Tag Archives: catechism

Direct your goods to the common good

In a recent Wednesday audience, Pope Francis addressed a subject he has not broached often: entrepreneurship. He offered negatives and positives, admonition as well as inspiration.

“What is lacking,” said the Holy Father, “is free and forward looking entrepreneurship.” He urged the flock to understand that “ownership is a responsibility” and that “the ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence.”

Think about that one. It’s a line not only from Pope Francis but from the Catechism. Entrepreneurs and business people: Have you thought of yourself as a steward of Providence?

It’s a poignant thought. It’s also a powerful reminder of how we should view our gifts and our goods.

Quoting St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Francis reflected on the statement that the love of money is the root of all evil. It isn’t money that’s evil, or making money. What matters is how we perceive money and what we do with it. As only Francis could say, “the devil enters through the pockets.” The love of money leads to selfishness, arrogance, and pride. The goal for the person with money is not to love your goods but to “love with your goods.” Then, says Francis, your life becomes good and your property truly becomes a gift.

This is a message where we, as Catholics, must apply our faith and reason. We need not empty our bank accounts tomorrow morning, dumping every dollar into the lap of the first homeless guy we see. We need not give every dime to the Salvation Army while not leaving a penny to our kids. We should, however, carefully consider our money’s ultimate destination. We must be stewards of our gifts, and of the gift of entrepreneurship some of us have been blessed with.

Francis urges entrepreneurs to use their entrepreneurial spirit as an “opportunity to multiply them creatively and to use them generously, and thereby to grow in charity and freedom.”

Here, Francis quoted the Catechism (section 2404): “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.”

It’s important that Francis anchors this in the Catechism. Let’s be honest: Many Catholics fear that these wealth exhortations by Francis are calls for government collectivism and income redistribution or clubs to beat rich people and make them feel guilty. But Francis said no such thing. This is a call for private initiative, for individuals to give of themselves, without state coercion.

It’s also in keeping with Pope John Paul II’s classic Centesimus Annus, which states that a person’s work is “naturally interrelated with the work of others” and should be seen as “work for others.” John Paul II said that work “becomes ever more fruitful and productive to the extent that people become more … profoundly cognizant of the needs of those for whom their work is done.”

If I may conclude on a personal note, I’ve spoken to many Legatus groups. Just in the last year, I spoke to Legatus chapters in Cleveland, Lexington, Jersey Shore, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, among others. The wonderful men and women I meet at these gatherings are Catholic businesspeople and entrepreneurs in the best sense. I’ve witnessed no selfishness or arrogance or pride among them.

And yet, it’s incumbent upon all of us, myself included, to take these words from Francis and John Paul II and the Catechism to heart. We should indeed love with our goods so that they become a good, and above all for the common good.

PAUL KENGOR is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century

God’s four gardens – cultivated for man’s well-being

We fine three essential elements in a garden: order, beauty, and life. Order sets a garden apart from the wilderness. Its boundaries and design establish it as a specific place unlike any other. Second, a garden has beauty – a diversity of flowers and plants, colors, sizes, and shapes – that pleases the eye. Finally, a garden has life. Plants grow and bear fruit, and animals find their territory a pleasing place to live.

This is what God desired for us in that first garden, the Garden of Eden: order, beauty, and life. Order, not just of the Garden, but of our own lives. He established us in a harmonious (well-ordered) relationship with Him, which bestowed in turn a harmony within ourselves and with others, the integration of soul and body, man and woman, man and creation. Likewise, the beauty of that first Garden was not of the plants and flowers, but of our souls, the surpassing beauty of the only creature created in His image and likeness. And He bestowed life there as well – the unending life with God.

By his sin Adam rejected the Gardener and lost the goods of the Garden. We have lost order, beauty, and life. Rebellion against God has thrown His creation into disarray. We now find soul pitted against body, man against woman, and all creation at odds with man. It has brought the ugliness and horror of sin into the world. Most of all, it has brought death into the world, death in place of life.

In a second garden our Lord began the restoration, the redemption; Jesus went “where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered” (John 18:1; Mt. 26:30; Mk 14:26; Lk 22:39). He entered the Garden of Gethsemane to undo the rebellion of the Garden of Eden. In that Garden He took upon Himself all the disorder, ugliness, and death that sin brought into the world. He who is Beauty Itself became the Man of sorrows. He “who knew no sin” became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Life itself became death.

In a third garden our Lord continues His work – by rising from the dead. How fitting that His tomb should be in a garden – to complete the restoration of God’s original plan. Indeed, when she first sees Him, Mary Magdalene takes our Lord to be the gardener (Jn 20:15). And in a certain sense, He is. He rises as the divine Gardener, to restore order, beauty, and life.

He completes His work in a fourth garden: the human soul. He desires to enter our souls by His grace and dwell within as the divine Gardener. He desires to reestablish within us His gifts of order, beauty, and life intended from the beginning – order, to heal that division and discord within us that produces all the division and discord outside of us; beauty, to rid us of the ugliness of sin and grant us the glory of His children; and life, that our hearts become lively and life-giving.

Excerpt by Rev. Paul D. Scalia from Chapter 9 “Feasts,” of his book That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017), pp. 175-76, “Four Gardens” section. www.ignatius.com. Used with permission.

FR. PAUL SCALIA, son of the late Judge Antonin Scalia, is Episcopal Vicar for Clergy (Diocese of Arlington). He will be a featured speaker at “Legatus at the Capitol” on May 25.

Scripture 101

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo’ni!” -John 20: 15-16

Catechism 101

After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #410

Morality of behavior hinges on three elements

I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when visiting our parish CCD class. A young boy simply said: “You have to be good in order to be happy.” I told him that St. Thomas Aquinas would be pleased to hear him say this. But how do we make good choices in life? The simple answer is that we need to learn how God wants us to live, and then do that – “Thy will be done.” Our Divine Savior revealed God’s will to mankind by word and example. Jesus commanded His apostles to teach this revelation to all nations. The Church over the ages has set forth clear teachings to instruct the faithful in the way of Christ’s truth.

Fr. Gerald Murray

On the question of the morality of our actions, the Church has given very specific guidance in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on how to judge what we should do, and not do. In paragraphs 1750-1754 we learn the constitutive elements of the moral evaluation of human acts: “The morality of human acts depends on: the object chosen; the end in view or the intention; the circumstances of the action.” Object, intention and circumstances: These three elements determine the moral evaluation of any human act.

Regarding the object the Catechism states: “The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.” By a choice of our will we seek some good in our life. The question is: is it a true good, something pleasing to God? God gave us our reasoning so that we might discover what is pleasing to him in the variety of possible choices we make in life. Once discovered, we should act in conformity with that good, seeking the help of God’s grace.

Regarding one’s intention, the Catechism states: “In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: It is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken.” We seek what we think will produce good in our life, but that alone does not make our choice good in itself. It is a good choice if we seek what is objectively good.

Our intention cannot change an evil act into a good act simply by claiming that we have the best of intentions when doing something that is evil by its very nature. The Catechism states: “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means.”

Regarding circumstances the Catechism states: “The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.”

The task at hand for each of us is, with the help of God’s grace, to conform our lives to God’s law and to the example His Son Jesus Christ set for us.

FATHER GERALD MURRAY is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY. He holds a doctorate in canon law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and appears as commentator on religious topics on TV and radio, including EWTN, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio and the Voice of America. He writes a monthly column for “The Catholic Thing” website. He served in U.S. Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005.

Know 8 “laws” of sharing the faith

These laws are based on the immutable principles of selling that I learned in my real estate days and are invaluable for effective evangelization.

Terry Barber

Keep It Simple. You should not get too complicated; that is, do not try to share too much because people can only absorb a limited amount of information at a time. Try not to be too theological or to get into heavy philosophy.

Keep Him/Her Saying “Yes.” Establishing common ground is very important when sharing the faith. Ask questions or make statements with which the other person will naturally agree. Even if the person you are sharing your faith with is an agnostic, you might ask, “If there is an afterlife, wouldn’t it be better to go to heaven than to go to hell?” Any sane person would answer yes to that, even if only in his heart.

Be Enthusiastic. Genuine enthusiasm is crucial to effective evangelization. The Greek word theos, meaning “God”, is the root of the word enthusiasm, which literally means “being in God.” The presence of God shows in your attitude. If you smile when you share the Gospel … you will be a more effective evangelist.

Call Him by Name. Always ask for the name of the person with whom you are sharing the Faith. Using a person’s name is powerful; he cannot help but respond to his name. [It] is a proven way to keep his attention and make what you are sharing more significant to him personally.

Show and Then Tell. Rather than just telling someone about the beauty of the Eucharist, why not show it to him? For example, you might take him to an adoration chapel. Many people have been converted in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

In a conversation with a Bible-believing Christian, rather than telling him a particular Catholic doctrine is biblical, show him the doctrine in the Scriptures and have him read it for himself.

Always Agree. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Agree quickly with your adversary” (Mt 5:25 KJV). This does not mean you should water down your message …but should, however, remain positive and not argue with anyone.

Ask Questions. Salesmen are taught this saying: “He who asks questions has control.” When I evangelize I constantly ask questions … Often the way to bring people to Christ and His Church is not by telling them anything, but by asking them the right questions.

Practice Virtue. Let’s face it: if you are not “walking the talk,” people could not care less what you say. It is by the way you live your life – the good example you set at home, at work, at school, and in social settings – that others will know that you really follow Jesus Christ.

Excerpt from Chapter Five, “The Eight Laws of Effectively Sharing the Faith With Anyone” from How to Share Your Faith With Anyone: A Practical Manual for Catholic Evangelization by Terry Barber (Ignatius Press, 2013).
Used by permission.

TERRY BARBER is an international speaker instrumental in founding three Catholic organizations – Saint Joseph Communications, The Catholic Resource Center, and Lighthouse Catholic Media. He is a co-host for “The Terry and Jesse Radio Show” on podcast as well as “Reasons for Faith Live” with Jesse Romero on EWTN Radio Network.

Scripture 101

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:35

Catechism 101

The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2472

When marriage gets tough, faithful get stronger

When Mark lost his job after 21 years of service to a nonprofit organization, it was a devastating blow for our family. The organization was downsizing and decided to dismantle its in-house print shop, of which he was the manager. That was basically the only job he’d ever known during our entire married life, and the prospect of starting all over again was frightening. It was compounded by the fact that four out of our six family members have chronic illnesses, and so adequate health insurance is an absolute necessity.

Marge Fenelon

We tried to keep the kids out of worry’s way, but weren’t completely successful. Tensions were high, and it was like walking a tightrope without a safety net. In spite of that, we rallied around Mark, assured him of our confidence in his resourcefulness and abilities, and used every opportunity to boost morale – both his and ours.

Additionally, we tried to accentuate the resourcefulness of each family member so that we could pull together as a cohesive, purposeful unit. We had to focus on what was good in our lives so that we could keep moving in a positive direction. First and foremost, that included each other. This was a crucial time for encouraging each one to do whatever he or she could to help the family and to practice sacrificial patience!

…If we judged by the images of the Holy Family on Christmas cards, we’d think they lived in total placidity. Perhaps they did at times, but likely their lives were speckled with disharmonies as well. Did St. Joseph make his decision to quietly divorce, and then in turn not divorce, Mary without any struggle? At the same time, our Blessed Mother was tending to her cousin Elizabeth as she waited for St. Joseph to make his decision, wondering if he would ever again trust her, contemplating the possibility of being stoned to death, and trying to figure out what would happen to the Child within her womb should St. Joseph abandon her. Then Jesus came, and with him came tremendous joy, but also some really tight spots… How did they handle having to suddenly pull up roots and flee to Egypt?

…Think too of the complexity of their daily life. St. Joseph, although head of the family, was actually the lowliest of the three: he was just a man, while Jesus was God and the Blessed Mother was born without original sin. Nevertheless, the Blessed Mother …was a simple housewife and bound to submissiveness to her husband and service to her son. Jesus, the King of Kings, experienced all the frailties of the human condition while at the same time having the ability to rise above them. In spite of their “celebrity status,” the Holy Family lived simply and inconspicuously, waiting patiently upon each other and loving one another completely and unconditionally.

Excerpt from Chapter Five, “Good Times and Bad” from Strengthening Your Family: A Catholic Approach to Holiness at Home, © Marge Fenelon. Published by Our Sunday Visitor. Used by permission.

Award-winning author, journalist, blogger, and speaker, MARGE FENELON is weekly guest on Relevant Radio’s “Morning Air Show,” and blogger for the National Catholic Register. She’s written several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life. Her latest title is Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: Living the Novena (A Guided Meditation from the Holy Land).

CATECHISM 101

By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement “until further notice.” The “intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.”

It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1646, 1648

Marriage as God intended it – sacramental, faithful and fruitful

The institution of marriage is under attack today, perhaps more than at any other time in history.

In a 2015 address, Pope Francis said the family “as God wants it, composed of a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and also the generation and education of children, is deformed by powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonization.”

The pope has applied the term “ideological colonization” to a number of social evils, but it always refers to the conflict between troubling ideologies and the Christian ideal. When it comes to marriage, the ideal is rooted in God’s design from the beginning of creation, Christ’s establishment of marriage as a sacrament, and the Church’s long tradition of the marriage covenant.

Marriage in scripture

Although detractors may claim marriage is a strictly human institution, it is of divine origin. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman for one another: A man “leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (2:24). Genesis also affirms marriage as a complementary relationship of equals: Adam called Eve “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (2:23). Together they are called to participate in God’s life-giving power and exercise stewardship over the created world: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28).

Marriage is therefore the “default” or natural human vocation for man and woman; when a person has a vocation to celibacy, he or she is “called” away from the marriage vocation.

Following the First Couple’s commission of Original Sin, however, marriage suffered from the disorders it introduced; man and woman could not live according to God’s plan for marriage without divine assistance. That help arrived when Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament, providing supernatural grace for husbands and wives to live according to the ideal.

Christ performed His first public miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, which the Church sees as His affirmation of the goodness of marriage and a sign of His efficacious presence in marriage. Whereas the law of Moses had allowed divorce in some instances, Christ would later explain that marriage “from the beginning of creation” was meant to be a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman. Citing the passage from Genesis, He said of the relationship between husband and wife: “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has brought together, let no man put asunder” (Mk 10:9). To divorce and marry another, He continued, constitutes adultery.

Nuptial imagery had been used in the Old Testament to convey the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Christ in His parables sometimes portrayed Himself as a bridegroom as though preparing for his bride. In the Book of Revelation, the heavenly banquet is described as the wedding feast of the Lamb, who is Christ, united with His bride, the Church.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament draws upon all these scriptural images to reflect upon the sacramental character of marriage. Not only are man and woman individually created in the image of God, but in marital union they constitute “a great mystery.” They are to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). The husband is to love his wife “as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her,” even as He loves His own body. This reciprocal self-sacrifice and self-giving reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church. The Second Vatican Council relates sacramental marriage to this covenant relationship.

Sacramental theology took centuries to develop, but Christian marriage was recognized as something sacred by leading Church fathers from a very early date. In the early second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote that “it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God.” In the early fifth century, St. Augustine said of marriage that “now this is threefold, faithfulness, offspring, and the Sacrament” — affirming matrimony as exclusive, fruitful, and lifelong with the help of God’s grace. Popes and councils over the centuries defended marriage as a sacrament against heretical claims to the contrary.

St. Thomas Aquinas drew greatly from patristic and later Church sources to systematize our understanding of marriage and sacramental theology. His work was heavily influential during the sixteenth-century Council of Trent – which set the groundwork for Catholic teaching on marriage today.

Marriage and the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, summarizing the Council of Trent and the development of doctrine that preceded it, states: “The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved His Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life” (CCC 1661). It further states: “Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage” (CCC 1664).

Catholic marriage law requires that for a sacramental union to exist both bride and groom must be free to marry, give full and knowing consent, and intend to enter a faithful, lifelong, and fruitful commitment of love and mutual self-giving. In the Latin Rite, the bride and groom themselves are the ministers of the sacrament, with the priest or deacon as its official witness.

Children are the “supreme gift of marriage,” says the Catechism (1652). The family is considered “the domestic church” because it is through their parents – as they’ve promised in their sacramental marriage vows – that children are educated in the faith and its practice (cf. CCC 1655-1658). It also is “a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2205).

Sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage because it is a sign of the total self-giving of the marriage covenant. It properly has two essential dimensions: It is unitive, because as an expression of selfless love it strengthens the marital union for the good of the spouses; and it is procreative in that the sexual act must be open to the creation of new life (CCC 1643).

Modern challenges

Today there are mounting challenges to the true meaning of marriage:

• Divorce and remarriage (without benefit of Church annulment) go against the indissolubility of marriage.

• Same-sex “marriage” and polygamy run counter to marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman.

• The practice of cohabitation, like all premarital and extramarital sexual activity, fails to honor and obey the Church’s sacramental covenant of Holy Matrimony as binding, permanent, procreative and unitive under God.

• Gender theory – the idea that a person may subjectively identify as a gender that differs from his or her biological sex – is a “great enemy of marriage today,” remarked Pope Francis in 2016.

• Illicit forms of contraception and elective sterilization deny the procreative purpose and potential of married love.

• Self-absorption and materialism mitigate against the ideal of mutual self-giving.

• Fear of commitment and radical feminism can create distorted perspectives on the meaning of marriage and male/female roles.

The Catholic response

What should Catholic men and women do in the face of such challenges? Even as we seek to restore the dignity of marriage and family through educational and legislative means, our most effective response is the faithful witness of Catholics living in the world: those exemplifying Catholic living as put forth by the traditional teachings of the Church.

“People are hungry for the truth; and they’ll choose it, if it’s presented clearly and with conviction,” wrote Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., ahead of the 2015 World Meeting of Families.

“Therein lies the need for every Christian marriage to be engaged in preaching by example. A husband and wife who model a love for Jesus Christ within their family — who pray and worship together with their children and read the Scriptures — become a beacon for other couples. … Catholic families have a key role in God’s healing of a broken world.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Keeping good company with God

When we truly recognize the presence of God at all times and in all situations, then prayer becomes natural to the places of our daily lives, just as it is natural to pray when we enter a church. St. Josemaría wrote:

Eric Sammons

…Each moment becomes an opportunity to be with the one who made us and loves us. This is not daydreaming or living some flight of fancy. It is the concrete realization that God is always with us and He wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives.

St. Josemaria developed a “Plan of Life” – practical guidelines to help us win the battle for holiness.

…It includes daily, weekly, monthly, and other regular activities [for] a recognition of the presence of God at all times. St. Josemaria says:

…It must begin in the first moments of the day … the “heroic minute”…Get up, on the dot! Without hesitation, a supernatural thought and…up!…The heroic minute is followed by a morning offering, in which one offers the entire day – joys, sorrows, gifts and challenges – for the glory of God…By starting the day declaring Serviam! – I will serve! – we place all our activities at God’s feet, acknowledging that none of them should be for our glory, but for His.

…If the heroic minute and the morning offering are the beginnings of one’s daily plan, the Mass is its central activity.

St. Josemaria – like all the saints – had an abiding devotion to the Mass, and he frequently counseled that people try to attend daily if possible.

…Holy Mass brings us face to face with one of the central mysteries of our faith, because it is a gift of the Blessed Trinity to the Church … [it is] the center and source of a Christian’s spiritual life (Christ Is Passing By, 87).

Spiritual reading. The primary way we know about the Lord is through the Bible…take at least five to ten minutes daily to reflect on some [biblical] scene, picturing oneself in that scene in order to meditate on Christ’s actions more deeply…

Practicing mortifications throughout the day – those activities that help control sinful impulses and desires … denying a second helping…allowing others to speak first …choosing the longer line at checkout – is essential to the spiritual life.

At the close of each day, make an examination of conscience …to gauge progress …and beg for forgiveness for the times we fell. [Regular Confession and adoration are encouraged as well.]

It is also of vital importance to recharge our spiritual batteries annually and take stock of where we are … an annual spiritual retreat to … reflect …and listen to the Lord.

This excerpt reprinted from Chapter Six (“Be a Contemplative In the Midst of the World”) of the book Holiness for Everyone: The Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaría Escrivá ©Eric Sammons (Published by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. www.osv.com). Used by permission.

ERIC SAMMONS is a husband and father of seven, a convert to Catholicism, writer and editor of several books, guest contributor to several Catholic magazines and online portals, and also a software engineer. He also holds a Master in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville

CATECHISM 101

Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.” But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2697

The Son of God…born as gift to mankind

Isaiah prophesied, “A child is born to us, a son is given to us… They name him… God-Hero” (Is 9:5). Christians have long seen in these words a prophecy of Jesus’ birth and an affirmation of his divine identity. Though it took several centuries for the Church to develop her understanding of the relation between Jesus’ human and divine natures, nevertheless, from the beginning she has declared of Christ, as the apostle Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The reality that God himself became a man for our salvation — what is called the Incarnation (literally, “becoming flesh”) — is at the heart of the Christian faith. Denial of this truth has been the hallmark of many heretical sects.

Jesus himself declared, “The Father [that is, God] and I are one” (Jn 10:30). When He did, some of those who heard Him picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, because they understood (correctly) the implication of what He was saying: He was claiming to be God (see Jn 10:30-33; also Jn 5:17-18).

In fact, virtually every attribute of the Father in heaven — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who revealed Himself in the Old Testament — was claimed by Jesus for Himself. He spoke authoritatively as God (rather than merely for God). He accepted worship. He forgave sins. He said He was equal to the father. And He claimed that He had existed eternally.

New Testament authors verified His claim: “For in Him,” St. Paul wrote, “dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily (Col 2:9); “In the beginning,” the Gospel according to John announced, “was the Word,/… the Word was God. /… All things came to be through Him,/ and without Him nothing came to be. / And the Word became flesh (Jn 1:1, 3, 14).

EXCERPT FROM Insert M-1 “Why Does the Church Teach that Jesus Is God?”, from The New Catholic Answer Bible – New American Bible, Revised Edition (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011).

SCRIPTURE 101

“The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
Gospel of John 1: 9-14

CATECHISM 101

The Church calls “Incarnation” the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God (1 John 4:2).”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #461, 463

Trend toward ‘revising’ Christianity

Today, a number of scholars are exploiting individualism and “revisioning” Christian origins to more easily fit into a global religious unity. Two representative figures are the late Joseph Campbell (1904- 1987) and Karen Armstrong (1944- ). Campbell, known for his Power of Myth, called for “obstinate” Christianity to abandon the doctrine of the Fall as a “primeval event,” along with the historic bodily resurrection, and the unique incarnation of the Son of God. Karen Armstrong, ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, is a former nun promoting her Charter for Compassion (2009) and activating the Golden Rule to unify the world’s religions.

kresta

Al Kresta

Redefining Heresy and Orthodoxy

The revisionists also include Elaine Pagels, Bart Ehrman, Karen King, John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk, Marcus Borg and scores of others less well known. Some are members of the Jesus Seminar. Some occasionally cooperate on projects. Many hold compatible visions of Christian origins but disagree over the future of inter-religious cooperation.

Elaine Pagels (1943-), author of The Gnostic Gospels (1979), has exercised special influence. She wrote the first popular introduction to the Nag Hammadi documents, chosen by Modern Library Association as one of the most significant nonfiction books of the 20th century. She and others have been promising for over 40 years that the Nag Hammadi library (1945) would radically refashion our understanding of Christian origins. “These discoveries are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion, and demonstrating how diverse — and fascinating — the early Christian movement really was.”

Their work is revisionist and denies that early Christianity had an authoritative, doctrinal core or set of authoritative teachers. Heresy wasn’t error, it was just different. Diversity of belief, they say, characterized the earliest Church. The development of orthodoxy over a few centuries was purely a result of … forces entirely apart from God’s guidance ….

The Traditional Storyline: Truth Precedes Falsehood

The traditional storyline is represented by Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. Jesus proclaimed and advocated the “truth,” i.e., “orthodoxy” (from the Greek meaning “right belief”). He commissioned the apostles and their successors to guard, defend, apply, and transmit this truth from generation to generation until He comes again. Fidelity, fidelity, fidelity was the score but some preferred to create their own doctrinal playlist. These were called “heretics” (from the Greek hairesis “a taking or choosing, a choice”). Heresies were deviations, corruptions of the truth. Orthodoxy preceded heresy.

The Revisionist Storyline: Diversity Precedes Orthodoxy

German theologian Walter Bauer (1877-1960), recast the tradition: “[O]rthodoxy was only one of several competing systems of Christian belief, with no closer links to any original, so-called ‘apostolic Christianity’ than its rivals…[I]t owed its victory…more to what we might call political influences than to its inherent merits.”

Excerpt from Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st-Century Opponents ©Al Kresta. Published by Our Sunday Visitor, www.osv.com. Used by permission.

AL KRESTA is a broadcaster, journalist, President and CEO of Ave Maria Communications, host of the nationally syndicated Catholic talk show “Kresta in the Afternoon”

Catechism 101

Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2089

What is natural law and why is it important?

Moral laws are based on human nature. That is, what we ought to do is based on what we are. “Thou shalt not kill,” for instance, is based on the real value of human life and the need to preserve it. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is based on the real value of marriage and family, the value of mutual self-giving love, and children’s need for trust and stability.

Peter Kreeft

The natural law is also naturally known, by natural human reason and experience. We don’t need religious faith or supernatural divine revelation to know that we’re morally obligated to choose good and avoid evil or to know what “good” and “evil” mean. Every culture in history has had some version of the Ten Commandments. No culture in history has thought that love, kindness, justice, honesty, courage, wisdom, or self-control was evil — or that hate, cruelty, injustice, dishonesty, cowardice, folly, or uncontrolled addiction was good. Speaking of pagans, St. Paul says that “they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (Rom 2:15).

The term “natural law” is sometimes misunderstood. “This law is called ‘natural,’ not in reference to the nature of irrational beings [that is, animals — it is not a law of biology], “but because reason, which decrees it, properly belongs to human nature” (CCC #1955). For example, the Church teaches that artificial contraception is against the natural law, not because it’s a rational human intervention rather than an irrational biological process, but because it’s contrary to right reason. It violates the integrity of human nature by divorcing the two naturally united aspects of the essence of the sexual act — the unitive and the procreative — that is, personal intimacy and reproduction.

“The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men” (CCC #1956). It’s not universally obeyed, or even universally admitted, but it is universally binding and authoritative. (“Authority” means “right,” not “might.”)

“The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history” (CCC #1958) because it is based on God-made essential human nature, which does not change with time or place, rather than man-made cultural developments, which do.

Because man’s essence does not change, but his circumstances and situations do, “application of the natural law varies greatly” (CCC #1957). For instance, capital punishment may be morally necessary in a primitive society but needlessly barbaric in a society with secure laws and prisons; and the moral restrictions on warfare today, with its weapons of mass destruction, must be far stricter than those in the past.

“It provides the necessary basis for the civil law” (CCC #1959), for civil law forbids many acts, such as rape and torture and slavery, because they are morally wrong and harmful to human nature’s health and flourishing. Without a natural law basis for civil law, civil law becomes based on power, whether collective or individual.

PETER KREEFT is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. This column is reprinted with permission from his book Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 2001)

Catechism 101

The divine and natural law shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one’s equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1955