Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell

st-francis-with-skullTraditional Catholic theology has distinguished the “Four Last Things” : Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We are admonished to meditate upon these things frequently. We WILL die, be judged, and spend eternity either in Hell, or in Heaven (likely after some time in purgatory). All men are appointed to die once, and after that face The judgment (Hebrews 9:27) A remarkable video was just posted  of a song by Johnny Cash on the topic of judgment. Here are some of the words:

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Go tell that long tongue liar, go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down.

We will all one day die, or as the song puts it, be cut down. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (cf 2 Cor 5:10;  Heb 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5).

The reality of judgment and the possibility of Hell bothers a lot of modern Christians who have had God’s love emphasized to the exclusion of just about everything else about God. For example that He is Truth, and utterly Holy, that nothing unholy can tolerate His presence and so forth.

How to explain the possibility of Hell to a generation with a rather simplified notion of God? Perhaps the word “respect” can help. God want to save us all and have us live with him forever. This is clear in Scripture. But God has made us free and wants us to freely love Him and accept His invitation. This is His respect for our freedom. Now everyone want to go to heaven as they describe it. But NOT EVERYONE wants to go to real heaven which is God’s Kingdom in perfection. You see, in heaven, God’s Kingdom,  there is love for the truth, love for chastity, love for the poor, love for justice, love for one another, mercy and forgiveness are esteemed and God is at the center. But NOT EVERYONE wants these things. Not everyone wants the truth, wants to be chaste, not everyone wants to forgive and love everyone. Not everyone wants God to be at the center, they prefer that spot for themselves or some other idol. So God invites. But not all accept. In the end, God respects our choice and this is why there is Hell, it is for those who do not want what the Kingdom of God is. God still sustains the souls in Hell but he ultimately respects their choice to reject the Kingdom and its values.

So death is on the way, sooner or later we will all be cut down. What is it that you want??

Ponder this video:

Running Afoul of the”New Morality”

The latest edition of Gloria TV News contains the following item:

Catholics Under Pressure Because of Gay Legislation – UK  The Charity Tribunal has ruled that Catholic Care– the Diocese of Leeds’s adoption agency– must cooperate with homosexual couples who wish to adopt children. “If the charity now sticks to Church policy and continues to follow its ‘heterosexuals only’ policy it could lose its charity status and public funding,” the Daily Telegraph notes. “ It might also face discrimination claims by same-sex couples it has turned away in the past.”

This is not dissimilar to what has happened to Catholic Charities in Massachusetts and  California. Catholic Charities has largely had to remove itself from providing adoption services due to it’s inability to comply with state laws baring discrimination against gay couple who want to adopt. Church teachings and policy forbid placing children with gay couples. But State Law in both Mass. and California, forbid any distinctions being made. Attempts to pass an exemption for religious institutions failed in Mass and in California the wording of the religious exemption clause cannot be met by Catholic Charites. The clause states that only Catholics are served. Obviously Catholic Charities serves more than just Catholics.

So here is another indicator not only of where we are, but also of  the road ahead. Increasingly the Church and other Christian denominations will be forced to comply with edicts of the “new morality.” If we do not comply we can either be sued for discrimination or accused of “hate crimes.” The alternative seems to be comply, or get out of the business. The Catholic Church as a long legacy of serving the Community through our Hospitals, Catholic Charities and the like. This is beginning to erode. Increasingly we may see such services ending because of those who want to force us to comply with laws that contradict our faith. Thus, if we fail to  provide contraceptives in our health plans, a judge says we must or we violate the law and are subject to fines or worse.  If we refuse to adopt to Gay couples we are now being told we must or we violate the law and are open to lawsuits. If some elements of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) are enacted we will be required to provide or refer abortion services.  Otherwise our hospitals and clincs will be in violation of law, subject to fines, closure and desertification.

Do you see what is happening? There is a steady erosion of religious liberty underway. Advocates of the “New Morality”  have long marched under the banner of tolerance but as they gain greater power and influence, the mask of tolerance is shed and forcible compliance is at revealed as the true policy. The Catholic faith is 2000 years old. We are not some extremist group of haters. We have a long and noble religious teaching that deserves respect even if everyone does not agree with it. We should not be pressured to set aside 2000 years of religious teaching simply because some in the modern world have chosen to depart from long held and basic moral beliefs. Religious Liberty is a precious cornerstone of this Country’s history but it is being eroded by judges and advocacy groups. Pay attention.

More Self-Inflicted Wounds??

The latest issue of Gloria TV  News contains a strange and troubling event from the Church in Vienna. It appears that a rather appalling (and ugly) statue of a recently beatified saint is to go on display in St. Stephens Cathedral. Here is the text from the video:

Today, a sculpture allegedly representing Sr. Restituta Kafka will be unveiled in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Sr. Restituta was arrested and murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. In June 98 she was declared a blessed by Pope John Paul II. Her new sculpture shows a female face without veil and with big breasts. It will be placed in a side-chapel of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The bust was created by Alfred Hrdlicka, the same artist who caused a worldwide scandal with a painting representing Christ’s Last Supper as a homosexual orgy. The controversial painting was exposed in the diocesan museum of Vienna. Hrdlicka calls himself an atheist and Stalinist.

It is unfortunate enough when modern artists attack the Church and the faith of simple believers, but it is even more troubling when Catholic Church leaders accept and display such “art.” Why has the Cathedral contracted with an artist who has clearly demonstrated contempt for the faith and who apparently has a thirst for scandal?  Once the artwork was completed and so clearly vulgar and impious why does the Cathedral display it?  Where is the local Archbishop in all this? Why these self-inflicted wounds? Clearly there are many who hate and ridicule our faith and relish in scandalizing the faithful, so why are we paying for this and displaying it? I feel safe in saying this would not happen in the Cathedral of Washington.

There is another item in this news report from Gloria TV on the question of the words of consecration: The Hungarian Bishops’ Conference has decided to implement a longtime wish of the Pope. Beginning with the coming feast of Pentecost the words used in Mass during the consecration of the chalice will be brought in line with the Latin original and with the Gospels. The present wording will thus be changed to say that Christ died “for many” instead of the current “for all.” While it s true that it is the wish of God to save all, it nevertheless reamins true that not all accept his offer of salvation. In a time when many people maintain unbiblical notions that just about every one will be saved, it is important that our prayers refelct the more sober biblical teaching that many in fact are lost (cf Matt 7:14 inter al.) For this reason, and for the important reason that our prayer texts correspond to scriptural texts, the Pope has asked that incorrect translations be fixed. Here in America a new translation is coming forth that reflects the correction.

Here is the video in reference. WARNING: the video contains some vulgar photos displaying the “art” in question. The photos are presented in order for the viewer to understand the story.

Beautiful Churches

I put together a quick video program with pictures of beautiful Churches and posted it over at Gloria.tv  I hope this will be the first of several I intend to do. We have some very beautiful churches!   The music in this video is Bruckner’s Locus Iste Here is the text and translation:

Locus iste a Deo factus est,
inaestimabile sacramentum;
irreprehensibilis est.

This place was made by God,
a priceless sacrament;
beyond reproach.

Cultural Musings – What We Have Lost

There was a movie from back in the late 1990s called “Blast From The Past”  The Movie begins in the early 60s at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. An eccentric man and his pregnant wife have built and elaborate fallout shelter underground in their backyard. It is no ordinary bomb shelter but a large and well stocked one that even allows the growing of food and fish and has many amenities.

When a plane crashes nearby they think the country is under attack and that the Atom Bomb has hit. They run into the shelter and lock it behind them setting the automatic locks not to open for 35 years when the radiation had dissipated.

During this time the pregnant wife gives birth to their son, Adam whom  they raise in that shelter. Adam receives the usual education one would expect in the early 60s, strong on reading, writing and arithmetic, American and world history. He also obtains a liberal arts college education from his father who was a professor. The education  included Latin, Greek, French and German. Adam also learns all the usual social skills of that time such as basic manners, how to treat a lady, ballroom dancing, the meaning of life. He is also raised to reverence God.

In a way the family was frozen in time and preserved the values of that time of the early 60s. The film does not present that time as flawless. The mother has a bit of a drinking problem, the father is rather eccentric and xenophobic etc.

Suddenly it is 1997 and the locks come open. The family makes its first excursion since the “bomb” went off. The father expects to find that those who survived will show signs of radiation poisoning and that the world will surely manifest many signs of the destruction the bomb surely wrought  so they go forth cautiously.

Now, you and I know that no atom bomb ever did go off. Or did it? As they emerge from the bomb shelter the once quaint neighborhood they lived in has become a red light district. They see shocking things. Not only prostitutes and adult book stores, but also drug addicts, trash-filled streets and signs of grave disorder. People are coarse in their behavior etc.  They run back into the shelter concluding that things are worse than they thought. They send their son Adam out to get provisions and possibly to find a wife if he can locate someone who is less effected by the “radiation.”  Then they will once again throw the locks on the shelter and wait for things to improve on the outsiide lest they be poisoned by it all. In this scene Adam emerges from the shelter and first encounters a drug addict who thinks Adam is God. Adam then goes forth and sees things and people outside for the first time.

As Adam goes forth he discovers that beyond the world of the red light district is less devastated but he still struggles with what he experiences. Families seem in disarray, people are coarse, cynical, and use God’s name in vain. The technology amazes him as do simple things like rain, the open sky and the ocean. In this scene he is troubled by some modern cultural trends and then sees the ocean for the first time:

It is quite clear to us who watch the movie that much has been lost. Adam is head and shoulders above the modern people who surround him. He is kind, respectful, polite, innocent in his interpretation of the world. He is much smarter than those around him as well, having quite an encyclopedic knowledge compared to the moderns around him. In this scene two things are illustrated: his superior educatoin and also his coming to grips with modern technology. How can a computer (giant in his world) be in a house?

And he can dance, really dance! Not just the gyrating common on modern dance floors but the flawless execution of 40s swing is natural to him since he was trained in every form of ballroom dancing by his parents. You can see the video of Adam dancing HERE (I can’t embed it due to audio issues).

He is befriended by a young lady named Eve and her brother. They think him to be strange and naive but come to discover he has much to teach. In this scene they ponder something he has taught them about graciousness, kindness and the blessing of strong family ties.

This movie is worth seeing. It is not preachy (like me). It gently suggests to us that we have lost some important things in the past 40 years. Things like kindness, optimism, the value of traditional education, the importance of parents teaching and raising their kids. In many ways the movie gently suggests that we have become coarse, cynical, even vulgar. Family ties have often been severed and culture has melted down to more base level. Education is less thorough and broad, simple things like learning to dance are lost. As I have already said, the early 1960s was not a perfect time. Many troublesome cultural trends were already well underway. These are not unreported in the movie. But still the point remains, some things of great value have been lost. A young man steps out the past and is bewildered by what he finds. Technology is impressive, but people seem lost and cynical. The world is hostile and disordered. But he brings with him some healing balm, some of  the best virtues of the past, to remind us all that we have lost important things along the way. THe bomb did go off. Not the Atom Bomb but an even more devastating cultural bomb. Rebuilding will take time.

The Fiat that is Best

Here’s a Catholic take on the familiar Fiat Ad. As you may know “Fiat” in Latin means “let it be done.” Mary said to the Angel “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” (let it be done to me according to your Word). And thus Mary accepts God’s plan for her and all of us.  Also in the Our Father are the words “fiat Voluntas tua” (Thy will be done).  So, is Fiat about a car or a properly conformed will? You decide: Here is the Catholic Version of the Ad:

Here is the Original Fiat ad for your reference:

Ordination Rite in the Movies

Some of you may remember the 1963 movie “The Cardinal” which was based on the Book of the Same name.  The movie was about the life of a Priest, Fr. Stephen Fermoyle and shows the human struggles of a man called to be a priest. It is a fine movie and rather respectful of the Church, though for its time it was rather “edgy” to show priests as human. It  is an historically significant film because of what was happening in the Roman Catholic Church at the time it premiered — the Second Vatican Council. Though the film is set in the first half of the 20th century it premiered just as the Vatican II was underway and many of the issues touched upon in the film — the liturgy, the role of lay persons and women in the Church, rights of the mother vs. the child, mixed marriage, ecumenism — were being hotly debated by the bishops in Rome. The film added to that debate among ordinary Catholics.

Some one recently posted a clip of the film covering the ordination of Fr. Fermoyle to the Priesthood. It is beautifully filmed. One quirky thing about it however, and the reason I post it here, is the Entrance Procession. I wrote of the entrance procession earlier (HERE) . What is interesting is how fast the procession is in this movie! It’s off to the races! I wonder if they were trying to save film or if processions in the “old days” really were conducted that fast. Any way I thought this clip might be a nice footnote to that article below. Enjoy this clip.