David Ancell's Virtual Home

Ongoing Formation

  /   Sunday, May 15, 2022   /   Comment(1)

Summer is almost upon us, and with that, I thought I’d share a great resource for Catholics looking for additional formation in the Faith.  I learned about this because one of the featured lectures was part of our formation program to become a lay Dominican, where my wife and I made temporary promises on May 7th.

Anyway, check out the Institute of Catholic Culture.  There are a lot of lectures, events, and even full semester-length courses to choose from.  Best of all, it’s all free (but do donate if you can).  I’m currently enrolled in a Catholic Bioethics live course.  As someone working in health care, it’s vitally important to understand issues regarding human life from the teachings of the Church.

The bioethics course registration is closed, but there are other classes to choose from.  Some will open up for a live online course at a certain time.  Others are self-paced.  The main thing I don’t like is that I can’t find a way to bookmark stuff that I want to listen to.  I like to keep a list of what I plan to listen to.  I’m hoping to dive into some more material on this site as I’m able.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic


How We Really Celebrate

  /   Saturday, April 30, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I’m thinking of something that God gave me to think about years ago.  The two biggest feast days in the Church year are Christmas and Easter.  The Church, in her wisdom, makes sure we know they are coming and to be prepared to celebrate them to the fullest extent if we will.

I’m thinking of what I’d miss if I belonged to a Protestant church that had neither Advent nor Lent nor a season of Easter or Christmas.  Easter could just suddenly come upon me, and then it would be over the next day.  It could easily pass me by without preparation or without a chance to savor the feast.

In the Catholic Church, we can enter into the season of Advent to prepare for Christmas and Lent to prepare for Easter.  These days won’t just suddenly happen upon us.  We won’t just be going about our normal, everyday business only to have a sudden realization that “Oh, it’s Easter.”  We prepare for it, and we long for it.   It doesn’t end once the day is over.

We have an eight day octave for both Christmas and Easter and a season to follow.  We celebrate Christmas for maybe a couple of weeks after Christmas Day (it varies a bit each year), and we have fifty days of Easter after our forty days of Lent, concluding with Pentecost, the “birthday” of the Church.  This gives us a great opportunity to enter in to the celebration of the very reason for our hope.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic


When You Hear Some Statistic

  /   Saturday, April 23, 2022   /   Comments(0)

Did you hear that 50% of people who enter the Catholic Church on Easter Vigil are not still in the Church a year later. I’ve heard this. Now, where do you think this information came from. Who found this out? How did this person (or group) obtain their data? These are very legitimate questions, and I am not willing the trust the opinions of anyone who objects to asking them. In fact, I’m not sure of the source of this often-quoted statistic.

In fact, it probably isn’t true. Just take a look at this article from the National Catholic Register.  It points to some research done by CARA that appears to be a compilation of previous studies done.  According to the study, 84% of those who entered the Church through RCIA since 1986, when the Church instituted the RCIA in the United States, still identify as Catholic.

It sounds much better, but I do have to ask – what was the criteria for determining who “identifies” as a Catholic.  If all it takes to identify as a Catholic is to check a box on a survey, then it’s hard to say how useful that information actually is.  In fact, the article goes on to say that 62% of the converts still go to Mass monthly.  That’s right.  It says monthly.  Well, actually, it says “at least monthly.”

Remember that missing even one Sunday Mass is a mortal sin unless one has a serious reason (please stay home if you have COVID).  In other words, anyone who is only attending Mass monthly really can’t be said to be practicing the faith even if he’s technically still Catholic.  We really need to know how many people are going to Mass every Sunday.  I will say, though, that there was more data as to how active converts are in the life of the parish.

What’s my point with this?  I used the Church as an example here, but my point can apply to anything.  Whenever you see these statistics, there are questions that need to be asked.  We need to know the source of the data.  If no one comes up with a source, then it may be completely bogus.  We also need to know who collected the data and how.  Specifically, we need to know what questions were asked what what criteria were used to come up with a classification.  We also need to know who was asked and how many people were asked.  If we don’t think about these things critically, we run the risk of wasting time and energy on a bunch of baloney.

Category: Catholic, Response


If You Struggle With Your Lenten Penance . . .

  /   Wednesday, March 30, 2022   /   Comments(0)

We’ve passed Laetere Sunday with the priest wearing rose (not pink!) vestments, so maybe we are on a sort of home stretch. You might find that you are doing well at your chosen penance this time around. However, maybe you’ve slipped, maybe more than once, maybe way more than once . . .

The good news is that, unless the thing that you gave up was sinful in and of itself, it’s not a sin if you don’t follow your voluntary penance. Now, a complete refusal to do penance is a serious sin and another issue altogether, but simply indulging in a good or neutral thing that you gave up is not a reason to go to Confession. You took this penance on voluntarily, and you can modify it or even set it aside. In some cases, it could be the right thing to do. But for most of us, not so fast . . .

The fact that you are struggling with your penance may be a sign that you are trying to detach from something which you really need to detach from. Maybe you just need to be strengthened more against self-indulgence (I’m no one to judge you, trust me!). Either way, don’t be surprised that it’s a struggle for you. Please, don’t be discouraged! The struggle is worthwhile even if you aren’t following through perfectly. The important thing is to do what any good Christian must do many times in life – get up and try again! You are fighting the good fight.

So, you find out that you aren’t as strong as you thought you were. This is a great opportunity to grow in the virtue of humility. It’s also a time to remember that we must depend on God. Every day, even every hour if we must, is another opportunity to begin again. Trust in God’s love for you and try again!

Category: Catholic, Spirituality


About Those Invalid Baptisms, Part 3

  /   Monday, March 07, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I remember someone pointing to the tabernacle saying “what’s in that tabernacle is not the Eucharist. Eucharist is something that we do.” Of course, that statement is not true! I heard another statement years ago that was something to the effect of “when we all get together in love, that is Holy Communion.”

Funny it always seemed to me that our primary end was to worship God himself.  I remember making some statements to that effect in some kind of parish meeting and being told by another participant that “God is in everybody.” At the time, I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond.

It’s true that God’s presence is in our brothers and sisters, but God is not something we manifest, much less something we conjure up, as a product of the community. There is actually a God who is distinct from us and who is our primary end, not a product of our gathering together as a community. In fact, God is really the prime mover and the initiator.

What does this have to do with the invalid Baptisms?  Well, in my previous post, I mentioned how someone using the wrong formula for a Sacrament probably has some belief that is keeping them from using the correct one, which I mentioned in Part 1 would be easy to do.  Using “We baptize . . .” instead of “I baptize . . .” stems from a similar problem as the above examples regarding the Eucharist.

When a priest is administering a Sacrament, he gives his heart and lips to Christ.  It is Jesus Christ who actually baptizes.  It is Jesus Christ who forgives sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It is Jesus Christ whose body, blood, soul, and divinity we receive in the Eucharist.  Jesus is Lord, and he’s the one with the power to give this grace.  When a priest or deacon says “we” instead of “I” in attempting to baptize, he’s saying that the community is doing the Baptism rather than Christ.  Such a Baptism would have no effect at all.

We live in a society that runs itself as though God does not exist.  By making it seem that it’s really the community that acts, we run into serious danger of denying the actions of God himself.  We would effectively run the Church as though God does not exist, which makes no sense.  We can make it seem that our worship is really about us as a community and that some vague “kingdom” is being ushered in solely what we do together.

While we have an obligation to love our brothers and sisters, we owe the totality of our love to God alone.  In John 15:16, Jesus, while giving his command to love others, mentions that it isn’t us who chose him but rather him who chose us.  He is the one who first loved us.  We did not gather around as a community around someone we thought was a swell guy.  Rather, we were called together by the all powerful and ever living God himself, who lives and reigns forever.

Category: Catholic, Doctrine, Response


About Those Invalid Baptisms, Part 2

  /   Sunday, February 27, 2022   /   Comments(2)

Imagine going to Confession, and after making the Act of Contrition, the priest looks at you and says “Ah la peanut butter sandwiches!” Then, you are dismissed. An hour later, you go to Mass. Instead of the usual Eucharistic Prayer, the priest just says “Milk and cookies for everyone!” Then, he proceeds to distribute the hosts. What if the priest does pray the Eucharistic prayer, but uses milk and cookies instead of bread and wine? In these cases, wouldn’t you at least question whether the Sacraments had been administered.

Well, I’d say you don’t even need to question. In these cases, you can be assured that they haven’t. A priest who would do those things shouldn’t even be allowed to minister. He would have been seriously disrespectful of the sacred. Worse yet, he would have failed to give the people the Sacraments that Christ gave to the Church as the ordinary means of grace.

Ok, these are rather extreme examples. What about the case when a priest alters one word, beginning a Baptism with “we” instead of “I”? Maybe this seems picky.

In Part 1, I mentioned how easy it would be just to get it right, for starters. Here, I want to explain further. I make my living as a pharmacist. In a couple of jobs I’ve held, I’ve been involved in compounding IV formulations in a hospital. I get orders for how much of what drug compound is supposed to go into the solution. If I deviate from that, I haven’t made what was ordered. I’ve made something else. The extent of the deviation may range from something of little or no consequence to something that is ineffective or even dangerous (or deadly) for the patient.

Sacraments also have a way in which they are to be done. All of them have a matter (in Baptism it is water) and a form (“I baptize you . . .”). Sacraments were given to us by Christ, and the Church, with her authority to bind and loose, must adhere to what Christ has given us. If the priest says something other than the form of the Sacrament, he hasn’t administered the Sacrament. He has done something else. The same would happen, for example, if the priest tried to baptize with soda instead of water or tried to consecrate hamburger patties and lemonade instead of bread and wine.

If my work as a pharmacist, which involves the temporal welfare of a patient, needs to be done with great care, how much more should the work of a priest, whose work has eternal ramifications, need to be done with great care. We are talking about the sacred here. We are talking about the very things given us by our perfect and holy God!

Some may say that God is so loving and merciful that these things are small and shouldn’t matter. However, God’s love should be the reason why we want to exercise great care with the sacred, not an excuse to be slipshod with holy things. Mistakes do happen, and God is merciful. While we wouldn’t want to condemn those who make mistakes, correction needs to be made. One priest I know actually got a few people together and asked us to stop him if he made a mistake in certain parts of the Mass so that he wouldn’t invalidate the consecration.

This may seem foreign to us who have often been told that externals are not important. However, if someone is deliberately changing the words that comprise the form of the Sacrament, they are changing the meaning of what is said. After all, what is in the heart of a minister who wishes to say his own words rather than the correct ones? It is likely that there is something different about the intent of that minister. As I mentioned last time, it may be something that he doesn’t realize is an error, but there is still something not right.

In part 3, I’ll talk about how saying “We baptize . . .” instead of “I baptize . . .” has a different meaning. I’ll also talk about what’s wrong with it. In the meantime, here’s a great article about how catechesis in the regard is sorely needed.

Category: Cathechesis, Response


About Those Invalid Baptisms, Part 1

  /   Wednesday, February 23, 2022   /   Comments(0)

Yes, it’s true.  If a priest administering the Sacraments uses the wrong words, the Sacrament can be (and often is) invalid.  It’s now been in the news for a little while, and I saw another article just published this month on the effects of this in regards to Baptism.  I think there is a lot of misunderstanding around this that needs to be cleared up.

When a story like this break, the reaction of many people, including many Catholics, may be something along the lines of “how could God not give someone the Sacrament just because the wrong words are used.  How legalistic!” Somehow it has been drilled into us that the externals are just trivial things that we needn’t worry about.  One secular article that I wrote (but won’t link) even said that this is indicative of a problem that Pope Francis spoke about.  However, Pope Francis approved the statement saying that a certain formula was invalid (see the italics directly under the questions in English).

I want to ask that we take a look at this.  If we are inclined to react by asking why this is a big deal, let’s ask another question.  Why aren’t we asking something along the lines of “Why does a priest or deacon need to use words other than the ones prescribed by the Church?  Just use the form prescribed!  How hard is it?”

I can’t think of any reason why it is actually more difficult for a priest or deacon who baptized someone to say “I baptize you . . .” rather than “We baptize you . . .”  The correct way to say this even has the same number of syllables and fewer letters than the incorrect form.  I’m sure it’s written right in the Church’s rite where it can be easily read.

There definitely are concerns here.  They often have to do with poor formation rather than a real disregard for the Sacraments.  That’s not to say that there aren’t at least some people who don’t like what the Church really is and stands for, but there is probably even more lack of formation in our mindset towards the things of God.

I’ll explain more in part 2, but here’s a good article from Catholic News Agency that is helpful.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Response


Don’t Be Discouraged

  /   Sunday, January 30, 2022   /   Comments(0)

Years ago, when I was still in my 20s, I remember going to Confession after what was, well, not a good week. There was an older priest whom I really liked to go to, and fortunately, he was there in the confessional. As I was leaving the confessional, I remember the last thing he said before I left was “don’t be discouraged.”

This sounds simple enough. I’m sure I wondered why he said that rather than something to the effect of “you need to get your act together.” The words came back to my mind when, probably a decade or more later, God lead me to unpack this more.

Have you ever thought that you had overcome some problem or sin (or at least hoped you had) only to commit some sin that demonstrated that the problem still existed? In that moment, you may see that you are still as you were, or at least you see that you still have some work to do. It’s very easy to get down on yourself. Don’t! This can be a manifestation of pride or even a trick of the Devil.

To be sure, we need to be sorry for our sins and resolve to do better next time. It is never okay to willfully choose to remain in sin, especially mortal sin. However, if we give in to discouraging thoughts that God must be really angry and that we can never be better, it will only drive us further into the sin.

If God allows us to fall into the sin and reveal to us where we are, it is to our benefit. We can thank God that we see this now and can repent and really make that change. We can humble ourselves in the realization that we are weak and can do nothing without Christ, but we need to also have confidence that Our Lord will give us his grace. We can recognize the love and mercy of God in this moment. We can, from this fall, strengthen our resolve not to commit this sin again. It also helps to become a more merciful and loving person if we use this to be come more understanding of the weaknesses of others.

As much as I’d like to say I’ve perfected this art now, well . . . Please realize the preceding paragraphs often apply to me very well. In fact, writing these things is a helpful tool for me to get these better embedded in my heart as well as to help others benefit.

One more note, I’d recommend How to Profit From Your Faults by Joseph Tissot if you want further reading on this.

Category: Spirituality


God’s Love and Our Weakness

  /   Sunday, January 23, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I remember hearing “God wants your weakness, too” at a retreat that I went on almost five years ago. I didn’t know what to make of this. In fact, I’m still not sure I really know what to make of it. However, through reading and retreats that I’ve been on in the years since then, I can see God leading me on a certain spiritual path. I think it really started with the beginning of my devotion to St Therese of Lisieux some years ago (and certainly also her intercession), but I didn’t realize it for a long time.

I’ve long been bothered by seeing God’s love and mercy being used as an excuse for sin or even as an excuse not to take God seriously at all. Sin is really an obstacle between us and God that needs to be rooted out of our lives. I never could stand it when I’d hear someone say that there was no problem with someone remaining in serious sin because God is so loving and forgiving. If you really believe this about God, how can you stand to see one who loves so much so offended?

With that said, I’m learning more about how our faults and failure should not keep us from coming to Our Lord.  Obviously, if it’s a mortal sin we are talking about, then Confession is how we must come to him – as soon as possible!  The best way I’ve heard it said is that holiness isn’t so much about strength but about clinging to Christ in our weakness.  After all, God’s love and mercy are real, and how great they are!  He loves each of us right now.  He’s not waiting until we are holier to begin to love us.

No matter how much we want to serve God, we fail. Many of us have some rather serious failings in our past. Jesus was not kidding when he said “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We cannot do anything good without God, and we must trust in God for our salvation. 

What is one very important way to trust in God rather than ourselves?  Dom Lorenzo Scupoli explained it well in Spiritual Combat.  How do we react when we have sinned?  Does it surprise us?  Do we lose our peace?  If we are trusting in God, we are neither surprised nor anxious and certainly not despairing.  Instead, we peacefully place our hope in the love and mercy of God.

To be honest, I haven’t fully unpacked this in my mind even though God has been trying to teach me this for years.   Probably my favorite book on this spiritual path is Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr Michael Gaitley, MIC.  If you want to hear a retreat based on the topic, I’d recommend Fr Bryce Sibley.  I went to this retreat a few years ago, and this is a good one also (but this one is probably better suited for men).  Another book I’d recommend is How to Profit from Your Faults by Joseph Tissot.  All of these have helped bring me to a better understanding of the love and mercy of God.

 

 

Category: Catholic, Spirituality


Just What Tradition is He Guarding Anyway?

  /   Saturday, July 17, 2021   /   Comments(0)

I’ve been wanting to write more on this site, but I didn’t expect this to be one of the first things out of the gate. In fact, it’s rather unfortunate that this is what I think I need to post. I am not one to publicly criticize papal documents of any kind. I attend a Latin Mass only on occasion (maybe only two or three times in the last year and a half). However, I cannot help but find the new motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, to be completely unnecessary and, to be honest, plain awful.

We had seen news that Pope Francis was planning to issue regulations (and probably restrictions) regarding the Latin Mass. Maybe there really are places where the extended permissions given by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum have been abused in some way (probably so), and the local bishop needed to be given some more control over what was happening. In fact, Pope Francis has indicated that a survey had been sent out to the bishops regarding this, but the little that I have seen on this survey suggests that over half of the bishops who responded were either favorable or neutral towards the Latin Mass (but the source is something I would not normally read). However, what we have received is far more severe that I would have expected, and I can’t see any way that this severity was even remotely necessary.

I read it first without having seen any published commentary about it. The thing that caught my eye was that the document appeared to be saying that the Mass should not be celebrated in “parochial churches” nor could any personal parishes be erected. “Surely I am not reading this right, and someone more knowledgeable will set this straight,” I thought. Well, someone did set the record straight, and I didn’t misread the document. So, where are people going to go for Latin Mass – the shopping mall?

Pope Francis claims in his letter that this was issued to promote unity among the faithful. If so, I can’t think this was thought through very well. Catholics who revere the Latin Mass and are working hard to stay faithful to the Church will no doubt feel alienated. The consequences will be even worse for those nearer the edge, about whom Pope Francis purports to be concerned. If they are relegated to the cemetery chapel on the edge of town or the basement of an old rectory for the Mass they love, they may never again show up in a parish church. Those who reject Vatican II or who are extreme enough to be sedevacantists will simply disregard the decree. They either don’t believe in the validity of the ordinary form or don’t believe Pope Francis is really the pope, and they’ll no doubt consider this decree to be evidence of their claim.

To be fair, I am very certain that there are people who attend Latin Mass for the wrong reasons (eg rejection of Vatican II, the ordinary form, or even Church authority). However, there are many legitimate reasons why people prefer the Latin Mass. I do very much appreciate the reverence shown, and I know others do too. Some people simply want to escape the irreverence and abuse that occurs in some places in the ordinary form even though they understand that the problem is not the ordinary form in and of itself. Still others are people who grew up with it and have come to really appreciate it.

In fact, if there’s a real problem with the celebration of the Mass that needs to be tackled, how about the many liturgical abuses that are occurring in the ordinary form? I am fortunate enough to be where those abuses are either infrequent or somewhat minor in comparison (eg having to turn and greet each other before Mass or asking for people to stand if it’s their birthday). However, I’ve both seen and heard of worse (eg goldfish in the holy water fonts or even alteration of the words of consecration of the Eucharist, potentially invalidating it). Next, let’s tackle the use of sappy piano tunes that some people think are hymns. While that’s technically not a violation of the norms, it does reduce the reverence shown to Our Lord in the Eucharist.

What is really needed in this day and age is a reminder that, when we are at Mass, we are there to worship the Lord. God is almighty, all powerful, all holy, and worthy of all of our reverence and love. Yet, he stoops down to love us completely and gives himself to us in the Holy Eucharist. There is nothing more important happening on earth than the Mass. If anything needed to be done, we needed to be reminded of this. I strongly believe Pope Francis made a huge mistake by restricting something that no doubt promotes greater reverence in the Church. Let’s pray he reverses course before too much damage is done.

Category: Response


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