04April

God, the Tomb Robber

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God, the Tomb Robber










April 6, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ezekiel 37:12-14

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040614.cfm

I like to think of God as a tomb robber. He does not strike me as a masked bandit plundering valuable artifacts from an Egyptian tomb for sale on the black market. Rather, he robs something much more important from the tomb: people! God does not steal mere dead bodies from tombs; instead, he restores the life of the dead person, revivifying the body and bringing back the person’s spirit.

Sneak Preview of Lazarus

In this Sunday’s reading from Ezekiel, we get a sneak preview of the gospel account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The great prophet tells us in advance that God wants to “open graves” and cause people to rise out of them. Lazarus is a case study in what this kind of power looks like. God reverses the seemingly unreversible problem of death. What the prophet foretells in the first reading comes to fruition in the Gospel reading.

Bony Context

Now in the context of Ezekiel 37, this little passage serves as the interpretation of what has come before, Ezekiel’s famous prophecy of the valley of the dry bones. The Lord gives the prophet a powerful vision of dead, dry bones, strewn about in a valley as if a battle had taken place there long ago. The prophet emphasizes how many there were (“behold, there were very many”) and how dead and dry they were (“and lo, they were very dry”). After showing Ezekiel the bones, the Lord commands him to prophesy to the bones, to speak God’s life and spirit into them. Immediately, they start to click together and the Lord covers them in sinews, muscles and skin. Finally, Ezekiel prophesies and God’s spirit comes and fills them.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
02April

Understanding what it means to encounter Christ’s love in the sacraments

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

Understanding what it means to encounter Christ’s love in the sacraments

[Editor’s Note: Professor Bushman’s article was written as an introduction for an article about the Sophia Institute for Teachers. That article, an interview with Veronica Burchard, the Vice President for Education Programs at Sophia Press, will be published in the April edition of “The Catholic Servant.”]

In every way, the sacraments are about God’s love, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. In them Jesus makes Himself present as the One Who loves us “to the end.” (Jn. 13:1) In each sacrament He says: “I love you, I have given My life for you (Jn. 15:13; Gal. 2:20), and I want to love you right here, right now. Do you desire this? Will you permit me to love you?” We cannot say “Yes” and mean it, or know what we are saying “Yes” to, unless we know Who Jesus is: why God became man, and why He died on the Cross to save us.

The sacraments presuppose the faith by which “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” (I Jn. 4:16) By faith we know the great story of God’s love, which culminates in Jesus’ teaching on love, the new commandment of love (Jn. 13:34), and His death on the cross. The Creed summarizes this story of God’s love. Faith makes our “Yes” to Christ’s love a fully informed and personal “Yes.” Then Jesus says to us what He said in response to people’s faith: “as you have believed, let it be done for you”; “great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” (Mt. 8:13; 15:28) Jesus wants to say “Yes” to our faith-filled desire for His love!

The faith we bring to the sacraments is like that of the woman with a hemorrhage. She was desperate because she spent all of her money, yet no doctor could heal her. Her future could only be resignation to inevitable suffering. Hearing about Jesus’ miracles, she found new hope—hope in God. Knowing where to find Jesus, she left her home, thinking: “If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.” (Mk. 5:28) She did, and she was healed. “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from Him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who has touched My clothes?’” (Mk. 5:30) Then He said: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mk. 5:34)

Jesus wants to be touched by faith! In the sacraments, He responds by touching us with His love. When Jesus asked, “Who touched Me?” His disciples pointed out that many in the crowd had brushed up against Him. But, to only one did He say, “your faith has saved you.” Only one touched Jesus with deep and intense faith! In the sacraments, Jesus dispenses the saving power of His love to those who approach Him in faith, fully aware of their great need and especially of His great love.

The Virgin Mary is the unsurpassed model of faith. At the Annunciation, God takes the initiative of love—”He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19)—by coming to Mary through the Archangel Gabriel, who proposes God’s plan to her. In response, Mary says, “May it be done to me according to Your word.” (Lk. 1:38) God awaits such a response of faith in the sacraments: “May it be done to me according to Your word of love!” The Holy Spirit then overshadows Mary, transforming her to be the Mother of God. Christ dwells in her so that through her He can come into the world. Similarly, when we encounter Christ in the sacraments, His love transforms us. He comes to dwell in us (Jn. 14:23) by the gift of sanctifying grace so that He can work through us to bring God’s love into the world.

Jesus promised: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself.” (Jn. 12:32) He keeps this promise by bestowing grace through the sacraments. The risen, glorified, and ascended Lord loves us still through the rites that He established and the men whom He appointed to represent Him. Through the grace conferred in the sacraments, Jesus brings us into communion with Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and with one another in the Church. In the power of His love and grace, we are able to live out our new life in Christ. In this way, the sacraments prepare us for everlasting communion with God and all the saints in Heaven.

In Baptism Jesus redeems us from all sin, which prevents us from receiving the Father’s love. Becoming one with Him, the Father speaks to us the words He spoke at Jesus’ baptism: “You are My beloved son [or daughter]; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk. 3:22) The Father rejoices in the goodness of His Son that He sees in us. We become a new creation in Christ. (II Cor. 5:17) As God was pleased with creation and “found it very good” (Gen. 1:31), He says to us: “It is good that you exist.”

Confirmation deepens the bond of love with God and with the Church, as Jesus fulfills His promise to send the Holy Spirit so that we can bear witness to Him and be faithful in trial and persecution. (Jn. 15:26–27; Lk. 12:11–12) Confirmation equips us for the New Evangelization. The Eucharist brings communion with Christ to perfection. In every sacrament, Jesus’ paschal charity, the love by which He loves us “to the end,” is at work. In the Eucharist, the Lord Himself is present in His great act of offering Himself to the Father for our salvation. Here, Christ makes us associates in His mission to save the world, inviting us to offer ourselves—through, with, and in Him—to the Father. This holy sacrifice removes every obstacle to God’s love as we make a total gift of ourselves to God in Christ. This is the summit of worship for God’s priestly people, and the fullest manifestation of the mystery of the Church, that is, the mystery of God’s love transforming those who believe.

In the sacraments of healing, Confession and Anointing, we say, with the leper: “Lord, if You wish, You can make me clean.” (Lk 5:12) He could not know how Jesus would respond, but in faith knew Jesus’ answer: “I do will it” (Lk. 5:13) By faith we know, in advance, that Jesus will forgive us, declaring through His minister: “Your sins are forgiven.” (Lk 7:48) As signs of His authority to forgive sins, Jesus’ miracles of healing make our hope certain: “that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” (Mk. 2:10–11) God’s word of love never fails: “My word that goes forth from My mouth … shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Isa. 55:11) Jesus is the Word of God, and God is love. (I Jn. 4:8) When He says, “I love you,” we are healed, transformed, and enriched, and we can say, with Mary: “The Mighty One has done great things for me.” (Lk. 1:49)

All He requires is that we desire this as well. Like the woman with a hemorrhage, faith tells us where to find Jesus. He does not hide. Through His bishops and priests, Jesus waits for us in the confessional as He once waited at a well for the Samaritan. (Jn. 4:6) As He responded to the plea of Jairus (Lk. 8:41–42, 49–56), when we are unable to come to Him, in His ministers He comes to us—“under our roof.” (Mt. 8:8)

Through Matrimony and Holy Orders, Jesus makes us His associates in special missions to love others. These sacraments confer the grace to grow in holiness by being conformed to Him Who “did not come to be served but to serve.” (Mk. 10:45) Through the ordained, Jesus continues to love us by teaching the truth, sanctifying through the sacraments, and guiding us as our shepherd. He says to men of every age what He said to the Apostles, “I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:18), and through this sacrament His words are effective. Those who are married receive a mission to grow in holiness together by seeking the Kingdom of God in the service of life and love in the family. In this sacrament, Jesus confers the grace to fulfill God’s first command: “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28)

The sacraments make Jesus’ paschal charity active and effective in the world. Just as people of faith knew where to find Jesus to be healed and saved, we know that we encounter His love in the sacraments. Two desires converge in the sacraments: God’s desire to love us, and our desire to be loved by Him and to love Him in return. We, on earth, desire what Christ, in Heaven, desires. In the sacraments, God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven! (Mt. 6:10)

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.

This article was funded by the Venerable Pope Pius XII Chair of Writing sponsored by Fr. John Paul Erickson.

01April

Does Faith Need Culture? Answers from Scripture & the Church

Taken from Catholic Exchange
Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Does Faith Need Culture? Answers from Scripture & the Church



















“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ).

Is culture something necessary for the life of faith? Or, is it rather a distraction? Does it pull us further away from a focus on the next life, by rooting us in the things of the earth? Is it a temptation to try to build a lasting city, when Hebrews says “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (13:14).

The relation of faith and culture actually goes back to the very beginning of the Bible: “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion” (Gen 1:28). This primordial command to man and woman at their creation is followed by the account of the creation of Adam, when “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). This primordial mission is reaffirmed in the psalms: “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the sons of men” (Ps 115:16). And further: “Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Ps 8:6). God clearly intends for humanity to have a mission on the earth, to shape it and to govern it, for God’s glory and man’s perfection.

We could ask whether Jesus intends this same mission to continue in the New Testament. Jesus does not contradict this primordial cultural mission, in fact his parables largely use the language of shaping the earth, but nonetheless he clarifies for us what Christian culture should be: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt 6:10). A Christian culture is one that seeks to embody the Kingdom of God on earth, by fulfilling the will of God in our lives. The Book of Revelation states this in drastic language through the song of the Elders in Heaven:

Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth. (Rev 5:9-10)

Christ’s work of redemption initiates us into the Kingdom, literally makes us a Kingdom, of priests to reign on earth. We know that this is not to be understood in military or political terms, but rather in that Christ’s holiness should shape the earth through our lives.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
28March

The Problem with Prejudice

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

The Problem with Prejudice

March 30, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Lent

First Reading: 1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033014.cfm

Prejudice is one of those things that always strikes us as monstrously unfair precisely because it involves pre-judging, judging a person or situation before we actually know anything. Yet, no matter how we try, “pre-judgments” are terribly difficult to root out of our minds and hearts. A person’s clothing, shoes, hairstyle, teeth, jewelry, tattoos or lack thereof, car, or whatever often become a basis for us to make a snap judgment about the person, who he or she is and how we’ll choose to relate to him or her. In this Sunday’s Old Testament reading, God shows how he evaluates people and overrules the human tendency toward prejudice.

Context

This reading begins with the Lord sending the prophet Samuel on a mission to anoint a new king. Just before this moment in the First Book of Samuel, God has withdrawn his favor from the existing king, Saul (1 Sam 15). In fact, when the new king is anointed, the Lord takes his spirit away from Saul and an evil spirit begins tormenting him (16:14). Saul is on his way out, but the Lord chooses a “soft launch” approach for the new king: He will begin in obscurity and only gradually gain influence over the tribes of Israel.

Anointing

Samuel brings with him a “horn of oil” to anoint the new king. A horn could be used as a container for oil, much in the same way Davy Crockett used a powder horn (which you can still buy on eBay). Samuel would anoint the new king by opening his oil horn and pouring its contents on the head of the candidate. This is a symbolic act, which echoes the period of the Judges, when the spirit of the Lord would “rush upon” a person (Judg 3:10; 11:29; 14:6). Anointing carries with it a sense of divine appointment and empowerment with His Spirit. Kings like Saul were anointed (1 Sam 10:1), but so were priests (Exod 28:41). In the New Covenant era, anointing oil is used in the sacraments of Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Sacrament of the Sick.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
26March

The Benedict Option: What Does It Really Mean?

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

The Benedict Option: What Does It Really Mean?


















“Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again: ‘Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?’” (Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, quoting Psalm 34:14-15).

The Benedict Option—what does it really mean? In my mind, it is quite simple: taking St. Benedict and his Rule as a model for the Christian life within the context of our culture.

The term Benedict Option was coined recently by Rod Dreher. He initially defined it in somewhat negative terms as “pioneering forms of dropping out of a barbaric mainstream culture that has grown hostile to our fundamental values.” It is not surprising to think of St. Benedict in this light, as he himself withdrew in disgust from late fifth century Rome in favor of a cave in Subiaco. However, Benedict did not stay in isolation long, and quickly became an Abbot, gathering large numbers of men to himself.

Dreher points to a “community of Catholic laity” growing around Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma as an example of the Benedict Option. It is important to note, however, that there is not a formal lay community there. People simply want to live near the monastery, many have become oblates and participate in the liturgical life of the monastery, and they live in friendship and fellowship with one another.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
21March

Don’t Complain About Blessings

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Don’t Complain About Blessings

March 23, 2014

Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17:3-7

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032314.cfm

Complaining comes naturally to most of us. Even if our circumstances improve, they could always be better, so we can find something to complain about. The ancient Israelites felt the same way. After God delivered them from Egypt with powerful, miraculous interventions, and after they had crossed the Red Sea and received the manna from heaven, they still find something to complain about: thirst.

Grumbling vs. Gratitude

You would think that a group of people just delivered from hundreds of years of slavery and hardship would have a lot to be grateful for. After God shows up in power and frees his people from the oppressive yoke of Pharaoh, you would think that their songs of joy and thankfulness would last longer than a moment. But gratitude is harder to cultivate than grumbling. As soon as the people feel a need—this time, for water—they confront their leader with complaints. It reminds me of a time I was going on a high school trip. The travel agent arranging the trip told us not to complain during our travels because “it makes the trip miserable for everyone—the one complaining and the ones listening to the complaining.”

The Israelites should have been constantly reflecting on their divine deliverance in an attitude of humble, grateful joy, but they give in to what is easier—to allow the inconvenient present to overshadow the glorious past. This kind of grumbling places all the emphasis on the here-and-now and loses sight of the bigger picture, the more important story, the great things that God is doing for his people. So complaining is an intellectual mistake, if you will. It emphasizes one thing, the present, at the expense of another, the past. It overplays the significance of “how I feel right now” versus the larger picture of life. Gratitude, the opposite of grumbling, embraces a truer version of the story. That is, gratitude focuses on the important theme, the hope-filled trajectory of the story, which encompasses past, present and future, rather than myopically zeroing-in on the present. Gratitude requires an outward focus on the larger truth, while grumbling embodies an inward-turning, selfish approach centered on the now.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange

20March

Pope Francis, Vatican II show love for poor: Professor to discuss mission of Church, gift of Vatican II document

Taken from the Denver Catholic Register

Pope Francis, Vatican II show love for poor: Professor to discuss mission of Church, gift of Vatican II document




























What does the Vatican II document “Gaudium et Spes” (“Joy and Hope”) and Pope Francis have in common?

Both emphasize a commitment to the poor and see the human dignity in every person, said Professor Douglas Bushman of the Augustine Institute.

In the next Archbishop’s Lecture Series April 8 on the John Paul II Center campus, Bushman will speak about the pontiff’s focus on serving the poor and recognizing the God-given dignity in everyone, in particular those neglected by a world that values productivity and defines fulfillment in terms of material prosperity, he said.

He offered a glimpse of his upcoming talk with the Denver Catholic Register.

Blessed Pope John Paul II once said Vatican II and its documents are like a gift the Holy Spirit gave the modern Church, Bushman shared.

“Well, people love to open gifts, so they should open up the documents of Vatican II and read them,” Bushman said. “When my students study these texts, they always express their surprise at how profoundly relevant, biblical and spiritual they are.”

“Gaudium et Spes” is no exception, Bushman said.

In this document faithful may find one of the greatest gifts—the answer to many of life’s deepest and most profound questions like the meaning and purpose of life.

This answer, he said, lies in Christ.

“The main point of ‘Gaudium et Spes’ is that Christ is the answer to all of the questions that people cannot avoid asking about the meaning and purpose of life,” Bushman said.

The document states, “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.”

Continue to the full article at Denver Catholic Register
14March

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

March 16, 2014

Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 12:1-4a

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031614.cfm

It is easy to think that God is distant, uncaring, comfortably sitting in the sky somewhere, and ignoring us. We have a lot of problems and if we were omnipotent, that’s probably how we would treat humanity and everybody else. Total, absolute power sounds like a quick way to establish permanent, perfectly comfortable vacation away from all the noise, evils and “issues” that take up so much of our time. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God could have condemned humanity to reap the harvest of its own sin. He could have left us to our own devices or even annihilated us. But he didn’t. Instead, he tracked down a guy named Abraham and calls him to do something unusual—to believe.

Lectionary Plan for Lent

On this Second Sunday of Lent, the Lectionary provides us with a second snapshot of salvation history. The Sunday Old Testament readings for Lent follow a chronological progression. In the first week, we hear of Adam and Eve, in the second, Abraham, then Moses and David, then finally the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah. In this way, the Lectionary takes us by the hand for a whirlwind tour of humanity’s creation, fall, and promised redemption, which will be brought about by Jesus during Holy Week. This chronological telling of Salvation History will be recapitulated in the many readings of the Easter Vigil.

God Launches His Rescue Mission

Here in Genesis 12, God launches his rescue mission to fallen humanity. Adam and Eve sinned; Noah’s generation sinned; the people after the Flood sinned. Our ancestors established a rather consistent track record. God now initiates a more drastic—and yet more subtle—plan of action. He puts in a call to Abraham, who lived in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and later in Haran (in modern Turkey). This is the beginning of the story of salvation, God’s intervention in history. In fact, when St. Stephen offers his defense to the Sanhedrin, he starts the retelling of salvation history with the call of Abraham (Acts 7:3). The Lord invites Abraham on a mission. He calls him to leave his homeland and family and go to a place where he has never been in order to initiate God’s rescue plan for humanity. Abraham plays a key role as the father of the Chosen People and the Father of Faith. His “yes” to God begins the story of Israel, within which Jesus will appear to bring salvation to the whole world.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
12March

The Lenten Desert: God Testing Our Hearts

Taken from To Keep and to Ponder
by Dr. Edward Sri

The Lenten Desert: God Testing Our Hearts

The Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent takes us into the desert—the place of testing. Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness recall Israel’s 40 years’ sojourn in the desert. What was the purpose of this long journey through the wilderness? Moses told the people that God brought them there so that “he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart” (Deut. 8:2).

The testing of Israel entailed more than seeing if the people would obey God’s commands. Their trials in the desert were intended to test their hearts.

And when we experience our own deserts –when we experiences trials in life or struggles in prayer—we should remember that God may be doing the same with us. He may be testing our own hearts: Are our hearts truly for God and God alone? Or are they committed to the Lord only for what He does for us. This was the kind of testing Israel faced.

In Egypt, the Israelites benefited from God’s spectacular signs and wonders. They saw God’s might hand inflict the Egyptians with plague after plague. In Egypt, they were liberated from slavery and they witnessed God’s triumph over their enemies. They sang God’s praises and rejoiced in the Lord their savior.

But when taken out in the desert, things became very different. The people were humbled, taken out of all that was familiar, traveling in the wilderness without food and drink, unsure where the Lord will lead them next, and wondering if they will ever get to the Promised Land. Shaken, the people began to doubt. They began to fear and complain. They even were tempted to go back to Egypt—at least that was familiar to them.

What would they do now? Would they truly allow the Lord to guide them? Would they entrust their lives completely to God?

Or would they strain to remain in control—afraid to let go, trusting in their own plans and timetables, failing to allow their lives to be led by God’s Word?

Continue reading at To Keep and To Ponder
11March

Faculty Focus: Douglas Bushman

Faculty Focus: Douglas Bushman

Meet Douglas Bushman

Prof. Bushman started out as a philosophy major, where he was drawn to the vocation of the intellectual life. After finishing his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) degree at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, Bushman worked at a parish for four years, where he lived with three holy priests and got to know the Church at the “retail level,” and acquainted him with the daily pastoral issues of the Church. Then, after six years of working as the Director of Education for the Diocese of Duluth, MN, Bushman became the director for the Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies master’s program at the University of Dallas.

Bushman has been talking about the New Evangelization under the heading of “Pastoral Theology” for the past 20 years, following the lead of Blessed Pope John Paul II and the second Vatican Council. “That’s why I’m so at home here at the Augustine Institute,” he said. Being a Thomist, he loves being able to find the roots of pastoral theology in Thomas Aquinas’ works, Bushman added.

When Bushman was the director of the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University, he first heard about the Augustine Institute when it was still only an idea. Watching with great interest, he admired the innovative use of technology and absorbed the positive reports of the program and its graduates.

Bushman was given the title of the Blessed Pope John Paul II Chair for the New Evangelization as a recognition of his service to the Church and to convey the mission he has been entrusted with: to compile, finish and publish the fruit of years of labor in the New Evangelization. In addition to writing his own works, Bushman also contributed to “Man Up: Become the New Catholic Renaissance Man” by Jared Zimmerer.

What would it be like to sit in on one of Professor Bushman's classes? Here is a sneak peak!



Bushman’s writings and articles can be found in print in Magnificat and The Catholic Servant, and online at Ignatius Insight, Catholic Answers, the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary blog, and the Augustine Institute’s Tolle Lege blog.

Links to articles:

Bushman Quotes:

  • “Occasionally I think in French.”
  • “We love to be around saints. They make us feel comfortable because they are so comfortable in God’s love and make us want to be in that position of God’s love.”
  • “God does not subscribe to the axiom 'if you want to do things well, do it yourself.' He sends bunglers out there to tell His story.”
  • “All the saints are comfortable with themselves because they so deeply experience God’s love for them.”
  • “If you love the truth more than you love yourself, you like having friends who are smarter than you.”
10March

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. Christopher Blum

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

“To me, I confess, one thing has always seemed preeminently fitting: that every costlier or costliest thing should serve, first and foremost, for the administration of the Holy Eucharist.”

If one were able to compare the great churches of France in the year 1100 to those standing a century and a half later, the marked difference in architectural style would be easy to see. Many of the elements that had characterized the Romanesque style remained: high stone vaults, internal elevations of multiple stories, pointed arches, extensive sculptural programs, and prominent towers. Yet these same elements were taken up into a more generous conception of interior space and overall monumentality that successfully created what most of us think of when we hear the word cathedral: the Gothic style.

It was in the Renaissance that the new style of the twelfth century came to be called Gothic, because the Goths had been barbarians, and the men of the Italian renaissance tended to downplay the achievements of their rivals to the north. With Chateaubriand’s Genius of Christianity (1802), ideological classicism was dealt a severe blow, and it became respectable and even common to admire high medieval architecture, so much so that the name Gothic has long since lost its original, negative connotation. It is, however, well to be aware that the creators of the style did not call their own churches Gothic. Indeed, we have no idea what they called them, for these master builders left behind no narrative accounts. But their German neighbors, who admired the new style and imported it, did give it a name: the Opus Francigena, or, loosely, the French way of building.

This French style was born at the Abbey of St. Denis, just north of Paris, under the patronage of one of the most extraordinary men of the twelfth century, the Abbot Suger (1081-1151). Beginning in 1137, he presided over the reconstruction of the abbey of St. Denis. His master-builder is unknown to us, but between the builder and the abbot, a new style was forged, a style through which, to borrow from its patron’s own words, “the dull mind rises to truth through that which is material.”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
07March

Our Lenten Journey in the Old Testament

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Our Lenten Journey in the Old Testament

First Sunday of Lent

First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030914.cfm

Here at the beginning of Lent, the Church confronts us with the problem of sin. The drama of humanity’s fall is retold in this Sunday’s reading from Genesis 3.

Man Made from Mud

First, the Lectionary sets the stage by beginning with a few verses from Genesis 2 that describe Adam’s creation from dirt. After having being reminded on Ash Wednesday that “you are dust and to dust you shall return,” this part of the reading drives the message home: God made us from mud. In fact, he made the trees and plants from mud too. It is easy for us to think much of ourselves, to consider ourselves to be a “big deal,” but our origin from dirt reminds us to think twice before having too high an opinion of ourselves.

The “One Rule” of the Garden of Eden

After Adam’s creation, we are told about the Garden of Eden—a place full of delights in which God places two significant trees: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. The Lectionary skips over much of Genesis 2, where we hear God’s command to Adam not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (This skipped section also tells of Adam’s role in taking care of the Garden and the special creation of Eve.) God commands him “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2:17 RSV). Adam and Eve are free to enjoy the Garden, and God gives them only one rule to follow.

Sometimes people object to the “one rule” asking why God would even give Adam and Eve an opportunity to sin. Why not just remove the Tree completely? The trouble is the nature of human freedom. We are not robots who can be programmed to behave in a certain way. Robots can do lots of tasks, but ultimately, they cannot love. Love is impossible without freedom. God wanted to create beings able to love him, so he had to grant them freedom not to love him, including opportunities to express that non-love. The “one rule” he prescribes offers Adam and Eve a stark choice—to love God by obeying him or to reject God by breaking his one rule. Sadly, they choose to reject God.

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06March

The Urgency of Infant Baptism

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

The Urgency of Infant Baptism


















I recently wrote of one of my newborn son’s namesakes, Bl. Columba Marmion. My son, Colum, was baptized five days after birth (it would have been three except for the priest’s sickness), which is fast these days. In the old days it would have happened sooner. Pope Benedict XVI, for instance, was baptized on the day of his birth! All of our five children have been baptized quickly after birth. What surprises me is the reaction we receive, many times negative or resentful, from family, friends, and acquaintances.

A Change in Practice

Why would a speedy baptism after birth bring about criticism? My guess is that deliberately bucking what has become the new norm makes people uncomfortable. Delaying baptism for a few months should be of great concern. It signals a very recent and drastic shift in Catholic practice and culture. The question at the heart of this delay comes down to “how necessary is baptism after all?”

Here are three anecdotal occurrences that typify this change in attitude and practice. First, a theologian friend asked me why we were baptizing our son so quickly, since a baptism of desire would suffice in the meantime. Second, a bishop advised a friend of mine that there was no rush in setting up the time for her child’s baptism; a few months would be fine. Third, I also heard that a deacon in a local parish’s baptism class taught that the Church had changed its teaching on the urgency of baptism.

Latent within these anecdotes, and many others which could be presented, it seems to me, are three presuppositions. First, the Church’s teaching on the sacramental power of baptism and original sin is not taken seriously enough (not that these realities are denied). Second, because recently it has been presented that it is valid to hope for the salvation for an unbaptized baby, it is now accepted as normative that an unbaptized baby will be saved. Although I accept the Church’s teaching on hope, this position conflates hope and certainty. Third, the decline in infant mortality has removed the threat of death from our minds (which of course still exists, even if to a lesser degree).

Although it is true that infant mortality has declined drastically, I don’t think it’s sufficient to say the change in practice is merely practical. If we really take the Church’s teaching seriously, why would we not want to baptize our children immediately just for the sake of giving them the most important gift imaginable?

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06March

Christopher Check: The Cristeros and the Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution

Christopher Check: The Cristeros and the Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution

In the early part of the 20th Century a profound evil gripped Mexico. Masonic, Marxist revolutionaries, who were nothing less than the enemies of Jesus Christ, seized control of the government and attempted to destroy the Catholic Church. They very nearly succeeded. In the midst of the terror, courageous priests clandestinely made their way through the countryside dispensing the sacraments and preaching the Gospel to the Mexican faithful. Many received the crown of martyrdom; the most famous is Blessed Miguel Pro. As these holy priests, ever in danger of their lives, fulfilled the duties of their divine vocations, an army of laymen rose up and challenged the godless Mexican government.

They were the Cristeros. Their battle cry was “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” Their tale is one of the great Catholic war stories of all time, and it is one all Christians should know because the brutal persecution of the Church in Mexico may well foreshadow that which is to come in the United States.

Please join us to hear Chris Check present on the Cristeros at the Augustine Institute on March 21 at 7:00. Stations of the Cross will precede the talk in the St. Augustine Chapel at 6:00 p.m., with Holy Mass offered immediately afterwards at 6:30 p.m.

Christopher Check is a Director of Development at Catholic Answers. He served for seven years as a field artillery officer in the Marine Corps in the Far East and the Persian Gulf. His writings have appeared in numerous publications including This Rock, New Oxford Review, the Wanderer, the Chesterton Review, Gilbert! and Angelus. He has lectured extensively on Church history in North America and Europe. He and his wife Jacqueline have four sons. They live outside San Diego, California, where they show and breed Cavalier King Charles Spaniels under the kennel name Top Meadow Cavaliers named for G.K. Chesterton’s Beacosnfield Estate.

05March

Excavating a Spiritual Dinosaur for Lent

Taken from The Catholic Thing
by Dr. Christopher Blum

Excavating a Spiritual Dinosaur for Lent

In his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, C. S. Lewis spoke of himself as a dinosaur, that is, as a “specimen” of the “Old Western order.” He was only partly jesting. Lewis considered England in 1954 to be separated from the ages of Arthur, Chaucer, and even of Dr. Johnson by a great “chasm” that opened in the time of Jane Austen and Walter Scott. To understand the world before Ivanhoe and Persuasion, he warned, one needed to “suspend most of the responses and unlearn most of the habits” that one acquires by “reading modern literature” and inhabiting the modern world. It was precisely because he belonged to that older world as a native son, Lewis said, that he would at least be useful to his contemporaries as a specimen, if not as an authority.

If ever there were a representative of the Old Western order in its specifically Catholic form, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) would seem to be the man. When he’s known at all, it’s for what he opposed: political liberalism, Biblical criticism, the new spirituality of Fénelon and Madame Guyon, even the ultramontane interpretation of the papal office. Tonsured while still a boy, he lived entirely within the Church and northern France; he seems never to have traveled far enough to see the ocean or the Mediterranean Sea. A small-town bishop with decidedly traditional views, he has sometimes been called a “founder of the Counter-Enlightenment.” How could his innermost thoughts and aspirations possibly be of use to us?

The answer is that Bossuet’s mind was a model of judiciousness and balance. He combined excellences only rarely brought together in one person. As a preacher, he was both learned as well as fiery and dialectically sharp. As a courtier, he was both discreet and principled. Trusted as the tutor to Louis XIV’s son, he also rebuked the Sun King in veiled terms from the pulpit and with bold directness in private letters. He was a competent administrator but no plodding bureaucrat. No less a critic than Paul Claudel once said that his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1688) was the book he would choose if only one could be saved to “bear witness to the world of the French language and spirit.”

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