Relativism

Relativism is one of the major philosophies of our day, but I think that it has been successful largely because people don’t think that hard about what it is before accepting it.

For example, how many people even know what relativism means? I doubt that a majority of Americans would be familiar with it. It is a philosophy that is very subtle, since many people seem to go along with it without realizing.

Relativism is the philosophy that the truth (most commonly this means morality) changes depending on the person and situation, instead of it being the same at all times.

Reading it like that, it seems pretty wishy washy, right? So what would make someone practice a belief like that? Relativism is a philosophy that seems to allow you to be more compassionate, since if you practice it, you will not seem to be as judgmental, as you will be fine with other people doing whatever they want as long as it doesn’t affect you.

This seems like a perfectly good standard at first glance, doesn’t it? But it runs into a couple of problems.

First, say two people both practiced (moral) relativism. The first believes that all cats should be killed, while the second believes that cats should be protected. There is a clear contradiction here, they both can’t possibly be right, can they? The value of cats can’t vary by whoever is judging them, that wouldn’t make any sense! Relativism leads to contradictions in what is considered to be the truth, which makes it impractical.

The second major problem with relativism is that it denies inherent truths, like moral truths and natural laws. A refresher: natural laws, according to Jacques Maritain, are

“an order or a disposition which human reason can discern and according to which the human will must act in order to attune itself to the necessary ends of the human being. The unwritten law, or natural law, is nothing more than that.”

Someone who practices relativism could easily justify things as horrible as murder, which of course violates natural law. In the mind of a relativist, “I believe what I believe is the truth, so nobody can say anything about it.”

This extreme situation usually doesn’t happen because relativists nowadays still tend to hold a couple of absolute truths, like the dignity of life of an able bodied person who has been born.

The fact that relativists still hold a few things back in their “do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t affect me” philosophy is very telling. This shows us that they do in fact desire an absolute guarantee of their own well being, claiming that that is an absolute truth or moral code. So it’s weak sauce relativism, since it is only relativism to a certain point. This shows us that people want to get away with doing little bad things but don’t want to be affected by the really bad things. Relativism is convenient when it comes to taking the easy way out, but it is inconvenient when forming a coherent moral code that is just for all.

Moral absolutism, on the other hand, claims that there is a moral code that does not differ depending on what the general public or any individual thinks. Even though the Nazis supported the mistreatment and murder of the Jews, the worth of the Jews was not based on what the Nazis thought of them. The worth of the Jews was in their inherent rights as human beings. The worth of African Americans was not in the eyes of the American government but also in their inherent rights as human beings. These inherent rights of people do not change based on what country they are in, what year it is, what the public opinion is, or anything. They are inherent to who people are. In the same way, lying or murder are never morally right.

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Faith in the American Revolution and Jesus

Here’s my claim: believing in the American Revolution takes almost as much faith as it does to believe in Jesus. Something I’ve been thinking about for a while, because when you think about it, they’re pretty similar cases.

Similarities:

Neither are here for us to see right now. How can I believe in something that I can’t see? 😉
But you CAN see the results of each very clearly. America is here, so there was a revolution. The Church is here, so there was Jesus.
You can also see physical clues to them as well. There are muskets and clothes and documents (like the Declaration of Independence) left over from the American Revolution. Well, there are fragments of the cross and the Shroud of Turin and writings by people like Flavius Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.  And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.”

In addition, you can go to the actual places where both the Revolution took place and Jesus lived.
There’s the testimonies of people like George Washington of the War. Well, there’s also testimonies of Jesus’ closest friends and followers of Him, the Gospels and Epistles.

Difference:
Jesus was Resurrected. That’s a miracle. As difficult as it was for the Americans to fend off the British, it wasn’t a miracle in the same way. One of the  most powerful ways for me in believing it is that Jesus’ closest friends all died for that very reason, their belief in the Resurrection and that He was God. If it was just a good trick, I doubt they would have died really horrible deaths like that, they would have just laughed it off and said “haha, joke’s over guys, we were just kidding.”

What do you think? Anything I missed?

A Hour With Jesus

I spent an hour with Jesus today.

He didn’t speak to me, He didn’t touch me, but He was there with me and the others in the perpetual adoration chapel.

Unfortunately, it’s something that many Catholics take for granted, and many don’t even realize. In addition, there are many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not believe in the real presence. Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist at the last supper:

“This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” – Luke 22:19

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” – Matthew 26:28

These words make more sense when we look back on the Bread of Life Discourse:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” – John 6:53-56

Here’s what St. Paul had to say to the Corinthians:

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Jesus goes to my church, does He go to yours?

Catholics Come Home – The Eucharist

The Meaning of Life

Back in the high school days, one of those loaded questions that came up every once in a while was “what is the meaning of life?” Everyone would joke about it, laugh it off: I went to a public high school, there were all sorts of viewpoints and no one wanted to touch that sort of a question with a 10 foot pole.

This has to be a common crisis to most American high school kids, though. It’s one of those questions that are “too controversial to talk about,” so we avoid the topic. But here’s the issue: I really didn’t know! And almost everyone else was in the same boat. Who in the world is gonna tell us what life’s all about?

Our parents are supposed to. Our leaders are supposed to, too. Unfortunately, for the most part, they don’t know either. Our society is pretty lost (that doesn’t even seem controversial to say anymore), so where can we find the truth?

I found the truth in Jesus and His Church, who still proclaims the good news of Christ crucified even in these troubled times. Jesus said,

“I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” -Matthew 16:18

There are a few times when it becomes so evident that Jesus really did mean that the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against it. This is one of those. When everywhere else, people are clueless about who we are and what we are made for, I open up the Catechism of the Catholic Church and on the very first page (again, this is the very first page of the entire catechism!), there is the following collection of scripture passages:

“FATHER, …. this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” than the name of Jesus.

Next comes one of the most mind blowing paragraphs I’ve ever read.

1. The Life of Man-To Know and Love God

1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

How appropriate to start off the catechism with answering the biggest questions of who we are and what we are meant to be. We are God’s creation! We are His adopted children! We are to be heirs of GOD! Read it again, let it sink in. No more self-esteem problems, folks. What more could we ask for? God wants to give us everything that we could ever want and more, if only we could open our hearts to Him.

Life isn’t about “isms” anymore, it’s just about God, His love for us, and our response to it.

Purgatory in Scripture

The following is a guest post by Eric Novitsky:

What does the bible teach about Purgatory? Is it a straight shot to heaven if we are saved?

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor 5:10).

But where exactly is this judgment seat? We know from Revelation that:

“But nothing unclean will enter [heaven], nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21:27).

Is there a final purification? Let’s look at some examples in the scripture that could imply such a process. A popular verse in scripture about Purgatory is 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor 3:11-15).

What could it mean if a person suffers loss? Bro. Peter Dimond of Most Holy Family Monastery gives his analysis of the passage.1

“The Greek word which is translated as “suffer loss” is zemiothesetai. It comes from the Greek word zemioo. Forms of this same Greek word, zemioo – which is translated as “suffer loss” in 1 Cor. 3:15 – are found in other passages in the Bible. The word is used to mean punishment. In Exodus 21:22, Proverbs 17:26, Proverbs 19:19 and elsewhere, this very Greek word zemioo is used to mean punishment. That means that zemiothesetai, the word translated as suffer loss in 1 Cor. 3:15, can mean punishment.”

The Bible teaches that God uses fire and discipline to reform and purge His children. If this is not done during one’s lifetime on Earth, it must be done in Purgatory.

“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” (John 15:2)

References to Purgatory are found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.2 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:3

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.4

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”5 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.6 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.7”

It is also stated more concisely:

“1054 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship imperfectly purified, although they are assured of their eternal salvation, undergo a purification after death, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of God.”

In paragraph 1032 there is a mention of Judas Maccabeus which references 2 Maccabees.

“Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” (2 Maccabees 38-46).

Judas acted so that the dead could be freed from their sin, possibly meaning that there is a place where the faithful departed are retained until they are absolved from all sin. Additional support for Purgatory can be found in Matthew.

“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 25-26).

A similar example is given in a parable in Matthew 18.

“Then Peter approaching asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35).

Retention in a prison might be a metaphor for Purgatory. Matthew 12:32 also could provide a reference to Purgatory.

“And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32)

Bro. Peter Dimond gives his analysis of the passage.1

Why would Jesus say that the sin against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven in this world or in the world to come? A father of the Church, Pope St. Gregory the Great, understood these words of Jesus to indicate that certain sins will be forgiven or satisfied for in the next world: in Purgatory.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues (4, 40), 593 “Everyone is presented in judgment just as he is when he departs this life. But nevertheless, it must be believed that there is, for the sake of certain lesser faults, a purgatorial fire before the judgment, in view of the fact that Truth [Jesus] does say that if anyone speak blasphemy against the Holy Spirit it will be forgiven him neither in this world nor in that to come [Matthew 12:32]. In this statement we are given to understand that some faults can be forgiven in this world and some in the world to come. For if something is denied to one in particular, the intellect logically infers that it is granted for some others. But, as I said before, this must be believed to be a possible disposition for small and lesser sins.” (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3: 2321.)

In his book, Bro. Peter Dimond also addresses the question: did Jesus’ suffering on the cross account for all sins?1

“Some non-Catholics like to think that Jesus Christ’s passion and death made up for everything, including the penalty due to all future sins. There are no worries about something such as Purgatory, they say, because Jesus Christ paid the price for it all. It’s proven false by Colossians 1:24.”

“Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24).

“Paul says that he fills up, for the Church, those things that are wanting or lacking in the sufferings of Christ. Christ’s suffering was perfect and of infinite value; so what does this mean? What St. Paul means is that many sufferings are still wanting and needed for the members of the Church to work out their salvation, which was all made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. This verse proves that Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t do away with all worries about the possibility of future punishment due to one’s sins. If so, then Paul would never say that his sufferings fill up for members of the Church that which is wanting in the sacrifice of Christ; nor would Jesus speak of the punishments for sins, which He repeatedly does. This verse, Colossians 1:24, also proves the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints, and the effect of intercessory prayer and sacrifice.”

Other important church figures have also given support for purgatory:1

Pope Gregory X, Council of Lyons II, A.D. 1274: “Because if they die truly repentant in charity before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death for purgatorial or purifying punishments….” (Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma. 464)

St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermons, A.D. 411 “…there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ…” (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3:1516).

St. Augustine, Faith, Hope and Love, A.D. 421 “That there should be some such fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater and lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish – through a certain purgatorial fire.” (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3:1920).

References
1. Dimond, P. The Bible Proves the Teachings of the Catholic Church. The Most Holy Family Monastery, 2009.

2. Cf. Council of Florence (1439):DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563):DS 1820; (1547):1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336):DS 1000.

3. Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.

4. St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31.

5. 2 Macc 12:46.

6. Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274):DS 856.

7. St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41,5:PG 61,361; cf. Job 1:5.

Christian Unity

There aren’t too many other wishes that I’d have for a genie other than for all Christians to be fully united as one Body of Christ. It’s silly how there are completely different churches that can’t seem to agree, yet they all claim to be following Christ. Heck, most of them even admit that they aren’t the one true Church. All this despite Jesus’ plea that we all be one!

The following is an essay called “The Unity of the Catholic Church,” by St. Cyprian of Carthage in 251 AD. He was martyred in 258 AD. Try to read the whole thing, it really is a quick and easy read, but if you don’t, the first 10 chapters hold the majority of the argument.

The Unity of the Catholic Church

The following are some of the more significant quotes from it:

Does he who strives against the Church and resists her think that he is in the Church, when too the blessed Apostle Paul teaches this same thing and sets forth the sacrament of unity saying: ‘One body and one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God’?

 

This unity we ought to hold firmly and defend, especially we bishops who watch over the Church, that we may prove that also the episcopate itself is one and undivided.

 

Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined with an adulteress is separated from the promises of the Church, nor will he who has abandoned the Church arrive at the rewards of Christ.

 

He cannot have God as a father who does not have the Church as a mother.

 

The Lord says: ‘I and the Father are one.’ And again of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit it is written: ‘And these three are one.’ Does anyone believe that this unity which comes from divine strength, which is closely connected with the divine sacraments, can be broken asunder in the Church and be separated by the divisions of colliding wills? He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.

 

Who then is so profane and lacking in faith, who so insane by the fury of discord as either to believe that the unity of God, the garment of the Lord, the Church of Christ, can be torn asunder or to dare to do so? He Himself warns us in His Gospel, and teaches saying: ‘And there shall be one flock and one shepherd.’ And does anyone think that there can be either many shepherds or many flocks in one place? Likewise the Apostle Paul insinuating this same unity upon us beseeches and urges us in these words: ‘I beesech you, bretheren,’ he says, ‘by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, and that there be no dissensions among  you: but that you be perfectly united in the same mind and in the same judgement.’ And again he says: ‘Bearing with one another in love, careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace.’

If you’d like to read more of the Church Fathers, New Advent is an awesome resource.

Related:
Why Catholic? 

The Thirst and the Waters

My heart holds waters like a dam, a dam full and ready to overflow.

It builds up in my heart, and it strains it, with little cracks along the sides. Why do they thirst?

These waters burden, yet they bring overwhelming joy, love, hope. How could a heart refuse these waters?

They are sweeter than honey and cool on a summer day. How I wish all could taste this water. It is a gift. It is love. How could one refuse?

These waters accumulated for years, seeping in under a closed door in the back. It was only after they reached my knees that I became aware of them. How many are drowning in their disbelief?

One day the flood will come, and this secret will be let loose, but until then, many in the world will continue to thirst. For some, the waters are far away. For others, there are too many other things to notice. They are fed like kings and their thirst satisfied, but there is something more here. Could this be it?

This heart thirsted too. Companionship, love, truth, and pleasure were fleeting. Having more just meant losing more. Nothing could be taken for granted. And time and time again this heart lost. The day came when it stumbled across a mighty boulder, actively giving peace to the soul, never wavering good times and in bad. The more that was had, the more was given. To its surprise, it noticed that the boulder had always been there. Where can truth be found?

Before, apathy, confusion, and fear reigned, but now, now the whole world is vast ocean to be explored. Their amazement and joy will be like a child who finally understands the words of its parents. The beloved now can hear the lover’s lullaby before bed. These are livings waters, the waters that bring true life.

“Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” -Jesus (John 4:14)