Friday, October 30, 2009

St. Ambrose for Friday

"They affirm that they are showing great reverence for God, to Whom alone they reserve the power of forgiving sins. But in truth none do Him greater injury than they who choose to prune His commandments and reject the office entrusted to them. For inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Himself said in the Gospel: Receive the Holy Spirit: whosesoever sins you forgive they are forgiven unto them, and whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained, John 20:22-23 who is it that honours Him most, he who obeys His bidding or he who rejects it?

7. The Church holds fast its obedience on either side, by both retaining and remitting sin; heresy is on the one side cruel, and on the other disobedient; wishes to bind what it will not loosen, and will not loosen what it has bound, whereby it condemns itself by its own sentence. For the Lord willed that the power of binding and of loosing should be alike, and sanctioned each by a similar condition. So he who has not the power to loose has not the power to bind. For as, according to the Lord's word, he who has the power to bind has also the power to loose, their teaching destroys itself, inasmuch as they who deny that they have the power of loosing ought also to deny that of binding. For how can the one be allowed and the other disallowed? It is plain and evident that either each is allowed or each is disallowed in the case of those to whom each has been given. Each is allowed to the Church, neither to heresy, for this power has been entrusted to priests alone. Rightly, therefore, does the Church claim it, which has true priests; heresy, which has not the priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this power heresy pronounces its own sentence, that not possessing priests it cannot claim priestly power. And so in their shameless obstinacy a shamefaced acknowledgment meets our view.

8. Consider, too, the point that he who has received the Holy Ghost has also received the power of forgiving and of retaining sin. For thus it is written: Receive the Holy Spirit: whosesoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven unto them, and whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained. John 20:22-23 So, then, he who has not received power to forgive sins has not received the Holy Spirit. The office of the priest is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and His right it is specially to forgive and to retain sins. How, then, can they claim His gift who distrust His power and His right?" - St. Ambrose "Concerning Repentance" (Bk. 1, Ch. 2)

later he says:

"God does not make a distinction, Who has promised His mercy to all, and granted to His priests the power of loosing without any exception. But he who has heaped up sin must also increase his penitence. For greater sins are washed away by greater weeping." - St. Ambrose "Concerning Repentance" (Bk. 1, Ch.3)

and a comforting passage to the English recusants and others no doubt:

"it is possible that a man overcome by torture may deny God in word, and yet worship Him in his heart."

and finally a little gospel to close:

"His indignation, then, is not the carrying out of vengeance, but rather the working out of forgiveness, for these are His words: If you shall turn and lament, you shall be saved. He waits for our lamentations here, that is, in time, that He may spare us those which shall be eternal. He waits for our tears, that He may pour forth His goodness. So in the Gospel, having pity on the tears of the widow, He raised her son. He waits for our conversion, that He may Himself restore us to grace, which would have continued with us had no fall overtaken us. But He is angry because we have by our sins incurred guilt, in order that we may be humbled; we are humbled, in order that we may be found worthy rather of pity than of punishment." - Ch. 5, 22

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Didn't Steal This From Rob Bell & Becoming A Thomist Theologian

"Beware of the dogs" -Philippians 3:2

I always get provoked theologically to respond to Anti-Catholicism but - as Dave Armstrong has discussed long before me - it doesn't matter how much scripture and Church Fathers or just philosophy you stack up against them, in the end it's neverenough.

But it doesn't matter, because for once in my blogging life, I'm just going to ignore it, not take the bait, and not enter into the endless debate whereby no one will step into the open of real Christian debate.

A Jesuit theologian was explaining the methods of St. Thomas in an email the other day and how fundamental his method is for Catholic theology. It's a method whereby we speak of God in analogies and by interacting with the problems of the present culture, we come up with new analogies of the faith to explain what is divinely revealed to the people. He shows how this is distinct from Apologetics which seeks to prove specific elements of faith from reason, scripture, and tradition. I immediately realized that I'm not in any sense a theologian, but an apologist or polemicist. I'm tired of it, I want to help people understand how all life begins with the Trinity how humanity is restored and participates in the divine nature of the Trinity and how we eventually return to the beatific vision. (The folks over at Called To Communion already do a much better job of tearing up Genevan theology than I could ever dream of.)

I'm also hoping to get more into philosophy and specifically philosophical personalism ala JP II. Oh the hope of one day being a Thomist, a theologian of glory, a promoter of faith understood by reason, and a perpetual enemy of Ockham and his followers.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us fools.

Reformation History

It's amazing as I read more and more sources on the Reformation how much Caesaro-Papism occured. It was really an Erastian Reformation. It wasn't theologians deliberating in Zurich or Geneva or Wittenburg, it was state-appointed theologians like Calvin and Zwingli who ruled with an iron fist (this might sound exaggerrated but I really don't think it is).

We had to read the other day about how Luther went back on the priesthood of all believers and the freedom of a Christian to a large extent as reformed-style Protestants arrived in Lutheran Wittenburg. The solution: disallow foreign students to enter the university without heavy fees.

We also read a document where Luther, Melancthon, and Carlstadt disagreed so viamently and referred to their speeches of 'angry bickering' that they had to sign this document saying they wouldn't discuss the differences anymore and try to forget it all.

Sola Scriptura sure was a can of worms. In a sense I think the Quakers and Anabaptists just took the principles of the Reformation to their logical end, and the Lutherans and more conservative reformers just fought to arbitrarily stop the reformation based on 'human traditions' that they had denounced (infant baptism, Trinitarian formulas w/ neo-platonic language, etc).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Brief Thoughts On Our Newman Club Pilgrimage

It was great to go on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Canadian Martyrs by St. Marie among the Hurons. Amazing stories of men who travelled over 800 miles by canoe to witness to Natives and whom would ultimately make the greatest act of devotion to Christ.

The pilgrimage was amazing because it reminded me of the importance of the triumphal Gospel of the victory of Christ's love. It reminded me of the words of Pope John Paul II who said that history reminds us that love always wins. The mission would be burnt and the men would be martyred, but years later Christ's kingdom would advance there, for as Tertullian reminds us: "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church". The verse that kept coming to mind is: "faith, hope, and love, these remain, but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13). I prayed that Christ would help me to love others as these men loved complete strangers in an effort to save their souls. The Jesuits again are a startling example to me of this kind of love.

It was also great to get to know some Catholics and share the faith, to pray a rosary together to talk about missions we've done, and our vocations. Finally I was glad that I didn't have any iconoclastic rage like last time, perhaps the Spirit's work is advancing in me (or if the Reformed are right, I have more completely numbed my conscience and become a mass of perdition).

In any case, thank God for the opportunity and the lesson relearned. Tonight at Mass a girl was talking in front of me to her friend and I wanted to tell her to stop or give some sign of displeasure, but I thought "how often to I profane God's work in my life with sin and sacriledge" and prayed for us all. Tolkien's note on this was helpful.

There was one martyr I particularly identified with. He was the university professor and spoke 7 European languages and was well versed in theology and counter-reformation polemics. But when he got there, he was the only priest who couldn't understand Huron and felt useless. He was later martyred by an apostate Indian whom he had ministered to, while his back was turned. What a sacrifice, but what frailty and sense of faillure (which I can relate to). May the love of God be shed in my heart so that I too can be moved to such charity.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13

Canadian Martyrs ... Pray for us!
St. Jean de Brebeuf ... Pray for us!
Holy Mary Queen of the Martyrs ... Pray for us!
Lord Jesus Christ ... Pray for us!

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Popular Piety"

In medieval history we always have to read about medieval piety which my Mennonite Professor just sums up as 'superstition' (though somehow the bible is magic without it being superstitious).

Anyway, I guess I have become one of those nameless masses of Catholics going through the ages with their superstition, but I have to say I kind of am glad.

For a long time reading my bible was the only spiritually edifying experience I had. Then it became taking communion, then confession, but finally it has become my Rosary (which I find myself praying in lecture and taking everywhere), and reading Newman and Ratzinger. I'm going through Cardinal Newman's "Apologia Pro Vita Sua" and I will admit, he isn't the brightest theologian, but it is a good story as it were, and I find his sermons admirable, and his prose excellent.

Ratzinger is just the most thoroughly Christian man I think I've ever read about. I remember in grade ten laughing at our Catholic teacher in the Mennonite High School I went to because she was crying over the news of the death of the pope. I said "but isn't he the Anti-Christ?" (honestly I'm not making this up) and I received the strict glares of the other Anabaptists, I guess we weren't allowed to say what our theology taught in public.

Anyway Ratzinger - great theologian, very pious man, and not really a modernist or a traditionalist, just a man with huge biblical and patristic knowledge firmly in the Augustinian tradition (a nice compliment to the Neo-Thomists). So Papa Benny and my Rosary and soon to be St. John Henry Newman are swiftly becoming my popular piety (in addition to my Bible reading and everlasting debates with the Reformed).

Pilgrimage This Saturday & The American Revolution

There has been one blessing that has come out of the struggles, stress, addictions, and debates of this school year. It was the last thing I expected as well: The Newman Club. I joined the Newman Club at Brock because I assumed as I had attended Brock Christian (*read Evangelical) Fellowship once before I left, I should do the same with this. But I've really enjoyed meeting with real people who aren't theologians or polemicists. For me practicing my faith has generally meant facing Reformed Polemics and finding Catholic Polemics to attack it, as well as challeging every Modernist assumption taught in the classroom. But aside from just fighting people and being drained I like listening to the common faith of the people (except when it's painfully heretical).

This Saturday for the club we're going on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs where St. Jean de Brebeuf was martyred by the Indians by being baptized to death with burning hot water (those Damn Anabaptists were everywhere - joke), or something horrific like that.

I've already been there before, when I was 17 and I refused to believe Catholicism was Christian except maybe in some superficial appearances (see Rev. Jay's take on Catholicism and I believed that). I was dragged there by my girlfriends ex-Catholic dad who thought it would be an educational experience for me who he named "the Anti-Catholic" (I'd never actually had a Catholic friend or been in a Catholic Church).

Now in so many ways things have changed, and I hope it goes better than last time when I was almost shouting idolatry and the Jesuits were glaring at this strangely troubled young pilgrim.

I am supposed to pray a stations of the cross for my ex-girlfriend's Dad and her brother (one of whom is pseudo-Reformed hah he'd probably ask me not to). But I had to come up with an intention to go on this pilgrimage (as all medievals know).

I was thinking: I really want to overcome my 2 or 3 "big" sins / addictions , but I can never seem to make any headway there. I was then reminded with a story we learned in American History, the Battle at the Cowpens.

The Americans had continually suffered huge amounts of casualties in the war of Independence (*read* Rebellion), and this was largely due to the untrained and retreat-happy militia. If you've seen Mel Gibson's "The Patriot" this is basically the final battle scene which I realized after we studied it. SO the American General set up the militia in the front knowing that their lines would break, and secretly (?) hid the regulars on the opposite side of the hill so that when the dragoons / Tarleton's men came over the hill they'd get shot by Continental regulars.

It worked perfectly and was a brilliant victory for the forces of Rebellion and Enlightenment philosophy.

Now upon recollecting C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" and about 5000 sermons on Ephesians 6 from childhood I remember that the virtuous life is "spiritual warfare" (Catholics call it "spiritual combat" - I guess Christian have to cause needless divisions everywhere). I've been attacking my sin with militia that constantly fail, so possibly I should take a new route.

I've decided therefore to make my intention for the Pilgrimage on a very different front than what I normally have, and perhaps in so doing, God's will internally infuse grace into me in a new way based on my work (I phrased this in the most non-Reformed way as possible just to see if tempers flared). Or in the Calvinistic formula: perhaps God's felicitous favor has predestined my spiritual victory to come through his foreordained path where I will then see the horrors of Papist idolatry and renounce all for the True Religion and become instantly a robot of God's irresistible grace (I wish, talk about an ear-tickling doctrine).

The reality will probably be another long path of frustration, spiritual faillure, and small glimpses of grace through the shadows of life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Papa Benny Picks Up Anglo-Catholics In This Year's Draft

Much like the buzz about Hockey starting up and the teams formed by new draft picks it seems like Papa Benny 16 in his near-infinite genius has picked up the Traditional Anglicans:

That means the 400 000+ in the Traditional Anglican Communion / TAC are probably joining our Church (now 1 000 400 000).

But the questions I'm wondering about are:

1. How can Anglo-Catholicism survive as a rite without constant criticism of liberal Anglicanism? (I guess Liberal Catholicism will be the new enemy) It seems like Anglo-Catholicism thrives on the puritan/elijah mindset of 'we're the only ones!'

2. How f-ed up will the rest of the Anglican Communion become now that the Evangelicals and the High Church Anglicans have left? I'm predicting the Episcopal or Anglican Church of Canada releasing a statement that they will now be removing the Bible's status as inspired scripture due to misogynistic and racist tones.

3. Will they make a new Anglican-Catholic Book of Common Prayer and when can I go to this Anglican-rite Catholic liturgy? (the Anglo-Catholic liturgies as is are more reverant than most Novus Ordos)

I was so excited when I heard this at work, I think Newman has been praying up a storm up there. I also found out Newman is becoming a saint next year! Everyone hates Newman, but I really like his sermons, and I'm reading his Apologia right now and it's quite good.

Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your earthly Vicar, Pope Benedict XVI, and for the increase in Church unity. May all your children share in the unity of faith and the fullness of truth. Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Real Absence of Christ in the Eucharist & Other Queries

Ironically I've started a very very small Reformed fight with my anti-Calvin Lutheran arguments about the Eucharist.

To be honest, I don't think the Real Presence or Absence of Christ in the Eucharist is really an issue (as we Catholics don't even believe they have a valid Eucharist, so really it IS just bread and wine). The real arguments are:

1. How dare you say we don't have a valid eucharist! / Does confecting the Eucharist require Holy Orders?

2. Is the Eucharist a Sacrifice (the biggest question)?

3. Is grace bestowed (and venial sin forgiven) through the Eucharist

Why Luther and I Think Calvin Is Wrong About The Eucharist

Ascension doesn't pose a problem unless you're a modernist who doesn't believe Jesus actually multiplied the loaves and fish in the feeding miracles, God can create as much of his body as he wants (which I'm sure is what GODzilla's redemptive message was). As well we can choose to or not to heed St. Augustine's warning that it is dangerous to think too greatly about the Ascension (and he didn't even know about the stratosphere, space, etc).

But to add more Augustine:

"For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him." - St. Augustine of Hippo "Sermon on the Feast of the Ascension)

This however is my argument that oldest and most hated of Christian arguments: It's a mystery!

Luther's response is much more Biblical and difficult to refute:

"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" - 1 Corinthians 10:16

Now unless St. Paul was really throwing us through a loop and the rhetorical answer was "no" it would appear that all Calvinist and Zwinglian interpretations which basically make it the Holy Spirit are at a loss here. It's the communion of the BODY and BLOOD of Christ NOT the SPIRIT of Christ. There. don't blame me, blame Sts. Paul, Augustine, and (un-st. ?) Martin Luther, and possibly God.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Conversion Stories - John Calvin, Martin Luther, Menno Simons, St. Ignatius Loyola

For a Reformation History Class I have to read, compare and contrast the autobiographical conversions of Luther, Calvin, Menno, and Ignatius. I don't think our Prof picked the best sources, but nonetheless it's interesting reading them after my re-conversion (conversion to Catholicism, rather than conversion to Christ).

Menno Simons: growing up in a half-Mennonite background I have to say this guy stuck out like a sore thumb. He is so legalistic and self-righteous that it amazes me he could ever be said to have a share in the gospel of grace and faith alone (Maybe they should exclude the Anabaptists). He ends up describing how awesome he is as a biblical expositor and mentions that after conversing with Luther, Bucer, and Bullinger on infant baptism that they are all 'unbiblical' and foolish. He also notes that every Christian MUST be a pacifist, etc. Didn't like him at all. He ends his story by accusing the Catholics of being unbiblical because they allow repentant sinners to have communion, and that the Catholics should expel all "unrighteous persons" from their midst. ....seriously, does this guy even believe in imputed righteousness?!

Calvin: He can't seem to speak two sentences without mentioning the bondage of the will, everything he says about himself is in the passive voice. "I was forced by the divine will" I was "compelled against my will", the "violent hand of Heaven was upon me". Like we get it: you believe in predestination. He also uses the predestination thing to excuse himself from the guilt of executing heretics (he refers to them in the plural, so it makes me wonder if he only ever killed that unitarian doctor). The funniest part was when he made his exile from Geneva look like an accident. All in all, better than Simons, more humble for sure.

Ignatius Loyola: Here is where no one can call me biased. I think Ignatius was kind of dumb. For the sake of beauty he endures greatly painful surgery and then claims this pain was 'suffering for Christ'. He's basically converted by a Marian Ghost and a few Spanish hagiographies, and he has the arrogance to say that he wanted to out-saint St. Francis and St. Dominic (thus he would try to show his Jesuits better than the Franciscans and Dominicans). Kind of a hot-headed, theologically-ignorant, Spaniard. But he did find some good friends like St. Francis Xavier, and St. Robert Bellarmine, so I'll give him that, but from this reading he seemed to be my least favourite Jesuit.

Martin Luther: There's something about Luther, he's someone you just gotta love, or at least love to hate. While I do think it's ridiculous how he treated his prince like a bodyguard and glorified Church-State relations to the point of Caesaro-Papism just because it suited him, I still must say he is an awesome figure. He describes his holiness as a Catholic monk and his entire conversion seems to have nothing to do with "becoming a righteous Christian" but rather accepting Christ's righteousness and leaving it and simply being joyful about that. Even if he is a heretic, I think I'll always admire Luther in some ways (if nothing else, for giving me attacks on Reformed & Anabaptist Theology/Sacramentology)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Different Views of the Catholic Church & The Development of Doctrine

As I've read Catholic ecclesiology I've noticed two distinct traditions of understanding Church Dogmatics. In a weird way they seem counter-intuitive, as the Traditional Catholics seem to advocate the development of Doctrine, and the Nouvelle Theologie seems to advocate a Reformation-style jump backwards.

The First View: (I'll call it the Development of Doctrine)

Cardinal Newman and Tolkien and others tend to see theological growth in the Church as the Development of Doctrine. That doctrines existed in "seed" form and eventually grew. So that Mary's Assumption was in seed form (in the gnostics?...not going to try to defend this one) and over time it became more obvious (don't know how) but that basically enough people talked about it and so it then becomes Catholic dogma. This is the view when people tell you that the Church is like a tree growing gradually over time and expanding to higher and higher heights. Others would argue that doctrinal innovation and modernism could spring out of this view, yet strangely, this seems to be the view of the Anti-Vatican II Catholics. They didn't want to go ad fontes because the early church was just an immature version of the current Church. (if that makes sense)

The Second View: (I'll call it the "flight to antiquity" view in honor of Calvin's attack that this is what Catholics do)
This seems to be the view of many of the "Nouvelle Theologie" people / ressourcement theology. A return back to Patristics and Scriptural exegesis. They focus on the fact that the faith was once delivered to the saints, and will continue in a constant return to the same old truths expressed in new ways. This seems to be a fairly "protestant" view (if you can call it that. Except that Patristics are almost on par with Scripture, as is generally the case in Catholicism. This view seems to be quite popular among Catholic-converts and in general with people who aren't keen on new Marian doctrines and extended emphasis on things that have been recently emphasized.

The Third View: (Super-Traditionalist)
I do acknowledge a possible third view however, that of the super-traditionalists (as I'll call them) who think every new definition was there from the beginning, just no one talked about it (kind of like when the Reformed tell you the Fathers all taught the 5 solas, but forgot to mention them except in their pseudo condemnations of them). Sometimes this becomes a mixing of groups one and two by saying that all the dogmas as we now understand them were there in the beginning. The oath against modernism that SSPX takes deliberately recants the idea that doctrine develops (how I don't yet fully understand), and they seem to fall into this last view.

My View: I tend to go with the first people like Newman. I generally hate people who think Left Behind was basically Revelation word for word just in a modern context, and others who think Jesus taught Adam Smith's wealth of nations, or that Extrinsic imputed righteousness was in the Bible even though it wasn't. But a part of my detestation for such a historical ignorance is people who try to say that the Immaculate Conception is a clear biblical doctrine. There are a few proof texts you could bend to try and make say that, and some patristic phrases that seem to possibly indicate something like the sinlessness of Mary, but by and large it's a construct of scholasticism. But my argument would be: so is everyone elses theology.

I've said it a thousand times, and I'll say it again. You can't know what the bible means for complex theological questions. I don't know if Paul was made to pass the test on Chalcedonian orthodoxy if he would get it correct. My argument would be that you either have faith in Pentecost and Christ's Church with all of it's developments, or you become a Quaker. Of course most people try to make some wacky mix of the two, but to me, those are the only two totally logical perspectives.

The Book of Concord/Luther on the Real Presence

"Dr. Luther has also more amply expounded and confirmed this opinion from God's Word in the Large Catechism, where it is written: What, then, is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer: It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine, which we Christians are commanded by the Word of Christ to eat and to drink. 21] And shortly after: It is the 'Word,' I say, which makes and distinguishes this Sacrament, so that it is not mere bread and wine, but is, and is called. the body and blood of Christ. 22] Again: With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and say: If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ? I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger. Now, here stands the Word of Christ: "Take, eat; this is My body. Drink ye all of this; this is the new testament in My blood," etc. Here we abide, and would like to see those who will constitute themselves His masters, and make it different from what He has spoken. 23] It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word, or regard it without the Word, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, in virtue of the same, it is truly the body and blood of Christ. For as the lips of Christ say and speak, so it is, as He can never lie or deceive." - The Book of Concord on the Holy Supper 20.

My friend is becoming Lutheran, and I am excited for him, but I just thought I'd post Luther's view on the Eucharist because it has actually helped me understand the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence from the medieval stance. Pelikan shows in his book on the catholic tradition in the medieval times, it was the words of Christ/the promise which was the guarentee of his presence. When I am having trouble believing in the Real Presence (more like trouble FEELING rather than Believing/Intellectually assenting), I think back to my Baptist roots and the infallibility of Scripture and the fact that Christ said it, and it is so. That usually gets me, and Luther says it great here so plainly, the Calvinists and the Zwinglians can talk about a Presence but it isn't Christ's presence, it's equivocation and the Spirit not the Body of Christ, and so he reminds us not only that Jesus cannot lie, but also cannot deceive.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some Thursday Newman

"He who could walk the waters, could also ride triumphantly upon what is still more fickle, unstable, tumultuous, treacherous—the billows of human wills, human purposes, human hearts. The bark of Peter was struggling with the waves, and made no progress; Christ came to him walking upon them; He entered the boat, and by entering it He sustained it. He did not abandon Himself to it, but He brought it near to Himself; He did not merely take refuge in it, but He made Himself the strength of it, and the pledge and cause of a successful passage. "Presently," another gospel says, "the ship was at the land, whither they were going."

Such was the power of the Son of God, the Saviour of man, manifested by visible tokens in the material world, when He came upon earth; and such, too, it has ever since signally shown itself to be, in the history of that mystical ark which He then formed to float upon the ocean of human opinion. He told His chosen servants to form an ark for the salvation of souls: He gave them directions how to construct it,—the length, breadth, and height, its cabins and its windows; and the world, as it gazed upon it, forthwith began to criticize. It pronounced it framed quite contrary to the scientific rules of shipbuilding; it prophesied, as it still prophesies, that such a craft was not sea-worthy; that it was not water-tight; that it would not float; that it would go to pieces and founder. And why it does not, who can say, except that the Lord is in it? Who can say why so old a framework, put together eighteen hundred years ago, should have lasted, against all human calculation, even to this day; always going, and never gone; ever failing, yet ever managing to explore new seas and foreign coasts—except that He, who once said to the rowers, "It is I, be not afraid," and to the waters, "Peace," is still in His own ark which He has made, to direct and to prosper her course?" - Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (Sermon Preached Oct. 27, 1850, in St. Chad's, Birmingham, on occasion of the Installation of Dr. Ullathorne, the first Bishop of the See.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vulgate Question Answered

I did a bunch of research on the Latin Vulgate, and found out that it kind of never existed, and that solved the problem of Trent's declaration of the Vulgate as "THE" version. To explain, the texts of the Latin bibles all across Europe were a mix of the Older Latin translations and Jerome's version. After a while they ended up getting mixed together in the copying depending on a certain passage and the preference of the local bishop, etc. It's like today when people memorize verses in the King James and use that wording alot and it becomes familiar, even though everyone else is reading the NIV or ESV (or if they're like me NRSV).

So basically by that point, they knew from the Greek where the errors were (like Gen 3:15) and corrected them in several reform movements throughout the middle ages, but some errors still persisted. The problem was that Erasmus' Greek ALSO had errors in it, so there wasn't a clear solution.

So Trent did what Catholics always do: revert to Tradition. So based on the authority of St. Jerome, they declared his Vulgate to be the best version, even though no one really knew which one it was hah. BUT the Clementine Vulgate was an accurate corrected addition that flourished for a long time after. So while the Reformers were criticizing the Vulgate and adding their "alones" to the Vernacular bibles, and removing books from the canon, the Catholic Church was just revising the Vulgate, or if you like: always reforming, by continually evaluating the Latin text.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Spiritual Gifts of Bear Mauling and Blinding

talk about 'sundry times and divers manners' (Heb 1). I used to use these examples when talking with Pentecostals, and how while I don't care about tongues or prophecy, I'd totally accept the gift of she-Bear attack coordinator (first target: Joel Osteen) and Blinding people

"He (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!’ When he turned round and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys." (2 Kings 2:23-24 NRSV)

... it makes you wonder really why the actual recording of 42 was recorded. Like 2 bears eating 42 kids would take quite a long time. That in itself is pretty miraculous. And you'd think he would've stopped after like 2 kids were made an example of and the others thought: "wow I guess we shouldn't mock bald people". This reminds me of one saint I learned about who was mocked by someone and at the saints prayers the man was attacked by bees.


"Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand." - Acts 13:9-11

I like the NIV which I think says "blind for a season" which means that it was a pretty powerful.

For a much more blasphemous but hillarious account of other great bible verses check out:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

C.S. Lewis quote

"One of the most important differences between us is our estimate of the importance of the differences. You, in your charity, are anxious to convert me: but I am not in the least anxious to convert you. You think my specifically Protestant beliefs a tissue of damnable errors: I think your specifically Catholic beliefs a mass of comparatively harmless human tradition which may be fatal to certain souls under special conditions, but which I think suitable for you. I therefore feel no *duty* to attack you: and I certainly feel no *inclination* to add to my other works an epistolary controversy with one of the toughest dialecticians of my acquaintance, to which he can devote as much time and reading as he likes and I can devote very little. As well--who wants to debate with a man who begins by saying that no argument can possibly move him? Talk sense, man! With other Catholics I find no difficulty in deriving much edification from religious talk on the common ground: but you refuse to show any interest except in differences." - C.S. Lewis to Dom Bede Griffiths

My friend sent this to me after I 'kind of' tried to show her what I believed/convert her or at least show that the Mennonites were heretics... It made me think alot. It's ironic that Griffiths wrote an article defending Catholic views from Patristics that was influential for me. We both have the harsh unkindness in common I guess. heh.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Scripture & Prayer

I'm pretty strange by modern standards. You can usually spot me as the guy who is overdressed, and in classes as the guy who can't shut up and just keep Religion out of the classroom. that's me. A Christian counselor told me that if was truly myself, I would be lonely forever because I don't "fit" in the world. That's cool, I'm not a big fan of the world myself, and I'm old enough to handle it (most days). So what do I do to keep all of this at bay? Two things mainly:

Read Scripture:
If there is one thing I proudly maintain from my Anabaptist upbringing it's the importance of the Word. When things are bad, usually if I can force myself to just pick up the bible and start reading, I will end up not putting it down for a couple chapters or sometimes a whole book (not the big ones). I will find passages that I repeat to myself over and over and mention in conversation whenever possible. The passage I've (re)found today is 1 Corinthians 8:3 "anyone who loves God is known by him".

The one good thing about constantly being unable to face life is that you pray alot more. It's not even a question of if, it's only when. I know that I couldn't get through the week without God, so eventually after my sin and waywardness I come pounding on his door again, the annoying Canadian panhandler back again to pull an Oliver Twist and ask for more grace. The Rosary has also been very helpful, and while I hated it at first... and subsequently at times have lapsed into hatred for it, lately I've been really enjoying it. It's also helped me to realize that God is no more bored by using the same perpetual petitions of prayers like the Our Father, because being of infinite knowledge the difference between these and our own made up prayers there can be little difference in quality. Plus he wrote the Our Father, so I'm sure it's better than anything I could think of, it is the Lord's Prayer after all.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another Rant: Possibly Why People Hate Me

I'm reactionary, polemical, overly-emotional, depressed, uneducated, obese, Canadian, Catholic, convert, Brock student, biblicist, and I blog way too much.

I had a 1 hour lunch break today at work, guess what I did? drove home and wrote a blog, and went back to work.

I got home tonight, guess what I did? read some patristics (when I had a ton of other homework) and wrote a blog about it.

I was about to go to bed, and guess what I did? read a guys blog, got angry, wrote a blog, and then tried to cover it by writing this post on my blog so that my scathing personal attack on him will be less obvious should he click on my name and see this self-deprecating post first rather than the previous one.

No one has the time or energy to theologically baby-sit me, and apparently I can't understand Catholicism or Protestantism well enough to post on other people's blogs about the issues either... But evidently I am emo enough to have a blog which is posted on far too frequently and far too emotionally... If only I could find the emo convert blogosphere, then I'd be set.

I should just go back to playing WoW or just listening to Classical Music, I caused less trouble.

I wish I could store up all the glares I get though, like the one that I got from the Female theologian at Regis yesterday, or the one I got from the Calvinist TA who heard I'd converted to Romanism. I could just have this compilation of the abject disgust of humanity, and then when I died and the person got up to give the eulogy, they could just say: "This is what the world thought of Andrew Cottrill" and show the jar. That would be a tribute to my lifetime pursuit of truth and honesty rather than people-pleasing and tolerance.

Personal Rant: Frustrations with Traditionalists...

I ended up posting on this Trad Catholic blog today and wanted to delete my comment but was unable to. You see, the author was mocking what has been called "Neo-Catholicism" (Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, Thomas Howard, Dave Armstrong, etc). Basically people who aren't of the 'proper' Catholic background (Italian, Spanish, French, Polish, Irish), or who actually use the bible to promote Catholic belief. Apparently being born of a non-Anglo nationality and growing up with nominal church attendance and Marian devotion makes your faith more real than someone who has gone through an excruciating intellectual journey, faced disownment by parents, and left everything they've known and trusted for the Catholic Church.

The "hillarious" thing is, for Traditionalists who insist on the necessity of conversion to Catholicism for salvation, don't even believe in it's possibility it seems. You can sit there and affirm every article of the Roman Catechism, go to daily TLM's etc and they'll still say "you know the bible verse for why Catholics believe this?!... PROTESTANT!!!@!#!@!# Our Lady of Fatima destroy this blond-haired Heathen!!!!"

So the poor convert ends up having given up everything only to be shut out of both churches, forever branded with the mark of Cain/Luther. Go ahead and keep your mexican mary ghosts, I'd rather drink tea with Tolkien, Waugh, Newman and Chesterton any day of the week...

I think I've found some people who could give the Orthodox a run for their money in the area of Racism and Nationalism... but maybe that's unfair, the Orthodox after all might have stepped up in these areas from last time we spoke...

A Poem On The Passion (ascribed to Lactantius)

"Whoever you are who approach, and are entering the precincts of the middle of the temple, stop a little and look upon me, who, though innocent, suffered for your crime; lay me up in your mind, keep me in your breast. I am He who, pitying the bitter misfortunes of men, came hither as a messenger of offered peace, and as a full atonement for the fault of men. Here the brightest light from above is restored to the earth; here is the merciful image of safety; here I am a rest to you, the right way, the true redemption, the banner of God, and a memorable sign of fate. It was on account of you and your life that I entered the Virgin's womb, was made man, and suffered a dreadful death...a cruel death on the dreadful cross. And if you yourself wish to discriminate these things more fully, and if it delights you to go through all my groans, and to experience griefs with me, put together the designs and plots, and the impious price of my innocent blood, and the pretended kisses of a disciple, and the insults and strivings of the cruel multitude; and, moreover, the blows, and tongues prepared for accusations. Picture to your mind both the witnesses, and the accursed judgment of the blinded Pilate, and the immense cross pressing my shoulders and wearied back, and my painful steps to a dreadful death. Now survey me from head to foot, deserted as I am, and lifted up afar from my beloved mother. Behold and see my locks clotted with blood, and my blood-stained neck under my very hair, and my head drained with cruel thorns, and pouring down like rain from all sides a stream of blood over my divine face. Survey my compressed and sightless eyes, and my afflicted cheeks; see my parched tongue poisoned with gall, and my countenance pale with death. Behold my hands pierced with nails, and my arms drawn out, and the great wound in my side; see the blood streaming from it, and my perforated feet, and blood-stained limbs. Bend your knee, and with lamentation adore the venerable wood of the cross, and with lowly countenance stooping to the earth, which is wet with innocent blood, sprinkle it with rising tears, and at times bear me and my admonitions in your devoted heart. Follow the footsteps of my life, and while you look upon my torments and cruel death, remembering my innumerable pangs of body and soul, learn to endure hardships...truly, if you thus regard this perishable world, and through your love of a better country deprive yourself of earthly riches and the enjoyment of present things, the prayers of the pious will bring you up in sacred habits, and in the hope of a happy life, amidst severe punishments, will cherish you with heavenly dew, and feed you with the sweetness of the promised good. Until the great favour of God shall recall your happy soul to the heavenly regions, your body being left after the fates of death. Then freed from all labour, then joyfully beholding the angelic choirs, and the blessed companies of saints in perpetual bliss, it shall reign with me in the happy abode of perpetual peace." - Lactantius? "A Poem On The Passion" (


I was reading a funeral liturgy in my missal the other day and I liked the part where it said something to the effect of:

Lord receive your servant, who whilst he lived, was marked with the seal of the holy Trinity. Enter not into judgment of him for in your sight no man shall be justified. (Ps 143:2)

I thought 2 things were interesting, the idea of being "marked" with the holy Trinity, it reminds me of a suitcase or something with God's name written on it, and secondly, the idea of non-imputation of sin which I'm finding more and more in Catholicism, and which according to Jaroslav Pelikan is an orthodox belief emphasized by Aquinas.

I think of the parable of the fish where God's angels sort out the good and the bad into piles and wonder if maybe I am marked by God through baptism, confirmation, etc. I dunno, but I just thought it was an interesting idea, nothing to revolutionary.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Personal post: Geneva & Rome

Today I went to an open house for a Catholic university (Regis college connected to U of T). It was terrible. I know now why Pascal hated the Jesuits. The theologian basically said that it is necessary for us to react to modern culture and change our theology based on it. The way these liberals talk they never say it outright, but they basically implied that the Thomistic tradition was the result of urbanization and the rising merchant class - they totally ignored Aristotle and Augustine in the discussion, and then called all 4 of the Lateran Councils, and I quote "mistakes".

I spoke to the theologian afterwards and asked her if this school taught orthodox traditional Catholic historical theology and she basically replied that I was a fundamentalist and looked horrified when I told her about my conversion. She asked how converting was, I replied "Horrible, terrifying" and explained the heartbreak it's caused in my family and how the only reason I converted was because I believed it was a matter of salvation. She was taken aback and asked about RCIA which I told her was problematic because the catechists contradicted the official Catechism of our Church. She told me that I had to be more open minded. I told her if I was content to make my own theology I would've stayed Baptist, but that I wanted to go to a school to learn what the Roman Church teaches. This seemed to her like asking for an application to the University of Paris circa 1270 CE.

Thus it seems Catholicism doesn't exist in the form it takes in the Catechism and I left with my confused parents who were very unhappy with all the Liberalism there...

When we got home I went to mass and it was so meaningless, the priest adlibbed prayers because the altar girl couldn't find the book. And as we kneeled I couldn't stop thinking: "the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands" (Acts 7:48) and "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7).

It seems to me that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is almost a mockery of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Because God is spirit, Jesus said it was better that he leave us, and that unless he did the Spirit wouldn't come....but then again he said he would be with us always (Mt 28:20)

GAHDGDSHIOGI- theology is so confusing...

Anyway I'm not saying I've recanted Catholicism or anything I'm just saying how I FEEL. And today's mass FELT like idolatry and a mockery of the presence of the Spirit. I couldn't partake of the Eucharist anyway though because I'm objectively in a state of mortal sin according to the church, but then again it isn't really taking the Eucharist anyway is it? Half the Eucharist. Because in Catholicism "Take this all of you and drink from it" doesn't hold much water, I think St. Jerome's Vulgate put a "non" infront of biberent (drink)...

The other verse of course as we prayed "may the lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name" that came to mind was "I desire mercy not sacrifice", and Hebrews' condemnation of the daily sacrifices which were unable to perfect anyone year after year.

So ya, needless to say as I knelt there repeating "but to the one who worketh not, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Rom 4:5) I was feeling a little Reformed.

But obviously I was going to mass only to fulfill my sunday obligation so that was pretty Catholic.

As well while I get St. Thomas Aquinas' theology of original righteousness and original sin, as I sat there talking to a Catholic who said "human nature is wounded, not broken" and continued to say that we are redeemed people I couldn't help but think "dead in our trespasses". How much free will does a dead person have? And how is concupiscence not sin when scripture (Romans 7) calls it: "sin". And why would St. John say: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8) if concupiscence isn't formally sin?

But then of course there is the fact that in Christ we are "partakers of the divine nature" and that "the old (man) is gone, the new is come", etc. So really it's just a matter of picking verses again if we jump on the sola scriptura train...

I guess while Theologically and Logically I am firmly rooted/trapped in Rome, my heart sometimes wanders to Geneva and to the hope that Christ alone will save me.

God defend me from the conversion hungry Calvinists and Romans, lead me to yourself alone...

Though in the end I can never tell what is the Spirit and what is Satan.. When I encounter genuine Catholics who are faithful to the Catechism they can explain these issues well to me, but it's so hard to be a Catholic truly when you're surrounded by people who are so unCatholic in their belief and teaching and life.

I read this quote from a Catholic blog that summarizes alot of what I felt today, it's from one of my literary friends in the faith, J.R.R. Tolkien:

"I know quite well that, to you as to me, the Church which once felt like a refuge, now often feels like a trap. There is nowhere else to go! I wonder if this desperate feeling, the last state of loyalty hanging on...was felt by our lord's followers in His earthly life-time? I think there is nothing to do but pray, for the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and for ourselves; and meanwhile to exercise the virtue of loyalty, which indeed only becomes a virtue when one is under pressure to desert it."

I don't know what to do anymore, spiritually lost between Geneva and Rome.

I want to find someone who believes in the infallibility of scripture and the infallibility of the papacy and who has a great detestation for the modern world. But temptations to Geneva come when I see how gone the existence of such beliefs are in the Roman Church itself and when I see others who aren't afraid to speak the truth to an unwilling world rather than turn the gospel into the social gospel...

Bad History

When discussing my conversion with a Reformed TA the other day I said at one point in explanation. I don't believe that after Pentecost the defectibility of the Church could be as great as you understand it. If I hadn't studied history I would've much more easily condemned Sts Bede, Brendan, Augustine (the lesser), etc, as ignorant of 'the only necessary thing' and the 'article on which the church stands or falls'. In any case, I'm not trying to attack Protestantism - though it sounds like I am - I'm just trying to offer a bit of an explanation.

As I studied early medieval and anglo-saxon Christianity I began to feel a deep connection to St. Augustine and all those holy men and women who worked to convert the land of my fathers the first time. It was then I began to question: with all the developments of doctrine, what is the single unifying experience of salvation that links Christians through every age. Only after beginning my attendance at the Anglo-Catholic Church in town did I realize it was the Sacraments, God's objective means of grace.

But I notice something in some Anglicans that troubles me. Even as an undergrad I'm going to have the arrogance to call it "Bad History". It's arguments like this that I see:

"The Celtic (even that word is debated by modern historians) church disagreed with Rome over the date of Easter, therefore in England Protestantism always secretly existed".

The underlying problem is that the whole host of "Roman" things done by the Irish/Celtic Church still occured despite the date of Easter. Relics, the Sacrifice of the Mass (which entails non-Protestant soteriology), the REAL REAL presence/transubstantiation, penance, saintly intercession, etc was all a part of "Celtic" Christianity.

It's a very anachronistic view of History and is why in my opinion Catholic (Roman) historiography is the only one that makes sense. But this is not to say that there aren't other good arguments against Catholicism, simply that HISTORY is always in defense of these "Romish" doctrines, as far as I have studied.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Coolest Reformed Guy I've Met...

There's a Reformed Chaplain here at Brock, Dr. Basson, he's a South African (now Canadian) Classicist who did his doctoral work on one of Augustine's disciple people, like Prosper of Aquitaine, but not Prosper of Aquitaine. Anyway, we had this awesome conversation about St. Augustine of Hippo because he found out I was Catholic and interested in patristics. He basically said whether we're Protestant or Catholic we have alot to learn from St. Augustine and that he was possibly the greatest theologian in Christian history. I then mentioned Calvin and he said he didn't really like Calvin because he was really ascetic. I had no idea what he meant by that, but I was just really glad he wasn't a big Calvin fan. I'm sure if anyone had an interesting defense of the Reformed tradition a patristics guy like that would. Anyway that's all beside the point I wanted to make.

I ended up having him as a substitute Latin prof today (he is teaching us all next semester) and he was AMAZING. With him teaching the language, I think I could master it in a year. He had such a love for Latin and a great deal of kindness it made me really appreciate it all the more. I think he is the coolest Reformed guy I've met in person...

It was also funny because we were lamenting Protestant (by this I really meant Anabaptist) ignorance of Church History and I forgot that the Catholic chaplaincy is right next door to the Reformed one and so a friend of Andre's jumped into the office and said "I HAD TO LEARN GREEK, HEBREW, and LATIN as well as all the history of the Church so don't be bashing Protestantism!" (he wasn't really angry, just more joking) and I hastily replied "sorry I know the Reformed are intelligent" but he cut me off telling me he wasn't Reformed hah. It was funny, and I wonder if he told Dr. Basson who showed up later about it. ... I don't think he did though because he was really nice to me in Latin.

I hope to be a prof like him some day. (He's right up there with the Catholic prof who taught me Aristotle, those two would probably have great conversations).

He (Basson) helps out with Ecumenical services like Ash Wednesday and just from the interactions I've seen with the Catholic chaplains, I'm quickly learning another way to do ecumenism. It's the knowledge that while we don't agree with each other, we can still support each other as Christians and try to advance ANY propogation of the faith rather than spending time attacking each other. In a godless university, the common enemies of Atheism and apathy are a good uniting force I guess as well...

Luigi Giussani: Quotes I Liked From The Article

A commenter of this blog, Fred, who posts at 'la nouvelle theologie' linked me this article which I've just read:

These are some quotations I liked:

"If we have fared forward, reached the end of our mission, it is for another reason, not because we have succeeded but because God has been good and merciful to us.
How can I help a young person of roughly twenty years of age to set the wheels of
generosity in motion within? By paralyzing him in self-analytical observations[?]" -on confession and self-examination

"If to clean a course of water full of debris we decide to isolate the debris piece by piece, extracting one twig at a time, we will get a stiff neck and a good case of lumbago and will never manage to get the job done. We should instead allow the river to flow to its mouth. If we aim for the mouth, the debris will gradually be deposited along the banks. The apostles followed Christ for who he was: they were attracted to Him. They did not rid themselves of their faults before following him. They went after him just as they were and as they did so, their debris gradually settled along the banks."

"He, Jesus, is the prominent figure, not I with my faults. His face is at stage centre and not the features of my poverty. Gazing upon Him I will realize that He alone can resolve all problems, all of my problems and those of others."

"Here lies the difference between Christianity and other religions. Unrevealed religions, and thus their respective cultures and civilizations are a human effort: Christianity, on the other hand, and thus its culture and civilization, is a path traced by God, it is gift, grace.Of course, God has given us the grace also to reveal to us, to communicate to us the experience of that reality that explains all, and that reality is a living reality, a Person."

"The young people were dumbfounded to hear that God should have made us rich
because he loved us. To make us rich he came to share our poverty. He could have
descended to earth and changed us completely, given us wealth in a flash and then gone away again. Instead he did not, he descended to earth and became poor like us. Charity is to share."

"Charity is a law without limits, universal: Catholic. According to this law, to measure and define would be to put an end to the law itself: to place a limit on it is not to limit it but rather to annul it."

"We choke our young people if we claim that they should be enthused about limited things."

- Msgr. Luigi Giussani

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scott Hahn, 'Fleshing Out' the Holy Spirit

Scott Hahn has written a great piece on the connections between the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary. I didn't read all of it but it really helped me to understand the maternal aspects of the Spirit - though obviously the Holy Spirit is not feminine as Hahn makes clear, but in the same way that God the Father is not male, we can use analogies to understand God.

Anyway he writes about how the Spirit conceived in Mary brought forth the birth of Christ and how the Spirit's work in baptism gives birth to Christians etc. He quotes N.T. Wright which will only confirm the widespread allegations that Wright is a secret Jesuit (though I think the man is very anti-Catholic)

Anyway, here is the book:

Personal Post: My Sin, and Why Jared/Owen Might Be Right

I'm tired of dancing around the issue, and I don't have a reputation to lose (which works out in this case). This will be a personal blog, so if you're not comfortable getting to know me, then please stop reading this. I'm even giving you a bunch of time to look away.
for the last 5 years I've been in a pattern of habitual sin which to use it's Victorian name would probably be: 'impurity'. Computer + Young Male + Depression - Friends = bad results. I've tried everything, even went to a Christian counselor (is that how you spell it?) for months. In the end I was told it's just a will issue.

My Protestant pastor told me that every action I did was a sin and so I shouldn't feel bad about it because I have Christ's righteousness and my works meant nothing to God. This was unsatisfying to say the least. I've subsequently learned from some Reformed guys that this is not Classic Protestantism. In Catholicism where I now dwell, both 'components' of this sin are mortal, I.E. if you do them you go to Hell. But if you ask most modern priests they'll say that after Vatican II it some how got less sinful. (don't ask me how)

So it'd been 10 days since my last confession and being in a constant state of guilt isn't the most fun place to be. So today I woke up at 5:50AM and went to the Latin Mass place to go to confession. I went through the list said the words got absolved and received advice I'd heard a thousand times from Christian speakers and websites.

I did my penance and it felt so empty, I couldn't even stay for Mass, I didn't feel like I had anything to contribute to the sacrifice and didn't feel comfortable infront of the presence. So I went home.

Within less than 12 hours I had already put myself in a state of Mortal Sin again. Now just because it's not comforting doesn't mean it's not true. As one Catholic said to me, 'just because you aren't holy now, doesn't mean holiness is impossible', and the saints are proof of that. But personally/pastorally/spiritually this sacrament with all of it's grace left me feeling nothing. Maybe this is a stupid pop-psychological/Neo-Evangelical critique of Penance but it just reminded me of Luther.

So here I sat in my room thinking "why couldn't I have died on my way home from Church...". The Catholic reading this is probably furious because it sounds like a typical Protestant critique of the Sacrament. Indeed Catholic teaching is that habit and immaturity both lessen the culpability of an act and can even remove it altogether in rare cases. So the educated Catholic would say: "no you are probably not in a state of Mortal sin". So I'm not saying Penance doesn't work, I'm just saying today, for me, it didn't seem to help.

But then I went downstairs and saw I had a package delivered to my house. My friend from Bible School mailed me a trilogy of Evelyn Waugh books and a card in latin (luckily she translated it for me) with encouragement.

Even in my sinful life I still attach theological meaning to everything, and it was such a significant existential moment I basically started to cry.

I don't understand God's grace, he gives it when he shouldn't, and even when I curse him, he still blesses me.

So I've repented and I'll confess later and the priest will probably tell me again that I just need to try harder and it's probably true, but I think gracefullness would be a much more effective tool on me at least, than moral exhortation.

Now this is where I start getting comments about sola fide and Luther and the Reformation from Protestants telling me to repent of my false religion and that this is a sign, and I get emails from Catholics telling me I've abandonned the faith by being honest and not just saying what is expected.

But I'm a person, not an ideology, and it seems that God no matter how much I ask him will not tell me which "side" is right (Protestant or Catholic). So I follow logic, Tradition, and Scripture and make my choice, and just when I think God will fit in my new theological system because he didn't fit in the old, he appears where he shouldn't. It would've made sense for me to have had an experience of grace at Confession this morning, not after I'd wilfully sinned against him. In the midst of so much theology and religion it's almost frightening when God shows up, you get so used to absence that you almost forget what His presence is like and then out of left field there he comes.

Anyway, that's why I think John Owen/Jared might be right, and I don't know how my life fits with my theology but I know that the sacraments work ex operare opero according to tradition and God's promise, but I experience God's grace sporadically and inexplicably, so I remain confused...

More Victorian Insights on Catholicism: Thomas Babington Macaulay (not just a funny name)

My main area of study so far in University has been Anglo-American History / British and American History. Our school teaches it chronologically so last year we had 600-1000 (suspiciously no class on 1000-1485 What happened?!) and 1485-1832, and this year I have one from 1832-Present. We're studying the Victorian Era, Lord Palmerstone, etc. This is why I did the post on Nightingale's theology. But here's a very strange piece of evaluative ecclesiastics. It was written by (Lord) Thomas Babington Macaulay, an Evangelical Anglican (as far as I know) who ended up not converting to Catholicism, but simply gained a great appreciation from it through history. Here's what he wrote:

"There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."

I was talking to a Catholic Philosophy student (doctoral candidate) yesterday from Quebec and he said it wasn't surprising that I converted after studying history, and said that the Church needs historians more than it needs theologians which I thought interesting. Maybe I'll continue in Anglo-American Catholic history for graduate work...

Decision Made

I feel like I am in some way obligated to continue blogging in defense of Catholicism, but at the same time I need to admit that I'm not that well-educated and can't take on in full attacks on Catholicism, and thus need to just accept that I'll lose sometimes.

But I'm also a person with a personal/spiritual/mystical experience that I'd like to collect my thoughts to write in, and so I'm thinking I'll just devise a system of letting readers know in the title whether the post is primarily personal or theological.

...and I'm too intellectually thirsty for debate to stop with what has been called polemical or 'anti-Protestant' writing.