Thursday, December 31, 2009


This is my annual encouragement for my readers to make a financial contribution somewhere. Here are some recommendations:

1. Philippine Aid Society (my personal charity) - We provide poverty relief services in the Philippines, one of the poorest countries in the world. Currently we have no paid staff and low overhead costs.

2. Human Life International - This is a great Catholic charity that provides education and fights for the pro-life cause. It is headed by Fr. Euteneuer, who earns a very meager salary, which is impressive for the size of that charity. They also have high charity ratings on charity navigator etc.

3. Pro Life Action League - My friend Matt Yonke works here. This is a reputable charity that is very active in the fight against the culture of death.

4. Charlotte Rescue Mission - I work here full time. If you're in Charlotte, this is a good local charity to support. If you're not, look up your local shelter and check them out.

Now go out and make some donations! God bless you all and happy new year. I hope to more active around here in 2010.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Purples are Coming: Book Review

Ilow and Sheri Roque founded Rock House Press, a publishing company that focuses on Catholic Children's books and their first featured book, "The Purples are Coming" is a wonderful read! Here's my review:

I read this book with my ten year old and it instantly became one of his favorites. He read it on his own at least twice after we read it together (which is very unlike him!) The book itself is hardcover and bound with high quality and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. I also appreciated the cadence of the text and especially the wonderful names like Dink, Derdle and Ladislaus Molski!

The Catholic message is effectively woven into the storyline and is worded in ways that will prompt your child to ask curious questions about the faith. Perhaps more than anything else, it presents the Church and the Catholic faith in a warm and comforting light. We can give a theological lecture on how the Church is our mother, but this book will make your child feel it. Making your young child feel the beauty of the Church is much more effective than waiting until they're a teenager and trying to convince them. I can't recommend this book highly enough and we look forward to reading its sequel.

Here is a video preview of the book and some of the illustrations:

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Praying the Mass by Jeff Pinyan - a Book Review

Some of you may know Jeff Pinyan of the Cross Reference. I recent bought and read his new book "Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People." It's a guide to the new translation of the Novus Ordo and a walk-through of the mass. Here's my review:

This book is a quick and easy read explaining not only which translations are changing next year but more importantly, why they are changing. It also doubles as a walk through of the mass explaining the sacred liturgy in a rich way. I've been to many seminars and have read several explanations on the mass but the book has several nuggets that I've never heard. I'd recommend this book especially for RCIA classes and those being introduced to the mass for the first time, for those who want to get an idea of the new mass translations, and even for those who are familiar with the mass but might need a refresher on why we do what we do.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Called to Communion is Back

Called to Communion is back online and running much faster on new servers. Let the unifying begin. We also registered the domain name Catholic and Reformed. (Goes to the same place)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Can I ask a Favor of YOU?

My charity, Philippine Aid Society needs your vote on Facebook. It will just take about 30 seconds of your time and could really help us out if we win. Just click the image to vote:

While you're at it, you can become a fan of Philippine Aid Society on Facebook. :)

Thanks in advance.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dom Botte on Tradition

Tradition is not an abstract theory circulating by word of mouth. It is lived before being formulated, and it is formulated before it is rationally explained. The Mass was lived as a sacrifice before anyone could dream of expressing it clearly, and its sacrificial character was defined before an explanation of it had been given; - Dom Botte

Friday, November 20, 2009

Modern Distortion of Grace

The modern Christian has a tendency to distort grace by simply interiorising its effects and to confer 'exteriority' on ritual and liturgical functions. The ancients regarded the charismata associated with grace as inseparably bound both to the interior disposition of the soul and to the bodily worship of the divine liturgy.

Monday, November 09, 2009

On Skepticism and Humility

The proud man, says C.S. Lewis, cannot see God because he is always looking down his nose at things and people, and so long as you are looking down, you cannot see what is above you. We can never let ourselves forget that in this on-going search for truth, the truth will always remain above us. We must approach the truth as children ready to be transformed by and conformed to something greater than ourselves and not as aggressors. We do not conquer the truth; if we seek it rightly, it will conquer us.

Catholic Christianity is something far too big for us to grasp, much less command. I believe it was Chesterton who said that Paganism was the biggest thing the world had ever seen; Christianity was bigger, and everything since has been comparatively small. One crucial step in developing humility must be a continual awareness that the Truth is something too big to fit into our finite heads.

Even St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest doctor of the Church, when granted a vision, said that his writings were but “straw” and could not complete his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica. Students of Thomism, like myself, might wish that we possessed that final part, but in leaving the work unfinished, he left us something greater: a powerful exhortation to humility.

But none of this means that we can’t know truth nor that we should too readily profess agnosticism. Arrogance is a danger but skepticism is also dangerous and is not true humility. Recently, there has been some lively discussion in response to Bryan and Neal’s article on sola vs solo scriptura. Some have agreed that there is no principled distinction; others are unwilling to grant the distinction, but the sole objection seems to be this: that the Catholic position is no better. Bryan, myself, and others have given reasons in the combox why we do not believe this to be the case, but I am particularly interested in drawing out a one-liner, not well received and perhaps for good reason, that I left on Chris Donato’s blog. I claimed that “there is a difference between humility and skepticism.”

Modern philosophy has progressed, if you prefer to call it progression, down a path forged by Descartes. It has given us existentialism, rationalism, scientism, naturalism, and several other isms but most notably, and I think they all have this in common one way or another, skepticism. But from a classical point of view, things can be known and some things can be known with certainty. Following Aquinas, I am an empiricist. But that doesn’t mean I deny that some things can be known more certainly than others or that I think I can be absolutely certain of everything I believe.

I lack the philosophical training to draw out exactly why I insist on this distinction (between humility and skepticism), but personally I find it intuitively true. It doesn’t seem that I can know, with a mathematical certainty, that the Catholic Church is the true Church, or that Jesus rose from the dead for that matter. But I believe both of these things with a confidence that does not feel threatened by skeptical approaches to Church history, for example, or with various theories about what might have historically happened at the putative Resurrection.

I find most counter arguments to be based in skepticism, in fact, and I don’t find that to be a humble approach to history or to truth seeking. E.g. How can we be certain that there is an unbroken line of Apostolic Succession from the Apostles until now? We can’t know who is rightfully pope because sometimes there were multiple claims to the See of Peter. Many of the popes said and did bad things, etc. Now all of these objections deserve answers in due course; I wouldn’t deny it, but I believe that skepticism is a hindrance to one who is honestly seeking the truth in humility. In short, I find skepticism to be a counterfeit humility. True humility consists not in denying knowledge nor in saying that truth is unattainable, but in admitting that one’s knowledge is imperfect and that the truth we do see, is only through a glass darkly.

Speaking for myself, my style has a tendency to come across as overly confident, and to the extant which I have failed to exhibit a humble spirit in dialogues here and elsewhere, I offer my apologies. There is a constant need for the Christian to be reminded of his place. Some of us need reminding more often than others.

It is only when we come to appreciate that Catholic Christianity is larger than the Latin Church, larger than Byzantine Christianity, and again larger than the revivals from within Protestantism, that we begin to understand just how small we are in comparison.

It should go without saying that this post isn’t intended to prove anything; it is merely a prayer for myself and others that we would seek the Truth in humility. I hope you will pray it with me.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Why There is no Principled Difference Between Solo and Sola Scriptura

Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch team up to deliver this devastating critique of Keith Mathison's now famous 'solo' and 'sola' distinction in the sola scriptura controversy. The article is long, but it's an easy read and well worth the time.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Was the Fall Under God's Providence?

God is said to will a thing in one of two ways: absolutely or contingently. If God wills a thing absolutely, then it necessarily happens. So a thing which does not happen cannot be said to have been God’s absolute will. But we know per divine revelation that God wills some things to happen that do not, in fact, happen. Namely, God is not willing that any should perish,1 but some men perish.2 This is not a contradiction because God’s will is contingent in this case.

It is false to say that God absolutely wills all men to be saved; rather, He contingently wills all men to be saved. His will in this case is contingent upon men freely responding to His grace, which is, per His absolute will, a necessary condition for eternal life.

Now there is no force which is outside of God so we know that all things Fall under God’s providence. If God puts a thing into motion, it would seem that it cannot be stopped whatsoever because since no force outside of God exists, no other force is present to stop what God has put into motion. But things which were set in motion do stop; they are stopped by God Himself. This happens because one thing He wills contingently is stopped by another thing which He wills absolutely.

When God wills that an apple should Fall to the ground per His natural law, He wills it contingently. He wills it contingent upon whether or not He wills another thing to intervene. A branch below the apple may catch it and prevent it from Falling, but that branch prevents the apple from hitting the ground because God wills that a branch should have the power of stopping an apple – not that the branch has its own power outside of God. God’s contingent will is only hindered by other things which He wills. God’s motion is only stopped by His own power.

But there are agents with their own will. Do they upset the order of God’s providence? Certainly not. God may will that man shall not eat the apple that fell, but He wills it contingent upon whether or not man should will to eat it. But whatever caused man to will to eat it, and remember that man is not his own final cause, is also under God’s providence.

Did God will evil then? Far be it from us to suggest such a thing; it is impossible. At this point we need to look at the broader picture and see that God did not absolutely will that man should not Fall. Whatever God absolutely wills is true by necessity. God wills absolutely that squares should not be circles and that such a thing should not be possible. Whatever God wills contingently also happens unless something else which He wills absolutely causes it to not happen.

In this way, all things are under God’s providence. So we can know for certain that it was not in God’s absolute will that man should avoid the Fall. God willed contingently that man should not Fall, but in His wisdom, He willed absolutely that creation should be precisely as good as it is, and to achieve that, it was necessary per His absolute will, that the Fall should take place to bring about the greater good which resulted. We would not know the good of perseverance, for example, without the Fall. But God absolutely willed that the good of perseverance, again for example, should exist and be manifest, and so His contingent will of avoiding the Fall was stopped by His absolute will for a greater good. We must conclude that even the Fall of man was under God’s providence.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Salve Regina

Our schola sings "Salve Regina" in the solemn tone at the Charlotte Eucharistic Congress. Thanks to the Crescat for video taping it. (Note, the recording is a camera phone or digital camera of some sort - not built for high quality audio recording!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thirty Thousand Montagnards Convert to the Catholic Church

Of course everyone has heard of the new Anglican provisions made by Pope Benedict which will pave the way for (probably) hundreds of thousands of conversions, this story about the Montagnards (indigenous people of the central Vietnam highlands) hit home with me because I taught English to Montagnard refugees for two years. I still have many good friends from the Jarai tribe although I have unfortunately lost touch with most of them. (That reminds me...) Anyway, last year 30,000 Montagnards became Catholic and there are currently 20,000 more preparing to convert.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When God Lets You Down

Saying that "God will never let you down" has almost no relevance. Can you name an instance or example of God letting someone down? I mean what would it take for you to say that God had let you down? Something inconceivable. Saying "God will never let you down" is like saying squares will never be circles. Tell me something I don't know...

The phrase must be of American origin; notice its self-centered orientation. Is it God who stands in need of meeting our standards? Just some thoughts.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Setting the Record Straight on Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

Although Protestants frequently cite the sex abuse scandal as evidence against the holiness of the Catholic Church based on what the secular media has told them, the factual information would actually have the Protestant communities looking a lot worse if the world hated them with the fervor that it hates the Catholic Church:
The Christian Science Monitor reported on the results of a national survey by Christian Ministry Resources in 2002 and concluded: "Despite headlines focusing on the priest pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church, most American churches being hit with child sexual-abuse allegations are Protestant".1 Sexual abuses within the Jewish communities approximate that found among the Protestant clergy.2
And as for the lame accusation that priestly celibacy is to blame for the abuse: That is, if the Catholic Church allowed married clergy, the problem would go away or diminish, it can be easily refuted by pointing to the fact that teachers, who are allowed to, and often are, married, are guilty at much higher rates:
The author of the study concluded that the scope of the school-sex problem appears to far exceed the clergy abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and concluded in an interview with Education Week "the physical abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests".4
Read the whole article on the Sex Abuse Scandal with sources.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Please Pray for the Flood Victims in Manila

Manila was hit with 13.4 inches of rain in a period of 6 hours on Saturday from typhoon Ondoy. The flooding is reported to be the worst Manila has seen in over 40 years. The official death toll is at 140 last I heard, but my brother in law told me personally that the real number will be much higher. Many of the places affected are areas that I have frequently visited while in the Philippines.

Please pray. And if you can spare some change, my charity, the Philippine Aid Society, has established a relief fund. To make a tax deductible donation, simply indicate "flood relief" in the comments/note field. 100% of your donation will be designated to the relief effort.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad Arguments Against the Magisterium

I want to heartily recommend a post by Dr. Liccione entitled "Bad Arguments Against the Magisterium." I was just preparing a post on this very topic for CTC when I caught his and instead of re-inventing the wheel, I'll point my readers to his blog.

I especially liked this thought:
Assuming Christianity is true, the fact remains that no particular believer, not even the pope, can ever be absolutely certain that their own understanding of a particular doctrine is as free from error as the doctrine itself. Rather, and as a matter of fact, they trust implicitly that the doctrine is true and seek to conform their mind ever more closely with that of the Church, for which the Magisterium speaks, on the doctrine's subject matter.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Is the Catholic Church Semi-Pelagian?

The short answer: no. The longer one can be found by reading my recent post at Called to Communion.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I'm heading out to the Philippines and so blogging will be even lighter than usual. I may blog some from the blog over at Philippine Aid Society while I'm there.

Tom Riello and I just recorded a podcast of an impromptu conversation between the two of us regarding our conversions to the Catholic Church.

Finally, here's an old article from This Rock magazine called "The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blogs in Your Diocese

Found a cool website thanks to Kevin Branson called Flock Note. You can add your blog to your local diocese or parish and find others from within your diocese as well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is Sacramentalism the Same as Magic?

I asked this question in my recent post at Called to Communion entitled, Magical Sacraments in Elfland.
Peter Pan has to think happy thoughts in order to fly. Sure, fairy dust is involved but the flying doesn’t happen unless he thinks happy thoughts. In fact, maybe fairy dust is just an “outward sign” of the “inward reality” of a happy thought. I don’t think it sounds any more magical to say that a man can think happy thoughts and go to Neverland than to say that he can believe in Christ and go to heaven. It is no more superstitious to say that “baptism saves you” than it is to say that faith does.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Statistics and Theology

1. Randomness is an illusion because we can only find "randomness" via matter which itself is determined. But a "random" selection is always better than an "intelligent" selection for statistical purposes. That is, if we select what we think is the best representation of the population, we will learn less than if we leave the selection to God.

2. Central Limit Theorem: God loves the bell curve. Even if you select the numbers yourself, God's fingerprint is there hidden.

3. The bell curve - the clergy should tend to a certain level of holiness. 95% of all clergy should fall within 2 standard deviations of the average clerical holiness. Protestants think that that a few bad priests show the Church to be corrupt. If I show you 2,000 corrupt priests, would this indicate widespread corruption? That's less than 5% of the priests in the US alone. How many priests were corrupt during the Reformation? Maybe the Reformers were just bad statisticians.

4. If 100% of priests were holy, then there would be no bell curve. Even the central limit theorem would not reveal God's fingerprint. It is unnatural. Grace does not destroy nature.

5. Six Sigma theology - the average clerical holiness should be moved to a state of holiness that would leave the corrupt priests (lower spec limit) six standard deviations away. That means we cannot have more than 3.4 corrupt priests per million. A tall order.

6. The Null Hypothesis. Statistics never assert; they merely say "we don't have enough data to overturn the null hypothesis" or conversely: we do. The null hypothesis (H0) is that the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church. How much data did the Reformers need to overturn H0?

7. No list should ever have only six points.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to Raise Money

This is unrelated to this blog, but I've written an ezine article entitled "How to Raise Money for Your Favorite Charity" that some of you may be interested in. Of course, I take the opportunity in the end to plug my own charity. ;) I encourage everyone to get involved with a charity in some capacity. It's something you won't regret.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Liturgy in the First Century


The primary points of contact for our knowledge of the first century liturgy lie on one end with the Jewish liturgies, and the little data which can be gleaned from the New Testament, and the far later, but well documented, fourth century liturgies. We have a few texts, reliable but vague, from the second and third century that help us piece together the puzzle, but ultimately our study lies in drawing on what we know from these ends, and reconstructing the development in-between.

Three liturgies would have been common place in the first century: the Synaxis, the Eucharist, and the Agape meal. We will look at these each individually but first, a few milestones or key points of interest are important to keep in mind:

The Judeo-Centricity of Early Christianity

1. For about the first 10 years of Christianity, it was almost exclusively composed of Jewish converts.

2. The early Christians were in the habit of attending temple daily. [1]

3. The early Christians continued celebrating in the Synagogues alongside the Jews on the Sabbath for several years in some places.

4. Up to nineteen years after Christ's resurrection, new converts to Christianity, generally speaking, had to convert to Judaism before becoming Christian. Namely, they were to be circumcised, to eat Kosher, and to follow the Mosaic Law. The Jerusalem Council was called to settle this controversy in 49 AD. [2]

5. James, the bishop of Jerusalem, while the temple was still standing was in the habit of wearing the priestly robes, entering the temple, and offering intercessory prayer on behalf of his flock. [3]

The Domesticity of Worship

The Jews allowed Gentiles to participate in their public liturgies at the Synagogue. Gentiles were even allowed to enter the outer courts of the temple. [4] But there was a rigorous exclusion of Gentile participation in the sacred home liturgies (such as the Seder meal). Initially Christians had no public liturgy, only domestic liturgy and so the controversies regarding the direct inclusion of the Gentile converts into the Christian Church are easily understood within this context. [5]

The Destruction of the Temple

In 70 AD, the temple was destroyed. This was an earth shattering event for the Jews and a radical shift for the Jewish-Christians. It was a powerful sign that the "Kingdom" had come "with power." [6]

The book of Hebrews was written in the 60s to explain to the Jewish Christians that Jesus was the true High Priest,[7] that animal sacrifices were no longer necessary,[8] and that Christ's sacrifice was perpetually sufficient. [9] If it seems obvious to us in hindsight, it wasn't obvious to the early Jewish Christians, particularly while the temple was still standing.

The Synaxis

Synaxis is the Greek word meaning "meeting" and is the organic continuity of the Saturday Synagogue worship. Once the Christians were no longer allowed in the synagogues, they continued celebrating approximately the same rite with added Christians developments and themes. The original liturgies would have been held, like the synagogue service, in Hebrew, and some of the words, like "amen" and "hallelujah", survive to this day. In the early part of the 1st century, it is unlikely that the Synaxis would have be recognizably different from the Synagogue service except for the setting. The Synaxis can be understood as the seed of what we now call the Liturgy of the Word. Some key differences include that, in the first century, there were no introduction rites, no penitential rite and no Gloria. These were all later additions.

Basic Structure

1. Greeting and Response (The Lord be with you - or Peace be unto you)

2. Lections & Psalmody (The Jews read in order of descending importance, starting with the Pentateuch. The early Christian kept the original order of the Synagogue, but as Christian Scripture became available, it was tacked on the end. Thus the order of importance became reversed for Christians. They read in ascending order of importance):

   i. Old Testament Reading
ii. Pslamody (or chanted Psalm)
iii. New Testament Reading (sometimes included non-canonical books like 1 Clement)
iv. Psalmody
v. Gospel Reading

3. Homily (Bishop delivers while seated)

4. Dismissal of Catechumens by Deacon

5. Intercessory Prayers of the Faithful

6. Dismissal of the Faithful

Occasionally a collection would be taken for the poor at the end. This was not the offertory.

The Eucharist

Derived from the Seder meal, in its fullest, proper setting, the Eucharist is the celebration of the new Passover. 'Pascha' (or Easter) is the pinnacle of the Christian worship. Initially, it is likely that in some or many Christian Churches, the Eucharist was celebrated but once a year at Passover. The celebration of this high feast of Christian worship expanded to Jewish feast days like Pentecost, and by the end of the first century, the Church had grown to understand every Sunday as a mini-Easter. The Eucharist would have been celebrated early on Sunday morning, a working day in the Roman empire.

The Eucharist was understood as the duty of the bishop and initially, we have every reason to believe that all Eucharists were celebrated by the bishop. But as the Church grew, this became impractical. By the end of the first century, this duty is being delegated to presbyters.[10]

Basic Structure

1. Greeting & Response

2. Kiss of Peace

3. Offertory (Communicants bring their own bread & wine to set on the altar)

4. Eucharistic Prayer (The earliest Eucharistic prayer would have been simply a direct continuity of the Jewish eucharistic (thanksgiving) prayer with added Messianic meaning. Noticeable differences in the first century Eucharistic prayer and today's include: a. no Sanctus, b. no Lord's prayer, c. no narrative) The Anaphora of Hippolytus is the oldest Eucharistic prayer we have in tact and it dates around 215 AD. [11]

5. Fraction

6. Communion (Received standing)

7. Dismissal

The Agape

There was probably a time where the Agape meal was celebrated along with the Eucharist, as seems to be the case in 1 Corinthians 11. But this practice died out sometime in the first century although the Agape continued by itself for several centuries. The only specific and technical reference to the Agape in the New Testament is found in Jude. [12]

The Agape has connections with Mediterranean funeral feasts, said in honor of a deceased hero or family member, and with the Jewish chaburah meal. This was a communal meal Jews would eat on the eve of the Sabbath and all important Jewish feasts. Jesus would have had this meal many times with His disciples. It was liturgical, although less formal than the Eucharist or even the Synaxis. Only baptized Christians were allowed to participate in this meal.

Like all early liturgies, it was celebrated in the home. But unlike the Eucharist, it would not be celebrated in the atrium/tablinum but in the dining room (triclinium). Thus, it would be held in smaller numbers and in various homes throughout the Christian community.[13] The Christians traditionally celebrated the Agape on Sunday evenings.

Basic Structure

1. Introductory Prayer (the president blesses the food)

2. Meal (In the West, it seems that the breaking of the bread was part of the meal, in the East, it followed the meal. In the West, each person blessed their own cup which would have been consistent with the Jewish tradition at the chaburah meal as opposed to the communal cup for high feasts like the Seder meal.)

3. Washing of Hands

4. Lighting of the Lamp (brought in by the deacon, blessed by the bishop)

5. Psalms/Hymns

6. Bishop blesses the cup (kiddish or kiddush cup, not the cup of blessing which was reserved for the Eucharist only.)

7. Bishop gives thanks for the bread and distributes

Notice the order in contrast to the Eucharist. In the Agape meal, the cup precedes the bread. The Agape is described using the name "eucharist" in the Didache chapter 9. We know this because the cup precedes the bread. Later, in chapter 14, the Eucharist proper is explained. The term Eucharist means "thanksgiving" of course, and in the first century, it was not yet a technical reference to what we now call the Eucharist. Any prayer of thanksgiving at a meal would have been a "eucharistic prayer."


By the end of the first century, the standard Christian liturgical observations would be as follows. On Saturday, you would attend the Synaxis. On Sunday morning you would attend the Eucharist, before dawn. You would go to work that day and then in the evening, you would attend an Agape meal at the house of a presbyter or perhaps the bishop's house.

Suggested reading:

Mike Aquilina "The Mass of the Early Christians"

Gregory Dix "The Shape of the Liturgy"

  1. ↑ Acts 2:46
  2. ↑ Acts 15
  3. ↑ Recorded by Hegesippus and Preserved by Eusebius in Church History 2.23.4-6 Compare with the requirements for priestly garments in Exodus 28:41-43.
  4. ↑ Dix, Gregory The Shape of the Liturgy pg16
  5. ↑ See particularly Galatians 1-2
  6. ↑ Mark 9:1. Also see Mark 13 & its synoptic parallels.
  7. ↑ e.g. Hebrews 4:14
  8. ↑ Hebrews 9:9,23, 10:1, etc...
  9. ↑ Hebrews 10
  10. ↑ Thus in the early second century St. Ignatius of Antioch says to the Smyrnaeans, "Let that eucharist alone be considered valid which is celebrated in the presence of the bishop, or of him to whom he shall have entrusted it."
  11. ↑ See a helpful comparison between Hippolytus and the modern Eucharistic Prayer II here:
  12. ↑ Jude 1:12
  13. ↑ Paul seems to indicate that the "home" is the proper place for this in 1 Corinthians 11:22 (as opposed to the particular home which would likely have been blessed by the bishop as the location for celebrating the Eucharist.) Centuries later, certain canons forbade the use of Church buildings for Agape meals.

Mass for Clunkers

Too funny not to pass on. I've got someone in mind for this program. H/t Edward Fesser

Mass for Clunkers

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Pagan vs. Christian use of Images in Worship

While paganism remained the dominant religion of the Roman empire, that is, while the average plebeian family still had household images and idols that they bowed, prayed, and offered libations before, Christians made far less use of images in their worship. When Christianity was legalized in the fourth century, it went on to become the dominant religion of the state itself. Once paganism had all but died out, the risk of laity confusing the use of images in worship with pagan idolatry faded away, and gradually the use of images became common practice. But there is a fundamental difference in how Christians used images and how pagans did. Listen to this late third century apologist:
We worship the gods, you say, by means of images. What then? Without these, do the gods not know that they are worshipped, and will they not think that any honour is shown to them by you? Through bypaths, as it were, then, and by assignments to a third party, as they are called, they receive and accept your services; and before those to whom that service is owed experience it, you first sacrifice to images, and transmit, as it were, some remnants to them at the pleasure of others. - Arnobius 6.9
According to Arnobius, the image was a conduit of the pagan's adoration in such a way that the god or goddess received benefit from its use.

On the contrary, Christian use of images, as it developed, was exactly the opposite. God stands in no need of images, neither does He benefit from them in any way. It is we who benefit. For the Christian, images stand as visual reminders or catalysts in focusing our attention and effort in such a way that the sole beneficiary of their use is the worshiper.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sacrifice in the Liturgy

At my friend George Weis' request, a refutation of this from a site which purports to show Catholics the "true gospel." My text in red theirs in blue.

Some Catholic apologists claim that the prophecy in Malachi 1:11 is fulfilled in the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the Mass. A footnote in the New American Bible says that this verse is a reference to ‘the pure offering to be sacrificed in messianic times, the universal Sacrifice of the Mass, as we are told by the Council of Trent.’

The fathers repeatedly refer to the Eucharist as the fulfillment of Malachi 1:11.

The Jews and their priests despised and profaned God’s name by offering blemished animals while keeping the best animals to themselves. God was dishonoured by their half-hearted service and their hypocrisy. God foretold a time when he would call the Gentiles to worship him. He will be glorified among the nations, ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting’, from the east to the west. His people will not be restricted to a single nation, but he will have worshippers ‘in every place’, implying the catholicity or universality of the church.
Sorta like the Catholic Church right?
The incense offered to God is our prayers, as the Psalmist says, ‘May my prayer be set before you like incense’, and again, the Book of Revelations identifies the incense offered before God as ‘the prayers of all the saints.’ (Psalm 141:2, Rev 8:3).
Moreover, the New Testament explains how the church offers a ‘pure offering’ to God. ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:15, 16). Our prayers and good works are an offering to God.
Catholics do not deny the sacrifice of praise.
The Eucharist is the prominent prayer of the church because during the Lord’s Supper we praise and thank God for the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Our English term ‘Eucharist’ is derived from the Greek word ‘eucharistia’ which means ‘gratitude, thanksgiving.’ Jesus gave thanks (‘eucharisteo’) when he took the bread and the wine (Matthew 26:27, Luke 22:19). In this sense the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Thus, Malachi’s prophecy finds its fulfillment in our good works and prayers, especially the Lord’s Supper celebrated by God’s children from the four corners of the earth. The Didache and the early church fathers also rightly identified the Eucharist as the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy.
What about the sacrifice of the Mass? Surely the Mass is offered in every country of the world, and it has been celebrated since the times of the apostles. Sadly that is not the case because the significance of the Eucharist has changed over the centuries from a sacrifice of praise to a propitiatory sacrifice, that is, a sacrufuce to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against him. Malachi is not speaking about that kind of sacrifice.

Much has been written on the translation of the term ‘qatar’, rendered ‘incense’ in all the major Protestant Bibles, and ‘sacrifice’ in the Catholic versions. Both renderings could be correct, though the former is more likely. (No bias here I'm sure) The basic meaning of the word ‘qatar’ is ‘to smoke, to burn’. A Catholic commentator states that various forms of the word ‘have to do with any kind of offering which gives off smoke, but in postexilic texts precise enough to let us see what is being offered they have to do with incense or other aromatic substances.’ (The New Jerome Biblical Commentary - link).

Whether ‘incense’ or ‘sacrifice’ is preferred, the term does not mean a ‘sin offering’ and there is nothing in the context that compels us to understand it as a propitiatory sacrifice. That is the crux of the matter. In fact the same Catholic commentator concludes that the terms translated ‘incense’ and ‘pure offering’ do not have the to with animal sacrifices. ???

To prove the claim that Malachi is prophesying the Sacrifice of the Mass, it must be shown that he is speaking of a sin offering. To my knowledge that has never been done. On the contrary the study of the text leads us away from that conclusion. (This is not how theology is done. This is how Protestants corrupt theology - by textual criticism. Textual criticism and the historical method have things to teach us, but the truth comes from the mouth of the Church- not the university.)

During the Lord’s Supper, God’s people remember Christ and proclaim his death, giving thanks to God for providing a perfect redemption in the death of his Son. They praise God for Christ who ‘entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.’ (Heb 9:12). But according to Catholic teaching, during the Mass the sacrifice of Christ is carried on, perpetuated, renewed, re-presented and re-enacted. In this shift in the meaning of the Eucharist, God is neither pleased nor honoured. Christ is seated on the right hand of God, having obtained our redemption; he does not ‘constantly enter’ the sanctuary to carry on what he has already done once for all.

The author is confused because He is trying to fit the heavenly reality into the space-time continuum. The act of Calvary is past, but in Heaven it is ever present. There is no such thing as past tense outside of time. The continual presentation of the sacrifice by Christ, the High priest, to God the Father in no way violates the uniqueness of Calvary. Nor does the priest, acting in persona Christi, offering the same sacrifice in an unbloody manner (to quote St. Cyril), on behalf of the faithful, violate this unique office of Christ as our Redeemer.

The faithful do offer the sacrifice of praise and the Eucharist is itself a thanksgiving offering. That does not preclude it from being, as the fathers have always insisted, the same sacrifice of calvary.

The author has not interacted with the unanimous testimony of the Church throughout history. She has always understood the sacrifice in this way. He mentions that the ideas of the Eucharist changed but offers no proof. To be sure, there was some development in the laity's understanding of their role in the sacrifice but the core action was always understood to be re-presenting the sacrafice of Calvary as is evident from the very earliest documents. (See the Didache in the link above).

Some of my previous posts on the subject:

Early Christians & the Sacrifice of the Mass
Augustine and Sacrifice
Cyprian on Sacrifice
Sacrifice in the first 40 years of Christianity
St. Augustine on Sacrifice (Again)

And here's Jason Evert on the Sacrifice of the Mass. Hope this helps.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review: "The Shape of the Liturgy" by Gregory Dix

The Anglican liturgical historian, Gregory Dix published this fantastic study of the history of the Christian liturgy (though he humbly refers to it as an introduction) in January 1945 while World War 2 was still raging. At over 750 pages in small print it's not one of those books you finish over the weekend but it's well worth the read. It's hard to speed-read, but this is because of its interesting content rather than its difficulty.

Dix examines the development of the liturgy giving ample attention to the ante-Nicene Church about which I was thrilled. His style isn't especially breath taking but it's readable, simple, and always easy to understand. You never have to read a sentence twice and with so many sentences to read - that is warmly welcomed.

His historical work is excellent. No one could accuse him of being unfair, except perhaps those from within his own tradition . That is to say, he takes special care to deal with alternative views as fairly as possible. He's always scientific and never overreaches the evidence. Only an expert in liturgical history would walk away not having received a thorough education. In fact, I don't really have anything negative to say about the book except that it dragged on a bit at the end.

Anglicans will be particularly interested in the second to last chapter which deals exclusively with the development of the Anglican liturgy from the 16th century until the early 19th. Dix is decidedly not a fan of Cranmer and concludes that he is essentially Zwinglian in his Eucharistic theology and has a few strong opinions about the direction modern Anglican liturgy should take. From what I understand, some more traditionally minded Anglicans have taken issue with him on these points but that is a fight in which I do not have a dog. For what it's worth, he convinced me.

From a Catholic standpoint, one thing of particular interest was that Dix offers a real picture into the mind of the pre-Vatican II theologians and some of the perceived issues which Vatican II sought to address. The importance of rightly understanding the liturgical action of the early Church is something Dix stresses repeatedly and the language he uses to describe it is recognizable for those familiar with the right intentions of the second Vatican council.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in developing a strong, overall history of the development of the liturgy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Divine Metaphor

My recent post on Called to Communion is called "The Divine Metaphor". Here's an excerpt:
Seeing that nature itself, revealed by God, is so inclined to teach us truth by metaphor, it comes as no surprise that the divinely revealed Scriptures make frequent use of allegory and symbolism. When the modern skeptic reads that John the Baptist wore camel’s hair and a leather belt, he thinks that the author is trying to conjure up a connection between St. John and Elijah. It has never occurred to the skeptic that what is said of John may actually be true. But on the other hand, when the Scriptures speak of the sun standing still, it has never occurred to the skeptic that the Scriptures might be speaking metaphorically. It’s obvious in the latter case, but in the former as well, a metaphor is at play. The divine metaphor opposes both fundamentalism and skepticism. The gospels record that Jesus rose on the third day, and the skeptic wants to insist that the gospel authors are inserting their own symbolic theology. This assumes the very antithesis of my argument: that God is not capable of enacting anything with meaning!
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pope Benedict Condemns Bombing in Cotabato City

This past Sunday, terrorists detonated a bomb during mass near the Cathedral of Cotabato City in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. My charity, the Philippine Aid Society, has established a relief fund and we will raise funds throughout the month of July to support the victims and their families. Please consider a donation of any amount to the Cotabato Relief Fund.

Hundreds of churchgoers remained inside the cathedral after the powerful explosion, praying even more fervently for “peace.” The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo was delivering his homily when the incident occurred, causing panic among churchgoers.

Read the whole story here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Aren't We All God's Children?

I've heard it asked many times before in defense of some perversion, "Aren't we all God's children?" (which the wicked man asks when he means, "Doesn't God justify this sin?")

Well the answer is yes and no. We are all God's children but in different ways. Even irrational creatures are God's "children" in some sense. Listen to Aquinas:
Now it is manifest from the foregoing (27, 2; 28, 4), that the perfect idea of paternity and filiation is to be found in God the Father, and in God the Son, because one is the nature and glory of the Father and the Son. But in the creature, filiation is found in relation to God, not in a perfect manner, since the Creator and the creature have not the same nature; but by way of a certain likeness, which is the more perfect the nearer we approach to the true idea of filiation. For God is called the Father of some creatures, by reason only of a trace, for instance of irrational creatures, according to Job 38:28: "Who is the father of the rain? or who begot the drops of dew?" Of some, namely, the rational creature (He is the Father), by reason of the likeness of His image, according to Deuteronomy 32:6: "Is He not thy Father, who possessed, and made, and created thee?" And of others He is the Father by similitude of grace, and these are also called adoptive sons, as ordained to the heritage of eternal glory by the gift of grace which they have received, according to Romans 8:16-17: "The Spirit Himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God; and if sons, heirs also." Lastly, He is the Father of others by similitude of glory, forasmuch as they have obtained possession of the heritage of glory, according to Romans 5:2: "We glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God." - Summa Theologica 1.33.3

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Kingdom, Church & Communion


Objections to co-identifying the Kingdom and Church together spring, no doubt, from a purely eschatological rendering of “Kingdom.” It was always referred to eschatologically by Christ because while He was among us, it had not yet been fully manifested. But in the Church we do indeed see the “beginning of the Kingdom” because it is “already present in mystery” through her.1 Now there is certainly an eschatological dimension of the Church as the Bride of Christ while she awaits her final purification for the Bridegroom, but nevertheless she retains her identity as Bride of Christ and mystically the Body of Christ right now as she sojourns this earth as the Church Militant. For this reason, eschatological renderings of the Kingdom should not hinder our appreciation of the Kingdom of God as mystically present in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the Kingdom, in its present stage.

If this is so, and Christ Himself is the founder of the Kingdom, then the phrase “hierarchical continuum”, as applied to the Church, is supremely applicable. She is, as all Kingdoms are, a hierarchy and she shall continue in perpetuity. The objections to this phrase are raised for reasons parallel to the Gnostic agenda – as the gospel made Christ too mundane, so this conception of Kingdom makes the Church hierarchy too mundane. The kingdom, in their mind, is too involved in the space-time continuum; or more likely, involved in too dangerous of a way.

Those who would attack the Catholic Church are quite sure that she is one and the same, and therefore retains the ‘guilt’, as the aggressor in the Crusades and the Inquisition, but they are equally as certain that she is not the same, existing in continuity, as the Church who called the council of Nicaea and yet cannot offer a principled reason for this distinction.

As for the hierarchy: the individual Christian is directly connected to Christ spiritually, but sacramentally, he is connected to Christ only as a foot is connected to the head (through the hierarchy of the body) and not directly. The believer cannot bypass the hierarchy of the Church in his connection to Christ any more than a foot can bypass the hierarchy of the body in its connection to the head. It has been demonstrated here and in the links above, that Christ indeed founded a hierarchy which continues in perpetuity – one which cannot be broken and cannot, without penalty, be disobeyed.

Church & Communion

The divinely revealed marital analogy between Christ and the Church is helpful for developing a proper ecclesiolgy. The Church must be one because, as Dr. Peter Kreeft says, when Christ returns for His bride, He shall not be found a polygamist.2 Unity is one of the four marks of the Church which we confess in the Nicene Creed. The Apostles’ Creed also offers a helpful and trustworthy insight into identifying the true Church. As the Apostle’s Creed shows, Christians have always confessed faith in “the Holy Catholic Church” and in the “Communion of Saints” as explicitly distinct concepts.

The very ordering of these phrases suggests not merely an explicit distinction, but also a certain procession. We believe in the Church first because it is she who gave birth to the saints. But Protestant ecclesiology regularly confuses the Church with the Communion of Saints and this is a discontinuum of the orthodox Christian faith.

After this final case regarding the Catholic ecclesiology, which will be published shortly, we shall turn our focus to the authority of the Scriptures. We spoke of the Church first because it is she who holds them in her bosom and has delivered them faithfully to her children. But before we discuss the authority of the Scriptures, we must agree on the ecclesiological foundation of our faith.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Objective Beauty & Diversity

The modern mind does not understand beauty because it thinks beauty is wholly subjective. There may be a sense where degree of beauty is subjective, but beauty itself is as objective as mathematics. If we understood beauty, we could as easily refer to the beauty of a math formula as of a painting.

A thing is beautiful because, and insofar as, it conforms to a certain standard of perfection. But it seems then that pure beauty could have no diversity. For example, if all persons were purely beautiful, they would all look the same since they all conformed perfectly to a certain standard, namely: absolute beauty.

But let's take the example of a circle. A circle is called beautiful insofar as it is perfect and has no flat edges; i.e. it conforms to the ideal and perfect circle. But there may be different sizes of circles all conforming exactly to the perfect circle. Albeit crude, this is an example of how diversity might be admitted while maintaining an objective standard for beauty. For a more complex example, a mathematic formula is said to be beautiful insofar as it is true. But there are limitless possibilities for true formulas and the diversity may be great. So there is an objective standard for beauty along with unlimited diversity.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Pensees on Audio Book

Pascal's Pensees is now available on Librivox as a free audio book. I haven't read this since becoming Catholic. I'm looking forward to reading it again. Just passing it along for what it's worth.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Reformed Convert

I'm about a year late on this one but I'd like to point you all in the direction of Epigone's Eloquence, the blog of a young Dutch student of philosophy that entered the Catholic Church about a year ago. Here's his pithy account of the decision to convert.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

John Kincaid's Conversion Story

Called to Communion's latest member, John Kincaid, who is now pursuing his doctorate at Ave Maria university, shares his compelling conversion story from broad Evangelicalism, to Calvinism, and finally to the Catholic Church. Read the text here:

Contours of my Conversion

Or listen to the podcast where he interviewed by former PCA pastor, Tom Riello:

Called to Communion - Episode 5 - John Kincaid

The Podcast is about 55 minutes long but well worth listening to. It's not just a conversion story - it's a peek into John's solid theological reasons for converting to the Catholic Church. John and his wife were welcomed into full communion last year but be sure to give him a warm be-lated welcome home all the same!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Aquinas For Kids: 2

Now that Faith Formation classes are over for my son Miguel, I decided I will take it upon myself to teach him something new each Wednesday at approx. the same time that he would be in class. I haven't planned out a solid curriculum yet... I'm playing it by ear so far. What follows is an accurate recollection of our first session.

Me: "Here's something I want you to learn - Grace does not destroy nature it perfects it. Lets talk about grace first" (explanation of grace with examples) "Ok now lets talk about nature. When we talk about the nature of man, it means things that are natural to men. So lets think of some things that are natural for man."

Miggy: "Oh you mean like hands and arms and hair and poop?" (Remember, he's 9)

Me: (pause) "Yes. Yes all those things are natural to man and those are good examples. But they're all physical things, things you can touch."

Miggy: (Breaks out in laughter)

Me: "Whats funny?"

Miggy: "So you're telling me you can touch poop?"

Me: (Frustrated) "Well you can but you shouldn't. Youre making this difficult. Ok now remember that those are physical things but lets think of some non-physical things that are natural to man. " (We came up with examples, one that I stuck on because it was being exhibited throughout this exchange was laughter). " So laughter is in man's nature. So based on what we've learned and have been talking about grace not destroying nature - do you think grace will destroy our ability to laugh or make us no longer want to laugh?"

Miggy: "No."

Me: "Thats right, it wont." (more examples, more repition to drill it into his head) "Ok so I just want you to remember that grace doesn't destroy nature - it perfects it."

Miggy: "Dad the thing I'm going to remember most about this is that you can touch poop."

Gotta love the brutal honesty. Actually he has done a good job of remembering it and he's repeated it several times since then. The grace part I mean - not the other one. :)

Maybe its a weird place to start teaching a kid, not sure. I'll see where it goes. Kids are natural Thomists - they haven't learned the silly skepticism of the world yet. This should be fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Augustinian Soteriology

St. Augustine, God rest his soul, can’t be happy about how Western Christians have been fighting over the rights to his theological legacy for the last five hundred years. This in-fighting notwithstanding, a few issues make Augustine stand out as decidedly Catholic. Recently we discussed the issue of the canon, and Augustine clearly supports the books now called ‘Deutero-Canonical’ as Scripture, but it’s also important to point out his views, which stand in such sharp contrast to the Protestant worship, on the sacrifice of the mass. I won’t be dealing with those here but I’m sure, at some point, we will. This is merely a brief and inadequate survey of Augustinian soteriology.


Growing up Reformed, I took it for granted that Augustine belonged to us. In a sea of obscure Christian history, possibly clouded with pagan influence, Augustine stood towering as a great beacon of the true gospel. Everyone else may have missed it, but daggonit - Augustine got it right. If he were alive today, he just might be another R.C. Sproul writing books which would find warm reception amongst the PCA faithful.

In our featured articles on Soli Deo Gloria and Sola Gratia, Sean Patrick and I argued for the Catholic (and Augustinian) understanding of our cooperation with God’s salvific grace. I brought out this point forcefully here:

And so it does no good to quote the Catholic Catechism saying, “Our justification comes from the grace of God,” or “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us,” if Christians in the Reformed tradition object on the ground that the Catholic Catechism also says, “Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us.” But this is not a quotation from the council of Trent or Vatican I or even Aquinas; this is St. Augustine! At this fateful point where Reformed theology and Catholic doctrine collide with uncompromising force, the Catholic Church unambiguously preserves the ancient and precisely Augustinian doctrine, and this should not be lightly dismissed by anyone who claims that the Bishop of Hippo was a forebearer of Reformed soteriology.

I also supported it by a quote from Protestant scholar, Alister McGrath:

“it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly faithful to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, where the Reformers departed from it,” and later, “The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification – as opposed to its mode – must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum.”1

McGrath also says: “Luther erected a specific understanding of justification that departs significantly from Augustine at two points of major importance-the notion of justifying righteousness as alien (rather than inherent) to the believer, and a tendency to treat justification as involving two notionally distinct elements. This late trend eventually led to the development of forensic notions of justification in the writing of Melanchthon and others.”2

Now Calvin is a bit trickier. Calvinism certainly shows some strong points of congruency with Augustine’s predestination and this sometimes leads Calvinists to believe that Augustine would be ok with their soteriology. Not so. The Calvinist would insist, I think, just as strongly as the Lutheran on the forensic/alien nature of salvific grace and Augustine would reject that as shown above.

The point I want to draw out is that the Reformation’s favorite early saint sharply disagrees with the Reformers on what they called the central issue. The other points where Reformed thought diverges from Augustine are important too; but let’s start here.

If it is true, and Augustine, the supposed proto-Reformer, holds the Catholic view of cooperation, then what does that mean for the case of the Protestant community? After all, notice above that the Catholic Church doesn’t quote Augustine in support of the Catholic view, she simply quotes Augustine as the Catholic view itself.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

  1. Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 1.185-187 (1986) (emphasis in original) []
  2. []

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fr. Jeffrey Steel Jumps Into the Tiber

Well the news is making the rounds pretty quick and it's probably not a huge surprise to anyone who's been following him but Fr. Jeffrey Steel, an Anglican priest, has announced on his blog, De Cura Animarum, that he will be swimming the Tiber along with his family.
My PhD studies really set me on my Catholic journey in a deep theological way though I did not realise it at the time. I have been looking at Bishop Lancelot Andrewes as a catalyst for ecumenism with the Catholic Church in the area of Eucharistic sacrifice. Andrewes was in regular dialogue with S. Robert Bellarmine SJ and it is in this dialogue and Andrewes’ other writings that I saw how Catholic he was with regards to the Eucharist being the Christian offering which consisted of more than a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It was and is propitiatory as well as other things. Read More...
There is one hope for Christian unity and it lies just beyond the banks of the Tiber.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On Twitter

Well I've resisted as long as I could. I'm on Twitter now. It will be largely related to my charity but some of you may be interested in it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Mixed Cup

I spoke recently with a friend regarding the mixing of the wine with water at the Eucharist. This symbolizes the divinity of Christ and His humanity. Additionally, St. Cyprian compares the mixed cup to the Church being assumed into the life of Christ.

The mixture of water and wine is an ancient custom that even predates the Catholic Church. At the Jewish meals, it was customary to do so.
Water was customarily mixed with wine for drinking in any case, and unmixed wine was reckoned more suitable for washing in than drinking. In the case of the cup of blessing this addition of water was so much the custom that the rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (c. A.D. 90) reckoned it a positive rule that the Thanksgiving could not be said over it until it had been mixed, though the majority would not be so absolute.(1)
And that word "Thanksgiving" is, of course, Eucharistia in Greek. It is evident that not only does the practice extend to the apostlic era, but Christ Himself would have been using a mixed cup at the Lord's Supper.

1) Dix, Gregory "The Shape of the Liturgy" pg 57 (with footnotes)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Society Jam - A Free Concert in Harrisburg NC

If my dear readers will please excuse a bit of shameless self promotion I'd like to announce a concert that I'm putting on for my charity, the Philippine Aid Society, called "Society Jam". It will be held in Harrisburg, NC and so if you live within driving distance of the Charlotte area, I invite you to come out on June 13th and enjoy the day with us.

You can find more details of the show at Society Jam's official web site.

Army of Martyrs will now return to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tending to Truth

I hope my readers will visit Brooke's blog, "Tending to Truth" and find out why this former Presbyterian converted to the Catholic Church. Welcome home Brooke.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Apologetics and Propaganda

My argument is this: If an idea is true, it can be expressed simply.

I came to this conviction when, under the weight of one simple and devastating defense after another, my intellectual reservations about Catholicism were shattered. That is,: my complex arguments against Catholicism were defeated by simple logic.

It has not occurred to me that I might have failed to grasp an argument of Protestantism which would prove its point, nor that I might not have been exposed to such an argument.

The reason for my confidence is that I've come to see that almost every Catholic, even the poorly educated populace, can give you a good reason why sola scriptura is false. But even the professional Protestant apologists can't make a decent argument for why it's true! The only arguments for sola scriptura that are even worth refuting are complex ones requiring lengthy discussion and based on a variety of questionable philosophical presuppositions. If something is true however, we find that it can be expressed simply and that it is expressed simply. If a doctrine like sola scriptura were true, a simple argument would have surfaced and blazed like wild fire across the lips of every Calvinist, Lutheran and Baptist so that even the snake handler could defend it.

But it does not follow that if something is simple it is true. There are many simple lies and the common form of this is propaganda. A modern example of a simple absurdity can be expressed in three words: "It's my body." So there is such a thing as truth evidenced by its simplicity: "Sola Scriptura is not found in Scripture" and such a thing as a lie disguised in simplicity: "man's real participation in salvation (merit) would rob God of glory."

The Invisible Church

There's only one reason to suggest that the Church is invisible: to deny that the Catholic Church is the Church. Ambiguity, non-specification, abstraction - the ends thereof lie in confusion not clarity. Is this from God?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


We ought to abide by the authority of the Church rather than by that of an Augustine or a Jerome or of any doctor whatever. - St. Thomas Aquinas

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Aquinas For Kids

My son shouldn't ask me questions when I've been listening to Aquinas on iPod all day.

"Dad - why do they call that thing a hopper?"

"Because it hops"

"No it doesn't, it just goes up and down."

"A thing is referred to as a 'hopper' in one of two ways: either literally or metaphorically."

Well I got a kick out of it anyhow.

I Really Really Recommend

Tim Jones has an excellent post up: "But I Really Really Really Want To".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Podcast on Faith & Reason

Bryan Cross and I discuss the topic of Faith and Reason in our latest podcast episode at Called to Communion. Are the dogmas of the Catholic faith falsifiable? How does one strike a balance between fideism and rationalism? These are some of the questions we talk about during the podcast.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How Big is the Catholic Church?

Undoubtedly we must answer: she is enormous but her dogmas wield the precision of a razor.

The Catholic Church is much larger than Latin Christianity or Eastern Orthodoxy. Don't get carried away with that though - it's also bigger than Eastern Mysticism or Western materialism. And to affirm the monstrous breadth of Catholicity does not admit that the East is partially right in their rejection of the Papacy nor that the West made a mistake at Trent any more than it means that Shintoism falls under the umbrella of divine truth or that Hollywood has something insightful to teach the Church.

Yes, we say that the Church is big and that Catholicity cannot be pinned down under mere human opinions but we err greatly if we fail to balance this truth with the fact that the Catholic dogmas are as narrow as a mathematical theorem.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Christians Are Called to Communion

This is a promo video I put together for our website, Called to Communion. (Which you should be subscribed to!) This video might be a good tool to pass along to Protestant friends and family members to spark some dialogue about true Christian unity.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Son's First Communion

While we were getting ready to leave for Miguel's first communion, his buddy came to the door and asked if he could come out. "I can't play, I'm going to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ." That's my boy.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Have Questions About or Issues With Development of Doctrine?

We're putting together a new podcast at Called to Communion and with this one, and future podcasts, we'd like to start fielding some questions from readers and listeners. The upcoming topic will touch on Development of Doctrine and also the relationship of Faith in the Catholic Church to reason and scriptural interpretation. Questions can be anonymous if you'd like. Send email with your question and your first name & city to - timatroutman#gmail*com Where # = @ and * = .

We'd especially love to hear from Protestants or Eastern Orthodox.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Calvinist Convert to Rome

Swing over to Scattering Flowers and meet Jackie, a former Calvinist who has recently converted to the Catholic Church. She's got some great stuff so far up there and I'm sure there will be more where that came from. Welcome home Jackie.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Want it All

There was a moment in my life when I abandoned childish fantasies of being incredibly rich or powerful. But if you were watching me at that precise moment, you wouldn't see a young man with calm expression of peace and contentment; I'm certain you'd see fire in my eyes. It was the passionate fire of a refusal to settle for less than the very best. I didn't want to be rich – I wanted to be infinitely rich; I didn't want to be happy or amused – I wanted infinite joy. And I knew, at that very moment, that I'd stop at nothing to get it.

This breakthrough came for me when I realized that I didn't want my piddly dreams to come true – they were too small! In other words, nothing I could imagine would be enough to satisfy me. My motto was no longer “let me be satisfied with what I have” but to quote Freddie Mercury, “I want it all and I want it now.”

Chesterton describes an account of St. Thomas Aquinas where, when asked by God what he wanted, Aquinas replied, “Nothing but Thee Lord.” Now in response to that question, the Stoic says “nothing” because he has learned to suppress all desire; the Mystic says “nothing” and he means that he wants to apprehend the great nothingness of the cosmos. But as Chesterton explains, Aquinas doesn't answer “nothing” in the same way that they do; in fact, he doesn't answer “nothing” at all. When Aquinas is asked what he wants, he answers: “everything”.

Conquering desire involves the early step of recognizing that the entirety of creation could not make us happy (far less the small fraction we could ever hope to attain). Jesus could have simply said, “What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world?” and stopped there. Even if you keep your soul, gaining the whole world still leaves you unhappy. Knowing all this is one thing; living it is another. That is, I still make irrational decisions based on impulsive desires for things which will not satisfy and will only lead me away from the One who will.

We can't imagine what true happiness will be like. We cannot imagine heaven. It is revealed to us metaphorically by images of temporal things. This is why it is a bad argument against Islam to point out that the Koran uses images of wine and women to illustrate the pleasures of the heavenly paradise. Forty virgins may not truly satisfy a man; but neither do streets paved with gold.

Now God walked among us for a time, and He gave us the very secret to happiness during a famous sermon. The secret was proclaimed from the mountain top and yet we remain unhappy because we I am too cowardly to believe it. When even one person believes and lives the secrets He openly shared, it changes the world.. mountains are moved and trees get up and walk into the sea.

It's as if a rich man said, “I'll give anyone who jumps into this pool a million dollars” and one by one, a bunch of pansies tiptoe in, wading just knee high. Some run off when they're contacted by the water. Oh what will happen when just one brave soul cannonballs right smack in the middle... What a splash he will make!

Chesterton again has a great line somewhere: “The young man who knocks on the door of the brothel is looking for God.” And I'll tell you, the drug addict is closer to God than the luke-warm Christian. The luke-warm Christian is the one who wades in the water knee high. The drug addict is at least seeking that ultimate happiness he was created for (though in the wrong way). But the luke-warm Christian has settled for a church with warm fellowship, a minivan and a few “mission trips” where he stays in a four star hotel.

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times (like today, yesterday and everyday that I recall) when I seek the created rather than You, the Creator. If I can ask one thing Lord, teach me to live the beatific life because You know what I want: I want it all, and I want it now. That is, nothing but Thee Lord, nothing but Thee.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


There are two types of people in this world: hypocrites, and those who haven't the backbone to speak of right and wrong.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Review: "Life in a Medieval City Illustrated by York in the XVth Century" by Edward Benson

Short & informative. I liked it.

My only complaint: he contradicts himself on religious life - first describing the Catholic Church in England as hopelessly ignorant, corrupt and superstitious, and then goes on to relate facts which prove, and he concurs, that the Church was the only civil thing to be found in that age.

He naively makes a comment or two about the utter darkness of the medieval Church until the radiant light of the Reformation and the age of reason. But as he progressed in the chapter and examined and reasonably responded to facts; he said that the gospel was so widely taught that wealthy merchants regularly gave large sums of money to the poor; lepers had refuge only in Church run hospitals, and the only hope women had of education was in a convent, etc... In fact, except for the very wealthiest men of the city, one's only hope for an education of any kind was the Church.

Far from being a dark force in an otherwise bright time, the Church is precisely the opposite. As Chesterton said, the Church is a bright light in an otherwise dark time. She is the bridge of civilization spanning over the barbaric centuries.

Likewise, far from being the "light" that saved men from some dark, barbaric and superstitious religion, the Reformation was man's attempt and failure at re-founding Christ's Church. Such a thing should never be called a light - rather it casts shadows on the light of the Christian faith. It hides Mary and the saints in the shadow of personal privilege, it hides active faith in the shadow of individualistic assent, and it hides the apostolic Tradition (the light we received from the apostles) behind the shadow of man's private interpretation.

As usual in my reviews, I say very little about what I liked and argue at length against what offended me. To reiterate though, it was a good book with wonderful imagery and I'd recommend this short read.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bodily Unity

Catholic Ecclesiology says the invisible Church and the visible Church exist in a psychosomatic union analogous to a body. A body is a union of the invisible soul and the visible flesh. A body is not something essentially invisible which is accidentally stuck inside a visible prison. Essentially, a human body is both visible and invisible and so is the Church.

Here are the common Protestant ecclesiological mistakes:
  • The Church is essentially invisible though she has visible parts. (Unlike the Catholic and biblical model, this is not analogous to a body.)
  • The Church is invisibly united and physically fractured. (Again, not analogous to a body. With a body, the visible parts are every bit as united as the invisible.)
We must at least admit that the ecclesiology maintained by the Catholic Church from the Apostolic times until now is more analogous to a body than the Protestant idea.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Introducing - Philippine Aid Society - Please Take a Look

Per recommendation from my good friend George Weis, my wife and I have founded a non-profit and we're extremely excited about it. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of so many people who are suffering in poverty overseas. I hope my readers will consider my humble request that you take a look at the official site of Philippine Aid Society and prayerfully consider a donation as part of your alms this Holy Week to help us get this thing off the ground.

Below is a promo video I put together.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Podcast - Soli Deo Gloria & Sola Gratia

Tom Riello (a former PCA pastor) interviews me and Sean Patrick (formerly of "You Are Cephas") in this third episode of Called to Communion's podcast. The topic is Soli Deo Gloria & Sola Gratia. Also, Sean's new lead article on Sola Gratia is up and definitely worth the read.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Funny Conversation this Morning

Miguel (my son): "Where ya' going dad?"

Me: "To Church for confession. You want to go with me?"

Miguel: "Nahh.. I don't have anything I need to confess."

Me: (Suspicious look)

Miguel: "Why are you going to confession?"

Me: "So I can get my sins forgiven."

Miguel: "Ahh dad... I forgive you for yelling at me."

Me: ..... (Smile) "I sure appreciate it. I'm just not sure that's the kind of sacramental efficacy I'm looking for."

Miguel: "Huh?"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Does the Doctrine of Real Presence Amount to Cannibalism?

From my post on Called to Communion:
Jesus points out that eating food is a physical process. It goes in physically, is physically digested, and then discarded. It doesn’t enter the heart and therefore does not defile. This isn’t dualism, just common sense. Now it follows that if something cannot cause spiritual harm by a purely physical process, it cannot cause spiritual benefit by a purely physical process.
Read the whole post here: Real Presence - Does it Mean Cannibalism?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eternal Life

Boethius defines eternity thus, "the simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life." Aquinas poses an interesting objection to this definition:
eternity signifies a certain kind of duration. But duration regards existence rather than life. Therefore the word "life" ought not to come into the definition of eternity; but rather the word "existence."(Summa 1.10.1)
God, to whom alone it belongs to be eternal (Summa 1.10.3), doesn't just exist as a cosmic force, He lives eternally. We may talk about other beings having eternal life, but their life is in and through the Holy Trinity who is life and life eternal(Jn 6:51, 14:6). Aquinas replies:
What is truly eternal, is not only being, but also living; and life extends to operation, which is not true of being. Now the protraction of duration seems to belong to operation rather than to being; hence time is the numbering of movement.

Another Former PCAer to be Confirmed this Easter

Please visit In Hoc Signo Vinces, the blog of Bobby J. Kennedy who after the PCA and Episcopal church is scheduled to be confirmed this Easter vigil.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Orthodox Patristics

I recently stumbled upon Monachos, a site "dedicated to the study of Orthodox Christianity through its patristic, monastic and liturgical heritage." In addition to a wealth of source texts and a sharp looking site, it has podcasts and a patristic Wiki. It's bittersweet for me to find this existing Wiki because I know what the perfect name would have been, as I once suggested to Phil Snider, "Paristikiwiki". Can you name any other Wiki that is as fun to say?

Anyhow, check out the site.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Story of Two Fathers

The scene: Quiapo market. Again. We were leaving in a jeepney one early morning and as we waited for passengers to board, I saw a young girl (maybe 9) crying by a merchant stand. She buried her head in shame and wasn't about to be consoled. Then a man in his 40s (I assume her father) came and yelled at her harshly. No one paid any mind on this busy street corner. She didn't respond. He slapped her in the face. More crying. I don't know what was going on (obviously) and she may have well deserved punishment for some wrong doing. But it sure was uncomfortable and whatever she had done - he was clearly handling the wrong way.

The jeepney was taking unusually long to load. I watched as he left and she continued her sobbing. He returned a few minutes later with a stiff broom and yelled some more. Then he swatted her legs. This wouldn't fly in America. He wasn't really hurting her, but if he was, I think I would have had to get up and stop him. But that's the sort of thing you do when you're looking for a serious fight and well, the jeepney drove off just a little later anyhow. Whatever the story behind this incident, this was the story of an irrational father and a little girl who will have to pay for this poor upbringing when she gets older. It's not going to be easy.

Same area, different day, different father. I waited outside a busy shop one evening while my wife picked out some new kitchenware for our restaurant. Manila might be the busiest place I've ever been, but Filipinos are never in a hurry. I was exhausted so I stayed outside while she shopped. I sat down on the concrete steps to watch a little boy and his sister (just toddlers) playing a wonderful game of... circular thing that we hold. It was made of variously colored straws they had pieced together. Clearly there was no object to the game but to enjoy this circle they had constructed. Every time it broke as they tried to pick it up, the little girl would burst into laughter and big brother would fix it. Dad was there. He understood the game. He played along a little with them in between straightening his wares. I could see the love on his face. I thought to myself as I observed, "this is a good man."

Only a few moments later, he noticed me and offered a small plastic stool to this white stranger "you sit here my friend." I was exhausted from walking all day and that stool was well appreciated. For a brief second I nearly refused in customary politeness but I rethought my decision A) I really would like that stool B) it would honor him to accept this gift C) and I really would like that stool. So I accepted and I'm still not sure why this small act of kindness meant so much to me. So that is my simple story, a story of two fathers. I couldn't help but notice the contrast between them. One irrational, angry and hurtful; the other treated a stranger better than the first treated his daughter.