We Are Saved by Christ, Not by Rules

08/28/2015 Comments (90)

Sometime back, the media got itself all in a tizzy about “the Vatican” supposedly issuing “seven new deadly sins”.  As one particularly egregious headline put it “Recycle or go to hell, warns Vatican”.

Given this view of the Faith, discussions in the press then break down into inane prattle about mortal and venial sin.  Here, for instance, is Slate explaining it all for you:

What kinds of sins aren't deadly?

The venial ones. The Catholic Church divides sinful behavior into two categories: mortal and venial. (The distinction wasn't widespread until the medieval period.) Mortal sins are those that the sinner knows are serious but nonetheless decides to perform. They include the seven...READ MORE

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The Delusion of the Familiar

08/24/2015 Comments (7)

"Historic Route 66 near Amboy (California, USA)." Dietmar Rabich, rabich.de [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)].

I have always been joyously afflicted with wanderlust. In It’s a Wonderful Life, when George Bailey tells Uncle Billy that the three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles, something stirs in my marrow. I have always felt the romance of travel, even when I’m standing in line while some portly TSA (Thousands Standing Around) agent puzzles over my rosary, wondering whether it might an Al-Quaeda Ninja weapon. When the car engine starts at the beginning of a vacation or you feel the jet shove you into your seat on take off, I think you have to be a little dead of soul not to feel the thrill of it.

My line of work as a writer and speaker on things...READ MORE

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What Catholics Need to Know About Marriage and Sex, Part II

08/21/2015 Comments (13)

"The Wedding at Cana" (fragment) at Tsalenjikha Cathedral, Georgia. By Cyr Manuel Evgenikos (Réunion des Musées Nationaux).

Paradoxically, our spiritual God is incarnational. He is not disembodied but has taken on a human nature so that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He communicates his life to us through ordinary, everyday things like water, oil, food, and the love of man and woman for one another. That is why marriage is one of the seven sacraments of his covenant with us—a means of divine grace entering our lives—and why Catholics have to understand that before they understand all the rest of the self-help book stuff about how to find a mate, keep the fizz in your marriage, balance the family budget, or raise sensible kids. We need the Big Picture.

The big picture is that Marriage is about union...READ MORE

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What Catholics Need to Know About Marriage and Sex, Part I

08/17/2015 Comments (30)

Raphael Coxie (c. 1540–1616), "The Creation of Eve"

There was a time when people on TV did not instantaneously pass from first kiss to a tumble between the sheets, because our civilization recognized that tumbles between the sheets often led to children who needed parents, so it was inadvisable to urge such behavior on people. Nor did TV characters get up the next morning and routinely declare that it was nothing more than an exciting Friday night and part amicably like two sensible adults who recognized that sex was nothing more than a thrilling physiological stimulus/response phenomenon. No, even as recently as a few decades ago, our culture told itself stories that were rooted in an older moral tradition. Pop music was filled with...READ MORE

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The Shared Wound of Jesus and Mary

08/14/2015 Comments (17)

"The Heart of Mary" by Leopold Kupelwieser

When I was a new Catholic, I still retained enough of my Evangelical DNA to fret that Catholics “honor Mary too much” and that titles like “co-Mediatrix” were “unbiblical”. But of course “Bible” doesn’t appear in the Bible either and I didn’t think that unbiblical.

But, in fact, the idea of Mary as co-Mediatrix is there, and I really should have gotten the clue from Scripture itself. She is told directly by the prophet "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35). What does that mean?

Of course, Mary did not...READ MORE

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Shibboleths

08/10/2015 Comments (44)

James Tissot (1836-1902), "Les pharisiens questionnent Jésus"

Harry Potter. Pants on women. The size of your carbon footprint. Trick or Treating. Recycling. Supporting Public radio. The theology of the body. Smoking. Homeschooling. Rock music. What does the Church dogmatically define for us when it comes to these matters?

Answer: nothing. It’s up to you. And yet, depending on where you go in the Church, your views on these and many other matters will leave you a marked man or woman if they aren’t the “correct” views. You will be stamped and binned as anything from a “liberal Catholyc” to a member of the “Catholic Taliban” by somebody if you do not reply to the probing question on these and many other matters with the correct shibboleth.

What’s a...READ MORE

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False Courage and True Courage

08/06/2015 Comments (132)

An unnamed prisoner of war confronts Heinrich Himmler at Shirokaya Street POW Camp in Minsk, USSR, August 1941. (By Heinrich Hoffmann Collection, Foreign Records Seized, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

There is a curious and creepy fact I have noticed. It runs through things like Heinrich Himmler’s secret address given in October 1943 to SS troops carrying out the mass murder of Jews:

I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly.

It should be discussed amongst us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public.

Just as we did not hesitate on June 30 to carry out our duty, as ordered, and stand comrades who had failed against the wall and shoot them.

About which we have never spoken, and never will speak.

That was, thank God, a kind of tact natural to us, a foregone conclusion of that tact, that we have never conversed about it...READ MORE

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Jesus and Big Think

08/03/2015 Comments (10)

Etienne Parrocel (1696-1775), Jesus et la Samaritaine

The things we think big can be curiously small to God. We often make this mistake when watching the news, for instance. When the TV starts chattering about Washington or New York or inflation or politics, an incautious person could easily get the impression these things are important. But in light of the way God seems to actually deal with us this geopolitical Big Think stuff--like virtually everything on television--usually vanishes into microscopic insignificance.

Consider ancient Israel. Gobs of Old Testament ink are spilled on the fortunes of kings and the policies of princes. Just like when we watch the news, we may think we know what we're seeing. Real life is What Happens to Top...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.