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All Catholic commentary from March 2023

J.R.R. Tolkien—On Fairy-Stories

"God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves."

The meaning of the clash between McElroy and Paprocki

The modern experiment has been one of marginalizing the unpleasantness of the important. The result has been not liberty but enslavement to wayward human desire: The selfish championing of the “individual”, if he is from the right group, or possesses the right wealth, or is eager to sing the right tune for his supper.

Will other bishops answer Paprocki’s challenge?

Bishop Paprocki is right; there is no point in pretending that all Catholics— or even all Catholic bishops— are in fundamental accord. There are serious disagreements among us, which must be addressed.

Children’s Books: Three new ones from Ascension Press

Review of Ascension Press books for children, with their "Ascension Kids" line: Louie's Lent and The Real Presence both by Claude Cangilla McAdam and My First Interactive Mass Book by Jennifer Sharpe.

Looking Ahead: March 4-20

Upcoming reminders of St. Joseph, St. Patrick, March 4-20 on Liturgical Calendar, Sundays of Lent with the Transfiguration, the Samaritan Woman at the Well and Laetare Sunday.

Do We Have Sufficient Evidence to Make an Act of Faith?

The Apostles’ Creed is “inclusive” – universal -- and excludes heretical content (including that of prominent prelates in our day). Regardless of personal belief, its realism spans the history of mankind, from creation to redemption and salvation.

Cardinal McElroy’s refusal to speak the truth

The Catholic Church does not regard herself as a club through which sinners may grow in social acceptance. She regards herself as a Divine institution for the reclamation of sinners and their transforming incorporation into Christ. Those who refuse to accept her authority cannot benefit from her ministry. Those who act in public defiance of her teachings cannot remain in full communion with her. This does not arise from her changeable decision but by virtue of what she is.

Work of Human Hands: The Fathers and the Revaluing of Labor

Plato scorned manual labor. Aristotle said that "no one who leads the life of a worker or laborer can practice virtue." Pagan religion reflected such precepts of the philosophers. In such a world, Christianity seemed revolutionary. The churches were full of laborers, who worshipped a Laborer — and whose Scriptures preserved NOT the syllogisms of philosophers, but the stories of people who got jobs done. Implicit in the writings of the Fathers is a radical and new idea: a theology of work.

Please, not another ‘program’ for evangelization

After the Council of Jerusalem, the apostles quickly spread the Gospel message across the world. After Vatican II, the Church talked about evangelization.

Fourth free ebook on Faith in series by Fr. Pokorsky

The last decade has seen the acceleration of errors in Catholic doctrine. Church officials seem increasingly unable to distinguish between their sacred duties as pastors in promoting Catholic principles and the indispensable role of the laity in applying those principles in everyday politics. Maybe these clusters of articles will help reaffirm our faith and desire for heavenly glory.

The family: Not for production or consumption, but joy

Societies and their economic engines can be organized more or less beneficially to the life of the family. When this develops in less beneficial ways, we end up with widespread personal instability and distress, the normalization of many individualized forms of immorality, the decline of the family and close-knit societies, and the consequent loss of natural communities of support.

Catholic review of The Chosen, Season 3

It’s time for another lively discussion of the wildly popular Christian TV series The Chosen, following on the release of its third season, which stretches from the sermon on the mount to the feeding of the five thousand. Since the show is written by Evangelical Protestants, Thomas and James make a point of keeping an eye out for any doctrinal errors, and Br. Joshua Vargas joins to share his knowledge of Scripture and ancient Jewish and Christian culture and practices.

The Failure of the Persuasion Strategy

Young priests usually overestimate the power of their persuasive abilities. They soon discover that some people protest their homilies when the remarks touch upon the hot-button topics of the day

The Vatican’s irresolute response to the threat of German schism

The German bishops have done what they have no right to do. The cautionary statements from Rome are now routinely ignored. Sooner or later the Vatican must draw the line.

Placatory proselytism? Obscuring the challenge of Faith

The foundation of authentic religion is what God knows, not what we perceive. Divine Revelation, through which we come to know what God knows, is not to be bartered away in a continuous adjustment of Christian principles to suit the vagaries of time and place, influence and ascendancy. A placatory Christianity is a Christianity unfaithful to Christ. At the very moment the concession is made, it ceases to be Christianity, and so ceases to matter at all.

155—Pilgrimage to the Museum—Stephen Auth

For decades, Steve and Evelyn Auth have been giving tours of NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art. When Steve (who last appeared on this show talking about his book The Missionary of Wall Street) had a reversion to his Catholic faith 20 years ago, that tour soon enough became a Catholic tour of the Met. Since there is now so much demand for that tour that they can't give it to everyone, they have written its essence in their new book, Pilgrimage to the Museum: Man's Search for God.

St. Patrick—Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus

"I don't know which is the cause of the greatest grief for me: whether those who were slain, or those who were captured, or those whom the devil so deeply ensnared."

Free childcare as a Ponzi scheme

The suggestion is that many stay-at-home mothers are forced to rely on the government to support their households. Instead, this proposal would force those mothers to rely on the government to care for their children. How is that an improvement?

Aids to perception: Three long and three short books

When I was in college and newly in love I learned the difficulty of concentrating on the things I read simply because they were assigned. Again and again, I would emerge from some imaginative ramble to find that I was twenty pages on in the reading of some book, and had absolutely no recollection of what was on those pages. So I’d go back and read it again, usually (at least) with better results. But to this day I cringe when I receive a really long book for review.

Honest Tenacity; Tenacious Honesty

The man cured of his blindness could escape from the clutches of the Pharisees with a few teeny-weeny white lies. Instead, he refuses to budge, doubles down on the truth, and bears the consequences.

The confessional seal will remain inviolable.

It is certainly good to know that the Church stands remarkably firm on the seal of the confessional even when she seems incapable of standing firm on almost anything else. It is a powerful grace, I think, which defends this sacrament, and with it the privacy of those who confess their sins. It is a grace so signally impressive, in fact, that the Sacrament of Penance is experiencing something of a comeback wherever it is emphasized, even in the secularized West.

Mother of All Vigils

’Twas the night before Easter, and all through the Church every heart was stirring. The early Christians kept a Vigil that made a lasting impression. The symbols were elemental: fire, water, darkness, nakedness, music, dramatic preaching, surprising chalices, and more-than-marathon endurance. Prepare for your Easter Vigil by learning about theirs.

Getting the Synod Back on Topic

So perhaps the best possible outcome of the October Synod meeting would be a realization, among the world’s bishops, that when the Vatican causes confusion, it is their duty of the bishops to restore clarity.

Upcoming Calendar Highlights: Holy Week Edition

Preparing for Holy Week with a checklist, links for the Annunciation, Vernal Equinox and March sky gazing, Mary Gardens, spring and seeds, and a closer look at Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Papal contentment with bland secularities

It is difficult to explain the complexities in Francis’ character and commitments, and we have no choice but to live with them. But Francis’ most obvious tendency as Pope is an insistence on addressing those who do not share the faith in almost exclusively natural terms, with an ever-diminishing willingness to actually proclaim the Gospel.

Outwitting Death

A requiem Mass affirms the sorrow of death and is an occasion to overcome the ambivalence of life and death.

Ratzinger: Grasping God’s plan as told in Scripture

The book insist that we humans are precisely God’s special project, the summit of His creation, called to a glorious destiny which only we can thwart. Ratzinger’s point is that the whole of Divine Revelation in Scripture is designed to illuminate this project so that, instead of rebelling against it in the continued estrangement of Original Sin, we can participate fruitfully in it as the sole way of happiness.

Can a Holocaust film offer hope? Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler's List is generally acclaimed as a masterpiece, yet some call it a Hollywood falsification of its subject matter, either because it does not sufficiently show the brutality of the Holocaust, because the story  is told from the point of view of a German, because it has a somewhat happy ending, or because any fictional portrayal whatsoever of the Holocaust is necessarily a transgression. James and Thomas take these questions seriously, while ultimately vindicating Spielberg's work.

Celebrating Cardinal Mindszenty’s birthday

Pope Paul— who had promised Mindszenty that he would always retain his title as Primate of Hungary— announced that the cardinal had retired. Cardinal Mindszenty loudly insisted that he had not his office voluntarily.

Pope St. Leo the Great—Three Lenten Sermons

"People are shown to be not particularly spiritual at other times if they do not prove themselves to be more spiritual in these days."

156—Can music be sad?

It's universally acknowledged that music affects our emotions. But does it actually make sense to talk about music "expressing", emotions in any intrinsic sense (that is, can music itself be happy or sad)? And even if it does, should we treat emotional expression as the essential purpose of music, or the criterion by which we judge musical beauty? If music doesn't literally contain emotions, how does it still manage to affect our feelings so powerfully? And what is music expressing, imitating or reflecting, if not emotions?

Is the Synod Asking the Wrong Questions? (Part I of II)

For the better part of two centuries, the Church has been wrestling with the question of how diocesan bishops should interact with the Sovereign Pontiff in the guidance and governance of the universal Church. It would be a shame to fritter away the opportunity to advance our understanding of that question, merely to follow the latest fashionable trends.

A new theological concept: temporary infallibility

Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (soon to be Pope Benedict XVI) had already said that women’s ordination is impossible. So it shouldn’t be surprising if Pope Francis says the same thing.

Is the Synod Asking the Wrong Questions? (Part II of II)

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich cheerfully assured one interviewer that critics “won’t be able to stop” the progress of this Synod

Politics vs. Salvation: Catholic priorities?

If we think that our fundamental personal morality is just fine as long as we resist the public, political effort to legalize, promote and fund more widespread sexual sin, then (as my parents used to say) “we have another think coming”. And if the Church thinks that the crux of today’s moral challenge is to avoid having our taxes used to fund immorality, the Church is suffering under a severe spiritual delusion.

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