Saturday, February 03, 2007

New Eucharistic Miracle at Lourdes?

Mark Shea's positive take.

Did C.S. Lewis Really Write That?

Mark Shea on textual analysis

Paul Cat on Being Mocked by Ron Jeremy

Founding Parousian challenges porn star in forum.

A Catholic Journey from Homosexuality

Following a link from Godspy, Melinda Selmys offers this compelling piece on homosexuality and Catholicism in the National Catholic Register.

Cardinal Dulles on what the Jesuits are all about

Matthew Fish summarizes Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. By the way, best wishes to Matthew as he prepares to enter the Novitiate of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus.

Introduction to "The Screwtape Letters"

There are so many incredible works of C.S. Lewis that at first glance it might be hard to see why The Screwtape Letters should stand out. It doesn’t have the imagination or the prose of the Chronicles of Narnia or Out of the Silent Planet, the ability to be a foundation for apologetics like Mere Christianity, the brutal personal honesty of A Grief Observed or the wide-sweeping criticisms of society in the Abolition of Man. So why does The Screwtape Letters persist in popularity? There are several attributes that could explain this but I think the foremost one is that The Screwtape Letters challenges the reader on a personal level more than almost any other book. Many books aim their barbs at society and at others so that the reader feels comfortable laughing along with the author. Lewis however does not spare us. The personal nature of The Screwtape Letters demands that the reader abandon his comfy chair for the depths of the soul in order to see where the logic of Screwtape might be lurking. This can be painful but the result for the reader is to be lifted to a higher level and that’s a rare gift from reading a book, and it is this gift which has called so many people to The Screwtape Letters.

Because The Screwtape Letters covers such a wide variety of topics, I thought a presentation of it would either be disjointed or skip so much as to do it injustice. So I’ve decided to write up a chapter by chapter analysis of The Screwtape Letters so that I can cover the material in justice. Of course, whether or not I am capable of doing the material justice regardless of how much time I have is a matter I will leave up to you. So I hope you’ll have patience with me as we go through The Screwtape Letters.

There are a few things of note before I start the actual letters. Lewis dedicates the Letters to J.R.R. Tolkien, another famous member of the Inklings and the Catholic writer of the epic Lord of the Rings which has found incredible success and praise as one of the greatest epics of all time as well as spawning interest in the fantasy genre. This was the only book Lewis dedicated to Tolkien, though Tolkien was “lewisified” as Tolkien himself put it in Lewis’ science fiction trilogy as the philologist Ransom. After the dedication, Lewis has two quotes about mocking the devil. The interesting thing about the quotes is not the quotes themselves but the authors of them and their juxtaposition: Martin Luther and Thomas More. The great hero of the Protestant Reformation is placed side by side with St. Thomas More one of the Catholic heroes of the Counter-Reformation. This juxtaposition might be the result of Lewis trying again to dispel the denominational battle between Catholic and Protestant that dominated not only Oxford during Lewis’ life but also Lewis’ soul. It is certain that he is trying to make the point that both faiths can agree that comedy is a critical part of dealing with the devil and so Lewis justifies utilizing satire to critique many of the common mindsets that lead to sin (C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, Joseph Pearce, Introduction p. xi, Ignatius Press).

The book itself is told in a series of letters of advice from Screwtape, a leading tempter in the Lowerarchy, to his nephew and novice tempter, Wormwood. Wormwood never appears nor do we ever have any of his letters. What Wormwood writes back to his “affectionate uncle” can only be inferred by his uncle’s writing. We also do not encounter any of the events firsthand, so we are dependent on Screwtape’s interpretation of events. This can make it tricky, because Lewis himself warns us that it is “very unlikely that the portraits…are wholly just. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth” (Preface). The other main character is the “patient,” that is the man Wormwood has been assigned to send to hell. The patient begins the letters as an atheist or an agnostic; it’s not clear which it is but certainly an unbeliever. There are a few other characters that are mentioned, such as the patient’s mother and girlfriend and these characters are discussed by Screwtape, but the focus remains on the patient. The timeline is unclear but much of it happens with World War II in the background as Screwtape and Wormwood discuss the potential of the war and air raids to turn the patient away from the faith. There are 31 letters in the original Screwtape Letters as well as a later piece called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” which is aimed at education.

Lewis starts off the book by putting in a preface explaining why he’s published the letters he’s “found.” He says that “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” The first warning seems fairly obvious: to disbelieve in the devil is to leave ourselves open to their attack. The second one is more interesting. It might mean that we have to watch our curiosity about evil so that we do not plunge ourselves too far into its depth lest we find ourselves consumed by it. I think this would apply most to our forays into mainstream culture. Watching MTV and exposing ourselves to that kind of material does provide us with a better perspective into evil and sin but too much of it and we find ourselves neatly into the traps of Screwtape. Or perhaps the second warning refers the inclination people have to write off all their problems and sins to the devil. “The devil made me do it” denies free will and allows for the sinner to comfort himself while continuing a life of sin that ultimately leads to us becoming another tasty treat for Screwtape (that is something I had not mentioned earlier. In The Screwtape Letters the reason getting souls is so important to the tempters is that it is their source of food, but this is only discussed in passing). Either way, Lewis is driving home the point that dealing with the devil is tricky business. He later emphasizes this in his introduction to Screwtape Proposes a Toast in which explains that he for a long time refused to write again as Screwtape because though the device was easy writing,

“it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a spiritual cramp. The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.” (Introduction to Screwtape Proposes a Toast)

Lewis is driving home the point that we always have to be on guard against Satan and his Screwtapes. So as we begin this venture, let us be vigilant and pray that St. Michael keeps us safe. If we do that, we will be much richer for the experience.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Hard Sayings of the Old Testament

Jimmy Akin on a major struggle for some in accepting the Christian revelation.

St. Thomas Aquinas : Poet of the Eucharist

Mike Aquilina's Praying in the Presence of Our Lord: With St. Thomas Aquinas

Meet the Real Gnostics

Mike Aquilina reviews Darrell Bock's The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities

Master, according to your word

Father Philip Powell, O.P. on the Presentation of the Lord.

Screwtape Movie!

I found this first on Mark Shea's blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!, but that's pretty predictable, considering how many things worth finding are found first by Mark Shea. The Screwtape Letters has a targeted 2008 release. Let's keep our fingers crossed that this really comes to pass.

A Letter from Father Brendan Gibson, C.R.S.J.

Dear Toby,

Praised Be Jesus Christ
Now and forever
Amen !

May the good Lord Bless you and I thank you for all that you have done to help spread the Catholic faith. When I was speaking at your Parousian group I was trying to remember some music and now I remember what it was that I was trying to mention. Check out a c.d. called CHORAL MOODS. It is really wonderful. You can check this web site for it,

It's has two discs of a total of 40 pieces of music. On this c.d. you have to listen to the AGNUS DEI by Barber, it's what I was trying to point out for you. Check out the REQUIEM by Faure, this too will help give an idea of what I was trying to say about music and restoring the sacred by using what the Church has in its treasury of sacred music. What is you address, I told my superior about your group and he was really impressed by what I kept telling him. He told me to send some stuff for you and your group.

Again I thank you very much for all that you have and still do, and thank you for the privilege of speaking to you and your group. I was nervous and was hoping not to say the wrong thing or speaking as if I knew all that there is to know. I will keep in touch.

May the love and the devotion that you have for our Blessed Mother Mary and for St. Joseph lead you to an ever more perfect love for our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Sincerely Yours in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Brendan Gibson, C.R.S.J.

Defending the Pro-Life position on Stem Cell Research

As usual, Emily's latest column has sparked some debate on the boards of the Reveille's website. Once again, if you have the time to post we'd appreciate it. There are actually two boards on the Reveille's website devoted to embryonic stem cell research as Emily's columns was published as part of a side by side with a pro-stem cell column If you can't respond take a moment to read some of the replies. I would especially point you to two posters. Our very own Ryan Hallford has some very good theological and moral points that he raises while a poster named Carl Giffin lays forth an incredibly well-done scientific angle on the problem that manages to be both well-informed and understandable to scientific laymen. In the interests of full disclosure, Carl also happens to be my best friend but I think you'll all agree with me that his posts are excellent additions to the debate.

Board of Comments for Emily Byers' article

Board for the pro-stem cell research column

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Emily Byers on Stem Cell Research

This week's column by Parousian Emily Byers in the Daily Reveille discusses the need for stem cell research amidst alternate menthods of research as well as the numerous ethical problems.

Emily Byers on Stem Cell Research

Courage and Grace: My Experience with the Parousians

As many of you may know, I came down to LA from way up north to pursue graduate studies in political philosophy. I came from a small, orthodox, Catholic college where studying the relationship between faith and reason is an everyday occurrence, that is to say what the Parousians do here at LSU is my educational background. When I came to Baton Rouge to start graduate school, I was struck with something I always knew existed, but never really dealt with in an academic setting: people who despise Catholics.

For the first year of grad school, I struggled with despair, doubts, and uncertainty about my choice to be pursuing a degree. Why in the world was I still in school? Why didn’t I just get a real job and make money? Why did I need to further my education? Did I really want to pursue an academic career, when the whole environment was just plagued with a whole bunch of relativists anyway? Was I even good enough and smart enough to make it? Surely not. These were my constant struggles, and by the end of my first year I seriously considered leaving grad school and the world of the academy for good.

But for some reason (which I can only attribute to God’s grace, perhaps mediated through the magnificent sisters of the Missionaries of Charity with whom I had spent time this past summer), I decided to stay at LSU. I figured I would at least try teaching, and at the very least earn my Masters. I was sure that after that, I would go and find a real job somewhere making real money.

But then something changed. The first week of school or so, I was talking with a certain political science professor. We were discussing apologetics and helping converts to understand the faith. He asked me if I had heard of a new campus group called the Parousians. I mentioned I had not, and so he sent me an email with one Toby Danna’s contact information. Right away, I met Toby, and all of the sudden I found that I had a group of four very fine Parousian students in the class I was teaching that semester.

I learned so much from those students that semester. At first, I was apprehensive. Did I want my students to know my religious beliefs? How would that affect their perception of the materials I was teaching? Though I began my teaching experience by trying to be ostensibly very quiet about my religious beliefs, I recognized that my attempts to do so were unnecessary and ultimately silly. (All anyone actually needed to do was look at my syllabus to see my Catholicity oozing off the black ink.) But I lacked the courage to evangelize openly inside and even outside the classroom, and I lacked the wisdom to know how to do it in a proper way. However, the friendships I was beginning to forge with people such as Toby, Caleb, Emily, Philip, Juliette, Amanda, Katie, Kim, Michael, Monique – to name a few – began to teach me what I needed to do.

My students showed me that the tremendous hunger for Truth, which I had assumed was disappearing from universities, was still present and growing. I was so impressed by these young people; their passionate zeal for true wisdom gave me hope and encouragement to continue to pursue my education. I began to realize that being in the academy is my vocation.

Even though sometimes I still struggle (and I certainly do not always know the proper ways to evangelize), I find that as I increase my participation with the Parousians, I am able to find the courage and the hope I need to be successful in my education. Instead of doubt, I have become more apt to recognize the tremendous graces God has given to me. Having the opportunity to become active with the Parousians has helped me to continuously recognize the reality of Christ’s love for the world, and it has paved the way for me to answer John Paul II’s call for all of us: "I ask that you never despair, never grow weary, never become discouraged; that the roots from which we grow are never severed; that you keep your faith despite your weaknesses, that you always seek strength in Him; that you never lose that freedom of spirit for which He has liberated man; that you never spurn that love. . . expressed by the Cross, without which human life has no roots and no meaning."

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Long December Ago

From Founding Parousian Katie Culotta:

A long December ago, a very dear friend of mine asked me what I thought of his idea. He had said many other ideas in the past and shared them assuredly. Though I barely knew him, he would challenge me as if I did. One vivid memory I have is when he insisted that I take a course on Flannery O’ Connor, “If you like finding grace among the grotesque, you will love Ms. O’Connor”. I remember the conversation we had which pointed me to now one of my favorite writers; it was about my city.

For a long time now people have talked about the city of New Orleans in all its misery, renewal, impurity, purification, magic, charm, culture, confusion, chaos and the list could go on. But now that something large, monumental, and devastating has happened to this city, it has a new light. People acknowledge it as different now because it has potential to grow and come back strong. Nevertheless, it is that great city and all its representation of good and evil that led me to come to have a great respect for the founder of the Parousians. He wanted to see the grace among the grotesque.

The Parousians are a group of men and women with one goal in mind: to bring the truth of Christ, through beauty and goodness, to all who walk on or near the campus of Louisiana State University.

I say near because right beyond the north gates of campus lies the first meeting place of this idea. Although it was not Walker Percy’s Waffle house, the location was convenient, cozy, and had many available chairs in the back courtyard area which sometimes makes you feel like you are in a café in Paris.

There were only about eight people at that first meeting, and I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. But, I do know that I left feeling very hopeful about this idea. It made sense that college students who are seeking to build the kingdom should come together and share their thoughts about theology, philosophy, encyclicals, and the depth of our sacramental belief.

I cannot say that I attended enough Sunday night meetings to write about the detailed advances the Parousians made in their many lectures and gatherings. I do know, however, that a transformation took place. The campus, without even knowing it, was flooded with a new spirit. Although it may have only been visible in a few small corners, it had purpose and direction. This spirit is in the souls of every member of the Parousians, they are determined and ready.

In only a year the group has already spread to other campuses in both Lafayette and Florida. The members are growing, the talks are improving, the nightly rosaries are prayed, and before you know it, L.S.U. will not know what hit them.

For a long time now people have talked about L.S.U. They have talked about its athletics, campus, parking, chancellor, Greek life, diversity, renovation, partying, lakes… and the list could go on. But now something has happened…something beautiful. A group has joined together in prayer and truth to discover how to embrace their vocation. They have audaciously moved through the campus to share the wisdom they have learned. They are graciously inviting more and more students to join, and before you know it, people will have something new to talk about at L.S.U. They will talk about the Parousians.

Time for the Parousia? Not quite...

This preacher says he's Jesus... and people are buying it!

This is precisely why it's so important for us to follow Christ in simplicity and poverty. If today's Christians better understood gospel frugality, perhaps they wouldn't be tempted to follow false prophets who lead such extravagant lifestyles.

Mark Shea links this article as well, with an admonition to the 100,000 followers of "Jesus Christ Man."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is God Using the Chicago Bears Mascot to Make People Laugh?

Jason Yurechko is a Catholic who thinks he's on a mission from God. He dresses up as Bears superfan Bill Swerski or Blues Brother Jake, frolicking with Staley the Bear. His mission from God is to make people laugh. This Parousian has to question if God is really the author of this mission. After all, one leading Catholic commentator called Colbert has pointed out, bears are not just killing machines. Bears are godless killing machines without a soul that feast on the blood of the Saints.

Of course, this does not mean Yurechko is not a channel of grace that God uses. His situation is similar to many Flannery O'Connor characters. In violent, offensive, grotesque, and sinful situations (like being on the Bears sideline), a little light of grace (good humor in this case) shines through.

One Year at a Time

Last spring semester I transferred to LSU in the middle of my fourth year of college. Planning only to bide time, graduate, and move onward, I never anticipated getting involved with a group. Yet, I stumbled into a community of students with vision and vigor seeking to satisfy a starving society through the sanctification of minds.

A year later we approach the one year anniversary of the Parousians. With momentum, imagination, and growth we endeavor to continue our mission. Coming from humble beginnings and holding on with meek means, only merciful grace can explain how our mission grew in spite of our own shortcomings.

In January of 2006 at a party hosted by Emily Byers and her roommates I was introduced to Toby Danna. Perplexed at the strange demeanor of this individual and his rampant raging ramblings of starting a group of Catholic intellectuals concerned with the culture, I reluctantly agreed to attend the first meeting at Highland Coffees. From that meeting of eight we continue to gather. Toby’s persistent spirit has consistently helped motivate and direct our group towards a healthy diversity of members with a powerful unity of purpose. As of today our ramblings have transformed into a common bond and scope: a Catholic literary and philosophical society geared towards discerning the relationship of faith and culture guided by reason and revelation.

At some points last spring semester, the common vision was hard for us to sustain and sometimes attendance declined. Meetings sometimes went longer then they should and growing pains surrounded the development of our perception of the group. At times I suffered from cynical ponderings and skepticism over our work and chances for success.

Then this school year we hit the ground running. More students took responsibility, each bringing unique gifts and perspectives. My confidence in the group has been solidified by the exceptional and dynamic students. The richness of the Parousians relies on the contribution of our members. As we commemorate our first year, may the Parousians persist in humility and seek constant re-creation in God’s image through daily grace and in those who would unite with us.

Forget EWTN or Your Diocesan Channel

Ask your local cable company to carry the Holy Whapping Television Network. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard at anything on the Catholic blogosphere.

The Parousians as a Community of Friends

From Will Newman of the Parousian Leadership Council:

"I did not seek out the Parousians. I was relaxing on a couch, minding my own business, and casually reading Pascal. Because of the last of these offences, I was seized upon by Tobias Danna and Caleb Bernacchio and immediately drafted into the eccentric Catholic literary society whose one year anniversary we are now reflecting on. For the better half of this year, we have mispronounced our own name, the upsetting (if inevitable) sign of the autodidact. However, this lamentable lapse in intellectual rigor did nothing to prevent us from exploring our faith and also growing close as friends.

When contemplating any given community in its dimension as a forge of friendship, one runs a double risk. Haphazard musings on the bonds of camaraderie possess an uncanny capacity for schmaltz. In the blink of an eye, you’re spelling love with a ‘W’ and your thoughtful meditation has degenerated into a very special episode of Blossom. An alternative approach favors a more cryptic, more subtle analysis of social phenomena. But the detached precision of layered euphemisms reads more like the recruitment brochure for a UFO cult than a heartwarming testimony on the virtue of brotherly (and sisterly) love.

Therefore, I will simply offer a few casual reflections on my experience with the group. Hopefully, they will convey a little something of not only what I have felt, but of what my newest friends have as well.

This Easter, I will observe the fourth anniversary of my reception into the Catholic Church. The Pastoral staff and RCIA team at my parish welcomed me with open arms, educating me in the faith and providing solid examples of Christian piety and charity. For a year or so after my entry, I was still rather active with the RCIA program, until the demands of work limited my participation in the Church to the attendance of Mass. During these years, I felt myself growing emotionally distant from the faith. I made no intellectual renunciations, I still believed. But skipping Mass, whether for work or play, produced decreasing concern. And sure enough, I rapidly resumed a life little different than that before my conversion, this time
with a thin veneer of Catholic devotion.

This state of affairs persisted until I returned to college last year. Determined to plunge deeper into the life of the Church, I spent very little time searching for a group of friends who shared my faith before I was conscripted into the Parousians. Now, I’m quite sure I don’t have to explain to anyone reading this about how endlessly fascinating and incomparably exiting a debate over the sacramental aesthetics of pop culture can get. It’s practically the definition of joyful abandon.

However, for me, the true heart of the Parousian experiment is not academic dialogue but friendship. It can often be difficult to ascertain the geniality of a given group (especially, in my experience, when that group has religious dimensions.) When I gave my first presentation to the group, I half-expected several members to whip out a stake and a blowtorch and present me with the First Annual Giordano Bruno Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Heresy. When this didn’t happen, I knew I was among friends. And friendship, I discovered, is the key to living the Catholic life and living it well. It is the key to keeping the faith. (Yeah, yeah, I know all of you hardcore Patristic buffs out there have an objection: “But what of the venerable Hermits?” you protest. Clever. But they were surrounded by the Communion of Saints in ceaseless contemplative prayer. Cadit qaestio.)

That friendship should be at the core of the Parousian experience is natural. Our name, after all, points forward to the Parousia, the return of our Savior and the gathering of all the faithful into a mystical union in the Body of Christ. So as we move forward together in faith and joy, let us pray that our activity continues to be a little foreshadow of the Big Friendship yet to come."

Archbishop Jose Gomez on Baptism

Jesus came to earth to redeem us from our sins. The lifting of that weight that bends the back of all humanity comes to us, first of all, through the sacrament of baptism.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia: Humanity Heading for “Self-Genocide”

Weakness of Christian community and growth of secularism the cause

Monday, January 29, 2007

A few words...

I figured I should say a few things on the blog to mark the transition. I hope to have a more detailed agenda/vision/whatever new term is captivating the business/management section of Barnes and Noble. I do want to acknowledge Toby's post describing my interests in Star Wars and as my first official action I have moved that all LSU Parousians meetings begin with my entrance to the "Imperial March."

In seriousness, I am incredibly humbled by being chosen to be the next leader of the LSU. It wasn't but four months ago that I didn't know any of you and was simply hoping to fit in the group. That's quite a drastic change in such a short period of time. These four months have been among the happiest I've had in quite a long time and my main goal as leader of the LSU group is to make sure that as many people, both at LSU now and in the future, can experience that same joy.

In order to achieve that, I want to foster a culture of openness. If you're interested at all in the Parousians and what we do, we have a place for you because you're probably not too unlike us: you're looking for something deeper. That may be intellectual support, it may be more meaningful fellowship, or a higher spiritual life. However you define your quest I believe that this exceptional group of people can help you along with it. And for my part, I know that just seeking such things means that you have something to give to us. Everybody in the Parousians can contribute in the discussions and give a presentation because they are all exceptionally capable people in their own way and everybody has something to give the group to make it stronger. I look forward to working with and growing closer to each and every member of the LSU Parousians.

Part of this openness means making sure that I keep everybody's opinions in mind. Right now, I am meeting with each of the Guard members individually to accumulate as many assessments of the Parousians as possible so that it can become clear what we need to continue to nourish and what we need to change. While the Guard members are the most natural ones to turn to, the Guard has no monopoly on the truth. So if you'd like to talk to me about the state of the Parousians, email me at and I'll do my best with it. Also, if you want to give a presentation or write on the blog or have an idea or in any way want to participate more in the Parousians I'd love to have you.

If you think this openness is a good idea, I'm afraid you can't attribute it to me. I was inspired by the excellent leadership of the LSU Parousians of Philip DeMahy. He always asked me what I thought and I want to emulate him as much as possible in doing that. So I want to thank him for his example and service to the group both in the past and the future. I also want to thank Toby for his group that I'm taking into trust as it is his vision that has allowed me to be here today. I also want to thank all the members of the Parousian Guard of LSU: Emily Byers, Liz Johnson, Juliette Lapeyrouse, Ryan Hallford, and Mary-Grace Westphal. They have been tremendously gracious in letting me pick their brains about the way I should handle my responsibilities and I'm confident that they will continue to help me make sure the group runs smoothly. I'm also confident if the group does run smoothly after today, it will be in spite of me and attributable only to this group, which I can honestly say is the greatest collection of people I have ever seen assembled in one place. I am humbled by their support and prayers as well as the support and prayers I've received from the rest of the Parousians and I hope that I can reward their trust.

Finally, I thank God for leading me to the Parousians and the many other blessings He's given me in the past few months.

God Bless,

Michael R. Denton

Parousian bringing together culture of life

Founding Parousian Toby Danna has been asked to attend a spiritual summit of sorts. The Catholic Dialogue Retreat was postponed due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. It had been scheduled on behalf of the Bishops of Louisiana to bring together Catholic leaders in respect life and social justice ministry for a retreat at the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Grand Coteau.

It and will be held March 27-28. Please pray that the Gospel of Life and the Unity of the Body may be advanced in these meetings.

Heaven: Eternal Bliss or Eternal Boredom?

From Catholic News Service:

Are today's Catholics unmoved by the idea of heaven?

"Most Catholics ... understand heaven as a vague place of eternal survival, where happiness can become monotonous and where the absence of human passions creates an 'anemic' atmosphere. In other words, boring. And if heaven is seen as a dull routine of perpetual bliss, how can it possibly stimulate people to live a good and moral life in this world?"

I think Father Buzzetti's got a point.

Parousian Apologetics on Marian Doctrine

From a letter of Florida Parousian Ben Burwell to a Protestant friend:

"You brought up the question: Why do Catholics believe Mary was conceived without sin when the Bible says in Romans 3:10 “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one.’” Well, I found that James 5:16 says “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” If absolutely no one is righteous, then who is James talking about? Luke 1 says that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous before God. If absolutely no one is righteous, then how can this be?

As you said, scripture does not contradict itself. To say that absolutely no one, without exception, is righteous is a misinterpretation of the passage. For the passage states “it is written” in reference to an excerpt taken from Psalm 14 which says “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God. They are corrupt….there is none that does good.” Later that same Psalm goes on to talk about the “righteous.” So, if none has done good, who are these righteous the psalm is referring to? Therefore it is important to remember that when the psalmist says “none has done good”, he is talking about the fools who say “There is no God.” He’s not referring to absolutely everyone. Also it’s important to look at the context and the audience. He is speaking to Roman Jews and Gentiles not Christians. He is warning them not to be like the fools that deny God but instead to become righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21).

The verse which says “…all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” would suggest that “all” describes every member of the family of Adam. However, it cannot be the entire family of Adam for if it were, Jesus would be included. And as we know from Luke 3:23-38, Jesus is a son of Adam, yet he was sinless (Heb.4:15). Further, Paul clearly states that there is a time in each person's life when he has not yet done any wrong. He describes how Jacob and Esau, when they were yet unborn, "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11). Therefore, Paul is finding exception among those who are too young to commit personal sin and those who play a unique role in the history of salvation. This opens the possibility that Mary is not subject to the restrictions of “all”. If there is an exception for Jesus, the Second Adam, there can be an exception for Mary, the Second Eve. I do not mean to disprove or invalidate the words used in Sacred Scripture, I mean only to clarify the context so as to understand it as clearly as possible.

Gen 3:15

I will put enmity between you (the serpent, Satan) and the woman (Mary), and between your offspring (minions of Satan) and hers (Jesus); He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel

If there had ever been a time when Mary was under Satan’s domination through personal or original sin, then there would not be a real enmity between her and Satan. Therefore, by virtue of the grace He gave her, God put Mary in opposition to Satan from the beginning and throughout her life. Notice that God the Father says that *He will put* the enmity between her and Satan. Only in God, and by His gift of grace, also in Mary, can it be said that there is enmity with Satan because only in them is their entire life opposed to Satan.

Jesus came to earth and fulfilled the Old Testament Law perfectly and completely. And this Law is especially manifested in the Ten Commandments. Now, the fourth commandment says that He is called to honor His Father and His mother. However, to allow His mother to participate in the Fall would be to allow her to be dishonored. If He is to honor her, then He can not allow this.

Another point to consider is that Jesus is the only person who was able to choose His own mother. He was able to choose the holiest human woman. And being a perfect Son, He loved His mother more than any other son. And being a loving Son, He would not want His mother to spend one second in Satan’s domination. No sin or anything tainted with sin can stand in the face of the holiness of God. "Enmity" is that mutual hatred between Mary and sin, between Christ and sin.

Mary’s sinlessness can also be seen in comparison to the Ark of the Covenant. The original ark was clearly a holy vessel. God meticulously outlined the construction (Ex 25:10-22) and the Holy Spirit inspired the artisan who formed it (31:2-3). It was made from the finest, purest materials and consecrated to the service of God in the Tabernacle. The Ark had to be perfect and holy, worthy to bear the awesome Presence of the Holy One of Israel.

So if an inanimate object could be so holy, how much more holy must Mary have been? In order to be a worthy vessel for the all-holy God, she had to be spotless and without blemish. Like the original ark, she was set apart for that sacred task from the beginning of her existence. This is why Jesus preserved her from contracting original sin by applying the sin-cleansing merits of His Precious Blood to her beforehand which is only possible because God is under no restriction of time.

To say that Mary was without sin does not in any way suggest that she did not need the redeeming grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection. For she says herself in Luke 1:47 “My spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Mary was indeed saved, but in a special way. From the moment of conception she was set apart. God did not just choose any woman. His plan for our salvation was perfect and I doubt that he grew impatient in granting us salvation. After all the entire Old Testament (with all of its trials, triumphs and historical events) builds upon itself pointing to one great event; the arrival of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

But this is not to say that God impeded upon her free will in any way. Mary’s “yes” to God was not a result of being born without sin; rather it was because God knew how she would respond that He chose her. She was a living example of how God intended all humans to be—in perfect union with him. She was created without sin just as Adam and Eve. She had free will just as they did but rather than denying God’s gift as Adam and Eve did, she said YES to the gift. Her openness to receiving God’s love (by her own free will) was so complete that she literally conceived the love of God within her.

It is necessary to keep in mind that Catholic do not make Mary important by any claim of our own. It is God who made Mary worthy of being honored. At the Annunciation, Saint Gabriel the Archangel greets Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28). The phrase “full of grace” is a translation of the Greek word kecharitoméne which is a rare conjugation of the verb charitoo, implying that the grace endowed upon Mary was complete, perfect, and enduring. In his 1986 encyclical on Mary as Mother of the Redeemer, Pope John Paul II teaches that “the messenger greets Mary as ‘full of grace’; he calls her thus as if it were her real name. He does not call her by her proper earthly name: Miryam (= Mary), but by this new name: ‘full of grace’”

As Catholics we believe that Mary intercedes on our behalf, presenting our petitions to Christ in a way that is perfect. We do not pray to her, but through her. When she requested that Jesus perform his first miracle at the Wedding feast of Cana, he obeyed the wish of his mother. How great is it to know that the mother of God prays on our behalf!

The love Mary had for Jesus provides us an example of how we are called to love Him. That is why Mary is recognized among Catholics as playing a major role in God’s plan for our salvation. So the question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we above God that we should overlook Mary in our quest to grow closer to Christ when He humbly came to us through her. Yes, it is true we do not need her, but neither did God. He could have come to earth as a full grown man or mighty warrior.

We are all seeking truth and Jesus Christ himself is Truth. Catholics do not claim to have all the answers nor can we boast that we understand fully those that God has made known to us. It is through faith that we are constantly seeking to know God based on what he has revealed of Himself in Word and Spirit. Although Scripture is the inspired word of God and our ultimate guide, we believe that God did not just use the Bible as and instruction manual and our only “clue” to discovering Him. We believe that God speaks to us everyday making Himself known to us more fully and completely.

My prayer for you is that you will be guided by the Holy Spirit and never grow tired in your quest for Truth. And may you have the heart of Mary who submitted without reservation to the will of God. And may she teach you to love her Most Holy Son with the same love she had.

I want to thank you for challenging me to reflect on my beliefs in a deeper way and inspiring me to be open in sharing my faith with others. Your thirst for wisdom and understanding is evident in your patience and openness and I admire you greatly for that. I hope our friendship continues to grow. With Christ at the center, I know we can learn a lot from each other."

Defending the Faith Like Belloc

From Florida Parousian and Louisiana native Kevin Jones, in reference to an anti-Catholic smear on campus:

"Religious intolerance is nothing new. In the early part of the 20th century a man named Hilaire Belloc strode against the prevailing attitudes of his day when he followed his conscience and successfully campaigned to represent his neighbors, his family and himself in the British Parliament. As a devout Roman Catholic, Belloc faced withering criticism during the campaign from prejudiced individuals who despised his religious background. Nicknamed “Old Thunder,” Belloc used his stellar oratory and debate skills to respond to these irrational attacks by pointing out that everyone should respect an honest man’s convictions on such a deeply significant and personal matter as religion. He reminded his opponents that the pursuit of ultimate truth is a noble endeavor and that while discussing our views of the truth we should always treat those disagreeing with us as people possessing dignity and capable of reason.

Unfortunately, one group is retrogressing to the position of the anti-Catholic bigots of Belloc’s time. This group, known as the Atheist, Agnostic and Freethinkers Association, betrays their lack of respect for people disposed to religious belief by using an illustration on their banner depicting the evolution of man from lower primate to homo sapiens. In the second to last step, a hunched over Cro-Magnon-like man happens to carry a rosary while the fully upright man appears without a rosary—obviously free from the superstitious delusion of religious devotion. Aside from the humorous anachronism of a caveman with a rosary (Catholics pray the rosary—it’s so easy a caveman can do it!) it betrays a certain refusal to treat those dissenting from this view as reasonable people. While I strongly disagree with this group’s beliefs, policies and, in many cases, attitudes, I must still see them as people capable of choice, and the very act of discussion, debate or argument must betray this view. However, the description of the group also makes that impossible. The word choice of “freethinkers” seems like another attempt to deny the free will of believers. If the opposite of atheist is theist and the opposite of freethinker is robot, they seem to imply that all religious people are robots acting under coding and are no more human than computers. Since we all know that a robot cannot be persuaded, this position simultaneously attacks believers while rendering any argument or discussion between the opposing viewpoints impossible. Catholics or others disagreeing with the atheist positions would do well to attend some of the events of Catholic Awareness Week, which includes a discussion between a priest, a rabbi and the Islamic student group about their common ground and differences on Wednesday, January 31.

In conclusion, I regret Belloc was not there at the Reitz Colonnade that day. I would have liked to see him take out his rosary and say, “Sir, so far as possible I hear Mass each day and I go to my knees and tell these beads each night. If that offends you, then I pray God may spare me the indignity of representing you in Parliament.” As an atheist for part of his adulthood before his return to Catholicism, Belloc surely would have agreed that anyone trying to convince others of the truth must first approach them as people capable of knowing it."

Best Wishes from Gainesville

From Jason LaLonde, founder of the University of Florida Parousians:

"Mega-dittos from Gainesville, Florida, home of the world-renown 2006 Collegiate Ultimate Frisbee Champions. I wanted to share with you our congratulations on the one year anniversary of the Parousians. (BTW, do you mind if our Gainesville crew continues to badly mispronounce the"

To answer Jason, we'll tell Father Bryce Sibley. He set us straight on the saying the name correctly, and he told us last night that he always wanted to be Darth Vader. Consider if you want discipline from our spiritual advisor.

# 3: A New Hope, and a Salute to the Baron

Michael Denton, a noteworthy defender of the faith and avid fan of both NASCAR (especially the Earnhardts) and Star Wars, has become the third man to lead the Parousian Guard of LSU. Michael's quick wit, boyish charm, and superior attention to details will serve the Parousians well. Philip de Mahy and I have complete confidence that Michael Denton is the Parousians' man for the moment, quite a statement considering the moment we're living in now. Please offer him all your prayers and support.

Likewise, the Parousians owe a debt of gratitude to Philip de Mahy. College groups routinely suffer from turnover. What was once vibrant can immediately dissipate due to graduations and other departures, and it takes special effort to pass that vision on to rising classes. I doubt anyone in the Parousians, outside of originals like Ryan Hallford, Caleb Bernacchio, and myself, understand the unutterable vision of the Parousians as well as Philip. Some people may not know that Philip is in line to be a baron one day (I think that's really true even if Philip cannot remember the longer version of his family name), but he never suffered from aristocratic arrogance or the complacency of privilege. Philip shares that same heart for the ideas and the students we are trying to reach, and he has influenced many people to believe in that same vision. Philip is still overseeing the construction of the Parousian website, and now that he is freed of many oversight duties, Philip can have more time to do what he enjoys most - contemplating the things that really matter and spending time with the people who really matter - a list where the Parousians fortunately rank pretty high. We thank Philip for picking up the torch and passing it on without losing any fire along the way.

God in the Streets of New York

Check out this powerful video on You Tube. Many may have already seen it; it has been circulating around the Diocese of Baton Rouge. If you have not yet watched it, here is the link:

God in the Streets of New York

The Parousians Turn One Today . . .

. . . and we got a healthy case of baby fat.

Thanks to approximately 40 of you who celebrated at our anniversary party last night. Isn't that Father Bryce Sibley something else?

Thanks to all of you in Lafayette, Gainesville, and elsewhere who have sent your well wishes.

Special thanks to our two favorite people in Rome - founding Parousian Caleb Bernacchio studying at the Angelicum, and Pope Benedict XVI, who must have found out one of the founding Parousians was in the audience yesterday and extended the papal blessing to all the friends of the members of the audience. This is proof positive that the Pope is behind the Parousian mission and we are very close to his heart. We'll put this in the new brochures first, and then I will pull my tongue from my cheek.

Thanks to all of you who have birthed this good idea instead of aborting it with apathy.

Thanks to God for making things work out in spite of our inexperience and faults, for causing all things to work together for good for those who love Him.

There were more people who wanted to post some celebratory pieces on the blog, so keep your eyes open for more. Also, I still remember one of my Bible college professors saying the greatest sin of our culture was ingratitude - that it was at the root of every other ill. I don't know if he was right but I am certain he was close at the very least. We have more thank yous to make. We were busy with preparing for the party, so expect these loose ends to be tied up as the celebration continues for the next week or two - this all started in South Louisiana and it takes us a bit longer to let the party end.

Again, because we cannot say it enough, thank you for all the love and joy you have offered so freely.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

From Parousian Kim Monteleone: The Parousians Thank Father Jason Labbé

I never thought that my heart would skip a beat every time I hear the words of absolution uttered by a priest, but thanks to Fr. Jason Labbé this is often my experience.

In all seriousness, the Parousians have many reasons to thank Father Labbé, and his presentation on “The Vision of Man as Seen Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” is only one of them.

In his talk, Fr. Labbé rebutted the view common among many Roman Catholics today that confession is an antiquated tradition that is rarely, if ever, necessary. My favorite part of the talk was when he spoke about the psychology of reconciliation. I was able to better understand why Jesus established this sacrament to fulfill both our spiritual and human needs. “We tend to be easy on ourselves if we are only accountable to our own consciences,” he said.

Overall, I was impressed with Fr. Labbé’s love of hearing confessions and the compassion that he exhibited for individual souls.

Beyond this presentation, Fr. Labbé has offered himself to us in other ways. One Sunday, a group of Parousians went to see him at his parish where he both hunted and prepared the duck that was served for the meal. Now that is pretty impressive. “I was amazed at the hospitality of Fr. Labbé as well as his well-balanced demeanor. It was apparent that he was very involved in both his parishes as well as being very well-to-do,” Ryan Hallford said.

On behalf of the Parousians, I want to thank Fr. Labbé for all of his selfless contributions.