28 November 2008

An eye-opening truth...

What is it that Margaret Thatcher inadvertently and mistakenly supported, was embraced by the kooky left-wingers, has sucked lots of ordinary people and many of our leaders in, and keeps a huge part of the world's population in grinding poverty?

If you've got an hour or so, have a look at this video. It's worth the investment of your time.

27 November 2008

A blessed Thanksgiving to you...

O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

O beautiful, for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!

O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
'Til all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!

O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

- Katharine Lee Bates, (1859-1929)

22 November 2008

Wisdom from a wise man...

C. S. Lewis died on 22 November 1963. Here are a few gems from his writings:

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith, but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ.

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."

We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

21 November 2008

What a bunch of turkeys!

How do reporters think turkeys arrive on our Thanksgiving tables all nice and delectable?

They're beside themselves with shock because Sarah Palin did the usual schtick in "pardoning a turkey," but in the background they were "actually slaughtering turkeys!!!" Here's an example of the kind of story I'm talking about.

The best response to this was sent to National Review via e-mail: "She should tell the media that she apologizes and she'll do her next interview inside an abortion clinic."

19 November 2008

Oh, for leaders like this again...

On 19 November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the truly great orations in all of history. I thought it would be good to read the Gettysburg Address again, on this its anniversary day.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Such an honor...

Ok, for me this was a real tear-jerker. Last Saturday evening we had a beautiful event which was a fund-raiser for the school, and a very nice night out. When my family and I arrived, it was great to see so many from the parish gathered together for what I thought was just a social evening. Little did I know there was more. I looked on the program and saw something called "Presentation of the Crusader Award." I thought it was some sort of sports presentation, because our teams are all called the Crusaders. It seemed an odd time to make a sports award, but I hadn't organized the evening, so thought no more about it. When I time came, I began to realize there was going to be a presentation to me. And there was... a very moving one. Included as part of the giving of the award was this short video. It meant a lot to me, and I wanted to share it with you.

God is so good.

New website for Pro-life activities

Go here to have a look at an excellent website for Pro-Life activities in San Antonio and Bexar County.

15 November 2008

The media: true to form

Once again, the media have done a number on the Church, in the person of a fine and faithful priest, Fr. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Fr. Newman carried out his responsibility to teach clearly what the Church tells us about cooperating with evil, and the consequences of such an action. Predictably, his words were twisted beyond recognition. Here’s a sample of how the press wrote the story.

In the aftermath, Fr. Newman wrote the following two letters, and they will be distributed to his parishioners through his parish bulletin. Somehow I doubt the media will be interested, since they already have their headline.

First, this one...

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week I wrote a column for our Sunday bulletin just as I have done every week for the past seven years, and when I wrote it, I had no thought that it would be read by anyone other than parishioners of St. Mary’s or out of the context of everything that has been taught and preached here, from the pulpit or in writing, over these seven years. And yet that was precisely the result of the distortion of my words by the Associated Press. For an in depth explanation of what I wrote and what I did not write, please see the bulletin insert today which begins “Priest: No Communion for Obama Voters.”

Of course, I said nothing of the kind and explained very carefully and in writing to both the Greenville News and the Associated Press that “I cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices.” Nevertheless, the AP story was written to create the false impression that I intended to deny Holy Communion to those who voted for Senator Obama; I did not.

My bulletin column last week was exactly 542 words—a space in which no comprehensive description could be offered of an enormously complex subject. That is why what I wrote last week has to be read in light of the teaching of the American bishops on “Faithful Citizenship” which was distributed in the bulletin the week before the election and explained from the pulpit. From that document and the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium, no one could conclude that a vote for Senator Obama is in itself or by itself a mortal sin. But from that same teaching, though, we must conclude that a vote for a pro-abortion candidate can be a mortal sin if the intent is to support abortion, that abortion is not merely one issue among other important issues, and that no Catholic should endorse a pro-abortion politician if a plausible pro-life alternative is available. I regret that I did not take time last week to parse out every stipulation of the Church’s teaching, because the failure to do so allowed those who oppose that teaching to ridicule it by falsely asserting that I intended to deny Holy Communion to anyone who voted for the president-elect or that I presumed to know or judge their conscience. Again, for a fuller discussion of these issues, please see today’s bulletin insert.

As I write these words, I have received over 3,500 emails from around the world. Most of the people who wrote seem to regard me as either a mighty champion of reform or an evil tool of the devil, and I am naturally hesitant to accept either title. In truth, I am but a useless servant of the Lord Jesus trying, despite my frailty, to be a faithful witness to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I hope that everyone who reads these words will study what the Church teaches about freedom of conscience, political responsibility, and the absolute sanctity of human life. As I explain in the introduction to the Principles of Evangelical Catholicism which guide pastoral practice at St. Mary’s, everything about us must be measured and guided by the Gospel: our thoughts, words, actions, bodies, relationships, spending habits, political convictions, lifestyle choices, and business decisions. But this total surrender to Christ and His Gospel is not a restriction of our freedom; in fact, it is the beginning of authentic discipleship and the only path to evangelical liberty.

...and the second one:

Dear Friends in Christ,

“Priest: No Communion for Obama Voters”

That, or something like it, was the headline on every English-speaking news service in the world by Friday morning, and although it does grab one’s attention, it is also utterly false.

Last Wednesday morning I received five written questions about last week’s bulletin column from the Greenville News, and I answered those questions in writing. The third question asked “Are you saying that you’ll administer a no-communion policy unless Obama voters partake in penance?” Here is my answer:

“I cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices, even as I continue to teach what the Church teaches about the necessity of being in full, visible communion with the Church before receiving the sacraments. Only those who believe what the Catholic Church teaches and who seek to live according to that teaching should even be interested in receiving the sacraments of the Church, and on the question of the intrinsic and grave evil of abortion, there is and can be no doubt about what the Church teaches.”

When a reporter from the AP called to ask about the story which appeared in the Greenville News, I forwarded my written answers to her and verified by email that she received them. So, the AP knew that I stated categorically that “I cannot and will not refuse Holy Communion to anyone because of his or her political opinions or choices,” and yet it was on the basis of the slant in the AP story that the world was then told that my position is “No Communion for Obama Voters.”

I insisted on receiving and answering the original questions in writing precisely because I knew that this might turn into a very ugly brawl designed to make me look like a raving lunatic seeking to coerce voters through spiritual blackmail rather than a shepherd warning his flock about the spiritual danger of supporting abortion, whether directly or indirectly. And my suspicion proved well-founded. So, now that I have clarified what I did not say, allow me to summarize what I did say in my main points last week:

1) Since Roe v. Wade abortion has been the chief battleground in the ongoing “Culture War” over how to order our common life together. 2) Although the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is an intrinsic evil which no Catholic can ever support without damaging his or her communion with the Church, the majority of self-identified Catholics voted for the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to run for president. 3) This majority vote, however, changes dramatically when practicing Catholics and lapsed Catholics are considered separately. 4) Whatever we think of his position on abortion, Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States, and we are bound by religious duty to respect his office, to cooperate with his leadership unless obliged by conscience not to, and to pray for him and the effectiveness of his service to the nation.

To those four points in my column, no one objected. And the last point--our duty to respect, cooperate with, and pray for the new president--almost no one mentioned in the multiple press reports. The two points which have received a great deal of attention are: 1) I addressed the president-elect by his full name (Barack Hussein Obama), with the implication that this was a sneer intended to arouse contempt, and 2) I say that those Catholics who vote for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists have cooperated in evil and should not receive Holy Communion until they have received the Sacrament of Penance. Allow me to respond to the criticism I have received on both points.

1) Where I come from, addressing a man by his full name is a mark of respect and the most dignified way of speaking of someone—particularly when he is named for someone else. That is why, for example I have always used my full name in public even though I am called only by my middle name among family and friends: my first name was given as a tribute to a beloved great uncle, and I honor him every time I use my full name. For me to speak of the president-elect as Barack Hussein Obama was not intended as a sneer or an invitation to contempt; it was, rather, a mark of respect for a man I described in my column as “extraordinarily gifted.”

2) I wrote last week that “Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of full communion with Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.”

Please note what I did not say: a) I did not endorse any candidate or party. b) I did not make myself or any human authority the judge of an individual’s conscience; that task belongs alone to Almighty God through His divinely revealed law. c) I did not presume to know or determine for others what constitutes being a “plausible pro-life alternative” to a pro-abortion politician; I asserted only that there can be such.

What I intended to say was this: a) Any Catholic who endorses or supports the intrinsic evil of abortion has, by that fact, placed himself or herself outside of full communion with the Catholic Church and should not receive Holy Communion before being reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance. b) It is possible to be guilty of supporting abortion by voting for a politician who pledges to support abortion if that is the voter’s intention and it is possible instead to vote for another “plausible candidate” who opposes abortion. I deliberately left unaddressed what constitutes being a plausible alternative candidate because there is no way for a general principle to anticipate and include every possibility of nuance and judgment in the evaluation of candidates in a given election. It is in making this judgment that all voters, including Catholics, must exercise their personal liberty and follow a conscience informed by right reason and objective truth. But the very reason the Lord Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Penance is that we all too often act contrary to the law of God and the voice of our conscience.

In making these points, I have not attempted to give my private opinions about anything; rather, I have sought to reflect faithfully the moral teaching and sacramental discipline of the Catholic Church, and if I have erred in that task by omission or commission, I look forward to being corrected by lawful authority in the Church. As I have written today in my bulletin column, there was no way in last week’s 542 words to explain fully a matter of extraordinary complexity, and what I wrote before must be in the context of everything the Church teaches on these questions. I hope that this clarification will serve to assure our parish and those who read about this matter that no infringement of political liberty or individual conscience was my intent.

Father Jay Scott Newman
Pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church

UPDATE: Apparently it's not just the media. Go here to see what the administrator of Father Newman's own diocese has done!

11 November 2008

Latin Mass - Ordinary Form

Here are six video clips showing the complete Assumption Day Mass at the academy with all of our students. The Mass is celebrated in Latin, according to the Ordinary Form. It was filmed by a couple of our young men in the Upper School.

Well done, Girl Scouts!

We're very proud of our girls in Troop #810. Go here to find out why!

We honor those who served...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

10 November 2008

Boy oh boy, we're good...

Ok, that's not very humble. But we've received some wonderful news. The Acton Institute has announced a list of the fifty best high schools in the nation, and guess what? The Atonement Academy is one of them!

A new deacon...

This past Saturday I was at the cathedral in Corpus Christi for the ordination of Michael Noble to the diaconate. Deacon Noble is a founding member of the Anglican Use Community of St. Anselm there, and he will be dividing his time between that community and another Catholic parish nearby.

We took this picture just before the Mass began. Shown here, left to right, are Deacon James Orr (Our Lady of the Atonement), me, Fr. Allan Hawkins (St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington), Michael Noble, Fr. Eric Bergman (St. Thomas More, Scranton) and Deacon James Barnett (Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston).

08 November 2008

Belated posting of pictures...

I meant to post these pictures sooner... some images from All Souls Day.

05 November 2008

All over but the shouting...

So the voting's over and we have a president-elect. Some are dancing in the streets and others are nursing a dull depression. Most everybody is smarter than I am when it comes to foretelling the political ramifications of it all, so I won't even try.

For myself, I am immensely sad because of what this will almost certainly mean for the unborn. I believe that our country -- for better or for worse -- probably got the leader it deserves. But innocent babies don't deserve this, and we've got to redouble our work on their behalf because they didn't vote for this. And I'm going to pray daily for President Obama's conversion to a right understanding of the sanctity of life from the moment of conception. If he could only get that right, an awful lot of other issues would fall into their proper place.

I was reading the National Review today, and saw this in a column by Jim Garaghty. He was writing about the protection of our nation from terrorism, but it sums up my feeling about the pro-life issue during the next four years: "A citizen's 401(k) can eventually return to its former value. A life, once lost, cannot be replaced."