Christ is the true Light of the world, but there is another, false light which ultimately leads one only into darkness. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world… yet the world knew him not.” (Jn 1: 5;9,10) And the reason it knew him not is because there has always been a competing, mendacious light in the world designed only to lead men astray. In the 18th century vicious pirates would sometimes light a fire at night along some rocky patch of shoreline hoping to lure unsuspecting ships to their destruction on the jagged shoals. Just so, the false light which the ancient enemy of God sets up as a guiding beacon is actually intended to lure unsuspecting souls into ruin on the spiritual shoals.
Such false beacons have taken various forms over the millennia, and one of the more dangerous of these deceptive “lights” has long been Gnosticism. Gnostic comes from a Greek word for knowledge, and Gnosticism encourages the notion that some secret learning or knowledge will somehow provide one the key to success and happiness. It treats the “light of reason” in the same way, as indeed a replacement for the Christian “light of faith.” Reason and knowledge is what will free one from this broken world of pain and evil. Sin is no longer a moral fault but merely the effect of ignorance. Spiritually this is a deadly notion because it deflects our attention away from combating sin, the real root cause of our unhappiness, and redirects the will to fighting other things like poverty and ignorance which are only the symptoms, not the real root of human problems.
The recent disgraceful treatment of St. Junipero Serra’s memory reminds me of the main character in George Orwell’s prescient classic 1984 who worked in the Ministry of Truth. His particular job in that ministry was the constant revision of history to fit the official party line at any particular moment. The past was to be constantly readjusted so that it would always jive with the present political narrative. Welcome to our current Orwellian sequel, 2020. Today’s version of the Ministry of Truth goes by various names: Black Studies, Women’s Studies, or Native American Studies. These “truth ministries” are now a part of every major university. There, history is constantly being rewritten to fit a narrow, “victim – oppressor” narrative. Classroom study is further supplemented by disruptive activism (or virtual lab sessions) which includes pulling down or defacing monuments to any supposed “oppressor” from the past.
Fr. Serra, the great Franciscan missionary who founded nine missions up and down coastal California during the late 18th century, has been vilified and had statues vandalized and toppled amidst accusations of genocide and racism leveled against him. But the facts do not bear such charges out. Nearly 5,000 Christian Indian converts lived in relative security on mission lands because Fr. Serra fought diligently to protect them, not only from tribal enemies but also from Spanish civil authorities and colonists who, too often, cheated and brutalized the natives. Serra’s first sin, according to the identity politics view of history, was being a white European male who brought his Catholic faith to the indigenous peoples of California. He is charged with Christianizing pagan Indians, and for that grevious misdeed he will not be forgiven by modern day academics harboring deep hostility towards Christianity. Continue reading
The modern-day Revolution is primarily a rejection not merely of the Christian social order but of God himself. He is, after all, the ultimate object of insurrection. And what is the nature of God’s supposed crime against humanity to warrants such rejection? The most common complaint lodged against him is that he allows pain and suffering in the world, and therefore he must be a cruel God. In light of the accusation we must honestly ask ourselves, is this a valid charge or a mere pretext?
We all experience some degree of suffering throughout life. This is an unavoidable fact of our human existence. And because there is suffering and yes, evil, many people conclude either, a) that God does not exist or, b) then he must be some kind of cosmic sadist bent on torturing hapless souls for no apparent reason. There is another side to the story, however, which is that human beings also enjoy an abundance of the good things that sustain life and give much happiness and joy besides.
We occupy a world of gratuitous abundance which too often we take for granted. The rains fall to water this fertile earth, thus providing us with food, fibers for clothing, medicine and much more. Then consider the countless natural resources which make our technical civilization possible. We have family, teachers, and friends who nurture us and enrich our lives. Most of all, the gift of life itself was bestowed liberally upon each one of us with no cooperation on our part. What about the particular talents, abilities, and creative drives not to mention the countless material goods that we enjoy and find fulfillment in? Consider the gift of time itself which provides us ample opportunity to grow and develop those talents? Do these things also not come from God? If so, he must be a very poor torturer, indeed. Continue reading
There once existed a special and very privileged land, an island nation blessed in every respect with benign climate, fertile soils, an industrious people, and plentiful natural resources. Its Christian inhabitants were prosperous and happy, lightly ruled by monarchs and able to redress any grievance through a people’s assembly. Common lands surrounded towns and villages providing the industrious peasantry with acreage to till their fields and graze their cows. A protective ‘Common Law’ combined with a ‘Great Charter’ (Magna Carta) ensured a framework of basic rights, making this island kingdom a shining bulwark of freedom among its many feudal neighbors.
Furthermore, the Catholic Church, endowed with lands and property over the centuries by wealthy and pious patrons, provided sustenance for the poor through her manifest resources. This common religion aligned with common law to foster social harmony. There was no standing army or organized police. Crime and theft were at a minimum because everybody in a town was known to everybody else. Continue reading
This is the final part of a four part series on Sacrifice. See previous posts for parts 1,2, & 3.
History is curiously cyclical. Approximately 1,500 years after Moses instituted the Jewish ritual sacrifice, it was ruthlessly cut off by the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Approximately 1,500 years after Christ instituted his Eucharistic Covenant, a group of Christian would-be reformers ‘discovered’ that cultic sacrifice was no longer something useful. In fact, many went so far as to brand it idolatrous. In doing so they disconnected the Mass from its ancient Jewish ancestry of Temple sacrifice ─ and 15 centuries of unbroken Christian Tradition. Sacrifice, the very heart of religion, was thereby dismissed as either mistaken or irrelevant. Continue reading
The very first command that Christ utters in the Gospel to his followers is this direct and simple summons, “Follow Me.” And in a sense this may be considered to be the first commandment of the New Covenant, which builds upon its Old Covenant counterpart, “I am the Lord Your God, You shall put no strange god before Me.” But this summons is both an invitation and a command, for Christ never imposes on our free wills as if we were boot camp recruits. He desires only a freely given response on our part. But, like those first apostles, once we make that commitment there must be no turning back. The only one who turned back from the original twelve was Judas whose fate we might not wish to share. And where does that divine command to “Follow me” eventually lead? It takes one to wherever the master goes, which means it ultimately leads to the very brow of Calvary.
We just returned from an exhilarating trip to Great Britain and one of the most edifying aspects of our journey was discovering the many English martyrs who so heroically accepted their Lord’s challenge to “follow me” throughout 150 years of persecution during the 16th and 17th centuries. Continue reading
May 13, 2017 marks 100 years since an extraordinary warning was given to a skeptical world ─ a world which in 1917 was plunging ever deeper into dangers and darkness. That fateful year forever changed the established world order, and in ways that statesmen of the time could have hardly envisaged. A horrific European war was in its third destructive year as machine guns and trench warfare consumed millions of lives, mostly the idealistic flower of European youth. But rather than call off this senseless slaughter, the belligerents doubled down stubbornly because, as in any war, the calm voices of reason are invariably drowned out by the hysterical rhetoric of zealots.
And so the carnage ground inexorably on until March 1917 when the Russian troops who were bearing the brunt of mayhem finally revolted and brought down their Czar. Continue reading
This year marks the 500 anniversary of the great revolt of Martin Luther in 1517. Since that time years ending in ’17 seem to portend dire future events, and so it is with trepidation that we enter this 2017, even as a seismic wave of social unrest rumbles underfoot. It was 1517 that saw Luther post his 95 theses to a church door, an innocuous beginning to what grew into a total Reformation, or Deformation, of the Church ~ depending upon one’s point of view. The fight had been brewing for some time but it took this intransigent monk to light the fuse. The West has been living in the fallout from that explosion ever since.
A hundred years later, in 1617, Ferdinand was crowned the new King of Bohemia as part of a deal the Spanish Hapsburgs cut with the Austrian side of the family. It didn’t pan out so well, however. Within a year those saucy Bohemians had thrown the Hapsburg councilors out of a third story window in Prague, Continue reading
Merry Christmas to all! I generally make it a point to avoid purely political topics in this blog, and yet there are times when certain current events demand a response, as in protestors hounding electors en masse or students violently denouncing ordinary voters as “racists” for simply exercising their civil right to cast a ballot. Some time ago a respected Berkley law professor, Phillip Johnson, coined the term “microphone man” to explain how certain factions in society routinely use the microphones of media, government, and education to effectively silence any dissenting viewpoints. And since the stunning electoral upset of November 8, a shocked and visibly upset microphone man has wheeled into action by disclaiming the “unfairness” of the Electoral College (EC), a favorite liberal whipping boy whenever “progressive” presidential candidates lose elections they figured were easily won. Continue reading
Has Christianity lost its moral relevance in the modern world? I live in a state where two thirds of the electorate recently agreed that physicians ought to be allowed to prescribe a lethal toxin to a dying patient as a substitute for pain medication. Apparently the Christian message no longer resonates with a large percentage of the populace. Could this possibly reflect a fragmented Christianity whose continued doctrinal and moral disunity has reduced even the Ten Commandments to debatable talking points? After all a church itself splintered by countless divisions can hardly expect to hold the attention of the masses. But until the rupture in this body (of Christ) is truly resolved, there seems to be little chance that Christianity can ever heal itself much less the world.
In order to correct such problems one must first address the fundamental cause of that religious cleavage. Ironically, it is the very thing that ought to unite Christians that has proven to be the most significant stumbling block to unity. For it is the Eucharist itself that has polarized Catholics and Protestants into opposing camps for 500 years now. Continue reading