Churches, the Constitution, and Christmas Celebrations

Nativity Display Churchby SpeakUpChurch -
Every Christmas season, it seems that the “war on Christmas” begins afresh and with renewed vigor.  For some, the season that proclaims “peace on earth” seems to be anything but, with demands to remove any and all religious references to the celebration of Christmas. And this year is no exception.

For instance, Western Piedmont College in North Carolina recently replaced the word “Christmas” with the word “holiday” in a student club’s announcement of a Christmas tree sale designed to raise money for charity.  It was only after attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to the college that it reversed its decision and reinstated “Christmas.” [Read more...]

How to Speak About God to the Men and Women of Our Time

Pope Benedict Evangelize American Cultureby Pope Benedict XVI -
“How do we speak to God in our times? How can we communicate the Gospel to open the way to its salvific truth?” The Holy Father offered an answer to these questions in his catechesis during today’s general audience, held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

“In Jesus of Nazareth”, the Pope said, “we encounter the face of God, descended from Heaven to immerse Himself in the world of mankind and to teach ‘the art of living’, the road to happiness; to free us from sin and to make us true children of God”.

He continued, “speaking about God means, first and foremost, being clear about what we must bring to the men and women of our time. God has spoken to us, not an abstract or hypothetical God, but a real God, a God Who exists, Who entered history and remains present in history: the God of Jesus Christ – as a response to the fundamental question of why and how to live.” [Read more...]

Converging and Convincing Proof of God: If Truth, Then God

What is Truth, GODby Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq. -
“What is truth?” famously stated Pontius Pilate to Jesus who had proclaimed himself to be “the Truth.”  (Cf. John 18:38; John 14:6).  As an unbelieving pagan blind to the Incarnate Truth before him, the Roman procurator was oblivious of the irony in his words.

Pilate, it should be noted, was not asking Jesus the question as a philosopher or a religious seeker.  He was asking the question as a human judge, as the holder of authority, of temporal power.  “Don’t you realize I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?”  (John 19:10).

Truth, however, does not rely on human or temporal power.  Truth and temporal power are altogether different categories.  Whether freed or crucified, Truth remains what it is: Truth. [Read more...]

Contemplative Prayer and Silence Needed in a Noisy World

Contemplative Prayer and Silenceby Fr. James Farfaglia -
“Where shall the word be found, where shall the word Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” – T.S. Elliot

In our last reflection we considered how essential it is for us to be open to God in order to receive the gift of contemplative prayer. Another essential ingredient is silence.

Blessed Mother Theresa once said, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” [Read more...]

Sacrifice and Self-Interest

Sacrifice and Self-Interestby Jordan Ballor -
One of the complaints often rendered against the market economy is that it encourages selfish behavior. This picture of the marketplace is that of a kind of war of all against all, with each participant out only to maximize his or her own individual benefit. As American social gospel advocate Walter Rauschenbusch contended in his Christianizing the Social Order, “The trader has always been the outstanding case of the man who plays his own hand and sacrifices social solidarity for private gain.” This characteristic, claimed Rauschenbusch, has been exaggerated in the modern era, such that “the trading class has become the ruling class, and consequently the selfishness of trade has been exalted to the dignity of an ethical principle. Every man is taught to seek his own advantage, and then we wonder that there is so little public spirit.” [Read more...]

Godly Character Is Formed in the Little Moments

Godly Character Small Moments Prayerby Paul Tripp -
“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord my refuge that I may tell of all your works” (Psalm 73:28).
It is a grace to get it right, because so often I get it wrong. No, I don’t mean that I fall into gross and willing sin, and I don’t mean that I am seduced by the old arguments of new atheism. No, I don’t mean that I occasionally question the tenets of my faith or question whether ministry is really worth it. No, getting it wrong is much more subtle. Getting it wrong is not about the big, dramatic, consequential moments of life. No, getting it wrong is much more about the little mundane moments of everyday life.

It’s easy to let up your guard and be all too relaxed in these moments precisely because they are little. It’s also tempting to minimize the wrong choices that you make in these little moments. But the opposite is true. The little moments of life are profoundly important because they are little. Little moments are the ones we live in every day. The character and course of a person’s life isn’t set in three or four grand, significant moments. No, the character of a person’s life is shaped in 10,000 little moments. You carry the character formed in the mundane into those rare consequential moments of life. [Read more...]

Election 2012: A Church Gone Astray

A Church Gone Astrayby Louie Verrecchio -
In the days following last week’s U.S. presidential election, a staggering amount of analysis has been focused on Republican messaging, demographics and core constituencies, but it misses the most fundamental point entirely.

If the Second Coming of Obama is evidence of anything it is the godlessness of a nation, the majority of whose citizens worship an idol who not only grants free license to practically every immoral impulse that one can imagine, but who also evidently demands human sacrifice to the tune of more than a million innocent souls each year.

This culture of depravity is the result of an underlying spiritual malady that has been allowed to fester and spread over the last five decades virtually unopposed by the only force capable of overtaking it.

The United States — a land wherein class-envy passes for compassion, same-sex “marriage” is accepted as fairness, and contraception is considered a matter of healthcare — is about to reap the just rewards, not so much of a nation that has abandoned the principles of its Founding Fathers, but of a Church that has abandoned its Founder and the mission He has given her. [Read more...]

Hope in God, Do Not Despair

St.  Cyprian of Carthageby Fr. Brian Mullady, OP -
There are those who despair and have no hope when things do not go their way in the political order. This cannot be a Christian attitude.

“The world itself now bears witness to its approaching end by its fading powers. […] The peasant is failing and disappearing from the fields, the sailor at sea, the soldier in the camp, uprightness in the forum, justice in the court, concord in friendships, skill in the arts, discipline in morals.”

Someone might think these words were written today in response to a decline in American society witnessed by the attempt to so centralize the government that the freedom of the Church is threatened. Yet these words were written by St. Cyprian, an early Church Father, around the year 250.

At the time, the Christians thought that the world was coming to an end as they knew it. Yet St. Cyprian, as all good Christians, was not moved to despair. [Read more...]

This Year’s Elections and Moral Choices

Voting and Moral Choicesby Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon -
This year’s elections involve an attempt to usurp an authority that belongs properly to God. Vote wisely, therefore, and in the fear of God. This year—more than any time in my memory—our votes in the election are going to be recorded in eternity.

Since political elections normally deal with matters of policy, I do not normally make them the subject of pastoral concern. This year, however, the national elections in our country are not concerned simply with policies but with principles.

My first comment, I suppose, should address that difference.

About policies—most questions of political concern—we may expect some legitimate disagreements among Christians. Among these we should include questions about the application of civil punishments, the funding of public education, the tax code, the authority of federal agencies, this or that social program, and so forth. These matters, properly governed by prudence, leave much room for legitimate disagreements among Christians. [Read more...]

Going to Heaven, Piece by Piece

Jesus Christ Healing Icon Peters Mother-in-Law by Fr. Steven Belonick -
Over the course of thirty-four years as an Orthodox priest, I have visited countless people with varying degrees of sickness—some with curable ailments and others with grave diseases. Each visit presented me with an opportunity to witness not only human anxiety and frailty but also heroic and steadfast faith. Each visit, as well, magnified my own fear and revealed my own paltry belief in God, teaching me valuable lessons. Two such visits still stand out in my memory: my first trip to a nursing home, and going to see a diabetic named “Alex.”

Impressions of my first visit to local nursing home as a newly assigned pastor in Binghamton, New York, remain fresh. Infirm and abandoned, their own names lost amid their decaying neuro-pathways, the “residents” would continually call out for help—but would receive no response. Confined to wheelchairs and beds, they hungrily sought acknowledgement of their presence, searching for someone to talk to within their shrinking world. [Read more...]

Recognizing and Overcoming the Sin of Sloth

Sin of Sloth by Paul Kokoski -
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

Sloth, often called acedia, is described simply as the sin of laziness. However, while this is part of the manifestation of sloth, the central problem with sloth as a capital sin is spiritual laziness – which leads to lukewarmness.

Sloth is connected with sensuality. It proceeds from a love of pleasure, inasmuch as it inclines us to avoid effort and hardship. There is in all of us a tendency to follow the line of least resistance, which paralyses or lessens our activity.

Sloth is an inclination to idleness or at least to aimlessness, to apathy in action. At times this is a morbid disposition due to poor condition of health. More frequently it is a disease of the will, which fears effort and recoils from it. The slothful person wants to escape all exertion, whatever might interfere with their comfort or involve fatigue. Like the real parasite, they live on others to whatever extent they can, becoming gruff and ill-tempered when one tries to rouse them from their inaction. [Read more...]

The Church and Secularism – part 1

Family Under Attack in Americaby Peter Kreft -
I’m told that in medical school they tell you that there are four indispensable steps to any medical analysis of a patient’s condition. And these four steps are the basic logic of all practical problem-solving in every field — medicine, business, detectives, whatever — because, there are two variables: there’s something good or desirable and something bad or undesirable. And then there’s the cause and the effect. So you can have the bad effect, the bad cause, the good effect, or the good cause. So the four steps of a medical analysis are first, an observation of the symptoms, which are the bad effects; then a diagnosis of the disease that is causing the symptoms — that’s the bad cause; then a prognosis of the hope for a healing, which is the good effect; and then a prescription for the treatment, which is the good cause. …

So I’d like to address the problem of the decline of Western Civilization in terms of (1) Symptoms, (2) Diagnosis, (3) Prognosis, and (4) Prescription. [Read more...]

Cultivate That Quiet Light, Find Strength in God

Cultivate That Quiet Light, Find Strength in God by Protodeacon Leonid Mickle -
We are all given talents to be used to the glory of God throughout our journey toward salvation. If we exercise them to the best of our ability and to the glory of God, they become part of that light which enlightens the world. The enemy is tireless in his attempts to keep us from performing them. If he cannot sway us from performing the obviously important tasks, he works on the little things, the mundane, seemingly insignificant details of daily life. …

Many are perishing
I have often heard advice similar to that given by St. Seraphim of Sarov: Cultivate the quiet light of Christ within you, and with it you will enlighten those around you. At times, when contemplating the zeal which so many apostles demonstrated in their confession of the Faith before the world, I have wondered about that advice. We know that many are perishing, that many have either never even heard of the Orthodox Church, or are not aware that the Church is not an ethnic clubhouse, but a source of Living Water for all. Why are we not told to advertise, to go out with trumpets, drums, loudspeakers, bright lights, to make the Church more visible? God sometimes provides us with wonderful answers in unexpected settings. [Read more...]

The Precipitous Decline Of Christian England

Church Decline in England Crumbling by Michael Brown -
A British hotel replaces the in-room Gideon Bibles with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey (aka Mommy porn). A Christian organization is banned by the Advertising Standards Authority from announcing that God can heal sickness today. And a recent poll indicates that only 37% of people in England say they have always believed in God, as opposed to 81% of Americans. Christian England, what has become of you?

The hotel in question was the Damson Dene Hotel in Cumbria, Northwest England, and the idea to replace the Bibles with the racy novel came earlier this month from Wayne Bartholomew, general manager of the hotel and “reportedly a choir member at his local church.” (One wonders what kind of church Mr. Bartholomew attends.) [Read more...]

Archbishop Chaput: Christians Must Render Themselves Unto God

Archbishop Charles Chaput by Archbishop Charles Chaput -
Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”

Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead. [Read more...]