On empty rituals

birthday party empty ritual v2
Birthday parties are cultural rituals.

Let’s say you were good friends with your neighbor. She has a young son, and she invites you to his birthday party. You decide to go because you care about your neighbor, but you don’t really want to be there because he’s just a little kid, and a noisy one at that. So you go, but you don’t have a good time. The kids are laughing and having a good time, but you’re not. You notice, however, that other adults are having a good time. They’re smiling and laughing at the kids’ antics. Finally, as soon as you think you can get away, you make an excuse to leave.

Birthday celebrations are rituals. We might say that you experienced an empty birthday party, an empty ritual. What made it empty?

Did the son make it empty? Was it the other kids? The neighbor? The kids’ laughter? The fact that it was a birthday party? Why was it an empty ritual for you but apparently not for the other adults?

It might be that you didn’t fill the ritual with anything. Rituals require faith, hope, and love to see into them, to their meaning. It is possible that bringing faith, hope, and love to the neighbor’s son’s birthday party would have changed the event for you.

If the ritual seems empty, that might not be your fault. It could be that nobody taught you how to fill it, or that you even needed to fill it. I’ve seen that a lot. If you don’t know how to fill the ritual, then look around and see if you know anybody who does. I bet they can help you.

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It’s just Catholic, not Roman Catholic

catholic with a frame
Catholic: with respect to the whole, or, universal.

Generally speaking, it’s not correct to refer to the Catholic Church as the Roman Catholic Church. People do it all the time, but that isn’t how the universal Church refers to herself. It is too narrow of a name, and a bit contradictory if applied to the entire Church. Catholic means “universal,” or, “pertaining to the whole.” You will see some Catholic Churches use the phrase “Roman Catholic,” in their title, but this just means that they are Latin Rite. There are 23 rites in the Catholic Church. For example, there is a Chaldean rite, a Melkite rite, a Maronite rite, and so on. It would be completely improper to refer to a Chaldean Catholic as a Roman Catholic. Such a person is in full communion with the Catholic Church and the successor of St. Peter, but is not Roman Catholic.

So I recommend referring to anybody in full communion with the Catholic Church and successor of St. Peter as a Catholic, and the Church led by him as the Catholic Church. If you must use the term Roman Catholic, only use it with those Catholics who worship under the Latin rite, like I do. Don’t use it to refer to the entire Church–it’s just not correct to do so.

Melkite Catholic Church

Even though it this church is not Roman Catholic, I could go to mass here to fulfill my Sunday obligation. They don’t call it mass though. They call it Divine Liturgy. Check out their bulletin. It’s partially written in Arabic, even though it is located in Los Angeles. There is so much diversity in the Catholic Church!

Even though I worship under the Latin rite, you can call me Catholic instead of Roman Catholic. That works best for me.

For Reformation Day: Protestantism hurt and confused me

Reposting this from last year. A brief synopsis of my personal experiences within Protestantism.

https://everybodysdaughter.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/protestantism-hurt-and-confused-me/

For Reformation Day: Bible conundrum

I recently had an online disagreement with somebody, a Protestant. I asked her to cite Bible verses to support her position. So she did. I replied I disagreed with her interpretation of those verses. Then I asked her if I had an obligation to accept her interpretation. I also said that if her answer was yes, that I DID have an obligation to accept her interpretation, then to tell me where or from whom she received her authority to impose her interpretation upon me (and presumably upon every other Christian). Then I asked her what we should do if I disagreed with her claim about the source of her authority. Her response was that I was using an ad hominem. I responded by saying that I was not criticising her, but I was criticising her presupposition. So it wasn’t an ad hominem.

Here is the syllogism:

  • Since God is one, He does not change, and He only teaches one truth, there can only be one objectively correct interpretation of Scripture.
  • There is disagreement of what Scripture means between two or more Christians of good will. They all can see this.
  • No parties to the dispute have authority to enforce the correct interpretation, but one or more do not realize this. One or more believes that making better arguments or citing more or better Scripture verses is the way to resolve the dispute. Yet the dispute is never resolved.
  • No agreement is made. Visible fractures develop between Christians, since the parties to the dispute all believe themselves to understand the correct interpretation of Scripture (which is a tacit reinforcement of the first point above).

By what authority may somebody enforce the one and only correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture when there is a disagreement between Christians of good will?

Neglecting contraception is a big mistake

Is it possible to argue effectively against the Sexual Revolution without arguing against contraception? I do not believe it is. It is clear that many Christians who are against certain aspects of the Sexual Revolution (such as abortion and same-sex marriage) are in favor of Christians using contraception. But I see a definite link between the two.

So what is the Sexual Revolution? Let’s look at some secular sources. Google, which seems to have scraped this definition from Oxford Dictionary, defines it as:

the liberalization of established social and moral attitudes toward sex, particularly that occurring in western countries during the 1960s, as the women’s liberation movement and developments in contraception instigated greater experimentation with sex, especially outside of marriage.

Wikipedia says that it is:

a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships (primarily marriage). The normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.

Dictionary.com says that the Sexual Revolution was:

A drastic relaxation in general standards of sexual behavior. The most recent occurred in the 1960s and was helped by the introduction of the Pill, an easy and reliable method of preventing pregnancy.

It should be clear that contraception is inseparable from the Sexual Revolution. So why do most Christians fall silent when it comes to contraception?

Contraception is very seductive. Instead of sex being a presumptively fertile activity, sex becomes a presumptively sterile activity. The appeal of sex without babies is strong. Many people who use contraception seem to believe that they have a “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. A right to pregnancy-free coitus completely explains the problem of abortion.

The United States Supreme Court alluded to this “right” for pregnancy-free coitus in its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992. This decision, the subject of which was not contraception but rather abortion, mentions the word “contraception” nine times, and “birth control” once. For example:

“[P]eople…have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.

“It should be recognized, moreover, that in some critical respects, the abortion decision is of the same character as the decision to use contraception...”

Contraception is the main lynchpin here, not abortion.

It should not be a surprise then that a survey conducted in 2015 of women who had abortions, 70% identified as Christians, over 40% said they attended church once a month or more, and 20% said they attended church at least once a week. Given that they identify as Christians, there is a disconnect somewhere with these women. I propose that a major disconnect has happened within Christian circles that do not explicitly reject contraception. They have accepted the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. By so doing, the logic must follow, and abortions will happen.

Undoubtedly, some who use contraception and still become pregnant do not choose abortion. But they reveal their reliance on the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus by saying that they were not “intending” pregnancy, and/or by labeling those children as “happy accidents” or worse, as mistakes. The child’s very existence should be evidence that there is no “right” for pregnancy-free coitus, that sex is not a sterile act. But rather than rejecting the “right” to pregnancy-free coitus as a false right that has no basis in reality, we adopt intentions and labels that cover for it because we love the pleasure of sex more than we love truth. By labeling a child like that, we are saying to them, “You are an accident, and your existence does not undermine my right to pregnancy-free coitus. Since you were an accident, I was being generous to allow you to live, because you came into existence in violation of my right.” Either the child is a gift from God with an intact ontology and personal anthropology that adults are bound to respect as a duty in justice, or the child is an accident who lives at the pleasure of his parents. I do not see a middle ground here. In fact, what I see is an inequality between those who have their personal anthropology and ontology respected by their parents, the legal system, and the wider society, and those who do not receive such respect.

Same-sex marriage eventually became accepted, and this follows the logic established by contraception. A “right” for pregnancy-free coitus among fertile opposite-sex couples means that sex is presumptively a sterile act. If sex is presumptively sterile, then there is no need to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, because children are no longer logically integral to marriage or coitus.

Given the separation of marriage, sex, and children that has been widely accepted in Christendom, there is not much left to justify the exclusion of same-sex couples from enjoying the benefits of civil marriage. After all, by accepting the suppression of children from sex and marriage, this elevated sterile sexual pleasure to the highest sexual good for many Christians. If sterile sexual pleasure is indeed the highest sexual good, then it is illogical to exclude couples who can never under any circumstances bear their own children.

If sterile sexual pleasure is the highest sexual good, then it could be argued that same-sex sexual relations are superior to opposite-sex sexual relations, since there is no chance of an unwanted intruder (pregnancy) imposing himself into a same-sex sexual relationship. See, for example, some homosexual advocates’ use of the term “breeders” as a derogatory way to label opposite-sex couples who bear children. Also, if children are licitly separated from sex and marriage, then it is logical for them to be obtained in a manner that disrespects their ontology, such as by utilizing third-party reproduction.

Infertility does not undermine what I am saying. In the real world, the world based on facts that impact real human beings, some opposite-sex couples with unwanted infertility do conceive children, and some opposite-sex couples who contracept also conceive children. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said in the film Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.”

Many will completely discount this point. For them, life doesn’t find a way. Instead they turn everything upside down. Like the scientists employed in the lab of Jurassic Park, they find a way for life. This means a few things:

  1. They believe they are bigger than life, that they can, and that they ought to, control the creation of life in a direct manner.
  2. They’ve built their lives and their entire worldview on certain aspects of “sexual freedom.” Curtailing this “freedom” means a lifestyle change. Not easy to do, and there are no worldly incentives to actually do it.
  3. They unwittingly place sterile coitus in a more prominent position than human life conceived at unexpected times. Even if they are otherwise pro-life, this undermines their pro-life position.

Let’s consider a different angle: when human life is spontaneously conceived, it is exercising an important form of freedom. It comes into being apart from the explicit will of another human being. Nobody commanded it to come into existence. Certain conditions happened (a sperm found an egg), and the life sprang into being. This phenomenon is an overlooked aspect of human freedom. The Sexual Revolution’s adherents need total control over the creation of human life, because spontaneous human life interferes with sexual pleasure. That form of freedom must be suppressed, because spontaneously created human life imposes unwanted obligations upon others. It is difficult to accept that an orgasm has eternal, or at least long lasting, consequences, and eliminating unwanted obligations while maximizing sexual pleasure is at the very heart of the Sexual Revolution, even if it means killing hundreds of millions of human lives to achieve. While many Christians are not in favor of killing human life through abortion, they are in favor of the logic and lifestyle that leads to it.

To accept contraception is to accept a foundational aspect of the Sexual Revolution, including the logic that leads to abortion and same-sex marriage. We can’t effectively argue against something while simultaneously accepting its foundation. Arguments against the Sexual Revolution will become stronger and more effective when Christians reject its cornerstone, contraception, in large numbers and on an institutional basis.

Jennifer Johnson is a Catholic convert, is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds Equality for Children, and is the Treasurer for the Ruth Institute.

I probably won’t be signing the Nashville Statement, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t

In case you have not heard yet, there is a new statement from prominent Evangelical Christians that got released recently. It is called the Nashville Statement, and it is their attempt to combat certain aspects of the Sexual Revolution by upholding sexual morality from a Biblical perspective. It is not long, and you can read it here.

It is my own personal belief that contraception has been a foundation stone of the Sexual Revolution. Evangelicals as a group have not repudiated contraception, which means that they have accepted a foundational aspect of the Sexual Revolution within their ranks and on an institutional basis. Since the statement neglects contraception, I don’t want to endorse these Evangelical’s neglect of their implicit reliance on an important aspect of the Sexual Revolution. I don’t want to give the impression that this reliance is no big deal and not logically problematic to everything else they oppose about the Sexual Revolution.

The statement does say that marriage is procreative, but that seems ad hoc to me. Why is marriage procreative if contraception is OK? I will continue to say it: a right to pregnancy-free coitus among opposite-sex couples (aka “the contraceptive mentality”) created the “need” for abortion and same-sex marriage, and contributed to the “need” to de-gender our legal code.

The sex with of a “guarantee” of no children is seductive, obviously. This is one aspect of the Sexual Revolution that many otherwise orthodox Christians like. They have participated in redefining the Sixth Commandment, and this is a spiritual and logical obstacle to combating the other sinful and heretical aspects of the Sexual Revolution.

Having said all that, I might change my mind and sign it. We’ll see. I’ll have to work it out in my mind and that might take some time. If I think the benefit of showing support outweighs my reluctance to sign something that I think is logically problematic, I’ll sign it. If I do, I’ll update this post.

Jesus said, “It is written…”

Strictly speaking, the Bible doesn’t teach us anything. Teaching requires a teacher, a person. You can do a little experiment to see what I mean. Set your Bible in front of you, closed. Say to it, “Bible, teach me about Christ.” Then wait. What happens? Nothing happens, of course. The Bible did not suddenly open and begin to speak. Opening a Bible, reading it, then teaching what is written in it requires a person. The Bible itself is not super clear about a number of important things, and this one reason why there are so many factions within Christianity, all claiming the Bible as their infallible authority. It is also why we must be careful about who we listen to about the Bible.

The Bible is the Word of God. It is good for us to read it and meditate on it. Jesus said, “It is written…” He did not say, “It teaches…”

Sunshine while before the Tabernacle

I think this happened last summer (2016) but am not really sure of the date.

It was a cloudy day. I went to my parish in the evening to pray in front of the Tabernacle as I like to do from time to time. I was there alone, and brought my earphones so that I could listen to worship songs on my phone while meditating on the Lord. I have a list of such songs on my Youtube account. I was kneeling before the Tabernacle, and pulled up one of my favorite songs, Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith:

I was praying while listening to this song, and I don’t really remember the specifics of my petitions. It was probably something about my children and family, as those are the most common prayers I make.

The song slowly builds, layer upon layer, of new instruments and voices added at each layer. There is a point at about the 2:47 mark, when the drums really kick in and the song is crescendoing (I think that is the correct word). RIGHT at the beginning of the crescendo, the clouds parted and sunlight POURED into the entire church! The greyness of the walls caused by the cloudy day vanished and was replaced by a brilliant yellow light! The timing was pretty cool, and I was amazed and in awe, and just sat there and enjoyed it.

Then, at about the 4:12 mark, a decrescendo begins and the music takes a dramatically mellow turn (again, not certain of the terminology but if you listen, you’ll get the idea). RIGHT at that moment, the clouds closed over the sun. The direct sunlight in the church was gone, the brilliant yellow light was gone, and the greyness from the clouds returned.

I was really blown away the timing. It was just too perfect to be coincidence. I really believe God was letting me know that he is with me and hears my prayers.

There is a time when I would have doubted something such as this, to the point of outright disbelief. But I am learning to be more open to these sorts of occurences. And I am learning to share them when they happen. 🙂

Today’s reading of Psalm 95 reminded me of this song

It’s an oldie but a goodie! Who else remembers it??

Today’s readings:

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 127

Reading 1

EZ 33:7-9

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2

ROM 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ”
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Alleluia

2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

MT 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

Who is Innocent, Lord?

Truly inspired reflections on love! I felt so edified while reading it. I hope you do too. ❤

Be Strong and Very Courageous

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to love?  I was pondering on this as today’s readings is about “loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.”

In these ponderings I realized something.

Let someone go against me, hurt my feelings, say something nasty, do something nasty and as quick as they do, emotions begin to rise.

Emotions such as anger, wanting a herd of elephants to come upon them, wanting vengeance, wanting them to get what they deserve for doing that to me.

Within a moment all of these emotions and more, will rise up within myself.  I do not will them or want them.  They are just there. 

That goes to show me what is truly hidden in the “nature of man.”

Then there is love.  The one thing we are called to do, and taught how to do by our Lord Jesus. 

The one emotion, we have to…

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