Thursday, August 14, 2014

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr

Many people are at least somewhat familiar with the saint whose feast day the Catholic Church celebrates today — namely, St. Maximilian Kolbe, who voluntarily gave up his life in Auschwitz in 1941 to spare the life of one Franciszek Gajowniczek.

But what is lesser known is that during the canonization process, a controversy arose in the Church as to whether or not Father Kolbe should be regarded as a martyr.

George Weigel writes in Witness to Hope:

The Pope [John Paul II] has regularly reminded the world that the twentieth century is the greatest century of martyrdom – faithful witness unto death – in Christian history. And no martyr of the twentieth century has been, for John Paul, a more luminous icon of the call to holiness through radical, self-giving love than Maximilian Kolbe. Kolbe was the "saint of the abyss" – the man who looked straight into the modern heart of darkness and remained faithful to Christ by sacrificing his life for another in the Auschwitz starvation bunker while helping his cellmates die with dignity and hope.

Kolbe’s canonization was set for St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, October 10, 1982. But a question had arisen. Father Kolbe was widely regarded as a martyr, but was he a "martyr" in the technical sense of the term – someone who had died because of odium fidei, "hatred of the faith"? He had not been arrested because of odium fidei, and witnesses to his self-sacrifice had testified that the Auschwitz commandant, Fritsch, had simply accepted Kolbe’s self-substitution for the condemned Franciszek Gajowniczek without evincing any particular satisfaction that he was killing a priest. The theologians and experts of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints… had argued that Kolbe, while undoubtedly a saint, was not a martyr in the traditional sense of the term. At Kolbe’s beatification in 1971, Pope Paul VI had said that Kolbe could be considered a "martyr of charity," but this was a personal gesture and the category lacked standing in theology or canon law. Since then, though, the Polish and German bishops had petitioned the Holy See that Kolbe be canonized as a martyr, rather than as a saintly confessor who happened to have died under extraordinary circumstances.

John Paul II appointed two special judges to consider the question from the theological and historical points of view. Their reports were then submitted to a special advisory commission. The majority of the commission concluded that Blessed Maximilian Kolbe’s self-sacrifice did not satisfy the traditional criteria for martyrdom, heroic as it undoubtedly was. On the day of his canonization, it was unclear whether Kolbe would be given the accolade of a martyr, as many Poles, Germans, and others wished.

On October 10, 1982, a magnificent autumn morning, found a quarter of a million people in St. Peter’s Square, where they saw a great banner, a portrait of Father Kolbe, draped from the central loggia. Still, the question hung in the air: Would Kolbe be recognized as a martyr? The answer came when John Paul II processed out of the basilica and into the square wearing red vestments, the liturgical color of martyrs. He had overridden the counsel of his advisory commission, and in his homily he declared that "in virtue of my apostolic authority, I have decreed that Maximilian Mary Kolbe, who following his beatification was venerated as a confessor, will henceforth be venerated also as a martyr!"

A pope overriding the advice of his advisory commission...shades of Pope Paul VI, methinks.

To those outside the Church — or, for that matter, even many of those within the Church — the question of whether St. Maximilian Kolbe should be regarded as a martyr may seem trivial.

But Weigel goes on to explain why it's so crucial:

John Paul II was making an important theological point in deciding that St. Maximilian Kolbe was indeed a martyr – systematic hatred for the human person (systematic odium hominis, so to speak) was a contemporary equivalent of the traditional criterion for martyrdom, odium fidei. Because Christian faith affirmed the truth about the inalienable dignity of the human person, anyone who hated that truth hated, implicitly, the Christian faith. Modern totalitarianism was an implicit form of odium fidei, because it reduced persons to things.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's All about ME!

In 1908, G. K. Chesterton was one of several prominent writer of his day who was asked by the London Times to write an essay on the theme, "What's Wrong with the World?"

In response, Chesterton wrote a letter:

Dear Sirs,

I am.

Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton

Would that all of us were so honest.

We are ever so imperfect, weak, and broken, and so many of the things we say and do are — not to put too find a point on it — wrong, and thus we are are in need of a Redeemer.

Today is the day we have ashes placed on our foreheads and hear the words: "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return."

What a striking contrast between this quintessential memento mori and the contemporary "I'm OK, You're OK, Everyone is OK" Zeitgeist, in which self-approbation and embracing of one’s own foibles are to be esteemed, and acknowledgment of personal sin is to be shunned at all costs.

As we begin Lent, we would do well to remind ourselves that when we fail to accuse ourselves of sin and seek God's mercy and forgiveness, we do so at our own peril.

What's wrong with the world?

I am.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Love Sacrifice, Love the Cross, Love Pain." Seriously?

Today is the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei.

Although I am not now nor ever have been a member of Opus Dei, I'm definitely a fan (both of Opus Dei and its founder).

When looking at some of St. Josemaria's writings a few years ago, I came across this counsel:

Love sacrifice; it is a fountain of interior life. Love the Cross, which is an altar of sacrifice. Love pain, until you drink, as Christ did, the very dregs of the chalice.

This is one of those pieces of advice that illustrates with absolutely clarity why, in the midst of our world, really and truly following Our Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate alternative lifestyle — and, yea, the only one worth living.

As shocking as it sounds, we are indeed called to love sacrifice, to love pain — in short, to love suffering — for in doing so, we unite ourselves to Jesus.

Let's be honest: the notion that we should not only tolerate suffering but actually embrace it and love it sounds, well, crazy. And not just crazy, mind you, but ├╝ber-crazy.

That is, until we remind ourselves about that whole "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" thing.

Jesus loved; so too must we love if we want to be like Him.

Jesus served; so too must we serve if we want to be like Him.

Jesus suffered pain and humiliation; so too must we suffer pain and humiliation if we want to be like Him.

When I first read those words of St. Josemaria, they particularly struck me because I had just recently finished reading The Soul of the Apostolate. Therein, the author, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, lists nine "levels" of the interior life, ranging from "hardened in sin" to "complete sanctity". The latter, he says, have an "ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations".

At this point in my life, I cannot say I have an ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations. But, please God, some day I will.

And, please God, some day we all will.



Monday, April 2, 2012

"I Cannot Worship a Guy I Can Beat Up"

A while back, Mark Shea drew attention to some remarks by Pastor Mark "High Octane Calvinism" Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hills Church:

In Revelation (the last book of the New Testament), Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.


Shea remarked: "I’m sure the guards in charge of the scourging at the pillar felt the same way. Surely, the measure of our worship is 'Can I beat up Jesus?'"

His comment prompted me to recall this ancient Eastern icon:



Its name? Christ the Bridegroom.

Think about that for a minute, especially in light of the Events we are preparing to commemorate this week.

Like most men on their wedding day, I went to great lengths to look my best.

And yet, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — the Bridegroom of bridegrooms — is here shown with His hands bound, stripped half naked, having just been mercilessly scourged and crowned with thorns, and as a result so weak that He can't even hold His head up straight.

Yes, Christ the Bridegroom, for just a few hours later He would perform the ultimate act of self-sacrificial love for His Bride the Church — read: us — by laying down His very life for her.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's All about ME!

In 1908, G. K. Chesterton was one of several prominent writer of his day who was asked by the London Times to write an essay on the theme, "What's Wrong with the World?"

In response, Chesterton wrote a letter:

Dear Sirs,

I am.

Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton

Would that all of us were so honest.

We are ever so imperfect, weak, and broken, and so many of the things we say and do are — not to put too find a point on it — wrong, and thus we are are in need of a Redeemer.

Today is the day we have ashes placed on our foreheads and hear the words: "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return."

What a striking contrast between this quintessential memento mori and the contemporary "I'm OK, You're OK, Everyone is OK" Zeitgeist, in which self-approbation and embracing of one’s own foibles are to be esteemed, and acknowledgment of personal sin is to be shunned at all costs.

As we begin Lent, we would do well to remind ourselves that he who fails to accuse himself of sin and seek forgiveness does so at his own peril.

What's wrong with the world?

I am.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Heh

This...



...reminds me of this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least"

A few years ago a friend of mine told me that he had recently started reading the Fathers of the Church, which, he said, made him feel like "the great slacker of the world."

I had a similar feeling as I read The Soul of the Apostolate a few years back.

This is the effect that good spiritual reading ought to have on us. From it, we learn from holy people (that is, people who are fiercely serious about loving God and one another, along with the Church, Scripture, and Tradition, who are indefatigably committed to prayer and the Sacraments, and who know a thing or two about self-mastery thanks to regular and rigorous penance and mortification) what, with God's grace, we are capable of, and what He put us on this earth to do.

Good spiritual reading also reminds of our own pathetic brokenness, and how far we presently are from reaching a point anywhere close to that reached by the spiritual masters whose works we read.

Sure, no one likes to be reminded of his faults and imperfections, but we periodically need to remind ourselves (or have someone else remind us) of how not-so-good we are, lest we get a little too comfortable with ourselves and become -- God forbid -- proud.

With this in mind, consider these words of Servant of God Dorothy Day, whose death 31 years ago was commemorated yesterday:

“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”

These words are as good a reality check as any we're likely to come across today. We would all do well to look deep within ourselves and honestly ask:

How much do I really love God?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life Imitating Art

Here's a fair approximation of my reaction upon opening Haus Jansen's property tax bill:



We plan to appeal. Wish us luck!

Monday, September 19, 2011

"We Don't Realize How Dangerous Jesus Was"

My friend Rob Kaczmark from Spirit Juice Studios recently produced a trailer for Father Robert Barron's new TV series, Catholicism.

Check thou it out:



The series will be shown on several public television stations throughout the country starting this week. The full broadcast schedule is here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WYD 2011

BadCatholic blogger Marc Barnes recently posted this video that includes interviews with some brainwashed sheep impressive young Catholics who were among the 1.5 million pilgrims who attended World Youth Day in Madrid earlier this month:

Friday, June 24, 2011

"If The Eucharist Is Just a Symbol, Then to Hell with It"

Some might be scandalized by these words spoken by the sui generis Flannery O'Connor.

That's too bad, because they're absolutely true.

Two days hence is Corpus Christi Sunday, when we remind ourselves that when we attend Mass and receive Holy Communion, each of us had better make sure our own spiritual house is in order, because despite the fact that it looks like bread, tastes like bread, smells like bread, and is, therefore, by all appearances, bread, it is most certainly not bread.

If it were, in and of itself, it would be exactly worthless.

And yet it isn't. On the contrary, the Eucharist is the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and as such, it is literally of infinite value. We can never tire of reminding ourselves of that.

Just yesterday I came across the text of a smashingly good address given by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput to the Catholic Social Workers Association in which he shared O'Connor's aforementioned quip and offered her as an example of someone who was to be commended for her "confidence in the Church or her impatience with the empty conceit of people who want the comfort of faith but not the cost of actually believing and living it."

As is his wont, Chaput pulled no punches and spoke clearly. Here's how his talk begins:

We’re here today — or anyway, we should be here today — because we believe in Jesus Christ. Everything in Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t, it isn’t Catholic. And if our social work isn’t deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word “Catholic.” It’s that simple.

Faith in Jesus Christ — not as the world likes to imagine him, but the true Son of God as the Catholic Church knows and preaches him — is the only enduring basis for human hope. Real hope has nothing to do with empty political slogans. It has nothing to do with our American addictions to progress or optimism or positive thinking.


This is what we call Getting Back to Basics: the Catholic Church is about nothing if it is not about Jesus Christ. Boom.

Needless to say, the whole address is well worth a read.

This "Getting Back to Basics" idea struck me a few weeks ago when I came across this story about Francesca Sinicrope, a student at a Catholic high school in Canada. This 17-year old girl found herself in the unlikely position of having to defend Church teaching to one of her teachers who apparently told her class that Jesus never rose from the dead, and that the real moral of the story of Jesus' life is that we should all be nice to each other or something.

Reading this, I was reminded me of what Rudolf Bultmann once said: "If the bones of the dead Jesus were discovered tomorrow in a Palestinian tomb, all the essentials of Christianity would remain unchanged" -- words that convey an idea so stupid that they could have only been uttered by a theologian.

Here's the deal: at its heart, the Catholic faith (and Christianity in general) isn't about being nice to people. It's not about helping the poor, or taking of the widow and orphan, or fighting abortion.

It isn't about believing things like masturbation, pornography, contraception, non-marital sex, usury, defrauding laborers of their wages, etc., are sinful.

True, these things are part of the whole Christian scene, but they're not The Thing. At its heart, what the Catholic faith (and Christianity in general) is about is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Either Jesus rose from the dead, or he didn't.

If he did, then Christianity is true. If he didn't...well, then, boy, aren't we a bunch of idiots.

How much more clearly could St. Paul have made it?

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.

Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15: 13-20)


That's why, as for me, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, I'd renounce my faith yesterday, and I'd tell every other Christian to do the same.

If the Resurrection is just a myth, then to hell with it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Two-Year Old Is Smarter Than Your Two-Year Old

Last night I caught him reading Prince Caspian:



Quite the precocious lad, he.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why Do I Get the Feeling

...that the type of people who style themselves "conservatives" who fail to see that stuff like this is self-evidently boorish and obnoxious would also fail to see that stuff like this:



...is sick and wrong?

Monday, May 23, 2011

You've Gotta Wonder If This Sign Is Really Necessary



Aren't senior citizens pretty much everywhere?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Priests Were Not Welcomed by the Nazis"

In yesterday's Chicago Tribune, accompanying a story about Derrick Rose being named the NBA's MVP at age 22 is a feature titled, "Where were you at 22?" that looks at what Some Famous People were doing at that age.

Notice in particular the caption next to Pope John Paul II:



I guess you could say that "priests were not welcomed by the Nazis," but that's a bit of an understatement, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Have a Newfound Respect for Evanston

...for telling the Tilted Kilt to get lost:

"The final straw was at the end of the liquor commission hearing," she said. "I was given a business card from the owner that shows a picture of one of the entertainers — that is what the waitresses are called. She had no head — it was just breasts, a shrug shirt, a bare midriff and the kilt, that little skirt."


Because, you know, it's not like they're objectifying women or anything.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Truer Words Have Never Been Spoken

This morning I came across a piece by Father George Rutler in this month's Magnificat about the much anticipated new translation of the Roman Missal.

In the course of discussing the extreme difficulty of providing an accurate translation of the Bible (or anything, really), he notes:

Times also change meanings: as architect of Saint Paul's Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren was honored when Queen Anne said the finished building was awful and terrible; today she would have said awesome and overwhelming. And attempts to make words "culturally relevant" can be fraught with problems: I grew up with the King James Bible, one of the greatest works of art accomplished by a committee, but even my young ears thought it strange to hear that Pharaoh had a butler.


His "one of the greatest works of art accomplished by a committee" line prompted me to recall this plaque that hangs in my boss's office:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Surrexit Dominus Vere, Alleluia!

I think it's interesting that at Mass on Easter Sunday, in lieu of professing the Nicene Creed, each of us is cross-examined (pardon the pun) about its contents, and asked to affirm whether we believe what the Church believes.

We might ask ourselves, when we say the Creed on any other given Sunday, how much thought do we give it when we say, "On the third day He rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures?"

Do we really believe this? Do our thoughts, words, and actions convey that we really believe this?

The Resurrection of Jesus is the central belief of our faith. It isn't just a nice story that only credulous bumpkins believe in. It is a story, yes, but it also happens to be a true story.

Because, you know, it really happened.

I had thought about writing today about how hopelessly and laughably implausible all of the alternative explanations to The Empty Tomb are, but I don't have time. That, and there are already many wiser than I who have written articles debunking the would-be debunkers, so I'll just link to one of those instead.

And I'll say this:

Christ is risen! Indeed He is Risen!

And yea, our faith is true:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.

Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15: 13-20)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"I Cannot Worship a Guy I Can Beat Up"

A while back, Mark Shea drew attention to some remarks by Pastor Mark "High Octane Calvinism" Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hills Church:

In Revelation (the last book of the New Testament), Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.


Shea remarked: "I’m sure the guards in charge of the scourging at the pillar felt the same way. Surely, the measure of our worship is 'Can I beat up Jesus?'"

His comment prompted me to recall this ancient Eastern icon:



Its name? Christ the Bridegroom.

Think about that for a minute, especially in light of the Events we are preparing to commemorate tomorrow on Good Friday.

I, like most men on their wedding day, went to great lengths to look my best.

And yet, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — the Bridegroom of bridegrooms — is here shown with His hands bound, stripped half naked, having just been mercilessly scourged and crowned with thorns, and as a result so weak that He can't even hold His head up straight.

Yes, Christ the Bridegroom, for He was preparing to perform the ultimate act of self-sacrificial love for His Bride the Church — read: us — just a few hours later, the completion of which He would signal by crying out from the gibbet of the Cross words we rightly associate with marriage:

"It is consummated."