Letters From a Young Catholic

My reflections as a Catholic young adult passionate about the Faith, seeking to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and discerning the will of the Lord in my life.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Interior Castle Paper

I have to write a paper for my Christian History course on any theme relating to the Interior Castle. I pretty much have free reign. I asked if it had to be strictly a historical paper or whether it could be more on the theological side. The prof said for this assignment we could write from whatever approach was most relevant to our personal interaction with the text (it could be historical, theological, psychological...whatever strikes our fancy...).

Anyways, I think I'd like to discuss the idea of spiritual espousal of the soul with Christ, especially as this relates to St. Teresa of Avila and the sisters for whom she was writing the Interior Castle, in other words, I want to address in particular the idea of the spiritual marriage of consecrated religious women to Christ.

Does anyone have any additional insight, books, or articles they'd like to share? Obviously, I'll be mostly drawing off the primary text of the Interior Castle but if anyone's read anything directly relating to this topic, feel free to point it out to me! :-)

Quotable Philosophy

Philosophy of the Human Person is always a good class in which to pick up some interesting quotes. So, from today's class:

"If you're not a talking zebra flying into heaven in pure love you're splitting up into parts that are at war with each other."

"Dualism is Plato for dummies."

And there you have it. Through statements such as these, I'm attempting to come to a deeper understanding this semester of what it means to be a human person.

St. John Bosco

Just a friendly reminder that today is the feast day of
St. John Bosco, a patron for schoolchildren, students, and young people. With St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John Bosco looking out for us in a special way this week we students are in good hands. It's also fitting that the catechism class I teach will be making their first confessions today, on the feast day of a patron for schoolchildren. May he intercede on their behalf.

Saint John Bosco, you reached out to children whom no one cared for despite ridicule and insults. Help us to care less about the laughter of the world and care more about the joy of the Lord.

G.K. Chesterton on Contraception

"It has been left to the last Christians, or rather to the first Christians fully committed to blaspheming and denying Christianity, to invent a new kind of worship of Sex, which is not even a worship of Life. It has been left to the very latest Modernists to proclaim an erotic religion which at once exalts lust and forbids fertility . . . The new priests abolish the fatherhood and keep the feast - to themselves."
The Well and the Shallows, NY: Sheed & Ward, 1935, 233)

[Note: This comment was made five years after the Anglican Church passed a resolution at the 1930 Lambeth Conference approving the use of artificial contraception.]

Monday, January 30, 2006

Impatience with Canada Post

I'm sick of waiting for my mail... you know you've been polluted by the "gotta-have-it-now" mentality of our day when you no longer can patiently wait for good ol' snail mail. I've been waiting for what seems like forever (in reality a week or two) for mail to come my way. I eagerly await the arrival of: a new compact RSV Bible that I ordered for myself online, my first copy of my new subscription to First Things (so that I no longer have to hijack my dad's subscription), and a letter from a friend. I'm getting impatient though. Maybe God is trying to send me a not so subliminal message.

P.S. Speaking of things that come in the mail, those of you in B.C. please refrain from reading this week's B.C. Catholic. I have nothing against the paper. Just, whatever you do, don't jump to any conclusions. Now that's a cryptic message for my local readers.

Sacrament of Reconciliation

Tomorrow evening, the children I have been teaching catechism to since September will be making their first confession. I am very excited for them and am praying that they will develop a lasting appreciation for the sacrament and recognize the importance of confession in the sacramental life of a Catholic. I don't know if I've taught them everything that they need to know about the sacrament, but I think that what's most important is that they view the sacrament as a great gift of mercy from God and something that will be a precious part of their life as long as they live. I trust that if they get confused or feel lost during the actual sacrament the priest will help them out.
Please keep them in your prayers.

Appropriately, in reading Running the race of life today I came across two posts on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the first post, Jonathan St. Andre presents some questions to his fellow bloggers on their thoughts and perspectives on the sacrament. In the second post, he shares some of his own thoughts and reflections on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

And so, as this sacrament is on my mind and in my prayers in a special way this week, I thought I'd take the time to share with you some of my own reflections on this beautiful sacrament.

Last week I was having a late night conversation with a friend of mine who will be entering the Church this coming Easter. I mentioned to her that it seemed to me that it must be really difficult for her at this point as she fully believes in the teachings of the Church with regards to the sacraments but still won't be able to participate in the sacramental life of the Church for several months. I commented that I would personally find it frustrating to attend Mass and believe in Christ's presence in the Eucharist and not be able to receive the Blessed Sacrament. She acknowledge that this was hard but that she was waiting in joy to be able to meet Christ in the Eucharist at Easter. Then she added something that surprised me... "You might think that I'm crazy for saying this, but in a certain way, right now I'm longing even more to meet Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation."

For myself, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important part of my spiritual life. It hasn't always been so, but as I grow in my relationship with Christ, the greater importance this sacrament seems to take on.

When I think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the first thing that comes to mind is mercy. It is in this precious sacrament that I encounter the mercy of Christ. Intrinsic to this mercy is the love God has for me. As a sinner, sometimes I wonder how it is that God can love me unconditionally. I wonder how a perfect God could love someone like me. Yet in the Sacrament of Reconciliation I encounter that love in a real way and through the words of absolution I am reminded that this is not just a theoretical love, but very concrete. In the sacrament I encounter the love of Christ from Calvary.

Along with Eucharistic Adoration, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most intimate forms of prayer I practice. When I encounter Christ in this sacrament I become transparent before my God. I acknowledge all that separates us so that I can be brought to a more intimate union with Him. In this sacrament there is a great sense of freedom; not only being set free from one's sins but also the freedom that is found in being obedient to Christ. Through the sacrament I am brought back to a life of obedience.

From my perspective and experience, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a great gift of mercy from God. It has so many aspects, more than we even realize, that lead to a strengthening of our relationship with Christ and His Church.

Christmas and Easter Catholics

Over at the Curt Jester there's a growing list in the comment box for this post on terms used to refer to those Catholics who only attend Mass at Christmas and Easter. So far we have the following:

- C & E Catholics (Christmas and Easter Catholics)
- Submarines (Because they only surface twice a year)
- Creasters
- Lilies and Poinsettas
- Reindeers and Bunnies

Do you have any others to add to the list?

- CEOs (Christmas, Easter, and Occasional)
Bi-habitual (Habitually come to Mass twice a year)
- Two-timers

One person raised the question of whether these Catholics can be held fully responsible for their lack of regular attendance. I think that obviously the degree of responsibility will vary from person to person, circumstances may be such that they are not fully responsible, but that being said, we are all held responsible to live in accordance with God's commandments, which includes keeping holy the Sabbath.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Second Reading Today

"I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction."
(1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

I figured I'd post the whole second reading because it has been on my mind throughout the day. As far as falling into the "unmarried woman or a virgin" category it seems like a pretty good place to be, at least for the time being. Who knows what's in store. . . well God does, but I sure don't. That being said, sure I'm anxious for the things of the Lord, but I'm also anxious about my test tomorrow. I have a feeling 'anxious' in the context of the reading might be meaning something else though. . .

More or Less Allowed

This bothers me. I don't have time to really write a post on it right now, but I just thought I'd let you know I'm disturbed. Essentially, if someone wants to kill themselves and you help them out in the process, it's not really criminal. . . well, at least the sentence isn't much of a deterent. If you're willing to put up with the hassle of reporting to a probation officer for a couple years you're free to kill suicidal friends and family members. Canada is developing a precedence of letting these people get away with it. It's frightening. Remind me never to let anyone know if I'm depressed... they might just take that as a request on my part to be killed.

If there was more time...

I'd love to post. I have an ever growing list of things I want to post on. I'm tired though and have been working hard all weekend doing school work and attending a first aid course so I will have to wait a bit before I take the time to write anything interesting for the blog. For now, sleep is more precious.

In the meantime, please keep my grade two catechism class in your prayers as they'll be making their first confessions on Tuesday. I'll remind you again. :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

St. Thomas Aquinas

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest minds of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas is very important to me as a Catholic student. Not only do I study his works, I also pray to him to intercede on my behalf. There's nothing like studying the writings of a saint and being able to seek their intercession that you'll understand what they were saying before you read what they've written. I love being part of a universal Church. So, as I struggle through my readings for philosophy and theology, St. Thomas Aquinas is often guiding me along the way.

Along with his role as a teacher and an intercessor though, he is also a model of great love and devotion to Christ. He united himself to the cross of Christ and lived a life of heroic virtue. Truly a genius and a brilliant scholar, St. Thomas Aquinas ultimately knew where to find Truth, that is in Christ. Through his example, St. Aquinas calls us all to imitate Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas' Prayer for Students
O Mary, Mother of enchanting love, of fear, of knowledge, of holy hope, through Whose pious intercession many make admirable progress in studies and piety despite crudeness of understanding, I choose Thee as protectress and patroness of my studies. Humbly I implore Thee that, from the heart of Thy maternal pity, and principally from the Eternal Wisdom that deigned to take on our flesh in Thee, and that exalted Thee in heavenly light above all the saints, Thou obtain grace from the Holy Ghost for me so that I might be able to penetrate with my understanding, retain in my memory, express by my life and words, and teach to others all that brings honor to Thee and Thy divine Son, likewise to the advantage of my eternal joy and that of all men.

Students Prayer to St. Thomas Aquinas
O Blessed Thomas, Patron of Schools,
Obtain for us from God
An Invincible Faith,
A Burning Charity,
A Chaste Life,
And True Knowledge
Through Christ Our Lord.

Friday, January 27, 2006

St. Teresa of Avila's Blogging Philosophy

I just finished reading the Interior Castle tonight. Wow. That's all I can say right now. It's something I need to spend more time reflecting upon before discussing further. I probably will never fully digest this amazing spiritual work.

Yet, in the prologue I found a phrase that I think I'd like to adopt as my blogging philosophy, courtesy of St. Teresa of Avila:

"If I should say something that isn't in conformity with what the holy Roman Catholic Church holds, it will be through ignorance and not through malice. This can be held as certain, and also that through the goodness of God I always am, and will be, and have been subject to her."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thomas Aquinas Study Circle

I've decided to join in on the fun and attend a Thomistic study circle / discussion group that's starting up at the college I attend.

At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved because I'm pretty busy as it is, I already have a heavy course load this semester, and it would require extra reading, but then I figured, I could always use a little more philosophy in my life. Perhaps if I could even learn a thing or two by osmosis. So tonight I went along for the fun to check it out. And the verdict? It was well worth my time and I'm hooked.

The group is being led by a thomistic philosophy professor but it's not a lecture set up. It really is more of a discussion group, granted the discussion is being guided according to the socratic method. Tonight we discussed St. Thomas "An Exposition of the "On the Hebdomads" of Boethius." The reading that was given to prepare for the group discussion was really tough going, but once I got there and we started talking about it, it seemed to make a lot more sense and I even learnt a thing or two. The conclusion that seemed to be reached was that first of all, being and good are one, and secondly, everything is good in so far as it is, and therefore good and being can only be separated in thought. Now, don't challenge me too much on that in the comment box because the wheels are still turning in my mind and I'm still trying to digest the reading and discussion.

For now, as I try and wrap my head around the conclusions from tonight's discussion, I'm looking forward to next week when we'll be discussing question six, on goodness in general, from the Summa Theologica.

Robbie Burns Day

As I was all caught up in the excitement of Deus Caritas Est being published today I received an e-mail from my mom this morning reminding me of another reason why today is a special day.

In the words of my mom:

"Happy Robert Burns day! I know, he was more a philanderer than a saint, may he rest in peace. Even if porridge, haggis, oat cakes, tartans, heather and bagpipes don't feature in your day, hopefully you can take a moment to reflect on heritage, beauty and poetry."

And so, in honour of Robbie Burns and my Scottish roots, I will share with you my favourite poem by the man. This is a poem my father used to sing to me when I was growing up.

A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns

My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June :
My love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love,
And fare thee weel a while !
And I will come again, my love,
Thou’ it were ten thousand mile.

Deus Caritas Est

Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, is out!!!

I want to read it right now, unfortunately I have a Spanish Literature test this morning that I need to be studying for instead...tonight though...

Monday, January 23, 2006

New Conservative Government

The Conservatives have won a minority government, as I'm sure most of you know by now. That's the good news. The bad news is that my hometown riding was one of the silly ridings that shifted from Conservative to Liberal. What were they thinking?! If they'd voted NDP I might have understood that... not been happy, but at least it would have made sense to me. But going from Conservative to Liberal after this past session of parliament? It makes no sense to my ignorant mind. It was a close race though with fewer than a thousand votes difference.

I'll comment on the election results at some point later on this week, but for now, in words of our new Prime Minister as he ended his victory speech, "God Bless Canada."

Witness to Hope

Just to give you heads up that I'm adding to my Blog Roll.

Witness to Hope is a new blog started up by a fellow young West Coast Catholic. If you go check out this new blog you'll see the author and I seem to have a lot in common. . . First of all, if know of George Weigel you'll realize that we've both inspired the titles of our blogs from books he has written. You'll note that both of us are very dedicated to the Theology of the Body, we're both also very committed to pro-life, and we're both interested in philosophy and theology.

All this being said, this blog offers a fresh new face to St. Blogs parish and also has some notable differences from my own (for instance, I guarantee you I don't have a vocation to the priesthood). I look forward to reading Witness to Hope as it develops further.

Great joy!

This past weekend, a dear friend of mine sought permission to enter the Catholic Church at this coming Easter Vigil. Raised as an Evangelical Protestant, she has been looking into the Catholic Faith for the past year and a half. She is very intelligent and has been doing a lot of reading and I would hazard to say knows more about Catholic theology than most Catholics do. It came to a point where she needed to decide whether she would follow through on what she had discovered. With great joy, I discovered yesterday that, after much prayer and discernment and having spoken with a local priest, she has made that decision and will be entering into the Catholic Church this coming Easter.

My friend has asked me to be one of her sponsors. I am incredibly humbled and honoured by this request and do not feel worthy, yet at the same time I will do my best to support her as she continues her spiritual journey in the Catholic Church. I have witnessed her emotional, spiritual, and intellectual struggles with the Catholic Faith over the past year and a half and have had the priviledge of having many late night conversations with her. As I spoke with her yesterday I realized that God had been using me as an instrument to carry out his will in ways I had never thought. It certainly wasn't any of my doing because I was completely oblivious to the impact my confidence in the Catholic Faith and our numerous conversations had on her. Although she claims I had a significant role to play, I know it wasn't me but rather God who was working through me.

In light of my own spiritual journey, her expression of gratitude for my witness to the Catholic Faith and her desire for me to sponsor her is particulary special to me. I am very humbled by her request. It is truly a blessing for me to have this opportunity and an incredible source of grace for me. God is faithful and he knows the desires of our heart. Having the opportunity to sponsor my friend as she enters the Catholic Church is very special and important to me, not only in that it brings me great joy to see my friend enter into the life of the Church, but also as this role relates to my own spiritual life.

Please keep my friend, and all those preparing to enter the Catholic Church this coming Easter in your prayers.

Go Vote!

If you're a Canadian and you're reading this and you haven't yet. . .

Go vote!!!

This post is being updated in response to a comment made by gabriel. I'll help you out a little more with this whole voting thing. Here's the deal, if you have an informed conscience you'll want to vote for the party most likely to protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society and who are most likely to recognize and support the role of the family in Canada. First and foremost, if you have a pro-life candidate, vote for them. Seeing as those who are explicitly pro-life seem to be few and far between, the next best thing would probably be to vote for the Conservatives since they are most sympathetic to traditional family values. That's not a guarantee though since there are a few Conservative candidates who failed to inform their own consciences when it came to the vote in parliament on the redefinition of marriage last year. If you're unfortunate enough to live in a riding where your Conservative candidate doesn't understand what marriage consists of, then you might have a harder time deciding on who to vote for.

What really matters in this whole exercise of democracy is that you vote with an informed conscience. Informed. It's not too late to inform your conscience.

To see what's important to consider when informing your conscience, check out this site.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Priest Accused of Claiming Jesus is Real

This has to be one of the most absurd lawsuits I've ever heard of. Some old guy in Italy is charging his local parish priest of violating two Italian laws by making the assertion that Jesus Christ is indeed real and was born of Mary and Joseph in the town of Bethlehem: so-called "abuse of popular belief" in which someone fraudulently deceives people; and "impersonation" in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone.

Tragic Irony

Pictures like this make me want to do one of two things, or both...cry and pray.

God our Father,

You were pleased to Bless the Virgin Mary
with the gift of bringing Your Son into the world.

Graced with the Word of God within Her,
She brought forth Your New and Eternal Life to all creation.

We pray You that as You guided Mary,
protect and guide all women who carry new life within them.

May they be ever conscious of the great Dignity they have been given.

May they turn to You in constant prayer
and be ever thankful of the Gift they carry within them.

We pray this in the name of Jesus, who is Lord of Life, now and forever.


Virtue Ethics

I wanted to share with you guys a great article out there by William E. May (he's a professor at the John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family in Washington, DC) on virtue ethics that is easy to read and brings it all together. The article is called "The 'New' Evangelization, Catholic Moral Life in Light of Veritatis Splendor and the Family." This might be of particular interest to those of you who were involved in the brief discussion on virtue ethics in the comment box last week and were confused (this was related to my post of excerpts from Karol Wojtyla on Ethics).

Here is an excerpt of from the article I'm referring to that just helps clarify how both the Ten Commandments, which tend to be seen in a more deontological way, and the Beatitudes, relate to the moral life:

Catholic moral life and the commandments, in particular, the commandment to love even as Jesus loves

But how do we become conformed to Christ; how do we hold fast to his very person? We do so by keeping his commandments, and first of all the precepts of the Decalogue. John Paul II emphasizes that the “different commandments of the Decalogue are really only so many reflections on the one commandment about the good of the person, at the level of the many different goods which characterize his identity as a spiritual and bodily being in relationship with God, with his neighbor, and with the material world” (no. 13). Indeed, “the commandments of which Jesus reminds the young man [who asks him what he must do to gain eternal life] are meant to safeguard the good of the person, the image of God, by protecting his goods….The commandments thus represent the basic condition for love of neighbor, at the same time they are proof of that love. They are the first necessary step on the journey to freedom” (no. 13). [1]

The commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is at the heart of the precepts of the Decalogue, had been given to the Chosen People of old (cf. Dt 6:5; Lv 19:18). But, as the Holy Father reminds us, Jesus has given us a new commandment. We are to love one another as Jesus, who gave himself for us on the cross, loves us (cf. Jn 15:12) (no. 20). Commenting on this new commandment, the Pope writes: “Jesus’ way of acting and his words, his deeds and his precepts constitute the moral rule of Christian life. Indeed, his actions, and in particular his Passion and Death on the Cross, are the living revelation of his love for the Father and for others. This is exactly the love that Jesus wishes to be imitated by all who follow him….Jesus asks of everyone who wishes to follow him: ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Mt 16:24)” (no. 20).

Moreover, the vocation to perfect love “is not,” the Pope declares, “restricted to a small group….The invitation, ‘go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor,’ and the promise, ‘you will have treasure in heaven,’ are meant for everyone, because they bring out the full meaning of the commandment of love of neighbor, just as the invitation which follows, ‘Come, follow me,’ is the new, specific form of the commandment of love of God” (no. 18).

Catholic moral life, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes

To follow Jesus and to love even as he has loved us by giving himself for us on the cross requires us to shape our lives in light of Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount and of the Beatitudes found in it. John Paul II, following an ancient Christian tradition, [2] declares that the Sermon on the Mount is the “magna charta of Gospel morality” (no. 15). Jesus calls us to be perfect, and the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount “speak of basic attitudes and dispositions in life.” The Beatitudes are “promises from which there also indirectly flow normative indications for the moral life. In their originality and profundity they are a sort of self-portrait of Christ, and for this very reason are invitations to discipleship and to communion of life with Christ” (no. 16).

The Beatitudes, consequently, are not optional for the Christian. They describe the dispositions and attitudes that ought to characterize followers of Christ. The Beatitudes, rooted in the new command to love as Jesus loves, can be considered, as Germain Grisez has proposed, “modes of Christian response.” They designate characteristics of Christians that inwardly dispose them to do only what is pleasing to the Father. They specify ways of acting that mark a person whose will, enlivened by the love of God poured into his or her heart, is connaturally inclined to act with confidence, born of his or her Christian hope, that complete human fulfillment is realizable because of Christ’s redemptive work. [3]

Saturday, January 21, 2006

St. Faustina on the Eucharist

O Jesus, Divine Prisoner of Love, when I consider Your love and how You emptied Yourself for me, my senses deaden. You hide Your inconceivable majesty and lower Yourself to miserable me. O king of Glory, though You hide Your beauty, yet the eye of my soul rends the veil. I see the angelic choirs giving You honor without cease, and all the heavenly Powers praising You without cease, and without cease they are saying: Holy, Holy, Holy.

Oh, who will comprehend Your love and Your unfathomable mercy toward us! O Prisoner of Love, I love up my poor heart in this tabernacle that it may adore You without cease night and day. I know of no obstacle in this adoration: and even though I be physically distant, my heart is always with You. Nothing can put a stop to my love for You. No obstacles exist for me...

O Holy Trinity, One and Indivisible God, may You be blessed for this great gift and testament of mercy. Amen.

I adore You, Lord and Creator, hidden in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I adore You for all the works of Your hands, that reveal to me so much wisdom, goodness and mercy, O Lord. You have spread so much beauty over the earth and it tells me about Your beauty, even though these beautiful things are but a faint reflection of You, incomprehensible Beauty. And although You have hidden Yourself and concealed your beauty, my eye, enlightened by faith, reaches You and my souls recognizes its Creator, its Highest Good, and my heart is completely immersed in prayer of adoration.

My Lord and Creator, Your goodness encourages me to converse with You. Your mercy abolishes the chasm which separates the Creator from the creature. To converse with You, O Lord, is the delight of my heart. In You I find everything that my heart could desire. Here Your light illumines my mind, enabling it to know You more and more deeply. Here streams of grace flow down upon my heart. Here my soul draws eternal life. O my Lord and Creator, You alone, beyond all these gifts, give Your own self to me and unite Yourself intimately with Your miserable creature.

O Christ, let my greatest delight be to see You loved and Your praise and glory proclaimed, especially the honor of Your mercy. O Christ, let me glorify Your goodness and mercy to the last moment of my life, with every drop of my blood and every beat of my heart. Would that I be transformed into a hymn of adoration of You. When I find myself on my deathbed, may the last beat of my heart be a loving hymn glorifying Your unfathomable mercy. Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dropout and get a B-

I don't think I could pull this off in my History of Christianity course I'm in this semester and I'm aiming for higher than a B- but otherwise, besides the immorality of it, seems like a good idea to me.

God is Good

What a glorious morning. The sun is shinning, thanks be to God!!! It may seem somewhat trivial to most of you, but for those who live on the West Coast of Canada, you know why this matters. I haven't seen a clear blue sky and the bright shinning sun in over a month. Quite literally.

This morning I'm finding blessings in the simple things. I started off the morning with morning prayers, mass, and adoration. After that I treated myself to a large coffee. Mass and coffee, it's the best way to start any day. I'm going to spend most of the rest of the day catching up on my reading, including works by Plato, Karol Wojtyla, and St. Teresa of Avila and then later tonight I'm going to have dinner at a friend's house. Can it get any better than that? God is so faithful, even in the little things.

It's so easy to recognize when we are struggling, frustrated, and overwhelmed, but so rarely to we acknowledge God's blessings. Maybe it's just me but it's often easier to recognize trials and burdens than blessings and graces we receive. So, on that note, I just wanted to share with you today the joy of Christ and remind you that He is a good and faithful God.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

To Keep in Mind

As we head into the upcoming federal election on Monday, please consider what issues you are going to give priority in deciding who you will vote for.

Keep in mind the words of Pope John Paul II, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

If you're looking for resources to help you discern your vote, the Office of Life and Family from the Archdiocese of Vancouver has very useful and extensive resources available on their website. Make an educated decision and then on Monday don't forget to go vote.

Quote of the Day

And the quote of the day today comes from the lips of my philosophy professor in Philosophy of the Human Person this afternoon:

"Karol Wojtyla is the Einstein of erotics in our age!"

This being said, an understanding of erotic as the human desire for the good is required not to take this too far out of context.

Riding Public Transport

I had a meeting downtown tonight so I took the public transport (avoided rush hour traffic that way...). I observed two things which stood out for me.

1. There was a poster advertisement that I saw promoting the use of condoms for older couples. It had a picture of an elderly couple (they really were fairly old looking...) and then said "Talk to your grandparents about it. AIDS touches everyone. No one's safe." At the bottom of the poster, in bold red print was the catch phrase, "Codoms are good for everyone." I really couldn't believe my eyes. It was just so beyond anything I could have imagined. I don't believe in vandalism, but I was really tempted to pull out the permanent marker I had in my bag and add two simple letters before 'everyone'.

2. There were a bunch of kids from a private Catholic elementary school that got on the skytrain (think monorail or subway but in the sky half the time) and they were discussing their religion class. I overheard them debating on the nature of Christ's divinity (well, not that they were using either the word 'nature' or 'divinity'...) when the following conversation ensued:

Girl A: Jesus is God.
Girl B: No he isn't. Didn't you hear our teacher? He's not God. He's just God's son.

I will give the school and the religion teacher the benefit of the doubt and say that Girl B didn't quite understand the lesson for today. That being said, if kids in private Catholic schools don't know that Christ is divine, we have a lot of work to do in improving our religious education programs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Vocations Talk?

I'm on a team of young adults working with the Youth Ministry Office to organize an event for the grade sevens (almost one thousand of them will be there!) in our Archdiocese next month. We divided up different tasks tonight, and well... one of my tasks is giving a couple minutes talk on vocations. Any suggestions?! I have a few ideas in mind, but I'm open to brainstorming.

Helpful Websites for Seeking Purity

Here's list of helpful websites for those seeking purity that I came across recently. I thought I'd post this for those of you who might be interested either for yourself or for pointing family, friends, and peers towards some useful resources.


X3 Watch is a free acountability program.

www.pureloveclub.comThis is a good Catholic website dedicated to living a chaste life.

This is an excellent website dedicated to battling the sin of pornography.

This is a very good Catholic website for men.

This is a good Catholic website to help defend the family and faith.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How do you study?!

This is a very important question for all university students to ask. One that is frequently asked and rarely finds a satisfactory answer. Today is our lucky day though. St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of university students, has graciously provided us with a share in his wisdom on how to win the struggle with studies...

"Letter of St. Thomas Aquinas to Brother John on How to Study":

Because you have asked me, my brother John, most dear to me in Christ, how to set about acquiring the treasure of knowledge, this is the advice I pass on to you: That you should choose to enter by the small rivers, and not go right away into the sea, because you should move from easy things to difficult things.

Such is therefore my advice on your way of life:

- I suggest you be slow to speak, and slow to go to the room where people chat.

- Embrace purity of conscience; do not stop making time for prayer.

- Love to be in your room frequently, if you wish to be led to the wine cellar.

- Show yourself to be likable to all, or at least try; but do not show yourself as too familiar with anyone; because too much familiarity breeds contempt, and will slow you in your studies; and don't get involved in any way in the deedsand words of worldly people.

- Above all, avoid idle conversation; do not forget to follow the steps of holy and approved men.

- Never mind who says what, but commit to memory what is said that is true.

- Work to understand what you read, and make yourself sure of doubtful points.

- Put whatever you can into the cupboard of your mind as if you were trying to fill a cup.

- "Seek not the things that are higher than you."

Follow the steps of blessed Dominic, who produced useful and marvelous shoots, flowers and fruits in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts for as long as life was his companion. If you follow these things, you will attain whatever you desire.

And so, on that note, I will return to reading Karol Wojtyla's essay "Subjectivity and the Irreducible in Man" for my Philosophy of the Human Person course. It's only the second week of classes and I'm already feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to get done. But now that I'm equiped with advice from St. Thomas Aquinas I should be able to make it through the semester.

Thanks to Theresa for the Thomistic study skills advice via the Dominican Third Order website.

Extremist Priests?

Planned Parenthood seems to be concerned about the "extremist priests" who are moving into their backyard. Personally, I'm thrilled. I like extreme priests. I wouldn't want them any other way.

I think Planned Parenthood may have overlooked the definition of extremist in writing this article. At least according to the dictionary I checked extremist is "One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics." Well, considering that the political norm seems to be not to say anything at all about the sanctity of human life from conception to its natural end, I'd have to agree that this new order, being established by Priests for Life, will probably fulfill that definition.

Once the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life have settled into their new home, maybe the extremist nuns from Sisters of Life could stop by for a visit as well.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What's with the increased traffic?!

All visitors from near and far are more than welcome to check out my blog, but I'm kind of puzzled by the sudden increase in traffic. I haven't even been posting much for the past week and I certainly haven't posted anything particularly controversial, intelligent, or exciting as far as I can tell. No posts on modesty or human sexuality either (which sometimes get unsuspecting guests...). I just can't figure it out. Today I've had double my regular number of visitors. I'm confused.

I should note though that some well known figures I have mentioned in a few posts have somehow been pointed in this direction and therefore I'm starting to feel the pressure to be at least somewhat intelligent in what I say. I have developed a great fear of being burned at the stake one day for making an accidental heretical comment. To top it all off, mom and dad have discovered the blog so no more rants about procrastinating...on that note...

Crossing the Threshold of Hope

One of my reading assignments this past weekend was reading an excerpt from Crossing The Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II. Since this book was an easy read and was on my personal 'to read' list anyways, I got a little carried away and read 'bit' more than was required. I guess there's worse things to get carried away with though. . . I was going to give you a selection of my favourite quotes from the book, but since I can't quote every word of the book, I'm going to simply recommend that you go read the book! Definitely time well spent.

Quartet Meme

I'm picking up a mindless yet entertaining meme from Fr. Tucker at Dappled Things.

Four Jobs I've Had in My Life

1. Planting trees for a greenhouse
2. Paper Route
3. Day Camp Counsellor
4. Lifeguard

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over, and Have
(I don't watch many movies and I don't own any so this will be limited...)
1. Life is Beautiful
2. The Scarlet and the Black
3. Monty Python's The Holy Grail
4. Pride and Prejudice

Four Places I Have Lived

1. Dease Lake, BC
2. Montabaur, Germany
3. Herstmonceux, England
4. Carmel, New York

Four TV Shows I Love To Watch
(I don't really watch TV. I grew up without a TV in my parents house and although the place I'm living now has one I don't watch much besides the news.)

Four Places I Have Been On Vacation

1. Barcelona, Spain
2. Oslo, Norway
3. Edinburgh, Scotland
4. Tofino, BC

Four Websites I Visit Daily

1. A selection of blogs from my blogroll.
2. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
3. First Things
4. CNN

Four Favorite Foods
(in no particular order and not limited to...)

1. Peanut Butter
2. Seafood Lasagna
3. Steak
4. Fetuccini Alfredo

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

1. Rome, Italy.
2. Visiting friends in Germany.
3. Out on a boat on the ocean somewhere warm.
4. Hiking in the mountains (as long as it wasn't raining).

Four People Whom I Tag Next

Anyone who reads this and wants to do it, you're tagged.

Homily on Vocations

If you go and check out any of the priestly blogs from St.Blogs chances are you'll find a homily on vocations or reflections on vocations in light of the Gospel reading from yesterday (See Dappled Things and Bonfire of the Vanities for instance). I've read some of these, but I found one in particular from White Around the Collar to be encouraging. I think all too often when people think of vocations they think of the priesthood or religious life but that is only half the picture. We cannot ignore that marriage and the single life are no less calls to holiness. In discernment it's not a question of trying to 'figure out' where we're best suited or weigh the pros and cons, but rather it's a discovery of a unique gift that God has already given us.

In his homily Father even used one of my favourite recent Pope Benedict XVI quotes:

“the person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's puppet, a boring "yes man"; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.”

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Still alive. . .

I'm just sticking out my head to let those of you who were wondering know that I'm still alive. I've been struggling to get organized with the beginning of a new semester and trying to stay on top of my demanding reading assignments. Over the course of this weekend I've read a book for ecumenical dialogue called One Faith, the encyclical by Pope John Paul II on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, a play by Plato, The Symposium, an essay by Karol Wojtyla on personhood, and much much more. Sometimes I feel as if my brain only has so much space. . . hopefully it doesn't explode. Next on my reading list is the Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila and Lysis by Plato.

Yesterday I went up to the Abbey again (yes, I know, I'm always up there...) with some friends from college and we were joined up there by a diocesan priest we know who said mass for us. After mass we got a tour of the church. Although I've been up there several times I've never had a guided tour of the church and it was interesting to learn about the architecture, art, and history of the building. Afterwards, we got permission to go to the library and spent the afternoon reading in the library. I actually got a lot done. I did take some time out though to have a nice long conversation with one of my friends who's an old Benedictine priest. He explained to me how how dixie land jazz means that no one has to experience the dark night of the soul (I never said it was a serious conversation) and we had a little debate on whether or not smoking a pipe increases the risk of mouth cancer. We stayed 'til vespers and then went out for supper and headed home. It was a nice day away, spiritually refreshing, and actually quite productive.

Anyways, this past week there have been two things I really wanted to post on. First of all, Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys since it was her feast day this past week and she's one of my favourite Canadian saints. Secondly, I wanted to respond to gabriel's questioning of virtue ethics (see the comments for my post with excerpts from an essay by Karol Wojtyla) and further explain myself. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to post on either. I'll work on the virtue ethics post though once I get caught up on my reading.

You'll notice I'm not posting every day. Such is the life of a university student. It was nice to have the luxury to spend more time on my blog and reading other blogs over Christmas holidays but for the time being I'm having to slow down because life is hectic.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Karol Wojtyla on Ethics

I thought I'd share with you some quotes from some course material I was reading today. It comes from an essay by Karol Wojtyla (our dearly missed late Holy Father) on "Human Nature as the Basis of Ethical Formation."

The task of ethics is to justify norms, which are themselves something vital - one could say existential - for they are connected with really existing people and societies. The source of norms is found in natural law, which is not a written law. The believer finds the source of ethical norms in revelation, which to a significant degree confirms natural law.

No wonder our society is so ethically confused, we no longer affirm the norms of natural law which are vital, or as Wojtyla even proposes, existential.

Free will is that power of a concrete, individual human nature, that power of a person, by virtue of which the person becomes morally good or bad. [...] Moral good and moral evil can become crystalized in the will in a lasting, habitual way. The will can become formed or deformed in a lasting way. By becoming formed in a lasting way, the will acquires certain virtues; by becoming deformed it acquires vices.

We need a return to virtue based ethics. Enough said.

Prière pour les vocations

L'autre jour je cherchais parmis ma boîte de vielles lettres pour quelque chose quand j'ai trouvé une petite carte avec une simple prière pour les vocations. Je la partage avec vous car je trouve que c'est une belle prière et elle par non seulement des vocations par rapport aux prêtres, diacres, religieux et religieuses, mais aussi du mariage et de la vie célibataire.

Père Eternel,
bénis ton Eglise
d'une abondance de prêtres
diacres, religieux et religieuses
tous remplis de zèle
et de généroisté d'esprit et de coeur.
Donne aussi aux personnes
que tu as appelées
au saint état du mariage,
ou à l'état de célibat dans le monde,
les grâces spéciales et nécessaires
à leur vocation.
Forme-nous à l'image de ton Fils
de sorte qu'en Lui, avec Lui et par Lui,
nous puissions t'aimer plus profondément
et te servir plus fidèlement
toujours et partout.
Avec la Vierge Marie,
nous te prions,
par Jésus Christ, notre Seigneur.

par Lui, avec Lui et en Lui

You'll notice that in my blogroll Benedictus qui Venit has disapeared. Do not fear, the author is still around, but in light of his ordination to the priesthood a few weeks ago, he has changed his blog title to par Lui, avec Lui et en Lui. Father Benoit Morrier's blog is my all time favourite French blog. If you can read French, bookmark it. If not, bookmark it anyways and use an online translator. It's well worth your time to check out every now and then. Please keep Father Benoit and all priests in your prayers as they serve Christ and His Church.

For those of you who are curious, "par Lui, avec Lui et en Lui" is a title taken from the Eucharistic Prayer of the mass (through Him, with Him and in Him).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Ultimate Reality (Reflections on an Evening with Dr. Kreeft)

This past Sunday I had the privilege of attending an evening on apologetics at Trinity Western University and listening to a well known Catholic apologist, philosopher, and theologian, Dr. Peter Kreeft. The turnout at this event was incredible and the evening as a whole was quite interesting. I know there were other St. Blogs 'parishoners' at the event as well, such as the authors from Et in Arcadia Ego, Doxology, and College in a Cottage.

Throughout the course of the evening I was frantically taking notes, trying to get down on paper everything that was being said and with the intention of sharing those notes with you on my blog. After having had a few days to reflect upon the evening though, I don't think it would do it justice to simply spew back at you what I heard, but rather, I will share with you one aspect of the evening that really stood out for me.

First, I must provide you with a bit of background information. It was an evening of lectures on the topic of ecumenical dialogue co-sponsored by Redeemer Pacific College (Catholic) and Trinity Western University (Evangelical) and held on the campus of TWU. I wasn't sure how the evening would pan out but I knew that it would be interesting. It certainly lived up to that most basic expectation. I wasn't sure how Dr. Kreeft would be received on the evangelical campus where the event was being held and with a majority Protestant audience (although there were also many Catholics in attendance).

Throughout the course of the evening Dr. Kreeft spoke boldly on the role of ecumenical dialogue, particularly in relation to fighting the Culture of Death with the Gospel of Life. He did not hide the fact that he was Catholic and made frequent explicitly Catholic references to some of the most contentious issues in ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants such as the Eucharist. At first I almost cringed when he made these references, not because I didn't agree perfectly with what he was saying, but because I feared it would push us further away than bring us together by bringing up difficult and seemingly insurmountable issues of doctrinal differences. At the same time, I knew he was speaking Truth and as a Catholic I was happy to hear someone speaking about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration.

Dr. Kreeft pointed out that the Culture of Death is founded upon a denial of all truth and all reality while the Culture of Life, which reflects the Gospel of Life, is founded upon absolute truth and reality. Drawing upon this understanding, he made the connection between the importance of the Eucharist in fighting against the Culture of Death, since it is in the Eucharist that we find He who is the fullness of reality, He who is I AM. It was this connection that stuck with the most from the whole evening and which has been running through my mind since.

Dr. Kreeft suggested that perhaps the most powerful warriors fighting the Culture of Death are the contemplatives who spend hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each day. This only makes sense to me since it is when I come before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer and adoration that I most powerfully see the light of Truth, perfect reality in God, shone on the circumstances of my own life and the world around me. It is through this light of Christ that I see the sorrow, desperation and death in our culture and feel the urgent need to pray in intercession for those who have been wounded by the Culture of Death.

It is only through the reality that is Christ that we can truly perceive the reality of the culture which surrounds us. And yet, it is this same Christ who guards us from despairing at what we see and calls us to participate in the New Evangelization, bringing His Truth and His reality to all those with whom we come in contact. In the fullness of Truth found in the Eucharist our eyes are opened to the tragedy which surrounds us and even infiltrates our own hearts through our sins. And yet, we are guarded from despair, for in this same Eucharist, we find the consolation of Christ. In the Blessed Sacrament our eyes are opened to reality, and simultaneously we are called to wait in joyful hope that, ultimately, the Culture of Life, the Gospel of Life, will prevail and Christ will reign triumphant.

Though we know the ultimate outcome, the battle is not easy and we must fight with all our heart, mind, and strength to further the Kingdom of God in the midst of a world plagued with disillusionment, deception, and indifference. In compassion and charity, yet holding the courage of our convictions, we must fight to bring His reality to this world which questions the very existence of reality and objective Truth. Through the strength we find in Christ in the Eucharist, and by our prayers, actions, words, and deeds, we must declare the Gospel of Life to the world. But first, we need to be equipped. It is in Adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament that we will find the strength and wisdom necessary for the battle, for without Him we are weak and powerless. In Him alone is the victory over the Culture of Death.

As you can tell, attending the lectures by Dr. Kreeft I was given much to think about. And despite my automatic response of not wanting to rock the boat too hard, I would have to agree with Dr. Kreeft that central to the question of the fighting the Culture of Death, even at the level of ecumenical discussion, we cannot ignore the importance and significance of the Eucharist.

After the formal events of the evening, about a dozen students from Redeemer Pacific College gathered together for pizza and good company with Dr. Kreeft at the college president's house. We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and speak with him about a variety of topics and ask questions. It was certainly a privileged occasion to sit around the living room talking with one of the most well known Catholic apologists casually discussing our common Faith, philosophy, the current condition of the Church in North America, and our plans for the future. On which note, Dr. Kreeft approves of my interest in pursuing graduate studies in the Theology of the Body. He told me I couldn't be choosing a more cutting edge and on the front lines area of theology to study. At 1:30am Dr. Kreeft left to go to bed, since he had to get up at 6:00am to catch his flight home to Boston, where he teaches at Boston College, but before he left we snapped the picture that's at the top of this post.

New Beginnings

Today was the first day of classes for the new semester. I've already decided on my favourite course for the semester. Philosophy of the Human Person. The three main authors we're reading for the course . . . Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Karol Wojtyla. Does it get any better than that?!

Note to self: Arranging my course schedule so that I have eight hours of lecture on Tuesdays and Thursdays is not necessarily a good idea.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Be Astonished by Christ Manifest

Today, on this the day the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated (at least in Canada) we are called to reflect upon the manifestation of Christ. That is what Epiphany means in Greek, manifest.
I came across this article by Zenit that says it all. Of course, in the words of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Invites Church to "Be Astonished by Christ"
Address Faithful on Feast of Epiphany

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI urges the faithful to experience "an authentic epiphany," which means that all must first open their hearts to Christ.

The Holy Father expressed this today when addressing 50,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus on the feast of the Epiphany.

The Pope recalled the World Youth Day, which brought together more than one million young people in Cologne last August, under the motto "We Have Come to Worship Him," the words expressed by the three Wise Men in reference to Jesus.

"That memorable event," said the Pontiff recalling his first international apostolic trip, was "an authentic 'epiphany,'" which in Greek means "manifestation."

The Holy Father extended to the whole Church the message he proposed on Aug. 18 to young people gathered along the Rhine River: "Open your hearts wide to God, let yourselves be astonished by Christ!"

"Open the doors of your freedom to his merciful love!" he exhorted. "Show Christ your joys and sorrows, allowing him to illuminate your minds with his light and touch your hearts with his grace.

"I would like the whole Church to breathe, as in Cologne, the atmosphere of 'epiphany' and of genuine missionary commitment, aroused by the manifestation of Christ, light of the world, sent by God the Father to reconcile and unify humanity with the force of love."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Europe and Its Discontents

As I was running out the door this morning, heading off to catch the ferry, my dad's most recent edition of First Things caught my eye and I managed to convince him to let me "borrow" it for an unspecified period of time.

I enjoyed reading through some of the articles today, but one in particular caught my eye. It's an excerpt from a book written by Pope Benedict XVI (probably before he was elected) on the condition of Europe today. The article is called "Europe and its Discontents." If you're not subscribed to First Things it'll be up on their website by next month for you to read.

I just thought I'd share with you an excerpt I found particularly relevant in light of recent issues we've been facing in Canada. In speaking of various elements which constitute European identity, Pope Benedict XVI states:

"A second element that characterizes European identity is marriage and the family. Monogamous marriage - both as a fundamental structure for the relation between men and women and as the nucleus for the formation of the state community - was forged in the biblical faith. It gave its special physiognomy and its special humanity to Europe, both in the West and the East, precisely because the form of fidelity and the sacrifice that it entails must always be regained through great efforts and suffering.

Europe would no longer be Europe if this fundamental nucleus of its social edifice were to vanish or to be changed in an essential way. We all know how much marriage and the family are in jeopardy. Their integrity has been undermined by the easier forms of divorce at the same time as there has been a spread in the practice of cohabitation between men and women without the legal form of marriage. Paradoxically, homosexuals are now demanding that their unions be granted a legal form that is more or less equivalent to marriage. Such a development would fall outside the whole moral history of humanity that, whatever the diverse legal forms, has never lost sight of the fact that marriage is essentially the special communion of man and woman, which opens itself to children and thus to family.

The question this raises is not of discrimination but of what constitutes the human person as a man or as a woman, and which union should receive a legal form. If the union between man and woman has strayed further and further from legal forms, and if homosexual unions are perceived more and more as enjoying the same standing as marriage, then we are truly facing a dissolution of the image of humankind bearing consequences that can only be extremely grave."

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Bishop of Whitehorse

The Vatican keeps stealing all our priests. Ok, I guess they belong to them in the first place anyways. Father Gary Gordon from St. Mary's parish in Chilliwack, BC, has just been named bishop of Whitehorse. Whitehorse has been without a bishop since 2000 so this is good news for the diocese.

For the third time in four years a priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver has been chosen to become a bishop. On Jan. 5 Pope Benedict XVI named Father Gary Gordon, Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Chilliwack, Bishop of Whitehorse.

Bishop David Monroe of Kamloops (ordained March 12, 2002) and Bishop Richard Gagnon of Victoria (July 20, 2004) were also chosen from the archdiocese to be bishops in western Canada.

“I am deeply humbled, yet like all challenges, whether climbing mountains or pastoral ministry, it is another adventure of faith and life,” Father Gordon said. “Adventure always holds for me a certain trepidation which tests my frail humanity and my inner trust in God, so with a grateful heart for all I have received in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, I will generously endeavour to be a good steward of what God entrusts to me in this new ministry.”

For more information on the recent appointment check out the article from the B.C. Catholic Newspaper.

Congratulations and prayers go out to Father Gordon as he embarks on a new journey in his vocation!

Happy Three Kings Day!

Today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany which marks the end of Christmas for my family. Another Christmas season gone by... Tonight we will sing around the Christmas tree for the last time and tomorrow all the Christmas decorations will vanish. I am conveniently going out the door with the Christmas tree (which means I get out of clean-up) and will be heading back to the city tomorrow.

January 6th is still an important part of the Christmas season for my family since on this day that one lucky person gets to be crowned king or queen. Unfortunately, it wasn't me. The way it works is that we'll eat a small cake for breakfast and in the cake is hidden a bean. Whoever gets the piece with the bean gets to be the king or queen for the day and gets to order everyone around, choose their favourite food to eat, and plan the activities of the day. I was really hoping that I'd get the lucky piece since my car desperately needs to be washed, but no such luck. My sister was the lucky one this year.

According to my parents the tradition of the bean in the cake was much more exciting when we were younger and desperate to be crowned king or queen for the day we'd eat as fast as we could as much cake as we could in hopes of finding the piece with the bean. I've got to admit it's lost a bit of the thrill now that we're all grown up but it's still a nice tradition.

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star.

Melchior et Balthazar sont partis d'Afrique
Sont partis d'Afrique,
Melchior et Balthazar sont partis d'Afrique
Avec le roi Gaspard......
Ils sont tous les trois partis à la belle étoile
À la belle étoile
Ils sont tous les trois partis à la belle étoile
Qui les a conduits.
Les bergers les ont suivis, jouant de la flûte,
Jouant de la flûte,
Les bergers les ont suivis, jouant de la flûte
Menant leur brebis
Ils sont tous les trois venus, dedans une étable
Dedans une étable,
Ils sont tous les trois venus, dedans une étable
Qu'ils ont reconnue.

Catholicism and Quebec

Over the past few days a lot of attention throughout the St. Blog's realm has been turned to Quebec in light of an article published in the Globe and Mail on the sale of supposed "communion wafers" in Quebec. First of all, as Fr. Tom points out at Waiting in Joyful Hope, what is being sold are not communion wafers and do not constitute valid matter for communion wafers (they couldn't be consecrated). Fr. Tom does a very thorough job responding to a post on the issue, from January 5th, 2006, by Fr. John Neuhaus from First Things. I'm not going to weigh into the dicussion on the issue that has been circulating among the big time bloggers such as Fr. Neuhaus, Amy Welborn, Mark Shea, and Jimmy Akin. While attention has turned to Quebec because of the sale of these "communion wafers" it seems as if the real issue is the history and state of Catholicism in Quebec in general. All I can offer is my own humble reflections as a young Catholic Canadian.

I could speak to you about my experiences growing up in a Francophone School (albeit in Western Canada) where 95% of the teachers and students were either born in Quebec or their parents were. Although I'm not from Quebec I certainly have been exposed to French Canadian culture. I spent my school years immersed in the culture and I have studied French Canadian History and Civilization in my undergraduate studies. I could join on the bandwagon of those lamenting the state of the Church in Quebec. But I won't.

In looking to Quebec, I cannot ignore the trials the Church, and the society as a whole, is facing right now. But are they really any worse off than the rest of us? We belong to a universal Church. Can we point to a geographical area and say "look how horrible things are there" without acknowledging that we share in the responsibility of participating in the New Evangelization as well as encouraging and supporting the Church wherever it is struggling?

As a Catholic Canadian, I feel I owe a great deal to Quebec. Living in a historically British dominated area of Canada, I wonder what the state of the Catholic Church in Western Canada would be if the Quebecers had not originally held so fast to their religion in the early history of our country. On a more trivial matter, I certainly wouldn't have been able to go to school in French outside of Quebec if it hadn't been for French classes taught to young French Canadians in the basements of parish churches across Canada when learning French in school was illegal for francophone minorities. The impact of French speaking Canada on the Church in Canada as a whole can be seen even in the names of schools and parishes in the Archdiocese I live in, far away from Quebec. St. Jean Brebeuf Secondary, Notre Dame Secondary, and Saint Sacrement Parish point to our French Canadian heritage of Faith.

Rather than lamenting the state of the Church in Quebec right now and the story told by its history in the second half of the twentieth century, I choose to remember its rich spiritual heritage and look forward to the new springtime. This summer I discovered Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation (1599-1672) , a mystic and an ursuline missionary to Quebec with a dedication to the catechesis and the Blessed Sacrament. She is but one of many saints from Quebec including Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys, Sainte Marguerite d'Youville, Blessed Andre Bessette, Blessed Marie-Leonie Paradis, Blessed Francois de Laval, Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine, Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau, Blessed Frederic Janssoone, Blessed Dina Belanger, Blessed Marie Rose Dorocher, and the Canadian Martyrs, including St. Jean de Brebeuf, St. Noel Chabanel, St. Anthony Daniel, St. Charles Garnier, St. Issac Jogues, St. Gabriel Lalemant, St. Rene Goupil, St. Jean de Lalande, and many more.

If you, like the Catholics of Quebec (if I dare speak for them), long to see a renewal of the Church in la belle province I urge you to take the energy you could spend on expressing your frustrations and concerns with regards to Catholicism in Quebec and thank God for the people of Quebec, pray for them, and pray for the Church. Take the time to learn about the lives of the many French Canadian saints and model your own life after their great examples. Turn to them in prayer seeking their intercession in Quebec.

Rather than pointing our finger from a distance we can participate in the New Evangelization of Quebec in a very active and real way, no matter how far away we are from that part of the world. That is the beauty of belonging to a universal Church. We can, and should, pray for the priests, bishops, consecrated religious, all who teach with them, and all the faithful in Quebec, as well as the many who have fallen away from the practice of the Faith.

Update: For those of you who have been following the issue that prompted this post, you might be interested in knowing that Fr. John Neuhaus, from First Things, has provided an update response which includes an excerpt from Fr. Dowd's post on Waiting in Joyful Hope.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Peter Kreeft

If you live in the Vancouver area you might be interested in knowing that Dr. Peter Kreeft will be in town this coming weekend. He'll be speaking at Trinity Western University on “How to Evangelize a Culture: The Only Infallibly, Guaranteed Strategy for Success” and “Evangelicals and Catholics Impacting Culture: Allies or Opponents?” There will also be a panel discussion involving various other theology, biblical studies, and philosophy professors. Go check out this site for more information.

Yes, I know, Peter Kreeft and George Weigel within a week from each other... we are spoiled.

Montreal Swinger's Club

I hadn't really heard much about the recent ruling on the Montreal Swinger's Club (and therefore swinger clubs in Canada really...) until I read about it over on Fr. Tom's blog at Waiting in Joyful Hope. According to a CBC article on the recent court case "Clubs that allow group sex and partner swapping do not harm Canadian society and should not be considered criminal, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled..." Here's the text of the ruling of Regina v. Labaye.

I don't have time to comment on all this right now, but I just wanted to point those who were interested and who have been following this story to a recent post by Ian Benson on this issue over at CentreBlog.

Here's an excerpt from Ian Benson's post on the issue:
In the Labaye legal decision, referred to above, the moral conception of citizenship has been virtually obliterated by recourse to a “harm principle” of such open-endedness as to be essentially useless - - a fact noted by the two dissenting judges. In this case, dealing as it does with the court’s role as what used to be known as custos morum (the guardian of morals) we are forced again to look at morals, law and the limits of democracy itself. But that is for another day. First is the general problem of placing too much stock in the general processes of democracy, or, as we could put it more succinctly, “democracy on its own.”

More Adventure

Frost and chill, bless the Lord…
Ice and snow, bless the Lord…
Nights and days, bless the Lord…
Light and darkness, bless the Lord…
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord…
Let the earth bless the Lord…
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord…

Spending time around my family is a never ending adventure one way or another. Some may say we're crazy. I'd have to agree. Last night we went up into the mountains with some family friends, after dark, to go snowshoeing. Yes, in the pitch black. Boy, was that fun. To add to the excitement we took a few wrong turns making the hike snowshoeing in the dark that much longer. We eventually made it to the public access recreation cabin we were aiming for at 10:00pm. We slept up in the mountains and came back down today. Though snowshoeing in the dark was my idea of insanity, not fun, the adventure was well worth it in the end.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Et In Arcadia Ego

The mysterious pre-modern man from Et In Arcadia Ego is not quite so mysterious now although still containing plenty of mystery. That sentence made no sense, but such is the workings of my brain today.

It is my honour to finally get around to adding Et In Arcadia Ego to my blog roll. There you will find some intelligent blogging.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pierced - fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

(By: Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Life of Waiting for Ferries

Growing up in a coastal community means you get very good at patience. Practicing patience is more than a virtue, it's a necessity on the West Coast. Patience waiting for ferries. Waiting for ferries can also get very boring though. This is a picture I took when bored waiting to catch a ferry back home to my parents place yesterday. I sat for two and a half hours in the parking lot because I missed the previous ferry by a couple minutes. It didn't take long for me to get bored. Anyways, the cross in the picture is a cross hanging off my rearview mirror and it's the only thing I bought for myself when I was in Rome for Easter in 2004.

New Links

I'm just adding a couple of new links to my links list.

First of all, the Companions of the Cross. There were several priests from the Companions of the Cross attending the conference I just attended. These are great (many young) priests with a passion for Christ and His Church.

Secondly, la Famille Marie-Jeunesse, which I just talked about in the previous post. Their site is in French, but if you can read French or have the patience for online translators it's worth checking out.

Go explore.

Catholic Canada and Québec

Interestingly, there was a strong emphasis at this recent conference on Catholicism in Québec and its implications for the rest of Canada. Catholic Christian Outreach has recognized the importance of Québec for the New Evangelization in Canada. Particularly, in light of the coming International Eucharistic Congress in Québec City in 2008 they are increasingly turning their focus and attention to "la belle province." In fact, next year, rise-up will be held in Québec City and Cardinal Ouellet has already agreed to participate in that conference. CCO has spoken with the Cardinal and committed itself to assisting him, and the people of Québec, in any way they can to prepare for the upcoming Eucharistic Congress.

Anyways, at this recent national conference put on by Catholic Christian Outreach for young Catholics from across Canada (over 350 attended from all across the country), there were a couple of young people from Marie-Jeunesse attending.

[Marie Jeunesse describes itself as:
"La Famille Marie-Jeunesse est une famille spirituelle de jeunes et une communauté nouvelle dans l'Église catholique. Rassemblés autour d'une spiritualité mariale et eucharistique, des jeunes, des consacrés, des prêtres et des familles choisissent l'Évangile comme idéal de sainteté. Ensemble, à l'intérieur d'une vie communautaire, ils cherchent à donner à leur quotidien, vécu à la manière de Marie, une saveur d'éternité."
(translation: The family Marie-Jeunesse is a spiritual family of young people and a new community in the Catholic Church. Gathered around a marian and eucharistic spirituality, young people, consecrated, priests, and families choose the Gospel as the ideal of sanctity. Together, through a community life, they seek to give their daily life, lived in the same manner as Mary, a taste of eternity.)]

Anyways, these young adults from Marie-Jeunesse spoke to us about the Catholic Church in Québec, highlighting the spiritual thirst that young Québequers have. They are searching for Truth and seeking meaning in their life yet are often disconnected from the Church.

I think in all that was said though, one of the most powerful comments made was that, as Catholic Tradition teaches us, the blood of Martyrs is the seed of Christianity, and when we look for martyrs in Canada, it is in Québec that we find this blood. It is in Québec that we find the foundation of the Catholic Church in Canada and our spiritual heritage. The seeds of Christianity have been planted in Québec and God will not abandon the Church in Canada and Québec. We were exhorted to pray together for Québec and to love Québec, that there would be no bounderies separating us from the spiritual inheritance of Québec.

I was really moved by the discussions surrounding Québec that went on at the conference and was filled with hope. Often, as a Catholic outside Québec it's disheartening to look at the statistics and see that the province which is 'supposed' to be the 'most Catholic' of all Canadian provinces also has the highest rates of divorce, abortion, common-law, suicide, etc... and yet the discussions surrounding Québec at this conference were actually of a positive tone. Yes, there are problems in Québec, but rather than sitting around complaining about it, we should highlight the hope of the Gospel and actively participate in the New Evangelization in Québec and throughout the rest of Canada. One speaker pointed out that since Québec, is the heart of the Catholic Church in Canada, we will not see the renewal of the Faith, the New Springtime, in Canada, unless it takes place first in Québec.

Anyways, aside from the speakers, there were some interesting discussions on this topic going on at the conference among friends. I was speaking with one diocesan priest I know fairly well from my diocese who was commenting on how moved he was by the various speakers who emphasized just how important it is to the Church in Canada that the Gospel be boldly proclaimed in Québec.

So, next year, Rise-Up (the annual national CCO conference) is in Québec. I invite all of my readers, especially from Québec to attend. Cardinal Ouellet will be attending so there should be some great talks.

What now? by Msgr. Gregory Smith

One of the talks that I found particularly interesting, motivating, and challenging at the recent conference I attended was a talk given by Msgr. Gregory Smith on relativism in our society and also challenging us to rebel against the culture of relativism and respond to God's call on our life now, not tomorrow, but now. This talk was followed by Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Msgr. Smith is currently studying at the Gregorian in Rome and was in Rome at the time of Pope John Paul II's death and the conclave and had many moving stories to tell of that. He spoke of the lines of people wrapping through his neighbourhood waiting to pass by the Holy Fathers body and say a quick prayer and pay their respects. He said the morning that St. Peter's was opened for people to come see the late Holy Father's body he told the others that were living with him that the line up was three hours long and maybe they should wait until things died down. According to Msgr. Smith he will never live that down (things never did die down and the line-ups ended up being twelve hours long). He said that the line of pilgrims in Rome when Pope John Paul II died was an image that has been indellibly marked in his mind. The outpouring of respect was honouring the message Pope John Paul II carried, truly the message of the Gospel, as much as the pope himself. In all his words and actions, Pope John Paul II's invitation "follow me" was an invitation to follow Christ. According to Msgr. Smith we need to move merely admiring the lives of great people (likely saints) such as Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa and imitate them; we must move from admiration to imitation.

Msgr. Smith then went on to speak of the culture or relativism that has been frequently mentioned by Pope Benedict XVI and was a common subject for Pope John Paul II as well. At the opening of the conclave, then Cardinal Ratzinger, declared that our world is building a dictatorship of relativism who's ultimate goal exists solely of one's own desires and egoisms. According to Pope Benedict (from Dec.8th,2005) relativism causes us to think that someone who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something must be missing from his or her life. In other words, the culture of relativism essentially makes us think that evil is basically a good, that perhaps we need to keep a little evil at least to have our "freedom" from God. Modern man seems to think that something might be missing from the life of a person who does not sin. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that this is a lie, that evil is always poisonous, that it does not uplift but degrades human beings; it harms and belittles them. The person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's pupet, a boring yes man. He does not loose his freedom, only the person who entrusts himself totally to God has freedom. Abandoing oneself to God is the only way to experience true freedom. To believe in God is to live for God.

After this exhortation, Msgr. Smith led us into Eucharistic Adoration by challenging us to have the courage to ask the question "what now?" What is God calling to you at this very moment? What do I actually need to decide and do in order to respond to the vocation God calls me to? What now, what is it that Christ is asking of me? To all, Christ responds "follow me, follow me all the way, even to the cross." This may sound difficult, but in the words of Christ, and frequently repeated by the late Pope John Paul II, be not afraid.

"The Catholic Difference" - George Weigel

I just returned yesterday from a conference run by Catholic Christian Outreach, which does Catholic evangelization and campus ministry on university campuses across Canada. The theme of the conference was "the Cry of the Gospel" and we had some amazing speakers, including George Weigel, Fr. Tom Rosica, and Fr. Raymond Desouza, Msgr. Gregory Smith, Fr. Scott McCaig (Companions of the Cross), etc... the list really could go on and on... but anyways, I don't have time to post on every talk I went to but I'll try and pull out some of the highlights for you. I'm sorry if the posts are a little rough, they're taken from the notes I took during the various talks.

The first night we had George Weigel speak to us and the topic of his talk was "The Catholic Difference." He spoke mostly on the lessons we can learn from Pope John Paul II's discipleship. Weigel began by pointing out that Pope John Paul II did not simply leave an imprint on history, but rather he was history; wherever he went, history went with him and the course of history was changed. The late Holy Father's impact on history was a byproduct of his Faith and the result of his discipleship. Weigel spoke of four lessons we can learn from our beloved Pope John Paul II.

The first lesson he mentioned was with regards to JPII's emphasize on the universality of vocation, that vocation does not merely refer to priestly or religious vocation but rather that every baptized person has a vocation; each one of us is an actor in a drama with eternal consequences. In our vocation, whatever it may be, we may be called to be a sign of contradiction in our society and will have to speak truth to others who do not want to hear it and face the consequences. He urged us not to think of our lives simply as careers, but the totality of our life in the framework of vocation. We were reminded that none of us is an accident and each one of us is an idea in the mind of God that is singular and irreplacable.

Secondly, we can learn from JPII about life as a drama. According to the late Holy Father we live lives that are structured like a drama (Cf. "The Acting Person"). We often live in a gap between the person we are today and the person we ought to be. Think of the reminder of the London tube to "mind the gap." We must always be conscious of that gap and seeking to close that gap in cooperation with God's graces in the sacraments. Weigel quoted JPII as saing "in the designs of providence there are no mere coincidences." Everything and everyone counts; every situation in which we find ourselves is an encouter or scene in the human drama and thus we must live our lives intentionally and mindfully.

Thirdly, in looking to the life of Pope John Paul II we can learn the lesson that there are no ordinary people. There is much to be learned especially from the last years of his life through his example. The Pope treated his illnesses and sufferings with humour, always communicating the joy of Christ. In a culture that tempts us to think of people as disposable, John Paul II provided testimony through the example of his own life that humans are not problems to be solved. Every human life means somethingand has infinite falue. JPII returned insult with affection and love and was a firm believer that even the most hate filled people have the capacity to become people of love and descency. Through his example we see that every human life is by definition an extraordinary life. George Weigel insisted that we are people called to remind the 21st century of the true story, the true story, a story which has often been replaced by a false or incomplete story. The true story of the world history is that of the creation, fall, promise, prophesy, incarnation, redemption, sanctification and Kingdom of God. We are called to tell this story at all times through our example.

George Weigel then went on to complete his talk by speaking about Pope John Paul II's relationship with the young. He reminded us of the communion of saints here and now. He recognized that young people wanted to be summoned to leading lives of heroic virtue. According to Weigel young people were compelled by JPII for many reasons, although he pointed out two in particular. First of all, young people recognize hipocracy and in the late Holy Father they saw a man of sincerity and integrity; this integrity was a magnetic force attracting the young. Secondly, young people often rebel and counter cultural. Pope John Paul II was one of the greatest rebels against popular culture, he was profoundly counter cultural. He did not pamper the young people but rather set the bar of expectation high.