Tuesday 31st March 2015

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:

Lying About Card. Burke

Both Michael Sean Winters of the Fishwrap and David Gibson of RNS posted intellectually dishonest hit pieces against Card. Burke. They purposely misread what Card. Burke said in order to put him in the worst light they could. At least…Continue Reading

Pope says prayers, not ‘gossip,’ needed for successful synod on family

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) — No matter how weary, wounded or sinful a family has become, the church will always do everything to try to help family members heal, convert and reconcile with the Lord,…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke says confusion spreading among Catholics ‘in an alarming way’

LifeSiteNews: Since the extraordinary synod on the family, we have entered a period of uncertainty and confusion over several “hot-button” issues: communion for divorced and “remarried” couples, a change of attitude towards homosexual unions and an apparent relaxing of attitudes…Continue Reading

Bishop backs Catholic school’s removal of teacher over pro-marriage Facebook comments: cites Pope Francis

SOMERVILLE, NJ, March 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Catholic school has decided not to rehire a theology teacher who rejected the argument in favor of gay “marriage” on her private Facebook page, her family has announced. The controversy began last…Continue Reading

Creepy Catholicism.

Martin O’Malley is the latest Catholic politician to come out as a duplicitous “Catholic.” Deacon Kandra posts an excerpt here from an interview in which O’Malley displays some amazingly twisted thinking to support homosexual marriage–even though he’s a Catholic. As far…Continue Reading

Polish Bishops’ Conference rejects Holy Communion for divorced and “remarried”

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has issued a communiqué firmly rejecting the proposals that divorced and “remarried” Catholics should be admitted to Holy Communion without amendment of life. The communiqué, published on 12th March, includes the following statement: “In view of the…Continue Reading

Celtic Catholic priest and friends pile on archbishop

On Monday March 16, KALW radio’s City Visions will host a program “Can Bay Area Catholics and Archbishop Cordileone find Common Ground?” Scheduled guests are the Reverend Vincent Pizzuto; Most Holy Redeemer parishioner and teachers’ union representative Ted DeSaulnier; and…Continue Reading

The Traditional Case for Capital Punishment

A group of Catholic publishers recently issued a joint statement urging an end to capital punishment. I have great respect for all of them – I have written for all of them at one point or another. I disagree with…Continue Reading

Cardinal Müller: Pope Is Not Above the Word of God and the Catholic Faith

Edit: Rorate tends to understate things.  They want a sober response.  We’d like to offer this translation of Giuseppe Nardi’s appreciation of their take on Cardinal Müller’s recent letter appearing in the Osservatore Romano and additional commentary from other important Italian…Continue Reading

Is the Synod Secretariat Stacking the Deck Again?

The Vatican today announced that the vice president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family will be a consulter to the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Professor José Granados‘ appointment,…Continue Reading

Gay activist: Of course our goal is to ‘indoctrinate children into LGBTQ agenda’

TORONTO, March 13, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — A homosexual activist has candidly admitted that gay-themed materials and policies pushed in grade schools across North America are for the sake of “indoctrinating” children into an unquestioning acceptance of homosexuality. “I am here…Continue Reading

Pope . . . giving holy Communion to remarried divorcees “won’t solve anything”

On the second anniversary of his pontificate, the Holy Father gave a lengthy interview to a Mexican television journalist. – CNA/Bohumil Petrik VATICAN CITY — In a new, wide-ranging interview published Friday on the second anniversary of his election, Pope…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

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope makes Curial nominations for Education, APSA

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has named the former President of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, the new Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The Congregation for Catholic Education is responsible for houses of formation of religious and secular institutes; universities, faculties, institutes and higher schools of study, either ecclesial or civil dependent on ecclesial persons; and schools and educational institutes depending on ecclesiastical authorities. In addition, the Holy Father…Continue Reading

Pope Francis on Palm Sunday: remember persecuted Christians

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis remembered the persecuted Christians in the world on Sunday – Palm Sunday – during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Following the proclamation of the Passion according to St. Mark, Pope Francis delivered a homily, in which he reflected on the plight of all those who endure humiliation because of their faithfulness to the Gospel, all those who face discrimination and pay a personal price for their fidelity to Christ. “We think…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Palm Sunday Homily

pope742

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday – Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week, 2015. Please find, below, the official English translation of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks. ***************************** At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8).  Jesus’ humiliation. These words show us God’s way…Continue Reading

Pope: Life Of St Teresa Of Avila Can Help Renew Consecrated Life

st thera avila

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the life of St Teresa of Avila, characterized by “total self-giving to God,” is a “great treasure” that can help to renew consecrated life today. The pope spoke of the witness of St Teresa in a letter, issued Saturday, to the Superior General of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Fr Xavier Cannistrà, to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth. Listen to the report by Laura…Continue Reading

A Book Review… Solid Scholarship On The Middle Ages

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Fried, Johannes. The Middle Ages, trans. from the German by Peter Lewis. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2015. Pp. Xi + 580. The Middle Ages are generally considered to be the period between 500 and 1500 AD. That thousand-year period in Johannes Fried’s narrative begins with Boethius under the reign of the…Continue Reading

“What Is Historical Church Teaching On Contraception?”

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 chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + Part 1 “Contraception cannot be an expression of total self-giving, because in contraception, something is…Continue Reading

Transforming The St. Patrick’s Day Parades

By LAWRENCE P. GRAYSON St. Patrick’s Day, which is a holy day of obligation for Catholics in Ireland, has been corrupted in America by homosexual activists who flaunt their opposition to Catholic doctrine. Celebratory parades have been co-opted for dissident political purposes. Since the seventh century, St. Patrick has been revered as the patron saint…Continue Reading

How Far Can One Sink?

By DONALD DeMARCO “With [Premier] Wynne’s sex education curriculum, we have at last splashed down in a miasmal sewer in which it’s hard to sink any further.” So writes Harley Price, who has taught philosophy at a number of prestigious universities. Many, including outraged parents and indignant members of the medical establishment, agree with him.…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . A Spiritually Sound Approach To Depression

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY The Catholic Guide to Depression, by Aaron Kheriaty, MD, with Fr. John Cihak (Sophia Institute Press, 228 pages). Visit www.sophiainstitute.com or call 1-800-888-9344 for more information or for ordering. + + + This book has a lengthy introduction, and is then divided into two parts. The first is entitled “Understanding Depression,”…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Message From Cardinal Burke

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . The Lessons Of Holy Week On Faithful Love

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK As Holy Week is upon us once again, and we join in with the condemnation of the crowd, crying “Crucify Him, Crucify Him,” we relive the betrayal of sin which marks every human life. We accompany the Lord Jesus Christ on His way of the cross and journey with Him all the way to Calvary.…Continue Reading

Is Mary The Mother Of God… Or Only The Mother Of Jesus?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 Responding to a common misconception among separated brethren and ill-informed Catholics: What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the divine Motherhood? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith in Jesus — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned…Continue Reading

Divine Revelation: Gradual And Progressive

By DON FIER We left off last week reflecting on God’s motive for revealing Himself to us in a supernatural manner. In a word, His sole motive was that of boundless love for mankind. God gratuitously and unconditionally chose to “communicate His own divine life to the men He freely created, in order to adopt them as His sons in…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: As readers of this column know, we like to quote Fr. George Rutler from time to time because his weekly bulletin columns at the Church of St. Michael in New York City are sources of both information and inspiration. After starting his March 22 column by noting that history is “replete with the failures of famous figures,” such…Continue Reading

We Have Been Raised With Christ

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Easter Sunday (YR B) Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Col. 3:1-4 John 20:1-9 In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Peter and John entering the Lord’s grave after they had been informed by St. Mary Magdalen that Jesus had been taken away. We are told that when the Beloved Disciple saw the burial cloths there and…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Marguerite D’Youville

By CAROLE BRESLIN By 1701 the European colonies in North America had expanded beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The Anglo population in the English American colonies had reached 275,000. The French had recently established a colony in Detroit. Catholics, however, were persecuted as Massachusetts passed a law ordering all Roman Catholic priests to leave or face execution. New York passed a…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Faustina And Divine Mercy

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Divine Mercy Chaplet had never been one of my favorite devotions until my aunt died. As she lay in the hospital during her final hours, I sat in the room, visiting with the endless stream of visitors who stopped in to see their fellow volunteer. By six o’clock, the room was quiet. I decided to read…Continue Reading