I was in Melbourne this week to make my monthly recollection (a sort of mini-retreat), so I was able to stick around and attend the 2013 Harman Lecture.
The Harman Lecture is an annual lecture delivered primarily to the faculty and students of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family. This year, Cardinal Marc Ouellet spoke on ‘The Significance of the Institute for the New Evangelisation.’
Being an academic lecture delivered by an academic for academics, you can imagine that the subject matter was largely academic. Text of the lecture will soon be available on the JPII Institute website, so I won’t attempt to reproduce its themes here. I’ll note only that the Cardinal spoke of an “anthropological crisis” which afflicts contemporary culture.
A few weeks ago, I had coffee with a seminary classmate, now a priest. He suggested that gay marriage is to the Church of our time what the contraceptive pill was to the Church in the 1960s. It had never occurred to me before, but upon reflection, I think he’s spot on. In both cases, unbroken Christian tradition is in direct conflict with the spirit of the age. And in both cases, anthropology — a philosophical account of the human person — is at the heart of things. So I listened closely to Cardinal Ouellet’s analysis of an anthropological crisis, and his proposed remedies.
The Cardinal spoke for less than an hour, and then fielded questions. In the course of his address, and more so in his unscripted answers, he expounded on the family as an examplary Imago Dei. In doing so, he employed memorable turns of phrase.
“The sacrament of marriage is a couple’s Pentecost,” for example. Marriage not only consecrate’s a couple’s union, but also divinises it. Herein lies the sacramentality of marriage.
“The fruitfulness of marriage is first and foremost spiritual.” A husband’s gift of self, and a wife’s gift of self, “creates a new identity”; a presence of God. Children are a manifestation of this, but some couples’ inability to have children in no way diminishes their sacramental fruitfulness.
“Evangelisation is accomplished by attraction, not by compulsion.” The best demonstration of the image of God is a loving family.
The Cardinal’s remarks reminded me of a blog I recently stumbled across: Shawn van der Linden’s “Faith, Family, Fatherhood.” Here’s a living example of precisely the sort of thing Cardinal Ouellet was talking about:
Like many parents today I am becoming very concerned about the increasing “sexualisation” of our society and its impact on young children . . .
. . While it is overwhelming, I think we sometimes underestimate the power of our own marriages when it comes to taking the fight up to this culture.
Recently my wife and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. Our takeaway, candle lit dinner was accompanied by interruptions from our children who insisted on regularly getting out of bed to check how our “romantic” dinner was going!
My wife and I have often reflected on the impact of our expressions of intimacy on the happiness of our young children. Usually if they find us having a cuddle in the kitchen, or sitting close on the couch, they will run over to join in. It sometimes ends up being one big family hug! They are like magnets to the love and intimacy that exists between my wife and I. Indeed they thirst for it and in so many ways it is the foundation of their security in life.
Tertullian wrote that a demonstration of love distinguished Christians in the earliest days of the Church. He quoted a pagan official who marvelled at what he encountered: “See how they love each other!” (Apology, 39.)
Loving families must be at the heart of the Church’s new evangelisation.
Did Pope Francis perform a public exorcism on Sunday? Fr Lombardi (Vatican spokesman) says no; Fr Amorth (Roman exorcist) says yes. Fr Blake and Fr Finigan have blogged on this, and link to the video.
Apart from that, I’d add that Fr Amorth is a bit . . . well, I’m not sure. He is famous for his best-selling book, An Exorcist Tells His Story. Dr Ed Peters, who apart from being a canon lawyer is a clear and precise thinker, doesn’t rate it highly.
But whatever you make of the Holy Father’s actions on Sunday, the enemy has featured prominently in his preaching. In the words of Sandro Magister:
He refers to him continually. He combats him without respite. He does not believe him to be a myth, but a real person, the most insidious enemy of the Church.
Here’s some useful background:
Remember Verso L’Alto Melbourne? I’ve blogged about it previously. Here’s a refresher:
Basically, Verso L’Alto Melbourne is a walking group. Three or four times a year, the organisers send out an invitation to their friends — and others — to join them on a walk of several hours, which culminates with Mass. You can bring your own cut lunch, or stake out a nearby café or restaurant.
A couple of priests, who are available for confession or a chat, join the walk, but mostly it’s a “peer apostolate” — that is, an opportunity for young Catholics to spend time with other young Catholics. The explicitly religious content might be limited to praying together at Mass, but the everyday experiences of enjoying the walk, swapping iPod playlists, and commiserating each other’s sore feet and blisters can be formative.
The group is heading to wintry Ballarat next month, for an almost certainly bracing walk around Lake Wendouree. The breeze coming off the lake in winter is famous for its chill factor! Nonetheless, the organisers are right to classify the walk as “easy grade.” Walking the lake is a very pleasant stroll.
Comments have become problematic of late. Trolls have posted offensive comments, and in some cases stolen other users’ identities. Please accept my apologies Cathy.
I have consequently tightened access to comments. If a legitimate user is unable to comment, e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll change the settings so that you are “guaranteed passage.”
Last Tuesday, Archbishop Hart sent a letter to Melbourne parishes, warning against the Maria Divine Mercy messages I’ve previously blogged about.
The action elicited a surprisingly global response online. I think this is the first time Archbishop Hart has made headlines at Spirit Daily. The response in other quarters has been less edifying, and I won’t reproduce or link to them here.
The incident has revealed to me just how quickly and deeply the MDM messages have penetrated. I’ve exchanged e-mails and messages with many devotees — good, faithful Catholics with active prayer lives — who are honestly mystified that their family and friends are dubious of the messages, and object to bishops’ expressing their opinion on the matter.
I’ve heard it again and again. “The Archbishop has no right to condemn these messages.” “If the Archbishop must speak, he should state his opinion only, not impose his will.” “The Archbishop of Melbourne is outranked by Jesus, so we must ignore him.”
I’m mystified myself. These aren’t like other apocalyptic revelations. They explicitly reject the reigning pontiff. In this, they are categorically different to Garabandal, Međugorje and other disputed apparitions. There’s not a bishop in the world who wouldn’t instinctively object to them, and it’s easy to see why Archbishop Hart acted as he has.
Even if these messages are true, and Francis really is an anti-pope who has usurped Benedict, it’s unconscionable that Our Lord would want us to disobey and malign bishops when they are exercising their legitimate authority. That’s not how the Catholic Church works. It’s not how our Lord works!
There are many reasons for losing faith in the Church. The apostasy of recent decades. The evil inflicted on children. The consequent cover-up. The hypocrisy of church leaders.
But loss of faith in the Church is a temptation we must resist. To lose faith in the Church, I think, is to lose faith in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Church’s “guarantor.”
It simply isn’t coherent for a Catholic to confess faith in Jesus while abandoning faith in the Church. When a person does this, they cease to be Catholic and instead become Protestant — not in the historical sense of the word, but in its literal sense.
As always, GKC says it better than I can:
I don’t ask MDM devotees to reject her messages. I ask them to discern prudently, mindful of the Church’s teaching authority. Authority invested by Christ, and manifested by the Holy Spirit. That means obeying legitimate episcopal authority — a leap of faith in the Holy Spirit — even while believing that MDM’s messages are authentic.
Incidentally, St John of the Cross, one of the Church’s greatest mystics, relates this counter-intuitive advice to anyone who discerns that visions are impacting their prayer life — for better or worse:
It is always well, then, that the soul should reject [visions], and close its eyes to them, whencesoever they come. For, unless it does so, it will prepare the way for those things that come from the devil, and will give him such influence that, not only will his visions come in place of God’s, but his visions will begin to increase, and those of God to cease, in such manner that the devil will have all the power and God will have none.
So it has happened to many incautious and ignorant souls, who rely on these things to such an extent that many of them have found it hard to return to God in purity of faith; and many have been unable to return, so securely has the devil rooted himself in them; for which reason it is well to resist and reject them all.
For, by the rejection of evil visions, the errors of the devil are avoided, and by the rejection of good visions no hindrance is offered to faith and the spirit harvests the fruit of them.
It is clear, then, that these sensual apprehensions and visions cannot be a means to union, since they bear no proportion to God; and this was one of the reasons why Christ desired that the Magdalene and Saint Thomas should not touch Him. And so the devil rejoices greatly when a soul desires to receive revelations, and when he sees it inclined to them, for he has then a great occasion and opportunity to insinuate errors and, in so far as he is able, to derogate from faith; for, as I have said, he renders the soul that desires them very gross, and at times even leads it into many temptations and unseemly ways.
A so-called “Catholic IQ test” is doing the rounds on Facebook. It’s a significant time investment, but at the end of it, you’ll get a handy reading list to shore up your knowledge of the Catholic faith.
I need to re-read the Old Testament, and revisit early Church history.
Section Correct Score Bible 33/37 (89.19%) History 13/15 (86.67%) Morality & Virtue 22/22 (100%) Heaven & Hell 12/12 (100%) Prayer 8/8 (100%) Dogma 9/9 (100%) Anti-Catholics 15/15 (100%) Sacraments 11/11 (100%) Mass 19/19 (100%) Special Days 8/8 (100%) Religious Nobles 15/15 (100%) Church Information 23/23 (100%) Miscellaneous 8/8 (100%)
Here are the things missed on the Catholic IQ Test:
THE STORY OF JOB.
You should read: the book of Job in The Old Testament.
THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL (Samson and Delilah).
You should read: the book of Judges in The Old Testament.
THE FIRST-CENTURY ROMAN EMPEROR WHO PERSECUTED THE CHURCH.
You should read: Christ the King, Lord of History (TAN Books and Publishers).
Pentecost is a great feast. The Church’s birthday, and ours too, in a sense. Pentecost gives us a share in the Paschal Mystery. Easter without Pentecost would not be a victory over death for us.
Here’s something to celebrate the power of the Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Spirit we may be ever truly wise and enjoy His consolations, through Christ our Lord, Amen.