Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Seminary and Sex

Creation of Eve Michelangelo.jpgSexuality is a beautiful part of being human and it is a gift from God that needs to be known, understood, appreciated and embraced (no pun intended). Sexuality is a holy part of being a man or a woman. Unfortunately, that’s not the message we receive in secular society and it is infrequently heard from the pulpit in Catholic churches and very likely not in other Christian communities. Unheard of from the pulpit, that is, until Pope John Paul II introduced his monumental work, Theology of the Body. But that’s a topic for another time. Sexuality is not just a religious issue, it is a human issue and everything human is of our interest.

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly ran an interesting story on sexuality. I will say it makes some good points BUT there are some views that are inconsistent with Catholicism. OK, but that’s a not a good reason not to watch the story! Familiarize yourself with the issues –watch the video and read something on the Theology of the Body. AND don’t be scared.
At places like St Joseph’s Seminary there’s a course on human sexuality taught by Father John Bonnici, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Father Bonnici deals with the physiological, psychological, relational, spiritual and theological aspects of human sexuality viz. priestly ministry. AND I am glad to have the class. It is a forum for us to intelligently speak about human sexuality matters while considering the pastoral issues at hand that we will encounter in the parish setting. Learning on the job is not an adequate response any longer… sorry….

Cardinal George’s address to BYU

Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke to more than 12,000 people at BYU in Salt Lake City on February 23, 2010. His full address, “Catholics and Latter-Day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom,” is found here: Cardinal George to BYU 2010.pdf.

Challenging the well-manicured: Archbishop Chaput takes a look at our cultural engagement

Someone who “gets it” is Capuchin Franciscan Archbishop Charles Chaput, archbishop of Denver. Whether it be culture, beauty, healthcare, abortion, immigrant rights, education, politics, preaching, I think the archbishop is a clear thinker and renders a fine and helpful assessment of Christian life and a Christians involvement in the world. Recently, Archbishop Chaput was in Rome to give a talk he titled, “The Prince of This World and the Evangelization of Culture” at the Fifth Symposium Rome: Priests and Laity on Mission. In this address the archbishop addresses questions of culture, beauty, anthropology, faith, evangelization and sin and grace.

What follows is only an excerpt of a longer talk that you can read at the link above. AND I recommend you read the entire text!

Charles Chaput.jpg

In 1929, as the great totalitarian murder-regimes began to rise up in Europe, the philosopher Raissa Maritain wrote a forgotten little essay called “The Prince of This World.” It is worth reading. We need to remember her words today and into the future.  With no trace of irony or metaphor, Maritain argued:

“Lucifer has cast the strong though invisible net of illusion upon us. He makes one love the passing moment above eternity, uncertainty above truth. He persuades us that we can only love creatures by making Gods of them. He lulls us to sleep (and he interprets our dreams); he makes us work. Then does the spirit of man brood over stagnant waters. Not the least of the devil’s victories is to have convinced artists and poets that he is their necessary, inevitable collaborator and the guardian of their greatness. Grant him that, and soon you will grant him that Christianity is unpracticable. Thus does he reign in this world.”

If we do not believe in the devil, sooner or later we will not believe in God.  We cannot cut Lucifer out of the ecology of salvation. Satan is not God’s equal. He is a created being subject to God and already, by the measure of eternity, defeated.  Nonetheless, he is the first author of pride and rebellion, and the great seducer of man. Without him the Incarnation and Redemption do not make sense, and the cross is meaningless. Satan is real. There is no way around this simple truth.

Let me underline that even more strongly. Leszek Kolakowski, the former Marxist philosopher who died just last year, was one of the great minds of the last century.  He was never a religious person in the traditional sense.  But Kolakowski had few doubts about the reality of the devil.  In his essay Short Transcript of a Metaphysical Press Conference Given by the Demon in Warsaw, on 20th December 1963, Kolakowski’s devil indicts all of us who call ourselves “modern” Christians with the following words:

“Where is there a place [in your thinking] for the fallen angel? … Is Satan only a rhetorical figure? . . . Or else, gentlemen, is he a reality, undeniable, recognized by tradition, revealed in the Scriptures, commented upon by the Church for two millennia, tangible and acute?  Why do you avoid me, gentlemen?  Are you afraid that the skeptics will mock you, that you will be laughed at in satirical late night reviews?  Since when is the faith affected by the jeers of heathens and heretics?  What road are you taking?  If you forsake the foundations of the faith for fear of mockery, where will you end?  If the devil falls victim to your fear [of embarrassment] today, God’s turn must inevitably come tomorrow.  Gentlemen, you have been ensnared by the idol of modernity, which fears ultimate matters and hides from you their importance.  I don’t mention it for my own benefit – it is nothing to me – I am talking about you and for you, forgetting for a moment my own vocation, and even my duty to propagate error.”

We live in an age that imagines itself as post-modern and post-Christian.  It is a time defined by noise, urgency, action, utility and a hunger for practical results.  But there is nothing really new about any of this. I think St. Paul would find our age rather familiar.  For all of the rhetoric about “hope and change” in our politics, our urgencies hide a deep unease about the future; a kind of well-manicured selfishness and despair. The world around us has a hole in its heart, and the emptiness hurts.  Only God can fill it.  In our baptism, God called each of us in this room today to be his agents in that work. Like St. Paul, we need to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas 1:22). We prove what we really believe by our willingness, or our refusal, to act on what we claim to believe.

But when we talk about a theme like today’s topic – “Priests and laity together, changing and challenging the culture” – we need to remember that what we do, proceeds from who we are. Nothing is more dead than faith without works (Jas 2:17); except maybe one thing: works without faith.  I do not think Paul had management issues in his head when he preached at the Areopagus.  Management and resources are important – but the really essential questions, the questions that determine everything else in our life as Christians, are these:  Do I really know God?  Do I really love him?  Do I seek him out?  Do I study his word?  Do I listen for his voice?  Do I give my heart to him?  Do I really believe he’s there?

For more than 30 years, first as a bishop and now as the successor to St. Peter, Benedict XVI has spoken often and very forcefully about the “culture of relativism” that guides today’s developed world, breaks down human community and intimacy, and drains the meaning out of human activity. That culture flows out of the “new Areopagus” John Paul II described in Redemptoris Missio – a culture formed by radically new technologies and methods of communication; a culture with a power that reshapes how we think, what we think about, and how we organize our personal and social lives.

We have an obligation as Catholics to study and understand the world around us.  We have a duty not just to penetrate and engage it, but to convert it to Jesus Christ. That work belongs to all of us equally: clergy, laity and religious. We are missionaries. That is our primary vocation; it is hardwired into our identity as Christians. God calls each of us to different forms of service in his Church.  But we are all equal in baptism. And we all share the same mission of bringing the Gospel to the world, and bringing the world to the Gospel.

Understanding Atheism

Dominican Father Brian Davies is delivering the St Thomas Day Lecture entitled, “The New Atheism: Its Virtues and Its Vices,” on Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 7 p.m. at the Church of St Vincent Ferrer (Lexington & 66th Street, NYC).

Father Davies is a Dominican of the English Province but of Welsh heritage and a professor of philosophy at Fordham University

Saint Paul and the market place: giving testimony to Christ building unity

As you are aware, the Pope is assisted by various departments
as pastor of the Church. Without naming all of them, the significant ones are
Faith, Worship, Saints, Clergy and Evangelization. The latter department is
headed by the Indian cardinal, Ivan Dias. As “Prefect of the Congregation for
the Evangelization of Peoples” he works with the world’s bishops and other
competent folk in sharing the Good News. Each year all the departments meet
with the full body of members and experts to deal with the significant issues
identified by the Pope and the Cardinal. In the case of this address, one can’t help thinking of the work of the of new lay movements in the Church and some of the new religious orders doing the hard work of being in the marketplace. I for one, can’t help remember the Pope’s address to the Benedictine Oblates of St Frances of Rome where he praised them for keeping a religious life with a particular focus of being in the center of the city as a witness to Christ while helping the poor. 

What follows is the Pope’s address to
the plenary session of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Note the
points emphasized
.

 

On the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Congregation
for the Evangelization of Peoples, I wish to express to you, Lord Cardinal, my
cordial greeting, which I happily extend to the archbishops, bishops and all
those taking part in this assembly. I also greet the secretary, the assistant
secretary, the under-secretary and all the collaborators of this dicastery. I
add the expression of my sentiments of appreciation and gratitude for the service
you render the Church in the area of the mission ad gentes [to the peoples].

The topic you are addressing in this meeting, “St. Paul
and the New Areopagi” — also in light of the Pauline Year concluded a
short while ago — assists in reliving an experience of the Apostle to the
Gentiles while in Athens. After having preached in many places, he addressed
the Areopagus and there proclaimed the Gospel using a language that today we
could describe as “inculturated”
(cf. Acts 17:22-31).

That Areopagus, which at the time represented the center of
culture for the refined Athenian people, today — as my venerated predecessor
John Paul II would say — “can be taken as a symbol of the new sectors in
which the Gospel must be proclaimed” (Redemptoris Missio, 37). In fact,
the reference to that event is an urgent invitation to know how to value the
“Areopagi” of today, where the great challenges of evangelization are
addressed
.

You wish to analyze this topic with realism, taking into
account the many social changes that have occurred: a realism supported by the
spirit of faith, which sees history in the light of the Gospel, and with the
certainty that Paul had of the presence of the Risen Christ
. Resonating and
comforting for us also are the words that Jesus addressed to him in Corinth:
“Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with
you. No one will attack and harm you,” (Acts 18:9-10).

In an effective way, the Servant of God Paul VI said that it
is not just a question of preaching the Gospel, but of “affecting and as
it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind’s criteria of
judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of
inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and
the plan of salvation”
(Insegnamenti XIII, [1975], 1448).

It is necessary to look at the “new Areopagi” with
this spirit; some of these [areas], with present globalization, have become
common, whereas others continue to be specific to certain continents, as was seen
recently in the special assembly for Africa of the synod of bishops. Therefore,
the missionary activity of the Church must be directed to the vital centers of
the society of the third millennium
.

Not to be underestimated is the influence of a widespread
relativistic culture, more often than not lacking in values, which enters the
sanctuary of the family, infiltrates the realm of education and other realms of
society and contaminates them, manipulating consciences, especially those of
the young. At the same time, however, despite these snares, the Church knows
that the Holy Spirit is always acting. New doors, in fact, are opened to the
Gospel, and spreading in the world is the longing for authentic spiritual and
apostolic renewal. As in other periods of change, the pastoral priority is to
show the true face of Christ, lord of history and sole redeemer of man.

This demands that every Christian community and the Church
as a whole offer a testimony of fidelity to Christ, patiently building that
unity
desired by him and invoked by all his disciples
. The unity of Christians
will, in fact, facilitate evangelization and confrontation with the cultural,
social and religious challenges of our time
.

In this missionary enterprise we can look to the Apostle
Paul, imitate his “style” of life and his apostolic
“spirit” itself, centered totally on Christ. With this complete
adherence to the Lord, Christians will more easily be able to transmit to
future generations the heritage of faith, capable of transforming difficulties
into possibilities of evangelization
.

In the recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I
wished to emphasize that the economic and social development of contemporary
society needs to renew attention to the spiritual life and “a serious
consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in
Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness,
self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. Christians long for the
entire human family to call upon God as ‘Our Father!'”
(No. 79).

Lord Cardinal, while thanking you for the service that this
dicastery renders to the cause of the Gospel, I invoke upon you and upon all
those taking part in the present plenary assembly the help of God and the
protection of the Virgin Mary, star of evangelization, while I send my
heartfelt apostolic blessing to all.

From the Vatican, November 13, 2009

BENEDICTUS XVI PP

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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