Saturday, March 13, 2004

Vain Virtues

What is the sorriest thing that enters Hell?
None of the sins, -- but this and that fair deed
Which a soul's sin at length could supersede.
These yet are virgins, whom death's timely knell
Might once have sainted; whom the fiends compel
Together now, in snake-bound shuddering sheaves
Of anguish, while the pit's pollution leaves
Their refuse maidenhood abominable.

Night sucks them down, the tribute of the pit,
Whose name, half entered in the book of Life,
Were God's desire at noon. And as their hair
And eyes sink last, the Torturer deigns no whit
To gaze, but, yearning, waits his destined wife,
The Sin still blithe on earth that sent them there.

-- Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I like Christina Rossetti's poetry better than her brother Dante's, but Dante wrote a ton of sonnets and this one caught my eye tonight. Rossetti says that the saddest thing in Hell is a fairly virtous person... a person The Lord has weighed just slightly wanting and sent to Hell.

A nice thought to sleep on.

Friday, March 12, 2004

My sister lent me an old paperback book earlier this year, "Wolf and Iron." It's a story about the end of modern civilization, not through war or weather or disease, but by an ordinary falling apart of finances. The world goes back to an iron age, people trade skills for food and life is hard and short. The thing is, there is no mention at all of religion. Nobody in the book prays or goes to church, there is no revival of the way the United States was before this modern, urban age. It's Gordon Dickson's book, so he can write the future any way he wants, but it didn't ring true to me.

Look at how the people in the USA acted after 9/11. In our area, congregations filled up (at least for awhile) and prayer was re-ignited. If society collapsed, don't you think churches would be at the center of trade -- all those people in the community with common beliefs, common trusts. I do.

Religion and God seem very important in the White House these days. George Bush does daily devotions (Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest") and I've heard that his cabinet takes prayer very seriously. President Bush is a Methodist, like I was. I've never done a daily devotional reading, preferring instead "The Year of the Bible" online. Catholics, if I read my Catechism correctly, don't believe it's good to read a daily devotional (one verse which the author explicates into a broader meaning for the day). Catholics believe verses shouldn't be taken out of context, one at time, and examined for meaning; meaning is to be found in context and in tradition.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Ten bombs explode in Madrid, Spain and the world takes notice. It will take us days, perhaps weeks, to turn the page to other news. One of the plotlines in Patterson's "The 3rd Degree" is that a whole group of people can't "turn the page" when they read about disease, poverty, violence and death in the developing world. These people are the ones who protest against the World Bank and World Trade. These are the people who riot in Seattle and in Paris and in London. It comes down to how awful the news has to be before an individual can no longer just turn the page without acting.

"Draw close to God and He will draw close to you." Critics say that Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is too violent, but read that first link about the bombings in Madrid, which is led by "I saw a baby torn to bits." The Passion was violent and Jesus went through it to make a new covenant with humanity. You have to wonder, don't you, what Jesus would do about Terrorism.

Our most important commandment is to love God and the second most important is to love each other. Mankind is so far away from that. Even those who want us to love the world and raise everyone up to the same level (those Seattle rioters) get their point across through violence. It is a dark time in a dark world. God has worked since Adam and Eve to reconcile us with Himself. From the covenant of Noah, represented by the rainbow, to the covenant of Abraham represented by circumcision, to the covenant of Moses represented by the ten commandments and the journey of the Jews out of Egypt, God led us toward and prepared us for the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. The way out exists, but the path seems further away by the day.

The office and authority of the Pope, which is one of the reasons I believe the future of the Catholic Church is much brighter than the future of the Protestant churches (because the Pope is one person, praying, being led by the Holy Spirit, unflinching in the face of modernity), is under attack in this article from the USA Today.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I read James Patterson's New Book, 3rd Degree today. A small diversion. The characters in this series of Patterson books are nicely drawn, and this story was at least a complete one. Patterson's last book, The Big Bad Wolf, was a cheap cheat of a story and incomplete at that. Oh well, Patterson is book-candy at best anyway.

I put a link in to Catholic Answers on the left bar. It's a nice site and I used it during what little time I had today to look up the Catholic Church's positions on stem-cell research, cloning, and other matters biological. It is as I suspected, the Church is against these things, as am I. This doesn't answer my problem or question, though. My problem is that if, as the Pope says, the Bible does not concern itself with details of the physical world, and if stem-cell research, cloning, contraception, homosexuality, etc. are all details of the physical world, then in 4 or 500 years will the Church look back and say, oops, we were wrong?

Here's the thing, unlike with Galileo, we're not talking about matters outside now, we're talking about matters inside. Stem-cell research is taking a dead start of a person and experimenting with it. Perhaps people once felt blood transfusions and heart transplants were taking dead parts of people and experimenting with them, too. It didn't take long for opinion to change once the lives started being saved, did it. If we make stem-cell research and cloning illegal in America, scientists who want to go in that direction will go elsewhere. Ancient China used to be at the top of the scientific world until they started looking for signs in the sky to inform their science. At some point, they just froze and remained unchanging while the world went around them. I guess I'm coming down on the side that even though no good Catholic would/should go into that field of study, America maybe shouldn't pass laws making research illegal.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Catholic Church believes: "Any knowledge which is profitable to salvation may be the object of prophetic inspiration. But things which cannot affect our salvation do not belong to inspiration." In other words, the Bible does not concern itself with the details of the physical world. Our Pope has called it an "error" that theologians in the past put people like Copernicus & Galileo in prison or made them recant their scientific findings. In fact, the Catholic Catechism really doesn't care about the theory of evolution, but says that the human soul was made by God and has never changed. The biological principles of how the physical world operates, then, is in the competence of human experience and reasoning.

This is much to think about. Immediately, it makes one think of stem-cell and cloning research, contraception, homosexuality... all these things have biological aspects that humankind is trying to understand and learn more about. I don't want to be looked upon as the Church making Galileo recant when I believe that stem-cell research is against the teachings of the church. Much more reading, and talking to those of longer-standing faith, is needed.

Monday, March 08, 2004

I've been reading "The Essential Catholic Catechism" every night. It's an excellent book, and points to the first major difference I've found between the Methodist and the Catholic: When I studied to join the Methodist Church, we talked about the Bible and that's just about it. Catholics study the Bible AND "The Tradition" of the church. Catholics don't think that the Bible is the be-all and end-all of Faith. Jesus lived with and taught the apostles for three years and came back after death to teach them some more... much more teaching than can be fit into the Bible. So, the Bible is important, to say the least, but so is Tradition. Both the Bible and the Tradition are God's revealed Word. So where Protestants often pick at the Bible and make it mean what they want, the Catholic must take the Bible passage in conjuction with the living history of the Christian church as a whole... it's not so easy to twist the Word of God for modern causes in the Catholic Church.

OK, my name is not really Eutychus. The name is from Acts 20 verse 9: Paul was teaching in Troas and a young man named Eutychus was sitting on a third story windowsill. While Paul was speaking, Eutychus fell asleep, fell three stories down to the ground and died. Paul brought him back to life... Thus the title of this conversation. I thought it was an apt name for this Blog since I fell asleep as a Christian in the Methodist Church and I feel the Catholic Church has brought me back to life.

The impetus for my conversion was conflict. The Methodist Church is in conflict. Every four years they get together to vote on the direction of the church and every four years they seem to care less and less about the Gospel. Divorce has been accepted and is never the subject of a sermon. The Methodist Women who used to march on Washington against gambling and drinking now march on Washington in support of abortion. The Methodist Men send letters to President Bush asking him to repent of his sins against humanity while letting Castro and Hussein skate. In short, the Methodist Church and the Global Board of Ministries has become one of the progressive arms of the Democratic party. Gay Marriage has to be outvoted every four years and every time it comes closer to passing. Combine all that with constant conflict within the congregation and there is little room for learning or growth as a Christian adult, and little room for faith to sprout in Christian children.

So, since late in 2003 we have been attending a Catholic Church and loving the atmosphere. I have taken the leap and am going to begin the classes to become a Catholic so that I can take communion with the rest of the Church.

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