Comments now allowed on Essays

I’ve now enabled commenting on my Essays. Previously I only allowed comments on the regular blog posts. Feel free to provide feedback…I look forward to hearing from you!

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Tim LaHaye meets Pixar?

Perhaps the next novel in the series? About as believable as the others?

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Making Religious Art: An Overlooked Charismatic Gift

I’ve written elsewhere about how the Catholic use of religious artwork is not in violation of the commandment against “graven images” in Exodus 20:4. God’s commandment prohibits the improper use of religious imagery; it is not a wholesale prohibition against them. [See my other posts on this topic for more details.]

My earlier posts did not include a relevant detail, which I noticed recently while re-reading Exodus: not only did God command that sculpted images and religious art be used in worshipping Him (cf. Ex. 25:1, 18-20; Ex. 26:1), he also gave a special charism – a charismatic gift – to certain Israelites to make these items:

Ex. 31:1-6 — The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bez’alel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oho’liab, the son of Ahis’amach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you.”

Ex. 36:10-19 continues this thought, with God saying “let every able man among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded.”

So if you encounter someone claiming that religious art or statues violates God’s commandments, point out these verses. Why would God send his Spirit to people and command them to make artistic works for worship if it would be sinful?

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Archbishop Gregory on the Abuse Crisis

ABG-colorYesterday, America’s Catholic Cardinals met in Atlanta for a fundraiser. PBA, Atlanta’s Public Broadcasting channel, interviewed Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. Hear the audio interview from this news article:

America’s Catholic Cardinals Gather In Atlanta, Amid Storm Over Sex Abuse: A Conversation with Atlanta’s Archbishop (Extended)

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Quasimodo Sunday

I did not realize it, but last Sunday was Quasimodo Sunday.

The name Quasimodo to me was only the name of the character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Having never read the novel, but seen the Disney animated feature, I was not familiar with why that character was given that name.

The Sunday after Easter is called Quasimodo Sunday because the words of that day’s traditional introit read “Quasi modo geniti infantes…” (“As newborn babies…”) (1 Peter 2:2).

In the novel, the abandoned child is given the name Quasimodo because he is found on the steps of Notre Dame cathedral on Quasimodo Sunday.

The Wikipedia entry explains:

Quasimodo’s name can be considered a pun. Frollo finds him on the cathedral’s doorsteps on Quasimodo Sunday and names him after the holiday. However, the Latin words “quasi” and “modo” also mean “almost” and “the standard measure” respectively. As such, Quasimodo is “almost the standard measure” of a human person.

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The Church was Catholic well before Constantine

You may have heard the claim that Roman Emperor Constantine I “invented” the Catholic Church sometime in the early part of the 4th Century. But this is simply not true.

The church was called the “Catholic Church” within the first 75 years of its existence. We see this in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of St. John the Apostle. He calls the church “catholic” to distinguish it from the heretics of his day: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 8, written in A.D. 107).

Ignatius also describes the church in very “Catholic” ways, such as its belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist: “…the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness afterwards raised up again” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 7). He also writes of the Episcopal leadership of bishops, priests and deacons: “…nobody’s conscience can be clean if he is acting without the authority of his bishop, clergy and deacons” (Epistle to the Trallians, 7).

Continue reading

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Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

Someone emailed me several months ago asking why Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth. His original questions are in bold below, with my answers beneath them:

Do you really think little miss Mary was a virgin?

Yes, I do – we are told in Scripture that she was a virgin when Jesus was conceived (Luke 1:27). Surely you believe that as well.

Christ had numerous brothers and sisters from his mother Mary

I’m sure you are referring to Matthew 13:55-56 where it is written, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?”

Like you, I once thought that this showed that Mary and Joseph had other children after Jesus was born. But I later learned that the early Protestants – including giants like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and John Wesley – all believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. Consider these quotes:

  • Luther: “It is an article of the Faith that Mary is the Mother of the Lord and still a virgin…Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.”
  • Zwingli: “I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”
  • Wesley: “I believe… he [Jesus Christ] was born of the blessed Virgin, who, as well after as she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.”

Seeing how these men – certainly not Catholics! – viewed Mary, I had to modify my opinion. It seemed that the idea that “brethren” and “sisters” meant Jesus’ half-siblings was a fairly modern innovation in Protestant circles.

What are we to make of the “brethren” then? In Biblical times, “brethren” or “brothers” can refer to any male kinsmen. For example, Abraham was Lot’s uncle (cf. Genesis 14:12), but in Genesis 14:14 and 14:16 Lot is called Abraham’s “brother.”

Returning to the “brethren” in Matthew 13:55, James and Joses are also mentioned in Matthew 27:56 as being the sons of another Mary; perhaps they are sons of Mary’s sister, also named Mary, who was the wife of Clopas mentioned in John 19:25.

The Biblical use of the term “brothers” or “brethren” to refer to extended relatives – plus the mention that James and Joses were sons of another Mary – makes the claim that Jesus had biological half-siblings very weak indeed.

You may also be familiar with Matthew 1:25, which says Joseph “knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son.” In our modern usage, the word “till” or “until” frequently implies a change of state after an event occurs. But in Biblical times, that was not the case. Other passages in Scripture help make this clear:

  • Luke 1:80 – “And the child [John the Baptist] grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.” But John the Baptist remained in the desert even after his ministry began.
  • 1 Timothy 4:13 – “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” Does that mean that they were to ignore reading, exhortation and doctrine after Paul arrived?
  • 1 Corinthians 15:25 – “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” Does this mean that Christ will cease to reign after he has put all enemies under his feet? No, Christ’s reign will continue.
  • Hebrews 1:13 – “Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” Will Christ no longer sit at the Father’s right hand after his enemies are subdued?

Seeing in these passages how “till” or “until” does not necessitate a change of state after an event occurs, Matthew 1:25 is seen in its proper light. The sacred author was emphasizing Mary’s virginity, not making a statement that it ended at some point in the future.

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Catholic Megachurches: In Atlanta, 6 of the 10 largest churches are Catholic

Today’s Marietta Daily Journal presents some interesting facts, culled from the recently published 2009-10 edition of The Atlanta Business Chronicle‘s annual Book of Lists. Columnist Joe Kirby writes:

Two generations ago, Catholics were as rare as hen’s teeth in Cobb. Now, they’ve just about taken over the joint.

The largest church in Cobb is St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church on King Springs Road in Smyrna, pastored by the Rev. James Kuczynksi, with 19,780 members, according to the ABC. It also ranks as the second-largest church in the metro area, behind only the Rev. Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, which has more than 25,000 members.

In third place in the metro area is First Baptist of Woodstock, with 17,000 members, followed by another Catholic house of worship in Cobb, Transfiguration Catholic Church on Blackwell Road in east Cobb, headed by the Rev. Msgr. Patrick Bishop, with 15,277 members.

All told, six of the metro area’s 10 largest churches are Catholic, according to the ABC – one more indication of the demographic changes that have swept across Georgia in recent decades.

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The myth of overpopulation

The National Catholic Register has a terrific article titled “New Malthusians Propose a Worldwide One-Child Policy” by Tim Drake. Also featured is this great YouTube video:

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Don’t Be a Jerk, It’s Christmas

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