Pious Fantasy and the Liberty of the Believer

12/25/2014 Comments (16)

Once upon a time, on the Internet, someone from an Eastern Orthodox background posted a little note concerning the Feast of the Holy Innocents. According to this post there is apparently an old Orthodox tradition that the number of those slain by Herod was 14,000--a rather steep number for a tiny village like Bethlehem.

Someone else then wrote in and asked where the figure of 14,000 came from. In reply, the Orthodox poster said the figure derives from an apocryphal book called the Protoevangelium of James.

At this point, a somewhat less sympathetic poster chimed into the discussion and commented (concerning the 14,000 figure) that "This is just another pious fantasy propagated by the...READ MORE

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The Seven Virtues for Parents

12/21/2014 Comments (2)

Last time, we talked about the bad news of the Seven Deadly Sins. This time, we will hear the good news: we parents are offered grace and help from God through Jesus Christ to live a truly good and happy life by practicing the Seven Virtues.

The Seven Virtues are the four Cardinal Virtues of

  • Prudence
  • Temperance
  • Justice
  • Fortitude

and the three Theological Virtues of

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love

The Cardinal Virtues (which have nothing to with birds, St. Louis ball clubs or Roman curia) take their name from the Latin word for the hinge of a door--which is to say they are "pivotal". They are the natural virtues that everybody--not just Christians--recognizes as essential. The Theological...READ MORE

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The Seven Deadly Sins for Parents

12/18/2014 Comments (12)

As parents, we know that problems which are harder to see, like a young cancer, are easier to cure, while problems plain to the eye, like a five pound tumor, are hard to cure. And we know the same is true spiritually. This is why the Church's tradition concerning the Seven Deadly Sins is so useful.

The Seven Deadly Sins are divided into the three "warm-hearted" sins of

  • Wrath
  • Lust
  • Gluttony

and the four "cold-hearted" sins of

  • Envy
  • Avarice
  • Sloth
  • Pride.

Wrath loves the high of anger. We see it in spouses who love to get mad at each other, who look for reasons to fight, who get a sad little thrill from blowing their top when the husband is late for dinner or the wife loses the...READ MORE

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Getting Ready for Judgment

12/14/2014 Comment

December is the month of Advent and Advent is about not just the First Advent at Christmas but the Second Advent on the Last Day. Accordingly, it confronts us with the reality of Judgment.

Lots of folks wonder how to get ready for the Last Judgment. Everything in your life and mine, as well as in all the rest of the Universe, is moving inexorably toward That Day. Yet when we look at the saints, we find some remarkably unconventional advice. St. Therese of Lisieux, for instance, when asked what she would do if you knew the world was about to end, said, “I would have confidence.”

The question, of course, is “In what would she have confidence?” and the answer was light years from what our...READ MORE

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Masculine and Feminine, Evangelical and Catholic

12/11/2014 Comments (20)

In a mathematically perfect world, conversation between Catholics and Evangelicals would be conducted on the level of pure theology and many misunderstandings would instantly be clarified:

Evangelical: [Stirs sugar into teacup] Tell me, Friend Catholic, what your understanding is of the place of Mary in the economy of salvation? It would appear (though I could be wrong) that you worship her in some way. How do you reconcile this with the biblical witness that God alone is to be worshiped? [Offers teacup to Catholic. Begins pouring his own cup and nodding in profound listening attentiveness throughout following speech.]

Catholic: [Takes teacup. Sips thoughtfully.] Actually, Friend...READ MORE

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Dake and Unger vs. Jesus

12/07/2014 Comments (5)

The other day I was talking with a friend about the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31). She had been trying to understand the Church's teaching about prayer to the dead (and coming to believe it was true) when she hit a difficulty. Her Dake's Commentary said of this parable: "This is the only example of praying to dead saints in Scripture. Let those who do so remember that prayers to other dead saints will avail as much as this one did...NOTHING." So what, she wondered, was the Catholic reply to this?

One reply is that it is rather disturbing that a biblical commentary from a reputable publishing house is incapable of making a distinction between a parable and a historical...READ MORE

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Family, Culture, Holidays

12/04/2014 Comments (10)

C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay describing a far-off land called "Niatirb" ("Britain" spelled backwards) where two feasts seemed to be held on the same day: "Christmas" and "Xmas". The distinction between the two feasts seems to hold in the US too. This is reflected in our holiday entertainment fare, with some interesting results that lie in various places along a sort of spectrum from "Christmas" film at one end to "Holiday" film at the other.

Consider perhaps the greatest American Christmas film: It's a Wonderful Life. It is chock full of Frank Capra's Italian Catholic practical piety which was much more interested in "doing something for the little guy" than it was in theological...READ MORE

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Celebrating Advent in a Culture of Fear

12/01/2014 Comments (61)

Old Soviet Joke: A new Politburo member is going through his new office drawers and finds two envelopes addressed to him. One envelope says "Open me when you have your first major crisis." Some weeks later, tractor production drops sharply, the New Politburo member is blamed, and he's in deep trouble. He remembers the envelope, opens it and reads, "BLAME THE CURRENT CRISIS ON ME, YOUR PREDECESSOR." He does so, and his job is spared. However, there remains the second envelope, which reads, "Open me when you have your second major crisis."

Sometime later, a tractor factory in Minsk explodes and the New Guy gets the blame again. He rushes to read what’s in the second envelope. It says,...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.