David Ancell's Virtual Home

I Got Ignited

  /   Friday, March 26, 2010   /   Comments(0)

Last weekend, Yana and I went to the Ignited by Truth conference in Raleigh.  I’m not even sure how to tell you all about it, but it was great.  If you have ever been to a conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, the conference kind of reminded me of it. There just wasn’t praise and worship music, and they actually took breaks in between talks.

I was especially glad to see Greg and Lisa Popcak and Fr. Dwight Longenecker in person.  I have read several of Dr. Popcak’s books, and I had somewhat followed the story of Fr. Longenecker.  Now, I have heard them speak, and they were great!

Category: News, News on My Life

Come Play in My Sandbox, Not!!

  /   Friday, March 05, 2010   /   Comments(0)

Sometimes I think I really should watch what I read because it makes me want to rant about pet peeves.  Jeff Miller blogs about replacing water in holy water fonts with sand.  For those who have questions, no, this is not allowed.  Read the letter at the bottom of Fr. Z’s post from the Congregation of Divine Worship.

Although the practice bothers me, the attitude behind it is what really gets to me.  I never understood why priests and other parish leadership thinks that they can just make up their own practice and just do stuff.  When it comes to the church, if it’s not in the book, don’t do it!

Category: Liturgy

God Revealed Himself

  /   Friday, March 05, 2010   /   Comments(0)

In the last ten years, I’ve been a more avid reader of theological and spiritual books.  It wasn’t always so. In fact, I found a lot of the spiritual books I read in the first few years of being Catholic at best bland and at worst depressing. This is one reason why I now keep a list of good Catholic reading on my web page.  There are a lot more good Catholic resources than there used to be, but the bad ones are still out there.

One of the most depressing things that I read (I don’t remember where.) was this article that said something along the lines of “The ancient people saw the order and complexity of creation, and they reasoned that there was a God who created it all.”  In other words, God has never truly revealed himself.  We just kind of guessed at one time that there might be a God.

A more subtle statement was made in a group in which I participated some months ago.  It goes somewhere along the line of “If it weren’t for our patriarchal society, we would be calling God ‘mother’ instead of ‘father.'”  For this to be the case, our knowledge of God would have to be purely a product of society.  At the very least, this person was saying that God cannot reveal himself in any terms other than our societal framework.  If this is true, then I have to wonder why we would worship such a wimp.

The proponents of such ideas would have to deny the authenticity of Scripture.  In other words, nothing in Scripture could possibly have happened as it is stated.  Alternative explanations had to be derived.  The problem with the alternative explanations is that they were all based on speculation with no long-lost documents discovered to substantiate the “real story.”  There are sources available outside Christianity that speak of Jesus and the early Christians, but none tell us the “real story” of what happened instead of the Resurrection.

Once I realized the highly speculative nature of the skeptics, it opened the floodgate for me to know and believe that God’s revelation, and our salvation, is God’s initiative.  God is the one who wanted us to know and love him and be with him forever.  He wants this more than we want it.  In fact, he wanted it so much that the second person of the Trinity took on human flesh, which he will have forever.

Category: Doctrine

Archbishop Chaput is Aweseome

  /   Wednesday, March 03, 2010   /   Comments(0)

I just received a link to this speech by Archbishop Charles Chaput.  It was given at, of all places, Houston Baptist University.  In it, he talks about how John F. Kennedy’s Houston speech caused major problems for the role of Christians in public life.  I learned quite a bit about the historical background of the use of the phrase “separation of church and state” which appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution.

I wouldn’t limit the applicability of what he said to politics.  During my first year in pharmacy school, a well-known professor of one of our classes stated that they should have vending machines for birth control in every school.  He said that “personally, I’m against it.”  He went on to say that our “professional duty” comes before our “personal beliefs.”

Even today, you hear people often debating on whether one may do or not do something on the basis of “personal beliefs.”  It’s as if they’ve forgotten that there might really be a God who will one day judge them, or they have decided that such a concern is of no consequence.  Whether such is true has little to do with one’s “personal beliefs.” Here’s a quote on this from Archbishop Chaput:

Too many Catholics confuse their personal opinions with a real Christian conscience.  Too many live their faith as if it were a private idiosyncrasy – the kind that they’ll never allow to become a public nuisance.  And too many just don’t really believe.  Maybe it’s different in Protestant circles.  But I hope you’ll forgive me if I say, “I doubt it.”

“Too many just don’t really believe.”  I can never know for sure what is in someone’s heart.  However, the actions and attitudes I’ve seen displayed on the part of many people show so little concern for God. I have talked to many people in my life who seem quite satisfied to believe that neither they nor anyone else knows anything about God. Either there is a God, or there isn’t.  God cannot exist and not exist at the same time.  Either he has revealed himself or not.  This has eternal significance, so take time to find these things out.

Archbishop Chaput gives us an answer that is both simple but yet very difficult in today’s world.  We must all have, first and foremost, “a zeal for Jesus Christ and his Church.”  The Archbishop himself states that he is a Catholic Christian first and then an American citizen.  We most certainly must love our country, but we are citizens of Heaven first.

Category: Response

Thoughts on Evangelization

  /   Tuesday, March 02, 2010   /   Comments(0)

I now post my final reflection on the retreat that I went on.  Our last group discussion topic was about evangelization.  I decided to say my piece in this one, and I touched on a few different things which I will expand here.  I will be quoting the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI, named Evangeli Nuntiandi, here, and I highly recommend reading it.

I must admit that I get a bit uneasy when I hear someone emphasize preaching by example.  It’s not that I disagree with the idea, but sometimes I think it is used as an excuse not to talk about Jesus Christ and His Church.  I remember when, as a teenager, I first heard a priest talk about our duty to preach the Gospel.  He went into several examples of preaching by example, identifying them as preaching the Gospel.  My response was somewhere along the lines of “Whew!  I don’t have to talk to anyone about Our Lord!  I can just preach by example.”

Many people are familiar with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi exhorting us to “Preach the Gospel at all times, and, when necessary, use words.”  It is absolutely essential that we preach by example, but I am quite convinced that words are very necessary these days.  Many people, through no fault of their own, have never heard of Our Lord or have heard things that are wrong.  If we preach solely by example, many will not know of what we are being an example.  Pope Paul VI addresses this in articles 41 and 42 (excerpts below):
 . . . it is appropriate first of all to emphasize the following point: for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one’s neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” AND 

Preaching, the verbal proclamation of a message, is indeed always indispensable.

Preaching by example is necessary to show someone a lived experience of the Gospel and to avoid undermining the message, but the need for words is not eliminated.  How does one know what to say?  How does one get the courage to do so?

One thing that I have shared (and need to do more of myself) is to mediate on what we have.  Think about this:

Sadly, some people don’t see the need to evangelize.  I have heard stories of people who inquired about the Catholic Church only to be told that Vatican II eliminated the need to be Catholic.  This is a lie!  Others, perhaps after having tried to bring the Gospel to someone for a time, become complacent and assume that God will save someone because he is a “good person” despite the apparent lack of faith.  This is possible, but I’d hate to depend on it.  Pope Paul VI addresses this in article 82:
It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel”- or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit.

In other words, even if someone can be saved because it was of no fault of their own that they did not hear the Gospel, we will have the guilt of failing to evangelize.  Therefore, it is imperative that we do our best to live the Gospel and shine Christ’s light on others.  We want them to know the truth that sets them free!

Category: Spirituality

So, What Makes a Suitable Hymn for Mass?

  /   Monday, March 01, 2010   /   Comment(1)

Many of my friends, as well as my wife, know that I have a tendency to . . . well . . . not like a lot of the music that we sing at Mass.  Still,  it is important to me not to be arbitrarily critical, so I want to propose some criteria with which I would consider a song acceptable.  This is not based directly on any Church documents but rather is my own reflection.  I am not a liturgist but rather an easily-distractable lay person who goes to Mass often with a great desire to worship the Lord.

First and foremost,  the hymn should be doctrinally sound.  I have found that I often have to pay close attention to the words of some hyms I’ve seen used before I decide to sing.   One of the best known offenders is one that is often used during Lent.  It’s called “Ashes,” and the offending statement is that “We rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew.”  If this isn’t heresy, it’s darn close. God is the only one who can create us anew.  Another offender that I have been recently introduced to is entitled “Sing a New Church.”  The title itself should be enough to convince anyone concerned about fidelity to the Catholic faith that it’s problematic.

Second, the hymn should be addressed to God or be about God (or possibly a saint).  Take a look at the great hymns like “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” or “Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All.”  They are addressed to God.  The songs “Where Charity and Love Prevail” and even the St. Louis Jesuits’ “Glory and Praise to Our God” are about God.  The song “Make Us True Servants” is a petition to God.  Soon, Lent will be over, and we’ll be singing one of my favorites, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”  It is, of course, a song about the Resurrection of Our Lord.  I could probably name many others, both old and new.

Contrast that with some other hymns of  today.  A commonly used hymn that I’ve blogged about before is “Gather Us In,” which doesn’t mention God in it.  I was recently introduced to a song called “Anthem” which begins “We are called; we are chosen; we are Christ to one another . . .”  It’s sung to a tune that sounds kind of  like “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes.”  It’s the congregation praising itself.  “One Bread One Body” is another one where we are singing about ourselves.  Finally, let’s not forget “All Our Welcome.”  The hymn is about the house that we build, not God.

Third, the song should not have the congregation singing the part of God.  Two known offenders are “Here I Am, Lord” (“I the Lord, of sea and sky . . .”) and “I Am the Bread of Life.”  I know that I am not comfortable singing as though I am God, and I’m sure there are others out there as well.  In the aforementioned article by George Weigel, he mentions that this is unprecedented in Christian history.  I would go further to say that this would also be offensive to the Jewish people.  The name for God, “I Am Who Am,” is a personal name.  For a Jewish person to say it out loud would be for him to say that he is God.  Therefore, they are forbidden to pronounce it.  Given that our faith is a fulfillment of Judiasm, it doesn’t seem right to be singing the part of God.

Fourth, the hymn should be musically simple enough that people who sing like I do can sing it.  Look, the only way I would sing a solo is to evacuate a building. I can’t sing very well, and the more complicated rhythms are difficult for me to follow.  The best way to ensure full participation in the Liturgy is not to innovate but to simplify.  When I was a teenager, the Danish Amen Mass was almost always used in my parish.  It was very nice and easy to follow.  Even some of the praise and worship songs are easier to sing than some obviously feminine high-pitched modern “hymns.”  Really, though, I can understand how singability (Is that a word?) can be overlooked as it is a judgment call made by people of much greater musical ability than I.  However, we must all keep in mind that the Mass is worship, not a performance intended for entertainment.

Of course, there are a lot of other elements that I like – some old Latin hymns, older hymns in general, and even some Gregorian chant (which Vatican II said should retain the pride of place at Mass).  However, what I have written above is something I believe to be a good standard to use.  I am always wanting to be at Mass when it is a genuine, prayerful experience dedicated to the greater glory of God.

Category: Liturgy


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