Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is Risen!

Fra Angelico 15th Century

O filii et filiæ
Rex cælestis, Rex gloriæ
Morte surrexit hodie.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beauty and Worship

More greatness from one of my new favorite blogs, Lamentably Sane
Some priests were formed with the idea that being humble means dressing in rags, celebrating banal liturgies, and building ugly churches. With all respect, there is no one in this world more patronizing than someone who professes to love the poor but has never been poor themselves. The poor, by and large, don't want ugliness and banality. Their lives are hard and they want a glimpse of heaven. Think about it: the most beautiful churches in the United States were built with the money and hard work of poor or working class immigrants. Our great-grandfathers worshiped in ornate cathedrals and gorgeous parish churches with reredos and high altars adorned with exquisite wood working, stone altars, and lovely statuary. It was their comfortable, easy going, middle class descendants who tore it all down and replaced them with felt banners and picnic table altars. "Why was this expensive oil not sold and given to the poor?"
Humans are made to appreciate beauty, and beauty on earth points to the beauty of heaven.  Those who would do away with beauty at Mass are implicitly embracing a sort of Cartesian idea of a transcendent rational will that works best when it is not influenced by "worldly" things like aesthetics.  This is utterly opposed to the traditional Christian understanding that we are not simply intellects inhabiting bodies but that each person is a unity of body and soul.  Our neurochemistry and our immaterial intellect are both ordered to appreciate a beautiful liturgy and a beautiful church.  We should not fight against our natural attraction to beauty but embrace it, especially in  our churches.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick was a Superhero

Today we celebrate my patron St. Patrick, one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church.  The 17th of March falls on a Sunday this year, so there is no liturgical celebration, but we should still honor St. Patrick.  Many saints have fantastic miracles attributed to them, some more credible than others.  St. Patrick's miracles are in a class by themselves.  According to the 7th Century Irish monk and historian Muirchu, Patrick killed scores of pagans with jedi powers of the Holy Spirit. One of the pagan priests insulted the Faith, and Patrick rebuked him.  With a rock.
As he uttered such things, Saint Patrick regarded him with a stern glance, as Peter once looked on Simon; and powerfully, with a loud voice, he confidently addressed the Lord and said, O Lord, who canst do all things, and in whose power all things hold together, and who hast sent me hither, as for this impious man who blasphemes Thy name, let him now be taken up out of this and die speedily.”
And when he had thus spoken, the magician was caught up into the air, and then let fall from above, and, his skull striking on a rock, he was dashed to pieces and killed before their faces; and the heathen folk were dismayed.
Afterwards, the Irish sent chariots against Patrick.
Then St. Patrick, seeing that the ungodly heathen folk were about to rush upon him, rose up, and with a clear voice said, “Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let them also that hate him flee before him.”
And straightway darkness came down, and a certain horrible commotion arose, and the ungodly men fought amongst themselves, one rising up against another, and there was a great earthquake, “and [God] bound the axles of their chariots, and drove them with violence,” and they rushed in headlong flight — both chariots and horses — over the level ground of the great plain, till at last only a few of them escaped half alive to the mountain of Monduirn.
And, at the curse of Patrick, seven times seven men were laid low by this stroke in the presence of the king and his elders, until there remained only himself and his wife and two others of his companions; and they were sore afraid.
These are among the more violent of the many miracles credited to St. Patrick.  His miracles often seem more like Irish folk tales than real history, but I think that Patrick truly performed some of the miracles attributed to him.  I believe this for the simple reason that he was not killed immediately upon setting foot in Ireland, and in fact managed to single-handedly convert the warlike Irish.  The Irish had been fighting each other and sacrificing people to pagan idols for millenia, yet Patrick converted them armed with nothing but his crosier and the Holy Spirit.  I don't know if Patrick smashed a bunch of chariots, but he certainly did something to impress the heathens.  Perhaps he really did drive the snakes from Ireland.  Serpents have always been conspicuously absent from the Emerald Isle even though they live in Britain, just across the Irish sea.  Whatever he did in life, we can be assured of his intercession in Heaven. 

St. Patrick pray for us!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Link Fest

Fr. Z reports that then Cardinal Bergoglio immediately complied with Summorum Pontificum after it was released.

Mr. T prays for the pope.

Benedictine College celebrates pope Francis.

Some humorous vocation advice at Lamentably Sane.

The American Spectator recalls conservative folk music . . . from the 60s!

The state of California literally regulates holes in the ground.

Fake Science: For when the facts are too confusing.

John Wilson explains why 1913 was the worst year ever.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Back at BC

I'm back from "spring" break in Minnesota.  This Floridian will tell you that Kansas now feels warm.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Case for a Celibate Priesthood

I really like Damian Thompson, the Telegraph' snarky Catholic blogger, but I must disagree with him on his recent proposal to get rid of priestly celibacy.  Last week Damian wrote a piece titled, "The Next Pope must think seriously about married priests - because the celibacy rule isn't working."  He writes that the married clergy in the Anglican Ordinariate seem to be doing just fine, so why not do away with clerical celibacy throughout the Church?
The question the Church faces now is: will the next Pope allow married Catholic laymen to become priests? And might he go further, and allow existing Catholic priests to marry (something ex-Anglican priests can’t do after they have been re-ordained)? As events over the past few days have shown, the debate is likely to be an awkward one. Last week, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, told the BBC: “I’d be very happy if [priests] had the opportunity of considering whether they should be married. Many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy … and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family.”
Damian claims that conditions within the church demand an end to the celibacy requirement.
To put it bluntly, the new Pope must confront the suffocating hypocrisy of the Vatican and Bishops’ Conferences on this subject. For example, I’ve never heard a bishop acknowledge what is obvious to so many of us: that in certain large cities in the Western world, a majority of Catholic priests are gay, albeit celibate. If the Vatican were to enforce its current ruling that homosexuals per se are unsuitable for the priesthood, then it would have innumerable empty urban churches on its hands. And furious parishioners, too, since discreetly gay men often make wonderful priests. On the other hand, you don’t have to be a homophobe to wonder whether it’s healthy to have such an imbalance between the sexual instincts of priests and their flocks.
In other parts of the world, there is no such imbalance. In the words of an East African missionary friend of mine: “We used to joke that the celibate priests were the guys who had only one wife.” Unofficial marriages among African Catholic priests are the norm in some regions. But, again, you won’t hear bishops acknowledge it. Instead, there’s lots of politically correct rhetoric about thriving evangelism. (And perhaps there is a connection: the fast-growing Pentecostal churches in the Third World are all run by married men.)
I have no idea if Damian's claim about the proportion of gay clergy is true or not.  Likewise, I don't know what the situation is like in Africa.  However, even if what he says is accurate, I must disagree with Damian's proposal.

Firstly, it is important to note that the celibacy requirement is a discipline, not a doctrine, and any Catholic may freely disagree with it.  The priesthood is not at all incompatible with married life.  Historically many priests including St. Peter were married.  Today there are married clergy in the Anglican Ordinariate, the Eastern Rites, and the Orthodox churches.  The question of married clergy is one of prudential judgement.  I happen to think it imprudent to change current church policy on priestly celibacy. 

I believe that allowing married clergy throughout the entire Latin Rite would do more harm than good.  A celibate priesthood is one of the "small t" traditions rather than a big "T" Tradition, but as Vatican II and its aftermath show, when too many of the former are abandoned, the latter is endangered.  The large majority of Catholics are horribly catechized and don't know the difference between the two types of tradition.  The Catholic dissidents who write for the National Catholic Reporter or the New York Times will often mention married clergy in the same breath as a variety of heretical "reforms" they want implemented.  The dissidents do not understand the difference between legitimate changes in policy and impossible changes in dogma.  Unfortunately, most people in the pews hardly know any better than the heretics.  Most Catholics think that one can pick and choose which Church teachings they want to accept.  Many feel justified in this belief because of the changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, which in their minds proves Church teaching to be arbitrary.  Further large changes can only make the situation worse.  Getting rid of priestly celibacy would cause a great deal of confusion among the faithful.

I further object to Damian's proposal because he takes the idea of married clergy too far.  He wants those who are currently priests to be allowed to marry and likes the idea of a married pope.  He hopes for the day when "an old lady at a dinner party will turn to the person next to her and say: 'Hello there – I’m the Pope’s mother-in-law.”  I do not share Damian's enthusiasm for a married pontiff.  If the Church were to allow married priests, it should put the same sort of limits on the the practice that exist in the Anglican Ordinariate and the Eastern churches.  Namely, though married men may become priests, priests are prevented from marrying, and married clergy cannot become bishops.  The rules are designed to honor celibacy.  Celibacy is superior to the married life, and the priesthood should reflect that.  We need role models of purity now more than ever.  The secular world has embraced hedonism and most Protestants have forgotten about the biblical endorsement of celibacy.  Monks, nuns, and other religious are good examples of celibate holiness, but diocesan priests are much more visible.  If the requirement for priestly celibacy were abandoned I would hope that celibacy would still maintain a superior place in the priesthood.

Spring Break

At the moment I am on spring break at a friend's house in Minnesota.  It snows here.  A lot.