Thursday, February 13, 2003


I wonder if there is an epidemic in blogdom. Steven at Flos Carmeli and then
Robert at Classic Catholic have both remarked about the lack of comments they are receiving. The same thought has crossed my mind. Are we experiencing the general "malaise" Jimmy Carter once spoke about?

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

On the Journey - II

Craig has posted a comment about his journey and made a couple of good points. I am a little surprised at his description of the “worship experience” at one or more Catholic parish he has attended, but still good comments.

He writes:
"My visits to Catholic parishes (aside from touristing in famous European cathedrals) have been a trip into kum-ba-yah land, with sixties-modern architecture, folkie music, and lots of Euro-leftist "social justice" talk from the pulpit that frankly inspires nausea in a conservative like myself. As far as I can tell, they aren't teaching heresies from the Catholic faith, but what I hear there doesn't inspire me to reverence. On the theory that "by their fruits ye shall know them", all this tends to make me doubt."

Except for the architecture, I didn't know there was much of this silliness left in the land and it saddens me to hear that there may be. Craig is right to be put off by it. My conversion to Catholicism was instigated by a preacher who had lost sight of God in favor of 'sixties 'feel-good" religion. The question my wife asked after one of these sermons was "Would we be willing to die for this kind of faith?" The answer was no. I think if our first experience at Mass had been as Craig described we would never have gone any further in our conversion process. That too would not be worth dying for. But then again, it would not be Catholic. Craig, or any one of us, would be right to reject it out of hand. However, I do believe (or hope) these parishes in which the focus is not on Jesus Christ and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass but rather on the "community" are becoming fewer and farther between. I encourage Craig to try to find an orthodox Catholic parish before making a final judgment about the Church.

I said in my last post on this topic, that Protestantism tends toward emotionalism. Craig correctly points out that there is considerable intellectual activity, at times perhaps too much, that is also part of Protestantism. The point I was trying to make is that there is an emphasis on feelings that tends to be part of the typical Protestant worship experience. There is a different spirituality here than in the Church and this is not all bad. Catholics tend to go to the opposite extreme and try to avoid all emotion; in fact they tend to distrust emotion at worship or at prayer. It would be good to have the two extremes meet somewhere in the middle.

Craig also says that he doesn't feel called to the Church because he sees no sign, “intellectual or emotional, that the Church possesses the fullness of truth”. Of course, in the end there is nothing that I am aware of that can guarantee us that the Church does indeed possess the fullness of truth. If there were such a thing our trust in the Church as the Body of Christ would be a matter of knowledge, not of faith.

Unless, that is, there is some basis to believe the Church is right when she proclaims that she has the fullness of truth. This was a central issue for me in my conversion and the way I approached it was to follow the famous maxim of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes said that if there were several theories of the “crime” in order to solve it one had to eliminate those theories that were impossible and the truth was likely to be whatever was left. My conversion process began when I realized there was a flaw in Protestant Christianity, which is that there is no magisterium, no central teaching authority. It is possible to say definitively what the Church teaches on any particular aspect of the Christian faith, just look in the Catechism. This is impossible on the Protestant side. To see what the Protestant view is on any particular aspect of the Christian faith you must ask each church, sometimes each Protestant. Sometimes congregations within the same denomination will not believe the same thing on any given subject. There is no single Protestant teaching on, say, baptism, communion, even salvation; the field is terribly fractured. Even the long-established, main line, Protestant denominations have abandoned their traditional Confessions of Faith in favor of the latest social fetishes, including homosexual ordination, the results of which are plaguing the Church right now. Truth is subject to a vote and, I believe, to act as if it were, is a logical impossibility. Truth is neither a function of time or of public opinion. Jesus is the Truth and he cannot be divided, there is One Truth. That leaves us with a few possibilities, the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Muslims or other eastern religions, or the Catholic Church.

As I write all of this it comes to me that perhaps one possible “sign” that the Church has the fullness of truth is the Catechism. There is nothing comparable on the Protestant side and if there were it would not be binding. Individual Catholic parishes may go off in their own direction but when they do they are no longer Catholic; their actions do nothing to change the teaching of the Church. These activities are merely symptoms of the individual failings of sinful individuals. When Protestants do that they do influence the belief of the individual congregation, there is no safeguard of truth to which anyone can appeal, nothing like the Catechism exists for Protestants.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Nihil Obstat

I have received my first notice on the site of the official St. Blog’s proofreader - Nihil Obstat. Said blogger has pointed out "5 Hiccups on the 7 Habitus" which, with one possible exception constitute silly spelling and/or typographical errors made by yours truly.

I have made it clear here that my primary purpose in doing this blog is to learn to write and to do so by regularly doing posts for this blog. The idea is that this effort will help me discipline myself to write regularly and will constitute a sort of writing practice. I think I have become more enthralled with the practice than with the writing.

So I think Nihil Obstat performs a valuable service both for those of us who are regular bloggers and for you the reader. One of the things I have already learned here is that writing is hard work and the technicalities involved are somewhat intimidating to me. It's not all glamour, fame and fortune. But you, the reader of this blog, deserve the best I can give you. Due to certain deficiencies in character and mental ability that may not always be up to the level of a high school sophomore, but you at least deserve to have me make the effort. So that means posts should be proofread for correct spelling and proper grammar. It means they should make at least some sense and be on topics of at least some importance and interest to you, the reader. It means they should be as in accordance with Truth and Church teaching as I can make them. And we can all be thankful that when I fail there is Nihil Obstat looking over my shoulder.
Nunc Dimitis

I have promised myself that I would not delete a blog once it is posted here. This promise has created a problem for me because there are already a few posts that I would like to revise and/or correct. It seems that re-posting the revisions could easily become quite cumbersome, even confusing, after a while. The solution I have hit upon is to create a "back up" blog to which I could post the revised posts from this site. Thus Nunc Dimitis is born. There is no need to regularly visit Nunc Dimitis unless you are overcome by curiosity as to what I might be revising or correcting from this site. If you do feel such a need it is there.

One of the reasons I thought to begin this blog was to work out certain ideas I had concerning the practical application of the virtues. To date I have hardly approached the topic so this is a first, feeble attempt to do so.

Virtue is an idea that has practically disappeared from our lives these days. Yet, many very popular books, best sellers, especially in the area of "time-management" rely heavily on what might be termed the practical application of the virtues. They will explicitly deny any religious foundation to what they teach and yet their ideas would certainly be familiar to St. Thomas Aquinas and many others prominent in Christian Tradition. I would suggest, though, that because of their secular orientation that these books are flawed.

I would suggest that these books fail because their emphasis is focused on helping the individual achieve worldly success. Success seems, to most of these folks, to be defined in terms of the person achieving his worldly goals and objectives: successful career, lots of toys, and eternal youth. To the Catholic mind this is putting the focus on matters of secondary importance.

The two facts that have been lost today are that 1) everything that exists exists because God created it and, 2) God created everyone and everything for a purpose. God acted with purpose and created us to do so also. The central purpose God has for our life is that when we shuffle off this mortal coil we spend the rest of our eternal life with him in heaven. He intends each of us to enjoy eternal beatitude with Him. Any attempt to define success as anything other than achieving this goal is futile, at best. This is so because it involves building our lives on the wrong premise. The focus found in the "success" books is on the human person, not the human person's creator. God is not required.

Religious faith, of almost any kind but certainly of the Christian variety has been almost eliminated from the public mind. It is no longer the central, defining theme of many, if not most American's lives. It is not even considered a subject for polite discussion in many circles. Yet, I think it fairly obvious to the Catholics among us that Christian teaching on the nature of man and God's creative action is the only possible source of real meaning and purpose for our lives. We don't define our own purposes, but we do define how we work out God's purpose for our lives. The focus on planners and calendars and PDAs to help us achieve our own selfish goals will never lead to personal "success". Only orienting our lives to achieve God's purpose will lead us to true human success. This certainly involves planning and consideration on our part, but If we do not keep in mind that our purpose is to fulfill God's will for our lives our planning and goal setting will be futile.

One question that I think most Modern, scientific materialist Americans would ask at this point is, "what makes you think this is true?" Many of the most educated Americans would say that human beings are the product of an evolutionary accident, that there is no real purpose in life other than obtaining the greatest degree of "personal fulfillment" and that when we die that is the end of the joyride (if you doubt this, please review this week's Publisher's Weekly Top 10 hardcover non-fiction best sellers listing). But there is a contradiction to be found here; they will say this and yet spend all kinds of money and effort to set themselves goals and define the purpose of their lives. We humans intuitively know that without purpose and direction we become frustrated, even neurotic, but we deceive ourselves as to where that purpose can be found. We are too proud to submit ourselves to God's will. This is why St. Francis was able to say that the second death is easy, the first, dying to self, is the hardest.

So, you are asking, where does the concept of virtue fit into all of this? That will be discussed in posts to follow. So, we have the famous "To be continued."

© 2003 Ronald L. Moffat