Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Catechism, Part 3 of ?

Been a while, huh?

Q. Did God have a beginning?
A. God had no beginning; He always was and always will be.

There has never been a time when we could say there was no God. A time when there was no Heaven? Sure! Earth? Absolutely! Angels? Why not. People? Obviously. But a time when there was no God? Nuh-uh. Go back eleventy gazillion years before the Creation, before the Big Bang, before ANYTHING and God was existing. God had no beginning and will have no end. To have a beginning means SOMETHING began God, and if God is It, then He can't have been made. That'd make Him a creature and not a Creator. And that's just crazy. Why this is so is a Mystery. (More on that later.)

Q. Where is God?
A. God is everywhere.

"Everywhere" does not mean all spread out like the air we breathe, but "whole and entire" in every individual place. Still, there is only one God, not one little god for every place. How this works is something we can't completely cram into our heads, because this is also--surprise!--a mystery. Here's a simple sort of example. If we ring a REALLY loud bell, everyone in that city will hear the bell; not that the sound is "divided" so that each person hearing it gets a little chunk of sound, but each person hears the whole ringing, just like if only one person was there to hear the bell. The bell doesn't sound differently because there were 10 or 10 gazillion people. Why? There are not as many rings as there are people hearing but somehow everyone hears the whole ringing.

Q. Does God see us?
A. God sees us and watches over us.

Check this out. "Watches" means He protects, rewards or punishes us. He watches us constantly. In fact, He not only watches us, but keeps us alive. Sure, God could have just created us and then never bothered with us again. However, if He had done that, we would have dropped back again into nothing. This is because Gods preserves us every NANOSECOND of our lives. We cannot so much as blink without God. Think of a car. No, the color doesn't matter. If a car is needed to run reliably, you just can't start it up and then leave it entirely to its own devices. You have to check the coolant, change the oil, add fuel, be mindful of overheating or strange sounds, basically, keep a constant watch on the car so that nothing interferes with its operation. (My wife tried it the other way with our previous minivan, which is why it's no longer our minivan.)

Anyway. Not only does God also watch His creatures, but also provides for them. Because we depend so much upon Him, it pretty stupid to sin against Him, to offend Him, and tempt Him, right? OK. Example time. Say you go rock climbing. I'm not entirely sure why people do this, but play along. Now, while you are hanging wa-a-a-a-ay up there, your life is entirely in the hands of your friends holding the rope. You may not think so, but you are in danger. While in that danger isn't it spectacularly stupid to insult those people holding the rope by which you are hanging? Same way with God. While we live on earth we all hang off the edge of a really tall cliff. We'll call that Eternity. God holds us by a rope (we'll call that our life) and when He decides, the rope drops and we fall into into eternity. Now, if we have been so incredibly unwise as to offend Him or insult Him, and that rope drops when we are in mortal sin then, well, let's just say it'll be Hell when we land.

Q. Does God know all things?
A. God knows all things, even our most secret thoughts, words, and actions.

I mean, DUH. Of course God "knows all things:" First, God is infinitely wise, and if He he didn't know something he couldn't be INFINITELY wise. Second, because God is everywhere, He sees and hears everything. Nothing can hide from God's view, nothing can prevent God from hearing. When you look at it that way, it surely becomes a LOT harder to sin, dunnit? As I type this, God is right here, looking at me type and listening to the keyboard clicking and clacking. How would you behave if you knew your boss, your parents, your neighbors, or your friends were watching? Would you want them to know that you were thinking sinful thoughts, and planning to do sinful things? Of course not.

Think of St. John's Gospel (3:19-20): "And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved." (Yeah, I like the "thees" and the "thous." Sue me.)

Not only will God see and know about this omission, action or thought; but, by His doing so will all the angels and saints and, most of all, your guardian angel will be greatly upset by it. Oh, yeah. To top it all off, whatever your sin was/is? It will be revealed to the whole world on the last day, and your friends, parents, and everyone will know what it was you did. Nice.

Q. Is God just, holy, and merciful?
A. God is all just, all holy, all merciful, because He is infinitely perfect.

"All just" means He is the most just. "Just" means to give to every person what belongs to that person--a reward or a punishment if it's deserved. "Holy" means totally good. "Merciful" means compassionate and forgiving and less severe than strict justice would require. In a trial a just judge listens to both sides, and then makes a ruling exactly in accordance with the verdict. If a judge issues more or less punishment than is deserved, or takes a bribe or is otherwise unfair, then he is an unjust judge.

The way the judge could be merciful is this way: The law says that for this crime the criminal can be sent to prison for a term for between five and ten years. The judge could smack him with the full ten years the law allows and he'd still be just. Now...suppose the judge believed the criminal didn't know the law; or that it was his first offense, or other extenuating circumstances the judge could be merciful and sentence him for the shortest term the law says.

But...if the judge dismissed every prisoner, no matter how guilty, without punishment, he would not be merciful...he'd be unjust. The same way, God is merciful to sinners and punishes them less than He could, if he wanted to use strict justice. If God allowed every sinner to go without any punishment--as some people say God should do, by having no Hell--then God would not be just. Just as God is an Infinite Being, all His perfections must be infinite; that is, He must be as infinitely just as He is infinitely merciful, true, wise, or powerful.

The thing of it is that God has promised to punish sin; and because He is infinitely true, He must keep His promise.

More later!



Monday, April 24, 2006

Just a head's up...



Sunday, April 23, 2006

Divine Mercy

Today, for those of you who weren't paying attention to this sort of thing is Divine Mercy Sunday. I'll get into what Divine Mercy Sunday and the associated Divine Mercy prayers, etc. are in a later post. This is about how many things came into place for me as regards Divine Mercy.

Many of you guys will recall that my youngest boy has a mild-to-moderate autism. I firmly believe a large part of the reason why God allowed this to happen, was for me to strengthen and steel a prayer life that was quite lukewarm. Anyway, as we went through the various processes and diagnoses and treatments and therapies, I looked to my faith for a guiding light through these mazes. This involved plumbing depths that had previously gone unplumbed.

Anyway, Divine Mercy.

A lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong while back a friend of my wife's had given us a little booklet on the whole St. Faustina/Divine Mercy thing. I remember seeing it, and thinking "Hm! This is interesting. I should read this at some point." Of course, idiot that I am, I never got around to that.

Fast forward a year or so. It's coming time for my 40th birthday and a web-friend gave me a Rosary she'd made herself. I looked at it and thought "Sure is pretty." Idiot I still was, I didn't look at it again.

Anyway, one bright Sunday morning we go to Mass and it's Divine Mercy Sunday and there is a painting near the altar which is the "classic" portraiture--the visual symbolization, if you will--of Divine Mercy. Still deep in idiot mode, I think "God's Divine Mercy. Cool." Later that morning I go home and I turn on the TV and totally by accident, I flip to a documentary of the life of St. Faustina and her life, and faith and adversities and so forth, and how the Sunday after Easter Sunday came to be "Divine Mercy Sunday" and people's prayers and how their lives have been impacted thereby.

Finally, something (feeble as it was) clicked in my head. I ran to my drawer of catechism stuff and I see a thank-you note I received months previously from Sr. R.: Same image as the one on the altar earlier that morning. I find a thank-you something that our then-pastor had given catechists in our parish, it was a pocket Rosary, with the Divine Mercy theme. My mind slowly grinds ahead. I look at the Rosary I got for my birthday...the central medal features the Divine Mercy image. I run (well, OK, I walk fast) to my wife's car and pull out the booklet: Divine Mercy. I run across a little knick-knack someone had given my wife. Same Divine Mercy image.

So, lightning fast thinker I am, it dawns on me that perhaps all of these signs are God saying to me to PLEASE use this to pray.

At the time, my son (remember him?) has not responding to the whole therapy thing. With a faith seemingly cast in marble I say "Eh. Whatever. I'll try it." (Not fully shed my idiocy thus far. Slow on the uptake, I know.)

So I did.

And the next day, my wife gets a call from the teacher. Our son had a breakthrough. "Something has clicked in him," she said excitedly.



The immediacy of God actually responding to my explicit prayer for His mercy, well, stunned me. It SHOULDN'T have, but it did. I had never had this so present to me. With a whole universe to worry about, God had focused in on MY request. WOW.

So now I pray for His mercy in many (most? all?) aspects of my life. And whenever I start to slack, God gives me a reminder. Like, say, today (Divine Mercy Sunday, don't forget)...I was cleaning out a mess in my den, throwing away old catalogs, organizing magazines, etc. and sure enough, I found an old printout of Divine Mercy which a friend had given us, and I had almost immediately put away, over 3 years ago.

If you are so inclined, insert the Twilight Zone theme.



Thursday, April 20, 2006

Random x Six

Dear Reader,

I ne-e-e-e-e-e-ever e-e-e-ver succumb to the meme craze, at least on this blog. But since I was tagged by the lovely and gracious Karen, it'd be inexpressively rude to decline.

Here are six random things about me:

1. I don't have one stitch of clothing with artificial fibers.

2. I have lived in (wait, let me count) 5 different countries (most of those have been South American) and 3 different states.

3. I refuse to drive cars with automatic transmissions.

4. I am pathologically longanimous.

5. I have never consumed anything artificially sweetened.

6. My fantasy of meeting Jesus entails His explaining things so that IT ALL FINALLY MAKES SENSE. The rest of my time in Heaven can be spent reading and interceding.

Now you know.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Go. Read. Now.

It's not very often someone writes something I wish had sprung from my fingertips to your screen, but this is such a time.

Read this now.

I am humbled and gratified Karen reads this blog and asked me to help out with her blog on Jesuitness.

I am both happy and in awe.



P.S. Karen, it's raining here in Miami also! I don't know if the Mystical Body of Christ is relevant to lawn care, but there you go.

Habemus Papam: A Year Later

What to make of B16Y1?

I give it a B+.

I never thought I would.

When the Conclave met to elect a successor to JP2, I was pretty neutral on then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Well, "neutral" is just a polite way of saying..."meh." I was in my own heart, extremely "meh" about the whole thing.

My more heterodox Catholic friends considered that scenario with abject terror. His papacy, they darkly surmised, would lead us all "back" to the 1962 Missal and witch burnings. (If no witches were found, would the rubrics have allowed for a combination of homosexuals and Harry Potter merchandise?) My more robustly orthodox friends were eagerly anticipating a return to the 1962 Missal and witch burnings, with the option to substitute heterodox bishops, seeing as how there are far more of the latter than the former. (I expect this is because they believe the latter have been something of a renewable resource)

Fr. Drinan was on TV (CNN?) commenting on the papabile and when discussing Cardinal Ratzinger, he looked is if he had been suddenly afflicted by near-terminal stomach cramps.

I was just watching. I held out a mild hope on behalf of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, SJ, but knew the chances were slim. I trusted the Holy Spirit would guide these Princes of the Church (even if they don't usually condescend to be guided by same in other matters), since they weren't going to be guided by li'l ol' me. (They hadn't ever, so why start now, right?)

Black smoke issued.

Then black smoke issued again.

Then, finally, white smoke.

My heart caught in my chest.

Habemus Papam.

We had been withOUT a Pope. I had never stopped to consider that, even throughout the funeral of JP2. We had no shepherd. That we had staggered, somewhat blindly, for all those days...and that I hadn't realized it, shocked me.

Habemus Papam.

That day, I went to pick up my oldest from school and I remember so very vividly Sr. R. running towards the school gate upon seeing me, her Carmelite habit flapping, waving a poster-sized photo of the new Pope and shouting with relieved elation "Habemus Papam! Habemus Papam!"

Our Lord has not left us to fend for ourselves.

And, oy, is there a lot of stuff that needs fending.

What has surprised me most about this pontificate is that it is--so far, anyway--one of breadth as opposed to length, and one of subtlety. Witness the delicate difference between gentleness and limpness, of firmness versus harshness. I am particularly pleasantly surprised by the beams of catechetical light issuing from this pontificate. The image of light is, I believe, accurate, because it is the clarity of the teachings which strikes me the most. And note these are more teachings than "pronouncements."

Yes, sure, we'd all love to see the circus element cast into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of wicker baskets and Kool-Aid pitchers. (But this will all come, I believe, in the fullness of time.) In the interim (again with the Latin?), we have such a manifestly wondrous encyclical as Deus Caritas Est, which crystallizes and focuses and illuminates and explains how as Christians in general (and Catholics in particular) we are called to be living exemplars of charity and love in all things, at all times. To do what we do out of love for God will inevitably cause us--if/when we have fallen short--to show Him ultimate and divine reverence, and once we have done so, we can never go back to the Land O' Heterdoxy, where the subjective ramblings of the egocentric self hold sway, with no authority greater than one's opinion.

His gentle firmness (or firm gentleness) was, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, self-evident during the Easter Triduum. Those who have been steadfast adherents of the "Tridentine" Mass must admit the "Novus Ordo" Mass as B16 celebrates it, is a thing of staggering beauty and power; leaving no doubt whatever we're witnessing an intersection of the temporal and the eternal. Those of us who like the more ::cough, cough:: modern Mass likewise have to admit to witnessing a Mass that inexorably draws the heart and mind to a more transcendent plane, one that "Windexed" one layer of human cloudiness away from our vision of the Word incarnate.

I am pleased we have a Pope who reminds us, quietly, gently, humbly that God's will doesn't depend on our individual opinion, and what the Church teaches isn't because it's spouting off an misogynistic, baroque opinion, but because it HAS to declare God's truth to the world...not for it's sake, but for the world's. Today, I will make a specific effort to pray for B16 and his intentions and I hope as many other Catholics as read this will do likewise.



CCD Final update.

To those CCD students who still need a copy of the final, PLEASE EMAIL ME at:

So that I may send you a copy.


Monday, April 17, 2006

What to jettison. What to offer up.

You know the feeling.

You're running through the blogs you like reading and then you bump into something which angers/bothers/vexes/tribulates you, written by someone from whom you wouldn't expect it.

If you're anything like me--and, for your sake, I hope you aren't--your first impulse would be to launch into a philippic rant/vent. You stare at your keyboard, breathing a quiet blue flame from your nostrils, hardly knowing where to greatly you are exercised.

C'mon, sing along! You know the words!



You let it go. Not entirely, no. You mention to your friend* in a quiet, gentle, one-hopes-cheerful way that you have a divergent** viewpoint. And you leave it at that.

That's when the Devil You shows up on your left shoulder, and tells you how unsatisfying it is to not get everything off your chest, not give that person "what for." You listen for a second and then, instead, with an initial wrench but with dawning follow the "better angels of your nature." Perhaps you choose to consider the other person was acting out of frustration, or misunderstanding. Maybe it was/is honest disagreement. Either way, knowing what you let it go.

And it feels good.

It feels good because you have caught a potential spiritual cancer when its but a mere cell, and cast it out. You have (maybe not in so many words) looked Satan in the eye and said "HA! You are SO busted!" You can pause and reflect and thank God for being given the grace to spot this flaw in yourself.

And whenever you thank God for something you have managed, with His help, to accomplish you inevitably feel the soothing warmth of humility commingled with serenity, borne of His everpresent love for all of us. As your imperfect thank you, you lay that moment of indignation at the foot of His cross, that your moment of discomfort in some small, barely noticeable way, may be united to His suffering.

It may be Easter, and we may be rejoicing Our Saviour has risen, but in order to rejoice fully, we must remember the suffering at Calvary, and our contributions thereto.

Thank you Lord, for dealing with me from Your love, and not as a result of my actions.



* These things are always worse when they happen to come from someone you respect.
** This refers to circumstances that DO NOT fall under the requirement we "admonish the sinner," of course.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

He is risen!

My Saviour liveth!

Sorry for the very light bloggage, but starting with Tenebrae things have been hectic at my parish. (I'll tease with the footwashing thing I underwent on Maundy Thursday)

I'll be back to normal tomorrow.



Monday, April 10, 2006

Minor good news.

My friend C. (the former--and I predict, future--Jesuit) has just had his dissertation pass with flying colors. It was on the subject of the history of the Jesuits during the "Toulouse episode."



Saturday, April 08, 2006

I quote Nancy Kerrigan: "Why? WHY? WHAHAHAHAHY?"

So, okay, I'm having a particularly successful Lenten season. I'm actually catching myself understanding things better, or realizing how/when I go wrong or sussing out those pesky "near occasions of sin."

There is a saying in Spanish* that goes something like: "The Devil knows more from being old than from being the Devil." It reminds us not to underestimate our enemy and the peril out there. This is coming home extra-hard this Lent.

Let's say your particular "habitual sin of weakness" is, say, simony.

When you are having a Lenten season, observing the disciplines to such an extent that you actually make noticeable spiritual progress, you start getting those pangs of temptation even worse than before. They're not as frequent as before, when you barely noticed them for the temptation they were but, rather, they seem, I dunno, pointier...sharper.

You get that fleeting, hoarse whisper-y thought to go out there and simonize like a bastid.

And you catch yourself....and you realize you have a whole lifetime of having to consciously catch yourself.

It is then that God is glorified in you, that He has (and will continue to) grace you with the means to sustain that process of conscious catching yourself.

But never let your guard down.



* "Mas sabe el diablo por ser viejo que por ser diablo."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Here we go again.

I hope this soothes everyone.



CCD update!


For those of you who are in my CCD class and will not be able to attend on 4/17/06, I will post the Final Exam (directly or in a link) here within the next week or so. It will be due on 4/24/06.

That is all.



Some Have Labels

Look, Karen:

Now, go and covet no further.



Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Crunch time!

It's getting to be that time.

Yes, time for me to start composing the final exam for my CCD students. They pass this final, they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation the following week. They don't, they receive an invitation to be in my class the following school year.

So, um, pray for them...that Our Lord may extend His mercy to them as they take this test, because it seems that I'm not going to. :-)



Monday, April 03, 2006

RIP JP2 +1 year

It's an obligatory thing, in the Papist corners of the Blogosphere, to post on the death of Pope John Paul II of blessed memory. I remember watching EWTN as I never had before, and it was there, sitting in my home theatre, keeping watch and praying over JP2, the news broke. The Holy Father had gone to his Father's house.

I'm just old enough to say that JP2 was not the only pope I remember. My thoughts on this leap immediately not to JP2's election but to JP1's. I recall hearing (was it from George Weigel on EWTN?) that upon election, Paul VI's successor chose the name "John Paul" to honor the pontificates of his predecessors and then, puzzlingly, added that "the First" to his name. Someone pointed out that as there had never been a John Paul until him, there was no need to be called JP1, just JP would do until someone else was called JP. He immediately shot back "There will soon be a second."

A month later, JP1 had died.

I remember Paul VI's pontificate, but I just remember him registering a "meh" in my child/adolescent mind. When he died, I was only 14 and his being pretty much 100% Vatican-bound didn't give me much of a sense of him. To me, anyway, this was why JP2 stuck out. He immediately took up his crozier (and, some would cogently argue, his cross as well) and went about his business of being a simple parish priest, whose parish just happened to be the planet.

JP2 struck a different chord in that he bore his infirmities with a dignity that befits someone who believed, and expounded, the notion of suffering's salvific aspects. Not that myriad other unnamed saints haven't, but this was writ large for the planet to see.

And this brings us to B16.

In discussions with some friends during the lunch break of a Confirmation retreat, I mentioned my take on this, saying something to the effect that JP2 was the pope of the "what" and B16 the pope of the "how." To expand on that, I'm drawn to the careers these men might have pursued "in another life" that is, had things turned out differently, JP2 might have become and actor and B16 a professor. In a way, it's sort of the relationship between macro___ and micro___ (like, say, macroeconomics and microeconomics).

Put another way, JP2's pontificate seemed to be all about evangelization, while B16's seems to be about catechetization (I invariably mistype this, sue me.). Whereas JP2 appeared to conquer new ground (or REconquer it), B16 looks to consolidate these gains and hold them.

I pray to God for both of these men, these amazing shepherds of His flock.



P.S. Karen, the picture was just for you. Be merciful, because I'm tryin' ovah heah.