"Good God, woman, I used my thumb!"

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yo I'm Matt

Hello my name is Matt and I'm a history major at the University of Texas or as our friend Ben likes to call the wasteland. Like my friends I'm interested in Catholicism especially the History of the Church. I recently coordinated a Mission Trip to Mexico with the University Catholic Center. I hope i can contribute something to this blog, although my friends are much more learned than I when it comes to theology.


After some e-mails back and forth with my ordinary in San Antonio, I will be instituted as an acolyte some time this summer. Woo hoo!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Confirmation Age

The Most Reverend Alvaro Corrada, SJ, Bishop of Tyler, TX, released a pastoral letter last October asking that the Confirmation be adminstered before the first reception of the Holy Eucharist. So now, in that diocese, all baptized children of age 8, just after the age of reason, are confirmed and then receive Communion.

The appropriate age for Confirmation is a strange issue. "F0r centuries, Latin custon has indicated "the age of discretion" as the reference point for receiving Confirmation" (CCC 1307). However, many Catholic parishes have moved the age back, confirming Catholics at ages 12, 16, even 17 (as it was in my case). It seems, however, that this has no historical or theological value, but instead is a social custom that does not recognize the point of the Sacrament itself.

Confirmation is on of the three Sacraments of Initiation (along with Baptism and Eucharist) and is "necessary for the completion of baptismal grace" (CCC 1285). During the Secong Vatican Council, the Church said that the baptized "are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ" (Lumen Gentium 11). So the Sacraments of Initiation work in a particular order: the new Catholic is joined to the body of Christ and washed of his sin (Baptism), strengthened to live out the call to holiness and bound more closely to Christ's pilgrim Church (Confirmation), and joined to Christ himself (Eucharist). Together, the three Sacraments present a great combination for the Catholic to experience, a sacramental grand slam if you will. Thus, theologically speaking, it makes most sense to administer Confirmation at the age of reason/discretion and before reception of the Eucharist, allowing the person to be fully bound to the Church when practicing the Sacramental life in the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

It appears that the early Church both baptized and confirmed infants at the same time. When the bishop could no longer baptize all Christians, the priest was delegated to distribute the sacrament more regularly. In the East, the two Sacraments remained a "double Sacrament," while in the West, the priest baptized, and Confirmation was delayed to the age of reason so the bishop could complete the "double Sacrament" (CCC 1290-1). It was only after the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation that the catechumen received the Eucharist. There is a historical precedent within the traditions of the Church to celebrate these Sacraments in that order.

It seems that the reason for pushing the age of Confirmation to the mid-teen years is merely a social cause. My Confirmation at age 17 provided a convenient "now-you-are-a-man" moment. It is a mark on the path to social maturity. If not that, Confirmation becomes the young Catholic's chance to "decide for himself" and, in some way, validate his infant baptism. This practice, however, demonstrates a misunderstanding of the Sacrament. The Catechism tells us that "[a]lthough Confirmation is sometimes called the "sacrament of Christian maturity," we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election, and does not need "ratification" to become effective" (CCC 1308). Confirmation is not a milemarker for adulthood, but is the reception of a grace needed to become a mature adult. It is not a ratification of Baptism, but a completion of it.

It appears that the sacrament of Confirmation should be placed at the age of reason/discretion, both for the spiritual fruits we witness theologically and for the maintenance of the tradition of the Church. For these reasons, I applaud the decision of Bishop Corrada and hope other bishops will follow in suit.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pope-ular Physics

Inspired from a discussion over lunch yesterday about antipopes.


ROME--Researchers have recently discovered a unique particle in the subatomic structure of popes, and they think that this could have a large impact on current metaphysical theories. The new particle discovered, which is tentatively called a "pope-on", or "popon", is thought to be the locus of papal infallibility, from which popes derive their power to wield authority on issues of faith and morality.

"The discovery of the popon blows away current theories popularized by leading scientists," lead researcher Albert von Magnus said. "Some, such as Hans Kung, had once thought that a particle such as this might exist in every human being, but so far, after thousands of tests, only the current Pope, Benedict XVI, exhibits these peculiar little particles." Magnus indicated that they are also testing the body of the late John Paul II for residues of the popon, although they believe that its high instability makes it improbable that anything will be discovered. "The popon fissions into its constitutive quarks very rapidly upon leaving the body of the current Pope. And it may not long reside in the bodies of dead popes as well," Magnus said.

Kung himself has considered its discovery amazing, but remains hopeful that identical or similar particles may be found in other leading religious figures. "I still think it highly possible that the Archbishop of Canterbury has an episcopon in his atoms. And the Dalai Lama must know much about particle physics when he speaks of 'the Buddha within,' ", Kung said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.

Popons were found circling the nucleus of atoms in the pope's body. They do so much closer than any elctron, which has helped keep it hidden from view until now.

Followup studies will now focus on the antipopon, which is thought to reside in the atomic structure of antipopes. However, because the few antipopes currently living refuse to submit themselves for examination, the existence of the antipopon cannot yet be confirmed. It has been thought that should a popon and antipopon collide, they would annihilate each other, but this has not yet happened in history because popons and antipopons, when in the presence of each other, are each thought to issue "anathema rays" which keep the other from approaching. This phenomenon has been noted in history several times.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who is Eric?

Well, I will introduce myself to probably only Jake and Josh who already know me. My name is Eric, and I am Theology and Catechetics major at Franciscan University in Steubenville Ohio. My interests are the Liturgy, Vatican II, catechesis, and random nonsense. I hope I can contribute something to this blog, so I can keep my name on the list of contributors. I do whatever I can do to keep the boss happy.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Josh's introduction

I guess I will go ahead and introduce myself before I post anything else.

My name is Josh, and I attend the University of Dallas where I am majoring in Undeclared. My interests include Rosaries, the Knights Templar, poetry, philosophy, Gregorian Chant, Saints that were studs (i.e. St. Simon the Zealot, and St. John Vianney, all St. Francises), folk music, and the Mass.

Now that you all know me so well, I will begin to post here and there.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

St Joseph

The history of devotion to St Joseph is one of the more surprising in the annals of Church history. In contrast to Marian devotions, which began early and often and have been a hallmarkof the Catholic Church throughout its life, devotion to St. Joseph, now recognized as the patron of the universal Church, had a slow start and a checkered past. And by slow, I mean that the first church dedicated to St Joseph was built in Bologna...in 1129.

It seems that the Eastern Church had always maintained a devotion to Joseph, as seen in some of the Patristic writings. But the Western church was slow to develop a cult to Joseph. Benedict XIV indicates that it was the Carmelites in the Middle Ages who first brought the cult to the West. The Council of Constance accepted the Office for the Espousals of Joseph in 1414, and it was not until Sixtus IV, who reigned 1471-1484, that the Feast of St. Joseph was instituted on March 19 in the Roman calendar, and even then only as a festum simplex. And it wasn't until 1726 that Benedict XIII inserted Joseph into the Litany of Saints.

But devotion to St. Joseph grew tremendously from the 18th century onwards, particularly among the working class. This is because Joseph came to be seen as the model husband and father, who protected and supplied for Mary and the Christ-child. Surely, God would not choose as his fatherly protector a man who would neglect his duties to family, faith, and work. And Joseph the carpenter came to be a model for hard work, indeed, the model for sanctifying your daily life and routine to please God. And as can be seen by the growth and influence of Opus Dei, this image of Joseph, the hard-working, responsible caretaker who celebrated the mystery of God in his everyday life, has endured and will continue to endure as the lasting image of Christian work and Christian masculinity.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Have a Very Meaty St. Patrick's Day

Just read in the Houston Chronicle that Archbishop DiNardo has granted a dispensation to eat your corned beef tomorrow in the Houston area. Spend a different day in abstinence and celevrate your (not-so-)Irish roots!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fun With Philemon

For as it was shown how spiritual prelates relate to their subjects, so here [Paul] shows how temporal masters should relate to their temporal servants, and how the faithful servant to his master.
~St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Preface to his Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to Philemon

Philemon is unique in the Bible as a private letter written by Paul to Philemon, regarding in particular the reception of the runaway slave Onesimus. Because of its short, direct nature and concern with slaves and masters, the traditional interpretation of it has been as an insight into Paul's thoughts regarding slavery and the inherent dignity in every person. This is indeed a good reading of the letter, and I by no means intend to replace it here. By I would like to suggest another possible reading of the letter, a spiritual one which applies to my life and to many others as well.

The historical background for the letter is as follows: Philemon was a Christian convert and citizen of Colossae whose house was used as a place of worship by the Colossian converts. He probably met Paul while staying in Ephesus and was converted there before returning to Colossae. Tradition places him as the first bishop of Colossae, and he along with Onesimus were martyred in the general persecution under Nero. The particular concern of the letter is with regards to Onesimus, a slave of Philemon who ran away, was converted by St. Paul, and then was sent back to Philemon with Paul's blessing.

The temporal matters dealt with in the letter have been discussed by the interpreters and exegetes, and it suffices to say here that it is with regards to slaves and masters. But the point I would like to raise is what is revealed in the letter when we read it in a spiritual sense with Christ as our master, one's self as the slave, and the Church taking the role of Paul as interceder and commissioner. If read like this, Paul's letter to Philemon can be seen as the perfect advice for the treatment of the revert and how the revert should approach his return to Catholic life.

Specifically, the revert asks Christ, through the Church, to accept himself back as a slave, but not only as slave but as someone "useful both to you and to me." The revert is now useful to Christ as a follower and disciple, and to the Church as a foot soldier in whatever manner he is needed. And for the revert, there is this consolation for his former life: "Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good - no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother." The Church then commissions the revert to return to Christ and then, with overtones of "Ecclesia supplex", asks that "If he [the revert] has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me."

There are other little kernels of truth and various connections that can be made here, but I encourage you to find them yourself. I think this reading can give Philemon some more exposure and thought that has generally been given it in the eyes of the faithful.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Purpose of Animals

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

All animals, I believe, have their purpose here on Earth. And, of course, man was given them to gaurd before Adam screwed it all up for us in Eden. (That's okay, we forgive him yet. There were more wondrous things to come...) Jewish thought, and picked up in Catholic theology, shows that the animals fell as well when man fell. But they all had, and still have, their original purpose. The sheep shows our our relation to God, the need of a saving Shepherd. The dog shows us our loyalty to Him (as Ben once put it, we must all be "domesticated to God"...stop kicking, biting, clawing, scratching...). One can even imagine the ferocity of the bear shows us an infinitely small yet infintely understandable image of God's wrath should we so wrongly decide to tick Him off without begging for forgiveness.

But some animals are more difficult to figure out. Chesterton found the answer for the donkey, which lies in italics at the bottom of this entry when the introductory verses are concluded. And perhaps my brother found the answer to the great mystery of the tapeworm, when he so keenly noted that, like the Holy Spirit, "it lives within you."Still, there are some animals that are simply inscrutable. The ant, for example, is simply difficult to know. Is it there to show us that hard work and effort can save ourselves? Or are they simply a cosmic practical joke, God's way of saying, "Look, animals get along together better than you silly humans! Wake up!" And there's the sloth; it's very name is a Deadly Sin. I think either Adam or the 19th-century naturalists made a mistake there somewhere. And lastly, there's the platypus. I'm still waiting on any kind of sane explanation of the platypus.

But each animal, I am convinced, has it's imprint from God, the simple, indelible mark of Creation. God made them for some reason, to help us in some, often undetermined manner to lead us toward Him. Perhaps simply their existence should point the way to their Creator. For surely, there is no other reason for the natural beauty of the butterfly than to point us toward the Heavenly beauty of God.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

--G.K. Chesterton

So, Who the Heck Are We?

Good question.

We are six Catholic friends from the Texas Hill Country. One is based there as RCIA director; the rest of us are spread out across the country at various universities. We come together on breaks for bull sessions (which we call "Le Resistance") ranging anywhere from Darwin to Aquinas' philosophy of being to random stories of Catholic fun and goofiness. This is hoped to be a place where we can post random thoughts on Catholic theology and fun.

A short intro for myself (the others will introduce themselves as they want to):

I'm a junior at Rice University and active in the Catholic Student Association there. My interests include liturgy, art, and architecture; philosophy; and history.