Religion: August 2003 Archives

Mel Gibson's Passion

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NPR : Mel Gibson's Catholic Faith
Just click on the headline or the audio icon to listen to the story. You'll need an audio player to hear it, and you can find the right one for your computer here. If you have any problems, please visit the NPR audio help page .
This item was on NPR's show Day to Day on Monday. My husband was so indignant at what he heard that he took the time (rare for him) to send the show a rather scathing email. Before you listen to it, do some deep breathing and relaxation. Then, you can decide how and if you want to respond.
Personally, I get steamed when there is a major attempt to shoot down something based upon prejudgement from incomplete data. As far as I can tell, their "expert Catholic journalist" may very well meet the other definition of expert - "A former drip under pressurt (ex-spurt). But maybe I am sinning against charity here.

More Ephesians 5

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So of course, I go to Mass this morning, and what was the Epistle? None other than Ephesians 5!
We ended up going to Mass other than our usual parish today. My poor husband ended up having to run in to his work twice last night and was exhausted, so we went to a later Mass than usual. There are things I love about the other Parish - a really Spirit-filled pastor, a strong devotion to the Eucharist, including being in the process of developing Perpetual Adoration, singing pretty much all of the Ordinary of the Mass (including the kyrie and the gloria) and real warmth and welcome. Then there are the things that drive me nuts - like asking the congregation to speak up with petitions during the prayer of the faithful (which might not be so bad except that this prayer is meant to be for categories not individuals - ie all the faithful departed, not "Uncle Joe who died last week") and a certain tendency towards being politically correct among the lay leadership of the parish. Today it manifested in the choice (probably made by the lector, not the pastor) to use the 'short' version of the reading - in other words elimination of that troubling command for wives to subordinate their authority to their husbands.
Maybe it didn't matter all that much, as Deacon (transitional) focused the homily on the eucharistic component of the Gospel reading - but all I could think about was what a wonderful opportunity was missed. I mean, starting with Joshua. He, as head of his household, declared boldly "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. And then, Ephesians reinforces that there is a right order to creation - the Church obeys Christ, therefore obedience to the Church is obedience to Christ. And in the Gospel, "no one can come (to Christ) unless the Father grants it". There is order in the Universe because God made it that way! If we want to gain the benefits of what has been created for, and given to, us sinful men we have to obey!!!!!
This is why the Church is a hierarchy, not a democracy. I do not consult my children on decisions like should they go to school or how should I, their mother, choose to spend the household budget. I expect from them respect and obedience to the reasonable demands I make of them. The Church need not consult me on decisions of dogma and doctrine - I expect that Christ will set people on the chair of Peter who, however sinful, will be protected from error in matters of faith and morals. The Church has the right to expect from me the same respect and obedience - and She has not abused that authority.
The Apostles tell me that obedience to the Church involves setting aside my human preferences and being subordinate to my husband - OK, this is a 'hard saying' but my husband is being told that he has to be willing to die for my salvation - come on, who has the harder assignment here?
I will freely confess that I just didn't get it on Ephesians 5 for a long time. I wasted way too many years in rebellion. Although much of what drew me into the Church was the assurance of authority, at the same time I found it easier to be a cafeteria Catholic. But you know what? It really is a seamless garment. From Ephesians 5 to Humanae Vitae to Veritatis Splendor, the Church has preached the same good news of salvation through faith and works.

Today's Mass Readings


First reading Joshua 24:1 - 18
Josue gathered together all the tribes of Israel in Sichem, and called for the elders, and the princes and the judges, and the masters: and they stood in the sight of the Lord. And he spoke thus to the people: “Thus says the Lord the God of Israel: ‘Your fathers dwelt of old on the other side of the river, Thare the father of Abraham, and Nachor: and they served strange gods’. But if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day what pleases you, whom you would rather serve, whether the gods which your fathers served in Mesopotamia, or the gods of the Amorrhites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.
The people answered: “God forbid we should leave the Lord, and serve strange gods. The Lord our God brought us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage: and did very great wonders before us, and preserved us in all the way by which we journeyed, and among all the people through whom we passed. And he has cast out all the nations, and the Amorrhite who were the inhabitants of the land into which we have come. Therefore we will serve the Lord, for he is our God”.
Psalm or canticle: Psalm 33
Second reading Ephesians 5:21 - 32
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. This mystery is a profound one, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church;
Gospel John 6:60 - 69
Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offence at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe”. For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”.
After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God”.

Ephesians 5

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There have been postings recently on a number of blogs about one of the more controversial teachings of Christianity, that of the proper relationship between husband and wife. I have to admit that I have struggled with this one for all of the (nearly 30) years that I have been married. Part of my struggle has to do with some of the pathology in my family of origin - both my parents came from broken families (divorced and remarried - for my dad when he was 5, for my mom when she was 12) and they themselves divorced after 20 years of a very tumultous marriage. Thinking over my aunts and uncles, the only first marriage that did not end in divorce was my uncle who died of cancer after 5 years of marriage and 2 children. So I did not have any kind of an example. I did not see husbands who cherished their wives to the point of any real sacrifice, nor wives who were willing (or able?) to depend upon their husbands, much less be obedient.
I was raised to be independant to the point of pathology, and I think that my parents were puzzled that I married young, before finishing college and 'establishing myself'. They were even more concerned that I immediately had 2 children in 2 years. What they did not see was that, even though I was not able to be trusting and obedient, God worked miracles through the Sacrament of Matrimony, and through the husband that he gave me.
We have had a rocky marriage from time to time, and I don't want anyone to think that it has always been a fairy-tale romance. I think that it truly is a miracle that we are still married and still in love. I have to credit the graces of the Sacraments and the prayers of my parents-in-law for a lot of that.
Obedience is not something that we tend to make a big thing about most of the time. But I find that if I am in rebellion against my husband (something that alas, has happened way too often) I am also in rebellion against God, the Church, and a life that I wail "Just isn't fair!". John is pretty easy-going about most stuff - I have learned that if he asks my obedience I had better listen up. And example is a job that I was in for nearly two years - I had gotten so wrapped up in it that I lost sight of my priorities. He reminded me that God, marriage, and family came first and gave me the strength (by requiring my obedience) to give notice.
I think that obedience is crucial in a sacramental marriage. Some one has to be in charge. Sometimes obedience can involve being the one to make a particular decision, too. Being obedient does not take away my responsibility for my actions and choices. It does not turn my brain to mush, nor cancel my culpability should I sin.
A husband can not require, through obedience, a sinful action. He cannot command an abortion, for example. The concept of obedience does not absolve a mother from the responsibility to protect the children that God has entrusted to her. Separation from an abusive husband may sometimes be necessary, for example, to protect the children from violence or sexual abuse. But I would hope that these would be rare circumstances for those married in the Church and trying to live a Godly life.

Read this!

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On the 8th day....

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I was asked in a comments box about the topic discussed here. My reply was too big for Haloscan, so I am also going to post it here.
Cicumcision has caused controversy since the Acts of the Apostles! For Christians, there is no theological reason to circumcise, as that visible mark of the covenant has been supplanted by Baptism (and that, BTW, is our best argument for infant Baptism). As prophylactic circumcision is a form of bodily mutilation, medical ethics would require that there be a greater good to be gained that outweighs the risks of the procedure. (Obviously, this does not apply to cicumcisions done for medical indications, such as phimosis or paraphimosis, or as part of the repair procedure for hypospadias.) OK, so what are the risks of circumcision, and what are the potential benefits (and these are theoretical when performing this prophylactically)?
Well, the risks are small and very infrequent, especially in the hands of a competent mohel or otherwise well trained cutter. They include bleeding, infection, surgical error, stress to the patient, and, if anesthesia is used, the risks of the anesthesia. In extremely rare cases, circumcision can lead to penile amputation or death from hemorrhage or infection. The pain felt by the infant is real - and the reaction to that pain may interfere with breastfeeding. There was an interesting study that looked at the reaction of children to the pain of injection for immunizations at ~~ 2 months of age - the boys who had been circumcised had what the observers rated as an exaggerated pain response. (The observers did not know who had or had not been circ'ed, and they were also rating girls). I am sorry that I can not remember the exact citation for this study but I will look it up if anyone is interested.
OK, well how about the benefits? A circumcised penis is easier to keep clean, especially in situations where water is rare and soap non-existant (like desert nomads?) Cleanliness is important to prevention of infection. Of course, the same applies to just about any skin-fold area, male or female. Material gathers in skinfolds, and it can get pretty rancid and grow bacteria, fungus, or shelter viruses. Cleanliness in important overall for health.
There have been studies that the partners of circumcised men have lower rates of cervical cancer and sexually transmitted disease, but later studies that factored out sexual behaviours such as multiple partners disproved this thesis. (makes sense, since 99% of cervical cancer is probably due to infection of the cervix with a strain of the human papillomavirus that is sexually transmitted). So marrying (both) virgin and remaining monogamous is actually a better protection against cervical cancer and other STDs than circumcision.
Circumcision does make applying condoms easier.
The only disease against which circumcision seems to be universally effective (prevention, that is) is primary cancer of the penis, a disease so rare that there has not been any study to see if it too may be related to a sexually transmitted virus.
The other advantages of cicumcision are psychosocial (matching one's peers) and psychosexual (meeting the expectations of one's parter(s) in bed). In a culture of modesty and monogamy, I don't think these would be real issues, but in our current culture I just don't know how much weight to put on them.
Having said that, I will say that our 2 sons were both circumcised, despite the fact that we paid cash for the procedure. At the time of their births, the weight of the medical evidence seemed to be in favor of circumcision. After their births, we had 3 more girls, so the issue did not arise. I honestly do not know what we would decide if faced with the decision today.
My advice to women who ask me is to carefully and prayerfully weigh the evidence (along with your husband), and submit to your husband's authority in this area. I do, however, recommend that those who choose cicumcision have it done no earlier than the 8th day of life, and that the cut be done by an expert (mohels are my first choice, if you can find one). Sugar and wine are traditionally given to the baby ahead of time, and help with the pain, and nursing immediately afterwards is a great comfort to the baby.


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Many converts seem to have trouble with the Church's Marian doctrines. I personally never did, and I am not sure why. It always made sense to me that the Mother of God (the new Ark of the Covenant) would have to be special and unique. Perpetual virginity? No problem - I remember as a child asking a parent what the term 'virgin' meant, (I think I read 'virgin wool' off a clothing label) and being told it meant untouched or pure. Well, of course the Mother of the Messiah would have to be untouched and pure. Recycled is good enough for everyday, but new is for special - and how much more special than to incubate the body of the Saviour? And to remain pure? But of course! What a miracle to add onto the miracle of the Incarnation.
And thinking back, the Immaculate Conception only made sense, as well. I do get rather upset at people (so-called comedians in particular) who confuse the Immaculate Conception of Mary with the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
The Assumption of Mary into Heaven is another dogma that gives some non-Catholic Christians pause. When explaining this one, I go back to the Old Testament, where the prophet who walked with God was bodily taken up to heaven. As a child, that story enchanted and fascinated me, and I longed to be holy enough to bypass earthly death in that fashion.
Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption, and it would also have been the 55th anniversary of my parents-in-law's marriage. Because it was a mixed marriage, it was celebrated in the rectory, not the church. My mother-in-law must have truly loved her husband, to enter into a mixed marriage in those days. Later, my father-in-law entered the Church, much to the delight of his wife. My husband remembers that one day, instead of sitting in the pew during Communion, he walked up the aisle with them and knelt to receive - this was how he announced his conversion to his children. My parents-in-law were very holy in that ordinary everyday way that is so important, and so very difficult.
I don't know why they were married on a major feast day - but I am glad that they were - because every year on August 15, I remember their lives and thank God for the gift He and they gave me of a loving and faithful husband.

Saint of the Day

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From Universalis, a site I recommend.
St Maximilian Kolbe (1894 - 1941)

He was born on 8 January 1894 in occupied Poland: he joined the Franciscans in Lwów in 1910, and was ordained eight years later, as his country became free and independent for the first time in over 120 years.
He believed that the world was passing through a time of intense spiritual crisis, and that Christians must fight for the world’s salvation with all the means of modern communication. He founded a newspaper, and a sodality called the Knights of Mary Immaculate, which spread widely both in Poland and abroad.
In 1927 he founded a community, a “city of Mary”, at Teresin: centred round the Franciscan friary, it attracted many lay people, and became self-supporting, publishing many periodicals and running its own radio station.

A letter of St Maximilan Kolbe

I rejoice greatly, dear brother, at the outstanding zeal that drives you to promote the glory of God. It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.

GIRM - latest version

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I found it! General Instructions on the Roman Missal
via Recovering Choir Director (who has been restored to the blogroll, some how I lost him!)

Sexual (im)Morality

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Dale Price fisks
the National Catholic Reporter.
Political correctness:
Is biology destiny? yes if you have overwhelming same sex attraction, no if you are female and want to out-man the men.
"this is my body and I'll do what I want with it" - again the catch phrase for the above two lobby groups. What did Jesus say?
"This is my body, given up for you"

The Anglican debacle


Mark Shea
I hate to say "I told you so" but this is more or less the point of my book By What Authority? The choice has never been between Scripture and Tradition. It is not the case the Catholics make use of Sacred Tradition and Evangelicals don't. Rather, Catholics make use of Sacred Tradition in interpreting Scripture and *know* they do, and Evangelicals make use of Sacred Tradition in interpreting Scripture and *don't* know they do. more
I have thought, from the beginning of this issue, that the most compelling issues here is authority. The Church is not, and has never been, a democracy. God set the Church up as a family, with hierarchical and paternal structure, to save us (among other things) from the tyranny of the majority. I wish I had a dollar for every time I told my children "Just because you outnumber me and you all agree on something, that does not make it right or true."


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Maureen over at A Religion of Sanity has an excellent series of essays on morality. The most recent addition, posted Friday August 8,2003, is especially worth reading.

Amazing Grace for those who Suffer

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Posting may be sparse the next few days, while I figure out how to move the blog. Or I may post a bunch of random stuff tomorrow from on-call. In the meanwhile, this prayer from St. Frances de Sales.
The everlasting God has, in his wisdom, foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from his inmost heart.
This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His loving arms, tested with His wise justice, warmed with His loving arms, and weighed with His own hands, to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you.
He has blessed it with His holy name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from Heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
I found this prayer in the book Amazing Grace for those who Suffer by Jeff Cavins and Matthew Pinto.

Prayer Request


prayer request from bill white (summa minutiae)

Novena to John Henry Cardinal Newman


Novena to John Henry Cardinal Newman
Start today and finish in time for the anniversary of when he went to his eternal reward.
Thanks to Quenta Narwenonian for the link and the reminder.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Religion category from August 2003.

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