My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I write today, after some thought as a testimony of my position, I still support the Pontificate of Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ. There are many opinions in regards to his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, and sadly not enough clarity on the matter, […]
Waking up this morning to a text sent at 3 am from my sister, “I’m ok” was a precursor to the sudden rush of pain I felt at 5:32 a.m Eastern Standard time. To have a loved one in a place so very far away, the sight of the worst mass casualty shooting in U.S. […]
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.” 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.”
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.”
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. 
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.
 George Weigel, City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2015), 220.
 Ibid, 12.
 Ibid, 221-222.
First Published at All Along the Watchtower.
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.” 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 ¶ 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?
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
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.
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.
 The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:7–11). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
 The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:13–20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
 The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Ga 2:20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Check out my review of the book Silence by Shusaku Endo on the blog All Along the Watchtower.
Shusaku Endo’s book is very well written and a fine piece of literature; however, Endo’s theology and conclusion reached at the end of the story is simply bad theology and not a conclusion that is Catholicism, but rather a new age religion. The book has great value when describing events that actually occurred in Japan to those who professed the Christian faith.
The main character of the book is Fr. Rodrigues and his story take place after the apostasy of a real priest who renounced his faith by the name of Cristóvão Ferreira. I became interested in the title due to Martin Scorsese releasing a movie adaptation of the book. I decided before reading the book to read a few reviews, which of course led to spoilers—this post will have them as well. The great part about knowing the ending of the book is realizing how much the author has…
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Below is taken from emails and pieced together from a conversation with a family member, note that many of the ideas can be fleshed out in far greater detail:
The problem with pain is not a unique attack on God, but rather a clever one that acknowledges an existence but attacks His character as if His character could be assessed in the same manner as any human. The problem with this common assertion is often the focus on God; for example, why do we blame God for evil rather than humanity? There are many who have supplied refutations to this objection such as C.S Lewis, Fulton Sheen, Joseph Ratzinger, etc.
There are two things to understand. The world because of humanity’s original sin is – profane and not holy-and not the end. Therefore, God’s greatest concern is for the sanctity of our souls. If God allows pain by allowing free will to exist and by allowing natural disasters, we can be comfortable to answer that He does so to allow us to use these opportunities to ease the suffering on earth for the healing of our souls. Suffering is allowed to exist so that a greater good can occur for those in the City of Man to become sanctified.
Many will object to this answer, but I ask them, “What if it’s the truth, what would be your reaction if you knew it to be true?”
So, recently, I’ve been asked How can I know? Where does my faith come from? If I am to answer myself, especially when looking at our current world, I would say that my faith flows from the spring of Truth. When I look at the world, I see a finely tuned creation. A creation that has objective moral truths, natural rights, and natural laws, so from this foundation, I call it God. My observations of the world have allowed me to conclude that relativism is false, and if there are objective truths, what is the source? However, as I have arrived at this conclusion, I ask, is there anything I can know about God? Historically, because I’ve come to the conclusion that God exists, I look to the Apostles and the Gospels. Many modern Atheists will reject the Gospels as evidence, but this is simply not an action of the scholarly. For example, the Gospels quite easily fall in the genre of Ancient Biography, and prior to my degree in history, I was a Classics major and read my fair share of Ancient Biographies to know that just because an Ancient account has miracles doesn’t dismiss its historical content. For example, as I studied Alexander the Great in my youth with a great zeal, I know that modern scholars do not dismiss historical accounts of Alexander by Plutarch, Arrian, and Diodorus even though they have unexplainable events within the texts such as prophecies from oracles and fathers who are deities.
So let’s recap, I have concluded by observing the natural world with philosophy that God exists, and I am searching if there is anything I can know about this God? Now, just like I would as Classic student, examining the ancient accounts without consideration of miracles, what do the accounts tell me? One of the things that it tells me is that the Apostles were all scared and fled for their lives when their leader—Christ–was arrested and executed. After some time, something changed, and those men were not afraid. In fact, all became so courageous that only John was not a martyr. Not one cried out to escape their fates, “I am fraud.”
Now, it’s true, in our modern age of skepticism, there are those who doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was even a historical figure. I cannot stress this enough that this is a position of anti-intellectualism on their part. The historical record, aside from the Gospels, supports the existence of the man. Here is an account from a pagan Roman Historian by the name of Tacitus (55-115 A.D.):
Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, and the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. (Annals XV:44)
Of course, there is other evidence from Josephus, Suetonius, and others, but many modern skeptics attempt to force Christians into a pigeonhole reading of these accounts in a minimalist perspective rather than maximalist– a viewpoint one is accorded with other Ancient Biographies—mainly because there is so much more at stake with the Gospels.
From this evidence, I have concluded that there is a God, I have concluded from the Gospels that Christ claimed to be God, and I have concluded that he died and his Apostles were inspired by something that occurred after his death to meet their own deaths. Ultimately, I have concluded that Christ rose from the dead. If Christ did indeed die and rose again to conquer sin, I gather that God does care about us and is benevolent rather than malevolent because He chose to become a lowly man, and suffered a lowly scandalous death.
Furthermore, with the revelation of this truth, God can’t be a narcissist, as militant modern atheists now claim, for obligating worship in the respect that narcissism is a human disorder for it is not possible that a human can be perfect. A perfect being who is truly great cannot, by definition, be a narcissist. The being of God is one that is truly perfect who requires worship not necessarily for His glory–because what could our worship aid in the divine?–but rather for the benefit of our eternal soul and sanctification because this is the ultimate plan of God for his creation.
So remember, when we see pain in the world, The most powerful action is turning to God for assistance because ultimately the pain was brought into the world by humanity because of our betrayal of God. We can do this by prayer and compassionate action to our fellow human. Let us, tell God here on earth that we choose to serve him rather than ourselves.
It has been some time since I have last posted on this blog, I have been very busy and very tired with my new job. I have been working six days a week since July and what little time I have had to myself I have either been keeping up with my praying, reading and studying the faith, and I have been volunteering at my local parish as a PSR Catechist.
Being a PSR Catechist has been challenging, as I was hoping to get older students to be able to discuss deeper theological matters; however, I was given the assignment of 4th graders, an age group (or younger) as a teacher I always avoided teaching. It has been a rewarding challenge that has allowed me to grow deeper in my own faith. The few classes have been duds on my part. At first, I attempted to teach the course material in a lecture format and hoping the students would engage in questions for explanations , but often times the students just looked bored or made comments that were not on topic. For Example, we discussed matters of creation, I was hoping the students would object to the lesson having read a CNA article that claimed that students around the age of ten lost their faith in God because of “science,” but, of course, they did not object to much of anything.
One of the next classes was on the topic of the Holy Trinity. I attempted to explain the Athanasian Creed and discussed elements of St. Patrick and Dante’s Divine Comedy, again, to bored faces. Another time we discussed the two parts of the mass and I used language from John’s Gospel to discuss “The Word” who was with God in the beginning and the mystical miracle of being present for Christ’s sacrifice over 2000 years ago. So again, I was faced with blank stares, no questions, and off topic comments.
I asked myself, “How on earth do I reach these 4th graders?” I attempted to change my lessons a bit every week, but with little to no success. I used the Smart Board and attempted to use bribery with no success. Finally, I came to the topic of my latest class which was the Ten Commandments with a special focus on the first three commandments. At this point, I was at a loss on how to articulate and get them to remember any sort of lesson. Finally, after some prayer and reading, a thought crossed my mind as I had just watched a show on the Book of Daniel; remembering as a child how I always enjoyed great storytelling, I decided to employ Daniel’s story into a lesson on the Commandments I began the lesson with the book work and going over the Ten Commandments. It appeared to be another boring lesson as we then began to focus on the first three Commandments.
After going over in detail the first three Commandments, I told them it reminded of a story in the Bible about a man who could interpret dreams named Daniel. In a dramatic flare, I began to tell them the story about how Daniel and his friends were put under the control of the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar. One day Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel and his friends that they must worship a statue and Daniel’s friends resisted because of their love for God. Nebuchadnezzar angry at their disobedience ordered them to be BURNED! The kids bored faces melted into worried faces. I told them Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fire and for some reason they did not burn because God (rewarding their faith) protected them from any harm. I told them that in our world today a great many people will demand us to worship false gods and we must resist them, no matter the consequences. I warned them by resisting there would be consequences for these actions, but God would reward us for our faith. By doing this, we would be fulfilling God’s first commandment. So I told the class, “I am Nebuchadnezzar, worship my statue!” The kids shouted with great enthusiasm, “No!” I repeated myself and they responded even louder, “No!”
During the story, I told them the rulers that oppressed the Hebrews changed and that Cyrus now ruled the Hebrews. After some time Cyrus was convinced to outlaw praying for 30 days by members of the court attempting to rid Daniel, as he was favored by Cyrus. I told them that Daniel could not follow this law because of his love for God, and he disobeyed Cyrus. Cyrus, as ruler, could not tolerate this disobedience from one of his subjects so he sentenced Daniel to death! I told them with a great roar that Daniel was thrown into a den of hungry lions–the kids sat at the edge of their seats–Daniel prayed to God for protection, and again, because of the faith of Daniel, the lions did not touch him. Cyrus was moved by this revelations and finally Daniel was set free. I explained to them that there have been laws in the past, such as in Nazi Germany; Soviet Russia; Soviet-controlled Poland; modern day places in the Middle East and Mexico, that prevented people from worshipping God. It is our duty no matter the cost to resist these people and pray as Daniel. I told them it is possible that we could rounded up or that our Priests could be pulled from the altar during and shoot them in the middle of the street. We must continue to have faith like Daniel and doing so we would keep the third commandment.
After class, I teach the class with a Deacon and he came up to me and said, “What a class!”
I replied, “I don’t know what came over me.”
He said, “The kids have never been so enthralled, I know what came over you, the Holy Spirit.”
First Published on http://newsforcatholics.info/ : a great source for Catholic News, Commentary and general information on the faith
It was toward the end of a hot day. I was in the midst of a “small talk” conversation of sorts with an acquaintance and the topic of religion came to the surface. Of course, when pondering the conversation, I can’t help but think that it was a peculiar topic to randomly come up amongst two strangers. However, the topic did somehow naturally develop between acquaintances when my fellow conversationalist told me that he had gone to Catholic School. At this point, I thought perhaps I had stumbled upon a new friend of mutual lifestyles and my reply to his revelation was “Oh, I’m Catholic too.”
The response of my acquaintance was a bit deflating as he said, “Oh, I am a recovering Catholic.”
I’ve heard the phrase before, and I’ve always thought it odd. How do these folks perceive their recovery? Do they feel that they have been so indoctrinated as a child that the foundation that had been forged in their youth causes them to relapse from their newfound clarity back to Catholicism or is it an ongoing process to cleanse them from their attachment to Catholicism much like the doctrine of purgatory?
Regardless, I didn’t continue further with the conversation because I felt that there was little more that I could say on the matter. However, I’ve been reminded recently of two particular parts of Brideshead Revisited after the conversation. My current employment has been a blessing that I am able to listen to many audio books, and when seeing that Brideshead was narrated by Jeremy Irons I could not resist, but it has allowed for little to no time for blogging.
(Although I do try to keep up on reading and browsing my favorite blogs)
As I began listening to Irons read the timeless words of Waugh with the conversation fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but focus on the particular passage in this great title:
“Bridey, you mustn’t be pious,” said Sebastian. “We’ve got an atheist with us.”
“Agnostic,” I said. (Charles Ryder)
“Really? Is there much of that at your college? There was a certain amount at Magdalen.” (Bridey)
“I really don’t know. I was one long before I went to Oxford.” (Ryder)
“It’s everywhere,” said Brideshead. (pg. 86 ebook Little Brown Book Company)
Prior to this clarification by Charles, Charles and Sebastian have a conversation on the topic of Sebastian’s Catholicism:
“Who was it used to pray, ‘O God, make me good, but not yet’?”
“I don’t know. You, I should think.”
“Why, yes, I do, every day. But it isn’t that.”
He turned back to the pages of the News of the World and said, “Another naughty scout-master.”
“I suppose they try and make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?”
“Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”
“But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”
“I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”
“Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”
“But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.”
“But I do . That’s how I believe.” (p. 82)
As I was listening to these two scenes that are very near each other, I kept thinking in my mind “Recovering Catholic” over and over. I suppose it’s because in many ways both Julia and Sebastian attempted to be “recovering Catholics.” Charles, in a discussion with Julia about his love for her and her brother, commented on Sebastian being the “forerunner.” The two were so very much alike in many ways it’s not entirely surprising that Charles shared a love for both of them.
Our modern world questions the Catholic faithful much like Charles does of Sebastian’s faith especially when our Catholicism is counter to the prevailing wisdom of mainstream secular morals. When it comes to topics like the sacrament of marriage, unborn children, and rejection of material culture the world replies, “You can’t seriously believe it all?” Of course, when the faithful respond, “But I do. That’s how I believe.” The faithful will be mocked for being anti-science or anti –intellectual. In fact, when Julia is struggling with the realization of her own sins in the world, in a way, Charles mocks the idea in the narrative saying:
“Of course it’s a thing psychologists could explain; a preconditioning from childhood; feelings of guilt from the nonsense you were taught in the nursery. You do know at heart that it’s all bosh, don’t you?” (p. 272)
Julia’s replies: ““How I wish it was!”
“Sebastian once said almost the same thing to me.”
So what does this mean for “recovering Catholics”? What does Waugh attempt to tell us in his passages to a man who during those particular points in the story speaks just like our modern world? Waugh attempts to tell us to recognize God’s Grace in action. I didn’t say anything to my acquaintance, mainly because I thought I would do more harm than good, but we have to remember the words of the Venerable Fulton Sheen, “Actually, there are only two philosophies of life: one is first the feast, then the headache; the other is first the fast then the feast.” And so according to the precepts of Christianity, it comes down to a choice between picking up one’s cross or not. Preparing one’s treasures in heaven or on earth. However, a “recovering Catholic” may yet have the tools necessary to choose to accept God’s Grace.
by Benjamin Wiker 07/18/2016 Comment
I write today as a Catholic who has studied extensively history. One could call me a Catholic Historian, but let it be made clear that my Catholicism can never be separated from who I am and my words. We, the Charity of Christ, find ourselves on the other side of a Relativist Revolution, we are now subjugated to the rule of those who have separated God from the public sphere. Of course, this is not the first time this has occurred in our history–in Salvation History.
We, The Charity of Christ, for far too long have been sold the lie that we must conduct our faithfulness separate from our actions in the public sphere. The Communist attempted to perfect this ideology, but make no mistake, the so-called “Enlightenment” originated the idea in the world. An idea that is very much supported in our mainstream society with pop culture scientist like Neil DeGrasse Tyson who propose an idea like a nation called “Rationalia.” I tweeted back to Tyson that Ironically his sentiment is the same as the Soviets before they exterminated Polish Catholics.
— Phillip Marshall (@phadde2) June 30, 2016
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