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“Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”
In our monthly discussion group, today we began our discussion on Christian Prayer. I wanted to highlight something in particular that Fr. Dominic expressed early in our discussion where the Catechism focuses on the woman encountering Jesus at the well in the Gospel of John Ch. 4. Christ asks her for a drink, and in fact, in prayer, it is here where it is revealed that God thirsts so we may thirst for Him. The woman at the well is such a beautiful image of the give and take of prayer life. The woman encounters the Incarnation is the prime revelation of God and the prime revealer. The more I thought about it today with its connection to Jesus on the cross, “I thirst” and St. Mother Teresa the more and more it became clear. So, I thank Fr. Dominic highlighting it. It is when we take up our cross and join it with Jesus that our thirst begins to be quenched by living water.
In fact, St. Teresa of Avila uses the imagery of well in her famous autobiography to illuminate the development of prayer. She explains that it is the constant struggle of pulling up buckets sometimes filled with mud that is part of the development of prayer. The more one sends down the bucket the more one begins to pull up water to grow a beautiful garden.
What is this beauty? It is the fruit of joy from our relationship with God! It must all begin with prayer or there can be no relationship with God. “Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God” So, if prayer is the response of faith then ask yourself “how is your prayer life?” What does this tell you about your faith?
This discussion group is available for all patrons of the Pilgrims of Christ tier.
 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 614.
 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 614.
It’s the fraternity’s hope with time to provide a more detailed break down of each particular texts for reference to specific chapters and parts. Of course, until that time, the text is easily referenced using your “find” feature on your computer.
For further edification, please feel free to read my post On the Influence of St. Augustine and check out my videos where I give small lectures on main topics found in each lesson in the Baltimore Catechism.
I mentioned earlier this year that I hoped to publish this book by year’s end. The book is a compilation of my earlier work in history as an undergraduate student, posts and debates that had been published on this blog and material written from my most recent Master’s class in theology on the Synoptic Gospels.
The book looks for a historical foundation within the gospel texts under a proper understanding of historicism. An understanding of the influence of both era and culture of the authors in their proper contexts. It expresses agreement with Pope Benedict XVI that the writers do not give a video camera recording of the Gospels, but rather gives a substance of the historical truth–no different from modern testimony. The book sets out to explain why there is good evidence to believe that the Christmas date is of Christian origin and not of pagan origin. It explains via Thomas Aquinas why Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem and what Bethlehem was like when Jesus was born. In the book, I examine the veracity of the census found in Luke’s gospel account. The book also examines the traditions of Mary–the Mother of God, Old Testament typology and prophecy, different historical figures found in the infancy narratives. Finally, the book concludes with a chapter on what is the importance of the genealogies found in the texts of the gospels and the Incarnation of Christ.
The conception of this book began a few years back, originating from a course I took in college called “The History of Christmas”. The course introduced me to many of the written sources presented in this book as well as fostering a great interest in the infancy narratives of Jesus Christ. After some years, I decided to present some of the material in a discussion group at my local parish to discuss some of the historic legitimacy of infancy narratives found in the Gospels. The book’s text expands on my notes and outlines from this discussion group.
My goal for this book is to distill the many arguments about and ideas on the infancy narratives into one, easily accessible analysis, as well as to shape the dense academic historiography and theological typology into something more palatable for lay readers. Naturally, in this project, some generalizations are needed to summarize the extensive academic scholarship on the subject, so I fully encourage readers to look beyond this book and to explore all sources that I’ve presented here.
In his essay “Farewell to the Devil?”, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) examines and rebuts the argument presented by Swiss Catholic Theologian Herbert Haag, who asserts that Satan does not exist and that Satan was an idea that manifested ancient Jewish culture’s understanding of evil and sin. (Ratzinger, Farewell to the Devil? 197.) Haag’s thesis was written during the time of great cultural upheaval both in secular culture and in Catholic Culture as his book “Farewell to the Devil” would be printed after the Vatican II council. It should be no surprise that Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Sosa, has recently made comments that Satan is an analogy making very similar points as presented in Haag’s argument ( A comment that Fr. Sosa has since walked back a bit).
Ratzinger explains that this position is one that uses a methodology that is devoid of literary analysis of scripture but rather is a methodology that focuses on a false historicism (emphasis mine) that those of a different era are either stupid, naive, or both, so in effect, Haag’s position is based on the rhetoric fallacy of “poisoning the well” of the witness testimony of Jesus and the Apostles as it is presented in the New Testament. Haag’s thesis is refuted by Ratzinger by examining the New Testament in which Satan and Demons exist, and the Devil is not a synonym for sin which is claimed by Haag (Ratzinger, Ibid.).
It’s so glaringly obvious in the belief of those in scripture that both Satan and Demons exist that Haag had to admit this is a commonly held belief of those in 1st century Palestine. However, Haag argues that these people were victims of their understanding and culture during this period of time. Again, it’s important to reiterate that Haag’s position is based on his own cultural bias in which he has already assumed those in Jesus’ time are inferior to his own understanding. Naturally, this type of assertion is one of the most dangerous facets of a strict historical-critic exegesis and the use of historicism by modern scholars. Ratzinger does a good job acknowledging that it’s Haag’s bias that has predetermined his conclusion on this matter, Ratzinger writes, “Haag bids the devil farewell, not in his capacity as exegete or interpreter of Scripture, but rather as a contemporary, who considered the existence of a devil untenable (Ratzinger, 198).”
One of the key aspects in understanding Satan and Demons, after examining the role of the Old Testament as being dependent on the New Testament, is understood when Ratzinger writes, “The spiritual battle against the enslaving powers, the exorcism pronounced over a world blinded by demons, is an inseparable part of Jesus’ spiritual way that belongs to the heart of his own mission and of the mission of his disciples.” (Ratzinger, 202). Furthermore, Ratzinger indicates that our understanding of the faith must be rendered within the faith community. If it is to be determined that Satan is merely an analogy to sin or a sort of moral taboo then the Church’s sacramental life with the foundation of baptism would be moot. Ratzinger writes, “One must be able to take baptism at its word, especially in its central action. It indicates what takes place in becoming a Christian and what does not…exorcism and the renunciation of Satan are part of the central action of baptism.” (Ratzinger, 203.)
At the end of the essay, Ratzinger questions what Haag means that the Devil cannot be understood to exist by what we know in our modern age. In many respects, I believe the question of “Farewell to the Devil?” is one that originates in the metaphysical and spiritual and moves into the material, perhaps, there is to be understood better the sacred and the profane. A good measurement of whether something is contingent on faith testimony which is the essence of the faith is its relation to the Incarnation itself.
How does Satan, the demonic, and hell relate to the Incarnation? In the course of the history of the Church, the great heresies have always been misguided teachings on who is Jesus Christ. Satan and hell must be articles of faith as without those parts of revelation, it would render the Incarnation useless. If theologians eliminate Adam and Eve, the fall, hell, and then the slope—as we see today—leads to there being no such thing as sin, then those theologians have rendered Jesus Christ merely an ancient understanding of the world.
A series of Haiku inspired by Chopin’s Nocturne No. 19
Soft clouds in moonlight
Precision grace strikes my heart
A twill spins twilight
Iv’ry sounds belt sky
A soul lifted up Divine
clouds cover moonlight
Truth known by beauty
Expressed; heard; attained—now gone.
Drowned by modern noise
Pope Benedict XVI explained in his 1988 Erasmus lectures, “The debate about modern exegesis is not at its core a debate among historians, but among philosophers”. (Matthew J. Ramage, Jesus Interpreted, 9).
Is the discussion of the Holy Scriptures primarily a philosophical debate of those who claim there is a God and those who do not?
The statement appears to be correct on the surface; however, the difficulty with this particular assertion is that it is a false dichotomy when it comes to the interpretation of what is true and what actually happened as it is described in the written word. In attempting to determine what is true, the historian–both secular and religious–deals with the axiological value judgment of the truth just as much as any philosopher would when it comes to scriptural exegesis and the matter of what is the truth.
Make sure to pre-order my new book: The Birth of God in Historical Context: An Examination of the Infancy Narrative of Jesus Christ:
O’ Ancient Beauty
Thy torrents call deep to deep
Thy Word makes it be
Darkness; frost and chill
The Sun rises into vale
Thy word; speak and melt
O’ Morning Sun, shine forth
Thy rays of promise to renew
A Handmaid says, “yes.”
Water drops renew
For those who repent unto law
Now Binds all to He
Hand to Hand—Matters
a seed that died now revived
Single touch from He
The Diocese of Springfield Illinois has created a new fraternal group to help support and grow the faith of men in its diocese. The diocese calls this group Legion of Valor and invites the men of our diocese to “close ranks. It’s time to pull up from the grind and gain some much-needed perspective. It’s time to take stock, to recharge, to refocus. It’s time to re-engage our mission as Catholic men.”
During the weekend of September 28th-29th, the topic of discussion for the Legion of Valor was “Entering into Spiritual Warfare.” The keynote speaker for the weekend was Fr. Sebastian Walshe, O. Praem. After the opening prayer for the weekend retreat, Mike Christe, Director of Evangelical and Catechetical Services, challenged us all to foster into our own prayer lives the prayer of the Church—the Liturgy of the Hours. Christe explained that through his own life he’s learned the value of prayer by experiencing the fog of battle in the spiritual battle. It was only when he revamped his prayer life that he was able to pierce through the fog with his prayer serving like night vision goggles. All Catholics needing to cultivate a foundation of prayer, Christe called us to participate in this vital battle by going to morning prayer.
After morning prayer, where the men learned how to pray the hours in community, the men were introduced to Fr. Sebastian Walshe, a Norbertine, from St. Michael’s Abbey in California. Fr. Walshe instructed the men that as Catholics we need to learn and be reminded that there are three distinct battles within the very real war of Spiritual Warfare.
1. The Flesh
2. The World
3. The Devil.
The conflict in this war is between two armies and the combatants are spiritual. Fr. Walshe explained that the spiritual can become visible in extraordinary manifestations such as oppression, possession, and obsession and voiced the concern of the growing trend within the Catholic Church expressing that Satan is merely a symbolism in the world. Fr. Walshe gave one particular example of the Superior General of the Jesuits claiming the sentiment and informed those at the retreat that the Superior General is either “a fool or something worse.”
One important aspect that spoke to me is that Fr. Walshe said that the most concerning aspect in the spiritual life is those who feel that they are okay. In their spiritual life, they do not feel any discomfort nor the pull of temptation. If we’re trying to live a life of holiness we should be aware of the stress of the able, the pull of temptation, and we should feel uncomfortable. Fr. Walshe went into a bit about fasting being a tool that allowed us not to be subject to the flesh and that abortion and the death of children is diabolical in nature because the demons do not want souls to replace them in heaven.
After the first talk ended the group broke for mid-morning prayer and mass. The mass was celebrated in the ordinary rite with the mass parts sung in Latin. It was offered by Fr. Dominic who served as the retreat’s Chaplin. The mass fostered a sense of reverence and was extremely moving hearing the packed chapel full of men chanting the Latin parts of the mass—an experience not easily forgotten.
The retreat broke for lunch after Mass.
The second talk given by Fr. Walshe was on the Virtue of Humility and the power of it. He reminded us that humility is the acceptance that God is in control of our lives, not ourselves. We should reject in our lives the spirit of discouragement and despair when trying to live a life of holiness—that the demonic are often behind these thoughts and we should openly renounce them. Fr. Walshe explained to the group that ultimately our goodness and holiness is given by God’s grace that whatever holiness we’re living it’s because we’re being held up by Christ and the Blessed Virgin like a child holding the hands of their father and mother.
Men must also reject false humility such as denying the goodness of God working through ourselves. For example, someone may give us praise and if we respond that we’re really nothing special we’re participating in false humility. Our response to praise should be “Thank you and thanks be to God, Fr. Walshe said. We also need to avoid the smallness of soul of thinking that we cannot be a great saint or that someone is better at something we’re called to by God. Rather what men should strive for is the virtue of magnanimity and desire to be worthy of the call. God wants us to do good things; he wants us to order our will to his own.
Fr. Walse explained to the men of the Springfield Diocese in Illinois a fantastic exegesis of the Parable of the Servants. He challenged us men to take risks for God. We cannot take the grace given to us by God and bury it out of fear of his wrath. What is striking about the parable is what the parable doesn’t ever say. Fr. Walse explained that any of the persons given talents we’d expect one of them to fail, but none of them do who take risks. We need to put our trust fully in God’s plan for us.
Fr. Walshe gave us ten steps to incorporate the virtue of humility in our spiritual lives:
2. Confession—and hold nothing back in confession.
3. Make our defects public
4. Prefer the common good over our individual good
5. Accept unjust accusations—be confident and do not concern yourself with them
6. Be grateful for truthful correction
7. Do not be troubled by other’s faults; Jesus is the judge.
8. Think and speak well of others
9. Rejoice in our weaknesses and celebrate other’s strengths
10. Perform the mundane and meaningless tasks with joy.
The final short talk of the day was given to us on the weapons for Spiritual warfare which are offensive and defensive:
The Offensive weapons: prayer, fasting, the word of God, saying the name of Jesus and Mary, sacraments, and sacramentals.
The Defensive weapons: faith, hope, forgiveness, well-ordered family, and the sign of the cross.
The final activity of the day before dinner was given by an Our Saviour’s Parishioner and local knot-tying expert Scott Marshall on Mary–the undoer of knots–visit his knot tying youtube page here. Marshall explained the history of the devotion and its connection to Pope Francis while teaching the men how to tie practical knots for everyday activities with the history of knot tying. Some of the men professed a lesson in humility with the experience.
The evening ended with dinner, a business meeting for the diocese, evening prayer, adoration, and confession.
Sunday morning began with morning prayer, mass, and ended with Breakfast and our send out mission given by Our Saviour’s Parishioner Bob Zeller giving us the wisdom of the trials he’s experienced in his own spiritual life.
Learn more about the Legion of Valor at the diocese webpage.