Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers on the Boston Bombing

I've wanted to put my own take in on the Boston Marathon bombing but I thought it best to wait until all the facts were in on it. It is indeed a tragedy, and for those lives lost I grieve, but rather than get into what I think compelled the guilty parties, instead I'd like to point out the different ways people have reached out to Boston residents, namely the use of "prayer" and "thoughts".
Take the cases of Mark Walburg and Seth MacFarlane.

Both are from the New England area (although Wallburg himself is actually from Boston) and both have put their take in on the bombing,  but while Mark is a Roman Catholic, MacFarlane himself is an avowed atheist.
With that in mind, consider the difference in their approaches:

-In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Walburg said "my prayers are with the victims."
-In a public statement, MacFarlane said "My thoughts are with the people of Boston."

While I am paraphrasing both quotes, it is quite shocking how atheists are so against anything transcendent, they'll use whatever language they can to cover up their rejection, and this is a perfect example of it.

To be honest, I've never understood "my thoughts are with you." How does that even work? I wouldn't mind it so much if both sides are working on the same problem from different directions but that's not the case in this instance. And given how long the average person can focus on a thought, I would find it insulting when someone tells me that.

What type of thought was he talking about? Out of the over forty types, I can't think of any that might come close to applying here.

Here's what I want people to do: go to this list and memorize a few thought types:

Next time an atheist says "my thoughts are with you", ask them what types, then spout them off--not all at once but slowly enough to leave them flabbergasted. Then when they stand there in shock, ask them "what's the matter? Stopped thinking for too long?"

As a final note, ever heard of the phrase "a world at thought is a world at peace?" Of course not because it's insipid, contradictory, and refuted by mere observation. The correct phrase is "a world at prayer is a world at peace."

That other phrase is idiotic, and atheists are idiots. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Traditional Reconciliation

Resuming my series about the sacraments, it's time to look at reconciliation, also known as confession, and sacrament of forgiveness and conversion. This is tied in to the Church teaching about Holy Orders, which I will get to in a later post, but I bring it up now because that  seems to be one of many  misunderstandings on this sacrament that need to be addressed now before we continue.

Misunderstanding #1: Jesus sacrificed Himself for me so I don't need to confess my sins.
While the first part is true, the second ignores too many verses to be true. If His sacrifice is all that's needed, then James must have been mistaken while under divine inspiration when he commanded people to "confess your sins to one another." (James 5:16) This notion fails to understand both baptism and reconciliation in that while the first blots out the penalty for Original Sin, that doesn't change the fact people still sin. While some sins are more serious than others (more on this later), God is offended by all sin and since He wants us to live with Him in eternity, He would logically provide us the means to reach Him. God doesn't want us to do something that He doesn't give us the means to do.

Misunderstanding #2: "I can confess my sins to God directly."
While true on the surface, this misses several points. God does have the power to forgive sins as does Jesus since Jesus is God so it does make sense at first to confess them to God. That I won't argue. However, since God the Father gave the power to forgive sins to Jesus the Son, ie God becoming man, it would follow this God in the form of man would give this amazing ability to regular man and indeed we see this is the case:

He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20: 21-23)

If God meant for you to go directly to God, why would Jesus bother to give this power to mere man?

Misunderstanding #3: "While Jesus did give this power to the Apostles, the power went away once the last Apostle died."
Thank goodness we don't hear this argument very often but it's worth looking at all the same. In order to argue this, it would have to be shown, at least from the Protestant perspective, that a verse exists to prove this point. Since there are no verses that show this, then from the Sola Scriptura perspective (ignoring for a moment what a heretical teaching it is anyway) the notion of Jesus giving man this power then taking it away from them makes no sense.

Misunderstanding #4: "This whole reconciliation idea sounds like a "get out of jail free" card."
Far from it.  In fact, it has NEVER been taught that confession leaves the door open for people to do whatever they wanted. No Christian branch, be it founded by Christ or the other pseudo-types, that teach about confession has ever said it leaves you free to do whatever you want and not to worry about the consequences. This misunderstanding leaves out the key parts of the sacrament, which in the words of St John are:
"Contrition in the heart, confession in his mouth, a perfect humility in his works."
In other words, saying you're going to change your life and doing it are two separate things.

Misunderstanding #5: "Since the priest is a sinner too, as "all have fallen short of God's glory", why should I confess my sins to a sinner?"
Even on the surface, the errors of this statement should be obvious. It's no different than saying "Since doctors need medical treatment too, why should I take medical advise from them or let them perform surgery on me?" Even if it did follow, that would then mean there would be no point to confession since we're going to fall short in the end anyway. Such a nihilistic view has no place in a true Christian.

Now, earlier I talked about the difference between sins, and yes, not all sins are created equal.  

He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask, and life shall be given to him, who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death: for that I say not that any man ask. All iniquity is sin. And there is a sin unto death. (1 John 5:16-17)

 It is from this verse the notion of venial and mortal sins comes from. What's the difference between the two?
Think of it like the degrees of severity you find in common law; some crimes are considered more serious than others. In the Church, these are the traits that make up mortal sin:

  1. Its subject must be a grave (or serious) matter.
  2. It must be committed with full knowledge, both of the sin and of the gravity of the offense (no one is considered ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are inborn as part of human knowledge, but these principles can be misunderstood in a particular context).
  3. It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent, enough for it to have been a personal decision to commit the sin.

What counts as a grave matter? In a nutshell, anything that violates any of the 10 Commandments, as well as whether you followed the commandments of the Church or anything that came from the seven deadly sins. Contrary to what some think, deadly sins and moral sins are not the same; deadly sins are where mortal sins come from. St Ignatius of Loyola, in conjunction with the Holy Church says this about mortal sin in his Spiritual Excercises:

There are two ways of sinning mortally:
First Way. The first is, when one gives consent to the bad thought, to act afterwards as he has consented, or to put it in act if he could.
Second Way. The second way of sinning mortally is when that sin is put in act.
This is a greater sin for three reasons: first, because of the greater time; second, because of the greater intensity; third, because of the greater harm to the two persons.

So now that we know what we need to confess, how do we perform reconciliation?

1. Enter the church and review your sins.
Again, look at the Commandments of God and the Church. There's a good chance the devil will make you forget about your sins, but I found writing down the key mortal sins helpful.
2. Enter the confessional.
3. When the priest is ready, it will go in this order:
You: Bless me, Father for I have sinned.
(Priest will then say a prayer for full confession)
You: Since my last confession which was (insert length of time here) ago, when I received absolution and performed my penance, I accuse myself of these sins: (Insert sins here). For these and all my other sins, which I cannot at present remember, I am heartily sorry, and purpose amendment for the future, and humbly ask pardon from God, and penance and absolution from you, my earthly Father.

4. Priest will then give you absolution and advise on how to avoid the sin in the future.
5. Say the Act of Contrition.
There are many versions of this but I use this one the most:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins, because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. amen.
6. Thank the priest and leave to perform your penance.

As you can see, there is much humility in this. Atheists think it's a bunch of shame and guilt but then again atheists are idiots.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Refuting the Riddle of Epicurus

The statement in question is often used by atheists to refute the notion of God being concerned over man's fate and being able to overcome evil. If you're not familiar with it, here's how it goes:

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?

Often, the paradox is given an additional line "Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God"
 Without fail, every atheist that has presented this to me thinks they said something brilliant and this can't be refuted. To be honest, I see several problems with this so-called paradox.

1. It has never been called the Epicurean Trilemma. 
It's either been called the Epicurean paradox or the riddle of Epicurus. A moot point, perhaps, but it is better to call things by their proper names.

2. Epicurus didn't write it.
That's right: there's no evidence to suggest Epicurus ever wrote it. The form people are familiar with, depending on who you believe, was either put together by David Hume or maybe Carneades. No one knows which but saying Epicurus put it together is yet another atheist urban legend, much like saying communism could work or saying the early Christians were never martyred. (And yes, there is a book out there arguing this).

3. The additional line I just mentioned is not a part of it and never has been.
In this case, it doesn't matter who you think came up with it: neither version has the "why call him God" part. That appears to be a later addition, but it also appears that whoever put it there didn't bother to check the original sources.

4. The so-called riddle itself is a false dilemma.
  A false dilemma is a type of informal fallacy that involves a situation in which limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option.
Consider what the paradox says in the very first sentence: either God cannot abolish evil or God chooses not to.  That's it. It only considers two options; it doesn't consider (for sake of argument) that maybe God is allowing evil or perhaps there's a reason why the evil is there in the first place. I bring this up only because Hume himself (a philosopher atheists love to quote) admitted to the possibility:

"His wisdom is infinite: He is never mistaken in choosing the means to any end: But the course of nature tends not to human or animal felicity: Therefore it is not established for that purpose. Through the whole compass of human knowledge, there are no inferences more certain and infallible than these. In what respect, then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy of men?"

5. It doesn't define what evil is.
If you're going to call something evil, okay, but you need to establish on what basis something is evil.

6. It ignores free will.
Last  I checked, man is free to commit evil or good. That is not to say they always make the better choice but this does say at least the choice is there. The paradox doesn't address that.

7. The whole wicked and impotent part is just an opinion, not an objective fact.
Those parts are nothing more than a slight-of-hand that add nothing themselves and suffer from their own logical inconsistencies. 

8. It places the problem of evil on God rather than man.
Going back to point 6, man in the end is responsible for how he treats other people. I don't see how God could even come close to blame in light of this.

9. There is no way to take this paradox seriously.
In light of all these points, a Christian should not be threatened by this writing at all since the atheist is just picking at straws on this.

In fact, I have a much better paradox:
Are atheists really bright or are they ignorant? If they are bright, why do they make so many mistakes? Do they not care about learning? Then they are not bright. If they do care about learning, why make the same mistakes over and over? Are they ignorant? If so, why not just admit it?

Because atheists are idiots.

Monday, April 8, 2013

An article about my spirituality

I've taken a week off from this blog to put together an article I'm writing for wikipedia, concerning the spirituality I follow. There are articles on Jesuit spirituality, Dominican, Carmelite, Franciscan, and Benedictine, but so far as I can tell, there are no articles on my spirituality.
Now keep in mind, this is all a rough version of the final article, and I'm still making improvements, but here's what I have so far:

                                                    Montfort Spirituality
Montfort spirituality is an 18th century spirituality based on the writings of St Louis De Montfort and influenced by the French school of spirituality. Like all Catholic spiritual schools, it bases itself on the Catholic faith and the Gospels, but places greater emphasis in the Virgin Mary’s role in salvation through Jesus. Considered the forerunner to Roman Catholic Mariology, it has influenced the spiritual outlook of many Catholic figures, including Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Montfort Spirituality can be summarized with the phrases “To God Alone, by Christ Wisdom, in the Spirit, in communion with Mary, for the reign of God,” or “God Alone” and “In Jesus, through Mary.”  
Montfort Spirituality can be divided into two categories: internal and external. Each together brings about in the soul knowledge and contempt of self; participation in Mary’s faith; deliverance from cares, fears and scruples; great confidence in God and Mary; communication of the soul and spirit of Mary; transformation of the faithful soul by Mary into the likeness of Jesus Christ; and the greater glory of God.

According to Montfort’s work True Devotion to Mary, followers of this spirituality are to imitate the following virtues of the Virgin Mary:
-Lively faith
-blind obedience
-continual mental prayer
Emphasis on the Incarnation- unlike many other spiritualties, Montfort spirituality places more emphasis on the Word taking flesh, and becoming man. Hence, the spirituality puts great importance on the Annunciation, which commemorates Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb. Various prayers and litanies to the Incarnation are greatly encouraged.
Devotion to the Rosary- Influenced by the Dominican Order (which he belonged to), Montfort teaches daily prayer of the Rosary and even composed five special ways of saying the Rosary (and later meditations on the Rosary Mysteries).
Frequent recitation of the Ave Maria, the Magnificat, and a saying to remind us of our devotion- St Montfort writes about the importance of saying the Hail Mary often as possible:
            “it is the most perfect compliment you can give to Mary, because it is a compliment which the Most High sent her by an archangel, in order to win her heart; and it was so powerful over her heart by the secret charms of which it was so full, that in spite of her profound humility she gave her consent to the Incarnation of the Word.”

He says this about the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55):
It is the only prayer, the only work, which the Holy Virgin composed, or rather, which Jesus composed in her; for He spoke by her mouth. It is the greatest sacrifice of praise which God ever received from a pure creature in the law of grace.

Montfort even penned a special saying each follower is to say at least once a day:
“I am thine and all I have is thine, oh most loving Jesus, through Mary, Your most Holy Mother.”

Wearing of the Scapular, Miraculous Medal and “little chains”- Montfort teaches that those who follow this devotion are to wear the scapular and the Miraculous Medal as well as a symbol for their new holy slavery to Mary (see below) for “[wearing little chains] reminds the Christian of the vows of baptism”…”shows the world we are not ashamed of the servitude and slavery of Jesus Christ” and “to protect ourselves against the slavery of sin and the Devil.” However, it should be noted a simple light chain and even a ring (like one made by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) will suffice.
Reciting the Little Crown of Mary- Consisting of three Our Fathers and 12 Hail Marys, and also known as the "Triple Crown of the Twelve Stars of the Blessed Virgin" because it is based on St. John the Divine's vision in from Rev 11 and 12, the Little Crown honors Mary as symbolizing her motherhood and queen-ship over all Israel, the twelve stars representing the 12 Tribes and the 12 Apostles. Though not written by Montfort himself, he did add additional praises to Mary in between the Hail Mary’s and a special litany format (link here)
A spiritual parallel to Jacob and Rebecca (Gen 27) –St Montfort reminds us of the story of Jacob, who with the help of his mother Rebecca, achieves the blessing of his father Isaac.  This coincides with his teaching of always depending on our spiritual mother to gain blessings from our spiritual father.
Angelus/Regia Coli- Montfort encourages these two prayers, both said at noon but at different times of year, as reminders of the role Mary played in salvation through Jesus.
The concept of “holy slavery”- Going several steps beyond regular dependence on God, St. Montfort views the spirituality as being slaves to God and therefore love. “It is easily seen, then, that he who is a slave by constraint is rigorously dependent on his master.  Strictly speaking, a man must be dependent in that sense only on his Creator.”
Special method of receiving Communion- Before Holy Communion, Montfort wants those following his spirituality to humble themselves and ask the Virgin Mary for her heart to better receive Jesus. “I take thee for my all. Give me your heart, oh Mary.” During Communion but before receiving it, one is to say “Lord, I am not worthy” to each of the members of the Holy Trinity, and ask to behold Mary, to see Mary coming into your house and life, and to have all confidence in Mary to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively. After receiving Communion, he recommends various suggestions, all revolving around uniting the hearts of Jesus and Mary within yourself. 
33 day consecration- once a year, those following Montfort spirituality take a 33 day length consecration to Mary,  composed of special litanies, prayers, readings from the Bible, The Imitation of Christ, various Montfort writings, and different exercises depending on the teaching emphasized. Upon completion, the follower is to choose a day significant to Marian theology (such as the Annunciation or Christmas) to make final vows and promises to the Virgin Mary.