The best place for a church and rectory is: The middle of the parish cemetery. The priest should live among the dead, with skeletons for his roommates.
At my little church, we don’t have a parish cemetery. But I have the next best thing: There is a beautiful, enormous, old cemetery right up the hill. Not only that, I have owned a grave in this cemetery for years.
Barring a transfer, I will spend the rest of the history of the world in this neighborhood. My bones will moulder alongside those of my most long-term neighbors.
St. Augustine was a fearless preacher. For example:
God isn’t too grand to talk even to fools. Some of you may say, perhaps, “And how did God talk to a fool?” O my brothers and sisters, how many fools is He talking to here, when the gospel is chanted?
Anyway: The saint was talking about Luke 12:20, when God says to the rich man building bigger barns, “You fool, today your soul is required of you.”
The discipline of clerical celibacy is a constant reminder that death is near.
This is a great blessing: Every time we Catholics come to church, we are confronted by a man who has no inheritance in this world. The members of his body have been put to death. He lives with a foot in the grave, shrouded in black at all times.
This helps us all, we priests included. We need this discipline as much as everyone else. We priests did not choose it; it chose us. The discipline of celibacy has made us bearers of the ultimate truth.
Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Commenting on these verses, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
Existing without an expectation of eternal life, the pagans held for a mortality of the soul contrary to faith and hope.
In “What I Believe” (1925), Bertrand Russell wrote:
I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive…
It would be ridiculous to warp the philosophy of nature in order to bring out results that are pleasing to the tiny parasites of this insignificant planet.
We can conclude that Russell’s doctrine is perniciously erroneous.
As Father Mowbray said of his obtuse catechumen Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited, Russell’s darkness of mind is so extreme that it does not even “correspond to any degree of paganism known to the missionaries.”
Judge McGeehan did NOT conclude that there is a standard of Christian truth that must be met by the doctrine of professors at public colleges. If he had, he would have articulated a fact that awaits clear legal articulation in this great land of ours.
As it is, the judge indulged in an untrue ad hominem* attack. He accused Russell of moral turpitude, for which there was no evidence.
It is true that purveyors of false doctrine usually teach their errors in order to justify their sins. But in the case at hand, the teacher’s sins were private–if he was in fact guilty of any. In order to keep dangerous error out of City College, Judge McGeehan libeled a world-famous philosopher who lived a perfectly respectable life.
The answer to error is not more error. And the answer to error is not force. The answer to error is truth, patience, the benefit of the doubt, and humble love.
The only way for us to conquer Bertrand Russell’s disciples (who run the show in this country these days) is by proposing the truth in love, patiently. Slow and steady wins the race. Actions speak louder than words.
(And Preacher’s aphorisms/bromides will stop at this point, until the situation demands more.)
*Nota Bene: This link is very much worth clicking.
My homily this Sunday will be about hoping for heaven, no matter what.
The perfect counter-example is Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
I wish I could find a way to put Macbeth in my homily, but I have not the skill…
Macbeth kills Duncan and becomes king, as the witches predicted.
Nonetheless, Macbeth is overcome with fear that his friend Banquo’s heirs will be kings in the future.
Act III, Scene 1:
To be thus is nothing;
But to be safely thus…
Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
Thence to be wrench’d with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If ‘t be so,
For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind;
For them the gracious Duncan have I murder’d;
Put rancours in the vessel of my peace
Only for them; and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!
Macbeth concludes that he has vainly ‘put rancours in the vessel of my peace’ and given his ‘eternal jewel’ to the ‘common enemy of man.’
In other words: “Since I already sold my soul to the devil, I might as well kill Banquo, too.”
Here is a somewhat interesting discussion between Bill Maher (maker of the documentary movie “Religulous”) and Governor Mike Huckabee.
I like Mike Huckabee, but I think his engagement of Maher’s points is weak. He let Maher keep the conversation on the historical, human level. The conversation never became genuinely theological–that is, it never became a reasoned argument about God. Huckabee never brought up the fact that the existence of God is evident from the order of the world and the depth of human personality.
At one point, Maher said: “I don’t know. And you don’t know either. You don’t know what happens when you die, and I don’t know either. I am sure you don’t know, because I don’t know, and you don’t have power I don’t possess.”
He is right that Mike Huckabee does not possess superpowers. But the basic idea is wrong in two ways. What Maher said is a fundamental thesis of agnosticism, and it is false. We have some certain knowledge about what happens after we die.
First, we can say for sure that bodily death does NOT mean the end of existence. The body is obviously animated by an immaterial soul. There is no physical force that can destroy or corrupt an immaterial thing. The soul certainly continues to exist after bodily death. The soul is not mortal like the body is.
Human beings have always known this. Because we have, we have concocted myths from time immemorial about what happens after death. Some of these myths possess some truth. Maher and all agnostics are right, though, to dismiss the myths of pagan religions as generally false.
This, however, brings us to the second reason why Maher’s statement is wrong. He is right that we do not on our own have the power to investigate what happens to us after we die. But we have been given detailed information by God Himself.
God became man and taught us what happens after bodily death. He did not teach us everything by any means. But He taught us enough to give us certainty on these points:
1) We will be judged.
2) Our ultimate destination will be either heaven or hell.
3) At the end of time, everyone will rise from the grave. We will live forever, body and soul, either in heaven or hell.
To be certain on these points is not “neurologically disordered.” It is clear that the Lord Jesus taught these things. It makes more sense to believe Christ than to disbelieve Him, all things considered.
The Christian faith is indeed a divine gift, but it is not in any way unreasonable.