Should Christians build for the Future?

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First published at All Along the Watchtower.

My thoughts here are of genuine conversation, there will be little history and little theology. I hope the thought I share will foster a conversation about Christianity going forward in our Western Culture and hopefully the prosperity of both.

My family on my wife’s side is split between Catholics and Confessional Lutherans. During the Christmas season, I am surrounded by as many Lutherans as Catholics, and of course, because we’re all practicing our particular forms of Christianity, we discuss topics of the Church at the dinner table. The particular topic between my wife’s cousin and myself is how Christians, in light of the rise of the supremacy of the secular West, should look more to their commonalities than their differences. I told my relative, “I have a great many conversations with a great many different Christians and as far as I can see at this moment and during our lifetime there will be theological disagreements. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate being Christian and come together in the face of the rising cynicism and unbelief that dominates our dying culture.”

One of the assertions my relative made was that Christianity is dying because we’re not building new Churches–especially in Europe. Now, there are Europeans who inhabit this blog, so I wonder how much weight of truth is there to my relative’s assertion. He believes that for centuries people have walked past what are now nothing more than old buildings and now they have naturally grown an apathy to something that has always been there. In many ways, humans respond this way to other particular in the world; for example, the scenery becomes nothing more than a background of where we live, and often we stop looking at beauty for what it is because we get use to it. I’ve lived all my life in the Midwest of the United States, which is basically the grain belt of the country, so it is very flat. I’ve always dreamed of living by the sea and/or the mountains. One summer during college, my college girlfriend visited my own, she wasn’t from around the area, and when she was there, she experienced a good Midwestern thunderstorm. She kept going on and on about how wondrous and magnificent was the lighting show on display on the prairie. She said that were she from it was too mountain-ness to see a lightning storm, and I was a bit shocked how I have seemed to have taken for granted such a spectacle.

I think there is wisdom to what my relative has surmised in Western Culture. I am reminded of the Ken Follet book “Pillars of the Earth.” The story centered around the building of a great Cathedral and the generations of lives it took to build such a magnificent building, it became an affair of the family and generations. When our church decided to build on to our existing Parish, the parish, of course, had a meeting about the finances. During the meeting, a woman stood up and declared from some sort of statistics that the parish membership was in decline, and we should just build a cost-effective building. I stood up and rejected her thoughts on the matter. I reminded her that money is temporal and that our goal was not to hoard it. I even invoked the reasoning of Kevin Costner, “If you build it, they will come.” A faith that builds is an active faith, a faith that preserves, often times burns slowly like a candle and eventually time will extinguish it.

I believe these are the feelings of my relative in the relationship of people of Western Culture to their churches—and perhaps there is some truth to it. I have a particular devotion to Pope St. John Paul II, and I am reminded of the Soviets purposely building a city called Nowa Huta in Poland for steel manufacturing which included no church “a first in the millennium long history of Poland.”[1] In fact, as Pope John Paul II biographer George Weigel writes, “Over the next four decades the exhaust from Nowa Huta’s steel mills would, literally, eat away at the fabric of Krakow.”[2]

The Ark Church would be consecrated by the future Pope John Paul II in May of 1977 in Nowa Huta after receiving a permit to finally build a church in 1967. Weigel articulates, “The Ark Church is a striking architectural metaphor: the people of the Church, gathered in a boat reminiscent of Noah’s ark and the fishing craft sailed by the apostles on the Sea of Galilee, are carried through the tempests of history.”[3]

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There’s another beautiful church built in the area THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF CZĘSTOCHOWA. The construction of this particular church began in 1984 and it’s architecture blends both modern and classic themes in a sanctuary that reminds the faithful of both the sacred and the profane. [4]

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It’s interesting how slow secularism has crept into Poland after an onslaught of both Nazism and Soviet powers. Perhaps, the blood of martyrs seeded the ground of Poland, but the newly seeded ground did have to rebuild either physical churches or their spiritualism. After all, arguably the most devout diocese in Europe resides in Poland—Tarnow.[5]

[1] George Weigel, City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2015), 220.

[2] Ibid, 12.

[3] Ibid, 221-222.

[4] http://www.szklanedomy.cystersi.pl/our-lady-of-czestochowa-parish-krakow-poland/

[5] http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/4901/in_vibrantly_catholic_poland_growing_secularism_produces_new_challenges.aspx

Living Water

First Published at All Along the Watchtower.

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Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron calls this particular event of the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John a master’s course in Evangelization. What is the good Bishop getting at when making such an assertion? Let’s examine the facts: the woman goes to the well at high noon, Jesus is already present at the well, Jesus initiates a conversation, the conversation is initiated without condemnation, Jesus offers to quench her thirst of the affliction of her soul by revealing to the woman what he knows about her.

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. ¶ The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 ¶ Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?[1]

As one notices by the woman and Jesus’ conversational exchange is that the woman believes Jesus to be talking about literal water, but this, of course, is not what Jesus is talking about to her.  So, Jesus further explains to her the meaning of his words:

13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 ¶ but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 ¶ The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Scholars and Theologians have determined that this woman going to the well during this period of the day would mark her undoubtedly as an outcast. Jesus, himself, as the event begins to unfold eventually brings forth the condition of the woman and why she looks to avoid social interaction by drawing water from the well during the extreme heat of the Middle Eastern day.

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 ¶ for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20[2]

It’s important to notice here that before Jesus attempts to correct her or acknowledge her sins, Jesus offers her an invitation to obtain a living spring within herself. Of course, as Christians, we must refrain from thinking that this living spring in which Jesus speaks of doesn’t mean to just live by the rules of the Christian God and be subject to him in fear of damnation, but rather the desire want to praise him and glorify him–for our own benefit– by doing good works in the world.

For example, just this last Sunday prior to hearing this Gospel reading at Mass, I was walking downtown nearby my diocese’s Cathedral and at a distance, I saw a homeless man. As I used this story to explain to my PSR students, I will certainly explain to any reader as I explained to them, that I did something that was not in my personality to do by approaching the man. I asked him his story and what was going on with his life. I won’t go into the detail of what said exactly and what I did to aid him, but I can tell you certainly that after many months of digging the well of my own prayer life—in the words of St. Teresa of Avila—I was drinking living water. I truly felt the presence of Christ with me because he was acting through me. I finally understood what St. Paul meant when he said, “20 ¶ I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[3]

After this encounter, I walked the rest of the way to the church and entered the Cathedral. When I arrived at the pew and knelt before God, I took off my glasses, put my hands over my face to hold back tears as my thoughts were lifted up toward God. All I can say is how strange and beautiful the paradox to be both Jesus and meet him at the well. After retelling the event to my PSR students, I explained to them that they can be Jesus at the well and stir forth springs of living water in their classmates, teachers, and parents. I told them that if they are to come across another kid at their school is may not be the “cool” kid go and eat lunch and play with them. If they are the one being bullied at school and the bully demands their pencil offer a piece of paper as well.

The students were perplexed by the last option, so I explained through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we can stir forth our neighbors living water so that they might believe in Jesus even the worst of situations. I offered them the idea that if a robber demanded my cell phone, I would freely give them the phone and more. At this point, a young lady jerked back and said, “Why would you just give in?” I told her “If I give them the phone freely then they are not stealing, and therefore, not a robber.”

I reminded them that at the heart of breaking forth a living spring is one of the core ideas of the Sermon on the Mount:

39 ¶ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Mt 5:39–42). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[1] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:7–11). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[2] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:13–20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[3] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Ga 2:20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Is Enlightenment Philosophy Moral?

Should Christians value Enlightenment Philosophy? Is it moral? Does it erode the foundation of our society like an acid rain on brick?

All Along the Watchtower

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An issue that I have with my American Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ is a beam that I use to have in my own eye. Those in favor of originalism of the United States Constitution, Enlightenment philosophers, and the natural law that they speak, have created idols out of the founding documents, the men who created them, and the supposed “rights” which out of the Enlightenment has promoted the ideology of self-idolization in the form of “Individualism.” Of course, one can make the argument that relativism was birthed from the Protestant Reformation, given a pedestal during the Enlightenment, and now has led to secular atheism of Western Civilization as it’s logical conclusion. No doubt, some friends here will certainly disagree, but the statement must be stated regardless.

We could certainly look to Locke’s anti-Catholicism or Paine’s flirtation with Atheism or pantheism at best, but instead, let’s look at Rousseau…

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Stealing Hosts for anti-Catholic art? Not illegal, Spanish judge says. :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

.- Critics of a Spanish judge say he wrongly dismissed charges against an artist who stole consecrated Hosts for an exhibit that disrespected the Catholic faith.

The Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers announced it would file an appeal and be prepared “to go to the highest court necessary in the face of what is becoming a campaign of serious offenses against the Christian faith and religious freedom.”

Abel Azcona stole more than 240 consecrated hosts from Masses celebrated in the cities of Madrid and Pamplona. He later took nude photos of himself arranging them on a floor to spell the word ‘pederasty.’ In November 2015, he displayed the photos as part of an art display in a city-owned exhibition hall available for public use.

Readmore via Stealing Hosts for anti-Catholic art? Not illegal, Spanish judge says. :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Is Cardinal Sarah being silenced? | News | LifeSite

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Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

By Jan Bentz

ROME, November 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Is Cardinal Robert Sarah slowly being silenced? An indication of such a development surfaced with the cardinal’s withdrawal from participating in a congress in Germany.

After the recent overhaul of the Vatican liturgy office, which Cardinal Sarah heads, he is now backing out of public appearances.

In a press release by the Kölner international Liturgische Tagung (International Liturgical Conference of Cologne), Father Guido Rodheudt, conference organizer, explained that Cardinal Sarah “regrettably had to cancel his participation in the 18thLiturgical conference” in 2017.

This news came as a surprise since the Cardinal had three times confirmed his participation, including in writing, since November 2015, said Rodheudt. Cardinal Sarah cancelled not only his participation in-person, but will also not submit his written paper to be read by a representative — a practice common for cardinals in cases of emergency absence.

In an interview with the German news agency kath.net, Fr. Rodheudt explained: “Cardinal Sarah has told us that for the coming year a number of obligations came up, which force him to cancel his participation even after repeated confirmation.”….

Readmore via Is Cardinal Sarah being silenced? | News | LifeSite

Catholic Bishop: “Abortion is a Moral Evil Which Can Never be Accepted Under Any Circumstances” | LifeNews.com

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“It is not one of those teachings a Catholic has to accept, like, for example, abortion. Abortion has clearly been defined by the church as a moral evil, which is never accepted under any circumstances or any justification.”

Readmore via Catholic Bishop: “Abortion is a Moral Evil Which Can Never be Accepted Under Any Circumstances” | LifeNews.com

Fr. Father Matthew Schneider-Three ways to vote on Tuesday with a clean conscience

By Father Matthew Schneider November 3rd, 2016

In a distressing 2016 race, Catholics can vote with a clean conscience in one of three ways — voting “against” someone rather than “for” anyone, supporting a third party candidate, or simply not voting for president at all and focusing down-ballot.

If I can’t vote for anyone, can I vote against someone?
The current U.S. election seems to be a race to the bottom. In the past, usually I could see a good argument to vote for one candidate based on character and issues, despite a few imperfections; in this election, the argument to vote against each one of the candidates seems stronger than the argument to vote for either.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia summarized the Catholic conundrum: “One candidate – in the view of a lot of people – is an eccentric businessman of defective ethics whose bombast and buffoonery make him inconceivable as president. And the other – in the view of a lot of people – should be under criminal indictment. The fact that she’s not – again, in the view of a lot of people – proves Orwell’s Animal Farm principle that ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.’”

Readmore via Three ways to vote on Tuesday with a clean conscience

About those unthinking, backward Catholics – Catholic Philly by Charles J. Chaput

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By Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. • Posted October 13, 2016

Back in 2008, in the weeks leading up to the Obama-McCain presidential election, two young men visited me in Denver. They were from Catholics United, a group describing itself as committed to social justice issues. They voiced great concern at the manipulative skill of Catholic agents for the Republican Party. And they hoped my brother bishops and I would resist identifying the Church with single-issue and partisan (read: abortion) politics.

It was an interesting experience. Both men were obvious flacks for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party — creatures of a political machine, not men of the Church; less concerned with Catholic teaching than with its influence. And presumably (for them) bishops were dumb enough to be used as tools, or at least prevented from helping the other side.

Yet these two young men not only equaled but surpassed their Republican cousins in the talents of servile partisan hustling. Thanks to their work, and activists like them, American Catholics helped to elect an administration that has been the most stubbornly unfriendly to religious believers, institutions, concerns and liberty in generations.
I never saw either young man again. The cultural damage done by the current White House has — apparently — made courting America’s bishops unnecessary.

via About those unthinking, backward Catholics – Catholic Philly

Distributism: An Offered Economic Alternative

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I came across a comment thread on Citizen Tom’s comments on his blog: An Update For My Blogging Friends, asking for an alternative to the greed of Capitalism.

Here is a response, although, I do acknowledge not the response, but only one that is proposed as an alternative to our existing systems.

GK Chesterton once wrote, “The truth is that what we call Capitalism ought to be called Proletarianism. The point of it is not that some people have capital, but that most people only have wages because they do not have capital.”

If I could modernize Chesterton’s sentiments, I would certainly articulate the notion that what we call Capitalism today should be properly called “Corporatism.” However, instead of getting into what I disagree with Capitalism and Socialism, let me instead promote an alternative solution to those economic systems.

Distributism

Let us first explore Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum, that created a foundation for such a system:

Paragraph 19-22:

19. The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvellous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.

Note: Pope Leo XIII in the above paragraph is rejecting the idea of class warfare proposed by Marx, his contemporary, as well as others.

20. Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss. The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character. They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers – that is truly shameful and inhuman. Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind. Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age. His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just. Doubtless, before deciding whether wages axe fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. “Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”(6) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?…

22. Therefore, those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles;(9) that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ – threatenings so unwonted in the mouth of our Lord(10)

Of course, having this discussion recently with my Libertarian brother, I must note quickly that distributists have always recognized the importance of private property. Private property in the system of distributism is considered very good. This mentioned fact is what marks a clear distinction and separation from socialism; therefore, to merely generalize a system because it opposes the greed in Capitalism is simply intellectually dishonest. Owners of small businesses in the local community are more likely to engage with the social and civic life of their community due to capital being owned at this local level. Of course, Folks would need to be compelled to shop locally to grow and sustain wealth on a local level. I would surmise a change in cultural values to compel folks to do so. For example, in my local community, the city has decided to rebuild the town square into a beautiful square with a park in the middle. As a result, many local businesses have moved to the area and are thriving.

However, It is true that distributism shares a connection that workers should control the means of production, so to answer any question on how property would be handled, it would be in a guild system instead in be hands of a corporate board or stock holders. The Distributist isn’t concerned with redistribution of property already owned, this is a lie often proposed by those who support Capitalism, as this is a system that is not dictated by coercion like Capitalism and Socialism of the state, but instead of families in a local community.

I will agree that there are valid critiques of the system, for example on specialized products like iphones, appliances, cars etc.; therefore, corporations will always have a place. However, a development of a system that can promote in our current communities a support system of greater  emphasis small businesses locally. Capitialism–especially the modern type of Corporatism–only seeks to serve the greed of humanity, which it’s true that greed is a natural motivating factor within humanity, it is also creating a positive for a normally sinful nature.

We must acknowledge that in a capitalistic economy it isn’t logical to shop at the local bookstore when it may be more expensive or one may have to have the product ordered for them, which may take 1 to 2 weeks. However, It would be to our benefit to learn to live a slower lifestyle, it would benefit us to aid to the workers of our communities rather than donate money to an informal benefits service.

Perhaps, the Catholic social teaching  of subsidiarity would promote such a change in culture. The idea rests, simply, on the need for the governed to be governed by the most local entity of government. Distributism, in a way, needs to work in unison with a government of subsidiarity like two lungs. A local government, one that is more focused than state governments, is a better way to serve our communites and to protect our religious freedoms.

I wrote this post as a conversation with Citizen Tom, a discussion on how rather than heated debate which seems to have taken place in his threads. I only wish for him to consider how this Catholic system, which Stephen may or may not be proposing, is different from socialism.