Sunday, July 30, 2017

Book Review: "Why We're Catholic" by Trent Horn

Trent Horn's latest, Why We're Catholic, reinforces my opinion that he is one of today's most gifted Catholic writers and speakers. Last summer I had the pleasure of reviewing his Hard Sayings. I've also read his Persuasive Pro-Life. Each showcases his ability to use humor, analogy, and iron-clad logic to communicate his message.

Why We're Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope, and Love is an ideal introduction to the Faith. At 219 pages, it lacks the intimidation factor of a theological tome. Horn structures the book around twenty-five judiciously chosen statements, beginning with the foundational "Why we believe in truth," and ending with "Why we hope for heaven." In between is a tour de force addressing everything from the divinity of Christ and theology of the Eucharist to the Catholic rejection of contraception. It harnesses reason and natural law to address readers coming to Christianity from the outside, and copious amounts of Scripture and Church history to explain Catholicism to our separated brethren.

Horn has an encyclopedic grasp of the scriptural, historical, and logical reasons for holding the Catholic Faith; but what really sets his work apart in my mind is his use of analogy. It's such a powerful tool; we can understand why Jesus made such frequent use of it in His own teaching. Let me throw out a few examples from Why We're Catholic:
Hypocrisy, violence, and "long lists of rules" aren't good reasons to reject organized religion, or any organized activity. Imagine someone who said, "I don't believe in organized sports. Sports leagues are filled with cheaters and the fans are obvious jerks. Some of them even cause violence when they riot after games. And there are so many pointless rules! I can be athletic on my own without playing or even watching organized sports." (p. 44) 
Leaving the Church because a priest or layperson committed a serious sin would be like swearing off hospitals because a doctor committed malpractice. What the doctor did was wrong, but that doesn't change the fact that the hospital is still the best place to go if you're sick. Similarly, Christ gave his Church the means to free us from sin, so we do ourselves no favors if we reject that remedy because some Catholics who fell into scandal refused to take it. (p.135) 
Denying babies God's grace through baptism so that they can choose it later as an adult would be like denying a baby medicine so that he can choose to take it "for himself" when he gets older." (p.124)
Analogies like these cut through the fog of relativism and the errors that bedevil "Bible-only" theologies. Horn's creativity really impressed me. Thrilled to say that the book also generated a couple of really neat discussions with my teenager!

Why We're Catholic: yet another winner from Catholic Answers Press.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Sign of Peace... in the Gospels?

Earlier this week I was reading Jesus' instructions to the Twelve prior to sending them out to the villages he planned to visit. I found myself wondering about this particular verse, "And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you" (Mt. 10:11-13). What exactly did the Lord mean, "let your peace come upon it...but if it is not worthy let your peace return to you?" I'm not sure, nor can I find a satisfying answer in the commentaries I have consulted. Perhaps peace, in this context, simply means fellowship, friendship; when we extend charity to others, and it is not reciprocated, our souls are not depleted in any way. I still feel like there is something more to be learned here.

Regardless, this verse returned to my mind at today's Mass during the Sign of Peace. At Mass we unite ourselves to the prayer and offering of the Lord Jesus. We turn to each other as members, cells, of our Lord's Body and, in His name, say "Peace be with you." We are like the Apostles in the gospel, speaking peace upon the house that the Lord will enter in Holy Communion. And just after the sign of peace we petition the Lamb of God to send us His mercy and peace, finally kneeling and confessing, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

The question then becomes, "Will I allow the Lord's peace, His friendship, to remain upon this house - upon me? Or will I squander this gift He has made to me of Himself?" There seem to be so many ways to do so - sins of speech, neglecting Him in my thoughts, etc. I just offered a prayer for all who read this, a prayer that you cooperate with His grace and continue to live in His peace. I would be grateful if you did the same for me! 

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.   Ephesians 2:17-22

Monday, July 3, 2017

If Your Mind Wanders During the Divine Mercy Chaplet...
I was recently talking about prayer with a group of young adults, when a young woman asked me what I focused upon mentally while praying the decades of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. When praying the ten Hail Marys of the Rosary we have the mysteries to meditate upon, but what specifically do we meditate upon during the Chaplet?

In the Chaplet we petition the Father, through Christ's Passion, to have mercy upon us and the world. We can focus our petitions for mercy upon specific people and intentions, as our Lord taught St. Faustina to do in the Novena to Divine Mercy. I will sometimes picture a different person's face for each of the fifty times I pray, "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy upon us and on the whole world" - family members, friends, clergy, government leaders. 

The majority of the time, however, I try to focus my mind upon what calls forth the Father's mercy, our Lord's Passion. I will focus each decade upon a different one of our Lord's wounds - His back, crown of thorns, hands, feet, side. I sometimes meditate upon the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. I don't use images very often in my prayer, but one of the young adults I spoke with shared how she will gaze at a crucifix while praying the Chaplet.

There really are a variety of ways to maintain our mental focus while praying the Chaplet. The next time our minds wander during its five decades let's resolve to implement one or more of these methods.