Tag Archives: Apologetics

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

By guest writer Victor R. Claveau, MJ.

Let me tell you a story that will illustrate one of the many reasons why the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Not long ago, I was invited to address the Bible and Philosophy students at a Protestant High School. The teacher and I were to meet a few days before I was to speak to the students, to get to know one another and to discuss the schedule. We met on a Sunday evening at 5:30 pm.

A few minutes after I arrived at his home, the doorbell rang, and four other people entered. As it turned out, these people were the teacher’s pastor, the pastor’s wife, and two other teachers. I was a little taken aback by the circumstances as the teacher did not tell me that he had invited other guests.

After brief introductions, our host invited his friends to ask me questions about the Catholic religion.

As I began to answer their questions, one of the teachers interjected time and again trying to explain the Protestant position. After two or three interruptions, I finally said, ‘Everyone here, including me, knows what you believe, now is your chance to find out what the Catholic Church really teaches and the foundations for those beliefs. I did not come here to argue but am willing to explain and possibly build a bridge between us.’

From then on, we had a worthwhile dialogue.

I had been answering their questions for almost three hours when the Pastor’s wife posed the question: ‘Why do you believe that you are really eating Jesus when you have communion in your church?’

Thank you for the question,” I said. “Let me try to explain by asking you a few questions.

Who created the universe?” I asked.

“God”, she answered.

“And how did God create?” I asked further.

“He spoke,” she answered.

“Right,” I said, “now let’s look at the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1:1-30 and follow along with me as I read.” Then I read the following passages.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”, (Genesis 1:1-4)

“What happened when God said, ‘Let there be light’,” I asked.

“There was light”, she answered.

“Yes,” I said, “in verse 4 it says that ‘there was light.’ God spoke and there was light”.

And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so (Genesis 1:6-7).

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so (Genesis 1:9).

And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And it was so (Genesis 1:11).

And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so (Genesis 1:14-15)

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so (Genesis 1:24).

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so (Genesis 1-29-30).

In each of these creation accounts,” I said, “God declared something to be and ‘It was so.’”

Let’s go to the Book of Isaiah.” ‘So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:11).

“Doesn’t this passage indicate that whenever God declares something to be, then it becomes a reality at that instant?” I asked.

“Yes,” she agreed.

I went on.

“In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said to the fig tree ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once (21:19). Isn’t that correct?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“When the hemorrhaging women reached out through the crowd and touched Jesus’ cloak, she was healed by her faith. ‘And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’ (Mark 5:30). Jesus had the power to heal.

“When Jesus said to the adulterous woman that her sins were forgiven, were they in fact forgiven?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Jesus withered the fig tree, healed the hemorrhaging woman, and forgave the adulterous woman. How could he do this?” I asked.

And the Pastor’s wife answered, “Because Jesus is God.”

“Yes, of course,’ I said, “we all believe that Jesus is God and as God He has no limitations.”

Then I went on to further explain:

“And Jesus (God) said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).

“And Jesus (God) said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever” (John 6:53-58).

“And Jesus (God) said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:22-24).

During the Last Supper, Jesus held bread in His sacred hands and declared that the bread was in fact His Body.

“Who. Not what, was Jesus holding in his hands at that moment?” I asked.

There was a pregnant silence for a few seconds, before the pastor’s wife said, “Himself”.

I pressed on and asked, “Who. Not what, was Jesus holding in His hands when He declared the contents of the cup to be His Blood?”

“Himself” She answered.

“Yes,” I said, “He actually gave His Body and Blood to the Apostles to eat and drink. Certainly, this is a mystery, one of the greatest mysteries in the history of the world. These elements still looked and tasted like bread and wine, but in fact they had become in reality Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, simply because, as God, He declared them to be so.

“‘Christ held Himself in His hands when He gave His body to His disciples.”

I felt as though I was on a roll, so I said, “Let me explain further”.

“Jesus went on to say, ‘Do this in memory of me’. What did He mean by the word ‘this’?

“He had just changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood, and He commanded His Apostles to do the same. At that moment Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Priesthood, and during the Mass, when a duly ordained priest says the same words Jesus spoke, the Holy Spirit changes bread and wine into the reality of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

“The faith of the Apostolic and early Church in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Eucharist is attested by the words of Saint Paul and the Fathers; by the discipline of the Secret: the symbols and illustrations found in the catacombs. The fact that the Church from the very beginning believed in the Real Presence proves that the doctrine must have been delivered to her by her Founder.

___

Victor R. Claveau, MJ has been a full-time Catholic evangelist since 1989 and is a graduate of the Diocese of Melbourne School of Evangelization. As the Director of Catholic Footsteps “The Evangelization Station” in Angels Camp, California, he has lectured on Catholic belief and evangelization both nationally and internationally.

#AllforJan: Slovakia mourns a young Catholic journalist

After Laetare Sunday Mass, a fellow parishioner asked me: “Have you heard of the protests in Slovakia? They are the largest since the fall of Communism! 50,000 people marched in the streets of Slovakia on Friday, and 25,000 on March 2, not to mention even more people gathering in cities across Europe. A 27-year-old investigative journalist was killed, along with his fiancée, because he had uncovered links between the Italian mafia and the government.”

Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová were found fatally shot in their new home on February 25, 2018. They were to be married in May.

A funeral Mass was held for the young couple at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Štiavnik, north-western Slovakia, attended by his parents, friends and fellow journalists. Kuciak’s sister Mária Kuciaková said, “Our whole family got a bullet to the heart.”

Former Archbishop of Trnava Monsignor Róbert Bezák C.SS.R. stated: “The murder of a person should not be lost in time. It would be a sign that we are morally broken and that we don’t care at all. But we do care. Janko and Martinka will always remain in our hearts.”

Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský of Slovakia’s capital Bratislava, who celebrated the funeral Mass, observed: “If the murderer wanted to silence Jan, he managed quite the opposite. Believe that evil won’t win — even if it might seem so now.”

Slovakia is the third most Catholic Slavic country, after Poland and Croatia, with 62% of the populace being Roman Catholic, and 4% Byzantine Catholic. Trnava is known as “parva Roma”, that is, “little Rome”. The first Slovak in Australia was a Jesuit missionary who arrived in 1888. The first recorded Slovak immigrant in the USA was also a missionary, albeit Mennonite.

My fellow parishioner said, “Slovakians are hardworking people, but because of government corruption, they work hard for very little. It is sad to see how living conditions in Slovakia haven’t improved much since the fall of Communism.”

Kuciak’s last, unfinished story also reveals how Italian businessmen with mafia links have been siphoning off European Union funds meant for the development of eastern Slovakia.

A memorial website, https://www.allforjan.com/, has been created for people to express their sorrow and their gratitude for Kuciak’s work uncovering the criminals manipulating Slovakia’s government. On Twitter, the hashtag #AllforJan has been trending, displaying photographs of the crowds who came out in the bitter cold in honor of this young man’s life and death. His fellow journalists have refused to be cowed by his murder, vowing to continue his work.

Two politicians, Viliam Jasaň and Mária Trošková, have taken a leave of absence, and the Minister of Culture, Marek Maďarič, has resigned from his post.

Pope Francis last year publicly acknowledged Italian victims of the mafia, in particular three assassinated judges. He created a new category for sainthood which allows the canonization of those who freely give up their lives for others.

May the terrible sacrifice of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová be the catalyst for real change in their country, freeing it from the grip of organized crime. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Movie Review: “King’s Faith”

The Christian movie King’s Faith (2013), available on Netflix, is a beautiful and moving story of faith and redemption. Best of all, it manages to convey the reality of faith without being corny or trite, examining complex human issues like death, crime, divorce and abortion with tenderness, displaying the full reality of the pain and trauma of loss while demonstrating the healing that comes with trust in each other and in God.

[Caution: some spoilers ahead]

King’s Faith centers on 18-year-old Brendan King (Crawford Wilson), who has been on the wrong side of the law multiple times and is placed in his eighteenth foster home after being detained for three years. His foster father Mike Stubbs (James McDaniel) is a math teacher at his new high school, and mentors the after-school Bible study group as well as the faith-based community service youth group, The Seekers.

Brendan was given a Bible while in juvenile detention, and came to accept the saving truth of Christianity. With his newfound faith in God, Brendan applies himself to his studies, determined to leave his old life behind.

However, trouble comes calling when Brendan saves a fellow schoolmate, Natalie Jenkins (Kayla Compton), from a car crash and appears on the news. His old gang tracks him down and demands that he hand over a stash of drugs and cash that he and his now-dead best friend had hidden before the federal drug raid that ended his friend’s life and landed Brendan in detention.

The Stubbs are recovering from the death of their only son, a police officer who was killed during a routine traffic stop. Vanessa Stubbs (Lynn Whitfield) is unable to move on, and spends most days cultivating flowers for her son’s memorial on the side of the highway.

Mike, meanwhile, has been able to surrender his pain to God and welcomes Brendan as a foster child, knowing that God may bring good out of this gift of a stable, loving home for a troubled youth. He is a trusting man who looks for the good in others, even those rejected by the rest of society.

As we follow Brendan through his new life and watch him and other characters grapple with the past, we witness the power of faith to transform even the most terrible circumstances, binding old wounds and uniting the estranged in love and truth.

The Old Testament and the Karate Kid

It is a common charge against Christians that we ignore the unpalatable parts of the Bible, in particular the rules set down in Mosaic law as recorded in the Pentateuch.

Firstly, the Old Testament is a pre-Christian record of the development of the Jewish people as a nation.

It’s also an account of how mankind wrestled with the effects of the Fall and failed repeatedly to honor God’s commands. This utter fail demonstrates the need for a divine Savior.

In the spiritual life, as Aquinas explains, there is operative and cooperative grace. God works in us as a doctor does to restore us to full health, but we have to cooperate with the process, as a patient takes medicine and does appropriate exercises.

In the Karate Kid (1984), Mr. Miyagi trains Daniel by having him do seemingly pointless, unrelated tasks like waxing his car, sanding the floor, refinishing a fence and painting his house. However, all the repetitive motions involved in these tasks create muscle memories that are eventually vital to Daniel’s development in the art of karate fighting.

Similarly, some of God’s commandments in the Old Testament can seem arbitrary and strange to us. However, they all had a deeper purpose. They trained the people of God to live in obedience with His will, and marked them as a holy people set apart for His divine purpose.

Even today, the rules of the Church may seem strange and pointless, but they have been laid down with profound wisdom, honoring the unity of soul and body, a unity oft riven by sin. The practice of fasting teaches us not to follow our selfish urges and appetites; it trains us to be in spiritual fighting form, ready to deny ourselves of earthly goods for the sake of heavenly treasure.

As the flesh is cut off in circumcision, so does baptism, the new circumcision in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:11), cut us off from the fallen state of mankind, enabling us to live by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, children may not understand their parents’ commands, but when they grow up and mature in their relationship with their parents, they come to understand that it was all said and done in love for their own good.

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Image: PD-US

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‘Apologetics and the Christian Imagination’ — A Richer, Deeper approach in connecting Souls With The Faith.

Are stories important for humanity? Is telling a story through books, movies, or the extemporaneous tales of mom and dad delivered to the children at bedtime simply an insignificant means of mere entertainment? In her book Apologetics and the Christian Imagination, Dr. Holly Ordway shows us that in truth stories are powerful tools of conveying meaning, tools that are important for the work of spreading the Faith and forming souls in it.

While showing great understanding of both apologetics and human nature, Dr. Ordway explores the relationship between reason and imagination and how the human person utilizes each to come to know reality. Furthermore, she instructs the reader on the art of Imaginative Apologetics, which is a richer, deeper approach in connecting souls with the Faith. In this entertaining and easy-to-read book, Ordway makes a convincing argument for this method of winning souls.

                  

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and George MacDonald are but a few of the masters of this technique which Ordway presents. Each figure is a fantastic storyteller with stories that, as she puts it, baptize the imagination that allow the person to find meaning in the Theological world and grow closer to the God hidden beneath the narrative.
Ordway teaches, “Imaginative apologetics seeks to harness the God-given faculty of imagination to work in cooperation with reason, to open a way for the work of the Holy Spirit and guide the will toward a commitment to Christ.” Through the stories told by one practicing this method, the hearers are able to receive more than just a definition to memorize. Instead, the hearers are given a deep descriptive tale that conveys the meaning of the Theological truths that sometime evade the persons being instructed.

The book thoroughly explains how Theological meaning can be lost on some souls who simply misunderstand the words. Dr. Ordway posits that many think poorly of the Christian Faith not because they disagree with what is taught, but because they are without the proper meaning conveyed by what is taught. The author explains, “To those who know Christ, and unfortunately also to many who do, much ‘Christian language’ rings empty. Although words like ‘grace’, ‘sin’, ‘heaven’, and ‘hell’ point to a reality, for many listeners they might as well be empty slogan or the equivalent of the user’s agreement on an upgrade to your phone’s operating system: words that are received without attention, and without grasp of their meaning.”

Being far from one to find the faults and leave us without a solution, Dr. Ordway emphasizes how we apologists can help our listeners create meaning and avoid the sophist misconceptions of our times by way of a good story. She creatively and intelligently instructs the reader by explaining the workings of linguistics and how we understand the various senses of speech that we hear. Furthermore, her understanding and delivery of the meaning of being literal is delightful to read.

With the Church’s call for a New Evangelization, and many faithful Christians responding to bring the Gospel back to the hearts of humanity, this book is an important piece for our times. It instructs the bearer of Good News on how to carry out the work of apologetics as well as doing so in a way that allows the hearer of the Word to better grasp the meaning of the message. Moreover, it leads us to carry out this work in an aesthetic, sometimes even inconspicuous, manner, which would allow for Theological meaning to enter into the hearts and minds of those that might otherwise be opposed to the words delivered in a more outward manner.

Especially in our day, we are witness to many artists, writers, and musicians working to evangelize through beauty. Dr. Ordway’s book is a wonderful companion for those who have heard and answered the call to do this. In fact, it would not be surprising if this book is a catalyst for more talented souls to take on such important work.

Classroom teachers and catechists too can find inspiration to utilize more of Imaginative Apologetics with their students. The way Dr. Ordway presents it, we can see the powerful impact that this method is able to have on the hearts and minds of those being formed, especially the young.

Finally, this book could be greatly beneficial for all people, both within the work of apologetics and without, as we can learn to find Faith and Truth in the stories we hear in our world today, whether these messages are intended or not.

For these reasons I highly recommend Dr. Ordway’s Apologetics and the Christian Imagination to all those working in apologetics and evangelization alike. It is a remarkable manual for leading souls to know and understand the deeply profound truths of our Faith. Hopefully, it will even lead certain souls to become the next C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, or George MacDonald, and enlarge the library of good Christian stories available to mankind today.

Can You Teach a Preschooler About the Summa? A Review of Tiny Thomists

There’s a struggle that I experience when trying to teach young children about the Catholic faith. I want to teach little kids about God’s love, but I would like to take lessons beyond “God made the flowers and the birds and he made you!” This isn’t a bad lesson (it’s actually very important), but I think it is beneficial to get a little deeper. Young children have a capacity to encounter God, the saints, and the truths of the Catholic faith that we often do not give them credit for. How can deep truths be presented in kid-friendly ways? Figuring out how to bring substantial teachings to young children can be a daunting task, with many factors to consider.

Even though my baby is a little young to begin formal religious instruction, I still like to keep my eyes open for good resources and programs that may come in handy in a year or two. When I heard about TJ Burdick’s program, Tiny Thomists, I was very intrigued. As I communicated with Burdick about his program and looked through the materials, I became very excited. According to Burdick, the primary goal of this program is “to provide a free and focused Thomistic formation for parents who want salvation of their kiddos.” As I examined the program, I saw just how excellently Burdick is fulfilling his goal so far. Tiny Thomists is an adaptable, approachable, thorough resource for parents to use with their young children, and it’s free—what could be better?

Photo courtesy of the Dominican Institute. Used with permission.

This program is extremely adaptable. Burdick recommends Tiny Thomists for children three years old and up, and the materials are directed towards emerging readers and children in the pre–First Communion phase. However, after going through the materials and thinking about the wide range in understanding that different children have, I think that parents can easily use Tiny Thomists for older children—or perhaps even use some sections with younger children!

Tiny Thomists is very approachable. Even if you have no background in theology or philosophy, you can use Tiny Thomists to teach your child about the Catholic faith. Each lesson plan includes a variety of ways to teach Catholic doctrine to your child, and the two of you can learn together as you dive into Scripture, stories of the saints, and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The materials are very thorough. Biweekly, each household receives a two-week lesson plan that includes many different stories and activities. My favorite feature is the “Simplified Summa,” a section that features a sentence from the Summa Theologica to discuss. This is a great way to make St. Thomas Aquinas’s writings palatable to the mind of a four-year-old! The lesson plans also include games, stories, and ideas for craft projects to reinforce the lessons that are being taught. Also, every Thursday, parents will receive “The Gospel in Kid Speak,” so that they can discuss the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel reading with their children prior to attending Mass.

I was really impressed with the amount of resources packed into this program, and I appreciate this wide range of activities. Every child is different and has various needs and levels of understanding, and this program is so flexible. Tiny Thomists is a fantastic program, and I think it has wonderful potential for more development and growth in the future. Personally, since I love to cook and bake, I think it would be neat if a simple recipe would be regularly included in each issue that relates to the saint or Scripture. Already, though, this is a resource packed with great faith-building activities. I am very excited to see how it continues to develop and grow!

To download the most recent issue of Tiny Thomists, learn more about the program, and sign up for the emails, you can visit: https://dominicaninstitute.com/tinythomists/

What the CDC taught me about sin

One of the things I run into a lot in talking about faith with those who do not share the faith, is the question of sin. Some will go to the extreme and say that “sin” is just a social construct and there really is no such thing as sin. That kind of moral relativism is relatively easy to disassemble logically, usually without convincing the person who holds it.

But what I run into more often is a subtler version of moral relativism which acknowledges that there may be broad categories of, not necessarily “good” vs. “evil,” but maybe “good” vs. “not-so-good.” In this context, a lot of well meaning people find it hard to believe that “sin” can send people to hell.

Oh, of course, if there is a hell then folks like Hitler, Stalin, and maybe Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton, depending on your political persuasion) belong there, but everyday, ordinary people like you and me? But mostly me? I’m not so bad. I don’t murder, I don’t rape, I don’t molest children. What right does the Church have to threaten me with damnation for something relatively minor, that doesn’t hurt anyone? Like pre-marital sex, or getting drunk from time to time, or divorce, or whatever? Why would you threaten me with eternal damnation, just because I violate your moral sensibilities?

Rather than address any particular “sin” and explain why it is sinful, I think it is helpful to begin with the fundamental understanding of what sin is in the first place, or at least, what the Church, and most religions, think sin is.

A lot of people think that sin is just a violation of a particular religion’s moral tastes, and a threat of punishment for that violation. However, that is not really how the Catholic Church, or Christianity in general, or indeed any of the major world religions that I have looked at (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism) view sin.

Religions do not view sin as a violation of a social norm, but as an action that is inconsistent with the optimum of human nature. To put it in modern terms, religions say that morality is a spiritually healthy lifestyle, and sin is a spiritually unhealthy activity. There is no question of the Church, or anyone else, inflicting eternal punishment upon people for committing sin. Their contention is that sin is inherently unhealthy and brings about its own natural consequences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an organization with responsibility for monitoring disease trends, collecting data on the etiology of both good health and of diseases, and sharing information with people on how to be healthy and avoid disease. Probably the most well known message of the CDC is that smoking causes lung cancer, among a host of other health issues. There is, of course, no question of a bunch of doctors and epidemiologists at the CDC sitting around and thinking, “You know, I really hate smoking. I don’t want anyone to smoke. We should punish people who smoke by giving them lung cancer.”

That is ridiculous. Of course the CDC does impose some penalties for smoking in the form of lobbying for legislation allowing insurance premium hikes for people who smoke. They try to create an anti-smoking culture that will allow prohibition of smoking in public places, and make smoking socially stigmatized. One may agree or disagree with their methods, but one should at least understand that their starting position is that smoking is an inherently unhealthy activity that intrinsically brings about a greater risk of lung cancer and other diseases.

Religion is the same way about sin. They make the claim that human spiritual health is as objective and real as human physical health, and there are certain actions that inherently build up that health, and others that inherently degrade it. They label the deleterious actions “sin” and try to point out the consequences of that sin, i.e. hell, damnation or reincarnation to a lower form, or remaining trapped in samsara.

They may also attempt other methods, such as influencing social and political norms, or dictating them where that is an option, to deter people from doing these actions. One may agree or disagree with their methods, but one should do so with an understanding of their underlying reason, namely the belief that these actions destroy spiritual health.

And of course, just as with the CDC, one may legitimately question any particular religion’s mandate, authority, competence and motive to make such pronouncements. This is all part of the process of seeking the truth. Just make sure you understand what they are saying and why before you decide whether you agree or disagree with it.

Does Evil Disprove God?

In an apologetics course I am taking this semester, we recently discussed the argument often propagated by atheists that God must not exist due to the existence of evil in the world. Based on the arguments for God’s existence in spite of evil, found in “The Handbook of Catholic Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, S.J., I wrote a fictitious dialogue, following below, that expresses a Christian response to this atheistic argument.

Atheist: Good afternoon, Joe!

Christian: Hello, Bill! It’s good to see you.

Atheist: So, our coworkers tell me you’re a Christian now.

Christian: Yes, praise God!

Atheist: Joe, we’ve been such friends for so many years, I can’t help but be blunt with you: how foolish can you be? There is no God and there can’t be a God—hasn’t evil disproven the existence of God already?
Christian: How so?

Atheist: You believe in a good God, right? Well, if He were really as “all-powerful” as you profess, then why would He have permitted evil? Or perhaps He isn’t all-good, and is Himself the author of evil?

Christian: No, He certainly cannot be both all-good and the author of evil. Nor is He. I profess that He is all-good—it is we human beings who have brought evil into the world.

Atheist: Well then! Your God clearly isn’t all-powerful, if there’s something we can do that He can’t!

Christian: Would you say that you are less powerful—perhaps, shall we say, less free—than a convict, justly imprisoned?

Atheist: Of course not!

Christian: So also with God. It is not God’s lack that He did not create evil: it is our own self-imprisonment that we fell into evil.

Atheist: But if we “created” evil, we’re more powerful than God, right?

Christian: Evil can’t be “created” because evil has no being—evil is the disorder or perversion of what God has created. Only being can be created, and evil is best described as non-being.

Atheist: All right, then. I’ll accept that as true enough, I suppose—but, even if I give you that we “fell into evil,” as you say, back in the Garden of Eden (I suppose you’d prefer to refer to “Adam and Eve”), then why doesn’t suffering fit into the world fairly? To refer to your analogy: I haven’t committed any crime, so here I am, free. The convict is justly confined, and receives punishment for the evil he did. If your God is so good as you say, why didn’t He map out the world like that, so that only wicked people suffer and good people don’t? Honestly, as it stands, it’s happened again and again that the saintly suffer, and it’s the wicked that make them suffer!

Christian: Yes, this is often true: but you are speaking of suffering. Physical evil, or suffering, is not the same as moral evil. As human beings, we are hereditary. You can see how every child inherits physical qualities, such as eye and hair color, from his parents. Well, we know that there is more to man than the body: there is also the psyche, or the soul. If our first parents chose evil, isn’t that going to affect their children, and all their descendants?

Atheist: Logically, yes. But that still doesn’t explain why good people suffer.

Christian: Well, first: remember that all men, from the moment of their conception, inherit moral evil. Physical evil, or suffering, is both a punishment due to sin—the evil that so disorders man’s right relationship with God—and also a means of atonement and discipline for the soul. Thus, even a child bears moral evil already. Yet, even a child’s sufferings have value, because we can all suffer together, with and for each other. To get back to the analogy of the criminal: even though you haven’t done anything so terrible as the convict, you are still paying tax dollars to make his imprisonment possible.

Atheist: Hmm, well…I still don’t think you’ve explained how God can be all-good and permit evil—both kinds, according to your terminology: moral evil and suffering. I still don’t see…

Christian: It is difficult to grasp, because it is practically counterintuitive. The very fact that we are so “turned off” by evil of either sort helps point to the truth: we weren’t made for evil! We are meant for something great and good and true: the happiness for which we all long.

Atheist: Happiness, huh? Do you mean the various needs and desires people experience, like wanting a “happy family,” or to make your dog “happy,” or to have a “happy time” watching a movie?

Christian: These have varying degrees of “happiness,” and in some sense that “happiness” is superficial, because it is not the ultimate, filling happiness: none of them ever satisfy to the full, even if they contribute in some way. That’s why people who strive after these things keep seeking them, and keep wanting more: they’re never filled, and the empty longing cries out inside for completion. So, the happiness I’m talking about is not a fleeting sensual experience, or emotional pleasure, or even a passing joy, all of which are usually largely dependent on what happens to us: I’m talking about happiness as something we can not only achieve by choice, but that is firm and lasting, and cannot be effaced from ourselves by any outside forces. This happiness is at the heart of the reason for God’s allowance of both moral and physical evil.

Atheist: How do you mean?

Christian: Animals can’t be truly happy (in the sense I just described): only creatures with free choice. Yet, you can also choose otherwise, and it’s because of our free choice that evil entered the world. So, that’s why God allows moral evil: He desires our potential for happiness, rather than our mere existence. Second, physical evil is an outside force, and not a choice on the part of the person (as a general rule—a person who injures himself or takes his life willfully is principally concerned with moral evil already, and any pain that follows his choice is punishment for that chosen evil). Thus, physical evil cannot break down a person’s happiness.

Atheist: So, God would just as soon let you suffer?

Christian: Rather, God gives us the chance to freely suffer. It’s similar to a situation like this: when your son dumps out all his toys across the room right after you told him not to do so, you don’t clean everything up while he stands by. You have him gather the toys, and endure every tear and grumble, because you know he will never become better unless he works with you to aright what he has done. And well you should: God doesn’t give us free will so that we can commit evil and then stand by to watch Him tidy our mess: He wants us to get in there with Him and choose to aright our wrongs. That’s what much of suffering is about.

Atheist: I can’t say I agree with you, Joe, but I must say I am a bit perplexed: I always thought that evil disproved God’s existence soundly. Now, I am not so sure evil can do anything but prove that evil cannot be the final word…

Christian: No, it cannot. I am always eager to speak with you, whenever you want. God bless—see you soon!

Book Review: Mysteries of Salvation History

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“I have my Bible in my pocket,” said Edgardo C. De Vera, a Filipino apologist, to a group of three Protestants with whom he was discussing. Intrigued, they asked to see it.

De Vera then fished out his Rosary from his pocket and declared, “The Bible is in the Rosary and the Rosary is in the Bible.”

Startling as this statement may be, it is logical. If the Bible is centered on, and points to, Christ, and if praying the Rosary is a way of contemplating the events in the life of Christ and His mother Mary, then it follows that the Bible and the Rosary complement each other. Indeed, Pope Paul VI also said, “The Holy Rosary is a compendium of the Gospel.”

In his book Mysteries of Salvation History, De Vera explains the biblical basis for each of the mysteries of the Rosary, linking the New Testament accounts of the mysteries with the relevant typologies from the Old Testament. “My intention…was to show how biblical typology could be employed as a meditative aid in praying the Holy Rosary,” De Vera writes.

For example, in his discussion on the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, the Carrying of the Cross, De Vera discusses the Gospel accounts of the event and correlates them with Isaac carrying the wood for his sacrifice up Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:2-9) and the carrying of the sin offering during the Day of Atonement liturgy out through the sheepgate in Jerusalem (Lev. 16), as well as the passage in Job 31:36 which reads, “Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, I would bind it to me as a crown…”.
De Vera analyses all the mysteries of the Rosary in a similar way, adding his own insights, comments from some Fathers of the Church and other saints, and historical explanations. The mysteries of the Rosary are arranged in chronological order – Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious. Illustrations accompany the text.

The book is short and concise. De Vera himself acknowledges the limitations of his brief work and mentions that he had to exclude some insights for the sake of brevity.  He encourages the reader to explore the mysteries in all their richness by studying the Bible further on his or her own and by habitually meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. He stresses the need to explore the Bible in the context of the liturgical readings of the Mass and in conjunction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I personally find the book helpful. I sometimes struggle with the Rosary because I run out of things to think about when meditating on the mysteries and end up getting distracted as I force myself to mechanically recall what happened in each mystery. I welcome tips to help me get more out of praying the Rosary and De Vera’s book has suggested to me a fresh approach to this timeless devotion.

De Vera’s book made me appreciate the Rosary more. It showed me that the Rosary combines, to use the words of St. Josemaria Escriva, “the piety of children and the sure doctrine of theologians.” With the Rosary, we repeat loving words to God and to Mary while studying the Bible at the same time. De Vera’s book showed me how the Rosary involves both the heart and the mind, thus fitting in a unique way the definition of prayer as “the lifting up of the mind and heart to God.”

At the same time, De Vera’s book motivated me to become more familiar with the Bible. It also showed me that Bible study should not just be an intellectual pursuit (although that in itself is an important endeavour), but an activity that nurtures piety.

I recommend Mysteries of Salvation History to anyone who, at one time or another, has struggled with boredom while praying the Rosary, and to anyone who wants to learn more about the Bible but does not know where to start.

The book has been praised by foreign apologists such as Steve Ray and Tim Staples, and by prominent local preachers and priests such as the late Fr. James B. Reuter, S.J., who, in an article he wrote on June 2, 2007, listed the book as a “rare book”.

Indeed, both the Rosary and the Bible are necessary: they help us know God more, which in turn helps us love God more.

For more information about Edgardo C. De Vera’s Mysteries of Salvation History, you may contact Totus Bookstore & Publishing House at info@totusbookstore.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Curious Little Catholic Series

When I first heard of the new Curious Little Catholic series I jumped for joy. As the mother of a two year old and a 14 month old, I am always looking for ways to enrich their faith lives and especially look for Catholic items and toys to bring to Mass (I’d let my kids sprinkle Lourdes holy water everywhere during Mass before I’d let them bring in a Ninja Turtle or My Little Pony figurine). What Annemarie Thimons and her mother, illustrator Nancy Rosato-Nuzzo, have created is nothing short of pure, majestic, simple beauty.

Currently the series contains two titles – What is the Eucharist? and What is a Sacrament? – with a third title to be released this summer. Honest to goodness, I got the chills just gazing upon the book covers. In each book, Annemarie weaves simple explanations of these fundamentals of our faith, with the aid of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to paint a complete understanding that the tiniest Catholics will comprehend. She also includes a relevant Scripture verse on each page, short enough for small children to memorize with ease.

CLC Eucharist

Nancy’s illustrations are flawless. Her depictions of simple, familiar scenes with complex details had me gazing in wonder and awe with every page turn. The layered beauty in her illustrations serves to continually reveal the depths of our faith and of God to the youngest and oldest readers alike.

I positively could not find a single flaw with either of these books. They are the perfect blend of orthodoxy, simplicity, familiarity, and relatability. The most moving moment for me came near the beginning of What is the Eucharist?. Annemarie explains the Eucharist as the hidden Jesus and compares it to a baby hidden in his mother’s womb. In one illustration, Nancy depicts the bread and grapes in the forefront of a shadow of the Cross and in the next depicts the baby hidden in his mother’s womb. It was at this moment I began crying with joy and gratefulness. In these two pages alone Annemarie and Nancy shout the dignity of life at every stage and in every circumstance, affirm the immense majesty of the gift of Jesus Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and showcase the Eucharist as truly the source and summit of the Christian life.

In Eucharist, Annemarie further explains what the Eucharist is, when we receive it, and even explains the beauty and purpose of adoration. In Sacrament, she explains what a sacrament is and then what each individual one is, means, and what graces they confer on us or help us to prepare for.

In all, this series is not to be missed. If you have small children, you do not just need these books for your collection, you need these as a centerpiece of your children’s faith formation. If you don’t have kids or don’t have young kids, buy these books anyway – I guarantee that they will enrich your faith life. The age recommendation for the series is three and up (preschool), but my two year old, who sees the Cross in the stitching on our couch and cries, “Jesus!”, adores these books. A favorite moment while we were reading was when she pointed to an illustration of the crucifix and said, “Jesus on cross” and then pointed to an illustration of the Eucharist and said, “Jesus look like bread!” Yes, I have found the perfect addition to our “Mass bag” and to our daily reading and prayer times.

The books can be purchased from their website: www.curiouslittlecatholic.com. I absolutely cannot wait for Annemarie and Nancy to create new titles in the series!

*I received copies of each book for the purpose of writing a review.*

Internet Ire and Righteous Results

The readings for February 6, 2015:

First reading: HEB 13:1-8
Responsorial Psalm: PS 27:1, 3, 5, 8B-9ABC
Alleluia: LK 8:15
Gospel: MK 6:14-29

Google-pope
Pope Francis “hanging out” via Google with kids with disabilities from around the world

There is a lot of hostility being generated in the online worlds. I teach my history students that this is the result of fear. Fear prompts a tongue lashing, or a dismissing of people and ideas. Fear prompts distrust, disloyalty, and a vengeful spirit. There is no peace where there is fear, and the growth of hate.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid? 

Who do we hate? We hate the ones who disagree with us, who challenge us. We hate that our pope makes gaffes (like we all do – and none ex cathedra, I might add). We hate when fellow Catholics misrepresent the universal Catholic Church. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen rightly said, “Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is.” The kaleidoscope of faith should keep us humble. Too often, however, we miss the irony of ourselves not showing mercy and love to others.

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart,
and yield a harvest through perseverance.

The ability to be kind in the face of cruelty is the redemption of humanity; to seek to benefit others, not just ourselves; to spread love instead of coveting it; to know the race is worth running, even when we struggle to keep up. This is what sainthood means: to be generous in this life as God is with us, and to bring Christ to others in reflection of the way He seeks us. To know of Christ and to know Christ are two different hearts.

Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.

In all our interactions, we must love. These are the greatest commandments. It is our love of God which motivates us to love our neighbor as ourself. Hospitality is in the home, yes, and in all interactions. The internet is not a safe-zone. It is a place where hearts can be met, changed, and nourished. Today, let us not be as King Herod – let us not slaughter the righteous because they mis-worded their argument, or believe something we disagree with, or fear others if we do not publicly act in a certain way.

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Jesus Christ is the same forever, no matter what someone’s Facebook post or Tweet said. Let the Lord be our light!

Dealing with Anti-Catholicism

My country is now in a frenzied mood because of Pope’s arrival. Families, friends, and church groups are making plans to attend public gatherings. Eucharistic adorations and masses are being held for the Pope’s safety. Organizers are rushing last minute logistical preparations, and volunteers are busy with their tasks. Everyone wants to be involved in some way.

Unfortunately, the Pope’s visit has also unleashed the worst among the anti-Catholic media, who take the event as an occasion to express vitriol against the Catholic Church – a lot of it motivated more by hatred than by the spirit of respectful criticism. Articles full of self-contradictions and other logical fallacies in attempts to denigrate the Catholic Church at all costs flood the newspapers and the Internet media. Time and space do not permit me to document here all the anti-Catholic ideas being expressed nowadays on the occasion of the Pope’s visit; it suffices to say that they range from ludicrous to infuriating.

Dealing with a constant barrage of attacks against one’s own religion – not just during papal visits, but every day — gets stressful. As Catholics, we constantly hear that those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake are blessed, that we can by praying for our oppressors and offering up the hurt we feel can purify us and make us saints. But sometimes, even these considerations fail to prop up our sense of humor amidst these attacks. We also feel responsible for the gullible public who are being misled by the purveyors of falsehoods.

Recently, upon encountering what seemed like the thousandth anti-Catholic comment for the day, I wearily asked myself, in the words of King Theoden during the siege on Helm’s Deep in the cinematic version of The Two Towers, “What do we do against such reckless hate?” Then, Aragorn’s reply in that scene came back to me: “Ride out and meet them!”

Yes, “ride out and meet them” – counter evil with an abundance of good, falsehood with the abundance of truth. Just as haters of the Catholic faith use the papal visit as an occasion to spread anti-Catholicism, we can turn the negative publicity into occasions to inform, clarify, and evangelize. While they invoke “freedom of expression” as an excuse to attack Catholicism, we enjoy the same freedom too, and must use it for the good.

Responsibility falls heavily on Catholics with the talents and opportunities to write or speak in public. But the truth is, all Catholics, and not just gifted speakers and writers, can explain and defend their faith. With prayer and study (and there are countless resources available), any ordinary Catholic can give a gentle but clear reply to a question or comment about the Catholic faith. To do so would be an exercise of the Pope’s message of “mercy and compassion”, which happens to be the theme of the papal visit to my country. It would help heal ignorance and feed the hunger for God’s word.

Even if at one point in the discussion, all one can do is admit not having the answers and promise to research the question further, the interlocutor’s encounter with a humble and friendly Catholic who loves the truth will plant a seed that will grow and bear fruit with God’s grace.

One of the blessings that will come from the papal visit would be the opportunities to learn mercy and compassion towards those who hate us. The exercise of mercy and compassion does not mean always keeping silent when faced with anti-Catholicism. On the contrary, mercy and compassion demands that we speak the truth with charity – drowning evil in an abundance of good.