Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reading the Catechism: week 2

Below, you are reading my notes/comments/extensions to the second week reading of the Catechism, mostly about knowing God.

                                          Knowing God

God never ceases to draw man to himself. He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. The desire of God is written in the human heart.  As St Augustine says: "our heart is restless until it rests on you" [#27,30]

Church teaching
"As the sacred synod has affirmed, God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty from created reality by the light of human reason (see Rom. 1:20)" [Dei Verbum 6]
This is, the existence of God, as beginning and end of all things, can be know by reasoning from the created reality. There are other truths about God, that should be know though revelation.

Ways of knowing God's existence: Informal explanation

Ways of knowing about the existence of God: starting from the world (contingency, change, existence, beauty) or starting from the human person (morality, introspection of the soul).

I like how Rowan Willams explains this to the 6 years old Lulu, that was asking who invented God:

[...] I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.[...]

Ways of knowing God's existence, formal explanation

One can use here Aquinas proofs, only summarised in the Summa Theologica. Some points better explained in Contra Gentiles. One could start by reading the Summa of the Summa, by Peter Kreeft.

Language of God

Our language of God is limited, since our knowledge of his is limited too, and always will be because we cannot exhaust God.

Analogical language, is the regular way to talk about God: Between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying a greater similitude. [Lateran Council IV, DS 806]

Even if we can only talk positively about God in analogical way it does not mean that anything is proper, the language may be analogical but it is not indifferent.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Objective Morality or Relativism?

Here, some very nice summary from Elliot of The Paraphasic about the problem of objective morality.

6. So it comes down to this. The moral relativist needs to ask himself whether he can establish some fundamental incoherence within the idea of objective morality which serves to unravel any system based on it. The moral objectivist needs to ask himself whether the denial of moral truth establishes some fundamental incoherence which makes it impossible to meaningfully speak about such things as morality, and then, if this is the case, whether it can be shown that the intelligibility of the moral relativist’s own speech and acts suffers (fatally) as a result. Can the relativist make sense of what he’s doing, given his relativism? Can he talk about things coherently? 
7. I think it’s very difficult for the relativist to establish his side of the problem. I have never heard someone say that objective morality is fundamentally incoherent. However, the objectivist seems to have an easy time showing that relativism causes difficulties. This is what I was getting at in #4. A moral relativist (really, any sort of relativist) quickly loses the ability (are you reading this, E-Prime people?) to share a moral universe with anyone else. The motivations for acts the understanding of prohibitions and imperatives, etc., can no longer flow from things, but begins to be imposed on things by the mind. Instantly we end up with a thrasymachean world (which, given their rhetoric, is probably not what the relativist wants). 
8. But more basically it’s impossible to explain to oneself why these things are desirable and other things are not. In other words, we’re reduced to a dichotomy: on one hand we have to resort to some nature to ground morality, in which case we find that we are actually objectivists; on the other hand, we can deny that any nature grounds morality, in which case we have to say that the moral agent is natureless, causa sui, and fundamentally unintelligible. We might say (like Sartre) that the moral agent is the ground of the intelligibility of his actions, but this really doesn’t explain anything. How do I positively bestow goodness on things? When do I choose to do this? Why would I choose either way at all? And in this case any rational or intelligible decision-making process dissolves completely, and another dichotomy presents itself: either human beings are machines suffering from an illusory consciousness and generates lies about its own behavior, or human beings are big fleshy random output generators and any attempt to make sense of what they do is futile. Whichever you choose you’re a nihilist, and no one wants to be a nihilist. (Provided their toes are all intact.) More relevantly, any talk about morality becomes meaningless.
9. So it seems like the moral objectivist wins. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reading the Catechism: week 1

 For this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict has encouraged the faithful to study and reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I have enrolled to the project to read the full Catechism in a year, every day a bit.  You can enrol to this feed and you will receive few paragraph every day in your email.

I will comment from time to time (maybe every week?) on what I have read. For the week one, this is what I like to remember:

The Catechism starts with very beautiful paragraphs expounding the love of God for the mankind and how he comes and invites us to share his blessed live. [# 0,1,2]

The Catechism presents and organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards to both faith and morals [#1] and is intended primarily for those responsible of catechesis: first of all bishops [#12]

Teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! [#24]

Moreover, in whatever is proposed for believe, hope or action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive to love. [#25]

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Augustine on Interpreting the Scriptures in the light of scientific knowledge

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]"

St Augustine (354 - 430 AD) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis ( De Genesi at litteram libri duodecim) as translated by J.H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

God, causality, and time.

Stephen Barr and Alexander Sich at the Science and Faith Conference at the Franciscan University. 

I would say this is solid "standard" philosophy of science and theology. The metaphor of the book to explain primary and secondary causes is pretty cool (not the first time I encountered it though) but at the same time it raises some questions on other things like the nature of free will and theodicy problems. I wish to know how how the same professor would address them.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Theology of the Holy Saturday?

"Holy Saturday" from R. Luczakowsky, used with permission
Today I had a very nice dinner conversation with some friends, and one of them mention to me the idea of a theology of Holy Saturday.

As you know, according to what is their main focus, theologies come in flavours. You may happen to focus on the obedience of Jesus Christ and his loving self-sacrifice. This could be named theology of the Good Friday. You may want to focus on the victory of Christ over death and the irruption of the kingdom of God over the principalities and powers of the world. This could be named theology of the Resurrection Sunday. Now, he wondered, what is the flavour (or focus) of a theology of the Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, of living in the uncomfortable middle between the necessary death of Jesus and his Resurrection. Likewise it happens in our lives. To share the joy of the living God sometimes we need to go through an experience of dying to ourselves. Like a friend of mine, whose honesty with his parents cost him a time of separation. We know that, if the seed is to give grain, it has to die. And, between the dying and the growing, there is some between time, a time of waiting, a time of letting God work. It reminds me the reading of today's mass:
"The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground,and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.

I had also browsed "holy saturday" on the internet and I found this quote:
“Man no longer lives in the beginning–he has lost the beginning. Now he finds he is in the middle, knowing neither the end nor the beginning, and yet knowing that he is in the middle, coming from the beginning and going towards the end. He sees that his life is determined by these two facets, of which he knows only that he does not know them” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Finally it occurred to me, that we cold link the theology of Saturday to patience. Which prompts me to share something that I once read relating the three theological virtues: hope faith and love.
Hope as having patience with oneself in time of desperation. Faith as having patience with God in a world that is mysterious and sometimes upsetting and painful. And finally love, as having patience with others.

All in all, a theology with a flavour of uncertainties, of waiting, of letting God do his work behind what we can immediately see (as if he worked in secret), a theology of patience with ourselves and with others. A theology like this could be named, I think, a theology of the Holy Saturday. What do you think?  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Perichoresis and Ecclesial Communion

"When God acts in the world, God’s actions have the shape of perichoresis: spaciousness, hospitality, structural openness, superabundant gift-giving. Because God is eternally a communion of persons who exist in a perfect actuality of making space within themselves for one another, God’s action in the world manifests the same shape. Thus, it is appropriate to describe the ecclesial communion of the church as a perichoresis, not because it is a transcendental mark of being, but because the church exists by virtue of God’s divine act of constituting it. The church manifests the shape of the divine perichoresis because the church is the dwelling place of the trinitarian persons" 

Halden in Inhabitatio Dei

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monasterio dos Jerónimos, Lisboa

I went to Lisbon a few days this past week. Here some pictures I took at the Monasterio dos Jerónimos.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Take this one.

From nakedpastor
So often we tend to sacrifice others for our interests. This week may a good time to look around to identify your victims.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Love in times of pain

The news bring us bad tidings : Mohammed Merah, a muslim and a french citizen, went to a Jewish school in the French city of Tolouse, and shot dead three children and a teacher. 

This man that got to the point of killing his fellow citizens, targeted his victims because they were religious Jews. To me, this is but one more example of the result of a young person with a weak brain and poor social skills, who got fascinated by the words of the imams financed by the petrodollars, who keep on and on with an agenda full of hate. Many like me would say that true Islam is not about this, but this is not how Mr Merah thought. We need to learn a lesson about how this came to happen to prevent fanatic ideologies to triumph over in our peaceful and inclusive lands. 

There is grieve in this family. A lot of pain to live with for a long long time. And yet, they not choose to counteract this hate, with more hate. No, they have shown that there can love can exist in this time of pain. The mother of two of the murdered children and wife of the murdered teacher, Mrs Eva Sandler, wrote this letter to answer the people who wanted to know what they could do in her behave. This letter is a ray of hope. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

With great sadness I received the news: Rowan Williams steps down

Rowan Willams, my favourite theologian and bishop, a good man and Christian fellow, a true leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, is going to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of this year. With great sadness I received this news.

Many on the liberal and on the conservative side have criticised him of lack of leadership, as it seems, because he didn't joint their fight as a campion for one side. It seems to me that this would have led to the destruction of the Anglican Communion. In the web many rejoice about his resignation, however,  my opinion is quite different, close to the statement from Lord Sacks,
Dr Rowan Williams has been the most able Archbishop of Canterbury for centuries and perhaps his true worth will only really be appreciated by the Church once he's gone.
and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu
The Archbishop has brought a wealth of wisdom and spiritual guidance to the role over the last 10 years in what is a very demanding job. 
In many areas William have excelled. The impact of his words and work should not be measured for how loud has he spoke, on the contrary, his accurate words of wisdom, and deeds, will have a more lasting and profound impact. We will miss him.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The perfume of lent

Some years ago, in a meeting during lent, a marist brother surprisingly announced that he hadn't joined the line for the lent ashes imposition. Even more, he pulled off a perfume and suggested us to put some on ourselves. Yes, this is a real story!, and since then, it comes back to my mind every lent.

The ashes are a liturgical element, and as such they are great. They are an external sign of something internal, namely our human fragility, the need of conversion etc. But outside the liturgical context, the ashes may be a showing-off sign. In New York, for instance, I always saw a bunch of people with the ashes in their foreheads all day long. I don't know if this was out of an excess of respect to the ashes, or maybe an opportunity to talk about christianity to the stand-by-surprised people, but to me, it seemed like they were saying "Look, I am such a good christian!". And New York is not the only place where I encountered this. During lent mass in In Portsmouth I even heard the priest asking the school children that were attending not to remove the ashes until the end of the day. Maybe the ashes are a good opportunity for them to stand out as Christians in the very secularised UK society. Yet not every opportunity needs to be taken. It could be done in another they and in another fashion, specially when   in fact, today's gospel ask us to to otherwise:

“When you fast, do not do like the hypocrites, who put a sad apparence and distort they faces so that every one will see that they are fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face¨ (Mt 6.16-17, read on Ash Wednesday)

This is what our marist brother remembers us. Today's gospel is a call for interior conversion, which obviously will require some external sings, but be careful not to fall into showing off ourselves or feeling that we are better than others. All in all, I want the ashes, but I also want the perfume.

Have a good lent, everyone!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fasting and Abstinence Discipline of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Spain and US.

The Basics:

The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way (Cannon 1249)
Fasting and Abstinence are two ways of doing penance. There are other ways too. Fasting means not eating food for some length of time. Abstinence means not doing a particular thing or not eating a particular food. If you want to know why I think that Abstinence and Fasting are a good idea, go here.

All Fridays of the year, and the whole seasson of Lent are stablished as penitential days for all Catholics.

Who is bind to fasting or abstinence 

-  The law of abstinence bind people who are 14 or older
-  The law of fasting bind people who are between 18 (majority age in the Church) and 59 years old.
   (C 1252, 97)

-  Even if you may not bind to fasting or abstinence you are still bind to do penance in some form.
-  You may be excused of abstinence and fasting if you are sick.
-  The diocesan bishop can dispense of this law, and for individual cases so can the pastor or the religious superior.

Days of fasting and abstinence.  

-  Ash Wednesday
-  Good Friday
-  Is up to the Episcopal Conferences to set obligations or not of abstinence on the rest of Fridays that are not Solemnities.

England and Wales

Abstinence every Friday of the year.

The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this [penance] should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake. This is to come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011[...]

Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation.

Spring 2011 plenary resolutions

United States of America 

Abstinence of meat on Fridays of Lent. Other Fridays this may be substituted by works of penance.
See here for details


Abstinence of meat on Fridays of Lent. Other Fridays this may be substituted for certain works of penance.

2. El Miércoles de Ceniza, comienzo de la Cuaresma, y el Viernes Santo, memoria de la Pasión y Muerte de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, son días de ayuno y abstinencia. Los otros viernes de Cuaresma son también días de abstinencia, que consiste en no tomar carne, según antigua práctica del pueblo cristiano. [...]
3. En los restantes viernes del año, la abstinencia puede ser sustituida, según la libre voluntad de los fieles, por cualquiera de las siguientes prácticas recomendadas por la Iglesia: lectura de la Sagrada Escritura, limosna (en la cuantía que cada uno estime en conciencia), otras obras de caridad (visita de enfermos o atribulados), obras de piedad (participación en la santa misa, rezo del rosario, etc.) y mortificaciones corporales.

Conferencia Episcopal Española de 21 de noviembre de 1986

Abstaining from meat,  but what meat means here? And fasting, how much?

Either explicitly or implicitly these Episcopal Conferences are following the Apostiolic Constitution Paenitemini, Paul VI, 1966

1. The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat. 
2  The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom.

Fast not related to penance.

Eucharistic Fast

One hour before communion.

"One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion" (CIC 919 §1). Elderly people, those who are ill, and their caretakers are excused from the Eucharistic fast (CIC 191 §3). Priests and deacons may not dispense one obligated by the Eucharistic fast unless the bishop has expressly granted such power to them (cf. CIC 89). 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Comparative Theology Rap

Hey, this rap has been created in response to the "Why I hate religion but love Jesus" that has been in the youtube lately. I've got this from one of the seven takes from the atheist blog unequally yoked.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Seven Quick Takes I: Thérèse of Lisieux

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

--- 1 ---

For some time I've been thinking of Joining the "Seven Quick Takes Friday" trend on the blogsphere. Following the lead of  Conversion Diary! who acts also as a host, many bloggers are joining into.

--- 2 ---

The person of this week, for me is Thérèse of Lisieux, a young Carmelite nun of the late 19th century, who entered the cloistered convent at Lisieux at the age of 15, and died when she was 24. Little Thérèse had an unnoticed life. After her death however she became widely known and become a saint and a doctor of the Catholic Church.
--- 3 ---

We know Thérese from three document that she wrote as a request of her prioress. Two of them are authobiographical accounts and one is an explanation of her "Little Way". These accounts were edited together after her death under the title "The story of a soul".  Her writings had awaked the hearts of many and proved her a master of spirituality. Her life show us that everyone can be a saint, that we can walk the road towards perfection by doing every small thing we do with love.

--- 4 ---

From Richard Beck, who is doing a wonderful series on Thérese, I learned that when she was excited, she would write in capital letters. It is almost as we would do this on the internet now! What a pity that the version I have these details have been edited of.

--- 5 ---

One day Thérèse was wondering why there should be different degrees of glory in heaven. Is this fair?

I told you [her sister] once how it puzzled me that God did not give everyone the same amount of glory in Heaven, and I feared they could not all be happy. You sent me off to fetch one of Father's big glasses and made me put my little thimble by the side of it; then you filled them both up with water and asked me which I thought was the fuller. I had to admit that one was just as full as the other because neither of them would hold any more.
That was the way you helped me to grasp how it was that in Heaven the least have no cause to envy the greatest.
By explaining such great mysteries in a way I could understand, you gave my soul its necessary food.

--- 6 ---

Thérèse felt herself very loved by God and she loved Him very much. At the same time she had not great sins to repent from, and therefore she was struck by Jesus saying "to whom less if forgiven, he loveth less". To reconcile this facts she would argue that she, being too weak to face temptation, had been forgiven in anticipation, which is even greater occasion to be thankful to God.

Suppose the son of a skillful doctor falls over a stone lying in his path and breaks a limb. His father hurries to helphim and dresses his wound so skillfully that it heals completely. Naturally, he is quite right to love such a father and will be most grateful to him.
But supposing again this doctor saw the dangerous stone, anticipated that his son would fall over it and moved it out of the way when no one was looking; then his son would know nothing of the danger from which his father's loving care had saved him and so would have no reason to show gratitude. He would love him less than if he had healed some serious wound. But if he did find out the truth, surely his love would be even greater? I am that child, the object of the Father's loving providence, "who did not send His son to call the just, but sinners." (Luke 5:32). He wants me to love Him because He has forgiven me, not much, but everything. He did not wait for me to love Him with a great love, like Magdalene's, but made me see that He had loved me first, with an infinite providence, so that now I may love Him in return even unto folly.

--- 7 ---

Thérèse had dreams of an heroic life. If only she were a priest! If only she were an apostle! If only she were a martyr! But she was a cloistered nun. What should be here vocation then? She found it to be love. To be the heart of the Church. 
I saw that if the Church was a body made up of different members, the most essential and important one of all would not be lacking; I saw that the Church must have a heart, that this heart must be on fire with love. I saw that it was love alone which moved her other members, and that were this love to fail, apostles would no longer spread the Gospel, and martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I saw that all vocations are summed up in love and that love is all in all, embracing every time and place because it is eternal.
In a transport of ecstatic joy I cried: "Jesus, my Love, I have at last found my vocation; it is love! I have found my place in the Church's heart, the place You Yourself have given me, my God. Yes, there in the heart of Mother Church I will be love; so shall I be all things, so shall my dreams come true."