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All Catholic commentary from December 2021

The shallowing of Notre-Dame de Paris

The interior design proposed for the renovation of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris is reported to be nothing short of “politically correct Disneyland”. You’ve heard of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and you’ve also heard of the seven capital sins. Here I am going to suggest seven conceptual juxtapositions that must be successfully navigated by Catholics, both in Church design and in life.

Pope Francis stresses importance of democracy. Why?

All governmental forms can be used for either good or evil, and this is almost completely dependent on the virtue of those who govern. The ancient Greeks already knew that monarchy could be good or bad depending on the monarch, that aristocracy could easily degenerate into oligarchy, and that democracy can degenerate into mob rule or even, in a direct mockery of monarchy, into tyranny itself, as when a “strong man” arises in the name of setting things right.

Quick hits: on an archbishop’s reputation and mandatory vaccines

Pope Francis said: “I ask myself what he did that was so serious that he had to resign." Yet the Pope accepted the archbishop's resignation.

Contemplating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

When I ponder the Immaculate Conception, despite its being the most solemn and highest feast day during the Advent season, I realize it is one of the most intangible feasts. The Immaculate Conception sends a different message. It is a feast of something awesome but it is quiet and hidden. There are few visible and vocal reminders. But the Immaculate Conception can provide a cue of solemnity in contrast to the other feasts surrounding it. How can we model and enter into this celebration?

121—Catholic Jazz Legend Mary Lou Williams—Deanna Witkowski

Mary Lou Williams: one of the outstanding jazz pianists of all time, composer, Catholic convert, visionary, performer of works of mercy.

Rejoice, the Lord is Near! Gaudete Sunday, Ember Days and O Antiphons

The Advent liturgy is so rich, varied and beautiful. Every time the liturgical cycle repeats, it is another opportunity to enter more deeply into the Church’s liturgy as She prepares for Christmas. This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent. The rose-colored vestments for the Third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday are a signal for the transition into the second part of Advent, which is provides more intense preparation for the remaining days of Advent. Besides Gaudete Sunday, the Advent Ember Days and O Antiphons are the special treasures of the second phase of the Advent liturgy.

St. Alphonsus Liguori—Uniformity With God’s Will | Full

“True, we should esteem the things that make for the glory of God, but we should show the greatest esteem for those that concern the will of God.”

The amateur spirit: Chariots of Fire (1981)

Chariots of Fire offers quite a bit to chew on not just in its primary themes of conscience and using one's gifts for God's glory, but also regarding the importance of the amateur spirit, how sport can be properly integrated into education and life as a whole, and how a great civilization must value the achievements of those who came before.

Why is persecution of Christians on the rise?

But as the Church cannot at one and the same time be herself and avoid a continuing witness against the paganism she finds all around her (and even among her own members), the Church will always be a scapegoat for those who despise her mostly because they must, as a matter interior comfort, close their ears to moral commitments which extend beyond the demands of the general culture of which they are a part.

The Magisterium of the Martyrs

Priests generally live in a comfort-zone bubble, surrounded by friendly parishioners. Most parishioners, in contrast, enter daily into the lion’s den of a hostile secular workplace. So the very least a priest can do is support the faithful with orthodox teachings.

53—Gregory and His Greatness

His name retains its greatness — even for modern Christians who don’t know history. They know Gregorian Chant, and maybe Gregorian Masses. Born into nobility, Gregory held estates in Italy and Sicily, but gave them up to be a monk. Then he gave up being a monk so that he could serve the Church. Elected pope, he recast the papacy as a full-time exercise of servitude. He was “servant of the servants of God,” and as such he reformed the clergy and the liturgy and directed foreign missions.

Justice Gorsuch in dissent against religious bigotry

“It is astonishing that the Court tolerates this blatant invasion of religious freedom by a bigoted Governor and her health bureaucrats on the pretext of a never-ending ‘emergency’ that morphs as rapidly as the virus itself.”

Coming to a metaverse near you

The line between personal experience and virtual entertainment is continuing to blur. Major virtual reality companies are now in the process of creating interconnected “realities” in which you and others can live and move and have your being through everything from virtual reality glasses to gloves with “haptic feedback” (transmitting sensations to your fingers which enable you to touch and feel things in virtual reality). The interconnected system of virtual reality is called the “metaverse”.

Lay Catholics suffer from Church leaders’ silence on conscience rights

These canny politicians recognize the propaganda value of identifying opposition to the vaccines as a Catholic issue, and then dismissing it because (as Hochul put it) “everybody from the Pope on down is encouraging people to get vaccinated.” They blithely ignore the formal teaching of the Church regarding individual conscience.

The Glorious English Carol

Did you know that not just any Christmas song is a carol? The true carol, in all its earthy splendor, is a distinctive product of the Catholic middle ages. Yet our forefathers didn’t limit caroling to Christmas: they wrote carols for every season of the year covering the entire story of our Redemption, not to mention secular topics at times.

Catholic Book Gift Ideas

Christmas Catholic book gift ideas: The Spider Who Saved Christmas by Raymond Arroyo, The Night the Saints Saved Christmas by Gracie Jagla, The Catholic Catalogue by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating, Cooking with the Saints by Alexandra Greeley and Fernando Flores, Around the Year with the Trapp Family, A Continual Feast by Evelyn Vitz, Cooking for Christ: Your Kitchen Prayer Book by Florence Berger, and Drinking with the Saints series by Michael P. Foley.

…but it matters whether you are right or wrong!

In other words, we are bound to follow our consciences—to do what we grasp as good and avoid what we grasp as evil. But we are not off the moral hook unless we also take seriously the profound moral obligation to form our consciences as fully and accurately as we can. Not caring to do that is already a grave evil, and few can go very long down this path without willful complicity in this failure.

Miracle cure: a thought-experiment

The end result of this fictional scenario, as I see it, would be not only the defeat of the Covid epidemic but also a rebirth of faith, as people recognized the legitimacy of supernatural claims.

St. John Henry Newman—Omnipotence in Bonds

"My Brethren, it is plain that, when we confess God as Omnipotent only, we have gained but a half-knowledge of Him: His is an Omnipotence which can at the same time swathe Itself in infirmity and can become the captive of Its own creatures... We must know Him by His names, Emmanuel and Jesus, to know Him perfectly."

True and False Conversion: My Night at Maud’s (1969) w/ Matthew Schmitz

Jean-Louis, 34-year-old Catholic engineer, lives a quiet life studying mathematics and reading Pascal. One day, he sees a beautiful girl, Francoise, at Mass and decides he will marry her. But this pursuit is interrupted when he spends the night before Christmas at the apartment of a seductive divorcee, the atheist Maud, who tests his moral code.

Who denies the Novus Ordo is valid? Prepare for a surprise.

But for the sake of unity within the Church— not to mention clarity of doctrine— the fact that more than 70% of the faithful effectively deny the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist, the “source and summit of the Christian life,” is surely a more urgent concern than the claim that 0.01% deny the validity of the new liturgy.

The ten commandments of liturgy

These ten principles capture an essentially Catholic understanding of how we are to respond to the Sacred Liturgy—an understanding which ought to reduce our own personal preferences in liturgical matters to just exactly that—preferences which, on careful study and consideration, can be recommended to the Church for her official consideration; but preferences which we do not allow to obscure or diminish our own reception of the Divine Liturgy as made available to us through the Church herself.

Destined For Destruction

The historical defiance of the Jews despite the destruction of the Temple points to a poignant and enduring reality. Some temples are immune to destruction because human hands do not build them.

The Vatican’s one-way ticket to liturgical reform

Pope Francis has done what his predecessor said could not be done: not quite “entirely” forbidding the TLM, but definitely suggesting that the old liturgy should be “considered harmful.”

The Liturgical Edsel

Whether lay Catholics wanted liturgical reform is debatable (as is the question of whether this new liturgy, the Novus Ordo, actually corresponded to the instructions from the Vatican Council). But unlike the Edsel, the Novus Ordo was never subjected to a market test. Catholics who wanted to attend Mass had no alternative.

Life Stinks. Merry Christmas!

You are on the verge of an honest and humble confession of sin. You ruined the gifts God gave you, and Jesus will help you start anew. He came into the world to save you from your sins. He also created you for a purpose.

54—Maximus the Confessor: Where East and West Meet

By the 7th century, Christian thinkers were settling into scholastic methods, systematizing the thought of their Greek or Latin forebears. Maximus represents the best of this movement. Greek by origin, he spent decades in Latin lands. His writing reflected the brilliance of both sides of the Mediterranean. He marshaled resources of East and West to oppose the Monothelite heresy. The emperor pinned hopes on the heresy to unite the empire against Islam. Maximus suffered brutal torture and exile.

On the humanity of Jesus Christ

To me, in the context of Psalm 110, the phrase “therefore he will lift up his head” implies not merely victory but worthiness of victory. The one who can “lift” or “hold” up his head is the one who has no cause for shame. This last verse seems to say that Our Lord, so often described in the Psalms in terms of his rejection, disfigurement and passion, will now be able to “lift up his head” precisely because he will have drunk “from the brook by the way”.

St. Ephrem the Syrian—Hymns on Mary | Hymn Ten

“When He began to cry / she got up and gave Him milk; / she embraced Him as she sang to Him, / swaying her knees until He became still.”

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