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Get me to the nave on time!

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By Father James Lentini

 

My favorite game show of all time was the long-running “Pyramid.” When I was a kid the show started out as the “$10,000 Pyramid” in the early 1970s, but by the late 1980s and early 1990s it had become the “$100,000 Pyramid.” Ah, the ravages of inflation.

As a kid growing up in New York City, I had the benefit of being able to see many episodes of the “Pyramid” filmed live at the ABC Theatre on 58th Street. It was a great experience; you got to see the behind the scenes preparations, watch an exciting big money game and meet celebrities.

Now, all the excitement on the Pyramid came in its end game when a victorious celebrity and contestant would enter “The Winner’s Circle” and face the big pyramid. On that big pyramid “categories” would appear successively, and with a 60-second clock tick-tick-ticking away, one player would have to give a list of things that fit into that category to have the other person guess the category. If you got all six categories in 60-seconds you won the big money.

Categories were items like “Names of state capitals,” “Things that bounce,” “Parts of a car,” “Things you reconsider,” etc. It was much harder than it sounds. Well, in honor of my favorite game show, I will spend this column listing “Parts of a church.” Now, as to whether a contestant would have won the prize with words like “narthex,” “nave,” “sacristy,” “ambry,” and “clerestory,” we will never know. But just in case you wind up in “The Winner’s Circle” and these clues are given … I want you to have a chance at the $100,000 (you can split the money with me. I mean, with my parish). Read more »

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Kings crowned with halos: Earthly power did not keep these monarchs from staying true to their faith

June 29th, 2014 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags:

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“Trailers for sale or rent / rooms to let, 50 cents. / No phone, no pool, no pets / I ain’t got no cigarettes / ah, but, two hours of pushin’ broom / buys an eight-by-twelve four-bit room /  I’m a man of means by no means / King of the road.”

In 1964, singer Roger Miller hit No. 4 on the pop music charts with this memorable slow-moving country ditty. Though long gone, the memory of that song lingers in the back of my head — it’s stored back there along “King Creole” (Elvis Presley), “King Tut” (Steve Martin), “King of Pain” (the Police) and “Rain King” (Counting Crows).

But as memorable as these King-songs are, I wonder if they will stand the test of time like many of our Catholic kings who became saints. This column is written about several famous Catholic kings who lived lives worthy of heaven. Read more »

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Heresy! Church has condemned false teachings for centuries but they still crop up

June 20th, 2014 Posted in Catechetical Corner

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In 1973, the American League in Major League Baseball adopted rule 6.10, called the “designated hitter rule.” This rule allows a hitter to take the place of the pitcher in the batting line up. Thus, in the American League, the pitchers never have to step up to plate. This rule change put a fundamental change on the game of baseball. A principal of the game prior to this change was that every player had to go to bat and face the other team, including the pitcher. That was the game: Everyone on both sides got to play offense at the plate and swing that bat and hit the ball. So, when this rule went into effect the cry of baseball purists went out: “Heresy! This is wrong!” The cry was heard by the National League, which did not adopt this rule, as it was deemed (as I, too, deem it) a heresy.

The church at times has to cry out “heresy” when a false teaching that denies truth or some tenet of the faith is annunciated. But when we speak of heresy, many people think of early times in church history, when heresy was a problem; they usually don’t think of today. But that’s not quite right. You see, heresies are, unfortunately, still alive and well in our world today. Many of these heresies are rehashes of old ones, but remain false teachings that lead us away from Christ and his church, and salvation.

I want to present four heresies that the church has dealt with in the recent or distant past and show the 21st century face of these heresies as they rear their heads in our world today. The four heresies covered will be: Indifferentism, Arianism, Relativism and Gnosticism.

 

• Indifferentism: It does matter

This is a heresy that is prevalent in today’s world. It’s often reinforced by the media. Indifferentism puts forth the idea that one religion is just the same as another. First dubbed “indifferentism” by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832, it is a false teaching.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:  “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” (CCC 816).

In this same regard, a document titled “Dominus Iesus,” written in 2000 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and approved by Pope John Paul II, states, it “would be contrary to the faith to consider the church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions.”

This, of course doesn’t mean that non-Catholics or non-Christian don’t have access to the means of salvation, but it does mean that those means of salvation find their fullness in the church, and, ultimately, through Christ.

Why do folks say, “One religion is the same as another”? Simple: Because many people think that a religion is some sort of community organization, that is, a group that does nice things for other people. They don’t see religion as being the practice of belief, but just something people join like the 4H Club or Rotary.

Pope Francis rails against this, saying that all too often people view the church as some “compassionate NGO” (non-governmental organization). In fact, religion is the practice of one’s belief. Our belief is that the fullness of the truth subsists in the Catholic Church and that the church possesses the fullness of the means of salvation. As Catholics we believe this; we are not indifferent. Thus, another religion can’t make these claims. The Catholic faith that we believe and hold true is certain and distinct from any other faith: Thus, one religion (Catholic) is not just like another religion.

 

• Arianism: Creature features

Arius was a 2nd and 3rd century priest who held that Jesus Christ was merely a creature created by God, just as we are, that he was not divine, but human. He asserted that the Son (Jesus Christ) was the first and greatest creature, but a creature nonetheless. He said that the Son of God was created, not begotten, by the Father and was created in time (our time) and not eternal. He saw Jesus basically as a man who was good moral teacher with a special role imputed to him by God at his baptism.

This false teaching, given the name Arianism after its founder, was condemned at the Council of Nicea, which asserted that God the Son, the second person of the blessed Trinity, was incarnate (came in the flesh) and was fully divine and fully human in his nature, divine in his person, and consubstantial (of the same substance) of the Father.

But you may ask, where do we see Arianism today? This was killed off in the 4-5th centuries, right? In a religious realm, the Jehovah’s Witness today still carry this view forward, holding that Christ is a created being; specifically that he is St. Michael the Archangel. But more damaging to the faithful however, is the cultural gazing upon Jesus as a “good guy” or a “great role model.” People that say, “Oh, Jesus didn’t mean to create a church or religion, he just wanted to help people.”

Egads! The people of this world were not an Eagle Scout project for Christ. He was not some role model, or some good guy. When folks speak of Christ merely in terms like that, they diminish him by faint praise. Christ was and is God in the flesh, the Son of God, the Lord, the redeemer, the savior of the world. To say less than that of him, to reduce him to a mere role model is to fall into Arianism.

 

• Relativism: Visit from the relatives

The first time I got a dose of relativism was in seminary, when a classmate of mine, during a lecture on “truth,” said to the instructor: “Yeah, but what is truth for you, isn’t necessarily truth for me; don’t we each have our own truth?” He was of course rightly reproved for the comment for its illogic.

This nice sounding, free-to-be-you-and-me claptrap — “we each have our own truth” — is in the air these days. The idea that truth is malleable, or that each man has his own truth sounds great to our hyper-individualistic society. But this, too, is heresy. It is relativism. As Pope Benedict XVI once said, “A dictatorship of relativism is being formed; one that recognizes nothing as definitive and that has as its measure only the self and its desires.”

In relativism, good and bad, right or wrong, truth or lie, have no objective meaning. Everything becomes subjective, based on the view of each person, and thus in our world today we could have 7,000,000,000 truths or, better put, no truth at all.

By extension, (and contradicting Christ’s words in John 14:6, “I am the… Truth”) there is no God of truth in a world of relativism because in that world all points of view are equally valid, and that all truth is relative to the individual (and not to God). Secular humanism, which makes man the ultimate arbiter of truth, would be a commonly seen example of relativism in our world today.

 

• Gnosticism: I’ve got a secret

Gnosticism, a wide-ranging heresy that took many forms, was once quite de rigueur. It spoke to a secret knowledge (or “gnosis”) that was necessary for salvation, and was only available to an elite few. It saw man as “sparks of the divine” that were dropped into physical bodies causing him to fall into sin. Salvation, the gnostics would say, would be by coming to self-knowledge, that they don’t belong to physical realm and must escape it.

In the 11-12th century, the Albigensian heresy brought Gnosticism back into vogue; lamenting physicality so much that they decried marriage and promoted suicide.

So where does Gnosticism exist today? It crops up constantly, and one of the latest forms of it is something called “conscious evolution.” This is the belief that mankind now has developed the ability to choose how our species will exist in the future. It asserts that man is the edge of an ongoing evolution of the universe and that he controls the change (not God). This sounds either groovy or goofy depending on one’s views, but basically it takes Christ out of the equation of man’s redemption.

Recently the head of the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müeller, took direct aim at this teaching saying: “The futuristic ideas advanced by the proponents of conscious evolution are not actually new. The gnostic tradition is filled with similar affirmations and we have seen again and again in the history of the church the tragic results of partaking of this bitter fruit.”  This false teaching is based on secret knowledge, that is, a teaching known only by some, and not part of God’s public revelation to us.

Pope Francis asserted, “Heresies are this: trying to understand with our minds and with only our personal light who Jesus is.”

Heresies are always bound up and put forth by a person or group trying to supplant church teaching with their own. Because of this heresies have been around since the earliest days of the church. As members of the faith, we need to steer clear of these false teachings. We do that through prayer, reflection and listening to the voice of Christ and his church.

Father Lentini is pastor of Holy Cross Church in Dover and Immaculate Conception Church in Marydel, Md.

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Easter’s sequels: Holy days after Easter celebration stem from church’s ‘classic’ feast

June 19th, 2014 Posted in Catechetical Corner

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Remember the movie “The Godfather”? “Jaws”? “Star Wars”? “Superman”? “The Exorcist”? These 1970s films provided not only “boffo” box office results but they also gave us the common practice of movie sequels. So when you see “Friday the 13th – Part 53,” you know what decade to thank for creating the idea.

Now, there had been sequels to movies in the past, but that practice was spotty at best. More common than “sequels,” some early movies spawned “series.” What series?

• The 1940s entertained us with the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s “Road picture” series;

•l The 1950s gave us the “Francis the Talking Mule” series;

• The 1960s yielded the God-forsaken series of “Gidget” movies; and the 1980s dropped on us the awful “Ernest” movies. Read more »

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Why ‘40’ days in Lent? — Forty carries a sense of getting things accomplished in Scripture

March 7th, 2014 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags: , , ,

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There are many numbers that stick in our head, and indeed in the idioms of our language and culture. From TV, we remember Agents 86 and 99 on “Get Smart.” Likewise there was “77 Sunset Strip,” “90210,” “60 Minutes,” “30 Rock,” and “The $64,000 Question.”

In music, there are Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” John Lennon’s “#9 Dream,” Question Mark and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears.” We know what the IRS’ 1040 is during tax season; we gamble on a 50/50 raffle; we grab a Slurpee at the 7-Eleven. Read more »

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Rekindle Your Spiritual Intimacy

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St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of the Diocese of Wilmington, offers a unique spirituality for couples and families to embrace. Based on love and the Gospel message, Salesian spirituality provides a simple way of reconciling the conflicting demands of home, family, career, church and community.

St. Francis de Sales reminds us we are all called to holiness in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. He describes the devout life as “relational,” meaning it is  living out our relationships in love that one lives the devout life.  Read more »

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Amazing stories of men and women of faith for the new year

January 11th, 2014 Posted in Catechetical Corner

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Here we are in the New Year and the month of January hosts a cornucopia of wonderful saints, some of whom are among my favorites. These saints run the gamut from a reclusive monastic to an outgoing minister to young people. Without further ado, I present to you some of the very intriguing saints of January:

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What are Dec. 18, 20 and 21? — Deep in December we still can remember the fast days called ‘ember’

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There are a lot of special days we know from music:  Andy Williams sang of “Days of Wine and Roses,” Wang Chung sang of “Dance Hall Days,” and Don McLean, in “American Pie” lamented “the day the music died.”  Likewise there was “Happy Days,” “New Year’s Day,” “Manic Monday,” “Saturday in the Park,” and “A Day in the Life.” Wow, that’s a lot of songs from the old days. “Those Were the Days My Friend”! Now, some of those songs are well known still; however, others, even though gems, have gotten lost in the passing of time.

The church has some days like these, too. Some days like Christmas, First Fridays, and holy days of obligation are well known. However, there are other sacred times, which, even though commended by the church, have gotten lost in modern times. These days are tucked away in church’s vault of spiritual treasures. In this regard, there is a special set of days (coming up this week) that I would like to commend to you; they are called Ember Days.

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The saints of the season of Advent

November 27th, 2013 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags: , ,

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Remember “The Love Boat?” It was a somewhat unfunny but long-running TV show that took some major and not so major celebrities and cast them in little vignettes that were wrapped up in the context of a cruise. Well, wrapped up in the context of the Season of Advent (a somewhat penitential and preparation season leading to Christmas), are some vignettes featuring our Catholic celebrities of holiness – the saints. While we think of Advent as the season in which we prepare the way for the birth of Christ, it also features a number of saint days that remind us how these saints lived preparing for life with Christ in heaven. Now, while we won’t hear of “Love Boat” type-folks like Charo, Jimmy Walker, Jamie Farr or Norman Fell, we will hear about great holy men and women who served God well. To wit, here are the saints of Advent:

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In the beginning were the words: Even nonbelievers often speak in the language of the Bible

November 25th, 2013 Posted in Catechetical Corner

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I write a weekly pastor’s column for the bulletins of my two parishes, Holy Cross in Dover and Immaculate Conception, in Marydel, Md.

Someone noted to me that the column I wrote on the topic of biblical origins of common phrases would make a nice article for the Catechetical Corner column in The Dialog. Who am I to disagree? “What I have written, I have written” (John 19:22) and here it is.

It is commonly put forth that it’s a small world. This phrase means to impute the understanding that we are not merely careering haplessly through this life, but that there are connections — sometimes surprising ones — that bind us as God’s children.

These same connections exist in many aspects of our language; there are everyday words and phrases that we use that find their origin in the Scriptures. So, as much as we commonly use this phrase or that idiom and think they are just conventions of language, they actually have the Bible, in common, as their home.

Let’s strap ourselves into the Way-back Machine for this multiple-millennia journey back in time to see the origin of some of the idioms of our language:

 

• It’s a drop in the bucket

This idiom, meaning a very small part of a larger need, finds its origin in Isaiah 40-15: “… the nations count as a drop in the bucket, as a wisp of cloud on the scales.” Be sure to include that Scripture reading on your “bucket list.”

• There’s a fly in the ointment

This saying, meaning there is a problem in the plan, goes back to Ecclesiastes 10:1: “Dead flies corrupt and spoil the perfumer’s oil.” Ladies, let me say to you that finding flies in one’s perfume is not a nice thing to ponder – so don’t let it cause you to worry about your perfume, lest it become Obsession.

• Bites the dust

This alternate way saying that someone died finds its origin in the Psalm 27, albeit in a different form: “May his foes kneel before him, his enemies lick the dust.” The words are different, the meaning is the same. Although, I don’t how many records Queen would have sold, if they had a song called, “Another One Licks the Dust.”

• A little bird told me

OK, this doesn’t exactly have a verbatim origin in the Bible, but a little bird told me that Ecclesiastes 10:20 comes darn close: “For the birds of the air may carry your voice, a winged creature may tell what you say.” This is probably a precursor to posting “Tweets.”

• Going the extra mile

This comes from Matthew 5:41: “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” It means to go beyond what is asked of you. In a fast food scenario, this idiom comes when someone asks you for a hamburger, and you give ’em a Big Mac.

• The blind leading the blind

This also comes from Matthew (15:14): as Christ comments about those darn recalcitrant Pharisees he says that: “they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.” This refers to an uninformed person guiding another uninformed person. It would be like Paris Hilton directing a Pauly Shore movie.

• I’m pulling my hair out

This comes from Ezra 9:3: “When I had heard this, I tore my cloak and my mantle, plucked hair from my head and beard, and sat there devastated.” Ouch. This saying refers to a person being very anxious about something. If one is too anxious, it could be a case of hair today, gone tomorrow.

• The writing is on the wall

This idiom comes from the famous scene from the book of Daniel 5:5, when a disembodied hand scrawls a message on the palace wall: “Suddenly, opposite the lampstand, the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace.” The king does not understand the message, so Daniel helps the king to grasp its meaning. Interestingly, this saying has morphed. It no longer means a cryptic message, but rather, an obvious one. Hence, when the boss writes on your pay stub, “We’ll miss you!” The writing is on the wall for you, you’re fired.

• His knees were knocking

OK, remember the King in Daniel who saw the writing on the wall inscribed by the disembodied hand? Well, he was so scared at the sight that his knees knocked together: “When the king saw the hand that wrote, his face became pale; his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked” (Daniel 5:6). This idiom has to do with fearing. When one fears something, his knees knock together. Interestingly, on “The Addams Family” no one seems too scared of Thing (a disembodied hand), but Lurch always gave one the heebie-jeebies.

• Nothing new under the sun

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun.” King Solomon puts forth this gem, and it means that life (though it may seem exciting) offers little without God. And for those who watch TV, movies and listen to music, this line will indeed echo well with them: amidst the re-makes, retreads, re-releases, re-launchings and re-imaginings, there is, indeed, nothing new under the sun. Thus we experience “Return to Gilligan’s Island,” “Friday the 13th – Part VIII” and about a dozen “Brady Bunch” reunion shows.

• You don’t know the half of it

This saying speaks to the idea that one doesn’t know the full picture of what is going on. This saying comes from the Old Testament, when the Queen of Sheba said to King Solomon: “I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes that not even the half had been told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard.” (1 Kings 10:7). Basically, she was telling him that she didn’t know the half of it. Kind of like when someone says that on the day after Thanksgiving some stores have crowds. Well, you don’t half of it, until you’ve seen the bulls-at-Pamplona type of madness at the mall that day.

• I’ll nail him to the wall

This phrase that speaks of catching and punishing someone finds its roots in the 1 Samuel 18:10-11: “The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raged in his house. David was in attendance, playing the harp as at other times, while Saul was holding his spear. Saul poised the spear, thinking, ‘I will nail David to the wall!’ But twice David escaped him.” Another translation of this passage reads, “I will pin David to the wall.” While wrestling fans of WWE, WCW and ECW will appreciate the “pin” comment, “nail” really conveys the anger of the comment. That tone expands the franchise of this idiom. Thus, when you “nail” the person, the berating you give them is sometimes called a “hammering” of them or even referenced as “beating them down” – both are things that have to do with nails.

There are hundreds of other idioms with their roots in the sacred Scriptures; this column just gives a smattering of them. So, when you are reading your Bible, keep an eye and an ear out to see how many of these idioms you can find that have made the transition from the Word of God to the words of our everyday language.

 

Father Lentini is pastor of Holy Cross Church in Dover and Immaculate Conception Church in Marydel, Md.

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