David Ancell's Virtual Home

Just a Few Thoughts

  /   Thursday, June 30, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I have just a few moments tonight, but I can’t help but really be happy about much of the new directions that the Supreme Court has taken. It’s interesting to read some of the media stories that are coming out of the “mainstream” media.  We knew something hadn’t been quite right for a long time, but now they are really showing their stripes.

I just love reading stories that refer to the court as “out of touch.”  The only thing the court really is supposed to be in touch with is the text of the law and the Constitution.  We have had too much trouble with court imposing their own opinions instead of upholding rule of law.

In fact, people with an agenda really need to try to convince others and go through the legislative process instead of trying to ram stuff through the courts.  If you can’t get the support to do that, then your agenda won’t pass.  This is truly what a democracy is.

Category: Social Commentary


Hopefully the Start of the Turning of a Tide

  /   Tuesday, June 21, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I was pretty hopeful hearing of this Supreme Court ruling. The state of Maine had a program that gave parents money for private school tuition in places where there were not public schools available. However, they prohibited the use of these funds for schools that were religious in nature. Someday, I hope to see the end of the idea that the First Amendment was intended to mean that any religious idea or organization is to be excluded from public life.

This decision really doesn’t directly give an edge to faith-based schools. This may be what happens in practice, but it is based solely on the decision of the parents receiving the funding. If Maine wants to give money for school tuition where needed, the Supreme Court decision means that faith-based schools are to be treated on an equal basis with other schools. If they favored only the Baptists or the Methodists, then they’d be favoring a particular religion, and we’d have a constitutional argument. Religion is not and should not be some special category that is verboten, nor should it be discriminated against. It’s interesting that Sonia Sotomayor cites in her dissent a constitutional commitment to separation of church and state when the words aren’t in the Constitution.

What is this all about? Well, in the above article, the state of Maine argued that they wanted education to be something that was education in a “religiously neutral manner” and also “exposes children to different viewpoints and promotes tolerance and acceptance.” Are these anti-religious statements in disguise? They might be, but I do not know. However, I do believe they are a usurpation of parental authority in the education of their children. Education is ultimately the purview of the parents, not the state.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the state will not have some say in the development of educational standards and of what should legally constitute a school. There are things kids need to learn to be able to function in society. Also, we wouldn’t want a “school” that was established solely to encourage children to be violent revolutionaries or something that like. How much authority should the state have? Well, I think that’s up for debate, and I don’t have a clear answer. However, parents do have the right to pass their faith along to their children and to expect their choice of school to respect that. Hopefully, this recent Supreme Court decision is a step in this direction.

Category: Response


Are These Fake Construction Zones?

  /   Tuesday, May 31, 2022   /   Comments(0)

With all the heavier stuff in the news, I wanted to write about something lighter. My family and I took a trip last weekend, and in a certain state I will not name, I noticed a trend. There were miles of road that had a reduced speed limit because of “road construction.”

However, all I saw were a bunch of orange barrels on each side of the interstate with absolutely no other evidence that any work was being done on the road. Could these be some kind of fundraiser where they just reduce the speed limit so they can charge higher fines when they bust someone? I wonder if there has been or will be a court case where someone will challenge a construction zone in court claiming that there was no sign of actual construction for miles.

It kind of reminds me of a case of what I call a “fundraiser fire hydrant.” An entity will have a fire hydrant that has not worked in years. However, they will still issue citations if anyone parks next to it, and that seems to be the only purpose it serves.

These are all just thoughts that came to me while I was traveling.

Category: Uncategorized


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


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