Friday, October 31, 2008

Celebrating the Reformation?

This time of year - "Reformation Day"... Is this something to be celebrated? If the Reformers were right, then we should lament their dismal failure. That is, they intended to reform the doctrine of the Church and the Church did not reform so they left. In terms of a true "reformation", it cannot be seen as anything but failure. On the other hand, if the Catholic Church is right, then we should lament this heresy which leaves millions in schism and false doctrine until this day.

Either way, it is not an event to celebrate. On this day, perhaps we should pray for Christian unity instead of celebrating schism.

New Convert's Blog

Aubrey is just 17 and is converting to the Catholic Church down here in the Bible belt. Check out her blog. H/T TiberJumper.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Living Apostolic Church

Continuing my thoughts on conversion - I wondered what to do about this simultaneously terrifying and romantic idea that the apostolic Church still exists. I've written about this before, but I think it was mostly on other blogs.

Before becoming Catholic, I was often jealous of those old Hebrews who waited for blooms on rods to know for sure what God really wanted. I was even jealous of the apostles because they could roll dice to eliminate uncertainty and there was a special privilege the young nation of Israel had when God sent prophets to her. All the faithful Jews knew this prophet was of God and anything he said (even if I didn't like it) must be obeyed.

Now there is safety in that and something to be envied, but there's also danger. The danger is that we don't know what that prophet is going to say, or which rod will bloom or what number will turn up on that die. It could end up as my second choice - or conceivably, it could end up something I utterly hate. I'm not so afraid of hearing God's voice as I am of hearing and finding something that my sin nature refuses to heed. That's scary.

Still I think, on some level, that this is precisely the type of world I'd want to live in. So once I was confronted with the idea that this apostolic Church is not dead but very much alive, I was excited. It was a shock to begin with - and certainly frightening. After all, I don't know what this successor of Peter is going to start promulgating as Christian dogma or what the bishops may end up professing. There is some real danger in that.

Well, I don't think God ever meant us to be completely safe in the world or in the Church. Christianity is a supremely dangerous thing - it threatens to dominate the one thing that is apparently yours - your life. There is no version of Christianity more dangerous than Catholicism. If the Baptists are right - eh... ok or if the Anglicans are right - that's all fine, just love Jesus and everything will be alright. But if Catholics are right - then "loving Jesus" entails obeying His Church (especially the bishop of Rome) and we don't know what His Church will say! That's scary but it's also liberating. There's nothing scary about any other ecclesial community and it's partly for this reason I think Catholicism is true.

It's one thing to trust God's Word in the Bible, it's another thing altogether to trust God's Word when you believe that it might keep talking! It's even another thing when you expect it to keep doing so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Analyzing My Reasons for Conversion

Despite my strong convictions that I made the right decision in converting to the Catholic Church based on the evidence available, I have to at least entertain the possibility that I was deceived.

Considering that the evidence seems so overwhelmingly pro-Catholic to me, I know of only two conceivable worlds in which I am wrong. World 1. A world in which I'm not smart enough to properly calculate all the evidence and World 2. A world in which I am smart enough but concupiscence has grossly skewed my ability to reason.

I might not be the smartest guy in the world...but I think I'm at least bright enough to reject world 1 without much discussion and I'll leave the reader to agree or disagree.

World 2 deserves some more serious thought however. To speak of this world in simpler terms, I would be guilty here of rationalization. So I should entertain the possibility that I've rationalized my way into the Catholic Church. This might be true, and if it were, I think it would be hard for me to detect it. But what I know about rationalization seems to render this world unlikely.

I think most of us would agree that it is possible to self-detect rationalization (probably from first hand experience). I think rationalization necessarily accompanies short term benefit at the expense of long term good. It feeds the lust at the expense of natural reason. It aims at temporal means and ignores the eternal.

None of these things seem to be true of my initial conversion. I didn't stand to gain anything temporally or short term - in fact, I had to go through a year of RCIA & early Sunday mass. So this doesn't seem like the type of thing I'd rationalize my way into.

But how about now? Maybe I converted for the right reasons but have rationalized myself into staying Catholic having been exposed to more contrary evidence. I suppose I would stand to gain some temporal benefits from remaining Catholic - I'd save a lot of face. It would be humiliating to revert to Protestantism or to change to another religion altogether. (In this way, I can appreciate the difficulty Protestant clergy have when facing the evidence of the Catholic Church which is a hundred fold what I'd have to endure if I wanted to de-convert). It also becomes more difficult (for prideful reasons) to convert to anything else for any reason as you get older. For an old Protestant to convert to Catholicism (or vice versa) it entails admitting that you've been wrong about the most important things for a long time. I'd also keep access to a far superior liturgy (although depending on my personal brand of Protestantism, I'd be able to continue attending at will as long as I didn't receive).

But let's look at the other side of the option - not just what I'd temporarily gain from remaining Catholic but what I'd temporarily gain from reverting to Protestantism. I would gain some personal "freedom" and certainly some intellectual "freedom". I'd get to go back to much better music on Sunday morning. I'd have a much larger friends network who were of the same religious persuasion (I mean in my local area). Pastoral ministry would be an option and a teaching ministry would be much easier.

I think there are more temporal reasons to revert than to remain Catholic. So it doesn't seem to me like I've rationalized my way in or that I'm rationalizing myself to stay inspite of good reasons to leave. But who knows....this post could be part of that rationalization. Just thinking out loud here.

Why Catholic Music Stinks

Per Albert J. Nock on the New Liturgical Movement.
"This is why we must restore tradition!" many will admonish. But this is a mere distraction, really. Not even tradition can eradicate bad taste and mismanaged priorities.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Atheist Arguments

The Deeps of Time has an interesting post entitled Atheism & Thinking which is worth reading. The atheists fire back in the combox to refute his claims but they didn't get anything right. Their reasoning reminds me of Protestant rebuttals to Catholic arguments - I can see where they're coming from... just not sure why they'd stay there.

And it would take far too long to refute because they've made such fundamental errors in their thinking a long time ago - that I'm not even going to waste my time. For me, I think I'm leaning more towards dealing only with Theistic leaning Agnostics or Protestants who are almost ready to be Catholic. In short, they have to do their homework first.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Always Knew This Day Would Come

A profound hat tip to Tim Jones for inspiring me to take up beer brewing once again. There's a good reason why I never threw out my old equipment - and this day was that reason.

Yes, outside of Holy Matrimony and the Beatific Vision I'm not sure there is anything which makes a man feel so much like a real man - like he is fulfilling his destiny as brewing beer.

This one is called "Ram's Head Weizenbock" which, as the name suggests, is a cross between a German wheat beer and a bock beer.... in other words... liquid gold. Should be pretty awesome.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If the Community Has Unity - It's in Tradition

NLM has a brilliant piece on what happens when people try to revive the liturgy in liberal parishes. How I wish I didn't know first hand what they're talking about. This is what it's all about - none of the issues with music have anything to do with style preference. It has everything to do with what is appropriate for the mass. Great line:
This sort of thing makes musicians crazy because it is a setting guaranteed to yield shabby liturgy and community chaos. It is the worst possible thing to happen to a parish music program, and not because the community shouldn't have a voice. If the community has a point of unity, it concerns the faith itself and the tradition; otherwise, in terms of issues of taste and preference, there is no such thing as a community: there are only individuals with a multiplicity of conflicting desires.
Here's the link. And here's Father Z's comments.

Vote Pro Life

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More on Bad Catholic Music

I ran into a friend who told me I was the topic of some conversation he had with a nun earlier today.. (This can't be good). About a month ago, I went with my former RCIA sponsor to a nearby parish to hear a seminar on the Eucharist sponsored by Renew International. At the conclusion, the nun asked people to fill out evaluation forms and I complied.

So the nun said to my friend "someone really criticized the music and said that the lyrics were all about me and we etc... I sure wish I knew who that guy was". My friend guessed that it was me and he was certainly right. So she left him with a rebuttal along the lines of "Jesus lives in us as does the Holy Spirit and therefore it is proper to sing about me and we". I kid you not.

Let me give you a little backdrop. Several times during the seminar, she played a predictably bad 70s "Catholic" song and wanted everyone to sing along. Like routine, about 60% of those present (including me) stared back as if we were being lectured in chemistry class while the other 40% mouthed words and maybe one or two sang out (noticeably off key). You Catholics know what I'm talking about... the same sad scene at most every mass when Catholics try to sing these awful excuses for songs. It's like watching a crowd of people trying to ice skate for the first time... and they never get any better.

And the thing is, she recognized the problem. She quoted that quasi famous line from "Why Catholics Can't Sing" - "Four episcopalian women make more noise than a whole Catholic congregation" or something like that. And she lamented this.

So I gave my two cents in the response - I said you expect us to sing along... well some of us don't want to sing about ourselves to the tune of the Brady Bunch. And in fact, some of us find it sacrilegious. Some of us don't particularly care for music that sounds like it was written by a middle aged feminist or some hippie priest from the 70s. In short, some of us would rather have no music at all than to be subjected to the garbage you're trying to force on us.

Naturally, I was polite in my reply and didn't say it like I'm saying it here. But how can someone be so clueless as to defend such a ridiculous position? I understand that she might actually like that music. She has a severely undeveloped palette. No big deal. Some people prefer Hot Pockets to fine dining. I have no problem with that. Pity yes; problem no.

And she misunderstood my problem I think... my problem isn't with the word "I" or "we" or even the occasional use of those words in a song. That's fine. I'm talking about the fundamental orientation of the song - it needs to be vertical and not horizontal. The emotion driven songs we're typically subjected to by their nature lean towards the horizontal instead of the vertical though. This is why Vatican II reiterated the fact that Gregorian chant is supremely appropriate for mass - it is intrinsically vertical music. You can't chant "Here I am Lord" to the solemn tone Salve Regina - the lyrics instantly get exposed for how ridiculous they are.

There is a serious problem with me-focused music in many American parishes and it needs to be addressed. I just don't know if this needed reform can happen until the baby boomers fade away.

Spiritual Music

After mass on Saturday, a woman thanked our schola group and said the music was "very spiritual". It was funny seeing so many heads turn (I mean turn around, we were in the back where musicians should be) and you could just see the looks on their faces "what the hell is that? it sounds like ... like church music!"

These days, hearing "spiritual music" in church is like seeing beauty in an art gallery. Nevermind the fact that you ought to find those things there, we simply don't. There is such a thing as "spiritual music" - music which is spiritual in nature not just accidentally.

Contrary to the juvenile opinions of many ecclesial-music directors around the world, you can't baptize Metallica by adding churchly lyrics, bring it in Sunday morning and expect it to work. Don't get excited contemporary fans, you can't baptize Matchbox 20 either. Certain music inherently belongs in certain places. Hint: "Here I Am Lord" is not "spiritual music" and it doesn't belong at church. For the mass, what belongs is Gregorian chant & traditional polyphony. Period.

Now I know many of the old Protestant hymns were pub songs and this might evoke some protest (and I have been strongly on that end of the protest before). But for starters, the pub songs had certain qualities which made them ideal for what Protestants intended to do with their music. The melodies were simple and easy to follow, catchy & memorable and the timing was straightforward. This is ideal for congregational music - but that's not what the Catholic Church ever intended her songs to be; at least not primarily. (Incidentally I'm usually delighted to hear an old Protestant hymn being played at mass because at least then I know the song won't be about me and what I bring to the table - not to mention that it will be well written for the congregation... it's funny, Catholics sing loudest and most confident when its a Protestant tune).

There are no musical intervals which are inherently evil and that's not what I'm saying but there is such a thing as objective difference in musical style and performance intent. That's what we need to be aware of.

Incidentally, this "spiritual music" I'm talking about happens to be far more beautiful than the 70s sitcom music we're accustomed to at church. One can only wonder why there is such animosity towards revival of traditional Catholic music. When it finally happens, we can stop making fun of ourselves for being bad singers and go back to leading the way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Patristic Carnival XVI

Phil Snider has Patristic Carnival XVI up and running.


Greed… These days, it’s a moral buzzword with which the liberals and conservative can find common ground to complain about and Capitalists don’t seem to be anymore happy about greed than Marxists after-all (or at least they’re doing a good job of pretending).

So we talk about the “greed on Wall St” ad nauseum and if I can be so bold as to use another cliché that will make me puke if I hear one more time – we also find some satisfaction in touting the current discontent on “Main St”. Well, we all agree that greed is a bad thing, but for a moment, instead of being so angry at Wall St for doing their job, why not reflect on ourselves and ask are we doing ours? Perhaps it isn’t the “greed on Wall St” that should concern us but the “gluttony on Main St”.

So whose sin caused the financial crisis? “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish”.

No one likes to talk about gluttony anymore because it’s awfully hard to get around that sin. Our Protestant brothers are reluctant to even consider it a sin at all since they’ve removed the books with the strongest references to it from the bible.

I don’t remember the last time I was hungry. Now I don’t mean the last time I was in lack of food – I mean the last time my stomach growled! We’ve become so gluttonous that we think among our “inalienable rights” as Americans is the right to never be discomforted. In fact, most of our prayers can be reduced to a childish petition for God to prevent us from being inconvenienced in any way.

Yes, I think gluttony is more our problem than greed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Voter's Guide for Nominal Catholics

Priceless. Agnus Daily is back with this great post. H/T Curt Jester.

Seizing the Moment

One thing I'm trying to get better at is seizing the moment in conversation. In attempts to tame the tongue I'm finding that I'm more often regretful of having remained silent than of having said the wrong thing - at least when it comes to religion.

About 5 years ago I was in Los Angeles and heard an evangelical speaker who challenged me with some good, basic advice for life - "pay attention". It was a "seize the moment" kind of challenge and I looked forward to my opportunity to do so. The very next day I was in Hollywood with my uncle I found myself sitting at a table with a few people who were talking religion (and big surprise... not favorably). It never even occurred to me that this was a prime chance to say something until several days later. That's called cowardice.

I'm trying to be better about it these days. It's funny, I talk with Christians all the time and the topic they're terrified of most is their religion. So when they mention something about religion (especially in a negative sense) I know I have about 3 seconds to respond before they change the subject. Seems that way anyhow.

The other day I was talking with some co-workers about the Eucharist and the fact that Catholics can neither receive at Protestant communities nor can Protestants receive at the Catholic Church. A woman remarked disapprovingly that "these churches have so many rules. God never meant for us to have so many rules" and I could sense her getting ready to change the subject into something stupid so I jumped in and explained that to receive the Eucharist together demands full communion. Probably not the best response... in hindsight maybe I should have said "do not rape, do not murder, do not steal... these are just rules... God never meant us to have all these rules"..

The point I'm trying to get across is, if you have an opportunity, don't pass it up. These little opportunities can yield big results.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

This Guy is a Major Thorn in The Side for Liberals


Dr. Liccione has another great post - an insightful commentary on the current state of affairs called "The Lies We Love". It is well worth the read.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hell, Deism & the Mark of the Beast

With such a title, one would think this post must aim pretty high. Not so, just a few quick thoughts (and most of them dealing with what is below rather than what is above). While considering the eternal and constant creation of God, this thought occurred to me:

While an atheist will be right about the world when Hell freezes over, I think the deist will be right as soon as Hell is his world (I mean as soon as he enters Hell). That is, it seems like God must totally remove Himself from the world of Hell (whatever that world is) in a way quite different than ours. At this moment, we do not have the Beatific Vision and we are not walking and worshiping Him as Adam did nor even as Moses did. There is some separation but nothing like the separation which will be true of Hell.

I wonder if Hell is a world where deism really is true. God sets it in motion and leaves the inhabitants to themselves. Such a world, even if it started as paradise, would end up a Lake of Fire in no time at all. Humans "left to their own devices" will become eternally enslaved to sin which is the absence of Godliness. Sin only destroys and leads to death - therefore eternal death.

Now what does this have to do with the "Mark of the Beast"? Oh, everything! This is my 666th post. Eek.. (Seriously it is, but it's entirely coincidental).

Friday, October 03, 2008

Financial Crisis

Independent Bible Church to the Catholic Church

Many of you probably already know Andrew Preslar if not from comments here then from other Catholic blogs. He has resurrected his old blog Apology of Miscellanies and has a brief explanation of why he, the son of an Independent Bible preacher, became Catholic via the OPC and a Traditional Anglican order. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

10,000 BC The Movie

A story about a tribe of white people who have interracially married with some Asians? although some are fully caucasian.. They all have dreadlocks and speak English (though each of them makes up their own accent). They live on snow covered mountains (but mostly run around in loin cloths) at the base of which are tropical rain forests with carnivorous ostriches and this country borders Egypt. Don't worry, some of the Africans speak perfect English because the hero's father taught them 20 years ago. In other words: lamest movie ever made.


I've become convinced that real genius lies in the ability to talk about things on levels which they do not belong. Without any exception, the smartest people I've known always talk in ways that are ridiculously easy to understand. Someone who thinks they're smart uses a lot of big words to describe something that requires much less effort but someone who really is smart uses language so clear that he cannot confuse you no matter how difficult the subject and no matter how little capacity you have to understand. Anyone can do rocket science, but only a genius can make rocket science obvious.

Yet genius, I think, lies not just in taking the incredibly complex ideas which belong nestled in lofty rhetoric and lowering them in order to speak at the level which normally befits dumb ideas, but also in taking dumb ideas and talking about them with lofty rhetoric.

Most all of the heretics were geniuses. Who but a genius could take a dumb idea like "invisible church" (for example) and speak of it as if it belonged amongst the scholarly? Yes, only a genius could argue himself into such stupidity.

This tells me that I am far from being a genius. Yes I think I can engage others on a lofty level and do fairly well I think... and if you catch me around certain company I'll be having the dumbest conversations about the dumbest things... but it takes a genius to talk about smart things with dumb people or about dumb things with smart people.