Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Epitaph: Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah 5:19
Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

Another great epitaph waiting to happen.
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism

Today I stumbled upon "The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism" by A.E. Housman, written in 1921. I think I enjoy Housman's various papers and letters even more than his poetry, and I found this work to be a particularly refreshing and level-headed view of things. This will be of interest only to a few, but those few who are intrigued by this snippet would do well to read the whole of it (linked above).

[Textual criticism] is not a sacred mystery. It is purely a matter of reason and of common sense. We exercise textual criticism whenever we notice and correct a misprint. A man who possesses common sense and the use of reason must not expect to learn from treatises or lectures on textual criticism anything that he could not, with leisure and industry, find out for himself. What the lectures and treatises can do for him is to save him time and trouble by presenting to him immediately considerations which would in any case occur to him sooner or later. And whatever he reads about textual criticism in books, or hears at lectures, he should test by reason and common sense, and reject everything which conflicts with either as mere hocus-pocus.


Textual criticism, like most other sciences, is an aristocratic affair, not communicable to all men, nor to most men. Not to be a textual critic is no reproach to anyone, unless he pretends to be what he is not. To be a textual critic requires aptitude for thinking and willingness to think; and though it also requires other things, those things are supplements and cannot be substitutes. Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary; and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders and brains, not pudding, in your head.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

St. John Vianney

Last Saturday, I heard an absolutely extraordinary homily at Mount St. Mary's Seminary given by a certain Fr. Miller. This was given in the context of a conference on the life of St. John Vianney, and I share here just the closing thoughts:
The greatest penance the Saint performed was his heroic availability to his people. What would you do as a priest if so many people came to your confessional that you had to sit there for three hours a day seven days a week? That’s how it started with Father Vianney! Three hours soon turned into six, then into ten, then to sixteen hours a day. He sat in a cold Church in winter and a sweltering Church in summer. So many people came from such distant places that they often had to wait for a week to see him. Please note that this charismatic phenomenon confirmed Vianney in the asceticism that he had chosen as his way of priesthood. His service as Shepherd permitted him no “days off” – no vacations – no working out in the gym for hours on end - no fine dining – no preoccupation with financial matters. Surely the poorest of the poor always felt comfortable in his company and in his home. Father Vianney relaxed each day by visiting the girls in the orphanage that he had founded. The Divine Lover of Souls kept asking the priest for more of his time and energy. He never said “no” – even though he was tempted to say “no”.

Three times in his long pastorate John Vianney ran away from Ars in the shadows of night. Why? He felt he was neglecting his spiritual life. He yearned to be a monk, a hermit. Surely, he was overwhelmed by what he heard day in and day out in the confessional. Surely, it was nerve wracking to be so available to so many people at such a level of intimacy day in and day out. It was all too much and he ran away. Each time en route to his destination, John Vianney turned around and returned to Ars. It was his obedience to Christ that brought him back to the tiny Church of Ars. He believed Christ had called him to be a priest and spoken to him through his Bishop so many years before: There is not much love of God in the parish of Ars. You will bring some to it. It was his ever deepening “yes” to Christ that has made Saint John Vianney a beacon of Divine Mercy in the Church of God.

The most important truth Saint John Vianney teaches us about the Priesthood is that the ministers of Christ become holy only by serving the Lord’s flock. Everything and anything that impedes that service is not of God. The grace of the priesthood is the grace of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Michaelmas

Happy Michaelmas to all! Today marks four years since I was received into full communion with the Church. God continues to do marvelous things!
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom: Finance 101

"If I could purchase with money the blessings which I possess, I should make much of it; but it is plain that these blessings are gained by abandoning all things." — St. Teresa of Avila, Autobiography, XX, 34

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Friday, September 18, 2009

An Untried Idea

"But where says some is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above [...] Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is." — Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Heraclius restoring the Cross to Calvary

At the end of the reign of the emperor Phocas (early 7th century), Chosroes, king of the Persians, seized Egypt and Africa and captured Jerusalem, killing many thousands of Christians and taking away into Persia the Cross of Christ the Lord which Helena had placed on Mt. Calvary. Heraclius, who succeeded Phocas, was prompted by the burdens and disasters of war to sue for peace. But he could not obtain it even under unjust conditions, since Chosroes had been made insolent by his victories. In this great crisis, Heraclius gave himself up to constant prayer and fasting, imploring God's help. By divine inspiration, he raised an army, joined battle with the enemy and conquered three of Chosroes' generals and their three armies.

Broken by these defeats, Chosroes fled and, as he was preparing to cross the river Tigris, he appointed Medarses, his son, as his co-ruler. But Siroes, Chosroes' older son, bitterly resented this affront to himself and plotted to kill his father and his brother, which he did a little later when they returned from their flight. He obtained his kingdom from Heraclius under certain conditions, the first of which was the restoration of the Cross of the Lord Christ. And so, fourteen years after it had been taken by the Persians, the Cross was returned. On his coming back to Jerusalem, Heraclius bore it on his own shoulders in a solemn ceremony, taking it to the mount which the Savior Himself had carried it.

This event was made famous by a spectacular miracle. For Heraclius, clad as he was in gold and jewels, was forced to halt at the gate which led to Mt. Calvary. The more he tried to go on, the more he seemed to be held back. Heraclius and those with him were dumbfounded at this; but Zacharias, bishop of Jerusalem, said, "Consider, O emperor, how poorly you are imitating the poverty and humility of Jesus Christ when you carry His Cross in these triumphal robes." Then Heraclius, taking off his ceremonial robes and his shoes and putting on a poor man's garment, easily went the rest of the way and placed the Cross on that same spot on Calvary from which it had been taken by the Persians. And so the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which was already being celebrated each year on this day, took on still more luster because of the memory of this event when Heraclius replaced the Cross where it had first been set up for the Savior.

Image from Cardinal Seán's Blog.
Text from Mater Dei.
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom: Fidelity

"The fidelity of the servant of Jesus Christ consists precisely in the fact that he does not try to adapt the faith to the fashions of the time." — Pope Benedict XVI, at a recent episcopal ordination

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How I Got Here

Last year I penned an article for Rochester's Catholic paper explaining, in brief, who I was, whence I came, and what my first year in seminary was like. Without further introduction, here it is:

Raised a Methodist, I never imagined I'd find myself studying to be a Catholic priest, but following God's will sometimes takes you in an unexpected direction.

During my freshman year at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I began attending Mass with some Catholic friends, and eventually I even started going to some Catholic Bible studies. That experience left me with a lot to think about, and the more I prayed and the more I read over summer break the more I was convinced that the Catholic Church was truly established by Jesus Christ. I discovered, with John Henry Cardinal Newman, that “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

I was received into the Church not long after summer break ended, and the experience of my second year of college was one of constant grace. The things I looked forward to most were praying the Rosary, studying the Scriptures, and going to daily Mass. Although I still gave my best effort to my schoolwork, my classes in Information Technology quickly receded to a place of secondary importance. I wondered whether God wasn't calling me to do something else with my life.

This question was answered for me during a six-week Study Abroad program in Kanazawa, Japan. There I was, half a world away from everyone I knew, with countless opportunities to experience things, and yet the thing I looked forward to most each day was going to Mass. Whether the prayers were in English or Japanese mattered little, because the Eucharist was the source and summit of my life. One can only find joy in doing the Lord's will, and more and more it seemed like His will for me was to enter the priesthood.

Five months before graduation I contacted Fr. Tim Horan, our Vocations Director, and got an application to Becket Hall, the Diocese's house of discernment. I moved in immediately after receiving my degree from R.I.T. and began studying Philosophy at St. John Fisher College while working part-time as the diocesan Webmaster. This year was, in its own way, another year of grace. Through my work at the Pastoral Center and at Blessed Sacrament, my parish assignment, God confirmed to me over and over again that this was where I was supposed the be. At the end of that year, I was told that the Diocese would send me to Theological College, a Seminary in Washington, D.C., and this latest chapter of my journey to the Priesthood has been yet another great blessing.

Seminary is definitely the best environment in which to discern a priestly vocation. The men here “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,'” as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews. While I've learned much in the ten classes I've taken this year, I dare say I've learned even more just hanging around the hallways of the Seminary! The men here come from dioceses all over the country and around the world, and each one of them has his own insights to offer on one topic or another.

My first year in Seminary has also been very spiritually enriching. All men entering the Seminary are required to find a local Spiritual Director, and the first thing mine told me to do was to keep a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day. Even if this had been been my only accomplishment this year, it would all have been worth it!

I don't mean to paint too rosy a picture. There are trials — I certainly expect the nine weeks of intensive Latin I take this summer to put me through my paces! — but every encouraging e-mail, every care package, every card filled with assurances of prayer is a reminder of why I am here: to serve God's people.

Please pray for me and my fellow seminarians, pray for the men entering Becket Hall next Fall, and pray for vocations. God will do great things for the Diocese of Rochester if only we ask Him.
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Friday, September 4, 2009

A Curse Against Book Stealers

For him that stealeth a book from this library,
let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him.
Let him be struck with palsy,
and all his members blasted.
Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy,
and let there be no surcease to his agony
till he sink to dissolution.
Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the worm that dieth not,
and when at last he goeth to his final punishment,
let the flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.

-From the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona

Source: Fr. Daren Zehnle
(caveat: I don't read this blog and have no idea what else you might find on it, good or bad.)
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pontius Pilate

Psalm 51:9 [52:7]: "Ecce homo qui non posuit Deum adjutorem suum," "Behold the man who did not make God his helper."
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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Feast of St. Augustine

St. Augustine's Confessions is one of the greatest literary works in the West, having inspired countless saints through the centuries.
The chaste dignity of continence appeared to me – cheerful but not wanton, modestly alluring me to come and doubt nothing, extending her holy hands, full of a multitude of good examples – to receive and embrace me. ... [S]he smiled on me with an encouraging mockery ... as if to say: “Stop your ears against those unclean members of yours upon the earth, that they may be mortified. They tell you of delights, but not as does the law of the Lord thy God.”
— Confessions, Book VIII Chapter XI
That last line is particularly striking: "Narrant tibi delectationes, sed non sicut lex domini dei tui." It is reminiscent of Psalm 118 [119]:85, "Narraverunt mihi iniqui fabulationes, sed non ut lex tua," "The wicked have told me fables: but not as thy law." The fables, the lies of this world – all of Satan's empty promises – are nothing when compared with the awesome promises of God – indeed, they would not even compare if they were true. St. Augustine realised this and turned his life around completely, dedicating himself wholly to the work of the Kingdom. God grant us all such a conversion.

St. Augustine, pray for us.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion & the Cardinal

This will be old news to some, but I wanted to share a link to what I think is a very worthwhile blog:
The Lion & the Cardinal
It's a fascinating collection of Church art (and a few other interesting things) which covers topics one might not otherwise run across. Here are some examples of entries which I found particularly interesting:
The Priesthood of the Virgin
The Horns of Moses
The Author's Depiction of the Crucifixion

I had run across this blog before, but only very recently have begun reading it. Do give it a look.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Epitaph: Ezra 7

Very slightly modified from Ezra 7:9-10:
The good hand of his God was upon him, for he had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
Wouldn't that make a great epitaph?
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom: The Son of Such Tears

In his Confessions (Book III, Chapter XII), St. Augustine recounts the advice his mother (St. Monica) received from a certain Bishop concerning her wayward son:
"Only pray to the Lord in his behalf. He will find out by reading what is the character of that error and how great is its impiety." ... [S]he still would not keep quiet, but by her entreaties and flowing tears urged him all the more to see me and discuss matters with me, he became a little vexed and said: "Go away from me now. As you live, it is impossible that the son of such tears should perish." As she was often wont to recall in her conversations with me, she took this as if it had sounded forth from heaven.

"Tantum roga pro eo Dominum; ipse legendo reperiet, quis ille sit error et quanta impietas." ... [I]lla nollet adquiescere, sed instaret magis deprecando et ubertim flendo, ut me videret et mecum dissereret, ille iam substomachans taedio: "Vade - inquit - a me; ita vivas, fieri non potest, ut filius istarum lacrimarum pereat".
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The History of Rome

It's important to know history. This history of Rome, in particular, is worth studying because it forms the backdrop for Western civilization even to the present day, and because it was the context in which the events of the New Testament and the early Church took place.

Therefore, I would like to recommend The History of Rome podcast, a weekly podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas's arrival in Italy and ending (someday) with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. About 20 or 25 minutes each, these studies give a broad view of Roman history while at the same time providing details vivid enough to remember after only one listen.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dominus Pars

Our Holy Father on the priesthood and celibacy: an excerpt from Benedict XVI's 2006 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia:

Paul calls Timothy - and in him, the Bishop and in general the priest - "man of God" (I Tm 6: 11). This is the central task of the priest: to bring God to men and women. Of course, he can only do this if he himself comes from God, if he lives with and by God. This is marvellously expressed in a verse of a priestly Psalm that we - the older generation - spoke during our admittance to the clerical state: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot" (Ps 16[15]5).

The priest praying in this Psalm interprets his life on the basis of the distribution of territory as established in Deuteronomy (cf. 10: 9). After taking possession of the Land, every tribe obtained by the drawing of lots his portion of the Holy Land and with this took part in the gift promised to the forefather Abraham.

The tribe of Levi alone received no land: its land was God himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical significance. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating the earth, but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The true foundation of the priest's life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself.

The Church in this Old Testament interpretation of the priestly life - an interpretation that also emerges repeatedly in Psalm 119[118] - has rightly seen in the following of the Apostles, in communion with Jesus himself, as the explanation of what the priestly mission means. The priest can and must also say today, with the Levite: "Dominus pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei". God himself is my portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence.

This theocentricity of the priestly existence is truly necessary in our entirely function-oriented world in which everything is based on calculable and ascertainable performance. The priest must truly know God from within and thus bring him to men and women: this is the prime service that contemporary humanity needs. If this centrality of God in a priest's life is lost, little by little the zeal in his actions is lost. In an excess of external things the centre that gives meaning to all things and leads them back to unity is missing. There, the foundation of life, the "earth" upon which all this can stand and prosper, is missing.

Celibacy, in force for Bishops throughout the Eastern and Western Church and, according to a tradition that dates back to an epoch close to that of the Apostles, for priests in general in the Latin Church, can only be understood and lived if is based on this basic structure.

The solely pragmatic reasons, the reference to greater availability, is not enough: such a greater availability of time could easily become also a form of egoism that saves a person from the sacrifices and efforts demanded by the reciprocal acceptance and forbearance in matrimony; thus, it could lead to a spiritual impoverishment or to hardening of the heart.

The true foundation of celibacy can be contained in the phrase: Dominus pars - You are my land. It can only be theocentric. It cannot mean being deprived of love, but must mean letting oneself be consumed by passion for God and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate way of being with him, to serve men and women, too. Celibacy must be a witness to faith: faith in God materializes in that form of life which only has meaning if it is based on God.

Read the whole thing:

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom: Humbled

Priusquam humiliarer ego deliqui: propterea eloquium tuum custodivi.
Bonum mihi quia humiliasti me, ut discam justificationes tuas. – Ps 118[119]:67,71

Before I was humbled I offended; therefore I have kept thy word.
It is good for me that I was humbled, that I might learn thy statutes.

"[F]or the furtherance of humility it is needful that we sometimes find ourselves worsted in this spiritual battle, wherein, however, we shall never be conquered until we lose either life or courage." – St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part I, Chapter V

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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Typical American

Theodore Roosevelt with James Cardinal Gibbons

From “Theodore Roosevelt: the man as I knew him” by Ferdinand Cowle Iglehart, pp. 298-300:

At the White House one day President Roosevelt came into his room, greeted me cordially, as was his custom, and then slipped over to another gentleman and greeted him. He brought that gentleman over to where I was and said, “Dr. Iglehart, permit me to introduce to you Father —, who has been doing very important work among the Indians and has come to talk with me about it.” And then, placing himself between us, he said, “Here's the great Catholic church, with its millions represented by this Catholic priest, on one side of me, and here on the other is the great Methodist church, with its millions represented by my old friend, and I am only a poor little Dutch Reform layman between the two.” The twinkle in his eye evidenced the fun that was always bubbling over within him. I replied, “No, Mr. President, you are not the poor little Dutch Reform layman between them. You are the great head of the nation and a Christian with a universal heart. You are large enough to belong to all the churches and all of us claim you as such, and we have reason to believe that you consider that all of us belong to you.”
Cardinal Gibbons, at my request, sent these words with reference to his dear friend, Colonel Roosevelt:

My dear Mr. Iglehart:
In reply to your esteemed letter, asking for an estimate of Mr. Roosevelt, I wish to say that my relations with him were of a most intimate character from the time he entered the White House up until the day of his death. Besides I had much correspondence with him all of a nature too sacred to be made public. I ever regarded Mr Roosevelt as the typical American, the embodiment of the highest patriotism.
Faithfully yours,
(Signed) J. Card. Gibbons.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom: Fruit After its Kind

I'm in the midst of planning a little vocations dinner, and the following phrase from Francis de Sales keeps bouncing around in my head:
"When God created the world He commanded each tree to bear fruit after its kind; and even so He bids Christians, — the living trees of His Church, — to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation."
– Introduction to the Devout Life, Part I, Chapter III
Read it online at ccel.org
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Dante: The Divine Comedy Audiobook

Each month christianaudio.com gives away a free audiobook download. This month the featured book is Dante's Divine Comedy (i.e., the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso) in the wonderful translation by John Ciardi, my favorite of all the ones I've seen. This will last only until the end of this month (August 2009), so you don't want to put this off:
The pleasant female narrator is certainly not who I would have chosen to read Dante's harrowing journey through Hell, and I think it's a bit difficult to understand because of her quick speed, but nevertheless I recommend it to anyone who does not think himself up to the task of actually reading the book.

There is definitely something to be said for reading it in print.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Providentissimus Deus

Pope Leo XIII's 1893 encyclical Providentissimus Deus is the first magisterial document on modern Catholic Biblical scholarship, and is absolutely crucial for interpreting later magisterial teaching, such as Vatican II's Dei Verbum. It's a rather lengthy document, but about a year ago I made a summary of it. Originally 10,505 words, my summary is 2,782 words. This summary is in the style of Squashed Philosophers, so none of these words are my own invention, I've just removed excess verbage from what Leo XIII said. So, for example, if he said: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," my summary might read "The fox jumps over the dog". It would not say "The fox leaps over the dog," because the only thing I've done is delete words, not edit words. Just imagine invisible elipses everywhere, that's pretty much what's going on here. So, without further introduction:

Providentissimus Deus
Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Summarized by Peter Mottola (2008 – 2,782 words)

Revelation is contained both in Tradition and in written Books, which are canonical because, "being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author."(2) This has been perpetually held in regard to both Testaments. A letter, written by our heavenly Father, God Himself has composed them.

2. Scripture should be made accessible, but not suffer any attempt to defile it [with] imprudent novelties. It is Our wish to see labourers, especially those called to Holy Orders, display greater diligence in reading, meditating, and explaining it.

3. "All Scripture is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct,"(6) and to suppress heresy. Armed with spiritual weapons, novices of the ecclesiastical army will be "well grounded in the Scripture, the bulwark of the Church."(11)

4. Those preachers are foolish who use no words but those of human science, trusting their own reasonings rather than to those of God.

5. The Fathers never cease to extol the sacred Scripture, "an overflowing fountain of salvation."(17) "Let the speech of the priest be ever seasoned with Scriptural reading."(19) "Vainly does the preacher utter the Word of God exteriorly unless he listens to it interiorly."(21) Bring to divine reading docility and attention, for to understand such things is required the "coming"(24) of the Holy Spirit, sought by humble prayer and holiness of life.

6. The Church has ordered that her children be fed with the saving words of the Gospel.

7. All who have been renowned for holiness of life have given constant attention to Holy Scripture.

Catechetical schools taught the divine written word. In the twelfth century, many took up with great success allegorical exposition. The scholastics were solicitous about the genuineness of the Latin version. To them we owe the investigation of the objects of the writers, the demonstration of the connection of sentence with sentence, and clause with clause, all of which throw much light on obscure passages.

8. Clement V established chairs of Oriental literature to make more accurate investigation on the original text. The revival of Greek and the invention of printing gave a strong impetus to Biblical studies. The Vulgate diffused throughout the Catholic world during that very period against which the enemies of the Church direct their calumnies.

Many learned men did excellent work for the Bible between the Council of Vienne and Trent, when it almost seemed that the great age of the Fathers had returned. Editions of the Vulgate and the Septuagint are now in common use. From that time downwards, Catholics have defended Scripture against rationalism with the same weapons with which it had been attacked. The Church has never failed to bring the Scriptures within reach of her children.

10. In earlier times the contest was with those who, relying on private judgment and repudiating the divine traditions and teaching office of the Church, held the Scriptures to be the one source of revelation and the final appeal in matters of Faith.

Now the Rationalists, true children of the older heretics, have rejected even the remnants of Christian belief. They deny inspiration, they see only forgeries and falsehoods, stupid fables and lying stories. Prophecies are to them predictions made up after the event, miracles are mere tricks and myths, and the Apostolic writings are not the work of the Apostles at all – detestable errors obtruded as "free science." Some of them would be considered theologians and Christians, and disguise by such honourable names their pride.

Professors of other sciences attack the Bible by a similar intolerance of revelation, in schools taken by violence from the Church. They pervert the minds of the young to the contempt of Holy Scripture. Should not these things stir up every Pastor, so that "knowledge, falsely so called,"(28) may be opposed?

11. In Seminaries, teachers are to be appointed whose character and fitness are proved by their love of the Bible.

12. To provide for a continuous succession of such teachers, select young men of good promise and set them apart exclusively for Holy Scripture.

13. Train them to defend the sacred writings and to penetrate their meaning, to prove the integrity and authority of the Bible, with the assistance of Theology.

Avoid the mistake of giving a mere taste of every Book, and of dwelling at too great length on a part of one Book. Take the students through the whole of one or two Books in such a way that the students learn from the sample put before them and use the remainder of the sacred Book during the whole of their lives.

"In public lectures,"(29) the Vulgate is "authentic." Other versions which antiquity has approved should not be neglected, for the "examination of older tongues,"(30) will be advantageous. Prudence is required, for the "office of a commentator is to set forth not what he himself would prefer, but what his author says."(31)

Adhere to the received canons of interpretation. Whilst weighing the meanings of words, the connection of ideas, the parallelism of passages, use illustrations, but with caution not to bestow on this more time than [is] spent on the Sacred Books themselves.

14. Scripture [is] difficult, for the language is employed to express things beyond man, a hidden depth of meaning which the laws of interpretation hardly warrant. Moreover, the literal sense frequently admits other senses, adapted to illustrate dogma or to confirm morality.

No one can enter into their interior without the Church. St. Irenaeus laid down that Holy Scripture was safely interpreted by those who had Apostolic succession.(33) 'In things of faith and morals, the true sense of Holy Scripture is held by the Church, whose place it is to judge the interpretation of the Scriptures; and it is permitted to no one to interpret Holy Scripture against such sense or against the unanimous agreement of the Fathers.'(34)

This by no means restrains Biblical science, but protects it from error. The private student may, in those passages of Holy Scripture which have not yet received a definitive interpretation, bring to maturity the judgment of the Church. In passages already defined, the student may do work by setting them forth more clearly. Interpret passages which have received an authentic interpretation in the New Testament or from the Church, and prove, by science, that sound hermeneutical laws admit of no other interpretation. In other passages, the analogy of faith should be followed. Catholic doctrine should be held as the supreme law.

Seeing that God is the author both of the Sacred Books and of doctrine, it is impossible that any teaching extracted from the former shall be at variance with the latter. All interpretation is foolish which makes the sacred writers disagree or is opposed to doctrine. The Professor must be well acquainted with Theology and deeply read in the Fathers. 'What can be a greater sign of pride than to refuse to study the Books of the divine mysteries by the help of those who have interpreted them?'(37) The Fathers 'endeavoured to acquire understanding not by their own lights, but from the the ancients.'(38)

The Fathers are of supreme authority whenever they all interpret in the same manner any text pertaining to faith or morals, for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith. The opinion of the Fathers is also of very great weight because they are men on whom God bestowed a more ample measure of His light.

15. [It is] not forbidden to push exposition beyond the Fathers, provided he not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires;(40) a rule to which it is necessary to adhere strictly. Neither should passages be neglected which the Fathers understood in an allegorical sense. This method of interpretation has been received by the Church from the Apostles, and has been approved by her Liturgy; although the Fathers did not thereby pretend directly to demonstrate dogmas, but used it as a means of promoting virtue and piety.

The authority of other interpreters is not so great, but the study of Scripture has always continued to advance, and these commentaries have their own honourable place. It is unbecoming to pass by the excellent work which Catholics have left in abundance, and to have recourse to the works of non-Catholics – and to seek in them, to the peril of faith, the explanation of passages on which Catholics have successfully employed their talent. Although the studies of non-Catholics may be of use, bear in mind that the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt outside of the Church.

16. Theology should be animated by the divine Word. The Fathers desired to, chiefly out of the Sacred Writings, establish the Articles of Faith, and it was in them, with Tradition, that they found the refutation of error and the mutual relation of the truths of Catholicism. Without their use, Theology cannot be placed on its true footing. 'If the adversary do but grant any portion of the divine revelation, we have an argument against him. If our opponent reject divine revelation entirely, there is no way to prove the Article of Faith by reasoning; we can only solve the difficulties which are raised against them.'(44) Care must be taken that beginners approach the Bible well prepared; otherwise they will risk error, falling prey to the sophisms of the Rationalists. The best preparation will be philosophy and theology under the guidance of St. Thomas.

17. Maintenance of its [the Bible's] full authority cannot be done except by the Church. But since the magisterium rests on the authority of Scripture, the first thing to be done is to vindicate the trustworthiness of the sacred records at least as human documents, from which can be clearly proved the Divinity of Christ, the institution of a hierarchical Church and the primacy of Peter and his successors. It is desirable that the clergy enter upon a contest of this nature, not unaccustomed to modern methods of attack. 'For unless he knows every trick, the devil is well able, if only a single door be left open, to get in his fierce bands and carry off the sheep.'(48)

The study of Oriental languages and of the art of criticism are held in high estimation, and therefore the clergy, acquainted with them, will better discharge their office. It is most proper that Professors master those tongues in which the sacred Books were originally written, and students also. Endeavours should be made to establish chairs of other ancient languages, especially the Semitic, and of subjects connected therewith, for the benefit of those intended to profess sacred literature, thoroughly acquainted with the art of true criticism.

There has arisen, to the great detriment of religion, an inept method by the name of "higher criticism," which pretends to judge of the integrity of each Book from internal indications alone. In historical questions the witness of history is of primary importance; internal evidence is seldom of great value. To look upon it in any other light will be to open the door to many evil consequences. It will give rise to dissension and the elimination of all prophecy and miracle.

18. Those who scrutinize the Sacred Book to vilify its contents are peculiarly dangerous to the masses, for if they lose their reverence for the Holy Scripture on one or more points, [they] are easily led to give up believing in it altogether. Science is adapted to show forth the glory of the Great Creator, provided it be taught as it should be. If it be perversely imparted, it may prove fatal in destroying true philosophy and in the corruption of morality. Hence, to the Professor of Sacred Scripture a knowledge of natural science will be of great assistance.

There can never be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long both are careful "not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known."(51) 'Whatever they can demonstrate to be true of nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever is contrary we must prove entirely false.'(52) The Holy Ghost "did not intend to teach men these things, things in no way profitable unto salvation."(53) Hence they described things in figurative language, in terms which in many instances are in use even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and the sacred writers "went by what sensibly appeared."(54)

19. The Fathers, in commenting on physical matters, expressed ideas of their own times which have been abandoned as incorrect. We must note what they lay down as belonging to faith, for "in those things which do not come under the obligation of faith, the Saints were at liberty to hold divergent opinions."(55)

20. The principles here apply to History. It is lamentable that many investigations on antiquity display not only extreme hostility, but the greatest unfairness: in their eyes a profane book or ancient document is accepted without hesitation, whilst the Scripture is set down as quite untrustworthy. It is true that copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible, but good hermeneutical methods assist in clearing up obscurity.

It is absolutely wrong and forbidden to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. The system of those who concede that divine inspiration regards faith and morals, and nothing beyond, cannot be tolerated. All the books which the Church receives as canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost. Inspiration is incompatible with error. It is impossible that God, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the unchanging faith of the Church. 'The Books of the Old and New Testament, with all their parts, are to be received as sacred and canonical because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.'(57)

Because the Holy Ghost employed men, we cannot say that these inspired instruments have fallen into error, for, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write the things which He ordered, and those only. They rightly expressed infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. "His members executed what their Head dictated."(58) "Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things – we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing."(59)

21. Those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings pervert inspiration or make God the author of error. All the Fathers and Doctors agreed that the divine writings are free from all error, [and] laboured with reverence to reconcile with each other passages which seem at variance – which have been taken up by "higher criticism." God, speaking by the sacred writers, could not set down anything but what was true. 'If in these Books I meet anything contrary to truth, either the text is faulty, or the translator has not expressed the meaning, or I myself do not understand.'(60)

22. To undertake fully, with all the weapons of science, the defence of the Holy Bible is an enterprise in which we expect the co-operation of all Catholics. For nothing is better calculated to impress the masses with respect for truth than to see it boldly proclaimed by learned and distinguished men. Moreover, objectors will not dare to insist so shamelessly that faith is the enemy of science.

23. If apparent contradiction be met with, every effort should be made to remove it. Hostile arguments should be carefully weighed. Even if the discrepancy seems to remain, the contest must not be abandoned; truth cannot contradict truth, and we must suspend judgment for the time being. As time goes on, mistaken views die and disappear, but "truth remaineth and groweth stronger for ever and ever."(61) No one should be so presumptuous as to think that he understands the whole of the Scripture: 'It is better to be oppressed by unknown signs than to interpret them uselessly and be caught in error.'(63)

24. Put into practice the training of students, which is the Church's hope. Approach the Sacred Writings with reverence and piety, for it is impossible to attain understanding unless arrogance be laid aside.

2. Conc. Vac. sess. iii. cap. ii. de revel.
6. 2 Tim. iii., 16-17.
11. In Isaiam liv., 12.
17. S. Athan. ep. fest. xxxix.
19. S. Hier. de vita cleric. ad Nepot.
21. S. Aug. serm. clxxix., I.
24. S. Hier. in Mic. i., 10.
28. I Tim. vi., 20.
29. Sess. iv., decr. de edit. et usu sacr. libror.
30. De doctr. chr. iii., 4.
31. Ad Pammachium.
33. C. haer. iv., 26, 5.
34. Sess. iii., cap. ii., de revel.; cf. Conc. Trid, sess. iv. decret de edit. et usu sacr. libror.
37. Ad Honorat. de util. cred. xvii., 35.
38. Rufinus Hist eccl. ii., 9.
40. De Gen. ad litt. I, viii., c. 7, 13.
44. Summ. theol. p. i., q. i., a. 5 ad 2.
48. De sacerdotio iv., 4.
51. In Gen. op. imperf. ix., 30.
52. De Gen. ad litt. i. 21, 41.
53. S. Aug. ib. ii., 9, 20.
54. Summa theol. p. I, q. lxx., a. I, ad 3.
55. In Sent. ii., Dist. q. i., a. 3.
57. Sess. iii., c. ii., de Rev.
58. De consensu Evangel. 1. I, c. 35.
59. Praef. in Job, n. 2.
60. Ep. lxxxii., i. et crebrius alibi.
61. 3 Esdr. iv., 38.
63. De doctr. chr. iii., 9, 18.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

73 Books of the Bible Song

We endeavored to teach the parish's Vacation Bible School students the Seventy-Three Books of the Bible Song, adapted from the Protestant version I learned as a kid. I was so proud of these kids for learning the whole thing in only 3 days! If it sticks, they'll use this knowledge for the rest of their lives (I know I have).

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Turn Aside for a Little While

Declina paulisper: turn aside for a little while.

These two little words come from the Vulgate of Ruth 4:1, and in them we can hear Christ's words to us. Turn aside! The world is full of business, turn aside for a little while and pray.

I hope this blog will not turn out to be just another source of busyness, either for me or for you, dear reader. I will strive to say here "only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear."
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