10 Elements for Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy: re-blogged

And why speak I of the world to come? Since here this mystery makes earth become to you a heaven. Open only for once the gates of heaven and look in; nay, rather not of heaven, but of the heaven of heavens; and then you will behold what I have been speaking of. For what is there most precious of all, this will I show you lying upon the earth. For as in royal palaces, what is most glorious of all is not walls, nor golden roofs, but the person of the king sitting on the throne; so likewise in heaven the Body of the King. But this, you are now permitted to see upon earth. For it is not angels, nor archangels, nor heavens and heavens of heavens, that I show you, but the very Lord and Owner of these.

– St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 1st Cor., as cited in Dominus Estby Bishop Athanasius Schneider, p. 34

On February 14, 2015, Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, was sponsored by the Paulus Institute to give a talk in Washington, DC.  During the talk, he proposed concrete actions — ten essential elements — which should be implemented to accomplish liturgical renewal.

As an attendee, I was impressed once again by his excellency’s concern for reverence and piety in Catholic worship. Because of the deep value of the insights he presented, I would like to offer to you my own summary of his principle themes.

The bishop instructed that ever since apostolic times, the Church sought to have holy liturgy, and that it is only through the action of the Holy Spirit that one can truly adore Christ. Exterior gestures of adoration that express interior reverence are vital within the context of the liturgy. These include bowing, genuflections, prostrations, and the like. His excellency cited St. John Chrysostom’s writings on liturgy, particularly focusing on the following theme: The liturgy of the Church is a participation in and must be modeled upon the heavenly liturgy of the angels.

The notion of heavenly liturgy, and our participation in it at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offers some perspective to those of us who may be tempted to take for granted the incredible miracle in our midst. The reality is that each Catholic church is, itself, a place wherein dwell angels, archangels, the kingdom of God, and God’s own Heavenly Self. If we were somehow able to be transported to the heavenly liturgy, we would not dare speak even to those we know and love. When we are within a Church, we should therefore speak reservedly, and then only of sacred things.

In the early church, the altar and other sacred items were veiled out of respect for the sacred mystery in which they played a role. There was not, contrary to popular belief in our present time, a versus populum celebration of Mass or even a widespread practice of communion in the hand. The priest and the people faced together towards God in the liturgical East.

When we celebrate liturgy, it is God who must be at the center. The incarnate God. Christ. Nobody else. Not even the priest who acts in His place.

It impoverishes the liturgy when we reduce the signs and gestures of adoration. Any liturgical renewal must therefore restore these and bring about a more Christocentric and transcendent character of the earthly liturgy which is more reminiscent of the angelic liturgy.

Ten Elements of Renewal

Bishop Schneider offered these 10 points of implementation which he views as fundamental for liturgical renewal (audio begins at 27 minutes):

1. The tabernacle, where Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God, is really present under the species of bread should be placed in the center of the sanctuary, because in no other sign on this earth is God, the Emmanuel, so really present and so near to man as in the tabernacle. The tabernacle is the sign indicating and containing the Real Presence of Christ and should therefore be closer to the altar and constitute with the altar the one central sign indicating the Eucharistic mystery. The Sacrament of the Tabernacle and the Sacrifice of the Altar should therefore not be opposed or separated, but both in the central place and close together in the sanctuary. All the attention of those who enter a church should spontaneously be directed towards the tabernacle and the altar.

2. During the Eucharistic liturgy – at the very least during the Eucharistic prayer – when Christ the Lamb of God is immolated, the face of the priest should not be seen by the faithful. Even the Seraphim cover their faces (Isaiah 6:2) when adoring God. Instead, the face of the priest should be turned toward the cross, the icon of the crucified God.

3. During the liturgy, there should be more signs of adoration — specifically genuflections — especially each time the priest touches the consecrated host.

4. The faithful approaching to receive the Lamb of God in Holy Communion should greet and receive Him with an act of adoration, kneeling. Which moment in the life of the faithful is more sacred than this moment of encounter with the Lord?

5. There should be more room for silence during the liturgy, especially during those moments which most fully express the mystery of the redemption. Especially when the sacrifice of the cross is made present during the Eucharistic prayer.

6. There should be more exterior signs which express the dependence of the priest on Christ, the High Priest, which would more clearly show that the words the priest speaks (ie., “Dominus Vobiscum“) and the blessings he offers to the faithful depend on and flow out from Christ the High Priest, not from him, the private person. Not “I greet you” or “I bless you” but “I the Lord” do these things. Christ. Such signs could be (as was practiced for centuries) the kissing of the altar before greeting the people to indicate that this love flows not from the priest but from the altar; and also before blessing, to kiss the altar, and then bless the people. (This was practiced for millennium, and unfortunately in the new rite has been abolished.) Also, bowing towards the altar cross to indicate that Christ is more important than the priest. Often in the liturgy — in the old rite — when a priest expressed the name of Jesus, he had to turn to the cross and make a bow to show that the attention should be on Christ, not him.

7. There should be more signs which express the unfathomable mystery of the redemption. This could be achieved through the veiling of liturgical objects, because veiling is an act of the liturgy of the angels. Veiling the chalice, veiling the paten with the humeral veil, the veiling of the corporal, veiling the hands of the bishop when he celebrates a solemnity, The use of communion rails, also, to veil the altar. Also signs – signs of the cross by the priest and the faithful. Making signs of the cross during the priest by the Eucharistic prayer and by the faithful during other moments of the liturgy; when we are signing ourselves with the cross it is a sign of blessing. In the ancient liturgy, three times during the Gloria, the Credo, and the Sanctus, the faithful made the sign of the cross. These are expressions of the mystery.

8. There should be a constant sign which expresses the mystery also by means of human language – that is to say, Latin is a sacred language demanded by the Second Vatican Council in celebration of every holy Mass and in each place a part of the Eucharistic prayer should always be said in Latin.

9. All those who exercise an active role in the liturgy, such as lectors, or those announcing the prayer of the faithful, should always be dressed in the liturgical vestments; and only men, no women, because this is an exercise in the sanctuary, close to the priesthood. Even reading the lectionary is directed towards this liturgy which we are celebrating to Christ. And therefore only men dressed in liturgical vestments should be in the sanctuary.

10. The music and the songs during the liturgy should more truly reflect the sacred character and should resemble the song of the angels, like the Sanctus, in order to be really more able to sing with one voice with the angels. Not only the sanctus, but the entire Holy Mass. It would be necessary that the heart, mind and voice of the priest and the faithful be directed towards The Lord. And that this would be manifested by exterior signs and gestures as well.

There is a great deal to reflect on here. Each of these ten points seems, to me at least, indispensable in our pursuit of truly reverent worship in our churches. None of these points is incompatible with either the Church’s ancient liturgy or, perhaps more importantly, with the liturgy envisioned by the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

It would be a tremendous blessing if more bishops would take up these ten points as essential guidelines for liturgy in their dioceses. I encourage you to send them along to your own bishop for his consideration. There were more treasures in the Q&A, which I have elected not to transcribe due to the length. (If you are interested in the full audio of the talk, see below.)

I also had the opportunity to meet briefly with the bishop at the conclusion of his talk. When I thanked him for his leadership in a time where it seems so many of our shepherds are not speaking with clear voices for the teachings of the Church, he said to me, “It is you who must do this. You, the faithful, your families. You must be holy. You must teach the faith to your children. You must inspire the priests.” On the subject of vocations, he said that we must offer our children to God if we wish for them to receive a call. It would seem that with this advice — paired with the concrete suggestions he previously offered in his article published earlier this year — he is calling on us, the laity, to begin a holiness revolution if we wish to see reform the Church.

It seems we had better get started.


“What is Redemptive Suffering” by Mother Angelica


What is Redemptive Suffering


“This may be a wicked age but your lives should redeem it” (Eph. 5:16).

The word “redeem” means to rescue, set free, ransom, and to pay the penalty incurred by another. We often lose sight of the definition to “set free,” and we miss the power of our example as Christians to do exactly that — set our neighbor free.

We must look at this aspect of Redemptive Suffering if we are to understand its role in our daily lives. St. Paul told the Corinthians that, “indeed, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so, through Christ, does our consolation overflow. When we are made to suffer, it is for our consolation and salvation” (2 Cor. 1:5, 6).

Paul did not want the sufferings encountered by being a Christian to discourage or dishearten anyone. He realized that when Christians saw the blessings and grace that poured upon him after his many trials, they would gain courage to suffer in their turn. The example of fortitude and fidelity exhibited by this man of God released them from the fetters of fear and cowardice.

Paul knew that Christ’s example of every virtue was as redemptive as His death. By the example of his holy life, the Christian was to release and set his neighbor free from the bondage of sin in which he was immersed. Holiness reaches out to touch everyone and gives them the courage to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The Christian’s suffering was acceptable to the Father for the salvation of mankind because he was so united to Jesus through the grace of the Holy Spirit and because whatever he suffered, Jesus suffered in him. “It makes me happy,” Paul told the Colossians, “to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church” (Col. 1:24). It is Jesus who continues to suffer in the Christian for the good of all mankind.

Whatever we do to our neighbor, we do to Jesus, and all the sufferings our neighbor encounters in his daily life helps to build up the Mystical Body of Christ. To Paul, everything he suffered was for the Christians to whom he preached and for those who were to come. “I want you to know,” he said, “that I do have to struggle hard for you . . . and for so many others who have never seen me face to face” (Col. 2:1).

What was the purpose of all this suffering for others? “It is all to bind you together in love,” he told them, “and to stir your minds, so that your understanding may come to full development” (Col. 2:2).

Paul offered his sufferings for the good of his brethren, the Jews, for he told Timothy, “I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal — but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it” (2 Tim. 2:9-10, emphasis added).

Here we have Redemptive Suffering offered to God for the sake of others. Paul’s desire to suffer for his brethren reached almost to extremes, for one day he said, “My sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood” (Rom. 9:2-4). Paul knew that God would never exact that price for the salvation of others but he went to extremes in his desire to suffer for others so they too might come to know Jesus and enjoy His Kingdom.

Paul even thought that God would use his conversion for the sake of others. In writing to Timothy, he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of His inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust to Him to come to eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).

God would use the manifestation of His Mercy towards Paul as an opportunity for the conversion of other souls. Great sinners throughout the ages would look to Paul for courage and strength. Yes, the suffering and humiliation Paul endured was Redemptive for it freed sinners of fear and made them look to God for mercy.

Jesus told His Apostles at the Last Supper that “a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Jesus laid down His life for our sake, and He desires that we do the same for our neighbor if and when that opportunity presents itself. A soldier gives his life for his country, and he is a hero because his act of sacrifice is unselfish — he dies that others may live in peace. Most Christians are not asked to make the supreme sacrifice, but God chooses some to participate in the salvation of souls, not by giving up their lives but by enduring sufferings that are over and above what they need for themselves. All those whose suffering is Redemptive can say with St. Paul, “Never lose confidence because of the trials that I go through on your account; they are your glory” (Eph. 3:13).

Every pain we endure with love, every cross borne with resignation, benefits every man, woman, and child in the Mystical Body of Christ. Those who are chosen to bear a greater portion of suffering than others are called by God to heal the souls of many whose lives are bereft of the knowledge and love of God. Redemptive Suffering not only helps poor sinners directly by suffering for them but edifies and consoles good and holy souls as they journey through life striving for holiness. This dual role of Redemptive Suffering merits for those chosen by God for such a role, a glory and happiness in the Kingdom beyond our concepts or imagination. Like Jesus, their sufferings, united to His, rise to Heaven and obtain grace and repentance for those who are straying from God and His Love.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnoutwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

image: photogolfer / Shutterstock.com

Tagged as: conversionloveMother AngelicaRedemptive SufferingSt. Paul,suffering         END QUOTES

“How to Start Living Heaven Right Now” re-blogged

How to start living Heaven right now

 Brother Silas Henderson, SDS | May 27, 2017

Mateus Lunardi Dutra CC



The Ascension contains a promise. The challenge is choosing to accept it.

As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven. —Acts 1:9-11

In her novel Gilead, Marilyn Robinson shares the story of Reverend John Ames who, looking back on a life of pastoral service, love, loss, faith, and hope, tells his young son:

Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time. For example, whenever I take a child into my arms to be baptized, I am, so to speak, comprehended in the experience more fully, having seen more of life, knowing better what it means to affirm the sacredness of the human creature. I believe there are visions that come to us only in memory, in retrospect.

The New Testament is also a story of how memory shapes vision and the course of life itself.

Having lived alongside Jesus, his followers—including Mary and the Apostles—had to discern what his life, death, resurrection, and return to the Father revealed about who Jesus was and what God was asking of each of them. Their memories of his words and actions inspired them to go beyond the comfort zones and religious tradition, to risk becoming something more — and their faith and courage changed the world.

An understanding of Jesus’ return to the Father—of his Ascension into Heaven—was one of those visions “that come to us only in memory, in retrospect,” just like the experience of Jesus’ Resurrection could only be more fully understood after the disciples lived their Easter faith through years of praying, preaching, communion, fidelity, and suffering.

In his book Living Jesus, Luke Timothy Johnson reflected that “the withdrawal of Jesus is not so much an absence as it is a presence in a new and more powerful mode: when Jesus is not among them as another specific body, he is accessible to all as life-giving spirit.” Although, for many believers, the Ascension of Jesus seems to focus on his departure, the truth of the Ascension is that Jesus is still alive in our midst, but in a new way.

The Solemnity of the Ascension is a celebration of two promises. First, Jesus has promised that he will send us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to guide and sustain the growth of the Church. Beyond this, the Ascension also contains a promise about what is now made possible for us in Christ:

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might.
(Ephesians 1:18-19).

The challenge for us is to live in this promise.

It is so easy for us to become weighed down by our day-to-day responsibilities and the legion of distractions and diversions that are such a part of our contemporary culture that the hazy promise of some future reality (however glorious) can’t really compete. And yet, as Christians, this is who we are: “Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love” (Saint Augustine of Hippo in Sermo de Ascensione Domini).

Jesus disappears from the disciples’ physical sight so that he might become more present to the eyes of their hearts.

We are called to foster the same spirit of discernment that the Apostles and the first generations of Christians practiced as they gradually came to understand who Jesus was and could be for them. The vision of the glorified Lord, a promise of future glory, is something we can realize and live here and now.

What does the Solemnity of the Ascension mean to you? How does it challenge you to expand your understanding of who Jesus is?

How does the Apostles’ ongoing discernment and search for the Lord inspire you to see Christ at work in the world today?

How does this celebration strengthen your hope and trust in God’s presence and action in your life?

Words of Wisdom: “The Ascension doesn’t indicate Jesus’ absence, but rather it tells us that He is living among us in a new way. He is no longer in a particular place in the world as He was before the Ascension. Now He is in the Lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each of us.”—Pope Francis END QUOTES

I Will add to this that we Catholics, have yet another way, the reality of Jesus Christ in Person in Catholic Holy Communion permits, invites and provides a TRUE foretaste of heaven here on earth and is the most significant [of MANY] reasons to be an Informed and fully practicing Roman Catholic. AMEN! {Patrick Miron}

“The Mask of Relativism” [re-blogged] By Edward Sri


The Mask of Relativism – by Edward Sri

Edward Sri <info.edwardsri@gmail.com>



The Mask of Relativism by Edward Sri


     “So, Dr. Sri, do you think I’m a relativist?”
That was the odd question posed to me many years ago at a Catholic convention in the New York City area.  I had just finished giving a presentation on moral relativism when an energetic young man chased me down to ask his unusual, personal question.
“Your talk got me wondering if maybe I’m a relativist.  What do you think?”
“Well, I don’t really know you,” I replied. “But you’re here at this Catholic conference. Are you a practicing Catholic?”
“Yes, I’m Catholic,” he said. “I go to Mass, I go to Eucharistic adoration, and I love going to conferences like this one.”
“Good. What about moral issues? Let’s take a big one today—do you think abortion is wrong?”
“Oh yes, abortion is definitely wrong…for me.”
There were those two small words—“for me.”  They sent up a red flag in my mind.
“What do you mean by saying it’s wrong for you?  Don’t you think abortion is wrong foreveryone?,” I asked.
“Well, I’m against abortion,” he said.  “But that’s my truth.  If someone else thinks abortion is OK, that’s their truth. So, for them, it would be OK.”
His answer made one thing very clear, and I told him so: “You are a relativist if you think that!”  We then debated whether the baby in the womb is a baby in reality or just in his own personal opinion. But that did not get very far. The young man kept saying that “for him,” the baby was a human life but for others it might not be.  So I tried a different approach.

Sometimes You Need a Plan B

We were at a conference center in Newark, New Jersey, standing in a grand hallway with large windows looking out across the Hudson River toward Manhattan.  It was only a couple years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  I pointed out the window and asked him, “Are you really that much of a relativist?  Look out there!  Just a few years ago, there were two towers standing there in Lower Manhattan, and terrorists flew airplanes into those buildings.  Thousands of people died that day.  Are you willing to go up to the kids who lost a parent in the World Trade Center, look them in the eye and tell them that what the terrorists did was not wrong, because ‘for them,’ they thought they were doing good?  Could you really do that?”
He was startled by this scenario and nervously said, “Wow….that’s very personal. I lost friends in the towers that day.  Oh, wow…. That would be really hard …”  He continued stammering about what a horrible day 9/11 was.  “It would be very difficult to do that….But, if I had to be honest… Yes, I’d have to tell those kids that, for the terrorists, what they did was not wrong.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I needed a big “Plan B.”  In dismay, I replied,
“I don’t know what more I could say to you.  But you said you love Jesus in the Eucharist, and there’s a Eucharistic adoration chapel set up right here for our conference. Would you be willing to go in front of Jesus in the Eucharist and prayerfully ask Him whatHe thinks of your relativistic views?”
He agreed, cordially said goodnight and walked into the chapel to pray.



Masking Other Issues

The next day, the young man tracked me down again, saying “Dr. Sri!  Dr. Sri!… I’m so glad I caught you before you left. I wanted to tell you something….”
He caught his breath and slowed down his speech.  “I realized last night that I’m not really a relativist.  The only reason I’ve been trying to be one is that….”  He paused and looked down at the ground before continuing.  “The only reason I’ve been trying to be a relativist is that I wanted to be able to say pre-marital sex is OK…”
Then he raised his head, looked me directly in the eye and said, “I wanted to be able to say pre-marital sex is OK for me.”
What an honest, humble young man!  I was so impressed by how he admitted to what was lurking behind his relativistic positions.  He had been trying to justify his own sexual behavior, and moral relativism was a convenient way to do so.  By denying that there was an actual ethical standard everyone had to follow, he was trying to ease his conscience and excuse himself for having pre-marital sex. Fortunately, this young man had the humility to recognize this and went on to express his desire to live a more chaste life.
But not everyone has this humility. That’s why we need to keep in mind that relativism may be a mask covering up one’s own immoral behavior.  You may hear your friend talking about being non-judgmental, being pro-choice, or being open minded to anyone’s definition of marriage.  But the real issue driving his relativism might be something in his own moral life with which he’s not comfortable. It could be something from his past or something going on right now. It could be what he did to his girlfriend in high school or how he’s treating his wife right now.  It could be disregard for his parents, marital infidelity, contraception, or addiction to pornography.  When people are quick to say “you should be tolerant of other people’s lifestyles…you shouldn’t tell other people what’s right and wrong,” realize they might really talking about themselves: “Be tolerant of my little sin…Don’t tell me what’s right and wrong.”
This recalls what Joseph Ratzinger once taught about “the dictatorship of

relativism.”  “Today,” he said, “we are building a dictatorship of relativism…whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”  According to Ratzinger the primary dictator in the relativistic outlook is one’s own selfish desires.  As such, relativism often serves as a mask to cover up one’s selfishness or rationalize a particular sin.   That’s why merely arguing with them usually doesn’t work. Pray for them. Make sacrifices for them. Offer your Communion for them. Remember, it’s not just an intellectual battle, but also a spiritual one.

This article is based on my book and video study program, Who Am I to Judge?—Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Ignatius Press).END QUOTES

“Finding Time” re-blogged


Finding Time

It may seem strange given all the leisure activities that exist in the modern world, but it’s now become something not for the faint of heart to carve out time each day to pray, to study Scripture, or to read a good Catholic book. Finding that time inevitably involves dropping something else. So, as we go through our day, we ought constantly to be judging how important something is to our salvation. Does it advance our salvation or retard it? The good thing is that the more we make the good choices and the more that we just step up and choose, the better we become at choosing the right thing.

I say “our” because we are not involved exclusively with our own salvation. We are carrying everyone else along with us. Now, when the baby needs to be fed or changed, of course, she is at the top of the list. However, once everyone has been taken care of, we usually have some wiggle room: five minutes here, five minutes there. Drop a TV show, don’t read a trashy newspaper, don’t surf your life away online. And we can prepare for those moments. Have some prayers written out and placed around the house; read one when you get a few moments.

That’s just for starters. We might also make a point of having statues or icons of favorite saints around the house, with some of their prayers. I say their prayers because, unless we are far advanced, we will need prayers that the Church knows are theologically sound. Praying for a new Porsche or to pass a test is something else entirely. Or how about having some true hymns ready, on paper, not necessarily to sing out loud but always to sing in our minds?

For ennobling time, reading the Scriptures is second only to performing acts of charity. If we have the Bible open somewhere where it will not be disturbed (with a heavy paperweight on it) then we can read a few verses when we have a few minutes. Of course, we might have to consciously decide to do this a lot of times before we really get into the habit. Gradually, though, we find that the words of Scripture express our deepest thoughts. Then the Scriptures take over and begin to speak back to us in turn. We become aware of being part of a community chosen by God, filled with his Spirit, stretching through time, reaching deep into our lives and all our acts.

The psalms are a great place to start because the Church knows them as true prayers and has used them intensively for two millennia. Another interesting way to start is to read the parables of the New Testament. Once you are used to reading Scripture regularly, then you can start anywhere and know that you are in communion with Almighty God and his Church. You will be learning what is good and true – something that is never wasted.

All we need to do is to look and we will also discover that we can find time for acts of charity. We unite with Christ and he acts through us in our charity. For example, we could start by strengthening our relationships to everyone in our house each time we express our love selflessly. The key lies in the selflessness. Bit-by-bit acting selflessly transforms us and the world around us.

This process must mean maturing into being the Good Samaritan, but it might even go beyond and mean performing acts as simple as saying a prayer for someone whom we see at a stoplight. I would not recommend praying while driving. It is a genuine service to the others on the road if we drive really attentively every second that we are on the road. That is our act of charity behind the wheel.

The decision to “drop something” to make time reaches far beyond shedding some activities, although there’s no way around that. It involves unlearning contrary cultural values as well. In a materialistic culture, for example, “time” is for consuming, paying for fun, and buying things. It’s part of being human that we all have to engage in many largely pointless activities. And there’s nothing wrong with some innocent fun. But it’s more Christ-like when we use our time to serve other people and God.

And there are more urgent things to drop, like risky behavior, which unfortunately is what many people regard as “fun” in America today. Binge drinking is the most obvious problem. But what about binge watching or binge surfing, just two odd developments that we are seeing spreading across the nation? Bingeing on alcohol or drugs may have more immediate bad consequences, but that doesn’t make the danger of other addictions any less.

And at a time when the traditional media and the Internet are no longer generally reliable sources of information, what may seem harmless curiosity may fill us with falsehoods. As you’ve probably noticed, the media seem to have had to become more shrill, more hysterical, in an effort to get our attention and increase their market share. Spending more time talking to the One True Good and contemplating real truth calmly will not only lead us to eternal life but to richer lives in this world as well.

Once a minute is gone, it is gone forever. So let’s consciously decide to make really good choices about how we use our limited time on earth. Those choices have eternal consequences.


The TRUTH is Real, not rigid…. re-blogged

The Truth Is Real, Not Rigid

Note: My learned EWTN “Papal Posse” colleague, Fr. Murray, dissects today a phenomenon all too common in the Church just now – Churchmen who, on the basis of no one knows what, casually change Catholic teaching and practice. He directs us back to the saving and safe reality of truth. This is something that, in one way or another, we try to do every day at The Catholic Thing. Our fund drive is doing well so far and thanks again to all of you who have made generous contributions to this work. Let me remind the rest of you that we rely on reader support for a lot of what we’re able to bring you every day. If you can’t make a serious donation right now, you could certainly set up a monthly gift of $5, $10, $25, $50, or more. In some ways that helps us even more since it allows us to plan in light of the resources we’ll have during the rest of the year. It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. Please, click the Donate button and add your support to the defense and preservation of Catholic truth. – Robert Royal    


Does reality matter? Is it the decisive and necessary reference point for discovering what is and what is not, what is true and what is false? Or is reality subject to revision based one’s preferences, desires, or some other factor? These questions come to mind when we consider the astounding report concerning remarks made by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio on the question of the validity of Anglican orders. According to Christopher Lamb in The Tablet, Coccopalmerio characterized the Church’s teaching on the question of Anglican orders as follows: “We have had, and we still have a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity: this is valid, and that is not valid. One should be able to say: ‘this is valid in a certain context, and that is valid another context’.”

The Cardinal speculates on the doctrinal implications of past papal gestures of friendship and respect, stating: “What does it mean when Pope Paul VI gave a chalice to the Archbishop of Canterbury? If it was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, it was meant to be done validly, no?” He continues: “This is stronger than the pectoral cross, because a chalice is used not just for drinking but for celebrating the Eucharist. With these gestures, the Catholic Church already intuits, recognizes a reality.”

These remarks are published in a new book, whose title is not given by Lamb, presenting the contents of a meeting of the Malines Conversation Group held near Rome in April of this year. Vatican Radio covered the meeting, noting the participation of Cardinal Coccopalmerio. The Vatican Radio story included comments by Fr. Tony Currer of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. Regarding Anglican orders he comments: “I think it’s true to say we don’t use the language of ‘null and void’ any more,” as that’s “clearly not what is spoken by the gestures, generosity, and warmth which we see time and time again.”

Validity is another word for reality when speaking about the sacraments. The Church teaches clearly what is necessary for the valid – that is, true and real – celebration of the sacraments. By invoking the pejorative buzzword “rigid understanding” regarding validity and invalidity, Coccopalmerio reduces the Church’s determination of what counts as a valid sacrament to the expression of a psychologically unhealthy attitude rooted in ignorance or irrational fear.

Rome, Paul VI, and Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, 1966

The question of validity is simple: Does the Church consider an Anglican ordination to be a valid administration of the sacrament of Holy Orders? The answer is no, as determined authoritatively by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Apostolicae Curae. Anglican ordination does not make a man into a Catholic priest. That determination is objective, grounded in a careful and reasoned study of the history, doctrines and practice of both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

Coccopalmerio also states: “When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’.” The choice presented in this statement is that at an Anglican ordination either a man is validly ordained a priest, or that nothing happened. But there is a third possibility: Anglican ordination results in someone becoming an Anglican priest, not a Catholic priest.

The Church teaches that such an ordination is not a valid Catholic ordination. The man ordained in an Anglican ceremony does not receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. The sacrament of Holy Orders is not administered. (I leave aside the question of Anglicans ordained by bishops who themselves received valid episcopal consecration by Orthodox or Old Catholic bishops.)

Coccopalmerio and Currer apparently resist this truth. The Cardinal claims that the Papal gift of a chalice to the Archbishop of Canterbury means that Pope Paul VI considered the Anglican Communion Service to be a valid celebration of Mass because “it was meant to be done validly.” But Pope Paul never said what Coccopalmerio infers. A gesture does not equal a doctrinal pronouncement.

Fr. Currer claims that “we don’t use the language of ‘null and void’ anymore.” If by “we” he means the Catholic Church, he is wrong. Pope Leo XIII’s determination has never been rejected by any of his successors. The fact that Fr. Currer and others are unhappy that Anglican orders were found to be null and void is evident. Currer’s dissatisfaction with this exercise of the papal magisterium does not, however, mean that the Church no longer upholds the invalidity of Anglican orders.

Coccopalmerio seeks to dismiss the objective truth of what constitutes sacramental validity in the Catholic Church by making it changeable according to a “context.” Is this not relativism plain and simple? The Cardinal does not claim here that the criteria for determining the validity or invalidity of the administration of Holy Orders were misapplied by Leo XIII when he examined Anglican orders. (Perhaps he addresses this question elsewhere in his published remarks.) He simply says that those criteria should not apply because they are “rigid.” Pope Leo XIII’s determination that Anglican orders are invalid is maligned as rigid when one does not like the particular truth in question. One man’s rigidity is another man’s solidity. Is the Church stubborn or steadfast in this matter? I would say She is both. That is what the truth requires regardless of any context. If She made a huge mistake here, what else will be put on the chopping block?

Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote in his essay The Dethronement of Truth: “Disrespect for truth – when not merely a theoretical thesis, but a lived attitude – patently destroys all morality, even all reasonability and all community life. All objective norms are dissolved by this attitude of indifference toward truth; so also is the possibility of resolving any discussion or controversy objectively. Peace among individuals or nations and all trust in other persons are impossible as well. The very basis of a really human life is subverted.”

Truth is cast aside at our great peril. END QUOTES


“God or Nothing” re-blogged

God or Nothing


If you had a choice between God and nothing, which would it be? The answer is obvious. But given the option “God or something,” many of us will choose something besides God. This is really a senseless choice, though, because in comparison with God even the greatest thing is nothing. This is the ultimatum that Robert Cardinal Sarah presents to us in his book God or Nothing.

You may not have heard of Cardinal Sarah (pronounced Sa-RAH), but he is head of one of the major dicasteries in Rome. He’s an outspoken advocate for the family and a man of prayer and simplicity. I had the honor of hearing him speak recently at the 2016 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which was attended by about 1,000 Catholics from the DC area. Cardinal Sarah closed his keynote address with the phrase “God or nothing,” referencing his book and putting our cultural struggles in perspective. In the end, all that matters is that we choose God and give other people the opportunity to do the same.

By putting this point front and center, Cardinal Sarah reinforced what House Speaker Paul Ryan said in an address at the same event: the purpose of our society, culture, work, family life, and religious freedom is to allow us to choose God. Mr. Ryan, much to the pleasure of the Dominicans in attendance, opened with a quotation from St. Thomas Aquinas: “It should be known that all right-thinking men make contemplation of God the end of human life” (from the opening of the commentary on Lombard’s Sentences). What seems useless in the march of everyday family and work activities, viz. praying to God, is actually the reason that we do those other things. It’s not that work, family, and other activities are bad, but that we should choose them for the sake of God, so that in Heaven we can contemplate God together with all the saints. God is the one thing that can make us happy, because He is not a “thing” that is part of creation, but the infinite Creator who both exists outside creation and sustains it at every moment. If you want to read more about the types of happiness people strive for, St. Thomas gives an overview in the Summa Theologiae (I-II q. 2). His conclusion is that only God can satisfy the human heart (see article eight of the Summa link).

By pointing to God as the purpose of all things, Cardinal Sarah and Mr. Ryan gave a fresh perspective on religious freedom. Threats to the exercise of religion and its influence in the public square not only attack Catholics as Catholics, but limit our ability to share the Gospel and provide the conditions of happiness for everyone. Our belief that God is the end of all human activity and the one thing that can make us happy means that outside of the Catholic faith, perfect happiness is simply not possible. If we cannot spread the good news that Jesus Christ has opened the way to God for us, then we cannot share the only real possibility for happiness.

Cardinal Sarah reminded us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare with the forces of darkness. He called gender ideology “demonic,” a term that seems too strong for many. How do we understand this? Sarah had written in his book:

Why this frenzied desire to impose gender theory? An anthropological vision that was unknown a few years ago, the product of the strange thought of a few sociologists and writers like Michel Foucault, should suddenly become the world’s new El Dorado? It is impossible to remain complacent in the presence of such an immoral and demonic deception. . . . The chief enemies of homosexual persons are the LGBT lobbies. It is a serious error to reduce an individual to his behavior, especially sexual behavior.

Such an ideology wants to remove faith from people’s lives and propose alternative paths to happiness. Similarly, in his breakfast talk, Cardinal Sarah said that this gender ideology is demonic because the demons are envious that humans have the chance to reach Heaven, and want to keep us away from God. By helping promote cultural ideologies that make faith irrelevant or characterize it as discriminatory, the demons are trying to shut us out of Heaven. This means that when we stand up for the truth, we should start in prayer and rely on God’s help against these foes. By trusting in Jesus’ victory over all His adversaries, we can have the courage to face our human opponents and pray for their conversion. After all, we want them to be able to obtain happiness in God alongside us!

In prayer, we can see the struggles and frustrations of American political and cultural life from God’s perspective. With the gifts of faith and understanding, we will be able to see that nothing compares to the greatness of God. Any time we are tempted to choose a way of life without reference to God, or to let our neighbor do so with only a shrug of our shoulders, we can remember Cardinal Sarah’s wisdom: it is not a choice between God and something, but between God and nothing.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicanathe Dominican student blog of the Province of St. Joseph, and is reprinted here with kind permission.  END QUOTES

By Br. Norbert Keliher, O.P.

Br. Norbert Keliher entered the Order of Preachers in 2012. He is a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied Latin and Greek. Before entering the order, he spent a year teaching in New York City and a year studying theology at Notre Dame.


“Catholic”: What it means; past. present & future…. re-blogged


Rebuilding Catholic Culture. Restoring Catholic Tradition.

Catholic: What It Means, Past, Present, Future

By: Jonathan Cariveau

What does “Catholic” really mean?

In order to answer that question, to the benefit of Catholic and non-Catholic alike, I’d like to examine the core distinguishing elements of catholicity. I hope to reveal the inner logic of the word, which is the unity of the people of God in all eras, in every place, in dogma and worship, and in life and death.

Apart from Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9, which uses a similar phrase, “Catholic” is first used to describe the Church by St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the apostles Peter, Paul, and John, who died a martyr in Rome around A.D. 107.

Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Since St. Ignatius presents the term without explanation, it is reasonable to take this title or mark of the Church as apostolic. From this point on, the Church is called Catholic by many early Church Fathers, including Irenaeus, Cyprian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine of Hippo, and many others, in a variety of different contexts. Augustine speaks of the Catholic community in each city being so notoriously unique that everyone knew who they were, though by this time many heretical sects claimed the title of Christian.

Grammatically, the Greek word καθολικός means “according to the whole,” or more popularly, “universal.” With the transition in the European and west African regions from Greek to Latin in the third century, the Latin equivalent catholicus began to be used as a proper name for that papal, episcopal, clerical, monastic, and lay society present in every city and region and organized around the city of Rome.


The most important reference to the catholicity of the Church is in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed, in which belief in the Church and her identity is made an article of faith equally important to and dependent on the divinity and activity of the Holy Spirit. From the original Greek:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

The simplest and most enduring sense in which the Church is Catholic is hierarchically. The whole and complete Church, the Church that is truly universal, is the one ruled by the pope and governed in every city by bishops in communion with him, because she stands united under a single authority and listens to one voice: that of Christ, far above the din of political schemes, cultural and national quarrels, and ecclesiastical disagreements. This is the sense best understood today, and in this respect, being Catholic means embracing the pope’s communion; being subject to his lawful commands; listening to and obeying that bishop who rules in union with him; and most importantly, believing all that has formally issued from the Chair of Peter in every century.

The Church is also Catholic in the unity of its parts within the whole. As a society spread throughout the world, she holds one and the same faith in every place. She worships with one voice and makes one solemn sacrifice, though in many rites, and she listens to one teaching authority. Despite the fact the Church adapts herself to every nation and culture, she first baptizes them and then infuses them with one wisdom: Christ. Because of this, one region and another must exhibit visible unity in prayer, sacraments, and doctrine. The Latin rite cannot appear substantially different from the Greek rite, nor can Greek doctrine differ substantially from Roman. Each rite and tradition challenges the others to remain faithful to the Holy Spirit, the invisible soul of the visible Church. This principle emphatically excludes the practice of offering the sacrifice of the Mass in whatever style or liturgical orientation one pleases and casts doubt on the wisdom of reforming the text and especially the ars celebrandi of the Mass, not to mention the divine office and the other six sacraments. No less does it exclude the habit of some Greek rite Catholics and nearly all Greek Orthodox of pretending that disunity in dogmatic theology is legitimate diversity.


Is this all that it is to be Catholic? Far from it! On the contrary, the most important aspects of catholicity are invisible. Catholic unity at its heart is the unity of the Holy Trinity. It is the unity of the Son of God with His human nature, which He received by the gracious fiat of Mary, mother of God and of us all. It is the unity of the whole Church, the Body of Christ, with its head, Jesus.

Lastly, it is the unity of all His members in every time, both living and dead, so that “God may be all in all” and that we “may be one” as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are, and that “neither death nor life will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:28, John 17:21, Rom. 8:38-39). Moreover, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

In the final analysis, Christ is the Church, and the Church is Christ, and the Church embraces as her members all the righteous patriarchs and prophets of the Old Covenant freed from limbo by Christ’s harrowing of Hades. One Holy Spirit speaks of one holy God in one holy Church from Adam to today. In the words of St. Ignatius:

[Christ] is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, and the apostles, and the Church. All these have for their object the attaining to the unity of God. But the gospel possesses something transcendent: the appearance of our Lord, Jesus Christ, His passion and resurrection. For the beloved prophets announced Him, but the gospel is the perfection of immortality. All these things are good together, if you believe in love.

These principles mean that the Church militant, the Church triumphant, and the Church suffering all constitute one body whose members enjoy one communion of saints. This is why we invoke the names of our departed over the consecrated gifts at the Mass and seek the prayers of the martyrs and saints in heaven, confident that we can both help and be helped by those who no longer sojourn with us.

Moreover, because the one Church is as old as humanity, and because one Spirit “has spoken through the prophets in one apostolic Church,” the ritual of the sacrifice of the Mass, the celebration of the sacraments, and the hierarchical constitution of the Church militant are foreshadowed in the Levitical ordinances imposed on the Hebrews by Christ through Moses. With the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem forty years after our God’s resurrection and thirty years before the death of his apostle John, Christ’s sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist displaces and fulfills all the Levitical sacrifices and is that worship that infallibly pleases God and is offered to his name by every nation.

According to the prophet Malachi:

From the rising of the sun even to the going down thereof my name has been glorified among the gentiles; and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering: for my name is great among the gentiles, saith the Lord Almighty.

With this broad vision, and knowing we worship the God of the prophets, Jesus Christ our Lord, the necessity of liturgical continuity with the past becomes blindingly evident. If the Catholic Church is prophesied by and foreshadowed in the Hebrew people, our worship is temple worship and should exceed the glory of the Levitical cult in Solomon’s temple, inasmuch as “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). The mystical liturgical cult of our Church is foreshadowed in temple, tabernacle, and ultimately the garden of Eden, and brought to its fulfillment on that sacred night when Christ our Lord took the sacrifices of Melchizedek, gave thanks to His Father through them, transubstantiated them into Himself, and offered Himself under those signs in anticipation of his crucifixion and resurrection.

In conclusion, then, I’ll leave you with the fulfillment of Malachi’s words in Christ’s covenant, in the words of the Roman canon, which dates to the first century after Nicaea:

Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed passion, the resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy bread of eternal life and the chalice of everlasting salvation. Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance, and to accept them, as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim. End Quotes

Pope Francis in Fatima: “If we want to be Christian, we must be Marian”

Pope Francis in Fatima: “If we want to be Christian, we must be Marian”

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, the pope addresses thousands of pilgrims gathered in Fatima

FATIMA — “If we want to be Christian, we must be Marian,” Pope Francis told thousands of clergy, religious and lay pilgrims on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to three children in Fatima.

Addressing pilgrims at the Chapel of the Apparitions, the pope said being Marian means “we have to acknowledge the essential, vital and providential relationship uniting Our Lady to Jesus, a relationship that opens before us the way leading to him.”

Silence and prayer pervaded the Marian shrine, as thousands of clergy, religious and lay faithful gathered for a blessing of candles and the pope’s address, followed by the recitation of the Holy Rosary in various languages, including Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish, Ukrainian, Italian, Korean, English, French, German and Polish.

The Chapel of the Apparitions is a small chapel located in Cova da Iria that was constructed in the 1920s to mark the exact location where the the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children.

It was built in response to the request of Our Lady to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco: “I want you to make a chapel here in my honor.”

On Saturday, May 13, Pope Francis will canonize two of the Fatima visionaries, brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta Marto, on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition in 1917.

Here below is the official English text of Pope Francis’ first address in Fatima.

Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis
Vigil at the Chapel of the Apparitions
May 12, 2017

Dear Pilgrims to Mary and with Mary!

Thank you for your welcome and for joining me on this pilgrimage of hope and peace. Even now, I want to assure all of you who are united with me, here or elsewhere, that you have a special place in my heart. I feel that Jesus has entrusted you to me (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and I embrace all of you and commend you to Jesus, “especially those most in need” – as Our Lady taught us to pray (Apparition of July, 1917). May she, the loving and solicitous Mother of the needy, obtain for them the Lord’s blessing! On each of the destitute and outcast robbed of the present, on each of the excluded and abandoned denied a future, on each of the orphans and victims of injustice refused a past, may there descend the blessing of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26).

This blessing was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. No other creature ever basked in the light of God’s face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father. Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the rosary. With Christ and Mary, we abide in God. Indeed, “if we want to be Christian, we must be Marian; in a word, we have to acknowledge the essential, vital and providential relationship uniting Our Lady to Jesus, a relationship that opens before us the way leading to him” (PAUL VI, Address at the Shine of Our Lady of Bonaria, Cagliari, 24 April 1970). Each time we recite the rosary, in this holy place or anywhere else, the Gospel enters anew into the life of individuals, families, peoples and the entire world.

Pilgrims with Mary… But which Mary? A teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the “narrow way” of the cross by giving us an example, or a Lady “unapproachable” and impossible to imitate? A woman “blessed because she believed” always and everywhere in God’s words (cf. Lk 1:42.45), or a “plaster statue” from whom we beg favors at little cost? The Virgin Mary of the Gospel, venerated by the Church at prayer, or a Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge; one more merciful than the Lamb slain for us?

Great injustice is done to God’s grace whenever we say that sins are punished by his judgment, without first saying – as the Gospel clearly does – that they are forgiven by his mercy! Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God’s judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy. Obviously, God’s mercy does not deny justice, for Jesus took upon himself the consequences of our sin, together with its due punishment. He did not deny sin, but redeemed it on the cross. Hence, in the faith that unites us to the cross of Christ, we are freed of our sins; we put aside all fear and dread, as unbefitting those who are loved (cf. 1 Jn 4:18). “Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her, we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong, who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves… This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization” (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, 288). With Mary, may each of us become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything.

Hand in hand with the Virgin Mother, and under her watchful gaze, may we come to sing with joy the mercies of the Lord, and cry out: “My soul sings to you, Lord!” The mercy you have shown to all your saints and all your faithful people, you have also shown to me. Out of the pride of my heart, I went astray, following my own ambitions and interests, without gaining any crown of glory! My one hope of glory, Lord, is this: that your Mother will take me in her arms, shelter me beneath her mantle, and set me close to your heart. Amen. END QUOTES


A Czech Philosopher Comes to the Defense of Truth: re-blogged

A Czech Philosopher Comes to the Defense of Truth


In contrast to lie or error, truth is usually understood as an idea that corresponds to reality (or the quality of such an idea), and the existence and accessibility of truth is taken for granted. But the gap between common sense and “critical thinking” concerning truth is very wide. Modern philosophers have explored the obstacles that prevent us from achieving certain, objective, and universal knowledge of reality and concluded that the assumptions of common sense are highly questionable. So is truth done away with? Not at all—but one has to be extremely careful to avoid the traps.

To express ideas, we need words, and the meaning of words is far from static. Every language conveys a certain perception of the world and historical experiences of a community that cannot be perfectly expressed in another language; the understanding of words can change over time and vary with individual speakers. If we cast a critical eye on reality itself, we find that it is not as “real” as one might expect. One just needs to look around to see that things (including ourselves) are always changing. This observation has led to the ancient/modern idea that the unchanging essence of things is an illusion. We are told that nothing is a given, not even human nature—modern man substantially differs from the ancient or medieval man. If reality is not fixed, it cannot be described by unchanging truths; on the contrary, it would mean that all “truths” necessarily evolve.

The most serious problem relates to correspondence. How can ideas correspond to reality? Influential modern philosophers say there is an abyss between our minds and the world (if it exists at all). We perceive the world through our senses, without any guarantee that we are not deceived, and reason probably distorts reality by applying templates to it. Even if we know with certainty that man can think, man’s thinking may be completely subjective. These philosophers say that all we have are subjective images and experiences or some constructions of our reason; moreover, reason (the ability to attain true knowledge) and freedom (which is a necessary condition for achieving true knowledge) cannot be proven. This would mean that cognizance is based on faith: since first axioms are uncertain, rational knowledge is an illusion.

All these objections against truth have led to relativism: the view that the validity of all ideas is limited. We do not know reality as it is, only as it appears to us through our senses. Every era, culture or individual sees the world from different perspectives, there is no universal standard to compare them, and nothing is certain. To claim otherwise would be a sign of pride and intolerance. It would be absurd to say that some beliefs are wrong or that a certain religion is closer to truth than others. However, relativism obviously contradicts itself. It states that there are no certain, objective and unchanging truths while claiming certainty, objectivity, and universal validity for itself. Is there a solution to this embarrassing situation?

The contemporary Czech philosopher Jiří Fuchs offers a solution called “noetics” that he discusses at length in his book Illusions of Sceptics (2016). He claims it is a mistake to ask “how” before knowing “if.”Modern philosophers have asked how cognizance works and concluded that achieving objective, certain, and universally valid knowledge that corresponds to reality is impossible. But the appropriate starting point is to ask, “Does truth exist at all?” In other words, is true knowledge accessible to us? A negative answer leads to contradictions. If there is no true knowledge, it is impossible to present the statement, “There is no true knowledge,” as true. If one says that there is no truth, they explicitly deny what they implicitly claim. But why do contradictions pose a problem? Fuchs explains that the principle of non-contradiction is not an arbitrary law, but rather an inevitable condition of thinking. A contradiction paralyses thinking, introduces ambiguity (something is and is not at the same time), and therefore annihilates itself. Attempts have been made to bypass the law of non-contradiction by suggesting that on a higher level, contrary statements can create a synthesis. However widely accepted these apologies of contradiction may be, they are a failure. They inevitably claim what they deny. In order to present a statement as true, it is necessary to avoid ambiguity and to claim objectivity, certainty, and universality, regardless of the “level of thinking.” A contradictory statement simply cannot be thought.

If a negative answer is impossible, we are left with a positive one—truth exists. But this is not yet a victory of truth, but rather the beginning of a battle. It is necessary to refute objections which seem fatal. One of them is aimed at the essence of truth, i.e., correspondence between thinking and reality. Fuchs admits that the “exteriorizing” concept of correspondence which seeks to align a statement and the part of reality that it describes actually uncovers an unsurpassable gap between them. In order to decide if a statement is true (it corresponds to reality), we would have to express its relationship (correspondence) to reality by another statement, whose relationship to reality would be described by another statement, etc. We would be left with an unlimited number of statements whose truth would disappear into an infinite distance. Therefore, truth must be sought elsewhere: within a statement itself. Correspondence in this sense means that the predicate adequately describes the subject, or “corresponds” to it. The subject of a statement represents an object (reality), and the predicate represents what is known about it (thinking).

This view of correspondence is in conflict with the nominalist approach to concepts, which states that concepts are just names that do not and cannot really grasp the objects that they are used for. But Fuchs points out that this would lead us back to contradiction and annihilation. If concepts or general terms do not correctly identify their objects, it is impossible to present the nominalist statement (or any statement) as true. Nominalists use general terms and inevitably assume that they identify their objects (“thinking,” “knowledge,” “names”) correctly. The only acceptable solution is realism, which does not necessarily mean that general terms really exist in a world of their own, but rather that they do convey substantial characteristics of objects. Even if we do not know how this is possible.

Another objection states that trying to prove truth as a value of thinking is circular reasoning. The instrument and object (i.e., reason) are identical. Fuchs admits that this is the greatest danger in the discussion on truth. It is indeed necessary to presume that true knowledge is possible, from the first moment of any argument. So are we critical enough if we cannot set this assumption aside? To clarify this, it is necessary to define what circular reasoning is and why it disqualifies as a proof. To prove something means bringing it to evidence using premises that have been previously confirmed. If the conclusion is one of the premises, nothing has been proven. However, in Fuchs’ argument, the existence of truth is not used as one of the premises. The basic requirement of critical thinking is to call everything into question. It would be a mistake to say that critical thinking requires that we set aside everything that has not been proven, in other words to regard everything uncertain as false. The appropriate approach to this delicate problem of truth is to keep in mind that nothing is certain at the beginning, including the law of non-contradiction and the existence of truth. So one can use truth “as an instrument” from the beginning and verify its existence later in the procedure without violating the requirements of critical thinking.

To conclude, thinking is only possible if the following is true: the principle of non-contradiction is valid, things have a fixed essence, and concepts convey the characteristics of objects correctly. The understanding of truth as correspondence between thinking and reality cannot be avoided, and relativism that denies the possibility of universal, certain and objective knowledge must be rejected. In short, if we stay on the level of rational thinking, truth cannot be denied. This finding is indispensable for discerning fundamental errors which are prevalent in contemporary philosophy and theology. The simple rule that what contradicts itself cannot be true is a great aid for avoiding error and confirming the truth. END QUOTES