Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Stuck in the Middle with You"

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right...

We are out of the Patristic Era now and right smack in the middle of the "Middle Ages". They are called the "middle" because they are between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Modern Era. (no one in the middle ages would have said, "Hey, we live in the Middle Ages.")

More posts coming soon, but it's time for a new day to begin (no matter what the timestamp may say.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

"I make all things new"

So said our Lord in the Apocalypse of St. John, and indeed, often that which is old becomes fashionable once again. (Seen in numerous aspects of society, even athletics where "throwback" uniforms are all the rage.)

The Washington Times (no, not the Post) has an article on the new appeal of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) among young people. Pictured below is the celebration of the Traditional mass at the University of Notre Dame. Now if they could just get back to playing some traditional Notre Dame Football! (and the post comes full-circle.)

Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Too many potential titles for this one

Someone mentioned today that the routine of the Catholic liturgy makes worship monotonous and "boring". The diversity of worship styles among various Christian denominations can make the Catholic Liturgy seem repetitive, however the Catholic liturgy is as old as the Church itself, and traces its roots all the way back to the Upper Room on the eve of our Lord's Passion.

Think of it this way: every sport has its own guidelines, its own parameters, and its own routines; And yet no two games are exactly alike. Likewise, just because the mass follows a set pattern does not doom us to monotony. Instead, if you learn the rhythm of the mass and keep an eye out on the details then it becomes a living process in which we each have a role to fulfill.
To best understand how the diversity of worship styles evolved we took a quick look at the Christian family tree. The farther one moves away from the Apostolic Church (which "subsists" in the Catholic Church) the more divergent one finds the worship styles to be.
Once you move beyond the Protestant Reformation the denominations are governed by a principle of Sola Scriptura, that is, "Scripture Alone" is the source of authority. Therefore the worship services are going to be much more centered on preaching and even take on a "Bible Study" format in some cases.
Sola Scriptura is, in fact, an impossibility, because scripture does not stand on its own. To "study" or preach on scripture requires that one employ both hermeneutics and exegesis - which when separated from Apostolic Tradition is really nothing more than the whim of the preacher.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ecclesiastes chapter 7:29

A question was asked in Red 4 today about this passage of the Old Testament book.

The New American Bible reads: "Behold, only this have I found out: God made mankind straight, but men have had recourse to many calculations." with the added footnote that the word "calculations" means " the many vain attempts and schemes of men to attain happiness by their own efforts."

The question centered around the word "straight" and wether or not this was in reference to sexuality (hetero- vs. homo-). I apologize that it took me awhile to do some digging, but here's what I found:

1. the Latin word used in this passage is "rectum" which is translated as "virtuous or right".
2. the original Hebrew word whcih was "yashar" which is translated as "just, righteous, upright, or straight."

While sexuality is related to morality there is nothing inherently sexual about the term yashar.

We discussed that homosexuality was widely practiced in the ancient Greek world, but only as a sort of recreational practice, particularly among the elite - most of whom were married and had families. It was not as a monogomous lifestyle. What, then are we to make of Christ's silence on this widespread practice? We cannot assume that his silence is an approval because Christ's audience was centered on the Jewish population of Israel, and while ancient Greeks practiced homosexuality, for the Hebrews it was "an abomination to the Lord" and punishable by death. There would have been no need for Christ to address the issue as it was really a "non-issue" for his audience.

A similar hypothetical situation might play out as follows: Assume that a Catholic bishop publishes a book of homilies, and in them are no homilies dedicated to the topic of not commiting abortion. Does this silence then imply that the bishop is pro-choice? Certainly not, for his audience is composed of Catholic churchgoers who are presumably pro-life, and therefore do not need any exhortation not to procure abortion.

At last we come to two key terms that lie at the heart of today's discussion: exegesis and hermeneutics. For these I direct your attention to the online Catholic Dictionary:

These two are the foundation of scriptural interpretation. If one fails to use a proper hermeneutic, then he arrives at a flawed exegesis. It's like trying to navigate with an inaccurate map and a broken compass. If you want to see where you end up check out either or - both of these are tragically off the mark. If they weren't so fatally flawed they would be humerous.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. B

St. Augustine Questions pt. I

These questions take us through part 1, Chapter 6.

1. What do you think Augustine means by his desire being “not to be more sure of [God] but to be more steadfast in [Him]?

2. What is the single thing that Augustine identifies as preventing him from giving himself over wholly to the Christian faith?

3. He points out that neither Christ nor St. Paul forbid marriage, so why does he not pursue that path and choose to live his life as a married Christian man.

4. Augustine says that God and His word are “everywhere implied” in the writings of the Platonists. Do a little digging on the Platonists and identify some Christian values that are implied in Platonic thought.

5. Victorinus asked “Then is it walls that make Christians?” His same argument is made today by those who assert that they are Christian but do not “go to Church”. Is the argument any more valid coming from Victorinus than it is today?

6. St. Augustine observes that human nature is to love “regained” things more than those that we have had all along. Do you agree that this is in fact part of human nature? Provide an example from scripture that reflects this as part of God’s nature as well?

7. Again, Augustine observes that “the greater joy is heralded by greater pain.” Does this mean that it is impossible for us to know great joy without great pain? Explain – provide an example from your life and a theologically based example. How does Augustine’s life reflect this maxim?

8. Compare Augustine’s metaphor of the Chain with that of St. Gregory of Nyssa. How could you combine these metaphors.

9. St. Augustine writes at length about how he postpones his conversion and keeps saying later, and later still. He then says the “law of sin is the fierce force of habit”. Does this mean that by repeating a sin we forfeit our will and give the sin control? Explain.

10. Why do you think the influence of the story of St. Anthony is not as strong today as it was on Augustine and Alypius?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

This is our (shhh...) new supplemental book

The supplemental text, This is Our Church, is now available in .pdf file in the "Assignments" folder on the School Webl Locker. It would be most beneficial if you could read pgs. 65 - 73 in preparation for our discussion of St. Augustine and of the Council of Nicea.

Monday, October 8, 2007

St. John Chrysostom Questions

1. Christ says that we do not come to God unless we are “drawn” to him. Explain how Chrysostom says that this does not interfere with our Free Will. Would this imply that God only chooses to draw “some” people to Himself and not all?

2. In discussing the Bread of Life Discourse, what reason does Chrysostom give for Christ “shrouding his explanation in mystery”? What is his criticism of Christ’s audience upon hearing this “hard saying”?

3. At the bottom of pg. 104 Chrysostom describes the role of a disciple in regard to asking questions. What do you think of his description? Do you agree or disagree, and why?

4. Explain why Chrysostom thinks asking the question “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” is the wrong question to ask. What should have been asked instead – and what do you think the results would have been of asking the “right” question?

5. Chrysostom writes a particularly beautiful passage on page 105: “Therefore, in order that…as the body is joined with his head.” What is the purpose, in his opinion, of this “commingling” with Christ and humanity? What role does the Eucharist play in this “commingling”?

6. What type of action would be expected of us if we were like “Lions breathing out fire”?

7. Chrysostom references the Eucharist as a “fountain”. How is the Eucharist like a fountain in the life of a Christian?

8. On pg. 107 Chrysostom talks about the danger of taking the Eucharist “unworthily” or with the wrong disposition. What do you think makes for an appropriate (or inappropriate) disposition?

Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B

Saturday, October 6, 2007

St. Basil Mental Munchies

Here is some food for thought regarding this Doctor of the Eastern Church:

1. St. Basil's Moral essay takes the form of a series of "Rules". As I read it the first time I remember thinking, "How very like the Pharisees of Christ's day to have so many dang rules." Do you think that St. Basil is just slipping back into the same religious legalism that existed among the Jews of Jesus' day?Explain your answer.

2. Identify a handful of St. Basil's rules that seem particularly strict or harsh to you. What seems so strict about them?

3. All of St. Basil's rules are based on Scripture passages. If, then, there is nothing contained in the Rules that is not found in the New Testament, why do you think Basil bothered creating this list of rules?

4. Knowing that Basil was a leader of asceticism and monastic life, do you think a list of rules like this is beyond the ability of the "average" Christian? If you think it is, how would you change it to make it more attainable for the folks in the pews?

Chew on these and we will discuss on Monday / Tuesday. Please don't stress over them if you don't get them all. Quality not Quantity.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. B.

Monday, October 1, 2007

St. Jerome (September 30)

Though his feast fell on a Sunday, and so it was not celebrated externally, yesterday was still the feast of St. Jerome, one of the great Fathers of the Church, credited with translating scripture into Latin so as to make it available to the western world where Greek had fallen out of use.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - St. Jerome

"Those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot read." - S. L. Clemens (Mark Twain)
Tolle, legge,
Mr. B.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Heresy Parade

We are nearing the end of a study of a crucial era in our Church's history - the formation of Christology (that is, our belief about the identity and nature of Jesus).

Most of the early heresies were Christological in nature and were resolved largely at the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon (325, 381, 451 respectively).

Homework: identify, through independent research, the following heresies. Know who the proponents (leaders) and opponents were, the era (decades) in which it was most popular, and the regions in which it was strongest.

Modalism / Monarchianism / Sabelianism

That will do for now. Who knew there were so many wrong ways to understand Jesus?!

Mr. B

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Please read Pope Benedict's catechetical essay on St. Gregory, as well as the writing in your text.
1. Very early on, Gregory compares being a Christian to being a doctor, a politician, mathematician, etc. and says that just as these professions require an education, so to does being a Christian. Do you think that we really must have some level of education before we can call ourselves Christian? Explain.
2. What do you make of the "dancing monkey" illustration? We live in a society that largely calls itself "Christian" and yet we persist in crime, violence, injustice, and vice. Are we any more than dancing monkeys?
3. Gregory writes that to unite ourselves to Christ means to share in the "lofty ideals" that are used to describe him. Does this mean that if we do not assume the noble virtues in our character that we are not truly united to Christ? Compare the meaning of this segment to the discussion we had about the Ascension a few weeks ago. (Why did Jesus have to ascend?)
4. How does Gregory assert that Christianity "returns" man to his former or original state?
5. What reason does Gregory give (on the top half of pg. 64) for us being accurate imitators of the Divine?
I'll be posting some more later, but right now I'm caught up in part three of the Ken Burns' World War II documentary on PBS.
Mr. B

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

When I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and boy was I wrong. I thank you all for the opportunity to learn something new.

From the "Modern Catholic Dictionary" edited by Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J. (also the editor of our book.)

A gynecological illness caused by the abnormal presence of
tissue that more or less perfectly resembles the lining of the uterus
(endometrium) but growing outside of the uterus itself and distributed in other
pelvic areas. Since this aberrant endometrial tissue responds to the
hormone-induced changes of the woman's menstrual cycle but, unlike the true
endometrial lining of the uterus, is entrapped in other tissue such as bone and
muscle, its cyclic changes of menstruation, causes the problem to repress, and
even after the pregnancy improvement is sometimes sustained for a period up to
three or four years.

Since a surgical approach to the problem is not always practical or
successful, the so called "contraceptive pill" has been recommended for use over
prolonged periods to eliminate the cyclic changes of the menstrual cycle and
thus eliminate the periodic pain of endometriosis. It should be noted, from a
moral viewpoint, that although this progestational-estrogen type therapy is, in
itself, essentially the same as that used in the "contraceptive pill," it is not
used in theses cases as a contraceptive. the purpose of the therapy is to
ameliorate a seriously abnormal and indeed pathological condition insofar as it
is aggravated by hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. Although temporary sterility is a side effect of the treatment, contraception is not the purpose, and thus the treatment in no way conflicts with Catholic teaching.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

St. Cyril of Jerusalem Questions

1. In the first section the venerable bishop states that "True Religion consists of two elements: pious doctrines and virtuous actions." Contrast this with the idea of salvation by "faith alone". (the notion that faith alone saves us and that our actions / deeds have no bearing on our salvation.)

2. Consider that this document was a lecture delivered to people on the verge of converting to Christianity and being baptized. Imagine that you are an adult who knows nothing of the Christian Faith. How would you respond to Cyril's catechetical instruction?

3. Compare the passage "On Christ" to the section of the Nicene Creed, "I believe in Jesus Christ...and his Kingdom will have no end." What are the differences / similarities. Why do you think these assertions about Christ were necessary?

4. People often ask, "If belief in Christ is necessary for salvation, then what happened to all of the people who lived before the coming of Jesus?" How does Cyril adress this question in the passage "On His Burial."?

5. In the passage "On His Ascension" Cyril exhorts his audience to make the sign of the cross often. Even two or three generations ago the sign of the cross was used much more frequently than it is today. Do you think the current and recent generations are, in Cyril's words, "ashamed of the Cross of Christ"?

6. Pope John Paul II is credited with developing a radical new "Theology of the Body". What can you extract from this brief writing about Cyril's Theology of the Body, particularly as it pertains to goodness, sexuality, and food.

Finally, I'm just gonna throw this out there and let you prepare your arguments against me: I believe that the passage "On Apparel" should be posted above every entrance to every mall in America. "Show me where I'm wrong."

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. B

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Papal Vestments

For the Black 1 class, as promised, pics of Papa Benny wearing pSychAdELiC vEstMENts during his recent trip to Austria. (warning: you might need to wear sunglasses to view these pics.)

This last one takes the cake: a deacon (in the eye-burning yellow) hands the Holy Father a Poke-Mon Bowling Ball?!?!? What is that thing? wow....i mean
Mr. B

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ritter Christian Service Website

As you know, all CRHS students are required to complete 15 hours of service to their community. We will have "service lessons" in class every two weeks. In order to help you keep track of the service lessons and to provide opportunities to complete your service, I have created a CRHS Christians Service Website. Click the link to enjoy a preview of our first lesson.

Mr. B.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Read the Holy Father's Catechetical Essay on St. Cyril in preparation for our study of this Father of the Church.

Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cyprian Questions at Last!

1. The general impression in class of ol' St. Cyprian is that he was "boring and repetative". So, the first question is - What is it that he repeats and why do you think he repeats it so much? What external factors may have been influencing him (don't be afraid to do a little independent research on this one.)

2. Analyze St. Cyprian's use of Scripture to support his arguments. Does he use scripture effectively and with sound interpretation? Provide and analyze three examples of his use of Scripture

3. St. Cyprian takes a rather harsh stance against those who "break away" from the Church founded by Christ. Compare and Contrast his position with that of the Church as published in the most recent document "Responses to Some Questions on Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church", particularly in questions two and three.

4. In our modern society we shy away from making "absolute" statements, or any statements that appear to "judge" or exclude others. Bearing that in mind, what are some elements of St. Cyprian's treatise that could be put to good use today in the effort to reconcile and unify the diverse Christian Denominations.

5. Support the Argument that St. Cyprian is not Judging those who break away form the Church, but rather trying to correct their misguided actions.

This should do.
Please remember to pray for the soul of Mrs. Elda Garcia, mother of Mrs. Hoy, and for her family.
Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. Requiescant in pace. Amen.
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cyprian Questions on Delay

Hello Scholars -
"Mea Culpa" for not posting the Cyprian questions. As you know, I was feeling under the weather last week, so I took advantage of the weekend to get some much-needed rest.

Fear not - they'll be posted soon.

Mr. B.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

St. Cyprian of Carthage

In preparation for our reading of St. Cyprian's Treatise on Church Unity, please read Holy Father's essay on this Church Father.

Then proceed to read the Treatise itself, again entitled, On the Unity of the Church.
Discussion questions to follow.
Ad Jesum per Mariam
Mr. B

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Questions on St. Ignatius

Ignatius to the Romans
1. Why do you think he was so eager for martyrdom? Cite examples form the text where he justifies his desire to die.

2. Do you think in desiring death St. Ignatius was being a true follower of Christ's example or do you think he was a bit overzealous - even suicidal in his thinking? Explain.

3. How do you think it would have impacted the Church if all of the early bishops shared this zeal for martrydom? Would it be possible for bishops today to demonstrate this same zeal for suffering, even if not for martyrdom?

Ignatius to the Philadelphians
1. St. Ignatius' primary concern seems to be for the unity of the Church under the leadership of the bishop. Why do you think this is of such importance to him?

2. St. Ignatius is very critical of divisions within the Church and with those who hold "different gospels". How do you think he would react to the pluralism and diversity within Christianity today, which has hundreds of different denominations?

Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
1. Ignatius addresses a specific heresy within this community. From his writing, describe what you think the details of this heretical belief are, particularly the doctrine pertaining to Jesus.

2. Again, Ignatius exhorts them to adhere closely to the bishop. Why do you think this was of such great importance?

Ignatius to Polycarp
1. In chapter 2 Ignatius compares the bishop to a pilot (of a ship). Why do you think he would make such a comparison?

2. Explain why Ignatius uses the metaphors of an athlete, an anvil, (ch. 3) and a clad warrior (ch. 6) to describe a faithful Christian.

3. What is Ignatius' view of the role of marriage in society?

Chew on these. Until next time,
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B

Friday, August 31, 2007

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Today's assignment is to read a sample of the letters of St. Ignatius. He was the third bishop of Antioch, a large Christian city north of Israel. He was arrested and martyred in Rome in the year 107.

St. Ignatius was eager to embrace the suffering of a martyr for the sake of Christ, as we see in his letter to the Romans. He is also a champion of the role of the bishop in keeping the Church connected to the Apostles, and of the primacy of Rome as an apostolic see. Finally, Ignatius is the first Christian writer to refer to the Chrch as "Catholic".

His writings can be found in the link below:

Also, see Pope Benedict's wonderful essay on St. Ignatius, given at his general audience in March.
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why the pictures?

We had a rather lively discussion today about Christ as the Judge of humanity. It seems that popular spirituality shoves this part of Christ's identiy under the rug and instead directs our attention to how remarkably merciful, loving, and downright friendly our Lord is. He is, in the popular view, "our brother."

True, we often need to be reminded of Christ's love and mercy, but if we fail to keep in mind that it is the love and mercy of God Incarnate, a God who by right could easily judge us all as sinners and condemn us to hell, then it ceases to be anything remarkable at all.

To be sure, the possibility of overemphasizing the role of eternal Judge exists, but this extreme is not one toward which popular devotion tends, at least not in the west. And so we must be on our guard. Do not let yourselves be deceived or led away from the Truth of Christ. See St. Paul's exhortation on not allowing the gospel to be "watered down" in his letter to the Galatians, particularly 1: 6 - 8.

Until next time,
Ad Jesum Per Mariam.
Mr. B.

Who is your Jesus: Friend? Judge? Savior?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Your assignment for tonight: read the extracanonical text known as the Didache. Write a reflection / response to this text and explain why you think it was not included in the canon of scripture. See the post below for the link.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. B

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Here is the link to the Didache text. Our books should be in soon, but in the meantime, enjoy.

Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What is History?

For centuries mankind has taken account of events in its history. These events and their impact have been passed down by word of mouth, have been recorded and studied, and have shaped the way we view ourselves and our culture. History is not just a combination of dates and facts, but rather it is the story of humanity where dates serve as benchmarks or milestones.

Is it possible to have both an unbiased and an accurate history?
Writers of History are limited by the perspective from which they view history. We discussed the events during and following October of 1492 as an example. From the perspective of a European, 1492 marked the “discovery” of America, which was soon viewed as an exotic land full of promise, adventure, and wealth. However, from the perspective of the native civilizations, 1492 began a long and destructive relationship with Europeans which included war, enslavement, disease, and oppression.

Historians must then try their best to incorporate various perspectives into a history that provides a “big picture”.

What is a Saint? Are the saints a biased lens through which to view the history of the Church?
Saints are simply individuals of heroic virtue that have led Christ-like lives. The Church holds them up of examples of how to follow Christ in every age and every place. For years the Church has used a formal canonization process to proclaim saints, but in he early Church sainthood was largely a matter of popular devotion rather than official declaration.

It should be noted that the Church does not “make” saints of people. Rather, she publicly recognizes that someone has become a saint. (Just like me recognizing that your uniform is red does not make it red, but rather points out what is already true.) Technically all those who are in heaven enjoying the beatific vision of God are saints – we may never know most of their names.

One might assume that saints will present only the “rosy” side of the Church and overlook any dark chapters in the Church’s history. They are, after all, the “heroes” of the Church. However, we must keep in mind that we are examining the writings of individuals who were simply members of the Church at the time of writing. No one is declared a saint until well after his or her death. Many saints (St. Joan of Arc, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, and even St. Paul) were openly critical of the Church and often suffered ridicule for it. Yet their conviction was in loyalty to the Gospel and faithfully adhering to the example set by Jesus Christ.

Next time we will examine the notion of Salvation History vs. Secular History. Until then,
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. B.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

test post

test post for layout editing purposes. "Historical analysis is never an end unto itself; rather it points decisively at conversion, and at an authentic witness of Christian life on the part of the faithful."-Pope Benedict XVI