David Ancell's Virtual Home

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

  /   Saturday, December 31, 2022   /   Comments(0)

The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI definitely makes for a sad ending to 2022. He was one of my biggest heroes in the Catholic Church. I have the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club mug from before he was elected pope, which says “putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981.”  I think I have the t-shirt also.  When I was a new Catholic in the 1990s, I thought of him as some kind of theological fuddy-duddy. As I learned more of the fullness of the faith, I realized he was really one of the true defenders of the Faith.

By the early 2000s, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, I really thought it would be great if he became the next pope.  However, I figured he wouldn’t because of his age. Just before the conclave, I remember that he gave a speech warning about the “Dictatorship of Relativism,” and some media person remarked that he just disqualified himself from the papacy.  Then, I was waiting, and occasionally refreshing the webpage on a news site.  Finally, much to my surprise, a bar with a red background appeared at the top of my screen saying that “Cardinal Ratzinger is the new pope.”  It was a dream come true!

I very much loved his emphasis on focusing on God himself.  The Church is not a social work institution, though we do that kind of work, but the Body of Christ.  It is ultimately Jesus Christ himself whom we must seek and whom we must serve.  From what I remember, he wrote his Introduction to Christianity to help correct the errors of some theologians who were leaning towards some kind of socialist understanding of Christianity.

One great example of his focus was his book entitled The Spirit of the Liturgy. It was one of the best books on the Mass I have ever read.  Solid formation on what the Mass is and how it should be celebrated is still probably the most difficult thing to come by.  I dare say there are people with advanced degrees in liturgy who have things completely wrong. There were people spouting off stuff like how the churches needed to be that semi-circle shape so that we see each other and see Christ in one another.  This essentially de-emphasized God himself and made the focus more on “the community.”

Before I read the book, I found it strange that he advocated the priest turning around and facing the same direction of the people (often called “having his back to the people,” but this is a misunderstanding).  However, when I read what he wrote, I became completely convinced that this is how Mass should be celebrated. We, the priest and the people, are moving together towards God.

There is a lot that could be said about this holy man whom we had as pope for eight years.  Now, he has gone to be with the Lord whom he served so well.  Eternal rest, grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.

Category: Catholic, Response


This Season of Advent

  /   Tuesday, December 13, 2022   /   Comments(0)

Here we are in Advent. For those of you who aren’t Catholic, Advent is a season in our Church calendar which we are preparing for Christmas. The Church never just lets a major feast day happen. Days that are as holy as Christmas and Easter require preparation. Like everything else in life, our celebration is much better when we have taken time to prepare.

The thing about Advent is that the way in which we prepare for Christmas can be hard to figure out. When I was new to the Church, I saw my pastor in the purple vestments that signify penance, and I asked him if Advent were a penitential season. He told me it was “half-penitential.”

I can see why he said this. Just like in Lent, the priest wears purple vestments. The Gloria is omitted from Mass, but the Alleluia is still sung before the Gospel. There are some prescribed penances in Lent, but in Advent, there is no particular penance prescribed.

It makes sense that it is this way when one thinks about it. Lent is a preparation for Easter. However, in order to get to Easter, there is the Passion and death of Our Lord on the cross. There is no such death that we must commemorate before the birth of Our Lord. We are simply waiting for him to come. There is, however, a deep longing in the world, and many don’t realize that longing.

Maybe the best preparation is to do our very best to focus on the Lord and remember that he is the reason, not only for the season, but our whole lives. This can be difficult in the midst of our lives this time of year. We are in a pretty bad flu season, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who are either sick or caring for sick kids. If you are a student, you are likely either preparing for or taking final exams. Of course, it can also be crunch time in many jobs as well. There are plenty of parties to attend as well.

Combine this with the secular celebration of Christmas that we see in the world. On the one hand, we have retailers that don’t really want to mention the word Christmas despite making money from people buying presents for the holiday whose name they “forgot.” I’m not going to call it so much a war on Christmas as stupid secular political correctness but also unwillingness to not make the money. You can also listen to songs on the radio that speak of the such a wonderful time of year with marshmallows, caroling, mistletoe, and hearts glowing with loved ones near. However, such songs will say nary a word about why this is (or should be) so. Those are just a couple of examples.

I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t get gifts for people. I definitely wouldn’t suggest not doing the work that you have to do at this time. Don’t flunk your exams if you are a student! I don’t even want to suggest not going to people’s Christmas parties. We won’t bring people back to focus on Jesus Christ by offending them in this manner. The one kind of activity that I would suggest skipping out on is the ugly sweater contest. How does an ugly sweater give honor to the God who became man and came to die for our sins?

In some way, we need to take time to pray and think about how we are awaiting the coming of Our Lord. We need to prepare the way by making a good Confession. Take some time to show the love of Christ to someone less fortunate (who could even be your family members who have the flu). All we need to do is take a bit of time to think more on how we can keep the coming of Christ in our minds and hearts and act on it. Then, we can tell the world what we are celebration and the awesome reality that it is.

Category: Response


Why a Parish Columbarium is a Bad Idea

  /   Saturday, November 05, 2022   /   Comments(0)

During this month of November, I wanted to write about something that I’ve been seeing pop up in a number of parishes – the building and maintenance of a columbarium for the interment of cremated remains. I first saw these when I lived in North Carolina, and now there are several in Tennessee (but only one in a Catholic parish in the Nashville area). I want to highlight why this is a bad practice.

I’m not so much against the building of a columbarium as part of a Catholic cemetery, even a parish cemetery. The Church requires the interment of cremated remains in a sacred place such as a cemetery. To make this possible for Catholics who choose cremation for legitimate reasons, it makes sense to have them available. My main concern here is with a columbarium located on parish property that has no cemetery associated with it. I’ll explain why . . .

To get a greater understanding of the Church’s teachings on cremation, please check out this 2016 Document from the CDF regarding the practice. The Catholic Church once prohibited cremation as it was often done as a way to show opposition to the resurrection of the dead. In 1963, a new instruction named Piam et Constatem was issued that did allow for cremation. It’s important to note that, once cremated, the ashes are required to be buried like a body would be.

However, this instruction said that the ordinaries (eg bishops) were to ensure, through proper instruction, that “the faithful refrain from cremation and not discontinue the practice of burial except when forced to do so by necessity” and that “the Church’s adverse attitude toward cremation must be clearly evident.” In other words, the practice is not something the Church wanted to encourage but only to permit when necessary. Cremation is to be the exception rather than the rule. Burial remains the preferred practice of the Church. In fact, the need to encourage burial instead of cremation when possible is more pressing today in light of the false ideas regarding the human body that are presented by today’s society.

However, when a parish builds a columbarium, they are, by means of a bad example, essentially encouraging the practice of cremation. After all, they are allowing people to be laid to rest on the grounds of their church, but only if they are cremated. People who can and wish to conform themselves fully to the mind of the Church on this matter have to be buried elsewhere. This really sends the wrong message to people regarding the respect and reverence that is due to the body of the deceased, which was and will be again a Temple of the Holy Spirit.

In one diocese where I lived, there was a rule that, if a columbarium were built, it must be accompanied by instruction that burial is really the preferred practice. However, this is unlikely to be effective. At the same time this instruction is being provided, people are being told that they can choose to be cremated so that their remains can be interred at their church. This also communicates to people that they can feel free to disregard the customs of the Church and do whatever they prefer, which is way too common among American Catholics.

Someone once told me in (sort of) defense of the practice is that a parish was noticing that people were choosing cremation and then doing things prohibited by the Church such as scattering ashes or keeping them in their home. The columbarium was being built so that people would at least bury the ashes properly. This was a well-meaning argument, but I don’t agree. I believe it provides too much accommodation for people’s attitudes to be formed by the surrounding culture rather than by Christ and his Church when really, the truth needs to be preached.

In fact, I remember a priest, preaching at the funeral of one of my family members, tell us that what was in the casket was not our family member. I now know that is not a correct statement. It is a pagan/gnostic attitude that I’ve also heard repeated by a Protestant, though I don’t think the priest realized this. As human beings, we are made to be body and soul. When the soul separates from the body, neither are complete. The body that will decay is not the complete person, but guess what – neither is the soul! The souls in Heaven are longing for their bodily resurrection. Our bodies are not some costume or machine that we inhabit and need to be free from. They are an integral part of who we are.

There may be some people who need to choose cremation, and they need not feel as though they are incurring guilt for doing what the Church permits. However, the local parishes should not be building something that has such a potential to encourage that which is not what the Church prefers. We would be much better served by better catechesis about the body and reverence it required, not to mention our hope of the resurrection.

Category: Response


We Were Not Told to Keep Holy the Weekend

  /   Wednesday, October 26, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I’m not a big fan of some of the semantic games people play.  Many of them seem to be used just to start arguments.  For example, there were some media posts going around that were against saying a husband was “helping” around the house because it’s his job, too.   I’m not sure how having responsibility precludes helping, but really, I digress . . .

There’s one usage I really do wish would die.  I’ve often heard of churches speak of the “weekend Masses.”  Why can’t we just say “Sunday Masses?”  We celebrate the Lord’s Day on Sunday in obedience to God’s command to keep holy the Sabbath and to celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord on Sunday.  Even if you attend a vigil Mass on Saturday night, as my family and I did during the pandemic, you are still going to a Sunday Mass.  The ancient Jews reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, so I think they’d agree.

The weekend is a societal construct.  The Sabbath is a command of God.  At a time where our culture is intent on keeping us always busy, we need to remember to set aside this day.  Even though it’s right next to Saturday, it’s not just part of a weekend.

Category: Catholic, Response


Working with a Christian Worldview

  /   Saturday, September 17, 2022   /   Comments(0)

In my last post, I made some brief comments about “quiet quitting” (which I think is an odd term). I’ve read a number of posts about how some people are quietly quitting and what it means (and it varies a bit). I’ve also read and listened to others who are arguing against the practice. It seems that most of those who were attacking the practice were actually attacking a straw man and not what many of the proponents of “quiet quitting” were actually doing.

For a Catholic like me, this presents an opportunity to really reflect on the meaning and purpose of work and how I should approach my work. The truth is that work is essential, and everyone needs to do his fair share. If no one worked, there would be no farmers to produce food. There wouldn’t be builders to build houses. There wouldn’t be doctors to provide needed health care. We just don’t survive without work.

As a matter of justice, we need to do a full day’s work when we receive a full day’s pay. Christian charity demands that we work with a view towards meeting the needs of our employers and our customers. Working as a Christian means that our work is more than just transactional. We aim to serve and to do good for others as best as we can.

With this being said, much of the trend towards “quiet quitting” needs to be understood as a reaction, often righteous, to what was called the “hustle culture.” The term “hustle culture” simply means having to pretty much always be working. It’s true that there may be cases where someone has to work ridiculous hours for a period of time. For example, a rescue worker during a disaster may not be able to just stop working without leaving people in danger.

However, in most cases, work is becoming an idol, either to the employer or the employee (or both). I remember reading some articles on some career site that suggested the need to hide from the employer the fact that you stop working to attend your son’s baseball game. This is truly unhealthy, and any employer who has that kind of attitude doesn’t deserve its employees. It is absolutely immoral for an employer to consume a disproportionate share of the employee’s time and energy that needs to be devoted to his family.

Work has a proper place in life that should neither be diminished nor exaggerated. Many of the “quiet quitters” are reporting not that they’ve stopped trying to do a good job but that they’ve realized that there is more to life than work. People just want to be able, and should be able, to live their lives. Leisure is an important part of life. I was absolutely not surprised to find out that many people who decided to realize that now believe themselves to be more productive in their work. I’m betting that more of them are.

Most importantly, rest is actually commanded by God. God gave the Sabbath to the Jewish people, and now Christians celebrate it on Sunday. God commands us to cease from our labor most of all to worship. This is because, ultimately, we all belong to God himself.

Category: Response, Uncategorized


Dictatorship of Relativism

  /   Sunday, July 31, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I remember then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005 cautioning against a “dictatorship of relativism.” I thought I knew what he meant then. However, it’s far worse now. This comes to me after having just been at the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.

Those who are knowledgeable about the Catholic faith understand that we know that faith and human reason are not by nature opposed to each other. God is not arbitrary. He is truth and love itself. If someone asks you whether something is good because God says it is or if God says something is good because it is good, the answer is neither. God is neither arbitrary, nor is there a standard above him to which he conforms. The goodness is his very nature.

Relativism has been around for a long time now. However, it has more recently become more of a dictatorship that one could ever imagine. Our secular society is moving in a direction in which someone can declare their own truth, and it is true for them even if it is completely out of touch with reality. Even in the past, people were looked down upon if they insisted on an objective truth. The thing that makes this more of a dictatorship is that now one can be ostracized for so much as questioning someone else’s view of reality, especially regarding matters of sexuality.

People involved in the dictatorship won’t even engage others who disagree. If they come to speak somewhere, they shout him down with nothing but emotionally laden statements. They won’t engage in reasoned debate. They won’t make their case. This has been going on before to an extent, but now it has reached dictatorship status.

This presents a very unique situation in trying to explain and defend the Catholic faith. It’s going to take a lot of praying to change hearts. I think we have to start with restoring the very idea of having a reasoned debate. We have to be able to show it’s reasonable to belief the Catholic Faith, and there is a basis for it. We can substantiate what we believe simply on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Category: Response


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


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


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


            Older posts



David's Pages

David's Pages

RSS Feed
Atom Feed

Archives