Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Myth vs. Fact on the Feast of St. Nicholas

This year the Optional Memorial of St. Nicholas is superseded by the Second Sunday of Advent, but I think it's well and good to continue the tradition of honoring this saint in one's home.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of myth mixed in with fact regarding the story of his life, so here's some resources on St. Nick and how he came to be associated with the jolly fat man in the red suit. Also, ever wonder why you always find candy in your shoes on this day? That will be answered here too.


Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Resources for Advent

Here are some resources for Advent to increase your knowledge of and appreciation for this liturgical season in the life of the Church. It's the Catholic New Year! Let us wait with eager anticipation for the coming of the Savior.

If several articles came from the same source, I grouped them together. I will be updating this post throughout Advent, so check back often!.

My Blog Posts

Advent Articles and Websites:
Catholic Culture
Catholic Education
Catholic Exchange
EWTN
Insight Scoop
National Catholic Register
New Advent
New Liturgical Movement
The Sacred Page
What Does the Prayer Really Say? (Fr. Z)
Word on Fire (Fr. Robert Barron)

Videos:

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, November 20, 2016

For the Solemnity of Christ the King

In honor of Jesus Christ our King and Savior, upon the conclusion of the liturgical year, I present the following articles:

Articles:

Prayers


Also see my blog posts:
ALL HAIL CHRIST THE KING!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, November 04, 2016

For the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo
"When Saint Charles was dying he had the picture of the dead Christ brought to him, so that he could die happily in the thought of his Savior's death. And this is really the remedy for all those who fear death: to think often of Him Who is our life, and never to think of one without the other."
-- St. Francis de Sales
(Letters 512; O. XIV, pp. 119-120)

As the patron saint of catechists, St. Charles Borromeo is very special to me. The Pictorial Lives of the Saints provides this short biography:
About fifty years after the Protestant heresy had broken out, our Lord raised up a mere youth to renew the face of His Church. In 1560 Charles Borromeo, then twenty-two years of age, was created cardinal, and by the side of his uncle, Pius IV, administered the affairs of the Holy See. His first care was the direction of the Council of Trent. He urged forward its sessions, guided its deliberations by continual correspondence from Rome, and by his firmness carried it to its conclusion. Then he entered upon a still more arduous work - the execution of its decrees. As Archbishop of Milan, he enforced their observance, and thoroughly restored the discipline of his see. He founded schools for the poor, seminaries for the clerics, and by his community of Oblates trained his priests to perfection. Inflexible in maintaining discipline, to his flock he was a most tender father. He would sit by the road-side to teach a poor man the Pater and Ave, and would enter hovels the stench of which drove his attendants from the door. During the great plague, he refused to leave Milan, and was ever by the sick and dying, and sold even his bed for their support. So he lived, and so he died, a faithful image of the Good Shepherd, up to his last hour giving his life for his sheep.

The entry in the New Advent Encyclopedia says much of him specifically regarding his influence in religious education:
"After the Council of Trent he was much occupied with the production of the catechism embodying the teaching of the council, the revision of the Missal and Breviary."
[. . .]
"the education of the young, even down to minute details, was foremost in his thoughts."
[. . .]
"Another great work which was begun at this time was that of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, in order that the children might be carefully and systematically instructed. This work was really the beginning of what is now known as the Sunday school."
[. . .]
"In November he began a visitation as Apostolic visitor of all the cantons of Switzerland and the Grisons, leaving the affairs of his diocese in the hands of Monsignor Owen Lewis, his vicar-general. He began in the Mesoleina Valley; here not only was there heresy to be fought, but also witchcraft and sorcery, and at Roveredo it was discovered that the provost, or rector, was the foremost in sorceries. Charles spent considerable time in setting right this terrible state of things."
[. . .]
"Next he visited Bellinzona and Ascona, working strenuously to extirpate heresy."

Article no. 9 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges his contribution to catechesis in the wake of the Council of Trent:
"The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church's catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St. Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo, or St. Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous catechisms."

St. Charles Borromeo was indeed one of the great Catholic Counter-Reformation saints, taking the decrees of the Council of Trent and employing them in the Diocese of Milan and throughout Italy with the utmost tenacity and vigilance.

Interestingly, he was surrounded by saintly people throughout his life. He consulted St. Philip Neri when constructing the rule for the Oblates of St. Ambrose, and gave First Communion to St. Aloysius Gonzaga. He counted as friends St. Edmund Campion, St. Francis Borgia, and St. Andrew of Avellino.

His last words were "Ecce venio" (Behold I come).

I have a holy card of St. Charles Borromeo with the following prayer on the back:
O saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspre all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the teacher who was divine. Give me the ability to teach this faith to others without pride, without ostentation, and without personal gain. Let me realize that I am simply an instrument for bringing others to the knowledge of the wonderful things God has done for all His creatures. Help me to be faithful to this task that has been entrusted to me. Amen.

For more information on the life of this great saint, see the following links:

St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of catechists ... ora pro nobis!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Resources on Purgatory for All Souls Day

Since today is All Souls Day and the month of November is the month when we remember the souls in Purgatory and make a special effort to pray for their speedy entrance into heaven, I thought it would be helpful to provide some resources that explain what Purgatory is.

If anyone has any questions about this topic, just leave me a comment.

May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
General Articles:
From the Early Church Fathers:
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
My Blog Posts on Purgatory:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Catholic Resources on Halloween and All Saints/Souls Day


There is much confusion about the origins of Halloween, and about what the Church celebrates on and around this day. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to make sense of it all. As a result, I offer the following links to articles and other resources that will help you to learn more about these holidays, and to defend them against the oh-so-typical charge that Catholics are pagans. I say Protestants just don't know how to throw a party like we do! (evidence here)

I repost this every year around this time with additional links, so if you are a regular here see the bottom of the list for some material that you might not have read yet.

Have fun everyone! Be holy!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, October 24, 2016

Catholic Q&A: Part 40

This post continues my series of short answers to common (and not so common) questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Why are Catholics more interested in the saints?

I'm not sure who you are comparing Catholics to, but I can say that Catholics are more interested in the saints than Protestants are because the Catholic Church has maintained continuity of faith with the early Church -- who prayed to and venerated the saints -- whereas the Protestant denominations today find their roots in the "Reformation" of the 16th century, when many Christians broke away from the Catholic Church, throwing the saints out with the rest of the bath water.

Can you please explain how Christmas came to be and the controversy surround it?

Well, the commonly held belief was that Christmas was instituted by the Church in order to counteract or to "baptize" the pagan holidays being celebrated around the same time, either Saturnalia or the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birth of the Unconquered Sun). But, modern scholarship has proven this to be mere legend. What most scholars believe now is that the Christian holiday actually pre-dates the pagan varieties, which were established to reinvigorate the paganism of the Roman Empire and which were swiftly being replaced by Christianity. For more on this, see "Christmas Was Never a Pagan Holiday" and "Why December 25?".

I am a 48 year old woman who has been divorced for 15 years. I recently met a wonderful man, we have been dating for about a year. We have also had sex on a handful of occasions. He feels incredible remorse. It's not like I stopped him. Is this a venial sin or mortal sin?

It would definitely be a very serious sin, and if you did it with full knowledge that it was wrong and you freely consented to do it, then it would be a mortal sin. It is a very serious sin because, until you receive an annulment, your marriage with your former spouse is presumed to be a valid one. This means that you are not free to have sexual intercourse with someone else. Your boyfriend may have had the sin of fornication in mind, but it is actually adultery that has taken place here.

Can one be saved who dies in mortal sin?

No, he cannot. Someone in the state of mortal sin has placed himself in unrighteous standing before the Lord. Someone in such a state must repent of the mortal sin that has flung him into this state before he dies. After death, there is no more time to repent of mortal sin. That person can only go to Hell because Heaven is only a place for those who have maintained a righteous standing with the Lord.

If you were trying to prove that Jesus was who He said he was what topics would you focus on?

I would focus on what Jesus said about Himself, but also what the apostles and the authors of the New Testament books said about Him. For more on this, see my blog post, "Jesus Is God".

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, October 21, 2016

Catholic Q&A: Part 39

This post continues my series of short answers to common (and not so common) questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.


My 25-year old cradle Catholic daughter is in a relationship with someone who does not believe in Jesus Christ. He has his own religion, similar to Judaism, but makes up his rules. She is now following him and renouncing her Catholic faith, and Jesus. What can I say, or do to bring her back?

Well, first of all, you can pray. I know, that's not a very comforting answer. We always wish there was more we could do. But, we have to believe that prayer is efficacious, that it really will help you and her. You must commit yourself to that.

Also, how comfortable is she with talking about religion? Most people who make this decision also don't like getting into it with their parents. Perhaps you could simply ask her: Why are you making this decision? Do you have any questions that I could help you with? Do you know why Catholics believe in Jesus?

If there are any doctrines of the Catholic Church that are sticking points for her, ask her if she would be willing to read some material that would explain these things for her. This is good because it takes some of the pressure off of you to have to defend what you believe, and it gives her the chance to learn about what the Church believes when she is ready (instead of right there, as she's talking to you). Remind her that there's no harm in reading something. Just hear the Church out, let Her have Her say. If she is fully convinced of the truth of her new faith, then it shouldn't bother her to read what the Catholic Church thinks.

Then, find a good book or an article online and give it to her. Your local Catholic bookstore owner can help you find what you need. I don't know what to recommend because I don't know what her needs are. Ask her to keep an open mind, and always be ready yourself to give a charitable defense of your faith when those rare opportunities present themselves. Whatever materials you find for her you should probably read yourself! You won't always have the perfect book at hand, but you will have your mind and heart, what you believe, why you believe it, your experience of Christ moving in your life.

Pray to the Holy Spirit that He will give you the proper words at the proper time.

Good luck to you!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Catholic Q&A on Levels of Honor in Heaven and the Communion of Saints

Gustave Dore's depiction of the highest realm of Heaven,
from Dante's The Divine Comedy.
Does our life on earth impact our experience of heaven? I've often read it described as completely full buckets; for some their love and yearnings create a small bucket, which will be filled; for others their deep faith and yearning will create a huge bucket, which also will be filled. This seems to indicate our earthly experience impacts what heaven will be for us. True?

Yes, that's true. As you love in this life, your capacity for love increases, as does your capacity to receive the glory and blessedness of heaven. So, whereas Saint A and Saint B are both filled completely and thus have no notion of being slighted or being without, if Saint A acted with greater charity in this life then he will be filled with more joy because he has the capacity to receive more. To use your analogy, Saint A and Saint B both have buckets filled to the brim, but Saint A's bucket is larger.

Scripture is clear about there being levels or degrees of honor in heaven. See, for example:
  • Mt 5:19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
  • Mt 11:11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
  • Mt 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
If one can be the "least" or the "greatest" in the kingdom of heaven, does that not imply that there are levels of honor? I can't be the "greatest" until there are people who are less than me.

For more on this, see my blog post, "Levels of Honor in Heaven and Mary's Queenship."

If so, does this also apply to Christ who we will be united to? Does it matter to him in heaven if we led saintly lives on earth, or lived as Sodom but had a deathbed conversion? Similarly, does it matter to Christ in heaven if every baby is aborted with no life experience (or, let's say every one year old is killed) vs them living a meaningful life?

I'm sure that it matters to Jesus a great deal. While it is true that a person who has a deathbed conversion can wind up in heaven right alongside the person who lived a lifetime of holiness, it does not follow that how those two people lived their lives is incidental to God. There is no guarantee that the person living a life of sin will even have the opportunity to make a last-minute appeal to God, nor that he will seize the opportunity if he is given it. God desires that we choose holiness now, and not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the Church and the whole world.

Yes, the good thief repented at the end and was able to be with God, but think of the good he could have done for himself and for others if he had repented sooner! Think of the glory he might have given to God ... and the glory he might have stored up for himself in heaven! Yes, his bucket is full in heaven, but it could have been a much larger bucket. God wants to fill us up with as much of His life and His love as we can possibly be filled up with.

We will (all) be united to Christ in heaven -- does that in some way mean to each other also?

Yes. Just as it is for the Church on earth, so will it be for the Church in heaven: Our unity to the Head of the Body also establishes our unity with one another. As Scripture says:
  • Rom 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
  • Eph 1:9-10 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
  • Eph 2:19-21 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
  • Eph 4:15-16,25 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
  • Col 2:18-19 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

If true, is my experience of heaven lessened by those with lessor lives (or no lives, aborted, etc.)? If false, is my experience of heaven no different because of others --- so why should I care if in the end they don't matter to me?

 I don't think it follows from the communion of the saints in heaven that their experience of heaven would be lessened by the presence of members who did not live greater lives of charity. Your experience of heaven depends on the size of your bucket, and only you can determine that.

Also, regardless of the lives that the other saints led and how they got to be with you in heaven, your bucket is completely full. You can't get any happier than you are at that moment. You are beholding the beatific vision, the unmediated presence of God. You want for nothing.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Christopher Behind Columbus

So, as I'm sure you know, today is Columbus Day in the US. As you may also know, Christopher Columbus is a very controversial figure. I spent a good part of the day trying to learn more about the man and discern for myself whether he's a villain, a hero, or some mysterious mixture of both. I must say, I'm still undecided.

Nowadays, he appears to be more vilified than anything, although I noticed a trend in recent conservative scholarship to make a reappraisal of the man. As a Catholic, I'm not sure if I should be proud of this great Catholic discoverer of "The New World" or disgusted by him. Should I mount a defense of my brother in the faith, or count him among the other embarrassing moments in Church history?

Below, you'll find some articles that attempt to address the issue from a Catholic perspective. I'm not sure if any of them really resolve this issue in my mind. But, I did find them to be very informative, and perhaps you will too:

I would like to close by quoting from Samuel Eliot Morison, a renowned American historian and biographer of Columbus. In his book Admiral of the Ocean Sea, he presents an image of Christopher Columbus that would certainly appeal to any Catholic. He notes a similarity between the mariner and the saint who bears the same name:
"Why the parents of Columbus chose the name Christofaro for their son, born in 1451, we do not know, but in so doing, they furthered the natural bent of the boy's mind.

"Saint Christopher was a tall, stout pagan who yearned to know Christ but could not seem to do anything about it. He dwelt on the bank of a river in Asia Minor where there was a dangerous ford and by reason of his great stature and strength helped many a traveler to cross.

"One day when he was asleep in his cabin he heard a Child's voice cry out, 'Christopher, Christopher. Come and set me across the river!' So out he came, staff in hand and took the infant on his shoulders. As he waded across, the Child's weight so increased that it was all he could do to keep from stumbling and falling, but he reached the other bank safely. 'Well, now my lad,' said he, 'thou hast put me in great danger, for thy burden waxed so great that had I borne the whole world on my back it could have weighed no more than thee.' To which the child replied, 'Marvel not, for thou hast borne upon thy back the whole world and Him who created it. I am the Child whom thou servest in doing good for mankind. Plant thy staff near yonder cabin, and tomorrow it shall put forth flowers and fruit -- proof that I am indeed thy Lord and Savior.' Christopher did as he was bid, and sure enough, next morning, his staff had become a beautiful date-palm.

"From that day forth Christopher has been the patron saint of all who travel by land, sea, or air. In his name, Christopher Columbus saw a sign that he was destined to bring Christ across the sea to men who knew Him not. Indeed, the oldest known map of the New World, dated A.D. 1500, dedicated to Columbus by his shipmate, Juan de la Cosa, is ornamented by a vignette of Saint Christopher carrying the Infant Jesus on his shoulders.

"We may fairly say that the first step toward the discovery of America was taken by the parents of Columbus when they caused him to be baptized Christofaro in some ancient church of Genoa, one day in the late summer or early fall of 1451."

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, October 07, 2016

October: Month of the Rosary

In honor of the most Holy Rosary, which we take up as our sword and shield particularly during this month of October, I have collected the following resources for your edification:

General Articles

The Rosary Encyclicals (go here for a summary of the Rosary encyclicals)

Rosary Apologetics

I also have two blog posts on the rosary:
Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Saturday, October 01, 2016

For the Memorial of "the Little Flower"

In more recent times, St. Therese of Lisieux shows us the courageous way of abandonment into the hands of God to whom she entrusts her littleness. And yet it is not that she has no experience of the feeling of God's absence, a feeling which our century is harshly experiencing: "Sometimes it seems that the little bird (to which she compared herself) cannot believe that anything else exists except the clouds that envelop it.... This is the moment of perfect joy for the poor, weak little thing.... What happiness for it to remain there nevertheless, and to gaze at the invisible light that hides from its faith" (Letter 175. Manuscrits autobiographiques, Lisieux. 1956, p. 52).
-- Pope Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino (On Christian Joy)

For more information about St. Therese of the Child Jesus, see the following links:
Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, September 26, 2016

For the Optional Memorial of Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Today is the feast day of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. Since they are twin brothers and I have a twin brother, I've always had an appreciation for these two.

Cosmas and Damian were both doctors and surgeons in their day (the third century), and were called "the moneyless" b/c they never ceased to aid the sick without pay. They were loved and revered by all. This made their patients docile to the Gospel of Christ, which they always preached to those who sought their care. When Diocletian began his persecution of Christians, they were the first to be sought and captured. They died as martyrs, never forsaking their faith in Jesus Christ.

Today I pray that, like them, my twin brother and I will be able to do God's will in all things and to hold tight to our faith in Jesus Christ. I certainly know what it's like to be "moneyless"!

For more information about Sts. Cosmas and Damian, see the following links:
Sts. Cosmas and Damian ... ora pro nobis.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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