Monday, January 31, 2011

Leisure is the Basis of Culture, and Glen Ivy Spa is Da Bomb!

Hello, Coffee Talkers! 

It has been a long, full day but I promised to write at least a little something each day for Coffee Talk, and so I shall. 

Today, some gracious friends of mine invited me along to spend a day of peace, rest, and relaxation at Glen Ivy Spa. It was nothing short of glorious. Southern California people, check it out! (Maybe you're thinking, "But Leslie, I'm not a 'spa person'." Well, I didn't think I was either, but now I'm ready to move to Glen Ivy and adopt the woman who gave me a massage into my own family.) There’s free admission to the resort on your birthday, too!

My two main reflections from our time at the spa are: 1. I have wonderful friends, and am very blessed and grateful; 2. there is value in the quiet and relaxation of a day at leisure.

In fact, as modern German philosopher Josef Pieper explained, leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. His essay Leisure, The Basis of Culture is great! Why not buy a copy, and carve out some leisure time to read it?

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pope Makes Aggressive Maneuvers to Tear Apart the Anglican Communion – And Succeeds!

Have you all heard something like this in the news today, or seen similar headlines? I have! 

But behind the misinformed media frenzy, something really did happen today – and just in time for the next part of our discussion of the modern relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion! It has been announced that hundreds of British Anglicans are preparing to come into communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This year. Before Lent!

So naturally, the media is making it sound like Pope Benedict XVI has hatched some sort of evil scheme to divide the Anglican Communion – and has succeeded! I mean, why wouldn’t he be interested in doing this? I’m sure he has nothing better to do with his time than to make unsolicited provisions for whole congregations of Anglicans to become Catholic. But to be serious, these kinds of accusations are almost as ridiculous to me as the atheists who opposed the Mother Teresa stamp – even the Daily Show, who is no friend of the Catholic Church, did a little mockumentary on the whole silly thing. Check it out – pretty funny:

But back to the Catholics and the Anglicans. Can I explain to you what really happened? Or the little I know of it, anyway? Thanks.

There have been provisions for quite some time now for individual Anglicans/Episcopalians who wanted to join the Roman Catholic Church. I personally know a former Episcopal priest, a married man with children and grandchildren, who became a Roman Catholic priest. And an amazing one, at that! 

But in recent years, something new began to happen. The Catholic Church started receiving requests – many requests – from whole groups of Anglican clergy and faithful from all different parts of the world, requesting to enter into full visible communion with Rome.

And so, understandably, the Catholic Church needed to seriously consider a way to make a provision for this to happen. In October of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI wrote an Apostolic Constitution (the highest level of decree that can be issued by a Pope) allowing for something called “Personal Ordinariates.” (Some of you may have heard of Military Ordinariates, and this has some similarities.) These Personal Ordinariates basically offered a canonical structure by which these groups of former Anglicans could enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, while still retaining certain aspects of their distinctive Anglican liturgical and spiritual heritage. And the other thing is that these groups will be led by an Ordinary (usually a bishop) who will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Let me repeat, these groups of Anglicans requested to become Catholic. As a group. They want to be Catholic. They did not receive some sort of flier or e-mail from the Vatican inviting them to a “Personal Ordinariate Orientation Night.” The Pope didn’t come to Mass one Sunday at their local Anglican church and say, “What are you fools still doing here? Time to come to Roma!” No, on the contrary, the Anglicans made the request -- the Pope made the provision to accommodate their request.

A couple weeks ago, the theoretical concept of Personal Ordinariate was brought to fruition when the first one was established shortly after three former Anglican Bishops were ordained Catholic priests, and one of them was named the Ordinary. And today, hundreds of British Anglicans (who have likely been planning on doing this for a long time, but were simply waiting until the canonical idea became an institutional reality) have formally expressed their intent to join the ordinariate, as well, and thus enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church by Lent of this year.

Now, I do have some other things I’d like to share about modern differences and dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church (to finish answering yesterday’s question), but I was so excited about today’s related news that I wanted to share a bit about it! So be assured that I will write again soon on this topic.

In the meantime, why not mosey on over to that little “How Old Are You” poll on the sidebar of my blog? In case all this theology talk has been a little heavy, I figured a good old-fashioned poll would lighten up your night.

As always, thanks for tuning in, and be assured of my prayers, Coffee Talkers!

Peace and all good,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Episcopalians as "Catholic Lite"? -- A Theological History of the Church of England

Dear Leslie,

Sometimes Episcopalian is referred to as "Catholic Lite" - what are the primary differences between the two religions?

Catholic at Heart

Dear Catholic at Heart,

Your question is one very near and dear to my own heart – I have many family members and friends who are Anglican/Episcopalian, and so I have actually done a good deal of thinking and research on this topic. I hope you don’t mind my answering your question in two parts, the first of which will be addressed tonight – namely, the theological history of the Church of England. Learning about this historical foundation was essential in my own understanding of the modern differences between the two churches, and will hopefully be helpful to you, as well. In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll bring you more up-to-date with the modern day Anglican Communion and its relationship with the Catholic Church, which will include the primary differences that you’ve asked about.

The Anglican Communion (and the Episcopal Church USA, which is part of this communion) has its origins in the English Reformation. Most people are at least a little familiar with the story – King Henry VIII had married Catherine of Aragon (by special Papal dispensation, because she had been previously married to his brother). Catherine did not bear Henry any male heirs, and this fact coupled with his falling in love with Ann Boleyn prompted Henry to request an annulment of his marriage to Catherine. Rome said no; Henry said, “No more Rome.” Thus, the Church of England was born.

In 1529, King Henry VIII, motivated by the revocation of his divorce case by Pope Clement VIII to Rome, took a series of steps to secure complete control over the church in England. While Henry’s efforts were concurrent to the Continental Reformation of Martin Luther, Henry was a staunch Catholic who intensely disliked these Protestant movements of Luther and the other Continental Reformers. For this reason, the theological developments and liturgical consequences of England’s break from Rome were not as drastic as the Reformation abroad, which was largely rooted in a theological crisis rather than a domestic problem (namely, Henry’s need for a new wife to bear him a male heir).

Because Henry VIII’s break from the Roman Catholic Church was primarily an act of state, by which he proclaimed his own supremacy and the supremacy of the English Crown over the Roman Pontiff, much of the theological justification for the English Reformation developed after the split from Rome rather than before.

Anglican theology was poured into an institutional mold that retained a great deal of Catholic structure partly as a matter of belief, but more as a matter of political necessity. As a church based on national supremacy, the Church of England did all that it could to maintain unity of nation over belief. The Anglican Church ensured that the people of England would largely remain a religious unit by accepting as many strands of opinion within itself as possible, and they did remain so until the late 1700s. 

While the Anglican Church under Henry largely remained a sort of Catholicism without Rome (although he did have to satisfy, to some extent, the Lutheran influence that had reached his people), more drastic changes in prayer and practice came about through subsequent English leaders. The doctrinal developments and liturgical changes of the English Reformers, however, lack cohesion and demonstrate the splintered theology that has marked the Church of England from its beginnings.

That the modern Anglican Communion (which includes the Episcopal Church USA) stands as the most pluralistic of the historic churches, then, should come as no surprise in light of its origins. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Coffee Talk, where we’ll explore more about the Anglican Communion in the modern day, its role in the ecumenical movement, the Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogues sparked by Vatican II, and Pope Benedict XVI’s provision for Anglicans seeking corporate union with the Catholic Church – it’s a blog you won’t want to miss!

Peace and all good,

Friday, January 28, 2011

Merit and Grace and Aquinas -- Oh, My!

Dear Leslie,

I think it would be a great idea for a future post on Salvation and the Catholic Standpoint of "Merit" and "Grace".


Well, Shane, guess what? No sooner did I get started on thinking of a good way to summarily and clearly respond to your excellent, though complex, question I found something great! A friend of mine, a professor of Scripture and theology with a PhD and a blog of his own, answered this very question just yesterday! So rather than trying to paraphrase what he said, how ‘bout I just send you to his link?

And before signing off for the night, I’d like to give a shout out to my buddy St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we celebrate today! I consider him a buddy now because I have learned many wonderful things about his life, but I must say that before I knew much about him, I think I considered him to be among those sort-of-scary saints. Not that he did anything that scared me – more that he was known by all to be an intellectual giant! I mean, the man’s most famous work, the Summa Theologica, was intended as a sort of beginner’s manual to introduce all of the main theological teachings of the time. Have you ever seen that thing? If it is a beginner’s manual, then I am a big dunce! 

(The term ‘dunce’, by the way, is derived from the name of Franciscan philosopher Blessed John Duns Scotus, who was berated in his own time for arguing scripturally on behalf of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nobody believed him. But guess what? The little ‘dunce’ was right, after all! Poor guy.)

Anyway, back to St. Thomas Aquinas and his Summa Theologica. This massive work addresses the eternal law, the natural law, and the human law, and Thomas does so by posing questions, possible objections to these questions, and finally an argument to defend and clarify the issue at hand. He cites the Scriptures and many Christian, Jewish, Muslim and ancient pagan scholars while answering these various questions, which makes for interesting reading.

While the format of the Summa is a bit daunting at first, I think anyone can catch on pretty quickly if you stick with it. And it can even be fun! Take, for example, a birthday greeting that I gave to a philosophy student friend of mine on the occasion of his birthday, in the style of St. Thomas’ Summa:

Article 1. Whether we should celebrate the birthday of Kevin?

Objection 1. It seems that we should not still celebrate Kevin's birth today, since he has been on earth for twenty-two years already.

Objection 2. Further, it seems that celebration does not befit an occasion that marks his advancing in age.

Objection 3. Further, as shown above, the day of Kevin's birth far pre-dates the current day in question. Therefore, today is not Kevin's birthday.

On the contrary, It is written, "May the LORD bless you from Zion, all the days of your life" (Ps 128:5).

I answer that, as the Philosopher relates, "Old age: A great sense of calm and freedom. When the passions have relaxed their hold, you ...may have escaped, not from one master but from many" (Plato). We should, therefore, celebrate heartily the anniversary of Kevin’s birth and his advancement in age.

Reply to objection 1. "We are always the same age inside." - Gertrude Stein

Reply to objection 2. "It takes a long time to become young." - Pablo Picasso; and "We turn not older with years, but newer every day." - Emily Dickinson

Reply to objection 3. A birthday is defined by Princeton University as “an anniversary of the day on which a person was born (or the celebration of it).”

See? Philosophy and theology can be fun, and now you, too can impress your friends with your own birthday and holiday greetings in the style of the Summa Theologica!

(If you want to check out the real Summa, go here:

Or if this is all still a little much for you, then maybe you can just share this great quote:

“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

As always, thanks for tuning in, Coffee Talkers!

Peace and all good,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Don’t Join This Club!

Last week, as I was driving back from a fun family day at an amusement park with my mom and my girls, something caught my attention. I’ve noticed that many businesses have been hit hard by the current economic situation, but unfortunately there is one ‘business’ that seems to still be going strong – “Gentleman’s Clubs.”

As I passed several of these unsavory establishments, several things struck me:

My first, and most obvious, reflection is that “Gentleman’s Club” is absolutely a misnomer – no place which routinely exploits women by showcasing their bodies solely for visual pleasure and sexual value is a place where true gentlemen would convene, and certainly not a place where the qualities of a gentleman would be formed. The term ‘gentleman’ is typically reserved for men of good repute and courteous conduct, not for men who derive their pleasure from the reduction of another human person to an object of their own selfish pleasure and entertainment.

Secondly, there are many people (men and women included) who find this type of so-called entertainment to be nothing more than a little harmless fun, and think participating in such activities will not affect their view of themselves or others adversely. On this count, I must heartily disagree. Because purity and modesty have little (or no) value in the eyes of secular society, it falls upon people of faith even more heavily to restore these nearly lost virtues. Wherever the human person is reduced to a mere object, we are in danger of losing civilization altogether. 

Go ahead and call me an old-fashioned prude if you’d like – trust me, I’ve been called worse – but at least consider a bit of what the Catechism of the  Catholic Church has to say about purity and modesty:

2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. 

2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. 

2523 There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies. 

2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person. 

2525 Christian purity requires a purification of the social climate. It requires of the communications media that their presentations show concern for respect and restraint. Purity of heart brings freedom from widespread eroticism and avoids entertainment inclined to voyeurism and illusion. 

Lastly, I’d like to reject the idea that modesty means always wearing long jumpers and turtlenecks (which would be particularly strange for the men!). There are many ways to be modern and fashionable while still bearing witness to purity and the true value of the human person. For the ladies, I’d like to recommend a website I came across that I find to be a good example of modesty and good fashion sense:

(I don’t have any connection with whoever runs MIKAROSE, and I suspect that the ladies who do run it are Morman. Whoever they are, they’ve done a commendable job of bring modesty and good fashion to the modern world, so kudos to them!)

Let’s all do our part to restore the virtues of purity and modesty in a sex-crazed culture. By doing so, we can begin to restore the true God-given dignity that every human person deserves, and thus build a civilization that promotes life and love.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I am Woman, Hear Me Cry: The Feminine Genius

I’ve been feeling a bit more sensitive today than usual, and sometimes it bugs me a little bit to be a woman, what with all this awareness of others, their needs, their feelings – not to mention my own emotional ups and downs. I think that women these days are often asked to not show too much emotion – “don’t be so sensitive,” “man up,” and “don’t take things so personally” are some phrases that come to mind here. But I want to share with you something wonderful I remembered today about womanly sensitivity – that it is not at all a curse, but is actually part of what Pope John Paul II so beautifully referred to as the ‘feminine genius’!  In fact, he goes so far as to say that:

 “Woman is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form. Even this singular feature which prepares her for motherhood, both emotionally and spiritually, is inherent in the plan of God who entrusted the human being to woman in an altogether special way. The woman of course, as much as the man, must take care that her sensitivity does not succumb to the temptation to possessive selfishness, and must put it at the service of authentic love. On these conditions she gives of her best, everywhere adding a touch of generosity, tenderness, and joy of life” (The Feminine Genius, 2).

What an amazing thought! Women can truly receive the human being concretely – she alone accepts new human life into her womb, and protects and nourishes that life through her keen awareness of and sensitivity to the other within her own being.  If any of you have been around pregnant women (or have been one yourself), you know how emotional these little ladies can be. They are always feeling ‘sensitive’ and taking things ‘personally,’ right? But that’s a good thing, and necessary! Without that sensitive and personal awareness of the life not only around her but within her, she would easily “succumb to the temptation to possessive selfishness” to which JP II referred. “MY body, MY rights, MY choice” – sound familiar?

So let’s celebrate the feminine genius, emotions and sensitivity and all! Ladies, why not break out your favorite chick flick tonight, have a good cry, and then go give someone a hug – you’ll know who needs one most because you’re sensitive and you take things personally. And, thanks be to God, that’s nothing to be ashamed of!