Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

Blueprint For Happiness

I am now in the second year of a two-year walk through the Catechism sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas during the Year of Faith. This spring we are focusing on Section Three of the Catechism. The response has been amazing, as we have taken hundreds of Catholics on a journey of faith through the doctrinal patrimony of the Church. I have received the most enthusiastic feedback from this current section of the Catechism, perhaps because it is the most controversial: the Moral section. Recently, our class examined the sections pertaining to the moral law and how it relates both to  the human person and to Jesus. As the Catechism explains, the moral law is the same as moral reality; it is how we can understand the difference between right and wrong. As article 1950 tells us, the Moral Law is God’s Fatherly instruction for Happiness. It is God our Father saying to us, “I designed you; I know how you work. DO what is right and you will thrive. DO what is wrong and you will diminish and destroy yourselves. I give you intelligence so that you can understand your own design.” This moral law, then, is a law written on our hearts and can therefore be known by anyone through use of reason. It is God’s blueprint for our happiness and contentment. If we could examine every decision that we have to make in life, every option which presents itself to us, and we could recognize which choice would be the best and lead us most directly to our own personal fulfillment and contentment, and then compare those choices to God’s will for us in these same instances, we would find that they are one...

An American Experience and the Inconsistency of Civil Rights...

A few nights ago I watched an interesting documentary on PBS called American Experience. This particular episode was entitled, “1964.” The makers of the show examined that particular year as the year that ignited the social revolution in America. The issue that caused the combustion: Civil rights; in particular, the efforts of northern white college kids who headed to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 in order to assist southern black citizens to register to vote. As the show progressed, my sentiments certainly followed the trajectory of the show’s emotional appeal. The civil rights movement revealed both the ugly and the beautiful struggle of a certain segment of American citizenry to gain political access to a rule of government that is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. I greatly admired the efforts of these Northern white college kids and black civil rights activists in the face of possible violence and even death—as was the case when three volunteers met their doom one night when they encountered some Klansmen. Their bodies were later discovered in shallow graves near a dam in the process of being constructed. Yet, I was also aware of a particular undertone during the entirety of the program. This undertone became clear when, later in the episode, a historian made a statement that both shocked and rankled me. He said that these white kids returned home from their experiences in Mississippi with the stark realization that everything their parents had told them about America was a lie! America as a society, he opined, was utterly bankrupt. His statement was followed by footage of police brutality, footage of the Klan beating people and terrorizing citizens, footage of Republican senator Barry Goldwater...

Our Lady of Guadalupe and 50 Million Names...

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe—indeed, the whole of the Advent season—reveals and reminds us of the utter importance of innocent life and its innate dignity. When the young virgin appeared miraculously to Juan Diego on Mount Tepeyac, she made it known to him that he would have a significant role in converting to Christ 9 million Aztecs who worshiped their false gods with human sacrifice. The indelible image left upon his cloak was that of a young, dark-skinned woman standing on the moon, shrouded in glory with a mantel of stars covering her head. Around her waist, she wore the black sash that young mothers wore in Mexico at that time, indicating she was with child. This image conquered the world, as it not only secured a foothold for the holy faith of Christ in Mexico, but it also proved pivotal in one of the grandest battles in the history between Christianity and Islam not 40 years later, at Lepanto, Greece. Giovanni Andrea Doria, one of the Christian naval commanders, prayed before a replica of this very image in the early morning hours before the commencing of the great sea battle. By 4 in the afternoon, Doria, on behalf of all of Christendom, celebrated victory over the much larger Muslim fleet. All of the Christian naval commanders along with the Pope credited the victory to Our Lady’s intercession. Thus, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful reminder of the powers and victories of this Virgin Mother of God over the forces of death and darkness. Unfortunately, these forces are reasserting influence on contemporary society in manifold ways. In the United States of America, abortion slays millions of innocent lives annually, and the coercion exerted on young mothers to rid...

Conscience vs. Compassion...

Everybody knows you’re supposed to follow your conscience. At least I’ve never heard anyone say otherwise.  The strange thing is that usually conscience is described as a kind of gut impression, feeling, intuition, or instinct. The most common formulation I’ve heard is “Well, this is just how I feel about it, and I’ve got to follow my conscience.” Very frequently conscience is posed in opposition to some kind of authoritarian dictate, as in “The Catholic Church says abortion should be outlawed, but that doesn’t feel right to me, so I’m going to go with my conscience on this one.” Now the most striking thing about this way of equating conscience with feeling is its incongruity with the etymology of the word “conscience” itself.  The word “conscience” is a Latinate composite of cum + scientia (= conscience). Cum just means “with,” but scientia means “knowledge.” So to follow your conscience means to act according to your knowledge, not your feelings, instincts or intuitions. Which has some very interesting implications. For instance, it means that if you know that what the Catholic Church teaches is true, you are logically incapable of following your conscience in opposition to the Catholic Church – since you can’t follow your knowledge and act against your knowledge at the same time. Whereas if you can follow your conscience against the teachings of the Catholic Church, it means that you don’t know that the Catholic Church is a reliable source for true teaching. And if you call yourself a Catholic but you don’t recognize the Catholic Church as a reliable source for true teaching, then you need to consider whether there’s any point in having a Catholic Church, or in being associated with it, in the first...

DAMNATION AND DIVINE MERCY...

One of the constant challenges I get from my classes regarding the Church’s teaching on the existence of hell is that this doctrine is incompatible with their idea of a merciful God. “My God is a God of Mercy, Troy, and He wants all to be saved. That’s in the Bible!” Which is true, God does will all men to be saved, but under certain conditions. Ah, there’s the rub! Not abiding by these conditions may cause some souls, perhaps even many souls, to end up going to hell forever. This brings us back to the problem of Divine Mercy. Many Catholics believe that there is a contradiction between Divine Mercy and the existence of hell. When Luke recounts the episode in his Gospel where Jesus is approached by someone from the crowd who asks Him a direct question regarding the number of those saved, Jesus, in His typical mystifying fashion, responds by saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13: 24 NAB. See also Mt 7:14.) I recognize the difficulty in Jesus’ response. If God wills that all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4,) then why would He make the door to salvation so difficult to open for so many? There could only be three possible answers: God makes it difficult despite willing all to be saved, Satan makes it difficult, or we make it difficult. Which answer is implied by Jesus? The first answer is simply implausible based on what we know about God. As stated earlier, God wishes all men to be saved. Further, He sent His only begotten Son to save us, not to condemn us, even though...

Fear and the Liturgical Year...

Christians are afraid. I read it in their blogs; I hear it in their voices. Recently, I, too, experienced a deep sense of foreboding. A couple of nights ago, I had trouble sleeping.  I had watched some rerun from the 1970’s and noticed something in this program—a program my family watched in my youth—that I hadn’t noticed before: the early stages of the inculcation of the homosexual agenda. Although subtle, from our present perspective, the intention was nevertheless apparent. I went to bed thinking, ‘My Lord, they have been working out their strategy for almost 40 years! No wonder this push is coming from so many different directions. The purveyors of this agenda have been at it for years and years while we have been asleep at the wheel. We are doomed!’ Not exactly the ideal closing thoughts to the end of the day of a trusting Christian. The next morning, just as I was beginning my prayer time, I asked the Lord to really speak to me that day regarding my fears. ‘I really need to hear your voice, Lord,’ I told Him, ‘to break through the darkness being caused by my fears and worries!’ As I opened the readings for the Mass, He spoke. The first reading was (surprise, surprise) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These wicked cities were destroyed by God’s angels precisely because of their sexual impurity and licentiousness. The destruction, however, was the result of there being found no good person within the districts of these cities. This result was brought about but the refusal of the citizens in these towns to repent and live. They chose their end based on the warped response given to angels of light sent to them from...
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