28May

Pop Culture and the New Evangelization

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Pop Culture and the New Evangelization


















What should we make of pop culture? It surrounds us and shapes us in many ways. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Does it take us away from the Gospel or can it be used to advance the Gospel in the New Evangelization? Let’s look at cases for and against pop culture and then try to strike the right balance.

Cases against

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI) very briefly treats pop music in his work, Spirit of the Liturgy: “On the one hand, there is pop music … aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal”(148). The cult of the banal would keep us trapped in the ordinary, flat, and boring aspects of life. It doesn’t move us beyond to an experience of the transcendentals – such as truth, beauty, and goodness. He also wrote, elsewhere, that Christian art “must oppose the cult of the ugly, which says that everything beautiful is a deception and only the representation of what is crude, low and vulgar is the truth, the true illumination of knowledge.” We cannot deny that the cult of the ugly has largely grown to dominate our culture and even the Church in some respects.

Roger Scruton, a British philosopher, in his book Modern Culture, also argues along these lines, insisting on the priority of high culture over the popular: “It is my view that the high culture of our civilization contains knowledge which is far more significant than anything that can be absorbed by the channels of popular communication” (2). Pop culture has descended from folk cultures into a “commercialized mish-mash” (3). Nonetheless, Scruton recognizes that pop culture still essentially helps cultivate our identity.

I have also written, elsewhere, questioning the extent to which pop music can be used for evangelization. Pop culture is largely banal, and much worse than that, it largely contains a damaging moral message. Rather than profound truth, goodness, and beauty, we largely find there ugliness and cacophony, made all the more so by its technological medium.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
27May

Do We Cower or Preach?

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Do We Cower or Preach?


















May 25, 2014

Sixth Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052514.cfm

If one of your close friends was unjustly condemned and then stoned by a mob, would you feel like going on a mission trip to a nearby town? Philip the Deacon (or the Evangelist) surprises us by his audacity in the face of persecution. After St. Stephen’s martyrdom, rather than cowering, cowtowing, hiding or hightailing, he sets out to proclaim the Gospel boldly.

Historical Context

This Sunday’s first reading from Acts 8 immediately follows the death of Stephen at the hands of Saul’s mob. Persecution of such ferocity is designed to discourage whatever religious behavior it condemns, but Philip is undeterred. While he does not re-engage the Jerusalem Jews in an evangelistic dialogue, he goes to the “city of Samaria” to proclaim Jesus’ message. This city had been the ancient capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, and had become a city of some political importance in the Roman period, being renamed “Sebaste” by the emperor Augustus. The “city of Samaria” was the capital of the whole region also called Samaria—kind of like Oklahoma City being the capital of Oklahoma. The city is about 65 miles north of Jerusalem, so Philip might be headed there to avoid the knife-edge of persecution, but ends up attracting even more attention.

Fulfilling the Expanding Plan of Salvation

As the capital city, Samaria represents the whole region by the same name. What happens in the city, happens on behalf of the region. It also represents the Samaritan people, the remnants of the ten northern tribes who had been forced to intermarry with other nations. Philip’s decision to preach there is not random, but it is rooted in Jesus’ last words to the apostles recorded at the beginning of Acts: “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NAB). The ten tribes seemed to have been lost, but now Philip’s proclamation of the gospel in the Samaritan territory will make them the first to hear the gospel message besides the Jews. Philip’s preaching fulfills the words of Jesus, and the prophecies in the Old Testament which refer to bringing all the tribes back to the Lord in the land. The lost tribes have been found!

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
21May

Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

















“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).

This Gospel passage provides us with proper framework to evaluate Christopher Dawson’s controversial essay, “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind.” Dawson is not an economist and is not writing an economic treatise. As an historian of culture and ideas, he is criticizing a particular mindset or spirit which has fundamentally shaped and governed the modern world. Dawson’s central thesis throughout his corpus is that religion is the very heart of culture. He recognizes that today our heart is not religion, but rather wealth. The problem is not capitalist economics, but rather the mind or soul with which it is practiced and the lack of a genuine religious framework to guide it. For Dawson, the bourgeois soul worships wealth and earthly prosperity above God, and thus practices a new secular religion.

Dawson’s essay caused quite a stir when it was republished by Crisis in January 2012. In particular, Jeffrey Tucker and John Zmirak forcefully rejected Dawson’s claims, while Gerald Russello somewhat cautiously defended him. The debate has resurfaced recently as Zmirak has republished his article with a new title,“Christopher Dawson’s Economic Blindness,” with Dale Coulter responding on First Things (which I recommend reading alongside of this piece). I would like to respond to Tucker and Zmirak before offering my own defense of Dawson.

Jeffrey Tucker does not directly respond to Dawson’s claims. Rather, he attempts to justify bourgeois culture by appeal to two of its general effects, an argument which is subject to the fallacy of appeal to consequences. However, he offers no direct defense of the bourgeois mind that produced these effects, which, once again, is what Dawson attacks. Although we can recognize the desirability of sleeping in a comfortable bed and, of course, of a longer life expectancy (the two effects that Tucker emphasizes), we can still ask the question: “what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matt 16:26).

If the bourgeois mind is bent on comfort and earthly prosperity above all else, we have to question its accomplishments. The problem is that the bourgeois mind makes the goods of the earth an end in themselves. Our life on earth, however, is a means to a greater end, our only final end, which is life everlasting. A short life expectancy in the midst of an impoverished, but happier and holier culture would certainly be preferable to a long life expectancy in the midst of a culture bent on self-satisfaction and spiritual destruction. The life of sanctity is rigorous, and as Dawson says, we have to “choose the difficult and hazardous way of creative spiritual activity, which is the way of the saints.”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
20May

Our Relationship with the Lord Entails That we Have a Faith That Remembers

Taken from The Catholic Servant, May 2014
By Professor Douglas Bushman

Our Relationship with the Lord Entails That we Have a Faith That Remembers

[Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series written by Douglas Bushman.]

In the Old Covenant, God’s great lament is that His people are prone to spiritual amnesia. “My people have forgotten Me days without number.” (Jer. 2:32; see also Jer. 13:25; 18:15; Ez. 22:12; 23:35; Hos. 13:6). The sign of Israel’s forgetfulness is infidelity to the covenant. God’s analysis is that they disobey His commandments because they have forgotten the great works He performed in order to set them free from slavery in Egypt. Such forgetfulness is astounding to consider. The ten plagues, the parting of the sea and swallowing up of Pharaoh’s army, the pillar of fire, manna, water from the rock, and the bronze serpent—how could such wonders fade from a people’s memory? How could they forget that were it not for God’s intervention, they would still be slaves?

It all began in the Garden of Eden and the drama of man’s capacity to forget God and the great works that demonstrate His love. The evil one knows that as long as Adam and Eve remember the works of God’s love—all of creation, making them in His image, providing for all their needs in the garden, the graces of original justice—they will quite naturally obey His commandment. The key to obedience is the conviction that the God Who gives the commandment is a God of love.

Knowing this, the evil one distracts Eve from recalling all the evidence of God’s love. He does not ask her about God, at least not directly. Rather, his question is designed to focus her attention on the content of what God commanded. He accomplishes this by exaggerating the commandment: Did God say that you are not to eat any fruit from any of the trees? That would appear to be a contradiction, an absurdity unworthy of God. Why make trees with enticing fruit in the first place, only to forbid their being eaten? Eve’s mind is attentive to this, and she corrects the serpent. Of course, God would not act irrationally so as to prohibit all of the fruit; just this one fruit is prohibited.

She should have said: By attributing to Him something that is unworthy of His love and wisdom, you are impugning the God Who has proved His love for us. Since this commandment comes from Him, I know it is holy and just and good. (see Rom. 7:12) But this was not her response. It is already too late. She has forgotten God and all of His works, and at this precise moment the off-limits fruit becomes alluring in a way it never could so long as she kept in mind the works of God that prove His love and wisdom.

The same dynamic of forgetting occurs in the sins of King David. For him, the forbidden fruit is another man’s wife. His intense desire for her makes him forget, precisely at this moment, what he should remember. He should remember all that God had done for him by calling him to be king and by giving him victory over his enemies. As if he were providing the necessary inoculation prior to David’s sins, the prophet Nathan had spelled out the Lord’s great works on behalf of the king. (II Sam 7:8–16) Very significantly, after his sins, Nathan repeats these benefactions (II Sam. 12:7–8) in order to set up the haunting question: “Why have you despised the word of the LORD?” (II Sam. 12:9) David should have remembered all that the Lord had done for him, but he did not. And the result is that he sinned. David is like St. Peter, who could walk on water so long as he kept his eyes on the Lord, remembering His miracles and teachings. The moment he redirects his gaze, the moment he forgets the marvelous works of Jesus, he begins to sink. David, too, sank into sin because he failed to keep the eyes of his soul on the Lord by remembering all the Lord’s benefits. Perhaps the fruit of the great king’s conversion is the well-known verse: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” (Ps. 103:2) Truly, mature faith that does not fail to remember the Lord’s benefits is the key to victory over sin.

St. Thomas Aquinas confirms this biblical theology of forgetting that leads to sin when he teaches that every sin is accompanied by a certain kind of ignorance. He specifies that this ignorance is deliberate. That is to say that in every sin there is a decision not to attend to what one is both able to attend to and should attend to. In other words, the interior dynamic of sin entails a deliberate act of shutting out of one’s memory precisely the relevant truth that bears upon an action.

The examples of Eve and David, and St. Thomas’ analysis of the culpable forgetting that leads to sin, help us to see much we can learn by reflecting on the biblical theme of faith that remembers. The articles to follow in this series will build on this foundation by showing the wisdom of Moses about the necessity of remembering in faith, by showing that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect model of the faith that remembers, and by reflecting on the significance of the Lord’s injunction to celebrate the Eucharist “in remembrance of Me.” (Lk. 22:19; I Cor. 11:24–25)

Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L., is Professor of Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, where he holds the Blessed John Paul II the Great Chair of Theology for the New Evangelization.

16May

Love & Responsibility — The Law of Gift

Taken from The Integrated Catholic Life
by Dr. Edward Sri

Love & Responsibility — The Law of Gift



















How does a person know if he is in a relationship of authentic, committed love or just in another disappointing romance that will not stand the test of time? That’s what John Paul II — then Karol Wojtyla — addresses in the next section of his book, Love and Responsibility, when he discusses the two sides of love.

According to Wojtyla, there are two aspects of love, and understanding the difference is crucial for any marriage, engagement, or dating relationship. On one hand, we have what’s happening inside us when we’re attracted to a person of the opposite sex.

When boy meets girl, he experiences a number of powerful feelings and desires in his heart. He may find himself physically drawn to the beauty of her body or constantly thinking about her in an emotional attraction. This inner dynamic of sensual desire (sensuality) and emotional love (sentimentality) largely shapes how the man and woman interact with each other, and it is what makes romance, especially in its early stages, so thrilling for the couple involved. Wojtyla calls this first side of love the “subjective” aspect.

Yet, while this is one aspect of love, it is not to be equated with love in the fullest sense. We know from experience that we can have powerful emotions and desires for another person without in any way being committed to them or without them being truly committed to us in a relationship of love.

This is why Wojtyla puts the subjective aspect of love in its proper place. He wakes us up and reminds us that no matter how intensely we experience these sensations, it is not necessarily love, but simply “a psychological situation.” In other words, on its own, the subjective aspect of love is no more than a pleasurable experience happening inside of me.

Continue reading at The Integrated Catholic Life
16May

Divorced and Remarried are Called to Heroism…

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Divorced and Remarried are Called to Heroism…


















The universal call to holiness is considered by many to be the most important development of the Second Vatican Council. The main location of this call is the fifth chapter of the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things (§40).

Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul (§42).

Those familiar with the spiritual life know that holiness is not easy. It requires a death to oneself, which Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange describes in his The Three Ages of the Interior Life. It entails going through the purification of the senses and the soul, in order to reach the perfection of charity in union with God.

However, I have also heard some claim that the universal call to holiness means that holiness is now accessible to all without the arduous path of growth in the spiritual life. I would describe this as a dumbing down of the interior life. We see it most often in the confessional: “you shouldn’t feel bad for this sin,” “this is not really sinful,” “you don’t really need to do what the Church commands,” etc. I have heard all too often of confessors condoning masturbation, contraception, rejecting guilt, and denying the need for regular prayer and penance. This is a grave disservice to the soul, to say the least. Everyone is called to be a saint, which means that everyone must deny oneself, take up the cross, and radically follow Christ.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
16May

Serving the Poor, Serving the Lord

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Serving the Poor, Serving the Lord


















May 18, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 6:1-7

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051814.cfm

Should we serve the Lord or serve the poor? Sometimes we face this question because we simply lack time. What’s more important: daily prayer or volunteering at the local homeless shelter? Is giving to the parish or giving to charity higher on the list? Early on in the life of the Church, the apostles confronted a similar conundrum (Acts 6:1-7). Part of their ministry included distributing food to the poor, but as the community became larger and larger, it was hard to ensure an equitable distribution of goods.

Social Context

To understand what’s going on here, we have to dig into the social context of the problem. First, the Jerusalem community is divided into “Hellenists” and “Hebrews.” Since no Gentiles had become Christians at this point, the simplest explanation is that the Hellenists are Greek-speaking Jews and the “Hebrews” are Aramaic-speaking Jews. The Greek-speaking widows are “being neglected in the daily distribution” (6:1). But what is that? Why widows? In the ancient world, there was no life insurance and women generally did not have employment outside the home. In many cases, widows could not even legally inherit whatever their husbands had left behind for it would be designated for a male heir. What this means is that when a woman’s husband died, she would have to rely on other relatives, extended family and the wider community for financial support. In the tight-knit early Christian community (Acts 2:42; 4:32-37), the widows would have relied on the group for their daily sustenance—a kind of early Christian welfare system. Sadly, natural biases could sneak into the group and those appointed by the apostles to distribute food could easily be swayed by considerations such as whether someone speaks the same language. While understandable, such prejudice is not Christian.

Notably, the idea of taking care of poor widows was a constant social concern in the Old Testament (Exod 22:22; Jer 7:6; Zech 7:10). In fact, the poor in the Old Testament are often regarded as those to be cared for (Deut 15:11) and giving to them is seen as a good deed (Ps 41:1). These Jewish roots of care for the poor were contrary to Roman values that looked down on the poor, neglected them or even manipulated them by buying their “friendship” with money. The Christian ideal of caring for the poor, which the apostles exhibit in this passage, has deep Jewish roots that oppose the wider cultural values.

Continue reading at Catholic Excange
11May

Cut to the Heart

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Cut to the Heart


















May 11, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051114.cfm

Sometimes when you hear a great speaker, you wish you could grab his message, put it in a package and bring it home with you. We even talk of a “take home message,” being the three or four points that the speaker hopes you’ll remember. We can’t remember everything, and even if we record a speech on a digital voice recorder, we still can’t keep it in our heads all the time. So…if a message powerfully impacts us, what can we do? How can we respond? In this Sunday’s reading from Acts, St. Peter gives us the answer.

Context

This Sunday’s reading might sound like the beginning of St. Peter’s Pentecost speech, but it is actually the end. The Lectionary borrows the opening narrator’s comment to set the stage. Here Peter is cashing in the results of his scriptural argument from Joel 3 and Psalm 16 to his fellow devout Jews. He has argued that the Holy Spirit has arrived to fulfill God’s promises, that Jesus was raised from the dead in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and the concluding thesis of his speech is that God has made Jesus “both Lord and Christ.” These two terms each deserve an in-depth explanation.

Lord

Kurios can simply mean “lord” or “sir,” but here I think it brims with deeper connotations. First and foremost, it is a word for God. In fact, this word, kurios is used to translate the unpronounceable name of God in the Greek Old Testament. YHWH is translated as kurios. By saying that God made Jesus kurios, Peter is not saying that God merely granted him an extra-special title of nobility like “sir” or “duke,” but that Jesus is YHWH himself, the Lord. Secondly, kurios was a title of the Roman Emperor, the highest civil authority. While Peter is not claiming Jesus is a secular ruler, his authority does challenge (and trump) that of the pagan Roman Empire. Jesus’ kingdom will eventually triumph over all human authorities.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
07May

Break Out of the Box: Technology and Prayer

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Break Out of the Box: Technology and Prayer


















Smash the TV! John Senior provides this bold directive in his book, The Restoration of Christian Culture. “Smash the television set. The Catholic Church is not opposed to violence; only to unjust violence; so smash the television set” (22). I’ve taught this text numerous times to students and most immediately recoil and claim that this advice is too harsh and over the top. Even if some should smash their TV, Senior’s statement is at least a call to question the control that technology has over our lives. Do you need to smash media’s dominance?

In particular, Senior argues that TV has

two principal defects . . . its radical passivity, physical and imaginative, and its distortion of reality. Watching it, we fail to exercise the eye, selecting and focusing on detail—what poets call “noticing” things; neither do we exercise imagination as must in reading metaphor where you actively leap to the “third thing” in juxtaposed images, picking out similarities and differences, a skill which Aristotle says is a chief sing of intelligence. . . . There is nothing on the television which is not filtered through the secular establishment.

Senior’s answer is to sit around the fire as a family, singing good music and reading good literature. Rather than experiencing reality through an isolate filter, he wants us to experience it directly, especially within the context of the home. TV intrudes on family life and fundamentally changes it.

The main thrust of Senior’s argument is that technology is not neutral, but its use shapes and molds us. This same claim has been presented by Neil Postman, in his book Technopolgy, where he argues that “the uses made of any technology are largely determined by the structure of the technology itself—that is, that its functions follow from its form.” We have surrounded ourselves with a host of media technology—not only TV, but mobile phones, constant music, and especially the internet—to the point of saturation: “When the supply of information is no longer controllable, a general breakdown in psychic tranquility and social purpose occurs. Without defenses, people have no way of finding meaning in their experiences, lose their capacity to remember, and have difficulty imagining reasonable futures” (72).

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
06May

Hope in the Face of Death

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Hope in the Face of Death

May 4, 2014

Third Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 2:14, 22-33

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/050414.cfm

What now? That would be the question on the minds of the apostles as they watched our Lord ascend into heaven. Has the story ended? Should we just go home? But Jesus commanded them to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. When the Spirit comes in power on Pentecost, they get their answer: proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to everyone. They find their mission and the next chapter in the story. In fact, Luke tells us that his gospel is about what “Jesus began to do and teach,” implying that the Book of Acts is what he continued to do and teach, but this time it is through the apostles empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Context

The Lectionary provides a segment of St. Peter’s speech on Pentecost for this Sunday’s first reading. More of the speech will be read next Sunday. On Pentecost morning, the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and now they stand before the crowds in Jerusalem to preach the resurrection for the first time. In this passage, we get to listen in on Peter’s first evangelistic homily. Peter’s preaching here can be distilled to four essential ideas: fulfillment, mercy, prophecy, and resurrection.

Fulfillment, Not Fad

Peter is speaking to Jewish men who know the story of Israel, the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets. He therefore must convince them of Jesus’ messianic identity in accord with the Old Testament. The Jewish authorities had condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, an innovator, an imposter who “made himself equal to God.” Peter’s task is to show that Jesus is the logical next step, the fulfillment of Israel’s story, not just a passing religious fad. He highlights Jesus’ works of power, which demonstrate that he comes from God and verify his message. God “commended” Jesus by granting him the power to do these works.

Continue Reading at Catholic Exchange
29April

Salvation and Super Heroes

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. Michel Therrien

Salvation and Super Heroes



















This past weekend I enjoyed seeing the latest installment of Marvel’s Avenger franchise, Captain America: Winter Soldier. I must confess that I have a somewhat juvenile curiosity toward these recent rounds of “super” mania films. I don’t care so much for the over the top action and violence sequences, but it is quite intriguing to see how CGI technology has brought to the big screen what only imagination could grasp in my youth, although maybe that’s not such a good thing for young people today. As a moral theologian, however, the gratification of these movies extends deeper. The physics of Marvel’s universe is pretty awesome; but the ethics is even more thought provoking.

One thing truly appreciable in these films is their honest attempt to tackle some serious social issues. Whether it’s the problem of true justice vs. vigilantism in the recent Batman films, or the responsible use of power in the Spiderman franchise, or as we see in Winter Soldier, the trust issues surrounding information technology and government surveillance, the superhero industry is admirable in its engagement with some rather critical social problems.

The central motif in Winter Soldier is, as we would expect from Captain America, the totalitarian assault on human liberty, which for the screenwriters, originates today in the threat of political conspiracy and the hegemony of information technology. How do we preserve liberty in an age of industrial power, the web, world government, and the dictatorship of relativism? Is this even possible? In the movie, Captain America embodies the kind of moral and principled integrity that provides the only real hope for confronting the agents of evil. But here’s the question with which the movie left me wrestling. Is the affront to human liberty the root evil of our times? As Americans, we are always inclined to answer yes to that question. But is it so?

The first thing that struck me as I exited the theater is the irony of the Captain America narrative. Liberty is only ever destroyed by the conspiracy of modern industry coupled with the politics of power and social control—in a word, conspiratorial violence. Liberty is never lost by sensual desire and disordered love. And moreover, it’s ironic how the tactics of the enemy are the only available means for defeating the bad guys. To conquer evil and restore liberty, one just has to have more power at their disposal, although directed toward a good end. Because of this moral assumption, our beloved superheroes can only conquer evil by greater industry and power, assisted of course by more effective espionage and political maneuvering. In Winter Soldier we see this exemplified by those true conspirators of liberty that uphold the ideals of the S.H.I.E.L.D initiative. For those who have seen the film—though I dare not ruin it for those who haven’t—it is evident that the guardians of liberty are, in the end, able to triumph (kind of) because they prove themselves more powerful and clever than their adversaries. The further irony, though, is that evil is never finally eradicated—not that we really want it to be! That would be boring entertainment.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
28April

Is God Dead? Have We Killed Him?

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Is God Dead? Have We Killed Him?


















Nietzsche isn’t exactly the kind of guy you expect to show up in a papal encyclical. All the more so does it seem odd to refer to him as a prophet. Nonetheless, recent popes have referred to him somewhat often, using him as a referent for our current social and philosophical situation. In one of his few audiences, John Paul I referred to Nietzsche’s lack of sympathy for the Christian ideal:

Not everyone shares this sympathy of mine for hope. Nietzsche, for example, calls it “the virtue of the weak.” According to him, it makes the Christian a useless, separated, resigned person, extraneous to the progress of the world (Sept. 20, 1978).

It was quite an audience, also referring to Dante, St. Francis de Sales, Augustine and Aquinas on hilaritas, and Andrew Carnegie.

Pope Benedict referred to Nietzsche somewhat frequently, including in his important address to the Curia on Dec. 22, 2008, while commenting on World Youth Day: “This is what makes life joyful and free, uniting people with one another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival. Friedrich Nietzsche once said: ‘The important thing is not to be able to organize a party but to find people who can enjoy it.’ According to Scripture, joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22).” In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he situates his treatment of eros in relation to Nietzsche’s rejection of the supposed Christian negation of eros:

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice. Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely held perception: doesn’t the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life? Doesn’t she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creator’s gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine? (3).

Finally, we see Nietzsche setting up Pope Francis’s first encyclical in similar fashion (though presumably through the influence of Benedict):

The young Nietzsche encouraged his sister Elisabeth to take risks, to tread “new paths… with all the uncertainty of one who must find his own way,” adding that “this is where humanity’s paths part: if you want peace of soul and happiness, then believe, but if you want to be a follower of truth, then seek.” Belief would be incompatible with seeking. From this starting point Nietzsche was to develop his critique of Christianity for diminishing the full meaning of human existence and stripping life of novelty and adventure. Faith would thus be the illusion of light, an illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.

In these cases, we see Nietzsche acting as an important foil for the popes. He represents a key figure in the modern recasting of Christianity as a force that destroys the greatness of humanity, by succumbing to a false hope, love, and belief.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
27April

My Encounter with John Paul the Great

Taken from the Chastity Project
by Everett Fritz

My Encounter with John Paul the Great



















Nine years ago, I found myself in Rome, waiting in line with millions of people, hoping to get a glimpse of the late Pope John Paul II. John Paul was a hero of mine and I happened to be traveling through Europe when he passed away. I immediately changed my plans and traveled to be part of the celebration and mourning of this great saint. The scene in Rome was surreal. The line into St. Peter’s stretched all the way out of Vatican City, across the Tiber River and around the neighborhoods of Rome. People were singing, chanting for John Paul II and there were homemade signs and flowers all over the Vatican that said Santo subito! [Saint now!].

After several hours of waiting, I arrived inside St. Peter’s, where I had a few moments to pay my respects to the late John Paul II. I’ll never forget the moment, because I broke down sobbing. John Paul II had an enormous impact on my life, which is remarkable considering this was the only time I had ever come in contact with him.

Continue reading at Chastity Project
27April

Radiant Christian Community

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Radiant Christian Community


















April 27, 2014

Second Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 2:42-47

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042714.cfm

During the Easter season, the Lectionary avoids the Old Testament and sticks with the Book of Acts to supply the First Reading. The idea is to concentrate on the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the New. The life of the early Church, as portrayed by Acts, reveals what a post-resurrection life can and should look like. The particular passage chosen for the Second Sunday of Easter briefly sums up the life of the early disciples from the day of Pentecost onward.

Context

This passage, Acts 2:42-47, falls right after St. Peter’s Pentecost speech. The Holy Spirit has come upon the apostles, then Peter preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem, after which 3,000 people are baptized into the faith. After this event, our author, St. Luke, offers us a window into the life of the first Christians. The Lectionary gives us a sneak preview of the resurrection results of the first apostolic ministry, but then will go on to fill in the back story by presenting snippets of Peter’s speech over the next two Sundays.

The Essence of Community

St. Luke tells us that the first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 RSV). These four elements, which might seem like a bare list, actually frame the essentials of the Christian life. The “apostles’ teaching” consists of the Gospel message and Christian doctrine. We can hear their lessons in the Bible and in the teaching of the Church. “The fellowship” or koinonia (in Greek) indicates the loving communion that believers have with one another. This fellowship is not mere camaraderie or some sort of club, but rather it indicates the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21 RSV). This kind of heart-to-heart fellowship takes time, which is why Luke tells us that the Christians devoted themselves to it. They devoted their time to loving one another.

In addition, the first Christians frequently participated in “the breaking of the bread,” not a mere meal, but a Eucharistic celebration, the first Masses ever said. Lastly, the disciples take part in “the prayers.” Oddly, the text does not say that they simply prayed, but that they used “the prayers.” Since they were gathering together daily in the Temple, some scholars have suggested that “the prayers” refers to the psalms, songs, and prayers offered to the Lord at the Temple. In our day, we can engage in these kinds of “prayers” in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary and other kinds of prayers the Church provides. The four things to which the disciples devoted themselves, teaching, fellowship, Eucharist, and prayers, are the building blocks of the kind of life that Christians can and should live in light of Jesus’ Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

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23April

Saint John Paul II, Alive Among the Saints

Taken from Catholic World Report
by Douglas Bushman

Saint John Paul II, Alive Among the Saints


















At the outset of his Petrine ministry and several times thereafter, Pope Wojtyla told us that his pontificate was dedicated to the faithful interpretation and implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He also told us that central to the renewal of Vatican II is the universal call to holiness. “[T]his call to holiness is precisely the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church by a Council which intended to bring a renewal of Christian life based on the Gospel” (Christifideles Laici, 16).

The Jubilee of the Year 2000 was the occasion for him to reassert: “Holiness…has emerged more clearly as the dimension which expresses best the mystery of the Church. Holiness, a message that convinces without the need for words, is the living reflection of the face of Christ” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 8). In keeping with his constant exhortation to read and to study the texts of Vatican II, he appealed to all to “rediscover the full practical significance of Chapter 5 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, dedicated to the ‘universal call to holiness.’”

“[T]he heart of holiness is love” (Ecclesia in America, 30), that is, participation in divine life in and through Christ’s paschal charity, which is the soul of the apostolate, the inner dynamism of all ministry, apostolate, service, and mission. “[T]he call to the mission derives, of its nature, from the call to holiness” (Address of May 15, 1998). At the same time, holiness is the ultimate goal of the Church’s activities. For this reason, “all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 30). “[I]n the life of the Church every call to action is a call to holiness” (Address of May 3, 1984).

“Now, no less than in the past, the call to holiness must be the chief concern of all the Church’s members” (Ad limina address of May 26, 1992). This is the primary way of participation in the life and mission of the Church, the foundation for every other vocation, without which ecclesiastical activity is deprived of its vital principle. Holiness is the key to the New Evangelization.

Evangelization in the third millennium must come to grips with the urgent need for a presentation of the Gospel message which is dynamic, complete, and demanding. The Christian life to be aimed at cannot be reduced to a mediocre commitment to “goodness” as society defines it; it must be a true quest for holiness. We need to re-read with fresh enthusiasm the fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium, which deals with the universal call to holiness. Being a Christian means to receive a “gift” of sanctifying grace which cannot fail to become a “commitment” to respond personally to that gift in everyday life. It is precisely for this reason that I have sought over the years to foster a wider recognition of holiness, in all the contexts where it has appeared, so that Christians can have many different models of holiness, and all can be reminded that they are personally called to this goal. (Letter to Priests, Mar 25, 2001)

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