Question for readers

I know there are quite a few readers who use various newsreaders (Google reader, Thunderbird, Opera, etc), to read this blog. I myself use Thunderbird to read the feeds of the blogs I follow. For us who have a feed reader, regular days of posting don't matter so much.

But are there many other readers of this blog who use a regular web browser, who need to come to the website to see if there is a new post, and for whom it would be helpful if at least one post were on a regular day of the week? (I couldn't necessarily write on that day, but I could try using the post scheduling feature, assuming it works.) Feel feel to write a note here if you would like to see that kind of regularity.

Creation of the World – Hugh Owen's Response

Hugh Owen again took the time to make a (from my point of view very long) reply to my response to him. I wasn't able to post it with the formatting in Blogger, and it would be too confusing to take away the formatting, so I've put it on a separate page.

Scripture and the Fathers on Creation – Hugh Owen's Response

I don't know when I will have time to respond to it, but feel free to comment here if you like.

Christmas Sermon 25 of Leo the Great

Leo the Great

Sermon 25

The Nativity of the Lord

Translated by Joseph Bolin


My beloved people, although the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which he clothed himself with the flesh of our nature, is ineffable, I make bold to speak, not trusting in my skill, but relying on his inspiration, so that in this way, on the day which was chosen for the mystery [sacrament] of the restoration of man, we may offer something that can edify those who hear it. For the fact that the greater part of the Church of God already understands what it believes, does not make it unnecessary to repeat things that have already been said, for since we owe our office of speaking to many who are new in the faith, it is better to bore those who have been taught with things they already known, then to defraud those as yet unlearned. Therefore that the Son of God, who is not the same person as the Father and the Holy Spirit, but is one in essence with them, deigned to become a partaker of our lowliness, and willed to be one of us corruptible, of us mortal ones, is so sacred and wonderful, that the reason of the divine counsel cannot be seen by the wise of this world, unless the true light has scattered the darkness of human ignorance. For not only in the work of the virtues, or in the observance of the commandments, but also in the course of faith “hard and narrow is the way that leads to life” (Mat 7:14), and it needs great labor and great discernment, among the dubious opinions of the ignorant and the falsehoods that have the appearance of truth, to walk the one path of sound doctrine without stumbling, and though the snares of error are all around, to avoid all danger of deception. For who is suited for this, if he is not taught and led by the spirit of God? As the Apostle says, “We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Cor 2:12), and David sings, “Blessed is the man whom thou dost educate, O Lord, and whom thou dost teach out of thy law” (Psalm 94:12).


Therefore, beloved, having the protection of truth among the dangers of error, and taught not with words of human wisdom, but by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we believe what we have learned, and preach what we believe, that the Son of God, begotten before the ages by the Father, and eternal with the Father and coeternal in consubstantial equality, came into this world through the womb of the Virgin in this sacrament of chosen tenderness, in which and from which “Wisdom has built herself a home” (Prov 9:1), and the unchangeable Divinity of the Word fitted for itself the form of a slave, in the likeness of sinful flesh, being in no way before himself and the Father and Holy Spirit less in glory, since the nature of the supreme and eternal essence cannot be diminished or changed. But on account of our weakness he diminished himself, and veiled with his body the splendor of his majesty, which human sight could not bear. Hence also he is said to have emptied himself (Phil 2:7), as though pouring himself out by his own power, in that in this humility by which he looked out for us, he became not only lower than the Father, but than himself. Yet by this bending down nothing was taken away from that which he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit, i.e., being, understanding this to pertain to omnipotence, that he who according to our nature [secundum nostra] is less, is not less according to his own. For since light regards the blinded, strength the weak, mercy the miserable, it was a deed of great power, that the Son of God received human substance and position, in order to restore the nature which he created, and to do away with the death which he did not make.


Therefore having put away and entirely rejected all the opinions of the wicked, according to which Christ is either a scandal or folly, the faith of right minds exults, and understands the one true Son of God, not only according to the Deity by which he was begotten from the Father, but also according to the humanity by which he was born from the Virgin Mother. For he is both in our humility and in the divine majesty, true man and true God; eternal in his own nature, temporal in ours; one with the Father in substance, which was never less than the Father, one with his Father in the body which he created. Indeed by the taking on of our nature, the step was made for us, by which we can ascend to him through him. For that essence which is always and everywhere in its entirety, did not need to descend locally, and it was as proper to it to be joined in its entirety to man, as it is proper to him not to be divided from the Father. Therefore it remains, that “in the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1), and nothing accrues to him so that what he is, he sometime was not. For the Son is eternally Son, and the Father, eternally Father. Hence also the Son himself says, “He who sees me, sees the Father too” (John 14:9). Your impiety, heretic, has blinded, so that you who have not seen the Son’s majesty, do not see the Father’s glory; for by saying that he who was not was begotten, you assert that the Son is temporal, and asserting that the Son is temporal, you believe that the Father is changeable. For not only is that which decreases changeable, but also whatever increases; thus if, as it seems to you, the Begotten is unequal to the Father because, in generating him who was not, the essence also of the generator was also imperfect, in that by generating it progressed to having that which it did not have. But the catholic faith detests and condemns this impious perversity of yours; it admits nothing of temporality in true Deity, but confesses both the Father and the Son to be of one eternity, since the splendor born from a light is not posterior to the light, and the true light was never lacking its splendor, the substantial always having its shining, just as the substantial always has its existing. But the manifestation of this splendor is called mission, by which Christ appeared to the world. He who always filled all things with his invisible majesty, still, as though from a most remote and high secret place, came to those to whom he was unknown, when he took away the blindness of ignorance, and, as has been written, “To those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, a light has shone” (Isa 9:2).


For although the light of truth was also sent in previous ages to illuminate the holy fathers and prophets, as David saids, “Send forth your light and your truth” (Psa 43:3), and in different ways and by many signs the Deity of the Son declared the works of his presence, still all those significations, and all the miracles, were testimonies of that mission of which the Apostle says, “When the fullness of time came, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Gal 4:4). What is this, but that the Word becomes flesh, the creator of the world is born from the womb of the Virgin, the Lord of majesty makes for himself a human beginning, and although no earthly seed was involved in that spiritual conception, takes a nature from his Mother to receive only the substance of true flesh? By this mission, bu which God was united to man, the Son is unequal to the Father, not in that which is from the Father, but in that which was made from man. For the humanity does not destroy the equality, which his Deity has inviolably, and the descent of the Creator to the creature, is the promotion of believers to eternal things. “For since,” as the Apostle says, “in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). To the world therefore, i.e., to the wise of the world, its wisdom became blindness, nor could they recognize God, to the knowledge of whom one attains only in his wisdom. And therefore, since the world boasted of the vanity of its doctrines, the Lord established the faith of those to be saved in that which seemed unworthy and foolish, so that, all presumptuous opinions being of no avail, the grace of God alone should reveal what human intelligence could not comprehend.


Therefore the catholic faith acknowledges the Lord’s glory in his humility, and the Church, which is the body of Christ, rejoices in the sacraments of its salvation; for if the Word of God had not become flesh and dwelt among us, if the Creator had not descended to communion with the creature, and recalled the old man to a beginning in his birth, death would have reigned from Adam (Cf. Rom 5:14) until the end, and condemnation would have remained indestructibly on all man, when by the condition of birth, there is one cause of perishing for all. And so among the sons of men, the Lord Jesus alone was born innocent, since he alone was conceived without the pollution of carnal concupiscence. He became a man of our race, so that we might be able to be partakers of the divine nature. He took an origin in the womb of the Virgin, was placed in the baptismal font; he gave to the water, what he gave to his mother; for the power of the Most High and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, which worked that Mary gave birth to the Savior, also worked that water regenerate the believer. For what was more suited to heal the sick, enlighten the blind, give life to the dead, than that the wounds of pride be cured by the remedies of humility? Adam, neglecting God’s precepts, brought in the condemnation of sin; Jesus, born under the law, restored the freedom of righteousness. The former, obeying the devil unto transgression, merited that in him all death; the latter, obeying the Father unto the cross, worked that in him all be made alive. The former, desiring angelic honor, ruined the dignity of his nature; the latter, receiving the condition of our weakness, on account of whom he descended to hell, by the same [act] placed [it] in heaven. Finally, to the former, fallen through extolling itself, it was said: “You are earth, and to earth you will return” (Gen 3:19); to the latter, exalted through subjection, it was said: “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalm 110:1).


These works of our Lord, beloved, are not only useful to us in the manner of a sacrament, but also by offering an example for imitation, if these remedies are transferred into a discipline, and what is done in the mysteries, is also of value for morals, so that we remind ourselves that we should live in the humility and meekness of the Redeemer; for as the Apostle says, “if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him” (Rom 8:17). For in vain are we called Christians, if we are not imitators of Christ, who said that he is the way (Joh 14:6) so that the teacher’s way of living might be a model for the disciplines, and the servant might choose that humility embraced by the Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Problems with commenting

There have now been two instances to my knowledge where someone had problems posting a comment on this blog. Perhaps there are others who have tried to post a comment and were unable. If anyone else has had or has problems commenting, please let me know by e-mail. It is possibly a problem with Firefox or older versions of Internet Explorer and the embedded comment form, which is what this blog has at present. If this is the problem, I will have to change the comment form back to a pop-up window.

Health Care Reform

A few thoughts on the proposed reform of health care. American bishops' criticism of it has mostly focused on the unborn and on conscience. But though I have not myself studied the document at length, I have heard from reliable persons that the proposal is unsound, even rotten, from beginning to end.

A few articles have been written critiquing the proposal from the point of view of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. See this article by Bosnich and this one by De Vous. The principle of subsidiarity means, basically, that decisions and actions should be made by the persons most directly concerned, unless this is impossible. The principle of subsidiarity does not of itself exclude the managing of the overall financing of health care at the highest level. However, it does require that decisions be left up to the individuals in need of health care and who provide it (doctors and hospitals). A couple of examples: (1) The possibility of choosing other means of financing, e.g., should be left open. If the health care system is on the broad level financed by taxes, people should be given the possibility of financing their health care by other means–e.g., through private insurance, or from their own income–and be proportionately freed from the taxes that finance health care. (2) Patients and the doctors who treat them should be able to make the decisions relevant to the health care. This is thoroughly violated by the proposal, which aims directly, or indirectly through monetary sanctions, at reducing the decision-making power of individuals, doctors, and hospitals, and increasing the power of the bureaucratic administration.

Many other criticisms (rationing of healthcare, the requirement for end-of-life counseling) build upon or follow from this basic problem of the government taking over too much responsibility for decisions that should be made at an individual level. If, e.g., co-payments are reduced to such an extent that patients have little financial reason to refrain from treatments that are not really necessary, and yet financial considerations must be taken into account, then they will have to be taken into account, and the decisions made by others. This is practically an unavoidable consequence of the top-down approach that is determined to provide health-care for all, but which does not in fact have unlimited resources. In principle a much better approach would be to have those who can finance their own health care do so, and to provide it for those who cannot by way of non-profit institutions, individual assistance, etc.


Due to illness, including my own, over the past three weeks, I've been posting more infrequently, and will be probably do the same for the next month. I'll usually post at least once over the weekend, however.

Conversion story

For the longest, I was indifferent to the reality of God. I never talked about Him, thought about Him, or prayed. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I believed to be an atheist was to face reality. I had not heard a more compelling or convincing argument to many existential questions I already had nor did I have a credible Christian witness around me to make me a believer.

Finally the real moment came. I don’t know precisely when I “converted.” Perhaps it was when I started to show up daily to Mass, or though not a Catholic, I was coordinating 24 hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, going to Bible Study every week with a priest-theologian, and explicitly had a Catholic spiritual director. I am not certain. I like to think of conversion as a moment of surrender when you stop fighting. I simply let go of all the moral and existential questions that were tormenting me and distancing me from God. I did not feel that I needed to know the answers to those questions, even though I desperately wanted to. God knew the answers and that was the point.

The real mystery of conversion, I think, is beyond the scope of psychology for one reason: the key ingredient is God’s divine providence. It is not simply a human change. We do not lift ourselves up, but are lifted up if we give a free and genuine “yes” to God’s invitation. No one can change for the greater good except by the grace of God. In the case of my own conversion, I think this theory is remarkably true. The providence, in fact, is a clear and impossible miracle.

I was conveniently ignorant of a multitude of things about the Church, even while surrounded by Catholics and even regularly asking priests and professors questions, I never thought to bring up or address these matters. Had I asked certain questions and gotten an orthodox response, I might have been confused, hurt, or even angered. More than likely, I would have not proceeded to become Catholic. This is the miracle of Divine Providence: mysteriously the arrangement of my free decisions and God’s activity in the world acted in unbelievable concert, as arbitrary my decisions seem at times as well those of others—others who both influence me and whom God is attempting to save in the same way. All this somehow played out magnificently, even if it is not noticeable at first glance. Complicated, I know. Let me explain further.

Today, I am easily an advocate of John Paul II’s “new feminism.” Previously, I was a “liberal feminist.” If I had known during my process of conversion, the Church’s stance on the ordination of women, that it not only was declared, but was, in fact, infallible and irreversible, and the fact that it was based largely on gender—being ignorant of metaphysics, ontology, sacramentality, and the nature of which our Lord instituted the priesthood—I would have likely dismissed such a teaching as “hypocritical doctrine” or some “injustice in the name of God.” The Lord knows what I would have called it and what it meant for my conversion, I cannot say would have been good.

Read more here (American Catholic website).

Year for Priests

As many readers may know, last Friday, the feast of the Sacred Heart, began the year for priests, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the patron saint of parish priests, John Marie Vianney's birth into heaven. (It was entirely by coincidence that priestly ordinations here were on the same date; the ordinations were scheduled before the announcement of the year for priests.) Both in his letter proclaiming the year for priests, and in his homily on the opening day, he cited the saint's words, "The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus," words which reveal the tremendous gift of the priesthood, "tremendous" both in its original sense of awe-inspiring, and in its present sense of great.

As the Pauline year draws to a close, Pope Benedict drew a connection between St. Paul and St. John Marie Vianney: To let oneself be totally won over by Christ! "This was the purpose of the whole life of St. Paul… the goal of the entire ministry of the Holy Curé d'Ars." The effective ministry of priests depends not in the first rank upon study, upon pastoral or theological formation, but upon the "knowledge of love," the knowledge that is learned in the heart to heart encounter with Christ

The Church needs holy priests; ministers who can help the faithful to experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are his convinced witnesses. In the Eucharistic Adoration that will follow the celebration of Vespers, let us ask the Lord to set the heart of every priest on fire with that "pastoral charity" which can enable him to assimilate his personal "I" into that Jesus the High Priest, so that he may be able to imitate Jesus in the most complete self-giving.

The Congregation for the clergy has also set up a special website for the Year for Priests:

Blogs Added to the Sidebar

I've added several blogs to the sidebar, which I've found of interest:

God in all things – short stories with a spiritual moral or meaning.

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus – a blog devoted to explaining the true meaning of the Catholic teaching that "there this is no salvation outside the Church." On both the liberal and the ultra-conservative side one hears that the Vatican II contradicted the previous Church teaching on this matter. There is in fact development and differences of emphasis, but also continuity.

A Catholic Life – by a seminarian on the other side of the pond (in Minneapolis).

Roman Catholic Vocations – the topic is self-explanatory.