Saturday 26th July 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Thank God For Christmas

December 25, 2013 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

It could be that I am thinking more about what we will experience in the afterlife now that I am over 70, but — you will have to take my word for this — it is something I have batted around in my mind since my early teens. I accept fully Jesus’ promise of an eternal reward for those who believe in Him and follow His word, in a place he described on the cross as “Paradise” to the Good Thief. (I accept as well His warning of an eternal punishment for those who reject Him and live evil lives.) But ever since some Dominican nun informed me in elementary school that it is not a place where we float around on clouds playing harps, I have had a hard time picturing what it will be like.
I can picture the risen Jesus and the Blessed Mother existing somewhere in bodily form; exactly where, I do not know. But what about the saints? And our deceased loved ones? Their bodies are not with them, and will not be with them until the Last Judgment. They are spirits. How can they hear our prayers of petition? They have no ears. How can they be aware of our plight in our earthly existence? They have no eyes. How can the saints and our loved ones be aware of their own identities as individual persons? Their brains are in their earthly graves.
Please do not misread me: I am not questioning the Church’s teaching about the worth of prayers for our deceased loved ones, or to the saints seeking their intervention in our lives. It is just that I have difficulty picturing how it all takes place.
If you think I am about to tell you I have had a revelation and now know the answer, sorry. I believe in Heaven because Jesus told us it exists. But I would come up empty if a Hollywood producer assigned me the task of devising a script and a set that accurately portray it.
That is why I always read the “near-death” stories when they appear in the papers. I am looking for a clue. But those stories never satisfy me. I am not saying they are false, only that they do not give me the sort of information that I am looking for. The tales of a white light and deceased loved ones calling us forward always strike me as images that our brains might conjure up during the last stages our lives, even if we are in a state the medical profession describes as clinically dead.
But my problem goes beyond picturing Heaven. God the Father is in the same category. When I was a boy — having learned that we were made in God’s “image and likeness” — I pictured God the Father as something like Michelangelo’s majestic old man on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but in an invisible state, a state He could come in and out of like a Hollywood ghost.
But that is not what we mean when we call God a “spirit.” A spirit has no body. That realization struck me with just recently when I read an essay making the point that when we get to Heaven, we will not “see” God. (I wish I could recall exactly where I read this, but I can’t. My Google search has not helped. I do remember that it was written by someone loyal to the Magisterium, not by some liberal flamethrower.) The author’s point was that the Beatific Vision does not mean seeing God the Father in bodily form, or something analogous. This strikes me as a theologically sound proposition. We will see Jesus. We will see Mary. We will see our deceased loved ones after the Last Judgment, if we and they have been saved. But not God the Father. We will know Him, encounter Him in some way. But not see some glorified version of Michelangelo’s old man. Again: God is a spirit.
That’s why theologians who attempt to give us an understanding of the nature of God end up using terms such as “the ground of our being,” the “Geist,” the “ens in re,” and the “transforming energy behind man’s quest for the good.” These theologians may mean well, at least some of them. They may be engaged in an effort to depict God the Father in a manner that will be acceptable to those who would want no part of worshiping an image of something comparable to Hollywood’s depiction of Zeus. But, for me, they all end up, intentionally or not, depicting God not as a conscious being, not as a person, but as a concept, as an abstraction, as an expression of mankind’s quest for a just society, not as the Loving Father described by Jesus. Or even worse, as nothing different from the depiction of the 19th-century German atheist Ludwig von Feuerbach’s, who described God as mankind’s highest aspirations projected onto an imaginary being.
In fact, I would argue that even Fr. Robert Barron, the author and narrator of the wonderful book and DVD Catholicism and a solid and dedicated servant of the Church, does not help in this regard. Not that he has described God the Father in an inaccurate or unorthodox way. Thomas Aquinas would nod in agreement to what Barron had to say in a recent column. But I would have a hard time praying to the God Barron describes: “God is not a supreme item within the universe or alongside of it; rather, God is the sheer ocean of being from whose fullness the universe in its entirety exists….God is not a being within the natural order. Instead, He is the reason why there is that nexus of conditioned causes that we call nature — at all.” I know, I know: Barron is not promoting pantheism, but I can see why someone would interpret his words in that way.
That’s why I say, “Thank God for Christmas.” Because of Christmas we don’t have to form on our own, with unaided human reason, through philosophical rumination, a clear grasp of what God the Father “looks like” to worship God. We have Jesus. The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt amongst us. Jesus is God, as well as man. Our God is the God who taught us of the Good Samaritan and the Good Shepherd; the God who knew the difference between the prayers of the Pharisee and those of the tax collector; the God who saved the woman about to be stoned for her sins, with the warning, “He amongst you who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Our God is the God who promised the Good Thief on the cross that he — he personally, not just as part of a perfected human community in something like Teilhard de Chardin’s “divine milieu” — would be “with me this day in Paradise.”
Our God, the God who came to us on Christmas, is the God who loved little children and promised the millstone to those who would corrupt them. Our God promised forgiveness to sinners and called upon us to love one another as the Father in Heaven loves us. Fathers can love. Most humans have a hard time picturing how the “ground of our being” can love. We have more to work with. We have Jesus, because of Christmas. Jesus is a person who loves us, a person we can please, a person we can displease.
The old Christmas carols were on the mark. There has been a new and glorious morn, one which brings tidings of comfort and joy, a reason for the weary world to rejoice, a new creation. Old things have passed away; all things have become new. Christ the savior is born and through Him we know the loving Father in Heaven. The theologians’ alternate depiction of God — as the “ground of our being” and the “nexus of conditioned causes” — does not provide us a clearer picture than what Jesus gave us, just one more polysyllabic and dull.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Marco Rubio To Take On Abortion and Gay Marriage in Catholic U Speech

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) plans to take on social and cultural issues in the latest installment of his policy speeches outlining a new conservative agenda. “Senator Rubio will discuss the values needed for economic success in the 21st century: values like…Continue Reading

USCCB Chairmen Respond To ‘Unprecedented and Extreme’ Executive Order

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be…Continue Reading

Dallas-Fort Worth Catholic leaders appeal for legal help in border crisis

Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell (center) and Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson on Monday asked for volunteers to assist with a “humanitarian crisis.” By DIANNE SOLÍS Staff Writer dsolís@dallasnews.com Published: 21 July 2014 10:32 PM Updated: 22 July 2014 12:21 AM Dallas Catholic…Continue Reading

Iraq Catholic leader says Islamic State worse than Genghis Khan

By Dominic Evans and Raheem Salman BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The head of Iraq’s largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who…Continue Reading

CHRISTIAN HOLOCAUST UNDERWAY IN IRAQ, USA AND WORLD LOOK ON

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000. In a…Continue Reading

Vancouver Catholic Schools Adopt Transgender Policy

James Keller, The Canadian Press Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014 7:20PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:24AM EDT VANCOUVER — Catholic schools in Vancouver have adopted a policy that could allow transgender students to use the pronouns, uniforms…Continue Reading

New Catholic Bishops Say Civil Disobedience OK If For Common Good

Newly appointed auxiliary bishops, two Catholic clergymen suggest Occupy Central could be just, while third weighs in on reform report St Two auxiliary bishops newly appointed by the Vatican have spoken out about the Occupy Central campaign, saying the church supports…Continue Reading

Skeptics And The Claims Of The Catholic Church Seventeen Reasons Scoffers Ought To Rethink Catholicism, If They Really Thought About It

July 11, 2014 05:09 EST By Thomas M. Doran In today’s world, isn’t it crazy to appeal to scoffers to consider Catholicism? Why would a rational modern man or woman in the 21st century be attracted to what the world and…Continue Reading

The Obama Administration’s Border-Crisis Plan B: Use the Catholic Church

The federal government reaches out to a California diocese to help shelter illegal immigrants in California. By Ryan Lovelace In order to avoid future clashes with the citizens of Murrieta, Calif., over attempts to transfer illegal immigrants there, the Obama administration has turned to…Continue Reading

A New Low For Liberals: Attacking Catholic Nuns Over Hobby Lobby

I’m a big fan of absurdity in politics. But even absurdity has its limits, and the National Organization for Women has surpassed it in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby. As part of its full-throated…Continue Reading

Louisiana court’s ruling that Catholic priest testify about confession criticized by Baton Rouge Diocese:

The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge has issued a statement decrying a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court that could compel a local priest to testify in court about confessions he might have received. The alleged confessions, according to legal documents, were made to…Continue Reading

Out Of Nowhere A Network Emerged To Save Catholic Schools

By Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: June 24, 2014   The fledgling Independence Mission Schools network of Catholic elementary schools is used to moving fast. It sprang into action two years ago to save 14 parish schools in low-income neighborhoods…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

2 Christian Brothers Face Jihadist Threat in Iraq: Will They Stay or Flee?

Rome, July 27, 2014 (Zenit.org) By Oliver Maksan There is no doubt in the mind of 23-year-old Haram. With his second child on the way, he is prepared to rush his family out of town at a moment’s notice: “My tank is always full,” he says. “If the situation escalates I’ll grab my wife and child and flee,” he adds with determination.…Continue Reading

Anglican Women Bishops — An Obstacle To Unity?

By FR. DWIGHT LONGENECKER (Editor’s Note: Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. He studied theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge, and a country parson on the Isle…Continue Reading

Homosexuality And The Future Of Marriage

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach. The commentary below is reprinted with permission from his blog at johnkippley.com. All…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Profile: Girls Scouts Of America”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of this article with footnotes, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) +    +    + We’ve all had little girls in uniform appear on our porches selling Girl Scout cookies (with watchful mothers standing…Continue Reading

Chilling

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO “Chilling” is the word lawyers use to describe governmental behavior that does not directly interfere with constitutionally protected freedoms, but rather tends to deter folks from exercising them. Classic examples of “chilling” occurred in the 1970s, when FBI agents and U.S. Army soldiers, in business suits with badges displayed or in…Continue Reading

Do They Think We’re Stupid?. . . It’s Worse Than That

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK It has become routine to hear conservative talk radio hosts, such as Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh, as well as many commentators on Fox News, react to public comments by the Obama administration and its supporters with an exasperated, “Do they think we’re stupid?” I have in mind Obama supporters’ contentions…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. Jesus says that we are to learn from Him, He who is meek and humble of heart. But Jesus was not always meek and humble of heart. He talked back to the Scribes and Pharisees, He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple, He talked back to the Sanhedrin, He wasn’t bashful about claiming to be the Son of…Continue Reading

Jesus Walks Through Trials With Us

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:1-3 Romans 8:35, 37-39 Matt. 14:13-21 In the second reading today St. Paul asks the question of what can separate us from the love of Christ. He then gives a few examples of what people might think will separate us from God; anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness,…Continue Reading

Anglophone Conference On Sexual Abuse . . . “The Entire Church Is Called To Put Right What Has Happened”

By MOST REV. DIARMUID MARTIN ROME (ZENIT) — Below is the full text of an address given by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on the issue of clerical sex abuse. The address was given July 7 at the Anglophone Conference, which took place at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. The Anglophone Conference takes place annually and its purpose is to address relevant…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Journalists, Atheists, And The Pope

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The bureaucratic apologists are now in full scramble mode once again to interpret the Pope’s words as filtered to the whole world through the atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari and printed in the paper he co-founded, La Repubblica. Yet again, we are informed, the Pope did not say what we are told he said. The fact…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 The visit I received from two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs, for short) gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that repetitive prayer — especially the rosary — is entirely in line with Sacred Scripture. When they walked into my living room and did not miss the sight of my rosary on the mantelpiece, I knew…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Alphonsus Liguori

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 1 Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, having read the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori, took him as a mentor. It is not surprising, then, that Fr. Hardon taught his students, “If you are not encountering the cross, you are not doing God’s work.” Such were the lives of saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Benedict

By CAROLE BRESLIN Every month the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the intentions of the Holy Father: one for a universal intention and one for an evangelical intention. In June 2014, the evangelical intention was that Europe may rediscover its Christian roots through the witness of believers. The advent of Christian civilization coincided with the advent of Western civilization. The Benedictine…Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Boyfriend Wants You to Get an Abortion?

by Krisi Burton Brown | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/14 4:00 PM Washington, DC (LiveActionNews) — Note: This article is for any girl or woman who is feeling pressured into having an abortion. If you are a guy who is trying to find out how to stop an abortion, please see this article written for dads. 1.  Stand your…Continue Reading

It’s Time to Build Schools, from the Ground Up

February 13, 2014 by Anthony Esolen   It might have been worth repairing, if it had once been noble and beautiful, or at least conceived in an orderly way, for ordinary human purposes. But it wasn’t. It was constructed upon false principles. Its walls looked like those of a bad factory. It smelled like a warehouse. It could be terribly…Continue Reading

Why I am Pro-Life

February 4, 2014   Pro-Lifers   By Therese Recinella   Editor’s note. This tribute was posted on Therese Recinella’s Facebook account. She is graciously allowing us to reprint it in NRL News Today.   There are many things that I could say about my Dad, but what I want people to know is this: My parents faithfully raised 8 children…Continue Reading

Fathers . . . The Essential Role of the Father

Posted on February 10, 2014 by The Catholic Gentleman 13 Comments   Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view…Continue Reading

How Much is One Billion Dollars?

This article appeared in the March 20, 1941 issue of The Wanderer. (Well, 70 years later we can add 15 trillion into the example.) Here’s a simple and homely illustration of what one billion dollars amounts to: Suppose we take an imaginary boy, aged 15 years, and assign to him the task of counting one billion dollars in one-dollar bills.…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood

This article appeared in The Wanderer, April 3, 1941.  (WOW, Look what we have 70 years later.) A group which calls itself the National Committee for Planned Parenthood has begun a nationwide campaign to have the promotion of birth control included in State and national health programs. The committee—which, according to propaganda sheets reaching our desk has a branch in…Continue Reading

Questions of Non-Catholics . . . Answered by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B.

Reprinted from The Wanderer April 10, 1941 Why Does God allow us to be tempted? God allows us to be tempted so that we may prove our attachment to him and merit a higher place in heaven. Temptations are the lot of all men; they are the battle ground upon which heaven is won or lost. “The kingdom of heaven…Continue Reading