instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, April 06, 2015

Class of 2015

At the Easter Vigil in my parish, four adults received baptism and five other adults entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church. A tenth joined them for First Holy Communion. All ten, plus another four adults and two teenagers, were confirmed.

Yay, Church!



Saturday, April 04, 2015

Truly He is risen!

At Easter, you reap what you sowed throughout Lent. Also chocolate, probably.

If you're satisfied with chocolate, you may still enjoy yourself at Easter even if you didn't sow much during Lent.

If the chocolate and Lenten fruits aren't all that filling, you can sow at Easter. If you can't be the son who said he would work in his father's field and did, you can still be the son who said he wouldn't go, but later went. His father was pleased with him too, at the end of the day.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

My soul is waiting for the Lord

As you may know, the De Profundis -- Psalm 130, or Psalm 129, depending on who's counting -- is traditionally prayed on behalf of the souls in purgatory. It is also the Responsorial Psalm for the Year A Scrutinies on the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

It's a good psalm to memorize; it's short, and it can come in handy. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, for example, would stop to pray it when he would come across a cemetery on his ramblings with his friends.

Here is the Grail Psalter's translation of vv 5-7a:
My soul is waiting for the Lord.
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
(Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.)
I like the image of the psalmist and the watchman engaged in competitive longing. For the watchman, daybreak means rest and safety, and the successful discharge of his own duties. For the psalmist, the Lord means the redemption of "Israel... from all its iniquity" (v. 8).

The certainty of the Lord's redemption of Israel is compared to the certainty of the sun rising. This isn't a remote thought from ancient Semitic culture; we are sure as the sun's gonna rise about things today.

A wisenheimer might point out that, in not too many billion years, the sun will burn out, and any poor slob left on earth counting on that daybreak will be out of luck. But even if we limit ourselves to the next billion years, during which it is morally and scientifically certain that every night will be followed by daybreak, we have no such certainty that any particular watchman will live to see any particular daybreak. An army camp watchman may be the first casualty of a pre-dawn attack; even a purely ceremonial watchman might come to the end of his natural life before the end of his watch.

So we might think of daybreak as analogous to the certainty of God keeping His word, in fact on both the objective and subjective level the coming of daybreak is a weak and doubtful expectation compared to the certainty of hope in the Lord.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pascal's Wager 3D: This Time, It's Personal

Google stumped me when I typed "purgatory" into my browser address bar:

Just what kind of fire does that fox have anyway?


Friday, February 27, 2015

An unlosable proposition

I'm having a raggedy Lent so far this year, which on the upside means I'm not at risk of vainglory in how well I'm keeping Lent.

But I have managed to actually complete a novena -- to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots -- in the nine days since Ash Wednesday. (I probably complete on time about 10% of the novenas I start.) And just a couple of hours after I finished the ninth day's prayer, I received some fantastic news related to my prayer intention.

Correlation? Empirically so. Causation? Impossible to say, as impossible as when something good happened related to my prayer intention the other time I completed a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

Now, there's nothing at all miraculous about the good things that happened. I'm inclined to think -- even, in a way, hope -- they were purely coincidental. If it turns out to be the case that God wants to answer my prayers, then my lousy prayer life is responsible for a whole lot of grace missing in this world.

Frankly, though, it doesn't matter. The act of prayer is in itself a grace, which if maintained becomes the habit of prayer, and that's a good in itself. Whether or not we get what we pray for in some discernible way, we are sure to get what praying does for us, which we can then give to those we've been given to love.

Offer yourself to Jesus. Invoke Mary's aid. Trust.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Quotations from St. Teresa of Avila's The Way of Perfection

A timeless question:
"What is the matter with Christians nowadays? Must it always be the ones who owe You the most who afflict You?"
A timeless observation:
"Let those who are to come realize that if the bishop is holy the subjects will be so too..."
But before we murmur against our bishops, St. Teresa immediately adds:
"...and as something very important always ask this of the Lord in your prayers."
And while this is written to the nuns of her convent, it can be adapted for anyone who considers themselves a disciple of Jesus:
"Be determined, Sisters, that you came to die for Christ, not to live comfortably for Christ."
[From the Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume 2, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., published by the Institute for Carmelite Studies, Washington. DC.]


Monday, February 02, 2015

When is a fact untrue?

In his homily on Sunday's Gospel, the transitional deacon preached about the deceptions of demons. They're so slippery they can't even keep their pronouns straight.
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!
Last year, I went through the Gospel According to St. Mark to categorize all the quotations, and was somewhat surprised to find that, other than God the Father, the demons had by far the best and clearest Christology. It wasn't forced out of them by exorcism, they freely confessed Jesus to be the Holy One of God. If the people had just believed what the demons said, they'd have known Who Jesus Is.

But, as the deacon pointed out, you really shouldn't believe what the demons say. Even if it's true, they aren't saying it for your benefit.

In the case of the man from Capernaum with an unclean spirit, it may be that the spirit was trying to upstage Jesus, or at least throw Him off His game. It interrupts Jesus' teaching, asks the same sort of bogus question the serpent asked in the Garden, and announces the Messianic secret to a congregation wholly unprepared for it.

The people, meanwhile, are amazed at Jesus' authority over unclean spirits, but Mark says nothing about their reaction to the "Holy One of God" bit. Maybe they didn't follow that part, or maybe they knew better than to pay any attention to what unclean spirits say.