On the Seventh Day of Christmas

We were blessed with a White Christmas!  Here's a view out my back door looking out over the deck...

Merry Christmas - and peace to men of goodwill!


Yes, January 1st is a Holy Day of Obligation

Madonna of the Streets by Roberto Ferruzzi
On January 1st, we, the Catholic Church, celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God.  Why does this declaration make so many so uncomfortable?  Mary is the mother of Jesus.  We have declared what Jesus declared--that He is God.  His human mother, Mary, bore the God-man.  This solemnity, while a Marian Feast day, celebrates Christ's Godhead as well.  Every feast, every holy day, every title given to Mary is in honor of her Son.

495 Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus", Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord".144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos).145  144 Lk 1:43; Jn 2:1; 19:25; cf. Mt 13:55; et al.
145 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251.

The Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God
115. On New Year's Day, the octave day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God. The divine and virginal motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a singular salvific event: for Our Lady it was the foretaste and cause of her extraordinary glory; for us it is a source of grace and salvation because "through her we have received the Author of life"(127).
The solemnity of the 1 January, an eminently Marian feast, presents an excellent opportunity for liturgical piety to encounter popular piety: the first celebrates this event in a manner proper to it; the second, when duly catechised, lends joy and happiness to the various expressions of praise offered to Our Lady on the birth of her divine Son, to deepen our understanding of many prayers, beginning with that which says: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners". [From the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy]
We celebrate Mary's motherhood, Jesus Christ's Godhood, and the eternal connection between mother and Son. 

If you're Catholic, don't forget to go to Mass tomorrow.  If you're Christian of any other kind, think about Christ, His mother, and the message of peace on earth this day.

The Holy See shares the profound aspirations of man for peace. Since 1967, 1 January has been designated "world day for peace". [from sec. 117 of the Directory cited above]
Mary and the Christ Child by Raphael

Immaculate Mary, hymn whose author is unknown, using a traditional french tune:
Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing,
who reignest in splendor with Jesus our King.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria, ave, ave Maria.

In heaven, the blessed thy glory proclaim;
On earth, we thy children invoke thy fair name.
Ave, ave, ave Maria, ave, ave Maria.

Thy name is our power, thy virtues our light,
They love is our comfort, thy pleading our might.
Ave, ave, ave Maria, ave, ave Maria.

We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth;
And bless, dearest Lady, the land of our birth.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria, ave, ave Maria.

1 - Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing,
who reignest in splendor with Jesus our King.

Refrain: Ave, Ave, Ave Maria, Ave, Ave Maria.

2 - In heaven, the blessed thy glory proclaim;
On earth, we thy children invoke thy fair name.

3 - Thy name is our power, thy virtues our light,
Thy love is our comfort, thy pleading our might.

4 - We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth;
And bless, dearest Lady, the land of our birth. - See more at: http://www.wf-f.org/SolemnityMary.html#sthash.j52u9gfT.dpuf

Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord is the Christian feast observed on Jan. 6.   An “epiphany” is an appearance. In today’s readings, with their rising stars, splendorous lights and mysteries revealed, the face of the child born on Christmas day appears.

In honor of this day, I thought I’d bring you a little exchange of the pro-life position to a pro-choice individual using what science has made known to us on when human life actually makes its appearance in this world, ie when life begins…

Pro-lifer: What do you think about abortion?

Pro-choicer: I don’t know. I mean, if a woman already has three kids and can barely feed them, I don’t see why she has to be forced to bring another child into the world.

PL: I agree it would be really tough to not know how you are going to provide for your children. I don’t know how I’d handle that situation. But can I ask you a question?

PC: Sure.

PL: Let’s say this woman knows she can take care of three children and she actually wants a newborn. Should she be allowed to kill one of her other children, such as her two-year-old, so that she can make ends meet?

PC: No! I mean, she could always adopt that one out.

PL: Yeah, but what if she doesn’t want to worry about what will happen to that child after she adopts him out? Maybe she’s worried about him being abused by a stranger. Why would you say she shouldn’t be allowed to kill her two-year-old?

PC: Because the two-year-old is a living, born human being. It’s completely different! Are you saying that a woman should be forced to drop out of school or lose her job just because she’s pregnant?

PL: I don’t think women should be fired just because they are pregnant—that’s definitely unfair. But let’s say a woman gives birth and finds that she can’t finish school or keep her job because her baby demands too much of her. In fact, most moms I know find born babies to be harder to handle than unborn babies. Should women be allowed to kill their newborns if that will help their education or career?

PC: Of course not, but you’re confusing the issue.

PL: How am I doing that?

PC: You’re talking about killing babies, and I’m just talking about women’s choice.

PL: A choice to do what exactly?

PC: To not be a mother if they don’t want to be one.

PL: I agree with you that no woman should be forced to become a mother.

PC: You do?

PL: Of course. We also agree that it’s okay to force a woman to stay a mother by forbidding her from killing her born children. She can put them up for adoption and give up being their legal mother, but she’ll always be a biological mother as long as the children are alive.

PC: But that’s because you can’t kill people.

PL: Ah! So that’s the issue. It’s not really about poverty or choice, since you and I agree those reasons wouldn’t justify killing born people like two-year-olds. But if the unborn are just as human as a two-year-old, then why not treat them like we treat two-year-olds and make it illegal to kill them just because they are unwanted?

(exchange found in Trent Horn’s book “Persuasive Pro-Life” in the chapter named “The Pragmatists”)


God Bless

What Catholics Believe: The Blessed Virgin Mary

On Catholic Debate Forum some time ago, a woman who seems to be wavering between her Protestant beliefs and the Catholic Church she says she grew up around, made a passing comment about how wonderful it is to be able to pray to Mary.  A Protestant, uneducated in the Catholic doctrines concerning Mary, decided she just had to chime in and make comments about how it was not biblical to pray to Mary.  She said that since Jesus didn't say any such prayer, like He did the Lord's Prayer, then it must not be true.  It is painfully obvious that she did not think her statement through. Mary was not in Heaven when Jesus was teaching His followers how to pray to God as their Father.  Since Mary was still alive when her Son was on earth, all He would have to do is turn to her and ask her to pray for Him.  Now, Mary is in Heaven with Jesus, and all Mary has to do is turn to her Son when we ask her to pray for us.  Huge big problem in Protestant "logic" when trying to analyze Catholic doctrine concerning Mary is that they frequently compare apples to oranges.  We pray to the Blessed Virgin (and the other saints, too) asking her to pray for us since she is so close to God and part of the same family to which we belong.  Jesus is God, so the Protestant's point is moot, as He has no need to ask anyone to pray for Him.

Now, what do Catholics believe about Mary?  Here are my personal top ten.
1) Mary is the Mother of God.
2) Mary is wholly united with her Son, Jesus.
3) She is the spouse of the Holy Spirit.
4) She is the queen of Heaven.
5) Mary is venerated, not worshiped.
6) Mary is a model of the Church.
7) Mary is a model for Christians.
8) Mary is the Immaculate Conception.
9) Mary has a special part in the order of grace.

10) Mary has and does make special appearances on Earth--called apparitions. 

Here is a presentation of each point:

1)  Mary is the mother of God.

Jesus is God.  Mary is the Mother of Jesus, therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.

No, Catholics do not believe Mary to be the progenitor of the Blessed Trinity.  That never was, nor never will be the claim of the Church.

"Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus", Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord". In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos)." --Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 495.
The above statement from the Catechism succinctly states why we call her "Mother of God."  The Orthodox church honors her as the "Theotokos" or God-bearer.  I don't know about other people but I introduce the woman who carried me in her womb as "mother."  I don't call her 'mother of my body' or "my bearer" because she did not create my soul.  No, I call her "mother." In the same way, we call the bearer of Jesus (the second Person of the Trinity) the "Mother of God" for that is what Jesus is--God.
"For in the first place no common man was born of the holy Virgin; then the Word thus descended upon him; but being united from the womb itself he is said to have endured a generation in the flesh in order to appropriate the producing of His own body.  Thus [the holy Fathers] did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as Mother of God." --Council of Ephesus, AD 431.
It is a belief that was thought over, fought over, and decided very early in the Church.  She is in reality the "Mother of God" not mother of an ordinary man or just His body.  She bore the second Person of the Blessed Trinity in her womb.
"And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
"This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God..." I John 4:2
The Church stated in Lumen Gentium (LG) (or Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) in chapter VIII, "Our Lady":   
"The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and brought forth life to the world, is acknowledged as truly the mother of God and of the Redeemer." (LG 52)

 2) Mary is wholly united with her Son.

[Mary is] "Redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the holy Spirit.

"Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. 'This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to His death; [LG 57] it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: "Woman, behold your son.'  [LG 58; cf. John26-27] (CCC 964)
At a general audience in October 1995, Pope St. John Paul II stated:
Mary is united to Christ in the whole work of Redemption, sharing, according to God's plan, in the Cross and suffering for our salvation. She remained united to the Son "in every deed, attitude and wish" (cf. Life of Mary, Bol. 196, f. 122 v.). Mary's association with Jesus' saving work came about through her Mother's love, a love inspired by grace, which conferred a higher power on it: love freed of passion proves to be the most compassionate (cf. ibid., Bol. 196, f. 123 v.).

Annunciation by Murillo, 17th cent.
3) She is the spouse of the Holy Spirit.

Mary was "overshadowed" by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).  She conceived Jesus by Him.  How else could we express in human terms the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary but spousal.  Although every woman is a cooperator with God in the miracle of creation, Mary's cooperation was a much deeper one.  She gave her whole self in her "yes" to God.  This is the type of "yes" God expects us to give in the marriage Sacrament, when two become one.  Mary truly became one with God.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  (Mary's "Magnificat", Luke 1:46-55)

The Crowning of the Virgin by the Trinity, Velazquez
4) She is Queen of Heaven.

"A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."  --Revelation 12:1

The logic of this title escapes a lot of well-meaning Christians.  By virtue the fact that Christ is the King of the Universe, Mary is the Queen Mother.  Just as Queen Elizabeth's Mother was called "Queen Mother", so Mary merits the title.  And, like her title as the "Mother of God", "Queen of Heaven" is appropriate and true.  
We have a foreshadowing of this relationship in King Solomon and his mother, Bathsheba.  Solomon had many wives because of the tradition of taking wives of royal families for peace and trade treaties.  The nation of Israel wanted a king "like all the other nations" and they certainly achieved that.  Who was to be his queen?  His hostess?  He couldn't have a favorite and cause strife in the royal household.  Bathsheba, his mother, Queen mother fulfilled those duties.  I Kings chapter shows an incident of someone coming to her to beg a favor of her son, King Solomon.  It shows that she was the acknowledged queen; the one anyone should talk to if they wanted something from the king. In the same way we can go to Blessed Virgin Mary when we want to ask the King for His mercy and favor.

Our Lady of Grace from an old prayer card
5) Mary is venerated not worshiped.

The first person to venerate Mary was her cousin, Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:41-45

Mary is considered the first of the saints because of her role in the economy of salvation.  She bore the second Person of the Blessed Trinity in her body.  She was Christ's first disciple.  She is the Queen Mother, as Christ is the King of the Universe. 
"Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and humanity to a place after her Son, as the most holy mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honored with a special cult by the church."

"This cult, as it has always existed, in the Church, while it is totally extraordinary, it yet differs essentially from the cult of adoration which is offered equally to the Incarnate Word and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and is most favorable to this adoration.  The various forms of piety towards the Mother of God which, within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine,...ensure that while the mother is honored, the Son through whom all things have their being and in whom it has pleased the Father that "all fullness should dwell" rightly known, loved and glorified and his commandments are observed."  [both quotes from Lumen Gentium (LG), Chapter VIII, para 66.
This is essentially saying that there has always been a following of Mary, but it has always come in second place the adoration and worship of God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Despite the anachronistic accusations of  many anti-Catholics, praying to Mary is not worshiping her.  I, personally, have a difficult time in understanding how to a) hold onto a heritage that includes perfectly legitimate language while at the same time b) not sounding as if Catholics have to justify that perfectly legitimate language to the willfully ignorant.  To pray does include other meanings aside from the worship of God. The current Merriam-Webster online Dictionary has this definition of pray:

St. Louis de Monfort was devoted to Mary
: to speak to God especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something
: to hope or wish very much for something to happen
: to seriously ask (someone) to do something
transitive verb   1:  entreat, implore —often used as a function word in introducing a question, request, or plea; pray be careful;  2:  to get or bring by praying
 intransitive verb  1:  to make a request in a humble manner  2:  to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving

Examples of PRAY:  1. There's little else to do now but hope and pray.  2. The minister said, Let us pray.”   3.  He prayed that they would have the strength to go on.   4. He prayed that he would find a parking spot.
Origin of PRAY
Middle English, from Anglo-French prier, praer, preier, from Latin precari, from prec-, prex request, prayer; akin to Old High German frāga question, frāgēn to ask, Sanskrit pṛcchati he asks
Any educated person can see that "pray" has had and still has more than one meaning.  It is not just a wording meaning worship or adoration or praising God.  What is that pray tell?  No, I am not worshiping you.

As for the kneeling, I kneel to weed my garden; I do not worship my flowers.  I kneel to scrub the floor; I am not worshiping linoleum.  There is a purpose for kneeling, but kneeling is not reserved just for worshiping God.  Kneeling in supplication to God in Church is for us; it humbles us before God.  Kneeling in prayer to Mary helps us quiet our body and our mind in asking the mother of Our Lord to pray for us to her Son.  So, when a Catholic prays a Rosary on their knees they are not worshiping Mary, they are praying through her to her Son, Jesus.  If one cares to investigate how Jesus is actually the co-star, as it were, of the Rosary, one may find this research on the Rosary done by David MacDonald of Catholic Bridge interesting.

Some important dates connected to remember because they are holy days of obligation are: January 1, the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God; August 15, the Assumption of Mary; December 8, the Immaculate Conception of Mary (not moved to Sunday because Mary Immaculate is the Patroness of the United States), and, of course, Christmas, December 25th.

Other important feast days (though not obligations) are:  February 2, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple; March 25, the Annunciation; May 31, the Visitation; August 22, the Queenship of Mary; September 8, Mary's birthday; September 12, the most holy name of Mary; November 21, the presentation of Mary at the Temple; May is the month of Mary; and October is the month of the Rosary.

Pentecote [Pentecost] by Jean II Restout 1732
6) Mary is a model of the Church.

"The Church becomes a mother, taking Mary as her model. In this regard the Council says: "The Church in deed, contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father's will, by receiving the Word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life" (LG 64).
Analyzing this description of the Church's maternal work, we can note how the Christian's birth is linked here in a certain way to the birth of Jesus, as though a reflection of it: Christians are "conceived by the Holy Spirit", and therefore their birth, the fruit of preaching and Baptism, resembles the Saviour's.
Moreover, in contemplating Mary, the Church imitates her charity, her faithful acceptance of the Word of God and her docility in fulfilling the Father's will. By following the Blessed Virgin's example, she achieves a fruitful spiritual motherhood.  (Pope St. John Paul II, Mary is Model for Church's Motherhood, Section 3.)
St. John Paul II explained this point extremely well.  The Church must imitate Mary's charity and "her faithful acceptance of the Word of God."  There is nothing more important than having the Church as our Mother.  We have God as our Father and the Church as our Mother.  Those of us who have a true passion for Christ's Church are working hard in making sure the Church becomes more like Mary.

7) Mary is a model for Christians.

From the Church he [the Christian] learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary...." (CCC 2030)
Mary was there from the first moment of His Conception, to every aspect of His public ministry, through His suffering, death, and burial to His joyful Resurrection.  She was there in the upper room when the fulfillment of Christ's promise, to send a comforter, was fulfilled and the Apostles and Mary received the Holy Spirit.  (See LG 58) She was there for it all and she is an example for us all.  She believed His words; she believed His promises.  She followed Him with the undying faith that we all should have.

"...the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin.(300) And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues....For Mary, who since her entry into salvation history unites in herself and re-echoes the greatest teachings of the faith as she is proclaimed and venerated, calls the faithful to her Son and His sacrifice and to the love of the Father."  (LG 65)
She is the model for us in virtue and our call to her Son.  If we were to model our lives after the example of Mary's complete giving of self to God, we, too, will be prepared to meet Him in Heaven.

Immaculate Conception by Murillo 1678
8) Mary is the Immaculate Conception

First, in talking about the Immaculate Conception, one must clear up a major misconception, namely that the Immaculate Conception is not the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  One could say that Jesus was born with an immaculate soul.  However, the title Immaculate Conception refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  This, in simple terms, means that Mary was the one person since before "The Fall" that received an immaculate soul--free of Original Sin.

"To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace."  [CCC 490132 LG 56.  133 Lk 1:28.]

This grace was not given to her because of anything she did but was a gift to her for her future "yes."  Now, how do we explain this concept?  Jesus, because He is God is not bound by time.  Yes, He voluntarily became man in time and space for a very short time on Earth.  However, Scripture makes it quite clear that He is God and has all the attributes of God.  By virtue of Mary's saying "yes" to God she was gifted an immaculate (or completely spotless) soul.

"The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love"." 137  [CCC 492136 LG 53, 56.  137 Cf. Eph 1:3-4.]

9) Mary has a special part in the order of grace.

This means she was full of God's life (grace).  She literally had God inside her.  There could be no more special way in which one could have God's life in you.  She therefore has a special part in the order of grace.

"This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . .

"Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power." (CCC 969, 970)

Our Lady of Kibeho
10) Mary has and does make special appearances on Earth--called apparitions. 

An apparition is defined as an appearance of Jesus, Mary, or another saint which may include a message to the person(s) who experiences the apparition. While most people think that the Vatican or a council of bishops must approve an apparition, it is actually the responsibility of the bishop (the ordinary) of the diocese in which the apparition occurs.  As a result there are many conflicting reports on just how many Marian apparitions are "approved".  However, many times the pope has made an official approval of certain apparitions, but he is usually putting his stamp of approval, so to speak, on apparitions approved by the local ordinary (bishop).  As far as this author can find, there is no comprehensive, up to date list of all "approved" Marian apparitions.  ("Approved" is defined as "worthy of belief by the Christian faithful" but by no means is it obligatory to do so.)  Some of those "approved" by proper Church authority are Our Lady of Guadalupe (1531), Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (1830), Our Lady of LaSalette (1846), "Immaculate Conception" or Our Lady of Lourdes (1858), Pontmain (1871), Our Lady of Knock (1879) at Knock, Ireland, "Our Lady of the Rosary" aka Our Lady of Fatima (1917), Beauraing (1932-33), Belgium, Banneux (1933), Belgium, Our Lady of Kibeho also known as "Mary, Mother of the Word" (1981), Rwanda.

This is not a complete list, but I plan to address some of these Marian apparitions in a future post.

So, there you have it--some basics on Mary.  These are my personal Top 10.  There could be things I didn't touch on or forgot to include.  This is not meant as a comprehensive treatise on the Blessed Virgin, but a starting point for non-Catholics (perhaps Catholics, too) in understanding who is this Mary, the mother of our Savior.

Further Reading:
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part I, Section 2, Chapter 3, Paragraph 6. Mary--Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.  
Churches teachings on Mary, EWTN index on various teachings.
General Audiences: Teaching of John Paul II on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope St. John Paul II, various dates.
Redemptoris Mater (or On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church), Pope St. John Paul II, March 25, 1987.
Rosarium Virginis Mariae (or Apostolic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary), Pope St. John Paul II, Oct. 16, 2002.
Marialis Cultus (or Apostolic Exhortation For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), Pope Paul VI, Feb. 2, 1974.

Fourth Day of Christmas

Keeping Christ in ChristMass...  Day 4!  Some great insights from the sermon today, I'll share later when I get to a computer.

Merry Christmas 3rd Day

Third Day of Christmas - we begin with Mass at Immaculate Conception in Fountain, Colorado.

Chicken Parmesan Church

Chicken Parmesan
I wrote this some time ago after an interesting discussion with a protestant friend. 

I read the menu for a formal dinner to which I'd been invited.  One of the three options for the entree was Chicken Parmesan.  However, the description said that the entree is a lightly breaded chicken breast cutlet covered in marinara sauce and provolone cheese.  Now, how can one call an entree Parmesan chicken without Parmesan cheese?  It may look similar but provolone is not Parmesan.

It is like the Church or what some call "the church."  The Church I know now, the Catholic Church, is both the visible, holy, apostolic, united Church Christ founded for His people, and the invisible spiritual body of Christ.  However others, the ones who claim to be part of the mysterious, coincidentally hard to define, invisible church, are not quite the same thing.  It may have similarities to the Church, but none of these churches are the original.  Church is more than just a word or a name, it is the substance of the thing.  Just like the Parmesan chicken without the Parmesan, these other "churches" are not the Church without the rock on which Christ founded His Church.

Christ commissioning St. Peter
The Catholic Church claims to be the Church Christ founded.  Why?  The short answer?  Because He did found the Catholic Church.  The Church is founded on Jesus' words, "You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my Church", "Feed My sheep, Feed My lambs, Feed My sheep", "Go and make disciples of all nations.  Baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", and "I will be with you until the end of the age."  But, because a mentally unstable German priest had problems with the abuses of the men in the Church in his country, and a rebellious and ambitious Frenchman decided to create a church in their own image, many left the Church for an imitation of the Church.  They left Christ's Church for someone's idea of what the Church should be; they left the actual Church for an imitation. 

The tragedy is that now so, so many don't realize that their "church" is an imitation.  They don't know the difference between Parmesan and provolone, because they've never tasted Parmesan.  What they have is something similar in name, similar in focus, similar in words, similar in appearance but not the same.  We all should pray for the unity of the Body--the intention of Christ.  He didn't say, "You all form churches that reflect your idea of what My Church should be" or "There will be many bodies."  It is tragedy that so many Christians spend so much time and energy fighting and disparaging His Church.  Let us pray for future Christian unity or at least understanding--that someday they, those Christians who are not full members of His Church, will come to know the "taste" of the real thing.

Recommended reading:
How to Become a Catholic by Catholic Answers
Visible Vs. Invisible Church by David MacDonald of CatholicBridge.com
Joining the Catholic Church by OurCatholicFaith.org

Merry Christmas - Day 2!

Today is the SECOND DAY of Christmas!  Remember, the Christmas Season JUST STARTED!  What was before December 25th was ADVENT.  Christmas lasts until at least January 6th, Epiphany (the Twelve Days of Christmas), or even until February 2nd, Candlemas.

So, MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Don't take down those decorations just yet!

Christ Mass, December 25th

Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th?  There are a lot of rumors, half-truths, and anti-Catholic nonsense circulated every year at this time.  One thing must be stated from the start, many of the customs, feasts, and celebrations have their roots in the not only in the 1st century Church but from the Jewish roots of the original Christians.  Many of these traditions were not formalized or universally celebrated until Christians were no longer persecuted by the Roman Empire.      

Back to the original question--Why was that day, December 25th, chosen for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ?

First of all, there is little evidence that prior to the end of the persecutions that Christians had any interest in celebrating Christ's birth.  The biggest reason for this is that they were expecting Christ's return at any time; they thought that Christ would be back in their lifetimes.  As time marched on, the disciples of Christ decided to begin writing about Christ and His teachings in the event that Christ's return did not occur while they were yet living on Earth. 

Modern biblical scholars believe Mark may have written his Gospel first, and there is no mention of the manner of Christ's birth nor the date of His birth.  Matthew, one of the original apostles, and Luke did include details of His birth interspersed with Old Testament prophesies concerning the awaited Messiah. They both, Matthew and Luke, added infancy narratives for the purpose of making it clear that He was the actual Son of God, not just a son of God in the sense that we all sons and daughters of God. 

The only chronological evidence of Christ's birth is contained in the two Gospels which include the birth narratives say that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. So, Christ was most likely born around 6 BC on our modern calendar according to most biblical scholars.  I won't get into the mistakes of how our calendar is slightly off as far as the starting point of year one; that is a whole different post.

Ancient peoples thought that the earth was "born" or created at the vernal equinox in the Spring.  So, as the "new Adam", it was thought that Jesus was born on March 25.  However, a man named Sextus Julius Africanus put forward the idea that March 25th was the day of Christ's conception, so that December 25th would be the actual birth day.  Since Malachi called the Messiah, the "Sun of righteousness", some early Christians applied this to Christ.  So, later some of ideas surrounding the sun god in the winter would be incorporated into secular celebrations of Christmas.  The days becoming longer after the winter equinox and Christ being the "light" or the "Sun" helped make the 25th of December a popular, then later the only, celebration of Christ's birth in the West.

Over 16 centuries after the feast of the Nativity was fixed in Rome, rumors still circulate that December 25th was a pagan festival re-appropriated by the Catholic Church, therefore it is really a pagan holiday.  This error is a reference to Saturnalia.  While Saturnalia is in December, the date of December 25th was not chosen because of it.  As already mentioned, this date was advocated by a Churchman named Sextus Julius Africanus as the date of Christ's birth because he advocated the conception of Christ happened March 25th, the traditional date of the creation.  Saturnalia was a festival celebrated from December 17 through December 23 with all kinds of eating, drinking, gambling, and forms of debauchery.  While the Catholic Church authorities did hope that the celebration of Christmas in December would encourage Christians not to celebrate the pagan festival, it was not the primary purpose of choosing that date nor was the date chosen to take over that pagan holiday. 

There is evidence that the decision to celebrate Christ's Nativity Mass (or Christmas) on December 25th happened no later than AD 335.   There is a document dating from that year that lists the dies natalis Christi on December 25th.  There is no mention on who made the decision or how it came about but it was a fixed feast and celebrated in Rome by December 25, 335.

Another error put forth about the December 25th date is that the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar causing the loss of 10 days of the calendar, caused the celebration of Christmas to be moved from January 6th to December 25th. While it is true that the Gregorian calendar was not adopted by everyone at once, Christmas was already being celebrated on December 25th by the Western Church.  The conflict of the date of Christmas was mainly in the East, where they still celebrated Christ's birth, the visit of the magi, and the baptism of Christ on January 6th.  Some countries in the East did change to the Gregorian calendar, therefore celebrating Christmas about 10 days eartlier than their neighbors.  So, some churches in the East may have changed their date to the same day as the West for consistency and wanting to be one with the rest of the Church in the West.

The earliest record of the celebration of Christmas in Rome is 335AD.  It was chosen because of a North African theologian's suggestion that Christ was conceived in the Spring. Another theologian asserted in 320, "We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it."  December 25th was not chosen specifically because of the pagan festival but after the fixing of the date, it was the hope of the hierarchy that Christmas would counteract the pagan festivals (Saturnalia December 17 - 23 and the January 1-6 New Year) and be a way to make families closer to Christ.

Some excellent resources on Christmas and the choosing of the date:
The Origins of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly, PhD.
This book is a well research source on all the traditions we all know and love about Christmas.  He goes into the tradition of the Wisemen and their names, the names of Mary's parents, the date of Christmas, and much more.
The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly, PhD.
This book is an abbreviated version of The Origins of Christmas focusing specifically on the fixing of the date of Christmas in the Western Church.  I did use some information I learned from reading this book.

Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25? by David Bennett
In this online article, Mr. Bennett goes into the reasons why December 25th was chosen for the Nativity for Christian reasons.  He also cites Mr. Kelly's research in his article.
A Timeline of Catholic Church History: 1 -500 AD by David MacDonald.
This is a good general outline of Church history.  He references the Christmas date recorded in AD 336.

More on the Church and Homosexuality

Below is a letter someone named "John" wrote me back in 2013, and I lost track of the letter.  I believe it deserves a response still - I hope "John" is still out there and sees this.

(Feb. 13, 2013)
            Thank you for your time. I have been trying to resolve an issue I have with my Church
the Catholic Church for some time now unsuccessfully. I have made the observation that the
Church has come to accept the existence of the “homosexual person”. This I believe to be an
error the Church must correct.
            I have communicated with a number of people in the Church over the past eight years
and have been unsuccessful resolving this issue. I do not judge anyone we all have the gift of
freewill and will all be judged by the Lord for our lives. However the Church does not have
freewill but has an obligation to the Lord to be consistent with the faith of our fathers and the
traditions of the Church.
            I believe that human sexuality is a very complicated issue that I am ill equipped to discuss
with any level of competence. My issue is much simpler “Church 101” if you will. Sexuality of any
kind is only involved due to the nature of the change in Church teaching. The heart of this issue is
the Church’s handling of temptation.
                        Here is what leads me to believe that the Church has accepted the existence of the
“homosexual person”.
This section of the Catechism 2357 I believe defines “homosexuality”:
“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive
… sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.”
            I leave out the words “or predominant” as that just makes the group size smaller and
clarifies the definition. This statement says that there is a group of people who “experience an
exclusive … sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex”. If this group has an “exclusive …
sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex” they are incapable of being attracted to people
of the opposite sex.
2359 says “Homosexual persons are called to chastity” I do not see how this is not an
acceptance of the “homosexual person” who is fundamentally different than the “heterosexual
person”. I reject this idea.
In the daily readings recently I noted that 1 Corinthians 6:9 says:

"Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be
deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing

I use a Catholic translation and checked the Vatican site this quote is from the Vatican
            The implication being that there are “non-practicing homosexuals”. “fornicators nor
idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes” are not qualified as “practicing”. I do not believe
that Paul was familiar with the concept of the “homosexual person”. I do not believe it right
and just for the Church to change the Evangelists thoughts to correspond with its current
            2357 says “Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained” as far as I can tell this
is the only justification for the Churches acceptance of the “homosexual person”. To accept
something that is “unexplained” can only be done as an act of faith. As a Catholic I am
required to accept much on faith and I do. For me to accept “homosexuality” as an article
of faith it would need to be consistent with the faith of my fathers, Church history and tradition,
and in this case natural law. Since “homosexuality” is consistent with none of these I reject it as
a false premise.
Let me say I believe that psychology does wonderful things for many people. I also
believe that psychology is a soft science. Some in psychology say that God is a delusion. I
believe it is wrong to look at this with the rubric of psychology. I believe the correct lens is
morality. I believe God is not provable by design I believe God wants us to come to Him
through faith. A provable God and faith are not possible. If God is not provable then it is
reasonable to come to the conclusion that there is no God. My belief is rooted in faith and
the faith of my fathers as well as the Church. If one concludes there is no God then why is
one person’s morality better than an others and who is to say “same-sex behavior” wrong.
Since I believe in God I believe God determines morality. At my father’s funeral the Priest
said “If there is no God then life is a cruel joke”. I believe this to be true.
            In communicating with a fair number of people in the Church over eight years.
Generally they fall in two camps. Those who believe as I do that the Church has changed its
teaching and accepts the existence of the “homosexual person” and those who don’t. Those who
believe that the Church has changed its teaching for the most part think that it should. A small
subset think that the Church should accept “same sex behavior” presumably in “marriage”. Most
say the Church has not changed its teaching.
I have been looking for the rational explanation for the Church’s action unsuccessfully.
All I have found are “self-identification”, “same-sex behavior”, “group think”, “political
correctness” and “false compassion” none of which is substantial enough to change Church
teaching in my view.

              It is also clear to me that the normalization of this behavior in the secular world is well
underway. I believe that with Adam and Eve the Lord created the most basic unit of society the
family. I believe that same sex “marriage” is a direct assault on the institution. I believe that the
Churches acceptance of the “homosexual person” ties its hands while fighting this evil.

          We all face innumerable immoral temptations in our lives and of course the Church has an
obligation to update its teaching as new things are learned. “Same sex behavior” is just sinful
behavior and the Church is cruel if it continues to tell people who engage in “same sex behavior”
that they are fundamentally different. It is my belief that this is the only immoral temptation the
Church tells practitioners that they are fundamentally different than others.
One of the Bishops who was kind enough to respond wrote “you may find it helpful to
review an earlier section of the Catechism, from #355 to #421 on creation, human dignity, the fall
and redemption.  May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you in your quest for Truth. ”. When I
asked if 387 and 2357-2359 are contradictory he did not respond.

          I believe that the Church is making it harder for the lost sheep to find its way home with
this error. 387 says “Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin
clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness”.
I believe that 2357-2359 feeds this temptation. Everyone tries to rationalize their behavior. I know
that I do. I know of no other sinful behavior that the Church hands out a tool to rationalize the
sinful behavior.

If we lived in a vacuum I would be silly pursuing this but we do not. I believe the Lord
has purpose for his Church in the real world. I believe that action or lack of action by the Church
has consequence. I believe if the Church had stood up 50 years ago and properly said that the
“homosexual person” does not exist the reality of same-sex “marriage” in the secular world would
not be accepted today. I believe it is never too late to correct an error the Lord is forgiving.
            I do not believe this to be a complicated issue but an important issue. The Church has
come to accept the existence of the “homosexual person” to teach something new is a change
of teaching. I believe this a profound change of teaching. I believe the Church does not disavow
the existence of the “homosexual person”
            As a member of the Church I feel an obligation to the Lord to point out an error by the
Church if I see one. I also feel the Church has an obligation to the Lord to either correct the
error or explain my error to me the Church has done neither to date.
            I believe that acceptance of the existence of the “homosexual person” is an evil pervasive
in the world today. I believe that next to spreading the Gospel in the world standing against and
exposing evil in the world is the Church’s highest obligation to the Lord.
            If you can give a rational explanation as to why my observation is an unreasonable one
that would be helpful to me.
            Thank you again for your time.
God bless

Dear John,
First off, my apologies for not responding sooner.  I copied your letter to the blog and then got sidetracked.  Poor excuse for a serious and I believe a sincere question. 

Let me start out by saying, I share some of your concern with the casual use of terminology, I too believe it can (and likely does) confuse many out there.  "Homosexual" defines the "sexuality" of a person, it implies that such a person is active sexually and follows the "sexual preference" of those of the same sex (hereafter SSA or "Same Sex Attraction").  Just because someone has SSA does not make them a homosexual!  A homosexual is one who ACTS upon the SSA.  Likewise, a person with Opposite Sex Attraction (hereafter OSA) does not automatically equate to that person "being" heterosexual.  There are people who have SSA and OSA who choose to be "celibate," celibacy is their chosen lifestyle and more accurately describes their sexuality.

The above being said, the Catholic Church is "accepting" of SSA individuals whether they are active or not.  The Church must "accept" these sheep into the fold, if they come.  Now, for one who is active in SSA or even OSA in a pre-marital situation, is in a state of mortal sin.  They are not permitted to any of the Sacraments, save Penance (Confession/Reconciliation).  There are many "in" the Catholic Church who are "accepted" as Catholics - yet are in a state of mortal sin, which separates them from the Grace of God, and ultimately from salvation.  The Catholic Church then must be "accepting" of SSA individuals, and those who have been active in that lifestyle need to seek reconciliation with God's Grace through the means God put in place for such - they need to get themselves to the confessional and make an honest confession and a sincere act of contrition.  If the Catholic Church were not "accepting" of such individuals - the door to the confessional would be shut to them and they would be cut off from the means of reconciliation.

ANYONE who is sexually active outside the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is partaking in the sin of fornication and/or adultery.  Since same sex marriage is impossible in the Catholic Church, any homosexual is in the state of mortal sin - just the same as one who is OSA and in a sexually active relationship outside of marriage.  The Catholic Church does not accept the sin of fornication or adultery, but does accept the sinner and invites them to reconciliation.  The old adage, "love the sinner, hate the sin" rings true here for both SSA and OSA persons who have sinned in this regard.

The bottom line here is, I share your concern with the relaxed use of language.  Words mean things, but when officials in the Church (and elsewhere) use "homosexual" to describe anyone with SSA, whether active or not, it confuses matters - and persons.  The Church needs to be "accepting" of the persons - while at the same time be not accepting of the sin. 

I hope this helps.  If you have more questions, feel free to post in the comments section here.


Fourth Sunday in Advent

Today is the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Rorate Sunday - and the last Sunday before the Christ Mass!  

Let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior!

 Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum

(Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just)

 Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem"

(Let the earth be opened and send forth a Saviour").

We are reminded today to prepare ye the way of the Lord!  Make straight His paths; let every valley be filled and every hill and mountain be brought low!  In the Gospel we're reminded of the "voice crying in the wilderness," St. John the Baptist.  I am reminded of the following song from "Godspell" (not the greatest theological piece, but I like this song)...  "Prepare Ye"

From the Epistle for today we are reminded of our conscience - that little voice inside us that warns us when we're about to do something wrong... do we listen?  Often we do not.  Conscience can be Scrupulous, Lax or Delicate.

Scrupulous - can overdo it - make one not trust anything.
Lax - does not say enough (or we do not hear enough) and we make poor decisions.
Delicate - has a balance, not too scrupulous, not too lax - and we make rational decisions which do not get us into moral difficulties.  We should strive to have a delicate conscience.

Conscience - presents us with two scenarios and lets us pick the "better" one.  Say you're out duck hunting with your buddy and you see what you think is a duck, but it's too far away and maybe it's your buddy - do you shoot first and work out the details later, or do you hold off and wait until you're sure?

Today's readings in the Traditional Lectionary:


Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior.  (Psalm) The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the work of His hands.  Glory be to the Father.  Drop down…


O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest.

Epistle –1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Brethren: let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’s day: but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of any thing: yet am I not hereby justified, but He that judgeth me, is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time, until the Lord come: Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise from God.


The Lord is night unto all them that call upon Him: to all that call upon Him in truth.  My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless His holy name.


Alleluia, alleluia.  Come, O Lord, and tarry not: forgive the sins of Thy people Israel.  Alleluia.

Gospel – Luke 3:1-6

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea, and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina; Under the high priests Annas and Caiphas; the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins; As it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled; and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight; and the rough ways plain;  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.


Hail Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.


O Lord, we beseech Thee, look down favorably upon these present Sacrifices: that they may profit us unto both devotion and salvation.  Through our Lord.


Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son: and His name shall be called Emmanuel.

Post Communion

Having received Thy gifts, we beseech Thee, O Lord that as we frequent this mystery, so the work of our salvation may advance.  Through our Lord.

And let us not forget!

Feast of the Assumption

 The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - another example of "not-so-ordinary" days! These are COUNTING days - and...