Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quick Bible Answers: Rockin' with St. Peter

As Catholics we know that St. Peter is the "rock" on which the Catholic Church is built (Matthew 16:18), but often anti-Catholics will argue that Catholics mis-translate the original text of the Gospel of Matthew to come to the "St. Peter the rock" conclusion.

The most common anti-Catholic argument looks at the Greek translation of the Gospel of Matthew (the oldest known manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew is written in Greek but is believed to have been translated from Hebrew). The argument suggests that while Jesus did refer to St. Peter as "rock", it was akin to a type of rock that could be used as a foundation and that Jesus was in fact referring to himself as the foundation of the Church. Anti-Catholics believe that the Greek word used to describe St. Peter as "rock" was the feminite form (languages that are Latin or Greek based have "male" and "female" workds; a word ending in an 'o' is a masculine word and a word ending in an 'a' is feminine) "petra" which would translate to "small rock" "stone" or "pebble", so the anti-Catholic would argue that St. Peter couldn't possibly be the foundation of the Church because how could a "small rock" (et al) be the foundation of such an important institution like the Church?

Let's read Matthew 16:18 and full and examine the problem with this argument. Note the specific use of the pronouns in the verse (bolded for emphasis):

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." - Matthew 16:18

Jesus is talking to and referring to St. Peter rather acutely here, don't you think? What's further of note is that since Jesus was talking to St. Peter who was obviously a man, the Greek word used for rock would have been "petros", i.e. the Greek masculine derivative of "rock" not the feminine.

What also needs to be taken into consideration - and this is the kicker - is the fact that Jesus would have been speaking to St. Peter in Aramaic. All credit for this tidbit of information goes straight to Karl Keating, by the way; I didn't know about this part until I read it in his books. We'll do this bit in steps:

1. The Greek word for "stone", "pebble" or "little rock" is "lithos" not "petra" or "petros";
2. The Aramaic word for "stone", "pebble" or "little rock" is "evna";
3. The Aramaic word for "rock" is "kepha" ("cephas" in Hebrew).

"What's your proof?" the anti-Catholic might then ask.

Well don't forget that St. Peter's name wasn't always "Peter"; he was a "Simon" before that and was sometimes referred to as Simon-Peter. the Gospel of John emphasises this name change and notes the translation from Hebrew to Greek (bolded for emphasis):

"One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)." - John 1:40-42

Want more (these are just a handful)?

"As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen." - Matthew 4:18

"The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zeb'edee, and John his brother" - Matthew 10:2 

"Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus." - John 18:10

... And on this rock our Church is built.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Thought: Catholic bias?!?

I very, very recently had an exchange with a non-Catholic Christian, and to make a long story short he said something about Catholicism which was not true, and I suggested that it would be more efficacious for a person who wants to learn about the Catholic faith to ask a Catholic (preferably one who knows their faith well) for an answer. Makes sense, right? But I was told that my bias - since I am a Catholic after all - would only mislead the inquirer.

Bias?!? Mislead?!?

I beg your pardon! If I'm sick I go to a doctor because he knows what he's talking about; I'm not going to accuse him/her of being biased if they're trying to work out what's wrong with me. All I want is accuracy, consistency, and reliability!

Accuracy, consistency, and reliability.

Nuff said.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sneak Peek: Part of my new project

I'd like to treat my readers this week so I thought I'd share with you a sneak peek of [part of] my new project. How good is the zoom function on your computer/smartphone? 

Have a great week.

Pax vobiscum!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quick Thought: The warped pro-life message in 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn (Pt. 1)'

Because I love my wife dearly and deeply, I do things for her that I would rather not do and do them without complaint. Take, for instance, going along to the movies to see the latest installment of the Twilight saga. If you're a Twilight fan, then you should probably stop reading now because my [brief] review - as others have commented already - is rather harsh.

As I expected it be, 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn (Part 1)' was a steaming pile of faecal matter. Yes, those are very harsh words, but I can assure that that's about as crass as I will ever get in writing these blogs.

The acting was simply woeful and there were some very creepy and disturbing scenes (e.g. the "birth" scene and Edward "biting" Bella repeatedly in an attempt to "infect"/save her). Some might argue the movie was an "emotional rollercoaster" but 20 minutes in I didn't know myself if I wanted to gag myself or laugh out loud during those "intense" scenes. Bella was, predictably, as pandering and pathetic as she's portrayed in the books; Edward had about 20 different hair styles during the movie; and Jacob was as emo as emo can get. But to cap it all off there was a very, very warped pro-life message in the narrative.

I didn't know what to make of it. On the one hand Bella carries the baby through to term and the baby is born healthy, etc. but all this mish-mash of defending the baby's right to life before it all just left me lost and unconvinced. Edward wasn't much help either; he wanted the baby dead too!

There was definitely a pro-life message present, but I felt that it was rather lacklustre. It got lost in between all the "we have to kill it" arguments from the wolves and the "it's killing Bella" sub-narrative. Yes, in the end the baby is born, but Bella dies in the process after literally being beaten up and broken by her vampiric infant. It's not an overtly encouraging message. If anything it may plant a deep-seeded fear or apprehension towards fertility, pregnancy and childbirth. I can only imagine what pro-choicers would have made of it all.

Perhaps the underlying message here is that we shouldn't look to this sort of media for any sort of moral guidance or truth. But I say that as a man that's in a sense trained to read between the lines and abstract a meaning that is not explicit. Our youth, on the other hand, may take messages like these to heart because there's no denying that as a child gets older, influences like that pertaining to their parents, religion, etc. lessen in importance/relevance over time and the influence of the media strengthens; it - inevitably - begins to guide their moral compass. Thankfully there are exceptions to this "rule".

I'd be interested to hear what other Christians thought of this new Twilight movie. Feel free to shoot me an email with your thoughts.

Thanks again, as always, for reading.

Pax tecum.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I need your help...

No, it's not quite that dramatic, but your assistance would still be greatly appreciated.

You see, I'm working on a new project but in order to make it possible I need to do a bit of research; that's where you come in.

If you could - either by emailing me or leaving a comment reply to this blog entry - answer for me this very simple question:

What is the one thing - in your opinion - that non-Catholics misunderstand the most about the Catholic faith?

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Thought: Prayer

I often see other Christians walking around wrist bands with catchy sayings or phrases encouraging them and others to engage in prayer and ask Christ to intervene in their lives. One wrist band of this type caught my the other day as I was getting a cappuccino from a particular fast-food outlet with big, golden arches, and the young lady serving me was wearing this wrist band and written on it was "PUSH". I asked the young lady what it meant and she told me, "It means 'Pray Until Something Happens'". I responded by saying, "That's a lovely message. God bless you."

As I reflected on the experience, however, I thought more about the phrase and while I believe it is well intended, I think it needs to be fine-tuned.

Isn't this exactly how we treat God sometimes? As a Father Christmas or genie of whom we only pray to when we want something or as if He has an obligation to do somethig for us to prove that He is in fact listening to us? I mean, it's perfectly fine to prayer with expectant faith when you are in need, but there is more to pray for than just the things you need. In the Catholic tradition there are four forms of prayer:

1. Praise/Adoration - In this form of prayer Christians praise the greatness of God and affirm that reliance on Him for all things and that without Him we cannot do anything. In scripture the Psalms are most well known for prayers of this form.

2. Sorrow - In prayers of sorry we acknowledge our sins and shortcomings and come to God with a contrite heart, seeking His forgivenees and mercy. The 'Act of Contrition' said before Absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an example of a prayer of sorrow.

3. Thanksgiving - This is simply a prayer of thanks. You may be grateful for good health, good results in an exam, that God has helped you through a personal struggle, etc. There are no limits to what a Christian may be thankful for. The 'Grace before meals' prayer is an example of a prayer of thanksgiving.

4. Intercession - The Communion of Saints also hear our prayers and they pray for us in Heaven; they intercede for us. It is the Lord who ultimately hears and answers our prayers but that doesn't mean we can't have others praying for us, just as you would ask a friend or family member to pray for you for a particular need. The 'Hail Mary' is a prayer of intercession; we ask the Blessed Virgin to pray for us (i.e. "Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death...").

So as you can see there can be more than one thing to pray for or more than one reason to prayer. The important thing is that you put purpose into your prayer, but to "Pray until something happens"? Why should we stop praying (i.e. "until") when something happens? Why not just pray until you have nothing left to thank for? Yes, that's what I will leave you with for now:

Pray until you have nothing left to pray for!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Catholics and the interpretation of dreams

There was a new thread posted over at the Catholic Forum concerning the interpretation of dreams and the Catholic position on it. Here is the question as it appears in the thread:
"Last night I was at a talk about Occultism and the concept of interpretating dreams was brought up. I never really thought of dreams as being part of Occultism and often I analyse my own dreams and Google them. With regards to this, my question is whether Catholicism recognises or dismisses that dreams hold meaning, prophecy, etc. and secondly if there are ways in which you can interpret your dreams that is in line with the faith, if you dream about a particular Bible passage, for example. Should these things be dismissed as nonsense? Thanks."
The Church does not explicitly say that Catholics should not interpret dreams. On the matter related to the interpretation of dreams - divination - the Church says this:

"All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone." - CCC, par. 2116

You could infer from that paragraph that the interpretation of dreams is one in the same with divination, but you'd need to do some mental gymnastics in order to come to that conclusion. The fact that the Catholic Church in this paragraph outlines some very clear examples on what actually constitutes as divination (e.g. "consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, etc.) and has not made mention of the interpretation of dreams, is a very clear indication that there is nothing inherently evil or immoral about making inquiries into the meaning of your dreams. That said, however, what needs be avoided is treating the dream as if it were an omen or premonition. Treating your dream(s) as an omen or premonition would indeed constitute as divination and that would be sinful.

As we read in scripture, the Lord Himself, angels, and so forth have appeared to key figures in dreams so obviously God may use our dreams communicate with us, as if to reach the deepest recesses of our conscience. Here are some examples from scripture:

"At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, 'Ask what I shall give you'". - 1 Kings 3:5

"For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men, and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man; he keeps back his soul from the Pit, his life from perishing by the sword." - Job 33:14-18

"It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out." - Proverbs 25:2 "As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." - Daniel 1:17

"In the first year of Belshaz'zar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, and told the sum of the matter." - Daniel 7:1

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'" - Matthew 1:18-21

"... and going into the house they [the three wise men] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way." - Matthew 2:11-12

"Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.'" - Matthew 2:13

"But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 'Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.' And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazarene.'" - Matthew 2:19-23

Don't be so keen, however, to seek God in your dreams; be discerning! Because, as we know, Satan is the father of lies and may very well use your dreams to mislead you. If you have a vision and dream of God speaking to you, I would advise the following:

- write down what you saw in the dream (try to remember as much detail as you can); and
- pray, pray, and then pray some more about it!

If there is something that God wants to reveal to you in your dreams, it will become more apparent after you speak personally and deeply with him. This will also ensure that it is indeed God speaking to you and that you are not being tricked by the devil. Be vigilant, be on your guard, and always turn to God in prayer if in doubt.

"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." - Matthew 7:7


Monday, November 14, 2011

Grace: The gifts that keep on giving

I'm willing to put money on the fact that most Catholics' familiarity with the word "grace" correlates to the prayer we say before each meal, but why do we call that prayer "Grace"? "Grace" comes from the Latin word "gratia" which translates to "gratitude, favour, or gift". So as we say the prayer of Grace, i.e. "Grace before meals", we are thanking (expressing gratitude) God for the gift/favour of the meal.

We could spend all day talking about etymology but my fear would be that only one of us would enjoy it (i.e. me), so instead I'm going to get straight to the heart of this blog entry: Christians will often talk about "grace" and use the word differently depending on the context, and I believe it's my duty at this moment to provide an understanding of how to correctly identify the type of grace one may be talking about when it comes to Christian-speak.

Firstly, there are two types of "grace"; let's identify them:

1.) Actual grace; and
2.) Sanctifying grace.

Now let's define them:

Actual Grace: This is a share, if you will, in the life of God; God acting upon you and drawing you to Him, hence "Actual Grace". Grace of this nature is received at or works from the very beginnings of a person's conversion and works throught and towards the person's sanctification. Grace moving you towards God is akin to being inspired by the Holy Spirit. In short: Actual Grace is the grace that enables us to act in a manner that is pleasing to God, i.e. to do good and to avoid all evil (CCC, par. 1777) and to do as Christ taught us (in essence: Matthew 5:48).

Sanctifying Grace: This is what you need to get into Heaven and to be with God for eternity; the soul needs to be "clean" before it can come before our heavenly Father (Revelation 21:27). To die in a state of grace is to die with Sanctifying Grace (grace that sanctifies you; grace that makes you fully and completely holy), i.e. there is no mortal sin or trace of it upon your soul. Sanctifying Grace allows us to share in the life and love of God in Heaven, sometimes referred to as the Beatific Vision. We first receive Sanctifying Grace at Baptism and later through the other sacraments. We can have no Sanctifying Grace in us if we are not in a state of grace, i.e. if we have committed Mortal Sin (1 John 5:16-17). However, making a good confession can restore Sanctifying Grace within us.

Think of Actual Grace and Sanctifying Grace this way: Actual Grace is the magnetic force that draws the needle in the compass; Sanctifying Grace is the key that opens the treasure chest... don't lose it!

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." - Philippians 2:12-13


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Movember: I ask you to prayerfully consider...

Earlier this year I battled my own demons with depression, and while I was fortunate enough to avoid being clinically diagnosed with the condition I know first-hand the difficulties an individual goes through to attain good mental health. Things get better but the battle doesn't end easily; it takes more than just "positive thinking". If left unchecked and unacknowledged, depression can have devastating effects not just on the individual, but on their families and other loved ones. 

My motivation for getting things together spiritually, mentally/intellectually and physically, was my wife, my children, the rest of my family, and the students that I teach. I want to be a good man of God for them; one's mental health is pivotal if you are going to play a pivotal role in the lives of others. Primarily I recognise as a Christian that seeking refuge in our Lord Jesus Christ is the first step. Without Him we are helpless:

"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30

This is the first time I have spoken openly about this to anyone apart from my wife and my parents and this year my involvement in Movember is more than just about raising money: it's personal. I have put my full weight behind this cause this month. Please give generously; the more we know about about this condition the easier it will be to identify and treat.

Donations can be made via my "MoSpace" page found here (click on the 'Donate' button): http://mobro.co/Spitty81

Thank you for your support.

God bless.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Ecumenism: What it is and what it's not

Last week I attended a function organised by a colleague of mine that was to award and recognise individuals who have made extraordinary efforts in Religious Education. Don't get me wrong; I was very pleased to be there, but there were one or two things that made me cringe and made me want to pull my hair out.

The function begain with an "ecumenical prayer service". A what?!? Yeah, an "ecumenical prayer service", and this entailed an acknowledgement of other faith traditions and a thanksgiving for their presence in the world. I'm all for inter-faith dialogue and praying to the same God as say our Jewish brothers and sisters do and our non-Catholic Christian brethren, but this is not ecumenical; it is not ecumenism!

So just what is Ecumenism? The Catholic Church defines Ecumenism this way (emphasis added):
"'The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Saviour, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it. . . . This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.' 
The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: 'For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.'" - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 816
In layman's terms: The Catholic Church is the one true church; the fullness of truth. There are to be no divisions; the Body of Christ cannot be divided for it is one. It is a moral responsibility of the Church today that it stand united and undivided (John 17:21). It is for this reason that the Church must make efforts to reach out to our separated brethren and bring them to full communion with the Catholic Church; "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark 3:24). Ecumenism is an act of evangelisation.

When is it not Ecumenism? Take for instance this inter-faith prayer service that I attended. There was no effort or intention to have representatives of other faith traditions evangelised and be received into the Catholic Church. It was an inter-faith prayer service; nothing more and nothing less. Even if the Catholic Church was to invite representatives of different faith traditions (presumably non-Catholic Christians) together, it does not necessarily mean there's anything ecumenical going on. If the Holy See is, however, working to dialogue with these representatives in order to bring them into full communion with the Catholic Church, then yes: you have Ecumenism!

We saw a classic example of the result of Ecumenism take place in late 2009 and last year where several Anglican communities around the world asked for a Catholic Ordinariate, which whereby these Anglican churches are received into full communion with the Catholic Church but are able to preserve elements of their distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Those Anglican churches (now known as "Anglo-Catholics" or "Anglican-Catholic") profess the Catholic Church's principles and doctrines in their entirety and maintain fidelity to the leadership of the Pope. This could only take place as a result of ecumenical dialogue led by the Holy See; Pope Benedict XVI made it possible for these Anglican communities around the world to be received in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Ecumenical dialogue is always done with the intention of leading others from other Christian faith traditions into full communion with the Catholic Church. It's not an opportunity to get all "warm and fuzzy" with other Christians, talk about how different we are and that it's our differences that make us special... fooey! As St. Paul said in his letters to the Corinthians:

"I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose." - 1 Corinthians 1:10 

But hey, by all means let's all get together in a spirit of unity and share in Christian prayer together, but understand that to call it "ecumenical prayer" is misleading and by definition inappropriate. I'm all for sharing a prayer with a Baptist, Methodist, Calvinist, or Lutheran (I dare you to invite them to pray the Rosary together), but ultimately it is my duty as a Catholic-Christian to evangelise people of these faith traditions and - at the very, very least - make them Catholic on an intellectual level. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit; a conversion of heart and soul.

Was that too much of a rant? If anything I'm glad it's off my chest now.

Deus vobiscum!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Do babies go to Hell if they die before they are baptised?

My students know how to ask good questions, and questions that often deal with issues that are very delicate. So do unbaptised babies go to Hell if they die?

To first answer that question, we need to answer this question: what does a person have to do to go to Hell? Commit a Mortal Sin, right? Furthermore, you would need to be unrepentant of that Mortal Sin in order to go to Hell. And when is a sin considered to be "mortal"? It has to meet these three criteria:

1.) Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter;
2.) Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner; and
3.) Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner

Scripture tells us:

"The soul that sins shall die." - Ezekiel 18:20a

And now, this question: can a baby commit a Mortal Sin? The answer very simply is 'no'. A baby does not have the intellectual capacity to know what sin is nor the faculties to commit sin personally. In fact it may not even be possible for a child up to the age of seven years to commit a Mortal Sin as they have only reached the age of reason at this particular stage.

So does this mean that a baby will go to Heaven if they should die before being baptised? This is what our holy and most wonderful Catholic Church teaches us:

"As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,' allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1261

What we have, in conclusion, is absolute certainty that if a baby should die before it is baptised it will not end up in Hell, for God is merciful and desires that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).

You can read more about Mortal Sin over at this blog entry.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Donating my face...


It’s Movember and time to focus on men’s health. To show my commitment, I’m donating my face to the cause by growing a moustache for the entire month of November, and need your support. My Mo will spark conversations, and no doubt generate some laughs; all in the name of raising vital awareness and funds for prostate cancer male depression. 

Why am I so passionate about men’s health? 
*1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime 
*This year 20,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed 
*1 in 8 men will experience depression in their lifetime 

I’m asking you to support my Movember campaign by making a donation by either: 
*Donating online at: http://mobro.co/Spitty81 
*Writing a cheque payable to ‘Movember,’ referencing my Registration ID: 1575552 and mailing it to: Movember, PO Box 60, East Melbourne, VIC, 8002 

Funds raised will help make a tangible difference to the lives of others. Through the Movember Foundation and its men’s health partners, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and beyondblue – the national depression initiative, they are funding world class research, educational and support programs which would otherwise not be possible. 

If you’d like to find out more about the type of work you’d be helping to fund by supporting Movember, take a look at the Programs We Fund section on the Movember website: http://au.movember.com/about 

Thank you in advance for supporting my efforts to change the face of men’s health. All donations over $2 are tax deductible. 

Stephen Spiteri 
Please donate at: http://mobro.co/Spitty81

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to explain Heaven and Hell to teenagers

A new school year began for me last week and that meant I got new classes and with them new students. This also meant that with new students (some of whom were unfamiliar with me as a teacher) came new questions. One of my students asked me this week, "What is Heaven like and what is Hell like?"

The Catholic Church defines Heaven and Hell in these ways (emphasis added):

"This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called 'heaven'. Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness." - CCC, par. 1024

"The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, 'eternal fire'. The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs." - CCC, par. 1035

Without insulting the intelligence of teenagers I ask this question earnestly: how do you explain that in simple terms to a teenager? Well, this is how I went about it:

Think of someone that you love dearly; someone that you want to be with all the time. This someone also loves you dearly and wants to be with you all the time. You never get tired of each other's presence; the flaws that other people notice about you don't exist to this person and you know that this someone is completely, utterly, and totally perfect. You are perfect because they love you perfectly. This is Heaven: being in this someone's presence all of the time and not needing anything else because this someone is all that you need.

"But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.'" - 1 Corinthians 2:9

Now imagine being separated from that person for all eternity. It's your fault the two of you are separated. That someone didn't go anywhere, but you did something wrong and failed to admit you did wrong and failed to make reparation for it. All the time you cry out to that someone who loves and adores you unconditionally but they cannot hear you. As you cry out you feel the guilt and remorse burn through you like hot wax in your veins. You feel like a fool for the wrong you have done and the tormentors around you know this; they remind you of it constantly. Your choices and your pride led you here.

"The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." - Matthew 13:41-42

Remember, this is not a definitive description of Heaven and Hell; it is introductory. One may start off by explaining Heaven and Hell this way to students (or teenagers), but if you really want to dig deeper, then I suggest referring to the paragraphs form the Catechism of the Catholic Church I cited earlier, and to then read what scripture says itself on these last things.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." - 2 Timothy 4:7-8


Sunday, October 16, 2011

My friend thinks the world will end this week...

So it seems our friend, Harold Camping, is at it again, and this time he reckons the world is going to end this coming Friday, October 21.

Can any man claim to know the time of the Lord's second coming and/or when the world will end? What does scripture tell us about this? Here's a handful of verses of scripture that give the answer (emphasis added):

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." - Matthew 24:36 

"Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." - Matthew 24:44 

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." - Matthew 25:13 

"Watch therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning -- lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch." - Mark 13:35-37 

"... the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful." - Luke 12:46 

"For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape." - 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 

"The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up." - 2 Peter 3:9-10 

"Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you." - Revelation 3:3

(Bible translation cited: RSV-CE)

I wonder: how can a man - Harold Camping - who claims to be a "Bible believing Christian" have missed these verses?

Don't worry about the "final day"; just pray and be ready every day!


Answers4Catholics, now featuring...

This morning I am very pleased to share some very exciting news with you...

This blog, The Spirit Magnus, and its content is now being linked on the the very handy and superb iPhone application, Answers4Catholics. You will find links to some featured blog entries of mine by accessing the News section, then the Blogs subsection right in between Fr. Robert Baron's name and Jimmy Akin's.

If you have ever been out and come across a situation - perhaps when in dialogue with a fire-brazen anti-Catholic or when a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness knocks on your door - with this application and your iPhone you will have easy access to very common questions and objections, which are presented in an easy-to-read/easy-to-memorise to manner.

You can find out more about Answers4Catholics here: http://www.answers4catholics.com/Answers4Catholics/Welcome.html

The application costs a measly $1.99USD on iTunes.

Answers4Catholics is frequently updated and more of my own work will be found throughout the application in the near future.

This is a massive coup for me and I am very excited and humbled to be part of such a new and innovative approach to apologetics and catechesis.

Pax vobiscum!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

"... The least of these my brethren..."

I was in the city this week doing a bit shopping when on the way to the store I was heading to, I saw a young-looking man (mid 20s maybe) dressed in black sitting behind a cardboard placard that had written something to the effect of "help the homeless". After analysing the signs and signifiers it was safe to say that this young man was homeless and wanted help. I kept on walking and avoided making eye contact, made much easier by the fact I was wearing sunglasses at the time. I judged. I assumed. I fought every urge of mine that I had at that time to walk over and hand the man some money.

I thought about how this young man was in that situation to begin with. I thought about what he may or may not do with the money if I was to give him some. I was filled with disgust and pity at the same time. I actually felt quite ashamed of myself. I fought to suppress these sudden feelings of guilt and kept on walking. Fortunately by the time I got to the shop I was heading to I was well and truly distracted and for a while forgot all about the young man sitting behind the cardboard placard. I was, however, to confront that setting again.

On the way back to my car I have but no choice to take the same route because there are road works taking place at the same time (perhaps this was preordained!). I got within a dozen or so paces of this young man again before I felt that urge once more; that urge to give. Knowing I had some money in my wallet and knowing it was probably the most I could do at the time, I walked over to the guy, gave him the cash and told him as sincerely as I could be, "Take care of yourself, okay? Take care of yourself." He responded by saying, "Thank you, man. God bless you".

Walking away I fought thoughts of feeling like I had done my "good deed" for the day and "Oh, aren't I good for helping that guy out?" I didn't want to fill myself with such prideful and self-praising feelings. Instead I kept repeating to myself mentally an adage that I had learned some years ago, and a verse of scripture that I often use in the classroom when teaching my students about love of neighbour and caring for the needy:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke

"And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'" - Matthew 25:40

We must not fail to see Christ in everyone around us, especially the lowly. When Christ taught the parable of the Good Samaritan in reply to the question, "Teacher, who is my neighbour?" the answer we get is this: your neighbour is everyone around you, and especially those you would least think about.

To see Christ in your neighbour is to cast aside your pride and fill your heart with charity; the love God has for us.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Hypothetically Speaking: Marriage Interrupted

A front page article in the September 28 edition of The Record newspaper began this way:

"If the state forced the Perth archdiocese to officiate at same-sex unions, the archdiocese would cancel its registration to celebrate legal marriages..."

The Catholic Church will never officiate or validate same-sex unions - this is the long and the short of it - but my commentary in this blog is not about gay "marriage", same-sex unions, yadda, yadda, yadda... I'm speaking hypothetically and answering the question:

If the Catholic Church (i.e. all Catholic archdiocese on a global scale) were forced by the state (i.e. the respective incumbent government be it at the state or federal level) to officiate at same-sex unions and inevitably cancel its registration to celebrate legal marriages in response, what would happen to the Sacrament of Marriage?

Here's what I see happening:

Canon Law will be "tweaked" - any reference to civil authorities (i.e. the respective incumbent government be it at the state or federal level) will be removed (e.g. Can. 1057 §1; 1059). After looking through the canons on marriage there don't appear to be many of these references to civil authorities so the changes will be minimal (hence the tweak); marriage will retain its sacramentality.

Legal recognition(s) of marriage - it will still of course be possible to be "married" in the Catholic Church; the sacrament, after all, is a covenant bond instituted by God that cannot be broken. Quite simply, marriage does not exist without the sacrament! So while the marriage between a man and woman will not be recognised by the state (i.e. it will not be a legal union), before God husband and wife still become one flesh. In order for couples who have participated in the sacrament of marriage to have this union made "legal", they will need to have a separate "ceremony" by which a judge or Justice of the Peace (or other celebrant accredited to officiate marriages) officiates the union and is noted in the books, so to speak (i.e. it is recognised by the civil authorities).

This may present a couple of problems:

1. Couples sacramentally married in the Catholic Church may find it tedious or troublesome to have their marriages legally recognised. There would be two ways to go about this: either have a judge or Justice of the Peace witness the marriage at the church in order to have it officiated, or as mentioned above have a separate ceremony (before or after the nuptials) to recognise the civil union. If a judge or Justice of the Peace (or other celebrant accredited to officiate marriages) is present at the nuptials, canon law would need to allow for this to occur (i.e. tweaked, as afore mentioned). I would also anticipate the Church exhorting sacramentally married couples to have their marriage legally recognised by the state. This makes the entire "process" of marriage cumbersome for the most part and rather complicated. A number of couples may simply not bother with getting their marriage legally recognised.

2. Couples sacramentally married who do not have their marriages legally recognised would legally be classified either of two ways: de facto, or "two individuals living in the same household" (more on those two shortly). Why would this be problematic? In a country like Australia, married couples are entitled to certain rights and benefits. I won't get into great detail with these, but they range from tax benefits due to having a combined income, estate planning benefits (e.g. inheritances), government benefits such as receiving family Medicare cover and Social Security, employment benefits, medical benefits, housing benefits, and consumer benefits which in some cases are only offered to married couples or families.

Being recognised as living in a "de facto" relationship or as "two individuals living in the same household" is confusing, complicated and cumbersome: yes, a couple married in the Catholic Church share in the sacramental/divine union of a man and a woman, but legally? No. It would not just be a matter of missing out on a few benefits, imagine explaining to your friends, family and/or workmates that you're married... but not really! Sure, you could say to others that you've been "married in the Church" but quickly another could turn around and say, "But you're marriage is not legally recognised... according to the law you're not married!"

An additional problem - and this is why same-sex unions pose such a strong threat to marriage - is that with all the potential problems, these complications, this confusion, this appeasement to a minority group; it may very well deter good Christian couples from getting married (even sacramentally) all together.

Pope John Paul II once said:

"Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family - a domestic church."

An end to marriage as we know it today spells the end of the domestic church, and ultimately the end of the Church itself. Without its body, without its members, the Church cannot continue to mission beset to it by Christ himself before he ascended into Heaven:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." - Matthew 28:19-20

If the Church is the light set on a hill for all to see (Matthew 5:14), if this light is overshadowed, all that exists is darkness and the proud race of humanity will fumble around in the dark in a moral stupor; an anarchy of thought directed by the most base of instincts. This light must never be overshadowed; we must work to keep it shining.

Pope Benedict XVI stressed this, marriage between a man and a woman as the bulwark of society in an address to experts and students in the field of marriage at the Vatican in May 2006:

"Only the rock of complete and irrevocable love between man and woman is capable of acting as a foundation for a society that can be home to all human beings."

At all costs, marriage must be protected.

Pray that our governments do not impinge draconian measures and regulations on the Church to officiate same-sex unions and thus have the Church cancel its registration to celebrate legal marriages. Pray that the Church, based solely on moral and religious grounds, be given - if anything if this is to occur - a dispensation so that the integrity of marriage may be upheld and celebrated as given to us by Almighty God: for one man and one woman.

"'So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.'" - Matthew 19:6


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Morality and Medication: You May be Aiding an Evil Cause!

Another week and another question to tackle; this time on the topic of medication.

A friend of mine was asked to be part of a clinical trial for a particular drug to treat a condition stemming from childhood. The question was originally posed with foreknowledge that a chemical component of the drug is used to medically induce a miscarriage (similar to what the RU-486 drug does; the "abortion pill"), i.e. would it be moral to use a drug that has a component that is also used for devious/immoral means? It would not be sinful to use a drug that has a chemical component that's used for other [devious] means. For example: makers of illicit substances use ingredients found in common cold and flu medication; does that make the use of cold and flu medication sinful if one is trying to better themself of that particular ailment?

What I would do, however (and this is very important), is inquire into how that particular chemical component itself is created. There are some medications with chemical components in them that have been concocted using embryonic stem cells. If this is the case for any drug or chemical component, then one should stop using it and then ask for an alternative that conforms to moral standards.

Think of it this way: A person purchases a product where the profits go towards funding a terrorist organisation. The person discovers where their money is going and immediately ceases purchasing this particular product knowing that he/she could not in good conscience support this cause. If you knew you were using/consuming a product that harvests the unborn for their stem cells, could you in good conscience continue use of the product?

And consider this from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications. On the other hand, guiding principles cannot be inferred from simple technical efficiency, or from the usefulness accruing to some at the expense of others or, even worse, from prevailing ideologies. Science and technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental moral criteria. They must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God." - CCC, par. 2294, 'Respect for the person and scientific research'

Further reading: 



Thank you for reading this week.

God bless. :-)

Friday, September 09, 2011

Quick Question: Is it morally licit to accept discounts?

Recently I was told about a person who is a regular customer at a particular store, and for this person it would not be unusual to be given a discount by a friend of theirs who works there. I was asked if this was morally licit. There are some situations and circumstances where a discount may not always be morally licit.

Being given a discount is not morally wrong, but it would be morally prudent to ensure that you have the correct change in order to pay the asked price for any given commodity. In other words: don't intentionally try to short change anybody: 

"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" - Mark 12:17 

Permission should always be granted by the propreitor of the business if a discount is being given, otherwise it could constitute as stealing. It would not be okay for a friend working at the checkout to give you a discount if they were not the propreitor themself or with the propreitor's knowledge. If a store assistant offers your a discount, ask if the "boss" is aware of it and is okay with these discounts, and if the answer is 'no' to either, then pay the full amount; don't let them give you a "discount". They may think they are doing you a favour, but what's a couple of dollars when your conscience is being compromised?

Monday, September 05, 2011

On the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Church tells us this...

This Sunday, September 11, 2011, will mark the tenth anniversary of the attacks by Muslim extremists on New York and the United States of America. This was an event that changed the psyche of the western mind irrevocably. It was an attack on freedom, liberty, enterprise, and the western world as a whole. All of us have a 9/11 story; I remember where I was and what I was doing and how the events of 9/11 impacted me not only as a westerner, but as a Catholic-Christian. I prayed and continue to pray for everyone, both victims and assailants on 9/11 and the events that transpired leading up to this day. I pray that the innocent victims are welcomed into God's warm embrace, and that those behind this undeniable act of evil give their account before God and repent, but I'm not blogging tonight to discuss these things.

At Mass last night there was something that struck me. I have a great iPhone application that has the Roman Missal including the daily readings. Knowing that next Sunday would be September 11, I decided to have a look and see what the readings would be. What I saw - given the occasion - was quite profound and solidified in my mind the fact that the Catholic Church has the answer for everything. Below is the First Reading and Gospel Reading (respectively) for Sunday, September 11, 2011; twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time. You have a read of them yourself and think about how perfectly suited they are to the day; the significance of it all:
"Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, and the sinful man will possess them. 
He that takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his sins. Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does a man harbour anger against another, and yet seek for healing from the Lord? Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins? If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins? Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity, remember destruction and death, and be true to the commandments. Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbour; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook ignorance. 
Refrain from strife, and you will lessen sins; for a man given to anger will kindle strife, and a sinful man will disturb friends and inject enmity among those who are at peace." - Sirach 27:30; 28:1-9 (First Reading)

"Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?' 
Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.'" - Matthew 18:21-35 (Gospel Reading)
The fate of the vengeful; and how to forgive. How blessed are we to belong to a church that has the answers? How blessed are to belong to a church, instituted by Christ, that foreknows what the hearts and minds of people around the world will be filled with on the anniversary of a day that struck terror, grief, hatred and anger in so may?

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York and the United States of America, heed these words from Scripture and forgive the transgressions of others. For the transgressors, they are answerable to God and God alone.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Quick Question: Does the wine need to be red?

 "Does the Sacramental wine need to be red? I recently went to Mass and noticed the wine was 'white'/clear/yellow and was wondering if this was okay."

Fortunately the Code of Canon Law has the answer for us here:
Can. 924 §1. The most holy eucharistic sacrifice must be offered with bread and with wine in which a little water must be mixed.
§2. The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of spoiling.
§3. The wine must be natural from the fruit of the vine and not spoiled.
Nothing about wine/grape colour there; just as long as it is grape ("natural from the fruit of the vine") and fresh. So no: the Sacramental wine does not need to be red in colour.