Monday, 29 April 2013

Where have all the Grandparents gone?

Apparently, what with people marrying and/or having children later, people are becoming grandparents at an older age. Makes sense. So "a 40-year-old mother who has to wait the average 30.6 or 40 years for her child to become a parent will be 70 or 80 by the time she herself becomes a grandparent."

This means several things:

  • Parents have less support from their own parents in the raising of their children. This is true already with families scattering all over the globe, and with marriage breakdowns as common as they are, but will become even more common when grandparents are older and therefore less able to cope with the physical demands of caring for children. This makes the demands of family life more difficult to deal with. It also contributes to isolation or compartmentalisation of the family into separate units, which should instead be an organic, dynamic whole, with parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews all supporting each other and growing together.
  • Children miss out on a deeper level of intimacy with their grandparents. 
  • Likewise, grandparents miss out on a deeper level of intimacy with their grandchildren.
  • Finally, if the children and grandparents aren't bonding, probably neither are the children's parents nourishing their relationships with their own parents. Everyone is missing out.

The article goes to great lengths to make sure women still feel comfortable with their "choice" to have children later. It calls normal grandparenting "traditional" grandparenting, because in the modern mind, anything traditional is bad (traditional marriage, religion, etc. all bad.)
It claims that all we have to do is adjust our expectations of family life, because this change isn't necessarily bad, it's just different. It's the way things are now, so we have to deal with it. There is no "ideal" family situation.


Family is a beautiful thing

This attitude is seen in the initiative mentioned at the end, wherein surrogate grandparents are recruited. Unfortunately, this merely treats the symptom (lack of grandparents) rather than the real causes (marriage breakdown, delaying children, geographic separation- this one I realise sometimes cannot be helped, but perhaps family togetherness (as well as church togetherness) could be factored into living decisions more often, rather than giving such precedence to personal comfort or preference. It is really only a result of the way the world functions now, and perhaps it is not the best way, so that perhaps is the primary cause that should be treated.)

And imagine if you were the real grandparents? Replaced, just like that!

This attitude also says that biology is unimportant. This is a part of the push for allowing same-sex couples to adopt, as well as single women to have children via sperm donation and IVF, or for couples to have children via surrogate mothers, or any other of the plethora of strange bio-ethical issues that exist today.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Part IV: The heart of a Catholic University- The School of Philosophy and Theology

Previously: Parts I, II and III.

Ok, so that was a lot of dense stuff from JPII. Distillation:

By their very nature, Catholic universities are called to interact with society and culture in a way that that is informed by and radiates the gospel of Christ. Since Theology is the discipline most explicitly connected with the gospel, the Theology lectures and students have the task of sharing their knowledge with the rest of the university, shedding Christian light on all the other disciplines.

They also ought to have a prominent place in the Chaplaincy, or the community of active Catholics on campus, visibly living out their faith, particularly participating in the sacraments. This is because one should do theology "on one's knees", since without a real and dynamic relationship with God, theology is simply theory, and loses its meaning. Their presence should enrich the Catholic community, by helping fellow-Catholics to deepen their faith.

How, though, do they interact with the rest of the university community, so that knowledge of Christ emanates throughout the entire institution, illuminating all types of knowledge? This is what should be happening. But in practise, in my own experience, much of the Catholic activity happens between Catholics, and beyond the Logos programme, not much dialogue seems to happen with the rest of the uni. (Although, this does seem to be changing, some new initiatives have begun of late. But the level of interaction between actively, intentionally practising Catholics and non-Catholics is still small.)

Pope Benedict XVI says that "First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth." (Address to Catholic educators) First and foremost, the Catholic university is a place to encounter the living God. (Same goes for Catholic schools, but that's another story.) So every person who comes through our university- are they being given the opportunity to truly encounter Christ? I think it's a valid question.

Professor Ratzinger

Catholic identity demands that "each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith." (Also from Address to Catholic educators.) Each and every aspect... them's big demands Papa Ben is making! But Christ demands much of us too, does He not, since He has given us much.

Some more thoughts to come in Part V.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Part III: the heart of a Catholic University-the School of Philosophy and Theology

The Mission of the Catholic University:

"The basic mission of a University is a continuous quest for truth through its research, and the preservation and communication of knowledge for the good of society. A Catholic University participates in this mission with its own specific characteristics and purposes."
  1. Service to Church and society
    • A Catholic University, as any University, is immersed in human society; as an extension of its service to the Church, and always within its proper competence, it is called on to become an ever more effective instrument of cultural progress for individuals as well as for society. Included among its research activities, therefore, will be a study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world's resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level. University research will seek to discover the roots and causes of the serious problems of our time, paying special attention to their ethical and religious dimensions.
    •  In its attempts to resolve these complex issues that touch on so many different dimensions of human life and of society, a Catholic University will insist on cooperation among the different academic disciplines, each offering its distinct contribution in the search for solutions
  2. Pastoral Ministry
    • Pastoral ministry is that activity of the University which offers the members of the university community an opportunity to integrate religious and moral principles with their academic study and non-academic activities, thus integrating faith with lifeIt is part of the mission of the Church within the University, and is also a constitutive element of a Catholic University itself, both in its structure and in its life. A university community concerned with promoting the Institution's Catholic character will be conscious of this pastoral dimension and sensitive to the ways in which it can have an influence on all university activities.
    • As a natural expression of the Catholic identity of the University, the university community should give a practical demonstration of its faith in its daily activitywith important moments of reflection and of prayer. Catholic members of this community will be offered opportunities to assimilate Catholic teaching and practice into their lives and will be encouraged to participate in the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist as the most perfect act of community worship. When the academic community includes members of other Churches, ecclesial communities or religions, their initiatives for reflection and prayer in accordance with their own beliefs are to be respected.
    • Those involved in pastoral ministry will encourage teachers and students to become more aware of their responsibility towards those who are suffering physically or spiritually. Following the example of Christ, they will be particularly attentive to the poorest and to those who suffer economic, social, cultural or religious injustice. This responsibility begins within the academic community, but it also finds application beyond it.
    • Pastoral ministry is an indispensable means by which Catholic students can, in fulfilment of their baptism, be prepared for active participation in the life of the Churchit can assist in developing and nurturing the value of marriage and family life, fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life, stimulating the Christian commitment of the laity and imbuing every activity with the spirit of the GospelClose cooperation between pastoral ministry in a Catholic University and the other activities within the local Church, under the guidance or with the approval of the diocesan Bishop, will contribute to their mutual growth.
  3. Cultural Dialogue
    •  In addition, a Catholic University, aware that human culture is open to Revelation and transcendence, is also a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture.
    • Catholic Universities will seek to discern and evaluate both the aspirations and the contradictions of modern culture, in order to make it more suited to the total development of individuals and peoples. In particular, it is recommended that by means of appropriate studies, the impact of modern technology and especially of the mass media on persons, the family, and the institutions and whole of modem culture be studied deeply.
    • An area that particularly interests a Catholic University is the dialogue between Christian thought and the modern sciences. This task requires persons particularly well versed in the individual disciplines and who are at the same time adequately prepared theologically, and who are capable of confronting epistemological questions at the level of the relationship between faith and reason. Such dialogue concerns the natural sciences as much as the human sciences which posit new and complex philosophical and ethical problems. The Christian researcher should demonstrate the way in which human intelligence is enriched by the higher truth that comes from the Gospel: "The intelligence is never diminished, rather, it is stimulated and reinforced by that interior fount of deep understanding that is the Word of God, and by the hierarchy of values that results from it... In its unique manner, the Catholic University helps to manifest the superiority of the spirit, that can never, without the risk of losing its very self, be placed at the service of something other than the search for truth"(39).
      47. Besides cultural dialogue, a Catholic University, in accordance vith its specific ends, and keeping in mind the various religious-cultural contexts, following the directives promulgated by competent ecclesiastical authority, can offer a contribution to ecumenical dialogue. It does so to further the search for unity among all Christians. In inter-religious dialogue it will assist in discerning the spiritual values that are present in the different religions.
  4. Evangelisation
    • The primary mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel in such a way that a relationship between faith and life is established in each individual and in the socio-cultural context in which individuals live and act and communicate with one another. Evangelization means "bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new... It is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and, as it were, upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, humanity's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation"(40).
    • By its very nature, each Catholic University makes an important contribution to the Church's work of evangelization. It is a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism, or where Christ and his message are still virtually unknown. Moreover, all the basic academic activities of a Catholic University are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: research carried out in the light of the Christian message which puts new human discoveries at the service of individuals and society; education offered in a faith-context that forms men and women capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society; the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological research that translates the faith into contemporary language. "Precisely because it is more and more conscious of its salvific mission in this world, the Church wants to have these centres closely connected with it; it wants to have them present and operative in spreading the authentic message of Christ."


The Catholic university should integrate faith and reason within itself, through interdisciplinary dialogue, in order to effectively engage with the surrounding culture. It should be concerned with the formation of its students and staff, ensuring that living out the Christian life is encouraged and prioritised, as all the intellectual knowledge of theology in the world is meaningless if one's relationship with God is not a living, dynamic reality. All of this work finds its purpose and fruit in the work of evangelisation, the task of bringing all people we encounter to Christ.

Notre Dame: University of Awesome

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

On literal interpretation of Scripture

I think there is almost no word that is so misused with reference to Scripture than "literal". Most people seem to think it exists in a dichotomy with "metaphor", "analogy" or "allegory". Allow me to be as clear as I can: this is most certainly NOT the case! I think it sets up a tension between the human and divine authors, really.

What people think "literal" means

This is the understanding of "literal" that I encounter most of the time. People will say, "In Exodus 31:18, it says that the Ten Commandments were written on the stone tablets by the finger of God. Do you interpret this literally or metaphorically?" If one says literally, because it's God's Word and that's what it says, and so we are talking about God actually having a finger, then one could be accused of turning God into a human being with a body. But if one says metaphorically, since God obviously is non-material, then one may be accused of ignoring inconvenient parts of Scripture, and not taking God at His Word, or saying that He is deceiving us.

I am going to suggest that, in fact, no such dilemma exists.

Behold, the Catholic notion of the four senses of Scripture!

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 115-117:

The senses of Scripture
115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church. 
116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83 
117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs. 
1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ's victory and also of Christian Baptism.
2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written "for our instruction".
3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, "leading"). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Ok, what does all that mean?

The original use of the word "literal" (as invented by the medieval exegetes), refers to the meaning of the text as the author intended. It asks: why do we have the text that we do? What was the author's purpose in writing this way? What was he intending to say? This sense is primary and fundamental, since it is through the human author that God chose to work. The text was born out of a particular context and a particular time, and so if we are to understand what the author intended to say, we must take the context into consideration also.

Understanding literal in this way, we can affirm that we do indeed take all of scripture literally, in that all of it was written by inspired human authors trying to say particular things. But these authors can  and do use the literary tools of metaphor, allegory or analogy (or hyperbole, onoematopoeia, juxtaposition, alliteration, parallelism, etc) to convey their intended meaning.

For example, Ex. 15:6 reads
Thy right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,
thy right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.
Does God actually have a right hand? Obviously not. So what is the author saying? God's right hand is a metaphor for His power and strength. So the author is literally intending to convey God's might, using the literary instrument of a metaphor. (I'm not entirely sure whether metaphor is precisely the right word to use here, but I'll use it anyway for lack of a better one.)

Now, the spiritual senses flow from the literal sense. Or, to put it another way, they are grounded in the literal sense. This means that whatever we understand the literal sense to be, will affect what we think the spiritual senses are.

Each of the spiritual senses is tied to one of the three theological virtues:

Understanding the text through the eyes of faith yields the allegorical sense, in which we ask "how is Christ presenting Himself to us here?"
Understanding it through the lens of charity yields the moral sense, in which we ask "how should I live differently, having heard this particular text of God's Word?"
Understanding it in the light of hope reveals the anagogical sense, which includes both how we get to Heaven, and what Heaven will actually be like.

But why haven't I ever heard this before?!

Good question.

I first heard this when I had finished my first degree, at YLFC. Our lectures that day were both on Scripture, and we had a lecturer from Notre Dame come and talk to us. This was one of the first things we covered in that class, before leaping into an epic overview of the Bible. And it blew me away. It just seemed to make so much sense. (ha, excuse the pun!) Here was the answer to how on earth those Old Testament books could be relevant to us Christians. Some things were obviously relevant, like prophecies relating to the Messiah, but what of those historical books about kings and stuff? So Solomon has a dream. Great. How does one glean meaning from that?! Here was the answer! No longer did the Bible seem so incomprehensible. Well, obviously understanding it still requires work, but at least I had an inkling now of how it was actually possible.

I felt so cheated that no one had ever told me this before!! And perhaps that's how you're feeling now. But excited also, no?

To conclude, an example

I'm going to look briefly at the story of Abraham's test of faith, to sacrifice his son Isaac. Go read it here.
Abraham and Isaac: The angel says, "Nooooo!"

Literal sense: God is testing Abraham's faith. So us readers can guess that He won't make Abraham go through with it, but Abraham doesn't know that. He is asked to sacrifice his son on a mountain three days journey away. Abraham doesn't question it, but heads off immediately the next day, although he obviously cares deeply for his son (eg. Gen. 22:7- his response "here am I" is that of a servant, essentially saying "at your service", or, "I am completely at your disposal". Note that this is how he responds to God in v.1. Also recall that Isaac is the long-awaited for son, through whom all the promises that God has made to Abraham will be fulfilled). Abraham sets things up (and notice Isaac's astonishing lack of protestation, a sign of immense trust in his father), and is about to do the deed, when God stops him, and provides a ram instead. Recall that in v.8 he tells his son that "God Himself will provide the lamb". This suggests that he trusts in God so absolutely that he believes He will do something to make the situation right. Which He does, but He provides a ram, not a lamb. God then blesses Abraham for not withholding even his only son from Him.

Allegorical sense: Isaac, the only son, carries the wood for the sacrifice, while Christ, the only Son of God, carries the cross upon which He will be sacrificed. And although Abraham does not have to give up his son in the end, God the Father does indeed provide the Lamb, Christ.

Moral sense: do I live my faith out with such radical trust?

Anagogical sense: It is through faith in the Lamb that we are able to enter Heaven.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Radical Transformative Power of the Holy Eucharist

As I mentioned in my post explaining why I'm studying theology, for the Lent of 2011, I decided enough was enough. Either I was serious about believing that all of these
The Last Supper
The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son
of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity

Our Lord's Passion

The Eucharist

are one and the same reality, or I wasn't. Either I was serious about taking up my own cross daily to follow Christ, and to love Him with all my being, or I wasn't. There is no possibility of half-heartedness with being a disciple of Jesus- "because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:16) He leaves us with no middle road.

At the time, I certainly wasn't a "Sunday-only" Catholic. But I was definitely floundering spiritually. It is said that one cannot remain stationary in the spiritual life. If you're not going forwards, you're going backwards. If you're not growing in love for God, you're moving further away from Him. I wasn't prepared to make big sacrifices. Or even small ones. Christ doesn't call us to love Him some of the time, or even most of the time, or just when it's convenient. We are called to love Him with our entire selves unreservedly, every moment of every day of our whole lives.

For example, if one really considers what a TREASURE Holy Communion is, if it really is all of the above images, it is in fact not an It, but a Who. The greatest Who of all, Jesus Christ. How ridiculous then, does it sound to say, "I don't feel like going to Mass today, I'm quite comfortable sitting in the sun with my friends." ??!! In fact, any excuse other than bed-confining illness fades away into embarrassed silence. 

So, my Lenten resolution that year was to develop the habit of going to Mass every single day. I figured that if I could at least commit to that intimate moment with Jesus every day, in which He pours unimaginable graces into our hearts, that even if I wasn't yet completely committed to doing His Will always, whatever the cost, He'd be able to take care of the rest. That is, after all, the whole reason He gave us this great gift. So that we, poor, weak human beings that we are, could go to Him, and be strengthened, changed, and made a new creation by Him. 

I won't lie, it was hard. Sometimes, when I had a full day of class, I had to be up before 6 am to make it to Mass before uni. Sometimes I'd sleep in, miss the early Mass, then have to go in the evening when I was extremely tired, and wanted nothing more than to just go home. Sometimes I'd be on a break with friends, and have to leave the fun. The hardest was perhaps Saturday morning, as local Masses are earlier than usual and by Saturday I tend to be quite tired, especially if Friday is a bit of a late night. Or when I'd go in the morning before an exam, wanting to just study, or right after an exam or assignment, when all I wanted to do was zone out and recover.

It required commitment. Willpower. Sacrifice. Discipline. Perseverance. But above all, the grace of God.

So I got through that Lent eventually, missing about 2 or 3 of the 40 days. (Due to accidental Saturday sleep-ins. Oops!) At the end, I gave myself "a few days off". How ridiculous that sounds to me in hindsight. A few days off from the most intimate encounter you can have with Jesus this side of Heaven?! I would want that, why??!! Anyway, I think at the time I was just tired, and wanted to relax my vigilant self-discipline. But over those 3 or so days, I came to my senses. In fact, I found myself not only realising intellectually what a treasure I was foregoing, and remembered why I had started the Lenten venture in the first place (namely that if the Eucharist really is Jesus then there are very few good reasons to not be at daily Mass), but I was actually missing Mass. Or, to be more precise, I was missing Jesus. I missed Holy Communion.

So, since then, I have kept up daily Mass. And in that time, I have seen a tremendous transformation take place.

During 2011, I found myself drawn to prayer in the Church more and more. I went from praying maybe 10-15 minutes a day in total at the most (not including Mass), to spending an extra 30 or sometimes even 60 minutes with Our Lord, talking about life, and getting to know Him. I started actually wanting to do His will, and so earnestly trying to discover it, rather than deciding myself what I would do and then asking Him to make it successful.

I started spotting more of my sins, previously slipping by unnoticed, and beginning the painful process of rooting them out. As a result, I now go to Confession every week or two, rather than every month or two. I started to become more aware of the needs of those around me. I started to attempt to see the world through God's eyes.

And in all of that, I am happier than I have ever been before, because I am now firmly on the path of trying to be a saint. To be a true disciple of Christ, whatever that entails. To be what I was created to be, that is, a human being flourishing as God intended, ultimately destined to be in a communion of love with the Persons of the Blessed Trinity for all eternity.

Be warned, seeking to do the will of God can be a disruptive thing. If you had told me a mere few months before doing Theology that that is what I would be studying the next year, I'd have called you batty. Or if you had told me at the start of 2011 that I'd be off on a one-month course (the Youth Leaders Formation Course) at the end of the year, I'd have said the same.

But, as it happened, both of these things transpired. I went on YLFC, at which we had daily Mass, a nightly hour of Adoration, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, daily Rosary, four hours of lectures every day, went on a Parish Mission, had a silent retreat, among many other things. It was an intense but fabulous month, a great way to end my degree before starting my next.

I'd like to relate one last episode from the last two years. Earlier in the year, I had an operation, which meant I missed daily Mass for about 2 or 3 weeks, and I missed even 2 Sundays Masses in a row. My wonderful parents were able to bring me Holy Communion about every third day, on average, which was awesome, but not the same as daily Mass. During that time, I learnt a great deal about just how much I rely on the graces I receive from the Eucharist. Living the Christian life was WAY harder in that time than it had been in ages, even compensating for the fact that I was in quite a bit of pain.

I felt generally quite pathetic over those weeks, and was reminded of this terrifying thought: How different would I be if I were not Catholic? I am so dependent on God's grace providing me with the strength necessary to be a follower of Christ, and for Him to constantly be working to make me a new creation.

Truly, Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has left us with the most ridiculously awesome gift. Words fail. I hope this at least has challenged you to re-think your own attitude towards Mass, and whether that attitude reflects the reality of what it actually is.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Confession is one of the chief ways of being serious.

At iWitness 2012 the theme was the Sacraments. Dr Robert Tilley (former Calvinist, hence the Calvinist/ Protestant references below) gave the talk on Reconciliation. It was a real cracker. Gonna relay my notes from it here, but you should really listen to it. This was the first time I'd heard him, and I was just spellbound.

Life is not trivial

The fact is, depending on our decisions, we are continually changing for better or for worse. We have the ability to become more or less truly ourselves. Most religions claim that what we do in this life affects profoundly what comes after. Why?

This life is like soil. Each of our lives, sow seeds, plant our next life. It either blooms or withers eternally. (1 Cor. 15:20-58) This implies that life is not trivial. On the contrary, it is very serious. The soul is most important, a perspective which leads all the cares of this world to begin to look trivial.

Note that there is a difference between not having a care in the world, and having every care for the world. The saints had both of these. Sin doesn't hurt God insofar as it hurts Him to see us hurting ourselves and others.

Our consumerist culture would prefer that you see life as trivial. i.e. remain immature

It is only when we are serious that we are happy. However, our culture is fundamentally opposed to seriousness. It is based on consumerism.

To mature means to become a fully flourishing human being, which entails growing serious. We must grow in our understanding of responsibility to our own soul and to those of others. We must recognise that we have duties, as both citizens of this world and the world to come.

There is an increasing global investment in you staying immature, because it is beneficial for a consumer market economy. To be immature is to live in the moment, satisfying every desire immediately whenever possible. Adults who are immature are therefore simply cashed-up children. There are "toys" for people of all ages.

We think that's what  it is to have lived. To have indulged in every whim. Tourism tends to revolve around consuming experiences. In fact, you have not lived, for you have not grown in maturity, reason and moral responsibility. This requires personal effort, exercise of the will. We must learn to subordinate our feelings to reason, and to deepen them by discipline.

Where does Confession fit into all this?

The way we treat confession and sin reflects the way we treat being human.

Confession is one of the chief ways of being serious.

Calvinist approach- "direct confession" to God. Problem- very easily becomes trivial. "Oh, sorry God." Cheap grace. Trivial and cheap view of ourselves. Cheap view of reality, of Being. We see ourselves as unstable. Easy confession- leads to presumption.

Best and most appropriate way of confessing? Proper, perfect way to be human? The more serious way? In the film The Mission, Robert De Niro's character Rodrigo confesses to his crime of murder. Has a real sense of remorse. A sense of the seriousness of his sin. (Apologies, I couldn't find a clip of it. But that means you should go watch the whole movie! It's great.)

The sacrament of Confession has an objectivity that cuts through self-pleasing image of our sin. It helps us to be serious because it helps us to be responsible. Saying your sins aloud in the presence of another human being is a whole different experience to directly confessing to God. It keeps it private, when in fact your sins affect the whole Body of Christ. The embarrassment we feel in Confession, we  ought to feel before God, not just before another person.

The exercise of a true and good will is impossible without the grace of God. Grace is not an excuse for passivity. It revives you! Gives life. Works to free our will, so that we grow in conscious cooperation with the grace of God.

The world prefers to patronise us, and keep us as little children. People downplay confession.

When we start our conversion, we are usually full of zeal. However, life is long. Not short. We  settle back down in uneasy comfort.We lose our sense of urgency. Because you are no longer a child, you are meant to apply your will.

We are called to walk with God as friends, not always carried around like children.

Maturity is not aloneness, or total independence. We cannot forget the Church.

Confession tells us how dependent we are on God and others, and they on us. All responsible for each other. We need to be strong and mature enough to be a dependable source of strength for others, and humble enough to recognise others as sources of strength for us.

Rewards in heaven- great problem as a protestant.
Crowns- 1 Thess. 2:19-20- "What is our hope/joy/crown of boasting? It is you."
Our treasures in heaven that last forever- they are other people.

Rodrigo is forgiven

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Great Commentary on the new Dove Beauty Campaign

Go here for a great analysis of Dove's new Beauty Campaign.


"The message that we constantly receive is that girls are not valuable without beauty. My primary problem with this Dove ad is that it’s not really challenging the message like it makes us feel like it is. It doesn’t really tell us that the definition of beauty is broader than we have been trained to think it is, and it doesn’t really tell us that fitting inside that definition isn’t the most important thing. It doesn’t really push back against the constant objectification of women. All it’s really saying is that you’re actually not quite as far off from the narrow definition as you might think that you are (if you look like the featured women, I guess)."

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Convert me!

New page up top, provocatively titled "Convert me!"

I wanted it to say "Why aren't you Catholic?" But Blogger didn't like it because it was too long.

Go check it out! Comment there, not here.

It sure does.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Why I'm studying Theology

In my third year at Sydney, two important things happened.

1. I'm not sure exactly how I came to make this decision, but I decided, for Lent that year, to go to Mass every day. I think it was because of something that had bugged me a bit for years, but it finally reared its head properly and made me choose one way or the other: if I really believe what I claim to believe about the Eucharist, and what happens at Mass, then really, how many valid excuses are there for not being there everyday? "I don't feel like it/ can't be bothered/ would rather sleep in/ chill with friends" just don't cut it. So either I really believe I can meet Jesus Himself at Mass, or I don't, and I should act accordingly. I figured committing for Lent was at least somewhat achievable, and it would help me cultivate the habit. Also I tend to try to do too many things for Lent, and get overwhelmed, and end up doing nothing. I reckoned if I was receiving Jesus everyday, then surely other good habits will follow (like praying more).

Sure enough, that Lent completely turned my life upside-down. I hadn't realised how little I had previously considered what God might want when making life decisions. I hadn't realised how little attention I gave Him. I hadn't realised how little I knew Him. And I hadn't realised how little I loved Him, both in thought and in deed. By the end of Lent, I couldn't do without my daily Mass. Certainly it was (and is) tough sometimes, like when the only time I can make it is 7.30 or 8am in the city, which means leaving home by around 6.30. Yikes! Or at the end of a long day, which means getting home later, in the dark. But it's always been worth it.

Since Theology is the study of God, I think it's fairly obvious that it's all just meaningless theory without a real relationship with that God. So if I hadn't made that Lenten resolution, I would not be doing Theology.

2. I had quite a number of friends in the Sydney University Evangelical Union, which is the largest society at Sydney Uni (about 700 active members. The next largest would probably be 100 at most!), and consists of pretty much all the Protestants that go there (there are a few other, smaller Christian groups).

They elicited a promise from me that I would go the their annual conference, or, Ancon, that year. So at the start of third year I had a mini-freak-out, thinking, "I'm going on a conference for five days with hundreds of Protestants.... HELP!! What do they believe? What do I say when they ask me things? What do I think about our theological differences? Especially things like, where is that [insert Catholic teaching here] in the Bible?!"

So, I started going to their weekly talks (I was too scared to join a bible study until after Ancon), and staying afterwards to ask people questions. I thought through lots of stuff, and read HEAPS. In the end, the theological stuff absorbed me much more than my Maths.

Other factors- I realised I did NOT want to do honours in Pure Maths, which had been my not-very-well-thought-through plan for some time. I felt I had reached the limits of my mathematical abilities, and Honours-level Pure Maths just looked waaaay too hard. I also couldn't think of anything that grabbed me enough to do a project on.

This meant I was in limbo for a while, wondering what I would do the next year. I didn't feel ready to leave uni yet, full-time work did not appeal, and besides, working in what? Financial maths or stats? My least favourite types of Maths. Ugh. Teaching? Never been much of a public speaker.

Then the thought of studying Theology properly popped into my head. I had considered it briefly before, but I pretty much did Maths because I hated essays (nah, I did actually enjoy Maths, unbelievable as that may sound). Anyway, Theology means essays! Ew! I can just read lots and learn that way, can't I? But this particular time, it suddenly felt right. I somehow thought that essays might not actually be so bad, in fact, they could even be fun! (This was a major turn-around.) And the readings will be so interesting... and the lectures... and, just, everything. And Notre Dame looks so awesome, academically, aesthetically, spiritually... After seriously considering it for the first time, it looked possible. Prayed over some weeks, and came to the point where I just knew, this was where I was meant to be. Finally, there was a real sense of peace.

I still have no idea what I'm going to do with it. People ask me about future careers in Theology all the time, but the idea of a career has never been something I've really obsessed over. All I know is that it's where God wants me, for some reason. Part of the fun of doing God's will is finding out later on why He gets you to do stuff!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Church is the Incarnation of God the Son if and only if She is one, holy, catholic and apostolic

Ecclesiology Short Paper

Why is it important to understand the Church as apostolic?

The Church founded by Jesus Christ exhibits four visibly identifiable characteristics,[1] namely that she is one,[2] holy,[3] catholic[4] and apostolic.[5] If one of these “essential features”[6] was lacking, the rest would and indeed could not exist, as they are inseparable.[7] Thus, since the Church’s apostolicity is inherent to her very nature, and interacts with her other fundamental characteristics, understanding the Church requires understanding her as apostolic. This paper will argue that if the Church were not apostolic, then her oneness, holiness and catholicity would each be undermined to the point of nonexistence.
Apostolicity refers to the notion that the Church, through the office of bishop, preserves and hands on the truths of divine revelation, the content of the deposit of faith, as contained in both Scripture and Tradition.[8] The Church is founded on the Apostles because she is built on those original witnesses,[9] she guards and hands on the teaching received from them,[10] and because she continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by their successors, the bishops, in Christ’s name.[11] This apostolicity attains the fullness of its meaning when all of these aspects are working together.[12]
The Church’s oneness stems first and foremost from her source, founder and soul.[13] This is manifested through the bonds of unity, which are the profession of one faith received from the Apostles, common celebration of liturgy, and apostolic succession.[14] Each of these relies on the Church being apostolic. Professing one faith[15] is impossible without some principled means of distinguishing between those teachings handed down by the Apostles, and heretical ideas invented by false teachers.[16] This is the task of the magisterium:[17] to safeguard the true faith, defend it, and explain it.[18] Ensuring that divine worship takes place both in unity and in diversity is included in this deposit handed on through the ages, and so maintaining the tension between unity and diversity is also the charge of the successors to the Apostles. The visible bond of apostolic succession is obviously an intrinsic element of apostolicity, and it is these successors that constitute the very magisterium mentioned previously. Thus, unity can neither exist[19] nor be understood without reference to the apostolic nature of the Church.
The Church is holy because she is both Christ’s Bride and His Body, and as such is intimately connected to Him, thereby being sanctified by Him, and becoming sanctifying through and with Him.[20] This connection with Christ is severed if the Church is not apostolic, for the Apostles are the ones He sent,[21] and if the Church is not founded on them, the historical link with the One the Church claims to profess is lost, and thus cannot be the Church Christ founded.[22] The holiness of the Church’s members flows from the grace dispensed by the Church through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. This sacrament the bishop offers or causes to be offered is the one by which the Church lives and grows.[23] The Body of Christ (the Church) receives the Body of Christ (the Eucharist), becoming Christ in a mysterious way.[24] Thus these successors of the Apostles make possible the imparting of Christ’s abundant holiness to every member of the Church, and sanctify the faithful through the sacraments.[25]
Finally, the Church’s catholicity arises because of Christ’s presence in her,[26] and also because of the mission He has sent her on- to gather all of humanity around the world into Christ.[27] Every disciple of Christ is called to participate in this mission, but the bishops have a distinct role in bearing witness to the truth entrusted to them: all the baptised have a duty to speak of who Christ is for them, while the bishop’s role is to speak the fullness of truth regarding who Christ is, in a manner that transcends his personal experience.[28] The collegial character of the Episcopal order, insofar as the College is composed of many, expresses the universality of the Church.[29] Furthermore, the “variety of local churches with one common aspiration is splendid evidence of the catholicity of the undivided Church.”[30] Catholicity is closely tied to unity, in that the unity of the Church allows her proclamation to be consistent, so that as she takes her mission around the world, she remains the universal Church. This means that the arguments given above with regard to unity apply also to the Church’s catholicity, further illustrating the insuperable connection between these four marks.
The threads touched upon in this paper are found carefully tied up in this densely succinct sentence: “The Church as a living presence of the Divine Word mediated by apostolic succession and carried forward in history again depends upon the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit and is sacramentally embodied in the Eucharist.”[31] The Church is the Incarnation of God the Son, Jesus Christ, if and only if[32] she is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. In particular, therefore, apostolicity is integral to her identity. This results in the inevitable conclusion that to understand the Church at all, one must grasp what it means for the Church to be apostolic, and consider it in relation to her other defining characteristics.


Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2nd Edition, English translation for USA (Washington, USA: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997)

George, Francis Cardinal O.M.I., “God’s Point of View: Apostolicity and the Magisterium”, Nova et Vetera, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2008): pp. 271-290
New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 2, 2nd Edition, Berard Marthaler (ed.) (Washington, D.C.: Thomson Gale, 2003)

Second Vatican Council. Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium (21 November 1964)

The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

[1] It is important to note, however, that the Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.” CCC 811
[2] “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” Mt. 16:18 (emphasis added); Unless otherwise noted, all references from the Bible will be from the Revised Standard Version
[3] Rev. 21:2,9-11
[4] Mt. 28:19
[5] Rev. 21:14
[6] CCC 811
[7] Ibid.
[8] Francis Cardinal George O.M.I., “God’s Point of View: Apostolicity and the Magisterium”, p. 281
[9] Rev. 21:14
[10] Acts 2:42-“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”
[11] CCC 871, 873
[12] New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 2, pp. 595-6
[13] CCC 813
[14] CCC 815
[15] As we are exhorted to do by Paul in Eph. 4:4-6 and Phil. 1:27
[16] 2 Pet. 2:1
[17] The magisterium is the College of Bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome- CCC 873, 883
[18] Along with the other tasks of governing and sanctifying- CCC 873
[19] Although the bonds discussed refer specifically to the visible manifestation of the invisible, unchanging unity that derives from God being the source of the Church, the unity of the Church as one of the four marks does in fact refer to the visible aspect, since these four marks are, by definition, the visible identifiers of the true Church. Furthermore, in harmony with the understanding of the Church’s invisible realities being indivisible from her visible, just as the human person is a comprehensive unity of visible body and invisible soul, when her unity is not expressed as it ought to be, there is a certain diminishment in the perfection of the Church’s unity even if the underlying reality remains unchanged. In other words, by “exist” here we refer to the concrete realization of unity, rather than the unity that derives from Christ, which is untouchable.
[20] CCC 823-824
[21] Mt. 28:19
[22] There is also no guarantee that one has the fullness of the faith, since Christ sent the apostles to “make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded of you.” Mt. 28:19-20
[23] Second Vatican Council. Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (21 November 1964) 26 (hereafter LG)
[24] CCC 790; In Acts 9:4, we hear Christ ask Saul “Saul, why do you persecute me?” Christ identifies the Church (whom Saul is persecuting) with Himself, indicating that the Church is a continuation of the Incarnation.
[25] LG, 26
[26] CCC 830
[27] CCC 831
[28] Francis Cardinal George O.M.I., “God’s Point of View: Apostolicity and the Magisterium” , pp. 275-6
[29] LG, 22
[30] LG, 23
[31] Francis Cardinal George O.M.I., “God’s Point of View: Apostolicity and the Magisterium”, p. 280
[32] In the sense of being both necessary and sufficient, as these terms are used in formal logic