Monday, January 31, 2011
I am especially grateful for Jim's fine review because January was a busy month for me and I was unable to participate much in the biblioblogosphere, either by reading or contributing posts of my own. I am glad to report that February should see me more actively involved.
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Now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has put out a footnoted version of the prayers of the new translation of the liturgy, alerting you to the Biblical background of each of the prayers.
- The response: "The Lord be with you"
- “Soon, along came Boaz from Bethlehem and said to the harvesters, „The LORD be with you,‟ and they replied, „The LORD bless you‟” (Ruth 2:4).
- The Confiteor: "I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned. . ."
- “Then David said to God, 'I have sinned greatly in doing this thing'” (1 Chr 21:8).
- Introduction of the "Lord, have mercy" (Kyrie): "You were sent to heal the contrite of heart. . ."
- “[The LORD] heals the brokenhearted; he binds up all their wounds” (Ps 147:3); “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners” (Is 61:1).
- The "Mystery of Faith": "We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again."
- “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
***UPDATE: I see Jim has a piece up on this. Apparently, the Cairo museum has already been looted. Priceless antiquities were smashed. This is sad.
While of course the loss of life is what concerns us the most, the uprisings also threaten one of the most important collections of ancient artifacts on the planet. Will King Tut's treasures be lost for good?
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities -- also known as the Egyptian Museum and the National Museum -- was reported to be under threat from nearby blazes burning in the center of Cairo as a result of the ongoing political demonstrations against the government of Hosni Mubarak, Al-Jazeera reported.
With an estimated 120,000 artifacts in its collection, the museum is arguably one of the world's most impressive destinations for Egyptologists and tourists alike. Though the museum lacks the polish of the British Museum or New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the quality and breadth of its artifacts are second to none.
The piece continues here with a helpful run-down (including video) of some of the most important artifacts in the museum.
Cairo, Egypt, Jan 29, 2011 / 07:10 am (CNA).- As clashes between anti-government protesters and Egyptian police intensified on Jan. 28, some Coptic Orthodox Christians disregarded their church's call for peaceful non-involvement – in hopes that the possible abdication of President Hosni Mubarak could advance the cause of their freedom.
Professor Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame, specializes in Islamic affairs and has been monitoring the Egyptian situation closely. He told CNA that many Coptic Christians were joining with Muslims to express their frustration with three decades of authoritarian rule.
Friday, January 28, 2011
In short, for Thomas Theology is a Scriptural enterprise. Since he's consistently held out as the model, Catholic theologians should be sure to, likewise, make "the study of the sacred page. . . the very soul of theology" (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 24).
St. Thomas' Significance
Throughout the ages, Thomas' work has consistently been held out as a model for Catholic theology by the Catholic Church. Consider some of the following quotes from various popes. I've added some italics.
Pope John Innocent VI, Serm. De. St. Thomas (c. 1352): “[Thomas’] teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error.”
Thursday, January 27, 2011
I found it striking because, without context, I would have assumed the quote was from Luther, in his younger days.
St. Bernard does not deny that merit has its role. He goes on to say:
It is enough for merit to know that merit is not enough. But as merit must not presume on merit, so lack of merit must bring judgment. Furthermore, chidren re-born in baptism are not without merit, but possess the merits of Christ; but they make themselves unworthy of these if they do not add their own——not because of inability, but because of neglect; this is the danger of maturity. Henceforward, take care that you possess merit; when you possess it, you will know it as a gift. Hope for its fruit, the mercy of God, and you will escape all danger of poverty, ingratitude, and presumption.This quote and the previous one are from St. Bernard's Sermons 67-68 on the Song of Songs (!), and yes, as some of you surmised, I'm drawing from Ralph Martin's book, The Fulfillment of All Desire, which I highly recommend to everyone, Protestant and Catholic alike.
I think these striking quotes from St. Bernard indicate several things that have been lost to sight by many, including myself at times:
1. The emphasis on the primacy of grace in salvation found in Luther, Calvin, and other early Protestants is a legitimate point, but it is not a "Protestant" point: it is a truth that is at home in the Catholic spiritual and theological tradition. One does not have to break from Rome in order to recognize that salvation is by grace.
2. Properly understood, the Reformation slogan "sola gratia", by grace alone, is also affirmed by the Catholic Church. This is one of the reasons, for example, that some ten years ago or so the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation was able to issue a joint statement on the doctrine of justification.
3. Where the Protestant reformers erred was to deny that there is any role of merit in salvation. The problem with denying this is one of biblical interpretation. If one denies that merit plays a role in salvation, what does one do with so many passages of the Gospels like Matt 25:31-46: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance ... for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat ..."
As Keith Green, founding father of CCM, so famously pointed out in a song years ago (this really dates me) passages like Matt 25:31-46 do not teach "salvation by faith alone" as that concept is often understood. Our works play a role in our salvation. (Ironically, Keith Green was also militantly anti-Catholic!)
4. How then to reconcile the many passages of the Gospels (as well as the Epistles! James 2:24) that emphasize the role of merit in salvation with the truth of, say, Ephesians 2:8-9? The answer is thoroughly Scriptural and Catholic: our merits, though necessary, are, in an ultimate sense, not our own, but the fruit of God's grace working in us. "For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me." Col 1:29
Recently, someone said to me, "Most Catholics are Pelagian heretics."
It wasn't during one of my conversations with my Protestant friends and relatives.
It was a priest giving a homily at daily mass on campus at Franciscan.
I agree with him, although I would add, "Most Protestants are Pelagian heretics, too." Pelagianism, roughly understood as the idea that we can, more or less, save ourselves by being good, is a danger for all Christians, and even well-formed, theologically educated Christians can fall into subtle forms of self-reliance.
It's good that St. Bernard reminds us: our salvation is the work of God's grace, not the product of our own efforts.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I came across this striking quote on grace and merit the other day:
There is no way for grace to enter, if merit has taken residence in the soul. A full acknowledgment of grace is a sign of the fullness of grace. Indeed, if the soul possesses anything of its own, to that extent grace must give place to it: whatever you impute to merit you steal from grace. I want nothing to do with the sort of merit which excludes grace.So, who is the author and what's his theology? Calvin? Luther? Augustine?
Without googling phrases from the quote, does anyone recognize who this famous theologian is?
Feel free to guess in the comments. I'll post the answer in a day or two.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
The Lectionary readings for today’s Mass, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, are particularly rich.
We are in Year A of the Lectionary cycle, and thus we follow Matthew’s Gospel through most of the Sundays in Ordinary Time. (Check this great website to help understand the structure of the liturgy.) This year, Easter falls very late, so we have a lengthy period of Ordinary Time before Lent.
Progressing through Matthew, we find ourselves today at the beginning of Jesus’ preaching ministry in Galilee.
The first reading for today’s mass comes from Isaiah 9:
“The Land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali ...
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light...”
Obviously this reading from Isaiah is paired with today’s Gospel because Matthew quotes some of this passage and sees it’s fulfillment in our Lord’s revelation of himself in the region of Galilee.
Nonetheless, commentators and homilists often miss the relationship between the two passages.
In his own day, Isaiah was preaching to the northern tribes of Israel (Zebulun and Naphtali), whose territory had been decimated by the Assyrians, with large portions of the population deported around 722 BC. The point of Isaiah’s oracle was one of hope: this same portion of ancestral Israel, so devastated and bleak in his own day, would be the first to witness the arrival of the Messianic age. St. Matthew sees the fulfillment of this passage in our Lord’s choice to begin his ministry in these northern territories—a choice that otherwise might seem counter-intuitive, since the region of Galilee was not a particularly historic or significant one in Israel’s sacred history.
The second reading for today’s Mass is 1 Cor 1:10-17, which was not chosen to fit the theme of the Gospel, but rather because we are reading through 1 Corinthians at the beginning of Ordinary Time. (Curiously, Ordinary Time always begins with 1 Corinthians and then breaks off around Week 8. Thus, it takes the full three-year cycle to “read through” the book. See here.) Providentially, however, the reading provides a connection with the theme of the Gospel for today’s Mass. St. Paul says, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel ...” And so we are reminded that the preaching ministry of Christ is continued by that of his Apostles, and also their successors, and so on down through history, to our own day. Even for us lay people, who may not preach in the formal sense of those who share in the charisms of Holy Orders, do have a responsiblity to “preach” by our example and also by our explicit testimony (when given the opportunity) that the Kingdom of God is present now, because Jesus Christ has come.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus “began to preach, saying, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
The concept of the “Kingdom of Heaven” needs to be associated with the Davidic Kingship of Jesus so strongly emphasized by Matthew in the opening chapters of his Gospel (1:20; 2:2; 2:5-6), and present also in Isaiah 9. If we were to read on in Isaiah 9, for example, beyond the portion quoted by Matthew in Matt 3: 15-16, we would find Isaiah predicting the coming of a Davidic King (Isa 9:7) who is also somehow divine (Isa 9:6). The Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed by Jesus is also the Kingdom of David, just as Jesus is fully God and fully Man. And so the Kingdom of Heaven has an earthly manifestation that resembles the Davidic Kingdom it “restores and transforms” (credit to Dr. Scott Hahn for this hendiadys). Thus we see Jesus, in the subsequent verses of Matt 3 (vv. 18-22), beginning to choose his royal officers, ultimately twelve of them, just as there were twelve officers over the Kingdom of David during its golden age (see 1 Kings 4:7-19).
The Kingdom of Heaven remains open to us today, now, if we will repent (turn away from our sins) and receive it. Tomorrow is the March for Life in Washington, DC, which provides us a good opportunity for special acts of repentance (fasting, prayer, acts of self-denial) to express contrition for our own sins and for those of our nation (cf. Dan 9:20), especially those against the sanctity of life.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
- Best midnight opening ($18.4 million) (that doesn’t count the 3am and 6am showings which were slotted after all the midnight showings sold out, which also sold out!)
- Best opening day / single day gross ($66.4 million)
- Best opening weekend ($158 million)
- First movie to make $300 million dollars in 10 days
- Best IMAX midnight preview ($640,000)
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
1. First, since for those of us following the Catholic lectionary, it is Year A, it's a great opportunity to reread closely and carefully the Gospel of Matthew. Over a hundred years ago, the French author and rationalist Ernest Renan once referred to the Gospel of Matthew as "the most important book ever written."
On a more personal note, Matthew is my favorite Gospel, for a whole host of reasons. For one thing, it is just so Jewish. If you like the exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity, Matthew is definitely the first place to go. Moreover, if happen to be a teacher, then you'll know that Matthew's Gospel is also a remarkably catechetical. I know this from experience, since in the classroom, I constantly fall back on Matthew for addressing major theological, moral, and spiritual issues.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
I was on the Drew Mariani Show on Friday afternoon (broadcast in metro Chicago) discussing a new theory about the crossing of the red sea. Carl Drews, a fluid dynamics scientist in Colorado, decided to analyze the biblical account of the parting of the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds) from a physics perspective as his masters thesis at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Drews argues that an overnight east wind of 63 mph or more would be sufficient to blow back several square miles of water to a depth of six feet. Working with topographical maps, he thinks he has identified a place in the Nile Delta where such a wind would have provided a draw path to the Sinai Peninsula. Click on the title of this post to read more.
Drews' work is intriguing, but I'm not jumping on the bandwagon yet. I don't have the time to analyze all the relevant data, but my gut instinct is that, although Drews is correct about the fluid dynamics, there are probably textual or archeological data that militate against this location as the actual site of the crossing. Feel free to comment if you know something about this topic.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Fr. Daniel Scheidt of Queen of Peace Parish in Mishawaka, IN, just signed on as chaplain for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land May 9-18. Those who know him will agree with me that Fr. Dan is one of the finest young priests in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the diocese that includes the University of Notre Dame, my (and Brant's) alma mater.
Fr. Dan is a scholar and a polymath who has studied at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, and written on subjects such as diverse as biblical interpretation, sacraments, priesthood, and church architecture. In fact, one of his essays on church architecture is available online. Some of his pastoral work has made national catholic news.
I feel very fortunate to get Fr. Dan on this pilgrimage (probably as good as Jack Swarbrick felt when he got Brian Kelly to come to Notre Dame). The pilgrims are in for a real blessing!
Friday, January 07, 2011
The new translation takes into account advances in linguistics of the biblical languages, as well as changes in vocabulary and the cultural background of English, in order to ensure a more accurate translation. This issue is addressed in the apostolic exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, in which the pope says, “The inculturation of God’s word is an integral part of the Church’s mission in the world, and a decisive moment in this process is the diffusion of the Bible through the precious work of translation into different languages.
The new translation also takes into account the discovery of new and better ancient manuscripts so that the best possible textual tradition is followed. The NABRE includes the first revised translation of the Old Testament since 1970 and a complete revision of the Psalter. It retains the 1986 edition of the New Testament. Work on most books of the Old Testament began in 1994 and was completed in 2001. The 1991 revision of the Psalter was further revised between 2009 and 2010.
The revision aimed at making use of the best manuscript traditions available, translating as accurately as possible, and rendering the result in good contemporary English. In many ways it is a more literal translation than the original New American Bible and has attempted to be more consistent in rendering Hebrew (or Greek) words and idioms, especially in technical contexts, such as regulations for sacrifices. In translating the Psalter special effort was made to provide a smooth, rhythmic translation for easy singing or recitation and to retain the concrete imagery of the Hebrew.
The NABRE is approved for private use and study. It will not be used for the Mass, which uses an earlier, modified version of the NAB translation.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
In a stunning ten-page declaration recently submitted to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, veteran attorney Donald H. Steier stated that his investigations into claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have uncovered vast fraud and that his probes have revealed that many accusations are completely false.
Counselor Steier has played a role in over one hundred investigations involving Catholic clergy in Los Angeles.In his missive Mr. Steier relayed, "One retired F.B.I. agent who worked with me to investigate many claims in the Clergy Cases told me, in his opinion, about ONE-HALF of the claims made in the Clergy Cases were either entirely false or so greatly exaggerated that the truth would not have supported a prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse" (capital letters are his).
Mr. Steier also added, "In several cases my investigation has provided objective information that could not be reconciled with the truthfulness of the subjective allegations. In other words, in many cases objective facts showed that accusations were false."
Mr. Steier's declaration is a stunner. He is as experienced as anyone in studying the claims of abuse against Catholic clergy in the Los Angeles area. Also among Steier's eye-opening statements:
"I have had accused priest clients take polygraph examinations performed by very experienced former law enforcement experts, including from L.A.P.D., the Sheriff Department, and F.B.I. In many cases the examinations showed my clients' denial of wrongdoing was 'truthful,' and in those cases I offered in writing to the accuser to undergo a similar polygraph examination at my expense. In every case the accuser refused to have his veracity tested by that investigative tool, which is routinely used by intelligence agencies."
"I am aware of several plaintiffs who testified that they realized that they had been abused only after learning that some other person - sometimes a relative - had received a financial settlement from the Archdiocese or another Catholic institution."
"In my investigation of many cases, I have seen the stories of some accusers change significantly over time, sometimes altering years, locations, and what activity was alleged - in every case, the changes seemed to have enabled or enhanced claims against my clients, or drastically increased alleged damages."
"I am aware that false memories can also be planted or created by various psychological processes, including by therapists who might be characterized as 'sexual victim advocates,' if not outright charlatans."
"Most of the approximately seven hundred psychiatric 'Certificates of Merit' filed in these Clergy Cases, as required by [California] Code of Civil Procedure § 340.1, were signed by the same therapist." (!) (Note: A "Certificate of Merit" from "a licensed mental health practitioner" is required in California before filing an abuse lawsuit.)
Steier signed and submitted the declaration "under penalty of perjury" November 30, 2010. Los Angeles County Superior Court officially filed it at 11 a.m. on December 15, 2010. (Images of Steier's declaration: pages 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10.)
Steier also took aim at the outspoken advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests):
They maintain an interactive Internet website with a user 'Forum' and 'Message Board,' among other features, where people can share detailed information between alleged victims pertaining to identity of specific alleged perpetrators, their alleged 'modus operandi,' and other details of alleged molestation. In effect, a person who wanted to make a false claim of sexual abuse by a priest could go to that website and find a 'blueprint' of factual allegations to make that would coincide with allegations made by other people. Law enforcement also uses the S.N.A.P. website to attempt to locate new victims and allegations against Catholic priests.
Needless to say, SNAP had a fit at the sight of Steier's declaration. In a frantic press statement dated December 13, 2010, SNAP derided Steier's declaration as a "legal maneuver" that was "among the most outrageous and hurtful ever made by a church defense lawyer." In addition to claiming it will file a complaint with the California Bar Association, it demanded that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony "denounce Steier's claims and to disclose how much archdiocesan money has been paid to Steier." (Gee, the last time I checked, SNAP steadfastly refused to divulge how much of its income is derived from the number of lawyers with whom it closely collaborates!)
Yet there is a glaring absence from SNAP's statement. The organization does not refute nor deny any of the specific claims made by Steier. It simply labels them as "outrageous" and "hurtful." That is hardly a blow to the explosive declaration aired by the veteran attorney.
Yes, Catholic priests terribly abused minors, and bishops failed to stop the harm. That's an undeniable truth. There are few crimes that revolt more than sexual abuse. The abuse of minors is a dark episode that the Church will forever have to live with.
Yet major media outlets have largely ignored a major element to the entire Catholic abuse scandal narrative.
Here is Wall Street Journal writer Dorothy Rabinowitz:
"People have to come to understand that there is a large scam going on with personal injury attorneys, and what began as a serious effort has now expanded to become a huge money-making proposition."
Surprise: Ms. Rabinowitz made her remark in 2005. Since then, the Church has doled out an additional $1 billion in settlements.
Will 2011 be the year that the media finally begins to take a closer look at many of the claims being made? What about the suspicious relationships between SNAP, lawyers, and many in the media? (Vincent Carroll at the Denver Post is a rare voice of acknowledgement: "[F]raudulent or highly dubious accusations are more common than is acknowledged in coverage of the church scandals — although they should not be surprising, given the monumental settlements various dioceses have paid out over the years" (Oct. 10, 2010).)
Saturday, January 01, 2011
As our Catholic readers know, this is the Solemnity (Holy Day) of Mary, Mother of God, one of the more significant liturgical celebrations in the Catholic calendar
The confession of Mary as “Mother of God” presents a stumbling block for some non-Catholic Christians, but curiously it never did for me.
I think it was back in the Fall of 1992 when I was sitting in a course in Ancient Church History at one of the best Calvinist seminaries in America. Our professor, a devout Dutch Calvinist (like most of us students), was lecturing on the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus AD 431, the council that recognized Mary as “Theotokos,” “Mother of God” (or more literally, “Bearer of God”). He began to address the question, Can Calvinists confess Mary as “Mother of God”? He answered in the affirmative, granted that one understood this not as a claim for Mary’s motherhood of divinity itself, but in the sense that Mary was mother of Jesus, who is truly God. And that, of course, is precisely how the Catholic Church understands the term.
So far from being a cause of division, the common confession of Mary as “Mother of God” should unite all Christians, and distinguish Christian orthodoxy from various confusions of it, such as Arianism (the denial that Jesus was God) or Nestorianism (in which Mary mothers only the human nature of Jesus but not his whole person).
Happy feast day to all!
On a side note, I’ll be gone starting Monday on a retreat and won’t be blogging again until January 10 at the earliest.
Notre Dame beat Miami in the Sun Bowl yesterday, no doubt aided by the fact that there was snow in El Paso overnight and the temperature at kick-off was 37 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s balmy for South Bend but not for South Florida. Despite my conviction that college sports is overhyped and frequently a disordered waste of time, my alma mater’s win made me happy. Go Irish!