Is American Democracy Destroying Catholicism?

June 26th, 2009


INRI. Christ the King. King of Kings. In the Bible, Christ is a King, neither President nor Prime Minister. He was never elected by a slim majority or ushered in with an overwhelming mandate. He was, and is, a King. (In fact, the only time he was in a position to be elected he lost to Barabbas!)

 

Today’s world offers few images of true kingship. A few countries maintain titular monarchies or are led by individuals of varying despotism. But the awesome power of a king or queen is relegated to Wonderland’s “Off with her head!”

 

Catholics restate our acknowledgment of Christ’s kingship every Sunday in the Creed. We cannot claim greater personal authority yet still define ourselves as Catholic.

 

We are called to live the teachings of Christ’s Church to which we claim fealty including such socially discordant themes as abortion, gay marriage, divorce, and women priests. Many “Catholics” do not.

 

Church leadership must preach a consistent story of what the Church teaches. Church members must hold the leadership responsible for doing so.

 

Christ is the King. He has not asked for a show of hands to determine what is right. He has spoken. If we are to be His followers, it is for us to obey.

Advent — Joyful or Penitential

November 29th, 2008


When we look at Advent today we see it as a festive time. Christ is coming! Rejoice! Alleluia! So why do priests wear purple vestments as though it was a time of penitence? Why is the music supposed to be subdued, almost sorrowful? Isn’t that reserved for Lent?

 

Actually we look at Advent today like Monday morning quarterbacks. We already know what is going to happen. Christ has already come and saved the world, so what is there to be worried about?

 

In reality, however, Advent permits us to reexamine the waiting for Christ through the eyes of those who lived thousands of years ago. Our Jewish forefathers knew that mankind was sinful and had offended God. They knew that we had been promised a Messiah but did not know when He would come. So they anticipated His coming with a certain level of worry and concern, hoping and praying that He would indeed live up to His promises.

 

Again we live in a time of uncertainty — not knowing when He will come back. The Advent period reminds us of two things: we rejoice in the coming of Christ at Christmas, but must remain in a state of repentance until He comes again to pronounce our final judgment.

Corporate Executives and Greed

October 20th, 2008


The 50X Club

 

The fully implemented minimum wage law ensures that the lowest paid Americans will earn $7.25 per hour. Meanwhile, the President of the United States earns $450,000 in salary and allowances. Accepting that the Chief Executive works 50 hour weeks and is paid for all 52 of them in a year, then he is receiving roughly $173.00 per hour. In simple language, the President makes about 24 times as much per hour as the field hand or burger flipper. Given the level of responsibility, this is understandable.

 

But compare this 24:1 ratio for public servants’ payroll to those in private industry. Forbes lists Lawrence J. Ellison (Oracle Corporation) as the highest compensated CEO, earning $192,920,000 last year. The ratio this time is 10234:1. Mr. Ellison might do his company good, but his excessive compensation is obscene.

 

Corporations should pledge to limit their senior executive compensation to some multiplier of their lowest paid employees. A 25x pledge would be nice, and reflects our government pay. But let’s permit companies some flexibility and accept a 50x pledge. While near-poverty-level employees make $25,000 the CEO can still rake in $1,250,000. But a pay hike or bonus at the top means pay raises all the way down.

 

Fair? Not even close. But it’s a start.

LHC Flakes Out

October 19th, 2008

Well the earth has survived. When the Large Hadron Collider first went live for a limited test, absolutely nothing happened. It was almost like the scientists had it right. But then they went and attempted to start the whole thing for real a few weeks later. Something went sizzle, pop, hiss, and the whole multi-billion dollar program went up in … well, not smoke exactly; it was more like a fog of liquid coolant.

 

Now they tell us that it will be months before it can be up and running. Not all of that time will be due to the needed repairs, of course. They already had several months off built into the schedule. So just where do I sign up for a deal like that? Already much of Europe closes for August. Now they have Winter Break as well. Yeah. Somehow I feel ripped off, working five days a week, 48 weeks a year.

 

But now more than ever it is my work that I must be about. All of the promises about LHC-generated black holes are tossed into the rubbish bin. So for months on end all of us pawns in the great game of life must continue to do our work, pay our bills, love as we are taught. Bummer.

On Believing in God (part 2)

August 14th, 2008

Doctors and the Proof of God

The greatest of the Church’s thinkers are Doctors of the Church St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine of Hippo.

Saint Thomas identified five proofs for the existence of God. Among these, his first proof is based on motion. He noted that things do not move unless acted upon by some outside force. Therefore, the first thing ever to move required a prime mover to give it a nudge. What makes this proof noteworthy is that St. Thomas lived fully three centuries before Galileo’s Theory of Inertia and four centuries before Newton’s First Law of Motion!

Augustine had lived some nine centuries earlier. He satisfied himself with a single proof. He examined the things around him and realized that there was a hierarchy:

  • Rocks exist, are not alive, and are not aware;
  • Plants exist, and are alive, but are not aware;
  • Animals exist, are alive, are aware, and can manipulate their environment;
  • Humans exist, are alive, aware and manipulative, and can also reason.

Yet humans lack the ability to create animals, plants, or even rocks. By implication, then, there exists a higher power capable of doing so. The uppermost reaches of this hierarchy must include some all-powerful and all-capable being.

We know this hierarchical prime mover as… God.

On Believing in God (part 1)

August 7th, 2008

…in Unum Deum

Junior High is a terrible time to relocate, but that’s when my family upped stakes and moved west. So it was with a group of new friends in the summer of 1966 that I sat reading magazines. One major story proclaimed in a big banner headline: God Is Dead. We hadn’t heard that in church so it came as a bit of a shock.

It was amusing, then, when the following month’s edition had a letter to the editor (written by a Jesuit, no doubt) saying simply, “My God is doing fine. Sorry to hear about yours.” We found the letter amusing for its content, but moreso for the fact it was written by a priest. What was a priest doing writing to Playboy magazine?!

(We, altar boys and boy scouts all, were reading it for the articles. Of course.)

For the first time, however, I had cause to think about just who and what God is. I knew God’s job description from rote memorization of the Baltimore Catechism. God is eternal, all good, all knowing, all present, all holy, all wise, all merciful, all just and almighty. (Why isn’t that “all mighty”?)

But how could I believe in Him not knowing He still existed?

That would take some thought.

What I Believe “Believe” to be

August 6th, 2008

 

“I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.”

Nuts! I’ve seen some real Texas gully washers and believe you me – were there a flower for every raindrop you’d be looking at a jungle the likes of which would terrify Tarzan!

So what does it mean to believe in something?

I believe it means to hold something as being true, based on evidence, experience, or rational thought.

  • I believe that you are standing on my foot.
  • I believe that any government project will cost more than they are telling me.
  • Trees exist. I cannot create trees. I believe that some entity much greater than I created trees.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary surprises me by listing the first definition of believe as:

  • to have a firm religious faith.

(My surprise is not the accuracy of the definition, but the fact that in this secular world the issue of religion takes first place in anything outside of a church!)

More interesting than that is the etymology of the word believe. Tracing it back historically, the word is rooted in an Old English word, lēof, which means dear, and is also one of the roots for the word love.

How fascinating that to believe in God is to love Him. And how true.

Who is this “I” who Believes?

August 3rd, 2008

Credo…

I believe.

This is where it all begins, with the pronoun “I”. The speaker is about to proclaim what he believes to be the truth. In church on Sunday we say “We believe…” (credimus) to reinforce that we speak as the Body of the Church and together proclaim our beliefs. (Just as a warning: don’t be surprised if we go back to “I believe” when the new Latin to English translations are introduced sometime in 2011-2012.)

But who is this “I” who does the believing? How do I know that “I” exist? It is one of the fundamental questions of philosophy.

French philosopher Descartes is famous for his “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am). In truth he was beaten by more than a thousand years by our own Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, who wrote, “Si fallor, sum” (Even if I am wrong, I am!).

So it is quite safe to believe in our own existence. And it is with confidence, then, that we should learn from our senses and decide in just what we believe.

It might still be good to remain slightly reserved. Perhaps a better mantra for our existence might be stated thusly: “Cogito ergo sum. Cogito.”

I think, therefore I am…

I think.

A Starting Point – Belief

August 2nd, 2008

Credo in unum Deum… 

I believe in one God.

This is the starting line of the Nicene Creed, which clearly outlines the fundamental set of beliefs for Catholics and for many Protestant denominations as well. But rarely have I seen this single prayer dissected and explained in detail. I think that it should be explored thoroughly as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program so the people know what they’re really signing up for. And those who are already Catholics should review just what it is they recite each Sunday at Mass.

Over some extended period of time, I hope to explore The Creed and other bits of Catholicism. The exploration will be in small, easily digestible pieces that hopefully will, by the end, form a mosaic of true belief.

Most people know Catholicism only by its long tradition of “smells and bells”. But its two thousand years of tradition is much more than that. Jewish teachings and traditions, thousands of years older, are the foundation of modern Christianity.

After all, Jesus Christ was a Jew. 

So what we believe, about God, about salvation, and about our very purpose for being on this earth, is based on millennia of teaching and learning.

We should think about that some time.

Of Mustard Seeds

August 1st, 2008

Matthew 17:20

 

Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.

 

 

Most people have never seen a mustard seed. It’s nice to know that faith the size of a mustard seed will move mountains, but how much faith is that?

 

I contacted Plochman’s Mustard Company, mustard makers for over a century and the logical experts. I asked the obvious question: How many mustard seeds go into an ounce of finished mustard. And they don’t know! Mustard seeds, it seems, come from plants just packed to the gills with the little things and nobody has ever counted just how many. Where are the facts when you need them? Somebody needs to take up the challenge and start counting. Don’t sneeze!

 

There is also the implication that faith, a rather non-physical entity, must somehow achieve mass in order to provide the impetus for moving mountains. Scientists are still working out the connection between the physical and the metaphysical. Are Faith and the Higgs Boson somehow inextricably linked? Could the parable of the mustard seed actually be a forewarning that the Large Hadron Collider is going to rearrange the Alps?

 

In 9 days we’ll know.