Category Archives: Faith & Reason

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.”

Christ or Christendom?

There is much consider as the culture many of us live in secularizes, that is, divorces us from a tangible Christian perspective, manner of being, and how we live in a world with diverse opinions. Today, we have to ask about Christ or Christendom. It is said that Saint Augustine asked, what there is of Christian among Christians is Christ.  He is orienting our attention not to an idea but to a person, a meeting, an encounter, with a person. Emphatically we all have to state that to be a Christian is to be in contact with a person, Jesus the Christ. Being Christian does not mean moral norms, cultural ideology, and precepts of the Church. Morality, culture and precepts within an ecclesiology are extraordinarily important, but they are secondary in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and adhering to Him; it is also a firm belief in heaven (salvation).

Is Christ important, or are consequences of Christ? We all have to come to terms with how we let what and who we believe in impact the way we live. That is, does Jesus Christ really mean something to you and does said belief  have consequences in the manner of how you live? As a friend of Jesus Christ, what does it mean to hold to an “economy of salvation”? How do we interpret history of the Christian era? What role does true faith play in this period of history? Where are we as Christians in this history? Does eternal life with the Trinity mean anything anymore?  In order to do so we have to be as objective as possible; our ideological impulses have to be put aside so as to deal with reality without rewriting the past.

Start now in developing a more coherent, mature faith in Jesus Christ and then in His Church. You ought to read the following articles to begin (remember not to form conclusions yet) your thinking on the subject:

Discernment of Church leadership

There is a tendency to think of the Catholic Church in political terms (liberal or conservative) and not in theological terms (communio, salvation, proclamation of the kingdom, sacraments, discernment, etc). I think some of the those who use political terms to describe the Church do so neither know the distinctions that need to be made nor the horizons of the gospel and magisterium of the Church. The Church is asking for the Good News, not personal news. Indeed, the human heart not ideology is what the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church) are aiming to serve. Conversion to Jesus Christ is hardly a liberal or conservative set of ideas.

Having said this, I think it is fair to point out that some segments of the papacy over time have treated the Church as a political pawn in the game of chess. They have do so to the detriment of the pursuit of salvation in Christ Jesus. We do notice how a pendulum swings in certain ecclesial administrations, corrective or not. As a friend points out, one only has to study the periods surrounding Popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX. He notes, “This plague of obscurantism was followed by the more enlightened reign of Leo XIII.”

What ought the laity and lower clergy hope for —discern—in the episcopal and cardinal appointments? Certainly not more of the same. The binary of left-right is inaccurate not matter if it is fitting secular manner of judgement. I think it is fair to say that too many journalists like some of the those working for big media centers do the world a disfavor by obscuring the issues in pointing out silly comparisons and contrasts in the hierarchy such as clothes and fine living (cf. Burke and Wuerl). Each churchman brings to the table certain level of sophistication and expertise.

We need, we desire, a church and therefore for all the leaders: a capacity to preach, to offer the sacred Liturgy with the transcendentals in mind, who are able to read literature other than canon law, morality and speculative theology, who are able to consult with a wide range of people and experience (discernment), who are not afraid of women (and men), who are able to enjoy the creative works of a museum and a symphony, etc. Get my drift?

The Catholic Church needs real men (and where able, women) who have a real humanity and not a reductionistic view of creation. Holy Church wants in her leadership a Trinitarian vision with a recognition of paternity, filiation, spiration, procession and mission. We are all tired of the status quo of the psycho-sexual, anti-intellectual, economic and theologically weak types. These problems are encountered not merely in the secular clergy and religious (Benedictines, Jesuits, Salesians, Dominicans and Franciscans) but also in the laity.

May all things be done so that God may be glorified!

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]
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