Category: Doctrine

Giving Pope Francis Time to Learn to ‘Be Pope’

'Father Z'
‘Father Z’

I had a post half written and intended on finishing it this evening. Then I read Father Z’s blog and noticed that he wrote a post that essentially steals my thunder, which isn’t the first time.1 In his post he talks about something which I did  not intend to write about, but that dovetails into this post quite well: Pope Francis purportedly read Romano Guarini, and wrote on his “Spirit of the Liturgy.”

An interesting factoid.

What I planned on writing in my post was how we are all very quick to pit Pope against Pope, and to even judge and weigh the early actions of Pope Francis; not only against our theological and canonical knowledge, but also against Benedict’s pontificate. It seems foolish that we would judge quite so harshly someone, and something, that is new and probably quite unexpected for all concerned.

As Father Z said:

Moreover, as I have been saying all along, Pope Francis needs some time to learn how to be Pope.  We also have to learn to have him be our Pope.

So  let us exercise patience and prayer.


  1. Where are the thought copyright police when you need them?? Which is not to say that I am as smart as he, or that I come up with great ideas all that often… []

Cardinal Mahony Drives Wedge Between Popes

As I have started to write about, there is some sort of division that is brewing amongst some Catholic faithful. It seems that some Catholics that were not fans of Pope Benedict’s liturgical reforms have found a way to drive a wedge between him and Pope Francis. The wedge is ‘the poor’ or social justice in general.

Instead of talking about redoubling our efforts to ensure that we are living lives of service, some high ranking Catholics in the institutional Church as well as the media have started this narrative. At first it seemed to be an undercurrent but it has now popped up in a major way.

Diane from Te deum laudamus Blog and one of the Brothers Archbold have highlighted the tweets of Cardinal Mahony who has thrown fuel on to the fire in recent days. Here are his tweets:

Mohony Tweets

Read what Diane and Pat Archbold have to say… and let us pray about this situation. We cannot have the faithful divided in half over a misapplication of doctrine and theology.

Pope Francis: A Piece to the Puzzle, or Whole New Picture?

I have a more lengthy post that I am trying to write about the “Battle” going on currently in the blogosphere over who Pope Francis is, and how various “groups” within the Church view him as our new Pope.

While doing so I ran across an image that I pray will become the reality of his Papacy. Now, I don’t believe we really know what his Papacy will be like as it is much, much too early. That being said, folks are laying down their money and placing their bets.

In a perfect world, Pope Francis would maintain a line of continuity with the past two Popes and become a piece of the overall puzzle. The following picture is my hope for the pontificate of Pope Francis:

faith hope love

Sede Vacante: And now we pray


If you are waking up in America today you might have the urge to look out the window to see if the power is still on, if there are riots in the streets, or maybe even to make sure zombies aren’t shuffling around. We are now in the papal interregnum and the ‘Sequestration’ deadline has now passed, with no deal.

If you are like me, you have probably heard a lot about both of these things, but in reality you aren’t quite sure how it is going to affect your day-to-day. You know it is supposed to be “doom-and-gloom” but so far the roads are still drivable and the water is still on. Leaving aside the whole economic turmoil of fiscal-armageddon, we as a Church are without its leader and we face an unknown future, which by media accounts should be one of modernization, change, and philosophical upheaval.

If my last thought added to your already sky-rocketing anxiety, I apologize. My advice is don’t read stories about the Church in secular papers. It is like asking your barber for car advice. In fact, don’t read too many stories about the Church at all right now. There isn’t much we can do to affect or alter the course of things at this point except to pray.

The Pope is a genius like that. He has been imploring the Church for the past few decades to dive into prayer, place Christ at the center of our lives, and decrease who we are so as to allow Christ to increase in the world. He spent his papacy fighting to “reform the reform” and as his last act he abruptly stepped aside. In essence, he is telling us and showing us how to be still and let God work.

While a few have criticized his decision, we would do more good to ask what now instead of how come. Benedict’s comments yesterday were about obedience, and so in that line of thinking, we too should focus on obedience. Obedience to Christ, and to the teachings of the Church. Many on the progressive side of the Church, and the heretical sects have argued that we shouldn’t follow “a man,” the Pope, but the “message of the Gospel.”1 They have argued for decades now that “We are Church.” That the people have supplanted the Bride of Christ on earth, and really that was the true intent.

Yet, those same free-thinkers are now clamoring for “change,” again. This time of discernment and decision for the Church is about their “wants,” and not the needs of the Church – at least to them. The post-Vatican II upheaval wasn’t enough. Now, we have to modernize again. The message of Christ becomes stale after a while, or at least we are left to assume. So now we must take up ideas of “women priests,” “same-sex marriage,” married priests, stronger roles for the laity, and other things on their social2 The truth be told, many of us have also lost sight of what we can, or should do in this time.

So as we refelct on this period, let us take some time to uphold the Church. Let us talk fondly of Benedict and how important Popes are and what this one in particular has meant to us. Let us “be free from all anxiety” and when we are nervous, let us ask the Holy Spirit to come down and guide the Church.

The interregnum is upon us. We are a people without – Sede Vacante.

And now we pray.

  1. Of course they want you to follow their interpretation of the Gospel, but don’t mind the logical inconsistency there. []
  2. as opposed to theological) agenda.

    Those of us on the more traditional and conservative side of things have our wants as well. More latin, more tradition, papal tiaras, more kneeling, more silence, and less Haugen-Haas hymn “ice-cream sandwich” Masses. We want a Pope that re-institutes this or that, and hope he  finally cracks down on women and pants. ((If you don’t get this reference, it is a joke. For the record, my wife is allowed to wear pants whenever she wants – on Saturdays. Another joke. []

Bringing the Church to Life: The Wisdom of Pope Benedict’s ‘Abdication’


In G.K. Cheston’s masterpiece, Manalive, the famous quote states:

“I am going to hold a pistol to the head of the Modern Man. But I shall not use it to kill him–only to bring him to life.”

Even out of context, this quote is powerful and more than likely elicits thoughts within readers of what Chesterton meant by the provocative text. In today’s modern world, it isn’t a hard argument to make that many souls wander aimlessly throughout the world more dead than alive, even as blood courses through their veins with little to know intent on ceasing.

Without spoiling the story for those that haven’t read it, Manalive is a masterpiece and becomes more, dare I say, relevant every day. Chesterton teaches us, in his “subtle as a brick over the head” kind of wa,y that we have chosen our own path of self-destruction and we only need admit this and pick another course. Instead though, modern man prefers the folly of modernity and self-destruction over that of a moral life because the former is more gratifying. ((This is true in a subjective sense, but usually involves insta- vs. long-term gratification, of course.))

What the quote does, is it teaches through opposite expectations.1 When we hear the phrase, “…pistol to the head,” death is instantly conjured. Instead though, Chesterton assures us that it is life that he seeks. Similarly, we find ourselves in that same situation in the waning days of Benedict’s Pontificate.

Pope Benedict is often credited with saying that he, or the Church itself, will in the future be a “smaller, purer Church.” While I, or anybody else for that matter, am hard-pressed to find that exact quote, I have found one that might be the genesis for it. In a book, Faith and Future published in 1969-70, Benedict wrote:

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.”

So while this isn’t exactly “…smaller, purer…” it is fairly close. Without arguing if they are the same, this quote can stand on its own. Elizabeth Scalia has the rest of the quote, and puts it in better context. For our purposes though, he isn’t talking about a smaller Church because it is dying, or even a bad thing. It is a purification, even if it isn’t the same purer as is insinuated by the wrongly-attributed quote.

As we fast-forward over four decades to present-day, we see the Pope himself laying down his staff to some degree. The bigger demands that the Church is making on all of us, he seems to have said that he can no longer bear. So is Benedict then caving under these demands? Is he saying the Church is too much? Is he saying society is crushing the Church to the point that even he, the Holy Spirit inspired leader of the Church, can no longer bear its burdens?

In fact, I will argue the opposite. He is stepping aside not to signify, or accept, that the Church is losing… but in fact  – to bring it to life.

For many of us that are fans of Pope Benedict, his teachings, and his direction as Pope – the idea of losing Benedict was, and now is, frightening. From Summorum Pontificum, to the humble way he lead and taught, Pope Benedict was an answer to prayers as we found our way out of the darkness that came on the heels of the modernization in the Church.

But what we have gained in theology and liturgical “reform of the reform,” many of us have lost in the simplest of teachings – community. For so many of us we cared less how far we had to travel, or where we had to find purer Church, we were willing to make the sacrifice. What we lost in the process was the human connection to the Divine. We had forsaken Jesus’ direction to John and his Mother while on the Cross, to find the purity of the upper room.

So as we descend into some difficult days ahead, full of fear and unknowing, whom do we have to support us through the days ahead? Certainly we have not let go of the hand of Christ, but do we have those around us to walk unified through whatever may be ahead on this path? Have we driven so far as to leave behind any sort of support network should we face days of trial?

If the Pope’s decision can teach us anything, especially his most ardent and thankful supporters, it should be that He must increase, and we must decrease. If we truly believe that we are the Body of Christ, we must be that in such a way that isn’t synthetic but authentic. If we believe in that beauty will save the world, and therefore “Save the Liturgy, Save the World, then we must also believe that love can conquer the world. tumblr_m5mfm85Du41rxsshoo1_500

There is no greater love, than for a man to lay down his life for another. Yet, if the only life we have laid down is the person inside of us wanting something or desiring something, even if it is true, beautiful, or good… we still have forgotten our brothers and sisters beside us.

So let us come alive in these next few days, and weeks. Let us take this opportunity to become smaller – as people, as a Church, and as communities. Let us reduce down our daily lives to that which is important. If Christ is our center, than those whom He loves should also be our center.

Love can, and will, conquer the world. The Pope is stepping aside not to end his teachings, not to quit – but to begin their rebirth,  to bring them fully alive.

He must increase, we must decrease.

  1. I am sure this is a literary or rhetorical device of some type, but I didn’t feel confident to classify it correctly. []

Crisis Magazine: ‘Some Bishops Want Your Guns’

Nicholas Hahn had a very interesting piece in Crisis Magazine yesterday entitled: “Some CrisisBishops Want Your Guns.” The article stemmed from recent comments made by Bishops regarding the tragic events at Newton and President Obama’s recent remarks concerning “Gun Control.”

Hahn explains that while Bishops have a peacemaking role, some seem to be overstepping their roles and Catholic teaching by “signing on” to some of the recent actions being taken against gun rights in the United States.

The heart of his post though is an argument he makes about the rights of Catholics, under Church teaching, for self-defense. As he writes:

Fr. Lombardi isn’t the only one to take aim at your guns. In fact, the U.S. Bishops have been calling for handgun “elimination” as early as 1990. In 2006 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace suggested that States ought to “impose a strict control on the sale of handguns and small arms. Limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe upon the rights of anyone.” The Council may not recognize your right to a legitimate defense, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church does. It is “legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.” And if “he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.”

Is a gun moderate? Ask a rape victim. Or a child.

The Catechism goes on to affirm defense as “a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.” In the light of the Catechism, the National Rifle Association’s brave suggestion that teachers (who are “responsible for the lives of others”) be armed doesn’t seem so crazy after all.

So then, do we have a ‘right’ as much as Hahn asserts that we do, to “bear arms” and defend ourselves and our families? Does this defensive right come into play in a gun rights discussion because of proportionality or “equality”?NunsWithGuns1

For Catholics, the idea of a ‘right to bear arms’ is a very complicated set of ideas. If for no other reason than cultural, we do not carry weapons around with us publicly, the way we used to a hundred or two-hundred years ago. Yet it would seem that the philosophical reasons behind a right to defense would still exist today. How guns, gun rights, and technology come into all of that is another question.

Unfortunately, I believe we are at a point where philosophy, pragmatism, and reality are smashing headlong into one another. Depending on which ship you sail most often, you see this problem – the one of violence and tragedy, differently from others. As for me, what animates my beliefs are the sentiment that Hahn writes in his piece:

The Catechism goes on to affirm defense as “a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.”

As a father, and as someone that views myself naturally as a ‘protector,’ this is what I struggle with everyday. How to reconcile the Catechism, my patriotic beliefs, and my Catholic virtues. That is why I believe my best weapons are the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.

The Altar Server [Video]

The following video is a must see. Every parish should show this to parents and to those wishing to serve at the Altar.


Also, there is an interesting discussion going on over at IgnitumToday regarding Altar servers and the vocational benefits to having only male Altar servers. It seems it is one of those topics like chapel veils, the extraordinary form, and other sensitive subjects that gets people into a commenting frenzy.

The Altar Rail: A Deacon’s Change of Heart

DSC_0091There are few topics in the Catholic blogosphere as “hot button” as the best or proper means/method to receive Holy Communion. The debate is often rekindled by some news item here or there, and the most recent article is no exception. Except this time it comes from a quite unexpected source.

Deacon Greg Kandra once famously defended and argued for the Standing/In-The-Hand posture. He said, “Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate.” Since Deacon Kandra is no small player in the Catholic blog world, this post is oft-sighted by those on that side of the fence. Yet, the good Deacon’s most recent post: Communion Rails: Restoring a Sense of the Sacred might be a game changer.

The entire article is worth reading but I post for reference the heart of the post:

The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?

Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out.

Can kneeling to receive on the tongue help alleviate some of this? Well, it can’t hurt. And for this reason: to step up to a communion rail, and kneel, and receive on the tongue, is an act of utter and unabashed humility. In that posture to receive the Body of Christ, you become less so that you can then become more. It requires a submission of will and clear knowledge of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what is about to happen to you.

These are the arguments that many of us have made for a while now, and is the reason that many more orthodox parishes are reinstalling the rails. Surely this will come as an afront to many that fear a “backwards” walk into a pre-Vatican II Church, but this has to due with the “Source and Summit” of our Christian life. As Kandra states, we have depleted our modern liturgy, and frankly our faith in general, of reverence and awe.

Pope Benedict XVI gives communion to a nYet, this isn’t about right and wrong, and those in the blogosphere ready to throw out an “I told you so…” should remember why they hold the belief they do. It isn’t that they are better, but they simply accept that they are so weak. It is precisely because we are so incapable of understanding, accepting, or remembering what it is that we are participating in at Mass that we need these external reminders. It is precisely because we are so broken that we needed God to send us His only Son.

Kneeling isn’t a sign of superiority, but a sing of humility and submission. Likewise, we should act as if this isn’t about enforcing supremacy on others, but instead about compelling ourselves to see the need for submission. Many of us in the the “traditional” wing of the Church forget that our battle isn’t to prove that “our way is better” but that we need what we call, and Deacon Kandra agrees, the “Sense of the Sacred.”

As Kandra concluded,

It demands a sense of the sacred. It challenges us to kneel before wonder, and bow before grace. It insists that we not only fully understand what is happening, but that we fully appreciate the breathtaking generosity behind it. It asks us to be mindful of what “Eucharist” really means: thanksgiving.

I don’t see that much today. It’s gone. We need to reclaim it. Pope Benedict XVI seems to agree. He has decided he will only give communion at papal Masses to those who kneel and receive on the tongue. He was gently making a liturgical point. Are we paying attention?

After what I’ve seen, I agree with him. We need to get off our feet, and on our knees.

Bring back the communion rail. It’s time.

It is time. Not because I say so, or even because the good Deacon says so. The Pope’s teaching though, that should be headed. He has been working his entire pontificate, and really during his entire life, to bring us closer to the truth and thereby closer to God. This isn’t about style or preference, this is about theology. This is about committing ourselves to Christ fully and completely. It is an affront to our autonomy, it is a reminder that Christ is our Savior and the first step to admitting that is physically positioning ourselves at the most important moment of our faith life in a way that reflects that.

Christ held high, therefore we position ourselves humbly.

He must increase, I must decrease.


Cardinal Dolan’s Address at the USCCB General Assembly

Cardinal Dolan’s address, which he gave to the General Assembly of the USCCB fall meeting is worth reading. The blogs are already lighting up over it, and many are focusing on the hint that we could see the American Church reinstate Friday abstinence.

Please go read it at the USCCB Website. It is important that all Catholics know the heart and mind of the Church, as well as our role as the laity. Continue reading


Subsidiarity Explained – A CatholicVote Video

CatholicVote is well known for producing really powerful videos. The newest one is no exception. Although it is a slightly different focus, it is still good nonetheless. The newest video tackles subsidiarity in about 3 minutes and with a wipe-off board.

Check it out:


Bishop Paprocki and the 2012 Election

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Much attention was given at the Democratic National Convention held recently in Charlotte, N.C., to the fact that all references to God had been purged from the draft version of the party platform. After outcries of protest from outside as well as within the Democratic Party, the sentence with the same reference to God used in 2008 was restored to read, “We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.” Continue reading