On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering

12/17/2012 Comments (7)

The gospel has never made the claim that God is going to eradicate suffering and death in this world.  On the contrary, it tells us that creation is groaning in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  It warns of wars and rumors of wars, of all sorts of terrible trials, of the rain that falls on the just and the unjust.  It says that all these things are leading up to something: namely, The Final Conlfict Between Christ and Satan, the End of This World and the Dawn of the New Heaven and New Earth.  Yet paradoxically, Pope John Paul II reminds us that the worst thing that could ever happen--the murder of God--has already happened--and that God has brought glory and joy out...READ MORE

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One Final Follow-Up on the Immaculate Conception

12/14/2012 Comments (21)

A reader writes:

It’s true that you can assume the Immaculate Conception from certain readings of the gospel, but the fact is, it is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible and for that reason it shouldn’t be made into dogma. It makes more sense that Mary was chosen because she herself, without any divine aid, was a very good and pure woman. We can’t just assume that she was born without original sin or that she hadn’t sin because there’s nothing in the text that says or alludes to that. Another problem I have with the Immaculate conception is that it makes Mary something of a robot. She didn’t sin because God made her that way, not on her own merits. Wouldn’t it exhalt Mary EVEN more...READ MORE

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The Immaculate Conception: Why Her and Not Us?

12/10/2012 Comments (7)

Mary’s Immaculate Conception and preservation from sin is a unique gift that the Lord, in his sovereignty, is free to give as he pleases. It is also, as I now saw, a sign pointing to the magnitude of Christ’s power to save us all completely from sin. But still, there’s a temptation here to say, “Why her and not me? How come I have to struggle with the effects of original sin and she didn’t?” I don’t have an answer to that, any more than I have an answer to the question, “Why were Abraham or Moses or David chosen for their call and gifts and not me?” All I know is that, biblically speaking, the chosen are always chosen for the sake of the unchosen. Thus, Abraham is chosen so that all the...READ MORE

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The Immaculate Conception: The Common Thread

12/07/2012 Comments (11)

Taken together, the basic argument of the nineteenth-century elites was summarized long ago by the author of Wisdom:

For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
“Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
Because we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been;
because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our
When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
Our name will be forgotten in time,
and no one will remember our...READ MORE

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The Immaculate Conception: Rebellion against God as Father

12/03/2012 Comments (4)

What ties together all the philosophies of pride we have been looking at?  The theme of revolt and rebellion against God as Father runs through much of nineteenth-century thought. Indeed, it’s one of the curious marks of nineteenth-century atheism that its spokesmen often simultaneously proclaim the nonexistence of God, even as they shake their fists in angry rebellion at what appears to be a very present Nobody. It gives us a very telling clue for which Pope John Paul II provides an insightful diagnosis:

Original sin attempts . . . to abolish fatherhood . . . leaving man only with a sense of the master / slave relationship.( Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope...READ MORE

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The Immaculate Conception: A Quick Survey of Some of the Brains of the Nineteenth Century, Part 2

11/26/2012 Comments (6)

Continuing our survey of the leading lights of Western thought in the 19th Century, we find the following seminal figures:

Friedrich Nietzsche

Schopenhauer had a huge influence on a number of philosophers, but perhaps his greatest disciple was Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche, too, proclaimed the death of God. However, Nietzsche was not content with Schopenhauer’s gloomy pessimism. If life was a power struggle, Nietzsche was not content to lose or call it a draw. He wanted to win! Watching a cavalry battalion march past during the Franco-Prussian War, Nietzsche had yet another of the many epiphanies that seemed to characterize nineteenth-century thinkers:

I felt for the first time...READ MORE

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The Immaculate Conception: A Quick Survey of Some of the Brains of the Nineteenth Century, Part 1

11/23/2012 Comments (26)

The nineteenth century seems to have been a time of special abundance for people with mad schemes for Explaining Everything, or Planning Utopia, or otherwise Knowing It All. In the United States and Europe, there seemed to be no end of philosophers, prophets, and dreamers with New Revelations, Grand Plans, and Big Ideas. New communities sprang up all over the place, eager to create the New Jerusalem on earth. There were Shakers, Zoarites, Rappites, Icarians, and members of utopian groups like the Oneida community, the Amana community, and the Aurora community. By the eve of the Civil War, utopianism had involved at least 100,000 persons in the U.S. (a number far larger in proportion to...READ MORE

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The Immaculate Conception: So Why the Dogma?

11/19/2012 Comments (74)

The natural question to ask, once we have heard the story of how the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception developed, is, “If the controversy settled down in the fifteenth century, why did the Church formally define the Immaculate Conception as dogma four hundred years later, in the nineteenth century?”

Here things get interesting and paradoxical. As we have seen, usually the Church defines a doctrine because it is under attack in some way. So, for instance, as we saw with the Theotokos, it was a “grass roots” acclamation that Nestorius tried to stamp out, so the Church defended it by declaring it an official title for Mary. However, the interesting thing is that, in the case of the...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.