Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Flannery O’Connor opens a new door to Easter Mysteries

FlanneryFlannery O’Connor is a rather intriguing and an important Catholic woman of importance for us today. She is too often overlooked by Catholics and secularists alike and that is a sad point. George Weigel wonder aloud on several critical points about faith and reason, and faith, but he also opines about the lack of a concerted study of O’Connor’s sanctity. Is Weigel asking something important here?

You need to read Weigel’s most recent article, “Easter with Flannery O’Connor” because brings to light some new aspects of O’Connor’s witness to truth that I have not heretofore thought about in detail.

Weigel’s opening paragraphs read (to read the full article click on the link above):

This coming Aug. 3 will mark the golden anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s “Passover,” to adopt the biblical image John Paul II used to describe the Christian journey through death to eternal life. In the 50 years since lupus erythematosus claimed her at age 39, O’Connor’s literary genius has been widely celebrated. Then, with the 1979 publication of The Habit of Being, her collected letters, another facet of Miss O’Connor’s genius came into focus: Mary Flannery O’Connor was an exceptionally gifted apologist, an explicator of Catholic faith who combined remarkable insight into the mysteries of the Creed with deep and unsentimental piety, unblinking realism about the Church in its human aspect, puckish humor—and a mordant appreciation of the soul-withering acids of modern secularism.

Insofar as I’m aware, there’s never been an effort to initiate a beatification cause for Flannery O’Connor. If such a cause should ever be introduced, The Habit of Being (and the lectures found in the Library of America edition of her collected works) should be the principal documentary evidence for considering her an exemplar of heroic virtue, worthy to be commended to the whole Church.

Once an unbeliever, now a Catholic

In a week’s time many people will be baptized, received into full communion with the Catholic Church or receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Truly an process of discernment on the parts of the persons and the parish staff who take the time to teach the faith, propose a new way of seeing life, and being a good example that it is possible to be a Catholic. The process we use is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults –the RCIA (and there is another process for children of catechetical age but not yet in regular Christian education).

What I have found is that the RCIA not only forms persons in accepting Jesus Christ into their hearts for the first time, but the RCIA also challenges me to live differently and to recommit myself to the salvation offered to me by the Lord. The RCIA has helped me to love the Church, myself, and others in a deeper way. From experience, I can I say with certainty, that a properly organized RCIA process will show the contours of faith and reason by demonstrating a Catholic faith is not decrepit but rooted in Jesus Christ showing the to world how to become authentic apostles. A properly organized RCIA program will give the fullness of the revealed faith and the faith, not chain of opinions or sentimental moralisms.

I think some of the key questions before all of us this Lent is: In what ways has the content of the Catholic faith changed me? Am I familiar with the Lord? Have I developed the capacity with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to share the good news with others? Am I willing to say that Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior and a priority in my life, today and forever?

A recent article by Catherine Quinn, “I Was a Pagan, Hedonistic, Man-hating Feminist. But Now I am Catholic. This is My Story: How I found happiness in the place I least expected.” Ms Quinn will open a new door for you.

Blessing material goods

I am asked all sorts of questions about the Catholic Church, her practices and beliefs. Recently asked: “Can I ask rightly ask for material things from God? I  do not want to be self-centered.” What do Christians mean when they say they are blessed?

Divine revelation will speak about the superiority of the spiritual over material. Our poverty is one dependence on God for everything recognizing that we do not make ourselves nor do we sustain ourselves. Everything is a gift. In the Old Testament we read that “The LORD has blessed my master [Abraham] so abundantly that he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys” (Genesis 24:35). We know that Jesus teaches: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6: 19-20)

If I understand what Our Lord is saying, I can have material things but I should not make an idol of these things. Long has Judaism and Christianity taught that material goods as blessings from God AND a proper use of these goods is required to remain in right-relationship with God. But the question of being blessed by God is understood at a far greater level –that of the beatitudes. Recently, I have been thinking of meaning of my person in relationship to the beatitudes. Saint Matthew pulls out the blessings: the kingdom of heaven, righteousness, peace, physical and spiritual sustenance and so forth. All these blessings are for the Kingdom of God, that is, for the good of the Church. We the know etymology of happiness, from Latin, is beatitudo, hence we have “Beatitudes.” Yet the question of what is means for my person necessarily surfaces. For my “I” to be true, that is, to be fully alive in Christ Jesus, I need to live in a proper relationship with the other, with God and with creation.

Jesus has a key desire for us: our happiness in this world lived in holy freedom. What comes to mind is the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of Loyola where we are reminded that we have to develop a discerned indifference to the material world leaving all things in the hands of God: life, death, sickness, health, wealth and poverty –all is in Providence. Loyola wants us to keep in mind that being free is to rely on God. As creatures we have reasonable concerns for a material well-being that is also the concern for the Lord. The material world is part of the make-up of the Incarnation. In all things we need to adopt an absolute priority for Christ, as Blessed John Duns Scotus calls it.

Jesus is against the excessive, idolization of the material world. For a fuller picture read Matthew 6.

From what is revealed in Scripture we need to move to Aquinas who teaches that while it is not correct to desire material things principally because they are not about ultimate destiny, we can ask God to grant us material things “as helps whereby we are assisted in tending towards beatitude,” since they are “means of supporting the life of the body, and are of service to us as instruments in performing acts of virtue” (STh. I-II q. 83a.6).

Catholics, then, can in good conscience ask for the material blessings if they indeed the right use of them for the upbuilding of the Kingdom. Any other reason needs to be atoned for in the confessional.

Good Pope John was no lightweight…

Earlier today I read a very insightful essay on the First Things blog by William Doino, Jr, “John XXIII’s Prophetic Encyclical.”

I have to say in the effort of full disclosure, I’ve never read Blessed John’s Ad  Petri Cathedram (1959); neither have I read anything about it. No surprise, really, given that so many have overlooked John XXIII as a nice, rotund pope who was not much more than a jolly, inviting person. John’s teaching is not to be obscured, it needs our firm attention and implication. So, this is a great find on my part.

May I suggest that you read Mr. Doino’s essay and the pontiff’s encyclical. It is clear that the blessed pope is dealing with the hard issues of faith and reason, especially the clarity objectivity of Truth. As Doino points out Good Pope John was not a relativist on truth and good order of the proclaiming gospel. Among the contents of this obscure papal treatise are the topics of Christian unity under the guidance of the Pope, Vatican II’s preparation, the role of bishops in the Church, the mission of consecrated men and women, the value of theology, world peace, and social justice.

Assisted Suicide picks up steam in Connecticut

Assisted suicide is gaining a little popularity in Connecticut with Senator Edward Meyer’s bill, S.B. 48, “An Act Concerning Physician-Assisted Suicide.” In the bill it is written that the bill would “…permit a competent person who is suffering from a terminal illness to take his or her life through the self-administration of prescribed medication.”
Senator Meyer is a state senator representing Branford, North Branford, Guilford, Durham, Killingworth and Madison (Connecticut’s 12 district). In 2009, a similar bill was introduced but defeated.

You’ll remember that Massachusetts voters narrowly defeated a proposition in the 2012 elections. The AP is now reporting that a half-dozen states are now proposing bills supporting legalized assisted suicide. Is there an honest shift in thinking in these united States? What is claimed is that there is strong support for such.

In some circles it’s thought that a very small group of people in the USA are in favor of assisted suicide but they are organized, with money, and capable of capitalizing on the fears of the chronically ill, the disabled and the elderly. One group is poised to become the Planned Parenthood of the assisted suicide movement called Compassion and Choices. But what about the opposition?

In the media you’ll hear lots about the Catholic opposition to assisted suicide and you’ll be told that few others are interested in these questions. There is, so to speak, a coalition of peoples with diverse philosophies have organized opposition, namely,
  • medical professionals
  • advocates for the poor
  • disability rights activists
  • mental health professionals
  • pro life peoples (Christians and non Christians)
  • “egalitarian liberals”
The issue is not a Catholic moral matter, it is a human one. Assisted suicide is based on false premises of human dignity and meaning. True that the Catholics in Massachusetts under the leadership of Cardinal Sean O’Malley helped to defeat the “Question 2” but they didn’t do it alone. There was help by the ghost of the late Senator Edward Kennedy divined by his widow who wrote a persuasive-enough OP-ED piece convincing some to vote down the bill proposal. Of course, the Kennedy family is seen by practicing, faithful Catholics as being a left-wing ideological group of politicos, and therefore not a reliable barometer for Catholic thinking and moral life. Nevertheless, Mrs. Kennedy did rally support against the assisted suicide bill.
Jason Negri and Dominican Father Christopher Saliga authored a helpful review/analysis in an essay published by the Catholic Information Service (Knights of Columbus), “Freedom to Flourish: A Catholic Analysis of Doctor -Prescribed Suicide and Euthanasia” (2011).
You may also be interested in a Kindle essay (14 pages) by Christopher Veniamin, “Euthanasia: A Theological Approach.”

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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