when children were the essential focus, divorce was seen as highly problematic since it so negatively impacted children. Likewise in the 1960s sex became no longer associated with the procreation of children but, again, only associated with the happiness of the spouses. If children were a part of that happiness fine, if not, fine too. With children out  of the picture as the central purpose of marriage many distortions follow such as easy divorce and now even “gay” marriage. If marriage is just about the happiness of the couple and children are merely a possible “accessory”, not an essential component, then who is to say two gay people can’t be happy together – or so the argument goes)

Generation Xers — ages 25 to 35 — … are confused about marriage, and their attitudes are closer to those of the general population, Whitehead said. “[Generation  Xer] Catholics want to marry a soul mate, and they’re much less likely to see marriage in these broader, institutional [family] terms,” she said. Sixty-nine percent of Catholics [from this generation] believe that marriage is whatever two people want it to be, and the sacramental understanding does not figure as prominently into their understanding, she said. (So there it is. Depart from the Biblical and Church teaching on marriage and we are left with a designer marriage. Such widely variable definitions of marriage cannot be the basis for a strong or united civilization, country or Church. The privatization of marriage and the anything goes notion are not a stable basis on which to build. Hence we are left with the modern experience of a balkanized (divided) vision for marriage, family, basic values and moral teaching. Unity decays and the basis for country Church and even civilzation is lost).

….However…the youngest generation — the millennial generation (ages 18 to 24)  — is showing a swing toward traditional ideas.  “The youngest Catholics … look a lot more like the pre-Vatican II, Vatican II or post-Vatican II cohorts,” she said. “Huge majorities — 80 percent or more — of these youngest Catholics believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment and that people don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is readily available.” Many children of this generation have experienced divorce in their own families, and they are determined not to divorce themselves, Whitehead said. “This is a hopeful change,” she said. (Indeed it is a hopeful change! I too have encountered children  and young adults in their 20s who are saddened, even disgusted with the broken down situation they have had to endure from their parents and grandparents. They know first hand the bankrupcy of the “designer marriage” easy divorce and confused atmosphere of the current climate. There is a knod of backlash setting in wherein the youngest couples I prepare for marriage are eager to be taught the Scriptural and Church teaching on Marriage. Thus THERE IS HOPE!)

Whitehead urged family ministers to share the social science evidence to dispel misconceptions, she said….”In these times when we have a culture that is so really difficult for people to remain faithful in their marriages, there must be a polar recognition of the circumstances of life and the need of support to help people live out the teachings of their faith,” she said.

The Winning Team!

My Grandmother read a lot of Mystery Novels. One odd thing though, she always read the last chapter first! Strange perhaps but she said it helped her to understand the book better and to make sense of the important details and over look the less important ones.

Well, fellow Christians I am living out the mystery of my life and I too have read the end of the story. It in the last pages of the Bible, the Book of Revelation and it is very clear, Jesus wins. Jesus and all who are in him conquer overwhelmingly:

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. ….13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.  And  I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Rev 19:7-20:5)

So there it is, Jesus wins. Don’t let current setbacks and troubling times distract you, Jesus wins. Get with him, stay on the winning team. It may be the end of the 4th Quarter, fourth down on our own 15 yard line,  and we’re down 28-7 but Jesus is the Quarterback! We’re gonna win. Don’t doubt it, just believe.

Here is a wonderful excerpt from a homily that makes this same point. Fr. Bill Casey of the Fathers of Mercy. A lot of good strong priests and fine preachers in this order. You will probably recognize Fr. Casey from EWTN. Enjoy this powerful and brief word of encouragement!

Dance Time

Every now and then I hear the Old Latin Mass described as a somber affair. Many think only dirges are sung and that everything is quite subdued. Granted a low Mass can be rather quiet as the Priest whispers much of the Mass. But a sung Mass in the Old Rite (Extraordinary Form) can be quite elaborate, especially if the Choir sings in polyphony (harmony). Some of the greatest music in history was composed during the Renaissance in a form known as Renaissance Polyphony. It is a kind of harmonic singing that features four or more independent melodies sung simultaneously in rich harmony. Much of this Church music was written in Dance Time such that you can almost dance to it!

Enjoy this brief video of the Angus Dei (try not to tap your toe) and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. The song was recorded at the Oratory of St. Francis De Sales in St. Louis – one of the most beautiful Churches in the Country. (See photo above). The text is Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem (Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us peace). Enjoy a beautiful sample of Renaissance Polyphony.