Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Recommendation: Faith Comes From What Is Heard

I just finished Lawrence Feingold's new book, 'Faith Comes From What Is Heard, An Introduction to Fundamental Theology'. This book clocks in at over 600 pages so be prepared! It gives a good look at how we receive Divine Revelation through the Church, examines the credibility of God speaking to man through the Church and spends a good amount of time on Biblical exegesis. The use of multiple examples and analogies helps you to understand the content on a deeper level. I went through line by line with a colored pencil to underline important content and it took me a few weeks of nightly reading to finish it.

The book follows a simple layout and begins with the topics of Revelation and Faith. next faith and reason are covered followed by Tradition and the Magisterium. The last three parts of the book deal primarily with Sacred Scripture, its inspiration, historicity and typology. Feingold does his best to incorporate several sources ranging from the Church Fathers, other Saints, Popes Pius X, Leo III as well as John Paul II which forms a theological continuity throughout. If you are looking for a bedtime read you probably won't find this work to fit in that mold. However, if you are looking to understand how the Catholic faith has been handed down to us faithfully for 2000 years then this book should be an edifying read.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Has Pope Francis Responded to the Dubia? Yes! You are sitting at the table aren't you?

So far there has been no direct reply to the four Cardinals who submitted their questions (dubia) concerning Amoris Laetitia. Pope Francis has also not granted their request for a meeting. Does this mean however that Pope Francis has not responded? I think the answer is now clear, he has responded by his many actions which concern the documents interpretation. This cannot go unnoticed. If you ask someone a direct question in their presence and they ignore you and tell someone sitting across the table the answer to your question, have they not answered? 

Thus far we do have several responses from Pope Francis on the document, the question is, what are the cardinals going to do now? Would a statement that goes against what Pope Francis has thus far taught in action and words mean anything to him or those in the hierarchy who agree with him? For those Catholics who already know the true teaching of the Church, how much does it change for them? For those laity who look for teachings that tickle their ears so that they can live in an adulterous relationship, is this a game changer for them? Would they go back to not receiving communion or living a life of adultery? These are questions that have been raised, and are all more practical reasons rather than reasons concerning the faith.

I for one think that it is a duty for these cardinals to speak up even if it means no one would listen, although I think there may be a few souls who would be saved by their open criticism. I believe that  even if one soul be saved from eternal damnation it is worth it. Before we get to that point however, what has been Pope Francis' open interpretation of the document? One clear interpretation was given to the Argentinian bishops through the pope’s letter in response to “Basic criteria for the application of chapter 8 of 'Amoris Laetitia'. In this letter the Pope clearly says that some of those who are living in a state of adultery can after discernment receive the Holy Eucharist after receiving the Sacrament of confession with no firm purpose of amendment. Read the text below carefully. (Source)

“When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, one may propose that they commit to living in continence.” Amoris Laetitia “does not ignore the difficulties of this option (cf. note 329) and leaves open the possibility of receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation when one fails in this intention” (cf. note 364).
In other more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity,” the document continues, “the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be viable. Nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment.” And “if one arrives at the recognition that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). These in turn disposes the person to continue maturing and growing with the strength of grace.
Pope Francis added the following statement which makes his stance clear: “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations. And I am certain that it will do much good. May the Lord reward this effort of pastoral charity.” At this point this is the text we must deal with.

Since that letter was sent we now have at least two bishops conferences, the German conference, and the conference of Malta are now following the document as Pope Francis' letter teaches. We now have at least one bishops conference, that of Poland who will not follow the document as the letter says it should be. Thus we do now have a clear position of the pope and the willingness or unwillingness of the bishops to follow along with this novel teaching. For those who are saying that unless Pope Francis responds to the dubia directly that he has not in effect answered, I find to be problematic. Again, if you are sitting at the dinner table and you ask someone a question and they rudely turn away from you and give the answer to another party across the table, do you not have your answer? Sure it wasn't formally addressed to you, but you did hear his answer to the question. You also see the result of his answer when the party across the table starts to follow his answer. You also should be concerned when you have another party who overheard the answer rejects it openly.

So now what? This is where the difficulty lies with these cardinals who brought forth the dubia. For those Catholics who are attacking these cardinals, I would ask that you actually ponder on the gravity of what these cardinals have done thus far, and are going to have to do in the future, unless pope Francis makes a pronouncement changing his stance. Its one thing to be a blogger behind a keyboard and play 'I wanna be St Athanasius' and another to be an actual cardinal who is going to have to do something that really has not been done before in the history of the Church. They are in effect going to have to call out the pope in public and accuse him of teaching false doctrine though his document and formal letter! I do not fault the speed at which these cardinals are moving, because this is a serious matter and it must be done with much prayer and care for Church. What we should be doing as Catholic laity is praying for these cardinals like we have never prayed before so they can be guided by the Holy Spirit to do what they have to do, in God's time not ours. I am one talk, since most people who know me understand that impatience is one of my weaknesses. I do think that they do need to speak, since silence is to give a place to error, which in turn rots souls! Let us however overcome our weak inclinations so that when the cardinals act, and I believe they will, will act in accordance with truth and charity according to God's will.

In summary, we are facing a crisis in the Church today that we have not really faced in this manner before. It appears to me that although the pope has not bound anyone to follow his document, he has indeed answered. Since the pope has not bound anyone to follow his Argentinian interpretation to the document, we have yet to see any formal heresy taught from the chair of Peter, which I think will not happen. However, this does not mitigate the immense damage done by his letter giving his teaching on the document. I would never dare presume to formally declare any pope a formal heretic, it is not my God given competency to do so. There have been in the past many strange things that have happened with past popes and I think we are sure to see something happen in the future that baffles us. I also am not one to fall into the sede-vacantism camp. We must remain faithful however to constant teaching of the Church which teaches that one who is living in adultery cannot receive Holy Communion. They must first live as brother and sister and make a firm purpose of amendment. Any teaching which goes against this clear and objective teaching is wrong and as Catholic laity we are bound to follow this teaching of Christ. Not even the pope can change this teaching, which even Cardinal Muller, of the CDF has said. For more on his recent response click on this link.

Finally can we say that Pope Francis has answered, although not directly to the cardinals? I think the answer is yes. So let us now pray for the cardinals who are seeking to uphold the true teaching for the salvation of souls. Let us pray that the confusion that has been brought about by this document will be done away with. There is also a great summary given yesterday by Father Gerald Murray which sums up the past year well on the document. Let us pray for Cardinal Burke and the other Cardinals who are carrying a heavy cross.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Catherine of Siena: Spiritual Development in Her Life and Teaching- Book Review

Catherine of Siena: Spiritual Development in Her Life and Teaching

I spent the past two weeks reading this wonderful book after having just finished reading Catherine's Dialogue a few weeks ago. McDermott's book is a wonderful spiritual journey through the life of the great St Catherine of Siena. It covers the important spiritual events in her life and then digs deeper to explain them, which allows you to eventually apply her spiritual teachings to your own life. After a biographical account of her life the author covers the spiritual teaching and development that Catherine espouses in her Letters and her Dialogue. Topics such as her fundamental maxim revealed to her by God the Father, 'You are who are not and I am who am!' are explained in great detail allowing the reader to examine their own spiritual life in the mirror of Catherine's teaching. Lastly the book offers an explanation as to how her spiritual teaching and development was experienced in her own life. The book shows clearly how this spiritual teaching applies to all souls.

As Catholics today, we face immense challenges in the world and in the Church. Catherine also faced many similar challenges making her an excellent companion in our lives. In Catherine's time she faced a corrupt Church with corrupt clergy who were misleading souls. Her spiritual approach to these problems is a must needed approach for our time. Without a robust spiritual life bound together with true charity in God's grace, we will not be able to reform today's Church, just as it was not possible to do in her time. How many there are on the Internet complaining about the apostasy in the Church and how few there are who have spent the immense time in prayer to actually affect meaningful change. Catherine teaches how one must start off simply by repenting and ridding one's life of serious sin, then progressing on the Bridge of Christ Crucified further developing in the charity of God. It took Catherine many years to prepare before God called her to go out and teach and serve the public. In fact, she spent four years under the stairs in immense prayer and sacrifice before she even began to go out and do much in charitable works.

Above all, Catherine fit the spirit of her father St Dominic, which was to give oneself to God for the love of neighbor and the salvation of their souls. One of the teachings we miss most today is seeing our neighbor in the image and likeness of God, and treating them as if they were Christ Himself! Yes it is easy to go home, pray, go to church, pray, be around friends and family and then develop a false view of oneself as being pious. It is quite another reality to have formed one's soul in the love of God to where one will sacrifice for their neighbors. God the Father tells Catherine that unless you love your neighbor in a manner that is never self serving, then you don't love Him in a manner that is not self serving. Catherine refers to this type of serving God as being a servile servant. Serving God only for one's own gain. God the Father continues to tell her that how one treats their neighbor is a litmus test as to how much they actually love God. Food for thought!

There are many lessons to be learned if one takes their time to read and meditate on the passages in this book which quotes primarily from Catherine's Dialogue, her Letters and Sacred Scripture. There are also comparisons to the teachings of some of the Church Fathers and Saints as well. The book is well written and thoughtfully laid out. It is repetitious at times but in a pleasant way that keeps reemphasizing the spiritual themes that permeate Catherine's life and her work. This allows you to internalize her thought. For example the three powers of the soul, memory, knowledge and will are shown in several examples throughout the book so that you can properly understand Catherine's teaching in the context of her writings. After reading the 368 pages you become intimately familiar with Catherine and her spiritual thought as well as how to make them your own. I highly recommend picking this book up, and it is a great companion to have alongside as you read her famous Dialogue.  

Thomas McDermott’s magisterial book is the first work in English that does full justice to the systematic theological importance of Catherine of Siena’s teaching. Readers will find their thinking freed from the styles and whims of so much writing on ‘spirituality’ and set firmly on the path that Jesus himself trod with his disciples.”
—Benedict M. Ashley, OP, Professor Emeritus
Aquinas Institute of Theology, Saint Louis, MO