Month: August 2016

The New Atheism’s Infatuation With The Irrational

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(Aristotle, who maintained that man is a rational animal)

“Being Atheist, it is characteristic of the advancing wave that it repudiates the human reason….But the Faith and the use of the intelligence are inextricably bound up. The use of reason is a main part – or rather the foundation – of all inquiry into the highest things”  (Hilaire Belloc)

Atheism, perhaps attractive at first, ultimately sells out and collapses because it cannot maintain continuity with rational thinking. The “New Atheism” (which is essentially a series of recent books touting atheism) clothes itself in the aura of scientific credibility, but then when these atheists leave their comfort zone and begin to speculate about ultimate causation their theories breakdown and become murky; their arguments even become preposterous and manifestly irrational.

The so called “New Atheism,” which even goes so far as to refer to itself as a venture in improbability, is permanently flawed (for as the genius of G.K.  Chesterton points out, “if there was no God, there would be no atheists!”).  As far as I’m concerned, the only thing different about the new atheism, when compared to the old atheism, is that the new atheism is newer than the old atheism! In fact, David Hart (who wrote a book on this subject) is of the opinion that the old atheists were actually better atheists than the new ones. He laments:

“The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness.”  (“Believe it or Not” www.firstthings.com)

The real appeal of atheism is not its intellectual prowess (atheism requires a positively irrational faith in blind chance); no, the real appeal of atheism is moral autonomy so that God can be conveniently pushed aside. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).

Frankly, these new atheists need to show a little more humility. It’s not like they’ve suddenly discovered the answer to the age old question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Point in fact: the well known physicist, Stephen Hawking, who responded to the question, “Why does the universe bother to exist?,” by saying: “I don’t know the answer to that.”

I have to admit that it is always a little amusing to me when a mere creature, who has only been alive no more than a handful of decades, proclaims with noticeable hubris that his mind has reached the conclusion that the universe – and human beings – are nothing but an accident. I have greater respect for the deist who sees the implausibility of denying a creator, but has a great distaste for actually having any sort of relationship with such a being. In any event, if the computer I am typing on was to suddenly start shouting at me that it had no ultimate designer, and that it came about by mere chance, I would have to tell it to, well, shut-up!

Recently I had the idea of pretending to be an atheist. I wanted to see what it felt like to be an atheist (to believe somehow that all that we see, hear, feel and touch is nothing but an accident). I even thought of praying to the ungod of the accidental universe to see how he managed to bring it all together by accident (although here I could be accused of reverting to primitive religious superstition). But I prayed to this ungod anyways.  And as I prayed my lovely wife walked into the room: and I said, “ungod, you are truly amazing.”    

“There’s my wife, and she is sort of like a perfect partner to me! She’s all so feminine (thanks for those gentle curves), and I’m masculine (I played football in seventh grade). I must be insane to think that you pulled off this amazing complementarity between my wife and I by accident, and so hats off to you, ungod, because the chances of this happening by accident must have been, well, zero.” I paused then to see if ungod would say anything back to me, but he didn’t, and the whole thing actually backfired on me as I began to see the complementarity between my wife and I as a rather obvious revelation that I did have a creator. Then I remembered that quote by C.S. Lewis: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” In my case, it simply wasn’t a good idea to pray to ungod.     

Years ago Carl Sagan (the astronomer) was the unofficial High Priest of atheistic scientism. Sagan helped to popularize Haeckel’s theory of recapitulation, a theory that maintains that human embryonic development recapitulates in miniature the grand course of  biological evolution. It is well known, now, that Haeckel forged some of his well known drawings of human embryonic development (ones that were standard for years in biology texts and tended to dehumanize the fetus), and the theory is now generally regarded as defunct. We therefore need to be careful not to grant to scientific theory an aura of infallibility that ultimately serves merely as a disservice to science. Even scientists need to distinguish carefully between scientific fact and scientific theory. Thus, in the current debate over evolution, it is important to know that the two leading proponents of the theory – Dawkins and Gould – have seemingly diametrically opposing views as to how evolution happened , i.e., the dispute between gradualism and punctuated equilibrium. Gould opted for punctuated equilibrium due to the paucity of the fossil record. We still have a lot to learn about the “mechanics and pace” of biological evolution. Pope Francis points us in the right direction, having said: “The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, shows just how unscientific scientists can be. Frankly,  Dawkins (one of the top “new atheists”) must be embarrassed for having said what he said. In his book, Dawkins maintains that if one was to see a statue of the Virgin Mary wave its hand, such an occurrence, although improbable, could be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry. Here are Dawkins own words from the book:

“In the case of the marble statue, molecules in solid marble are continuously jostling against one another in random directions. The jostlings of the different molecules cancel one another out, so the whole hand of the statue stays still. But if, by sheer coincidence, all the molecules just happened to move in the same direction at the same moment, the hand would move. If they then all reversed direction at the same moment the hand would move back. In this way it is possible for a marble statue to wave at us. It could happen. The odds against such a coincidence are unimaginably great but they are not incalculably great. A physicist colleague has kindly calculated them for me. The number is so large that the entire age of the universe so far is too short a time to write out all the noughts! It is theoretically possible for a cow to jump over the moon with something [[171]] like the same improbability. The conclusion to this part of the argument is that we can calculate our way into regions of miraculous improbability far greater than we can imagine as plausible.”

Let’s give Dawkins a break. Perhaps he was having a bad day when he wrote this rubbish. But how can I trust anything he says in light of the scientific foolishness employed by him in the just cited quotation.

Michael Corey, in discussing the possibility whether our “wondrous universe could have evolved by blind chance” quotes the distinguished University of Montreal psychiatrist Karl Stern as  labeling such a view of the universe as “crazy.” He further quotes Stern as saying: “And I do not at all mean crazy in the sense of a slangy invective but rather in the technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking” (God and the New Cosmology, p.220). Stern is basically maintaining that it is flat out irrational to believe the universe came about by chance or accident.

Theism – belief in God –  is grounded in common sense. It need not be intimidated by the “bio-mythology” of an accidental universe. 

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: A bust of Aristotle in The National Museum of Rome. Saint Thomas Aquinas referred to Aristotle simply as “the philosopher.” Aristotle is known for maintaining that man is a rational animal. The image is in the Public Domain, U.S.A.

Ref. Answering the New Atheism (Wiker and Hahn). Concerning the complementary relationship between faith and science, see Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 159, 283 and 284. In October of 2014, Pope Francis stated the following: “The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

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JUDAS REJECTED THE EUCHARIST

Ref. The Gospel of John (audio series) by Dr. Scott Hah (especially his commentary on Chapter 6).

Image:  The Kiss of Judas by Giotto (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

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THE IMMENSITY OF THE REWARD

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“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

In evaluating our lives, we should not discount the length of eternal life.  What God is offering to us, ETERNAL LIFE, is simply stunning, overwhelming and unfathomable! Certainly a fundamental part of the Ignatian Exercises is simply to do the math: to reflect on the shortness of life and the incredible length of eternity. And then to choose wisely, which is why we pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of Wisdom. To miss out on Heaven – and all that Heaven is – simply cannot be an option. “Who could endure the loss?”

 As to death, it is a great grace to realize that we are going to die. In essence, our lives are but a preparation for death. God, in His providence, already knows the day and moment of our death, and He has already put in place the graces we will need to be saved. We need to cooperate with those graces, and all will be well.

Unfortunately, so many people live their lives without much thought about their impending death. They realize that other people die but they sort of see themselves as a bystander to the death of other people –  somehow convincing themselves that it won’t happen to them.

And although attending someone’s funeral may make such a person anxious about death, it is also the case that we are quite adept at putting in to place psychological defense mechanisms that quickly assuage such thoughts and turn our attention back to the world.

As I see it, there is a gigantic cultural conspiracy in place to convince us that we are not going to die. The plan is to outlive death by taking the right vitamins, wearing the best make-up, and seeing the best doctors. And yet everyone still dies. We are all on an absolute collision course with death. Only God knows for sure how much time we have left. And the clock keeps ticking.

I think it is interesting that in Mother Teresa‘s mystical life the Virgin Mary told her to tell families to say the rosary (reference: Come Be My Light, Doubleday, p.99). This prayer not only helps us to contemplate the life of Christ, including his death and resurrection, but it continually reminds us of the two most important moments in our lives – the present moment and the moment of our death. We ask Mary to “pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”  It is in the “sacrament of the present moment” that we can choose to conform our will to God’s grace, and it is at the moment of death that we need all of Heaven (that great cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12:1) interceding for us to persevere to the end.  It is important to pray for the grace of final perseverance and for the fortitude to die a good death. It is reassuring to know that we are asking Mary’s help in this regard when we pray the rosary.

 In First Corinthians it says (at 2:9):

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Don’t put your trust in the passing things of this world (those idols have no power to save you). Be a little greedy for Heaven, and in the process transform that greed into love and gratitude for a God who, after dying for our sins and humbling himself to be our very eternal life-giving food, has prepared for us such an immense reward that the magnitude of the joy and love we will experience in Heaven is beyond our narrow understanding, lasting for endless ages, in the glory of the “ever-blessed” life of God. In short, to say that Heaven is going to be awesome is an incredible understatement.

“For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He…rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Inspiration: The Imitation of Christ; The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; and F.W. Faber’s The Creator and the Creature (from where I derive the title to the note and I am otherwise heavily indebted to him for the tone and content of the note). Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized by Pope Francis on September 4, 2016!

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SACRAMENTAL ILLUMINATION IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

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“Consequently, [Jesus our High Priest in Heaven] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25)

The “towering theme” of Hebrews is the Eternal Priesthood of Jesus Christ which is mighty and active for us sojourners on earth. That this priesthood of Jesus in Heaven operates through sacramental grace here on earth can be seen from the sacramental imagery utilized in Hebrews. Jesus’ priesthood is thus intrinsically linked to the power of the sacraments.

Right at the beginning of Hebrews we are confronted with a powerful sacramental image – that of Jesus in Heaven being anointed for his “royal-priestly” ministry. The verse at Hebrews 1:9 states:“God has anointed you [Jesus] with the oil of gladness beyond your comrades.”  This sacramental-like anointing of Jesus as Eternal-Priest King is at the root and foundation of the anointing of priests for service in Jesus’ Church, and for the sacrament of anointing the sick. The only time in scripture Jesus is referred to as an “apostle” is at Hebrews 3:1. And what did the apostles do when Jesus sent them out on their first missionary journey: they anointed the sick (see Mark 6:12-13).

In Hebrews the Sacrament of Baptism is referred to as an “enlightenment” (6:4), baptism specifically mentioned at 6:2, and the author of Hebrews uses clear baptismal imagery at 10:22 where he talks about “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.”

The Sacrament of Confirmation is specifically alluded to at 6:2 with reference to the “laying on of hands,”which not only “confers the Spirit” but is also indicative of priestly ordination.

At 6:4 there is reference to those who have “tasted the heavenly gift,” which is most likely a reference to the Eucharist. Moreover, in Hebrews the priestly “Order of Melchizedek” is mentioned five times in reference to Christ’s Eternal Priesthood. And what did the priest-king Melchizedek offer to God in sacrifice: bread and wine (see Genesis 14:18). The Eucharist is greatly prefigured by the sacrificial offering of Melchizedek. 

There are further references to the Eucharist in Hebrews, such as the one found at 13:10 where it states, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.” Moreover, the Eternal Priesthood of Jesus demands attendance at the Sunday liturgical celebration which is not to be “neglected” (10:25), otherwise, Jesus’ sacrifice (made present in the Eucharistic liturgy) is rendered fruitless, “and there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” (10:26). Indeed, through sacramental worship we on earth come into the “celestial liturgy of Heaven” (see Hebrews 12:22-24; “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God….”).

The Sacrament of Marriage is also alluded to in Hebrews at 13:4 where it says: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled….”

Although there is no specific reference to the Sacrament of Confession in Hebrews, the congregation is admonished to “obey” and “submit” to its pastors who “keep watch” over “their souls” (13:17). The great High Priest Jesus, in a powerful Resurrection appearance, gave these same pastors the priestly function of forgiving sins (see John 20:22-23).

In short, while the Epistle to the Hebrews demonstrates the powerlessness of the Old Testament Levitical and Temple priesthood, it concurrently demonstrates the sacramental power of Jesus’ Eternal priesthood in Heaven.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Photo Attribution: Aerial view of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, by Gustavo Facci (posted by Flickr). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. The photo was taken on Ferruary 18, 2011. This information at Wikipedia.

Reference: I am relying primarily on the footnotes in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible on Hebrews. As I was reading over those notes – along with the text itself –  it became abundantly clear to me that the author of Hebrews had a high regard for the New Testament Sacraments, contrary to the opinion of some. Quotations above are from these footnotes. Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch wrote the commentary and footnotes I am referring to, so I am constructing this note out of their scholarship. Dr. Taylor Marshall refers to Hebrews 3:1 as a “key verse,” saying: “Here the apostleship is paired with high priesthood. Christ is THE Apostle and High Priest. His New Testament ministers participate in this office. Hence, an apostle is a high priest. Apostolic succession transmits the apostolic priesthood.”

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THE EXTRAORDINARY VISION OF THE VIRGIN MARY IN KNOCK, IRELAND

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“And the Lamb will conquer and the woman clothed in the sun will shine her light on everyone” (from the hymn, Lady of Knock)

Here is the eyewitness testimony of Patrick Hill pertaining to the extraordinary vision (depicted above) he witnessed at the south wall of a small church in Knock, Ireland, St. John the Baptist, on the night of August 21, 1879:

“I am Patrick Hill; I live in Claremorris; my aunt lives at Knock; I remember the 21st August last; on that day I was drawing home turf, or peat, from the bog on an ass. While at my aunt’s at about eight o’clock in the evening, Dominick Byrne came into the house; he cried out: ‘Come up to the chapel and see the miraculous lights, and the beautiful visions that are to be seen there’. I followed him; another man by name Dominick Byrne, and John Durkan, and a small boy named John Curry, came with me; we were all together; we ran over towards the chapel. When we, running southwest, came so far from the village that on our turning, the gable came into view, we immediately beheld the lights; a clear white light, covering most of the gable, from the ground up to the window and higher. It was a kind of changing bright light, going sometimes up high and again not so high. We saw the figures – the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John, and an altar with a Lamb on the altar, and a cross behind the lamb. At this time we reached as far as the wall fronting the gable: there were other people there before me; some of them were praying, some not; all were looking at the vision; they were leaning over the wall or ditch, with their arms resting on top. I saw the figures and brightness….  It was raining. I saw everything distinctly” (edited).

There is a tradition in Ireland, writes Mary Purcell in her summary of the apparition at Knock, that Saint Patrick, while on a missionary journey in the west of Ireland, blessed the remote village of Knock and predicted that one day it would become a center of devotion.

This prediction has come true, notes Purcell, as Knock has become a major Marian pilgrimage center. The Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, chose to bless Knock by appearing there in an apparition that occurred on August 21, 1879. Since this apparition was witnessed by eighteen people – including Patrick Hill, who was one of the fifteen official witnesses – its level of credibility is, on a merely human level, powerfully trustworthy.

The Mother of God appeared at Knock to remind us of the incredible importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The apparition took place at about 8 pm at the south gable of the Church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. The priest there, Father Cavanagh, was deeply devoted to Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and had no bank account because “all that he ever had went to the poor” (Purcell, p.125).

The apparition of the Blessed Mother that evening was witnessed by about eighteen people, and there were 15 official witnesses who gave testimony to two “Commissions of Enquiry,” these witnesses ranging in age from six to seventy-five. Patrick Hill was age sixteen at the time. Their testimony was found trustworthy and satisfactory in 1879 and 1936. Pope John Paul II visited Knock in 1979. Mother Teresa of Calcutta also visited the Shrine.

What was seen, as Purcell says  in synopsis, was “an extraordinary brilliant light surrounding the gable wall of the church” with the figures of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist. “Besides them and a little to the right was an altar with a cross and a figure of a lamb” (see representation above). According to the Shrine website, this extraordinary apparition lasted approximately two hours in the “pouring rain,” accompanied, in part, with the “reciting [of] the rosary.” And although the witnesses to the apparition were “saturated” by the pouring rain, “not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision.”

The complete written testimonies of the fifteen official witnesses to this extraordinary apparition are available at https://www.knockshrine.ie/history/witnesses-accounts/

What was the meaning of the apparition? Reverend Dr. M. O’Carrol  explains: “The first lesson of the apparition is the Mass. Everything seems to point to that – the altar with the sacrificial Lamb, the gestures of Our Lady, the presence of Saint John in vestments, and the respectful attitude of Saint Joseph….” (Purcell at 143, citing Father M. O’Carroll). At Knock, where no words were spoken, Mary was pointing us to Jesus: to the Lamb of God who is both our sacrifice and our supernatural sustenance at Holy Mass.

“Mother, in this shrine [of our Lady of Knock] you gather the People of God of all Ireland and constantly point out to them Christ in the Eucharist and in the Church. At this solemn moment we listen with particular attention to your words : “Do whatever my Son tells you”. And we wish to respond to your words with all our heart. We wish to do what your Son tells us, what he commands us, for he has the words of eternal life” (Homily of Pope John Paul II, Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, September 30, 1979).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: The information for this note is gathered from  A Woman Clothed With the Sun (Image Books); and official Shrine Information on the internet; see https://www.knockshrine.ie/history/. This note is simply an edited compilation of information and facts from those two sources. The Feast of Our Lady of Knock is on August 17.

Image: A sculpture of the Knock apparition. This work has been released into the public domain by its author, EamonnPKeane at English Wikipedia.

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MARY IS THE TRUE DAVIDIC QUEEN ASSUMED INTO HEAVEN

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“Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” (1 Kings 2:20)

These are the words of him who is holy and true [Jesus], who holds the key of David. What he opens no one  can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Rev. 3:7)

The Virgin Mary is the true Davidic Queen assumed into Heaven. This is so because Jesus Christ is the true Heavenly King who holds the key of David.

There can be no doubt that Matthew’s Gospel envisions the restoration of the Old Testament Davidic Kingdom through the person of Jesus Christ, whom Matthew right away identifies as the “son of David” (see Matt 1:1).  This is the very first verse of the New Testament, and the Jewish reader back then would have known automatically that the messiah was to be a descendant of the royal line of David. God had promised David an everlasting Kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12-17), and Jesus was clearly seen as the person who would “rebuild David’s fallen tent” (Acts 15:16). The overarching theme of Matthew’s Gospel is the Kingdom, or more precisely the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus inaugurates this Kingdom by establishing his church which brings the ancient Davidic monarchy to its true “perfection” (see references below).

Just as David established the Kingdom of Israel with its twelve tribes, Jesus established His Heavenly Kingdom on the foundation of the twelve apostles. And just as the Davidic King would have a  Prime Minister, who was given the “keys to the Kingdom” as a sign of his office (see Isaiah 22: 20-22), Jesus selected  Peter as his first Prime Minister and entrusted to him the keys of the Kingdom (see Matthew 16:19).   Jesus even promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church, which is his “Kingdom on earth.”

According to Dr. Hahn, “The structure of David’s monarchy was neither incidental or accidental; in God’s providential plan, it foreshadowed the Kingdom of God” (Hail, Holy Queen, p.76). “The Davidic monarchy finds its perfect fulfillment in the reign of Jesus Christ – and there was never a Davidic King without a Davidic Queen: the King’s own mother, the queen mother” (Id at 83, emphasis added). The queen mother was known as the gebirah or “great lady” (Id at 79). The “Gebirah was more than a title; it was an office with real authority” (id at 80). Thus, at 1 Kings 2:20 we read the reigning King say, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” Neither could Jesus refuse his mother’s request at Cana, even though the Lord’s time had not yet come to perform his first miracle (John 2:5). Mary, although ever-Virgin, is the mother of Jesus and the mother of the church. “Hear then, O house of David!…The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is 7:13-14).

Rightly so, Mary is the Queen and mother of all Christians. From the cross, Jesus told John to “behold his mother” (John 19:27), and in his vision of Heaven described in the Book of Revelation John sees the Blessed Virgin “clothed with the sun…and on her head a [queenly] crown of twelve stars….” (Rev. 12: 1). The Queenship of Mary, Mother of God, is no mere sentiment of overly maternalistic Catholics: it was foreshadowed by the Davidic  monarchy in the Old Testament and brought to fruition by the best of all Kings, Jesus Christ. Mary now reigns forever as Queen and Mother in the Kingdom of Heaven:

“…the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death….This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” (From the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, quoted at CCC 966, 969).

“Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Ref. I am carving this short note out of Dr. Hahn materials including The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible on MatthewHail, Holy Queen (Double Day); audio series on Gospel of Matthew Rome Sweet Home (Ignatius); and see also Disc six of Why the Hell? on “The 
New Eve.” In Redemptoris Mater, 47, Saint John Paul II states:

“Thanks to this special bond linking the Mother of Christ with the Church, there is further clarified the mystery of that “woman” who, from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis until the Book of Revelation, accompanies the revelation of God’s salvific plan for humanity. For Mary, present in the Church as the Mother of the Redeemer, takes part, as a mother, in that monumental struggle; against the powers of darkness” which continues throughout human history. And by her ecclesial identification as the “woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1), it can be said that “in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle.” Hence, as Christians raise their eyes with faith to Mary in the course of their earthly pilgrimage, they “strive to increase in holiness.” Mary, the exalted Daughter of Sion, helps all her children, wherever they may be and whatever their condition, to find in Christ the path to the Father’s house.Thus, throughout her life, the Church maintains with the Mother of God a link which embraces, in the saving mystery, the past, the present and the future, and venerates her as the spiritual mother of humanity and the advocate of grace.”

Image: The Coronation of the Virgin by Diego Velazquez, circa 1645 (according to Wikipedia The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.).

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THREE ESSENTIAL PRACTICES THAT PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN CATHOLIC MARRIAGES

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“At a moment in history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God.” (Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio of Saint Pope John Paul II, 3)

In The Catholic Family in the Modern World  the saintly priest, Father John Hardon, specifically warns married Catholics that the de-Christianization of society harms families and thus – by implication –  threatens your own marriage! And I know there is nothing more important to you than God and your God-centerd marriage. If you have a strong Catholic marriage are you ready for the trials and spiritual warfare that are sure to come? And if your marriage is experiencing rocky times, what positive action can you take to rebuild it and save it from disaster?  We men cannot afford to be passive, like Adam, who stood silently next to Eve as the infernal serpent attacked his wife (see Genesis 3: 6). Thus, the great Father Hardon, relying heavily on Saint Pope John Paul II, tells us that three things are absolutlely necessary to protect, fortify and strengthen our marriages, and these three essential practices are: PRAYER, the EUCHARIST and THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION. We consider these three indispensable practices below, relying on Father Hardon.
 

1.  PRAYER

Perseverance in marital love, says Father Hardon, “is impossible without God’s grace.” He continues: “And what is the primary source of grace that we always have at our disposal? It is prayer. No matter how badly off a marriage may be, no matter how tragic a once flourishing family may become, the one indispensable condition, either for restoring married love…or for growth in marital charity, is prayer. Why? Because part of the divine plan, which is what providence means, is that we should obtain many of the things we need only by asking God to grant them.” Thus, “we have no choice; either we pray or we do not get the divine light and strength we need. Either husbands and wives pray or they will not receive the grace to even sustain their married love.” The “most fundamental reason for failure [in marriage] is lack of prayer” (45-46).

Practical Consideration: Am I praying on a regular and sustained basis for my spouse and for my marriage and for the virtues I need to grow in holiness?

 

2. THE EUCHARIST: THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

Father Hardon states: “According to Pope John Paul II, ‘The Eucharist is the very source of Christian marriage.’ What can he possibly mean? He means that except for the Holy Eucharist as Sacrifice, as Holy Communion, and as Real Presence, Christian marriage would not survive. Why not? Because the heart of Christian marriage is the practice of Christian charity, but Christian charity is a bad dream unless sustained and nourished and enlightened and protected by the constant flux of supernatural grace whose principal divinely instituted source is the Holy Eucharist….Believing married people must be devoted to the Holy Eucharist if they want their marriage even to survive, let alone to thrive. This is not piety. It is a factual reality” (47-48).

Practical Consideration: Do I have a strong desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist? Do I realize how much I need sacramental union with Jesus in order to grow in charity? Do I try to attend mass frequently? Do I adore Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration on a regular – preferably weekly – basis? Do I know what the practice of spiritual communion is?


3. SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION STRENGTHENS MARRIAGES

According to Father Hardon, the Sacrament of Confession, “the sacrament of peace,” is “necessary to restore peace to families” broken by sin and conflict. The repentance and forgiveness that are basic to the Sacrament of Penance heal families and restore family unity. In this regard Father Hardon quotes from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the family,
Familiaris Consortio (Section 58), quoted below:

The Sacrament of Conversion and Reconciliation

58. An essential and permanent part of the Christian family’s sanctifying role consists in accepting the call to conversion that the Gospel addresses to all Christians, who do not always remain faithful to the “newness” of the Baptism that constitutes them “saints.” The Christian family too is sometimes unfaithful to the law of baptismal grace and holiness proclaimed anew in the sacrament of marriage. Repentance and mutual pardon within the bosom of the Christian family, so much a part of daily life, receive their specific sacramental expression in Christian Penance. In the Encyclical Humanae vitae, Paul VI wrote of married couples: “And if sin should still keep its hold over them, let them not be discouraged, but rather have recourse with humble perseverance to the mercy of God, which is abundantly poured forth in the sacrament of Penance.” The celebration of this sacrament acquires special significance for family life. While they discover in faith that sin contradicts not only the covenant with God, but also the covenant between husband and wife and the communion of the family, the married couple and the other members of the family are led to an encounter with God, who is “rich in mercy,” who bestows on them His love which is more powerful than sin, and who reconstructs and brings to perfection the marriage covenant and the family communion.

Practical Consideration: Do you, your spouse and your children utilize this great sacrament of peace on at least a monthly basis so as to draw from this sacrament the forgiveness, healing and strength your family needs? Do you, as the father of the family, specifically set aside family time for the whole family to attend Confession together, and then perhaps to go out together afterwards for some family fun and bonding?


Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Ref.  See the referenced text of Father Hardon for a more detailed explanation of these three practices. Some of the quoted material was slightly edited for this note.

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A RELIABLE KEY TO GRASPING THE MEANING OF LIFE

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                               “[God] is Glorified in His Saints” (2 Thes. 1:10)

We are all looking for evidence and knowledge that points to the ultimate meaning of life. And the purpose of this note is to suggest that the Catholic Saints hold the key (or should I say a key) to unlocking and discovering the meaning of life. Indeed, the more we study the lives of the saints, the more we will discover the meaning of life.

This interest in the saints “is not an interest of mere pious curiosity. It is inspired by the growing realization that the saints, and the saints alone, have found what all other men are vainly seeking – a real life. It is beginning to dawn on the intelligence of those who are sincerely searching for the truth and who, with unprejudiced minds, are seeking for a solution to the problem of existence that the real men and women are the saints and it is only they who know what life is” (The Holy Spirit, p. 11, Father Edward Leen).

Father Leen. a great spiritual writer who died in 1956, adds: “Earnest souls are beginning to regard the saints…as men and women who have received a deep initiation into the secret of living and who are, in consequence, apt to initiate others. It is felt that they alone know while all others are but groping in a state of more or less blindness. The saint is recognized to be the one who really succeeds in finding life and is, therefore, studied chiefly as an ‘essayist on living’. They considered their highest knowledge to be…persevering contact with God.”

Take, as one example, Father Solanus Casey, who lived and worked for many years in Detroit as the door-keeper at Saint Bonaventure’s (not very far from where I am writing this note). Although he is presently only “Venerable,” this Capuchin priest who died in 1957, now under consideration for beatification, was deeply initiated into the true meaning of life. As a consequence of this initiation he had great confidence in God and a profound love for the poor and sick. A number of books have been written about his ministry to the sick (who would come to see him at St. Bonaventure’s where he was a simple porter) and the many healing miracles attributed to him (from which he got the reputation as a miracle worker). His simple life touched the lives of so many people seeking hope, healing and encouragement, and continues to do so. I have personally sought his intercession at the site of his tomb in the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, and I know many other people who have done likewise (see solanuscenter.org). Father Solanus, pictured below, is one example of how a “Saint” shows to us the true meaning of life.

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Take, as another example, the renowned and holy priest of Ars, Saint John Vianney. He died in 1859 and was canonized in 1925. He labored incessantly to restore the faith and vitality of the villagers in Ars, sometimes spending up to 18 hours a day in the confessional. He lived a very austere and mortified life. One thing we can learn from his life, in contrast to the cynicism and anti-supernaturalism of our age, is that miracles actually do occur. This saintly priest tells us in his own written words of a miracle he personally witnessed. He tells a story  about a parishioner of his who was having trouble believing the host really becomes the body of Jesus Christ at Mass. The parishioner said a sincere prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary asking her to help him believe. St. John Vianney then relates what happened as he was distributing communion:

“I do not say this happened to someone else, but that it happened to myself. At the moment this man came up to receive Holy Communion, the Sacred Host detached Itself from my fingers while I was still a good way off, and went off Itself and placed Itself upon the tongue of that man.”

And in more recent times we have the Eucharistic prodigy involving Blessed Alexandrina da Costa. Her life was one of expiatory suffering and was intimately tied to the Passion of Jesus. She lived exclusively on the Eucharist for 13 years and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 26, 2004, now himself a Saint! To understand the incredible magnitude of this Eucharistic miracle, consider for a moment that a human being would be lucky to survive even one week without water.

There is a beautiful book about her by Francis Johnston in which is revealed the revelation she received that many people would become “ardently Eucharistic” through devotion to her. Please note that she was placed in a hospital for forty days and under intense observation was observed to keep her Eucharistic fast, living only on the Bread of Life, which was her sustenance (the official report of Dr. Araujo “confirmed the prodigy as ‘scientifically inexplicable,’ [and stated] it is absolutely certain that during forty days of being bedridden in hospital [Alexandrina] did not eat or drink….”).

She died in 1955. The manner in which she predicted the supernatural decomposition of her body was observed to have occurred, and no doubt this sped up the process of her rapid beatification. If you are looking for truth, the life of Blessed Alexandrina da Costa says look to the Eucharist!

A great spiritual writer, Father John G. Arintero, tells us that “one saint is sufficient to illumine a century.” And in our present times how many of us were greatly influenced – and even returned to the Catholic faith – because of the illuminating life of Saint Pope John Paul “the Great.” It is not possible in this short note to relate how this priest, pastor, philosopher and Pope, not to mention mystic and theologian, profoundly influenced the course of the Church and world events for the better. But his impact and holiness were so huge that he has already been canonized a Saint, and there is little doubt that his encyclicals and other papal writings will greatly guide the church for years and decades to come. And what does this saint tell us?: he tells us that a major turning point in his life, in his growth in holiness, was the consecration of his life to the Virgin Mary.

And Blessed Mother Teresa will be canonized by Pope Francis on September 4th of this year. And she too had a huge impact on the world through her devotion to the poor. And, like Pope John Paul II, she made and greatly valued the DeMontfort consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Additionally, she placed a high priority on the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration. She was always seen carrying a rosary. An excellent book which sets forth the nature of her mystical life, and the communications she received from Jesus and Mary, is Come Be My Light by Father Brian Kolodiejcchuk.

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The great spiritual writer, Father Albert M. Weiss, says that those who “receive the saints” find a “great means of salvation.” He adds: “A people will never fall hopelessly into corruption as long as they have a single saint.”

Can we not see that the lives of the saints, with all their supernatural manifestations of grace, show us what truth really is and WHO truth really is?

The Saints are so many mirrors reflecting the life of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Photo Attribution: The photo of Mother Teresa is by Turelio, July 13, 1986 under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license (found at Wikipedia). The photo or drawing of Father Solanus Casey is by photographer Mohatma Gandhi under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (at Wikipedia).

References: The Holy Spirit by Father Edward Leen; Saint John Paul the Great by Jason Evert (see quote by Cardinal George on back cover); Nothing Short of a Miracle by Patricia Treece; Alexandrina: The Agony and the Glory by Francis Johnston; The Mystical Evolution by Father John G. Arintero; The Little Catechism of the Cure of Ars (TAN); and Dictionary of Saints by John Delaney.

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MARY IMMACULATE: FULLY ALIVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT!