Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Queen of Peace is Touring the USA

This year and next, 2016 and 2017, mark the 100th anniversary of the series of appearances of the “Angel of Peace” and the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three children in Fatima, Portugal.  The story is quite extraordinary, as you may know, and deserves much more than what I can provide in this short space.  Indeed, entire books have been written, and continue to be written, giving the full account of Our Lady of Fatima beginning with the appearances of the angel in 1916 and of the Blessed Mother in 1917.  Her message was one of prayer and conversion, saying that God is greatly offended by the “outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences” of people on earth.  She specifically asked that the children pray the rosary daily for peace on earth and the conversion of the sinners.

The appearances occurred when nations on earth were at war (World War I).  Our Lady prophesied that a second and worse world war would begin during the papacy of Pope Pius XI (He died in 1939) if people did not mend their ways.  She also prophesied that Russia would come to dominate world affairs and spread her errors until the Pope would formally consecrate Russia to her immaculate heart.  The deaths of the visionaries were also prophesied and came true.  Two of them died approximately a year after the visions, as had been predicted (and were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000).  The third (her name was Lucia) died in 2005 at the age of ninety-seven.  Our Lady had prophesied that she would live for many more years following the appearances.

To celebrate and to call people to prayer and penance for world peace and for the conversion of hearts, the world famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima (sculpted to the specifications given by the visionaries) is currently on a nationwide tour in the United States.  The objective is to call people to prayer and penance for peace in our nation and for the conversion of hearts.  The Winona, MN, Diocese, which includes Rochester, where I live, hosted this statue this week at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Rochester.  The accompanying photo shows the statue on display in the sanctuary of the church.  It continues to tour the midwest and will be displayed in Iowa in the weeks ahead, including at Our Lady of Fatima parish in Portsmouth, Iowa, which is near my hometown in southwest Iowa.  For the full schedule of the tour, visit this web site:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Using Scripture to Teach, Refute, Correct, and Train

 An Evangelical Protestant friend of mine once told me that anyone can read Scripture and learn for themselves what it says.  In other words, anyone can interpret Scripture in whatever way he wants.  This friend cited the following passage from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy in support of his statement (2 Timothy 3:16):  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness .… .”  I’m thinking about this today because the second reading from last Sunday’s Holy Mass included this passage.  It is a problem because often someone will cite a single verse from Scripture and make his/her personal claim as to what it says and not consider the context.  My friend was contesting multiple statements from me that implied that there must be a respected authority so that error is not communicated when someone “teaches,” “refutes,” “corrects,” or “trains in righteousness.”  

My position is that the Catholic Church is that authority, which was something he did not want to hear.  I said that individuals may interpret Scripture to suit a particular false agenda.  He responded saying that the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to provide a “true” agenda, saying that the Catholic Church has an agenda created by its hierarchy and that their members follow its teachings like robots.  I followed this by saying that Jesus founded the Catholic Church and that the agenda is therefore God’s agenda and that I am happy to be His robot.  Jesus said “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  This, we believe, is enough to believe in this Catholic authority.

A case in point is the Bread of Life discourse in John’s Gospel, Chapter 6.  The Catholic Church interprets this chapter to say that the Eucharist in the Catholic Church is literally the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus.  The Catholic Church is the only religion that believes this.  Others say that Jesus was speaking metaphorically when He said “This is my body.” (referring to the bread at the Last Supper) and “This is my blood.” (referring to the wine).  But a careful read of the entire chapter is quite convincing that the Catholic teaching is the correct one.  It has been the Catholic teaching from the beginning, and it has been affirmed by St. Paul.  (See 1 Cor 11:23-29.)

So, is Scripture inspired by God?  Yes.  Is Scripture useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness?  Absolutely!  But, since the Reformation, this comes with a caveat … that the interpretation of Scripture must be derived from the proper authority, i.e., that it be the correct interpretation.  It cannot be an interpretation that is derived from an individual’s personal claim because that can only lead to confusion and argument.  Christ would not have wanted that.

The photo depicts Christ instructing his disciples about the kingdom of God.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Presidential Election: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

 As we inch closer and closer to the day of reckoning in American politics, where are my thoughts?  All of you, my faithful readers, are likely aware of the problem we face.  On the one hand, we have the candidate from the Democrat party who aspires to become the first woman president and who has a penchant for killing unborn children in all its heartless and cold-blooded brutality all in the name of a most despicable form of feminism.  On the other hand, we have a candidate from the Republican party who has been labeled an insult-prone and egotistical, power-hungry demagogue whose potty-mouth and alleged actions have recently horrified and repulsed all of us who like to think our civic leaders should be respectful, upstanding citizens especially where women are concerned.  All of this leaves most of us between the proverbial rock and hard place when it comes to voting.

I have opposed Hillary Clinton for a very long time.  Don’t get me wrong … feminism, in its proper context and purpose, is an important concept.  Equal pay for equal work, for example, is an obviously imperative and valuable idea for a civilized nation.  But the killing of unborn children is despicable and sinful beyond words.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand how the United States of America, or any other ostensibly civilized nation, has arrived at this point where our children can be killed for any reason up to the day they are to be delivered to the light of day and into their mother’s arms for the first time.  To me, there is no question that devoted motherhood should be a part of the conversation when considering feminist issues.  Abortion should be condemned as a shamefully wicked and contemptible act.  On top of this is Ms. Clinton’s apparent lack of comprehension all things religious.  Recently, I understand she made some comments indicating that Catholicism needs to change in order to conform to modern societal norms.  Well, societal norms are not always good and virtuous in their nature.  The role of the Catholic Church is to work to the eternal salvation of all on earth.  In this role, the Church cannot change in these matters.  Society must change!  Who does Clinton think she is anyway?

If Clinton is the rock, what is the hard place like?  Donald Trump!  Up until he declared himself a candidate, most of us knew him as the rich business tycoon and reality television host who is known for indiscriminately firing people who are not of the same mold.  But the campaign has brought to the fore many other dishonorable and immoral traits that should make him disqualified at best.   He is driven to be famous and powerful.  What better position for fame and power would the presidency be for him?  Hence the reason he is running.  He likes to use the word “disaster” for all his opponents and adversaries (which doesn’t say too much for his vocabulary).  He has had experience running a business (with certainly some suspicious practices that give him tax breaks, etc.), but has absolutely no experience in any capacity whatsoever running a country like our beloved United States of America and has no business doing so.

Where does all of this leave me as far as my vote is concerned?  Father Frank Pavone, the Catholic priest who heads up the respectable organization “Priests for Life,” posted an essay on Facebook recently that is a powerful witness to what we face and what our thought process should be leading up to November 8.  You have probably guessed what his recommendation is, but will I follow it?   I’ve been praying for a long time now for our country and for an outcome that best conforms to the will of God.  I’ve thought that that outcome would be a third possibility emerging, such as Trump dropping out of the race and having a fabulous candidate take his place.  But alas, that is not happening.  So I continue to pray.  Prayer is powerful and I have every confidence that those distasteful societal norms will go away … some day.  I would ask all the Catholics in my devoted readership pray the rosary with me today … for our cherished United States of America.  Amen.    

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Authority in Matters of Faith

Today, I’m thinking about who has authority when it comes to matters of faith.  It is a problem in the modern world because it seems everyone has an opinion as to what the truth is and what should be believed.  Some say that the Bible, or Sacred Scripture, is the ultimate authority.  That is easy to say and easy to be believed.  But life is complicated, especially when one person’s interpretation of Scripture passages is different from another’s.  Life is further complicated when one considers that there are different translations that have been published over the years.  The languages used at the time of Christ and in the ensuing years when the Scriptures were written are very different from the languages used today.  My understanding is that two-thousand years ago in Palestine, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic were all used in speaking and writing. 

For example, most translations today have references to Christ’s brothers and sisters.  Some argue, then, that Jesus had brothers and sisters, that Mary was not a perpetual virgin and that she must have had other children with Joseph.  Others say that in the Greek language the one word that was used could also mean cousins.  They say that it would be incorrect to interpret brother and sister statements in the Bible to really mean brothers and sisters and not cousins. 

Disputes such as this arose in the early church and they were solved by convening worldwide “councils” of church leaders.  For example, around the year 325, there was a faction within the Church that claimed that Jesus was not equal to God, that he was not truly divine.  It was called the “Arian Heresy.”  The Council of Nicaea was convened and the outcome was that no, Christ indeed had a divine nature, that he was “consubstantial” with the God the Father.  Other councils have been convened over the years, the most recent being Vatican Council II back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. 

Disputes such as this, of course, were the cause of the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500’s.  I understand that Martin Luther wrote is own translation of the Bible and was accused, for example, of adding the word “alone” after the word “faith” in this translation.  Thus began the concept of “sola fide,” or “faith alone” which is the belief that our justification and salvation is based solely on our faith and not our “works.”  Unfortunately the rush to believe Luther and the other reformers in this and other areas is what led people away from the Catholic Church and into Protestantism.  They had to also believe that the Catholic Church became corrupt early on and got off track.  So it was time to get back on track.  Of course there are many other issues that we could think about here.

What is my take?  Yes, Scripture is an important authority.  But who is charged with interpreting Scripture?  Before he ascended in heaven, Christ told his disciples that he would give them the Holy Spirit to guide them in all truth (Luke 24:36-49 and Acts 1:1-5).  So did the Church become corrupt and lose all track of the truth?  No, the Holy Spirit was given to them a few days later (and not 1500 years later).  I realize a Protestant today would present arguments to support their perspective. But my authority is the Catholic Church and her teachings always seem to make perfect sense to me.  That is not going to change.  

The photograph is of the interior of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.