Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Mike Aquilina speaks on Family and its Mission

The Siena Forum for Faith and Culture welcomed Mike Aquilina, an accomplished author, faithful Catholic, a solid husband for 25 years and father of 6. He’s the executive VP of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a TV host of several programs on EWTN with Scott Hahn.

Aquilina’s work this morning was to explore with us the theme of Family and Its Mission, looking at the early Christians because they are instructive because their stories are similar to ours, the story is about people and families; the human heart had been capture by faith in Christ.

The early period of Christianity was made up of a robust group of 33 million Christians in a 60 million person empire. Mike cited one scholar, Rodney Stark, says that the growth rate of Christianity at a 40% per decade due to Christ. Mutual affection and openness to fertility; respectful of marriage, popular to pagan women who needed and wanted dignity; the pagan men noticed. It was the single women who prime evangelizers (apostles for the Gospel and virtue). They truly lived grace does not destroy nature, grace perfects it.

Christianity was nurtured in the homes. A theme, Aquilina, reminded us that hagiography typically notes the great saints; they were mostly of men and women in the clergy and religious communities but few stories of families and “normal people.” Citing Saint Augustine, Mike related that he said the faith was passed on by  “one heart setting another heart on fire.” The Christian experience is not a static experience. No massive conversions like you’d likely see with a Billy Graham Crusade. The acceptance of Christ was nurtured subtly in the family, “in the smallest of increments.”

The care of the person in a time a persecution and epidemic was a hallmark. The care given by early Christians was based on faith, hope and charity: it changed EVERYTHING.

Pagans noticed the Christians for the charity: as the Emperor Julian noted, the Christians supported their own Christian poor and the pagan poor. Philanthropy was for show; charity addressed the human body and the soul. It was a work of the family. Charity transformed an empire. It wasn’t until later in 4th century that it became institutionalized.

Early Christians were not nominal followers of Christ. AD 293-305 saw the church suffering from a ruthless persecution, a true holocaust. To accept Christ as your Savior meant that you always faced social stigma, subject to violence; one’s life was continuously in jeopardy. Christians lived asceticism: trained by rigorous fasting at least twice a week.

Mike Aquilina’s lessons — practices that move mind and heart.

1. Acknowledge the home as a domestic Church (in the Catechism 1655-1658): “the Church is nothing other than ‘the family of God.'” The Kingdom of God ought to be lived in homes as being truly schools of virtue, places of communio (companionship, fellowship). For example, the meal at home is a mirror of the Eucharist: Christ takes our family meals and transforms them through the Liturgy; meals are echoes of what happens at Mass.

“My dear fellow bishops” Saint Augustine called his people. Bishops, by words and deeds, by teaching, sanctifying (praying) and govern.

2. Make the domestic Church a school of charity. Tertullian in AD 190 said: it is our care of the helpless that is our hallmark; see how those Christians love one another. It is not the art on the wall that identifies us as disciples of Christ but the way we live. We Christians are to live differently.

Happiness in suffering. It is possible to face difficulties; include grandparents and singles in the work of passing the faith on to others. Don’t raise kids by your dysfunction and TV.

3. Make the domestic Church a place of prayer. Conversions happen through simple acts of prayer, of making the Sign of the Cross, grace before meals. The family rosary could be a burden at first but it can become “normal.”

4. Make the Sunday Mass the family’s center of life. Being over scheduled is a problem for many things on contemporary family life. The Mass makes Christians and Christians make the Mass. We can’t live without the Mass.

5. Know that as a domestic Church you are on mission. You are sent out (you are apostles) to speak of Christ and his grace of salvation. We don’t have to be Bible-thumpers; we have to be friends to others so that they will see how we live our lives and want what we have: joy. Others will encounter Christ through our love, not through a TV program or an I-Phone app.

The current day illnesses: rejection, abandonment, loneliness. We need to expand our ideas of epidemic and to see how we interact with others, especially with strangers.

From Saint Jerome, we learn, “the eyes of all are turned on you, your house is set on the watch tower; your life sets for others their self-control.” It is by our own good and virtuous lives others take good example and in turn will live differently. You let others see that happiness is possible. Open your lives to others.

7. Live by the teachings of the Church. The bar is set high but do-able. Early Christians didn’t compromise on their faith and the practice thereof. Hate the sin, love the sinner, help others to live rightly, to live according to wisdom of the Church.

“Reality holds a signature from God … we must seek to decipher”

The transcript for the talk on whether a scientist can be a believer that was given at a lecture hosted by the New York Encounter in January has just been released by the Crossroads Cultural Center. Faith and reason is being explored here. It is a great question to ask if a believer in Christ –or perhaps a Jew or Muslim adherent– can be credible, true to his or her being given a certain intellectual formation. Does belief in God forfeit our true search for the Divine? Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete’s portion of the discussion is the most interesting to me and it is noted below (emphasis mine). A believer sometime has to work overtime to convince him or herself that faith and science are compatible. The other day my attention was drawn to what a little girl said about Lent: her view of life and the simplicity by which we have to look everything realizing that we don’t make ourselves; everything is given. Albacete answers the question of the compatibility of faith and science: The answer, I propose, is not only yes he can, but, in fact, it is faith that will sustain his or her passion for investigating nature, and prevent the process itself and its results from becoming enslaved to political, economic, and religious ideology.Let me know what you think.

In such a case, is awe, wonder, and joy at scientific
discoveries possible? When I was thinking about this, a friend sent me the text
of a speech given by Msgr. Luigi Giussani about the “love of being” that is
remarkably appropriate to this reflection.  Giussani’s argument is that the truth of Christianity can be
verified by a proper consideration of the evidence
for it. Evidence, he says,
is the correct word, even if the evidence for the Christian claim is given to
us through signs
. Signs are things that can be touched, seen, and experienced. The Apostles had Jesus in front of them and this presence was a sign of His
victory over death, and therefore of His mysterious identity. But what about
us? What happens with the passage of time? What signs are there for us as
evidence of the truth of the Christian claim, of the reasonableness of the
Christian claim?


The interpretation of the signs available to us engages our
liberty, he says. In this drama, our liberty is a manifestation of our love for
being. Without this love for being we are not truly free and we will never
grasp the evidence of the signs given to us. At this point, as an example of
this love for being, Giussani invokes the Magi.

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Byran Kemper reverts to Catholicism…why?

Bryan Kemper.jpgComing to Christ –that’s what I am calling it when some comes into full communion with the Catholic Church (or Orthodoxy)– is not an easy thing for some people. Family, friends, employment, fear, and second-guessing the discernment can make “converting” all the more a royal pain. Only grace can sustain one’s move from one ecclesial body to another. A case in point has been those of the Anglican Communion coming to Catholic Church and now Byran Kemper, a baptized Catholic turn Presbyterian who founded the Stand True Ministries, among other things. Kemper is also the author of Social Justice Begins in the Womb (2010).

Why is Byran Kemper coming into full communion with the Catholic Church (he’s reverting to the Church in which he was baptized and through whom he received the pledge of future glory)?
He mentions a few factors that cradle Catholics often dismiss as important: the Liturgy, the Seven Sacraments, church authority, pro-life theology and activity, and friendship.
In the coming weeks as we move closer to the great feast of our faith, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and where our brothers and sisters come home to Christ, add Bryan and the others in the RCIA programs around the world who will receive the Easter Sacraments at the Easter Vigil to your prayer list. Beg the Holy Spirit for the grace of fortitude.

Cardinal Burke on the truth of human sexuality & fall of Christian culture

Raymond Cardinal
Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, has been traveling lately. Most recently to Australia. There he spoke on the theme of “The Fall of the Christian West,” at a
symposium organized by the Australian Catholic Students Association, Sydney. He gave “particular attention to the witness to the truth regarding human sexuality, as fundamental to holiness of life, and to the question of conscience as the irreplaceable and secure guide in the pursuit of holiness of life.” The cardinal also reflected on martyrdom.

Among
many things said in the address the Cardinal said:

  • quoting Benedict XVI said, we “need to form our consciences, in accord with the moral teaching of the Church … ‘our responsibility to make these criteria [these moral foundations] audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind'”
  • “…our call to build anew a
    strong Catholic culture
    , in fidelity to our vocation to give witness to Christ
    and, therefore, to be martyrs for the faith”
  • “witness to the truth regarding
    human sexuality, as fundamental to holiness of life, and to the question of
    conscience as the irreplaceable and secure guide in the pursuit of holiness of
    life.”
  • “The life of the martyr for the faith finds its center and source in the
    Eucharistic sacrifice
    , in Eucharistic adoration, and in all forms of
    Eucharistic devotion, especially visits to the Blessed Sacrament and spiritual
    communion throughout the day” 
  • “The Holy Eucharist not only strengthens us
    spiritually to be true martyrs, but is the model of our martyrdom, pure and
    selfless love, without condition, to the end.”
You ought to read the entire excellent address is here: Cardinal R Burke, The Fall of the Christian West, March 11, 2011.pdf

Patrick Madrid speaking in NYC March 18 & 19

Patrick Madrid speaking pic.jpgThe Siena Forum for Faith and Culture will be hosting Patrick Madrid -of EWTN fame– at the Church of Saint Catherine of Siena (NYC) this
coming weekend!


We are delighted to have Patrick with us for the the weekend!

Madrid’s talks are very promising as I believe that they will open
new doors to knowing Christ, loving the Church, and spreading the Good News
that Christ is risen from the dead!  For those who ask the questions, “Can an educated person
be Catholic?” Or, “Why be Catholic?”, Madrid’s talks will give good
answers. Even for those of us who are consider life-long Catholics Patrick
Madrid will be helpful.

The Church of Saint Catherine of Siena is
pleased to host Patrick Madrid for a 2-day seminar based on his
book Search and Rescue: How You Can Help People Come Home to the
Church
.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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