Letters 05.23.21

Readers respond to Register articles.

Letters to the editor offer a variety of opinions.
Letters to the editor offer a variety of opinions. (photo: NCRegister.com / National Catholic Register)

Return to the Eucharist

Just as the media won’t let a good crisis go to waste, neither does the devil. This past year has stretched us to our limits — pulled us from loved ones, shortened our tempers, and driven us to political extremes. But maybe the most insidious effect of this pandemic is the justifiable distancing from Our Lord. We’ve had a reason to be away from Him. And, honestly, a good one: To keep our bodies safe, we’ve “socially distanced” from one another but, in turn, “spiritually distanced” from the Eucharist. I remember the first virtual Mass, realizing how strange — and historic — it was that every church across the world had simultaneously closed their doors. The power of globally praying in unison crossed my mind, but what was this? A world devoid of the Eucharist. Only priests receiving and only a fraction of Sunday churchgoers even logging into the livestream. How many hundreds — or really, thousands — of years had it been since this few people had received him? Millions of souls that had religiously visited him weekly, now comfortably at home. For me, too comfortable. 

It became easy to drift away. To stop looking forward to the tradition of Mass with my wife and kids and the quiet moments that prayer and the Eucharist brought to my soul; and, instead, to start seeing Mass as almost an inconvenience: an hour stuck in the same house, on the same couch, with the same people, as every other hour of the week. I started to wonder if it was even an “obligation” to watch. And when the world started to open back up, and the livestreams became less reliable, my OCD-driven fear of germs was a more-than-reasonable justification to stay in the house. Didn’t we have a dispensation, anyway? 

I’ve come to find that absence may make the heart grow fonder, but surely not the soul. We humans forget too easily. We move on too easily. And the devil does his best work in what’s easy. 

It has now been four months since we returned to Mass. Truth be told, it’s not easy getting three little kids out the door and constantly sanitized throughout church. It can be pretty stressful. But I’ve come to remember that the things we truly need never come easily. As St. Catherine of Siena said, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” And after a year of enduring, I’ve come to remember what greatness waits for me — a relationship with Our Lord through the most intimate way possible: the Eucharist. 

 Leyland Streiff

 Montclair, New Jersey 



Good and Bad Astrology

“Astrology From the Catholic Church’s Perspective” (Blogs, NCRegister.com, Feb. 21),  published recently by your fine paper, unfortunately exaggerates the Church’s position on astrology, if by the Church’s position we can mean the opinions of doctors of the Church and the Fathers in their understanding of the sacred Scriptures. 

 What Catholic faith forbids, and what is forbidden in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is divination of the future, that is, foretelling future events which could not be known by rational evidence and observation. The other kind of astrology, as one will find in a copy of the Farmers’ Almanac with its advice on when to plant various vegetables, is one based on the notion that the planets influence the Earth and the creatures on it, including man, according to their natural powers. This was the basis of a great deal of ancient and medieval farming, medicine, viniculture and the study of the temperaments and the emotions, and it in no way involved superstition against the First Commandment, or recourse to demons. 

 Even today, anecdotally, some people believe the phases of the moon influence emotions and behavior; indeed, we have the seasonal affective disorders related to sunlight which are regularly treated. The principle is that one bodily being can influence another bodily being. We also accept this on the micro rather than macrocosmic level, as we know that suspended molecules in coffee can make us irascible, as they swirl around in their atomic world.

 Given this premise, Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Alphonsus Liguori both took astrological predictions for granted. St. Alphonsus, in his Moral Theology, even holds that natal astrology charts based on one’s date, time and place of birth are licit, as long as they do not claim to foresee the future, but trends based on bodily nature. 

 Modern Catholics in Asia, for example, still take their own astrology very seriously. I was told by one such young priest here in Orange County that they always have seen it as licit, as long as it does not deny Providence or human freedom, that is, is not deterministic. And, most importantly, the sacred Scriptures recount signs in the planets and stars as indication of present or future events. 

 Granted, the Scriptures forbid recourse to fortune-tellers and astrologers, as we rightly do today, because they are usually involved in superstition, not just premodern science. But the holy Magi were not such men; rather, they are venerated as saints in the martyrology.

The papal Curia until Pope St. Pius V had an astrologer to set the dates for consistories; we could get quite a headline if the Holy Father restored the position! It is true that pastorally we recognize that online astrology is dangerous, since it is always linked to divination and “psychic” fortune-tellers. But determining when to add sugar to your hard cider according to the phases of the moon or zodiac sign in the almanac is not. This is not a burning question, but it bears discussion. As the saying goes, “he who proves too much proves nothing.”

Thanks so much for all the good work you do.

Father Hugh Barbour, O.Praem.

Orange, California