Friday, December 23, 2016

We should not hide them from the children

From today's Matins in the traditional latin Divine Office:

Psalm 77. Attendite, Popule

1 Hear my law, O my people; * incline your ears unto the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; * I will declare the propositions from of old;
3 Great things which we have heard and known, * and such as our fathers have told us;
4 That we should not hide them from the children: * of the generations to come.
5 But to shew the honour of the Lord, * his mighty and wonderful works that he hath done.
6 He made a covenant with Jacob, * and gave Israel a law,
7 Which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children: * that their posterity might know it.
8 The children which were yet unborn, to the extent that when they came up, * they might shew their children the same.
9 That they might put their trust in God, and not to forget the works of God, * but to keep his commandments.
10 And not be as their forefathers, * a faithless and stubborn generation.
11 A generation that set not their heart aright, * and whose spirit clave not stedfastly unto God.

"That we should not hide them from the children...That they might put their trust in God, and not to forget the works of God, but to keep his commandments. And not be as their forefathers, a faithless and stubborn generation."

In my work as a Campus Minister at a Catholic High School I have seen the results of at least one generation's failure to hold to the above standard. The children who arrive to learn know almost nothing of the Bible, nothing of God's law, nothing of Jesus except that He loves us (which is always interpreted in the most infantile, superficial manner possible), and nothing of the Church except that Her ministers are old and Her masses, boring. The parents hid what they knew and passed on nothing, hoping others would do the work of teaching their children instead of themselves.

An entire generation has been faithless and stubborn, and they have produced like offspring.

It has been the solemn duty of all God's people since the very beginning of his covenental relationship with them to teach their children who God is, what He has done, and what our relationship is with Him. This psalm is speaking directly to us: those of us whose parent's generation failed. Here, in Psalm 77, we are being given a specific command: do not be like your parents' generation. Be faithful and teach your children to be faithful.

I thank God for my parents and my in-laws, who never hid any portion of their knowledge of God and gave us everything they knew of Him, pointing us towards Him with firm hands and gentle proddings. And not-so-gentle proddings, too! My wife and I were blessed and we should never take that for granted, and we should work with all our hearts and with great mercy to help and assist those who did not have such parents. May we and those in positions like us (of which a majority of you readers are probably included) work and serve with humility knowing that our faith was a gift of our parent -- a gift not many our age received. We should be filled with gratitude and awe, never an inflated sense of pride or superiority.

Lord, give all reading this the courage to accept the graces you offer and which we so desperately need to proclaim and teach the faith, especially to children. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pride Cometh Before the Deity's Use of Literary Devices



I recently was mocking some of my friends because I have finally finished reading the Wheel of Time series, and most of them had not. The Wheel of Time is an incredible series that spans 15 books and caps out at nearly 4.5 million words, and it's generally considered one of the greatest series of the last 50 years within the Epic Fantasy genre.

Somewhere in the middle of my smugness about finishing the Wheel of Time, I was reading verses from Ezekiel in the Religion class that I teach (I'm a Campus Minister and Religion teacher at a Catholic High School, and I teach from the Bible to Sophomores and Seniors). To my embarrassment, I didn't have much to say to my class about Ezekiel because I had never read that book of the Bible. I had been going off of another teacher's notes, and as we ran into Ezekiel, the class seemed to hit a speed bump. Unfortunately, we had been cruising along at pretty high speeds in the class, so hitting Ezekiel was like going over a speed bump at 50mph.

And God used that moment to absolutely wreck me using the following verses from Ezekiel 3:1-4.

"And [God] said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate, and it tasted sweet as honey in my mouth."

Perhaps to some of you God seems to be speaking primarily to Ezekiel, giving him commands. But as I read, I heard God condemning me for my own attitudes and behaviors. I was so proud and so self-congratulatory about having finished the Wheel of Time. And yet here I was, teaching a Religion class, not having read the source material we were teaching from.

You see, I haven't read the whole Bible. I know some portions very well -- the Gospels, St. Paul's letters, Genesis, the Psalms -- but I have never read most of books between Wisdom and the Holy Gospel of Matthew. And suddenly God made a terrible use of the literary device known as a "foil" by instantly convicting me of how wrong I have been in being proud of reading 4.5 million words of fiction, without having finished the 750 thousand words in Holy Scripture.

In those verses from Ezekiel, I heard God condemn my behavior and clearly lay out an immediate call to me. "Monty," God said to me, "you dare to go and teach My children without having first gone into my revealed Word in even the most superficial of ways through a single reading, and you expect to see results. You are being a fool. I've given you the ability to read, and you've exercised it in ways that have not put Me first. Go and read the entire Bible, immediately."

Perhaps some of you, like myself, have also not read the entire Bible. If so, I offer you the message that the Lord has repeated to Ezekiel, Jeremiah, to St. John:

"Eat this scroll, and taste the sweetness." 

I hope some of you consider joining me in reading the Bible before Christmas. Even if you've only ever read the Gospels, spending 60 minutes a day means you could read all of Sacred Scripture in about 60 days.

If you would like to read the Bible chronologically, consider the lists here, or see below for the short-and-sweet list.

Chronological Bible:

Genesis
Job
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy

Joshua
Judges
Ruth

1 Samuel
2 Samuel

Psalms
Proverbs
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon

1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles

1 Kings
2 Kings
Tobit

Isaiah
Jeremiah
Baruch
Lamentations
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakuk
Zephaniah

Judith
Esther
Ezra
Nehemiah

Ezekiel
Daniel

Haggai
Zachariah
Malachi

Sirach
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees

And then the New Testament, straight through, as compiled in all Bibles.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Can Praise and Worship be Sacred Music?

There is a growing (and perhaps even reaching mainstream strength) belief amongst some serious liturgists in the United States that there is a difference between Sacred Music and Praise and Worship, and that Praise and Worship may not often qualify as Sacred Music.

Before I even get started, I'll just need to say the the Church is pretty straightforward on what Sacred Music is: it is music that is appropriate for use in the liturgies, and it is usually marked by being set apart.

For those of you who, like me, grew up on Praise and Worship and little else, the idea that Praise and Worship is somehow not suited for the liturgy is almost laughable. At least, at first glance.

But more and more I've been considering the arguments these liturgists have been making, and one recent post really caught me off-guard. The argument went like this:

1. To be sacred means to be set apart for God's use and His use alone (as the sacred vessels, the Church, the vestments, the words, and the actions of the mass are set apart from all else).

2. Thus, Sacred Music should also be notably set apart (from common usage).

3. This includes not just the language but also the kind of music it is.

They then made this observation: someone who did not understand English would not be able to distinguish Praise and Worship from any other pop love song.

Honestly, I think that's true.

Because I think that's true, I am really beginning to wonder whether or not Praise and Worship can be rightfully included in liturgy at all -- at least in its current, mainstream form.

This is the article that has me thinking. Note that it does not review some artists whom I believe could be argued are carving out distinguishable but nontraditional Sacred Music spaces, like Audrey Assad. 

To give some more of my thoughts: Praise and Worship during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was the source of my conversion and its fruits have been wholly positive in my life. I believe it can bear very good fruits when used appropriately in that setting and others. But I'm sure Adoration is liturgical, so I find myself on two sides of the same fence.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this whether it be here or on Facebook.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Niemoller's Poem on AlphaGo

Niemoller's Poem on AlphaGo

First the AI came for Chess, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Chess player.

Then the AI came for Jeopardy, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jeopardy competitor.

Then the AI came for Go, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Go 9p.

Then the AI came for Starcraft—and I wept deeply, because there was no one left to speak for me.

_______________________________________________________________________________

In case you don't get what is going on, a computer beat a human at the most complicated game humans have invented so far. The implications? "The techniques employed in AlphaGo can be used to teach computers to recognise faces, translate between languages, show relevant advertisements to internet users or hunt for subatomic particles in data from atom-smashers."

Combine AlphaGo deep learning with Boston Dynamics and Predator Drones and you have Terminator.

From the Catholic perspective, AI and robotics are amoral -- they are tools. But the potentials applications of those tools could be more destructive than nuclear power. To be a Catholic thinker means to begin working through what kinds of restrictions one's nation and oneself should begin placing on these tools, before they are unleashed. A powerful amoral tool in an immoral man's hands can mean disaster, and we have a moral duty to begin heading this off.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Improperly-implemented Vatican II at Heart of US Catholic Decline

In case you haven't noticed, the Catholic Church in the United States and Europe is in the midst of an unprecedented voluntary decline.

It is unprecedented because the Church has faced decline or even extermination before -- persecution, of course, is the norm for the Church (and, it may be argued, even may be the best source of the Church's growth) -- but, as far as we can tell from data, it is a voluntary decline. Catholics are abandoning the Church not because of circumstances outside the Church, but because of the Church itself.

It has taken me many years to accept this, but it is a conclusion that I and many other Catholics can no longer deny or remain blind to. And its cause seems to be in the improper implementation of Vatican II and the drastic changes in the culture of Catholic priestly and religious life.

The basis of my argument is a book called "The Index of Leading Catholic Indicators," which I referenced above and which you can learn more about through these articles. Your anecdotal experience should also back up this argument -- nationwide, many of our parishes are like bad jokes, trailing off into nothingness. The dioceses that are growing have properly understood and implemented Vatican II, and their bishops are clearly orthodox.

Look at the measurable data. It shows that in most US dioceses, everything is in decline.

Within the next 50 years, most dioceses will be a shadow of their former self, and most Catholics should expect to drive a half-hour or more to get to mass.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

10 Traits of Catholic Go-Along-Ism

My tongue-in-cheek response to Fr. Longenecker's 10 Traits of Catholic Fundamentalists. I agree with him that there are many ultra-traditionalists whose primary concern seems to be to be as loud as possible without any regard to efficacy or the actual spread of the Gospel. However, I strongly disagree with the general tone and his broad brush strokes (although it's difficult to tell how broadly he is brushing since he is as vague as possible.

10 Traits of Catholic Go-Along-Ism

1. Papal Interpretation -- everything the Pope says is ex cathedra, even when his interpretation is prima facie incorrect.

2. What Tradition -- Catholicism: the religion where the dogma's made up and even the words of Her founder don't matter. Regarding divorced and remarried: “Moses drew near to the people and gave way,” Cardinal Lacunza was reported as saying. “Likewise today, the ‘hardness of hearts’ opposes God’s plan [to allow divorce]. Could Peter not be merciful like Moses?” Compare to Jesus: "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning." (The statement which was, btw, the absolute of JPII's massively celebrated TOB).

3. Look At The Red! -- Popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests are above reproach in all respects.

4. We Are All One -- Any demarcation or seperation is a sign of discrimination.

5. Spirit of Vatican II -- Should anyone hurt feelings through an appeal to truth, logic, or any Church council other than Vatican II, let him be anathema.

6. Free Hugs! -- Negative emotions have no use and are certainly unbiblical. Examples of the prophets and saints don't count because we said so.

7. Hell is Empty -- Referencing the complete abandonment of the Sacraments by most of Western Civilization doesn't matter because God is so merciful that He would never actually go through with the visions he gave to John.

8. [I actually don't have anything to say about this one because I DO think that most traditionalist groups are extremely suspicious of one another and of others, and it seems very unhealthy].

9. Nothing to See Here -- Conspiracy theories are always silly, especially because there certainly haven't been any recent coverups by multiple high-ranking Church officials of completely immoral and illegal activities across the world.

10. [I also agree with Fr. Longenecker regarding the persecution complex.]

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