Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Basic Christian Iconography: the “Fish”

November 24th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

The fish symbol in ancient paganism was associated with “life”, the “womb”, the “Great Mother” and with the power of women to generate life.

Bread and Fish, Catacomb of St. Callixtus, Rome.  Image captured from

Bread and Fish, Catacomb of St. Callixtus, Rome.  Image captured from <>

Fish images and fishing scenes in early Christian iconography have a wildly varied list of possible meanings. There is a wealth of scriptural stories that the fish image may allude to, among them: the calling of the apostles to be “fishers of men”(1), the miraculous catch of fish following the resurrection(2), Peter finding a coin in the mouth of a fish(3), and other references. But, the fish as a symbol on its own or with other non-narrative images is more allusive. It could be referring to a narrative such as the New Testament story of the multiplication of loaves and fish or it could be a stand-alone symbol for Christ. Third and fourth century writers noted that the Greek word for “fish” (ICHTHYS)(4) is a cryptogram on the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” Therefore, the image of a fish, in some contexts, symbolizes Christ.

Some scholars hold that the symbol referred to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and so early Christians used the fish symbol as a form of religious identification among themselves.

fish meal 150dpi

Christian Banquet Scene, Sarcophagus fragment. Vatican Inv. 31445 <>

The association of the fish with the Eucharist is highly probable given the evidence of an inscription left by the second century Bishop Abercius of Hierapolis in Phrygia, and in a somewhat later epitaph of Pectorius of Autun. On his trip to Rome Abercius was …everywhere provided as my food a fish of exceeding great size, and perfect, which a holy virgin drew with her hands from a fountain and this it [Faith] ever gives to its friends to eat, it having wine of great virtue, and giving it mingled with bread.(5) The bishop refers to the fish as the spiritual nourishment provided by the “Savior of the Saints.” He is, of course, describing the Eucharistic liturgy in veiled language, perhaps for security reasons.

Of course, there is the traditional association of the New Testament story of the multiplication of five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a multiple of people (to nourish life by feeding hungry people) with Jesus’ later discourse in John 6:26-58 of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood in order to attain eternal life –referring to the Eucharist. We remember that fish were known in the wider culture as symbols of life.

The Eucharist is often symbolized in Catholic liturgical art by images of fish shown with shafts of wheat, loaves of bread and bunches of grapes.

First Communion Medal.

First Communion Medal.

Fish or fishing scenes on sarcophagi or on the fresco walls of the catacombs may also be symbolic of the sacrament of Baptism. Grouped on the walls with fish symbols suggesting a possible Christian theme of Baptism, are images of scriptural texts often associated with the sacrament(6). Literary evidence, other than biblical citations, also points to a baptismal association.

Anchor and fish, tomb slab from Catacomb of Domitilla, 3rd century A.D.  Because it secures a vessel, the anchor was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. In this instance the anchor symbolizes Christ who is the sure hope of Christians, represented here by fish.

Anchor and Fish, tomb slab from Catacomb of Domitilla, 3rd century A.D. Because it secures a vessel, the anchor was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. In this instance the anchor symbolizes Christ who is the sure hope of Christians, represented here by fish. <>

Early Christian writers often called to mind images of water, fish, and fishing when discussing Baptism. Converts were commonly referred to as swimming fish caught by Christ or, alternatively, caught by the apostles and their successors (“fishers of men”). Sometimes decorated with images of fish, baptismal fonts were at times called “fish ponds.” Cyril of Jerusalem, instructing those about to be baptized, conjured the metaphor of fishing as well as Baptism’s imagery of death to rebirth in Christ: You are fish caught in the net of the church. Let yourself be taken alive: do not try to escape. It is Jesus who is playing you on his line, not to kill you, but by killing you, to make you alive.(7)

A modern use of the fish icon.

A modern use of the fish icon.<>

The fish symbol was the earliest symbol of Christianity. It eventually gave way, in the 5th century, to the cross as the primary symbol of Christianity. It was resurrected in popular culture by some Christian groups beginning in the mid-20th century.


1. Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17

2. John 21:1

3. Matthew 17:27

4. In pagan beliefs, Ichthys was the offspring of the ancient Sea goddess Atargatis, and was known in various mythic systems under different titles or names.

5. Henri Leclercq, Inscription of Abercius, (The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1, New York: Robert Appleton Company 1907) 22 Dec. 2008, Nov. 24 2008 19:33

6. Robin Margaret Jensen, Understanding Early Christian Art, (New York, Routledge
2006) p48

7. Jensen 50

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A few more links

November 22nd, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

going through my notes from the past few weeks, I’m finding a few more links I intended to post… – Funerals provide mercy, consolation – By Jennifer Burke – Don’t delay preparation for eternal life – Bishop Salvatore Matano
God bless Bishop Matano! – Catholic Academic Left’s Latest Act of Desperation by Rachel Lu

It sometimes appears that liberal reactionaries are still overwhelmingly in control of the Church’s strongholds. I know how this feels, because I myself converted to Catholicism in the diocese of Rochester, where it often seemed that special graces were needed to make it through a single Mass without hearing heresy preached, or the pope or Catechism maligned in some way. So depressing was the parish scene in Ithaca, NY that I drove two hours to Scranton for my Catechesis, so that I could be baptized and confirmed under the auspices of the Fraternity of St. Peter. I understand how bleak the Catholic world can appear from a certain vantage point.

In response I left this comment (which is buried because apparently Crisis gets flooded w/ comments)


A few links

November 22nd, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson Atlanta Archbishop Promotes Pro-LGBT Retreat
Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta welcomes pro-gay-agenda organization Fortunate Families with open arms. This group is very clear in its opposition to Catholic doctrine and yet still receives support from local clergy. Revised Voting Guide Spurs Scrutiny, Debate at Bishops’ Meeting

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego [a recent appointee by Pope Francis], saying that the committee did good work in its revisions but “that original mandate, in retrospect, was a serious error” because it kept the original “structure” and “priorities” outlined in the original document.

“The problem is that we are not living in 2007,” he continued, claiming that “Pope Francis, in certain aspects of the social doctrine of the Church, radically transformed the prioritization of Catholic social teaching and its elements. Not the truth of them, not the substance of them, but the prioritization has radically transformed that in articulating the claims that fall upon the citizen as believer and disciple of Jesus Christ.”

“This document does not do that,” he said, calling it “gravely hobbled.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl … said … “I think we have a good working document.”

So the new guys are even more progressive than Cardinal Wuerl (who openly defied Cardinal Ratzinger). Looks like more dioceses can look forward to what Rochester has experienced the last few decades. Sandro Magister expounds upon this here: The Real Francis Revolution Marches to the Beat of Appointments

Ed Feser on Papal fallibility

Catholic doctrine on the teaching authority of the pope is pretty clear, but lots of people badly misunderstand it.

It’s long, but well worth Catholics to read and understand.

And a Johnny Cash link just because.


Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus — The Fuss Matters!

November 21st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

If you really want to know what the ‘fuss’ is about regarding Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (aka “Streamlining the Annulment Process”), it would be a good idea NOT to start with the popular media or even the local parish priest, but rather with the professional opinions of those who have been deeply involved in the process for years.

I have the personal impression that Cardinal Burke’s unceremonious departure from the Vatican at Pope Francis’ initiative (for reasons never publicly disclosed) was due, in part, probably large part, to the Pope’s intent to streamline the annulment process in ways with which Cardinal Burke did not agree.  Obviously, as head of the Apostolic Signatura and the Rota, Cardinal Burke was in a unique position, over years, to see (and reverse) errors in the lower diocesan courts.  That does not mean the process was perfect, or even that his own work was error-free; rather, he saw the opportunity for abuse which could come more easily with the kind of “streamlining” Pope Francis was then envisioning.  I also have the personal opinion that if Cardinal Burke had supported such radical change, and stayed as head of the Apostolic Signatura to facilitate it, the changes would have happened a year earlier.  But, with some separation in time, perhaps people will not link the two events.

Those are my personal opinions, worth absolutely nothing compared to the professional expertise and knowledge of those who regularly work deep in the process of canon law matters regarding annulments. The first press releases are often sensational, spun to the audience, and lacking in understanding. Then comes the commentary of people, trying to straighten out the media, introducing their own misunderstandings.  Finally, if we wait for it, those who have taken the time to think, write and publish can make the reality known.  Time is often more of a burden to truth than to fiction.  However, in this case, the wait is worth it (and not all that long a wait either!) as the St. Joseph Foundation, the premier not-for-profit organization representing the rights of Catholics, laity as well as clergy, has published in its latest Christifidelis newsletter, two articles — one by its President, Philip C. L. Gray, JCL on “What’s All the Fuss?” and one by Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD, on the Canonical Basics.  Together, these articles from the two leading canonists in this field, should be mandatory reading for anyone wanting to help others to understand, as opposed to simply sowing ill-informed coffee-break opinion.

The current Christifidelis newsletter can be found at and you may need to register (no cost), but it is well worth it, and you won’t be spammed, I promise!  Meanwhile, to whet the appetite, here are just a few of the specific discussion points to explore further in that newsletter:

By Philip C. L. Gray:

  • “Acting as the Chief Legislator for the Universal Church, the Pope used his power to alter ecclesiastical discipline. He did not proscribe doctrine. He did not redefine marriage. He did not define a matter of faith or morals.”
  • “I have been a canon lawyer for over 20 years, and have spent this time defending the faithful against unreasonable and unjust processes. I cannot remember anytime that the number of my clients did not include those in a marriage nullity dispute.”
  • “In 1972, the Holy See allowed what were called the American Procedural Norms (APN) to be used experimentally in the United States. The APN provided much the same procedures that the new law now provides. Many canonists and priests hoped that the APN would be introduced into the 1983 Code of Canon Law. After more than ten years of the experiment, Pope St. John Paul II rejected them. The experiment was considered a failure due to significant, negative effects on Catholic marriages and family life in North America.”
  • “I know of no study or concern shown for the effects of a marriage nullity process on the children of the spouses; but from my conversations with those children, it is significant and it is negative. Many turn away from God.”
  • “Unfortunately, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus removes necessary protections provided by law.”
  • “I offer a summary of the more harmful changes made to the current law….”

i.  “No Automatic Review:  This mandatory, second instance review is a check and balance intended to discourage subjectivity, collusion, and laxity in the exercise of justice in the Church’s judiciary.”

ii.  “Fewer Judges:  The Pope has regularized the use of a sole judge. With the abolition of a mandatory, second instance review, marriage cases will now be decided habitually by a single cleric.”

iii.  “Rejection of Appeal:  [A single judge] could reject an appeal summarily and simply issue a letter to that effect [replaces current process with three judges reviewing the case.]  … The expressed intention of the Pope is to limit the number of cases heard on appeal.”

iv.  “The Pope has now obligated diocesan bishops to act as a sole judge in all fast-tracked cases within his respective diocese … a departure from Canon 1536, §2, which does not allow a judge to arrive at moral certitude in favor of marriage nullity from the testimony of the parties alone.”

“In my opinion, the changes to the marriage nullity procedures will prove harmful to the Virtue of Justice and diminishes necessary safeguards that protect the sanctity of marriage and family.”  ( See page 8 of the newsletter.)


By Edward N. Peters:

“If the older canonical tradition wrongly assumed that a respondent necessarily opposed an annulment, this new norm wrongly, I think, makes relevant a respondent’s “consent” to an annulment petition. While a respondent’s participation in the tribunal process is always sought and is usually helpful in adjudicating marriage cases, his or her consent to a nullity petition is never necessary for the Church to exercise jurisdiction over a case and … is not indicative of the merits of the petition…. [It] risks confusing two things that the Church has long sought to distinguish, namely, the parties’ laudable cooperation with the tribunal’s search for truth and their collusion with each other toward a specific outcome. Treating nullity petitions, in which the parties agree radically differently from those wherein they disagree, sends a dubious message.”

“… every annulment case—no matter how many pastoral, sacramental, or spiritual consequences it might have … is fundamentally legal in nature….explains why nearly every significant tribunal officer must have a degree in canon law. Legal training matters for those treating legal issues. The new speedy annulment process, however, allows (I would say, pressures) bishops who are not necessarily canon lawyers to rely heavily on a report drafted by someone who need not be a canon lawyer, after conferring with an assessor who need not be a canon lawyer, to rule upon a marriage that, besides enjoying natural (‘intrinsic’) indissolubility, might be sacramentally (‘extrinsically’) indissoluble as well. And note, these new speedy annulment cases are not cases that can already, under some circumstances, be processed quickly by documents. No, these fast-track annulment cases plainly turn on questions of consent to marriage— consent, long and by far the most complex topic in marriage canon law.”

“Article 14 of the Ratio lists ten or twelve factors that enable an annulment petition (to which the parties agree) to be heard in a fast-track process. …  Looking at the examples offered … they confuse several complex aspects of consent law, they seem to treat some fact patterns as if they were quasi-impediments to marriage, and they introduce into consideration some matters that have little (perhaps no) jurisprudence behind them with which to assist bishops assessing their significance in a marriage case. Worse, in my opinion, the enunciation of these factors is going to create crises of conscience among faithful who live with one or more of these conditions in their past. …some of these factors, though presented as reasons for hearing a petition quickly, are actually grounds for nullity (e.g., simulation, force or fear); other factors, however, are most emphatically not grounds for annulment (e.g., brevity of married life); and others might, or might not, be suggestive of grounds for nullity….”

“… aspects of Mitis, especially the fast-track annulment option, need, I suggest, considerably more study. I only hope sufficient time is accorded the wider Church to make such studies feasible.”



In conclusion, I would also like to add into the mix of input from the excellent and timely Christifidelis newsletter, a consideration on behalf of the individual priests and the related conscience issues raised for any judge losing a strong defender of the bond in the process,  losing the collegiality of three judges seeing matters from various viewpoints and sharing those opinions in order to reach the best and most honest decision, losing sufficient time to make a fair, just and impartial decision, and losing the benefit of  the second instance review, for the humility of subjecting one’s work to significant oversight.  And I’d like to add a concern for individual souls who will soon know that various dioceses will have bishops of stronger or weaker integrity, and be able to ‘shop’ a decision, and learn to play the game to get what they want.  And, if or when that happens, for those who lose the chance to really know the truth of their situation.

God help us all!


Cardinal Sarah Speaks Up

November 19th, 2015, Promulgated by Hopefull

See the full LifeSiteNews story here.


Vatican Chief of Sacraments:

No pope can change divine law on Communion

ROME, November 19, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) —

ScreenShot111Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, speaking of priests, said: “There are preconditions for the reception of Holy Communion and when those conditions are not met, and the situation is publicly known, ministers of the sacrament “have no right to give him communion.” If they do so, their sin will be more grave before the Lord. It would be unequivocally a premeditated complicity and profanation of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus.”

“The entire Church has always firmly held that one may not receive communion with the knowledge of being in a state of mortal sin … Not even a pope can dispense from such a divine law.”

Regarding “communion for all, without discrimination,” Cardinal Sarah says that those in grave sin who are unrepentant (unless in total ignorance) “would remain in a state of mortal sin and would commit a grave sin by receiving communion.”

The cardinal’s most powerful statements, however, are his lament at the confusion about Holy Communion among the clergy.


IMO there are very few things to which OMG should ever be added.  However, this might be one:

Read the link carefully and note the lack of an apostrophe.


Facing God: 10 Advantages of Ad Orientem

November 19th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

From Saint Peter’s List

Fr. Mark Kirby offers an excellent reflection on ad orientem. On his blog, Vultus Christi, Father Kirby reflects on five years of saying the Holy Mass ad orientem. He states, “after five years of offering Holy Mass ad orientem, I can say that I never want to have to return to the versus populum position.”

Read more here


Basic Christian Iconography: the “Orant” or “Orans”

November 17th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

In this post –as part of the series on “Basic Christian Iconography”– we continue our look at some pagan icons or imagery that were adapted for Christian use.


Orant posture from the catacomb of Priscilla, Rome

The orant (orans, “one who prays”) was an ubiquitous figure in Roman pagan art, especially in funerary art, and was adopted by the early Christians for the same primary reason. The gesture, however, was a mode of prayer common to many ancient religions.

Ancient Egyptian orant.

Ancient Egyptian orant.

The orant appeared in pagan art as a female figure, sometimes veiled, with arms outstretched and usually bent at the elbow suggesting supplication or pleading. A person’s ‘soul’ in ancient literature was referred to as female and so in a funerary context the female orant image denoted the soul of a deceased person in prayer either pleading for himself or for those still alive.

The pagan orant image also symbolized a more general concept of pious familial devotion and intercessory prayer. Even Roman coins utilized the image on the reverse side of the emperor’s image to suggest the love and devotion of the emperor as he interceded with the gods in behalf of his ‘family’, the people of the empire.

The orant was equally ubiquitous in early Christian art with the difference that a Christian orant reflected the visual characteristics of the deceased person; if the deceased was male the orant image was depicted as male, for example. Other individual characteristics would also be shown.

"Saint Cyprian", SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Rome. Tied to the side curtains are a common presentation of the orant image suggesting a vision of a heavenly reality.

“Saint Cyprian”, martyr. SS. Giovanni e Paolo Church, Rome. Late 4th century. Drawn-to-the-side curtains are a common presentation of the orant image suggesting a revealed vision of a heavenly reality. This is on the wall of the confessio or chapel grave of the saint.*

Today, we commonly understand the orant pose as simply signifying a person at prayer. But, in a Christian

399 250px-Saint_Apollenaris_edited-1

Saint Apollinares intercedes for the faithful of his diocese. Sant’Apollinare in Classe Ravenna, Italy, ca. 533-49.

context, the orant especially designates intercessory prayer and was often used in early Christian art to depict martyrs offering intercessory prayers in behalf of the faithful still on earth. Early Christian writer Tertullian described the orant pose as that of the crucified Christ thereby identifying the sacrifice of the martyrs with that of the Savior.

300dpi priest_edited-1Most of us will recognize the orant position as the pose of the priest when offering prayers during Mass.

The gesture was less commonly employed in Christian art following the shift to naturalism in the Western Church but is still very much used by priests of the Eastern and Western Churches in the execution of the liturgy.


Picture Sources:

* Lawrence Nees, Early Medieval Art, Oxford History of Art, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002) p. 120


Final Synod Report needs Discernment

November 14th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The final Synod 2015 report can be found here .

If it comes up in Italian, just click on ‘translate’ for the English.

The most disputed paragraphs are #84, 85 and 86.  Both “sides” seem to be reacting as if they’d lost something in the final document.  If this were a mega acquisition deal being negotiated, or a business relationship, both sides having to compromise might be a good sign.  But not in Christ’s Teaching.  There is much to be understood in this Synod Report, and much discernment needed.  Unfortunately, most of us are not “taught” discernment.  But at least a first step is to understand the issues, and consult the opinions expressed by both “sides.” (Sad word choice for Catholic Teaching.)

Here are two “views” worth examining.

“Synod Adopts Alarming Sociological Approach in Place of Clear Doctrine


“Cardinal Danneels Warns African Bishops to Avoid Triumphalism”


Basic Christian Iconography: the “Good Shepherd”

November 10th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

In the Christian catacombs dating from the second through the fourth centuries, there are two categories of images painted on walls and ceilings, and carved on sarcophagi. In one category we find scenes depicting stories from scripture. That, of course, does not surprise us. However, in the second category, there are many images that do not appear to be part of a story. In fact, these images are shared, both in design and in primary meaning, with those decorating pagan burial chambers.

Shared images —those images we find in both pagan and Christian funerary art— are sometimes referred to as non-narrative images because they appear most often as isolated images lacking an environment or background that would suggest a story line.

Shared non-narrative images were usually depicted in the same fashion whether appearing in a pagan or Christian context. In fact, in many instances it is difficult to tell a Christian burial chamber from a pagan one based solely on the images depicted on the walls and ceilings. Standard pagan funerary images were often used in Christian context as long as they did not contradict Christian sensibilities and as long as they could be understood to have a Christian interpretation.

(click on the photographs)

Left: Hermes (Mercury) as a shepherd. As a crosser of boundaries, Hermes ("guide of the soul"),  brought newly-dead souls to the underworld, Hades. Right: Calf-Bearer , ca. 570 BC, Acropolis Museum, Athens. Christian imagery got its start through the adoption and modifica- tion of pagan images. If we were to substitute the calf in the pagan statue above with a lamb we might very well identify it as the Christian ‘Good Shepherd’.

Left: Hermes (Mercury) as a shepherd. As a crosser of boundaries, Hermes (“guide of the soul”), brought newly-dead souls to the underworld, Hades. Right: Calf-Bearer, ca. 570 BC, Acropolis Museum, Athens. Christian imagery got its start
through the adoption and modification of pagan images. If we were to substitute the calf in the pagan statue above with a lamb we might very well identify it as the Christian ‘Good Shepherd’.

The image of the (good) shepherd is one example of a non-narrative image (it is, in this case of course, also related to the biblical story of the “Good Shepherd”). There are variations in the depiction of shepherd imagery whether pagan or Christian. He is usually shown as young, beardless and wearing a short tunic with boots and often carrying a purse, musical pipes or a bucket filled with ewe milk. In some cases he is shown standing among a few sheep, carrying one on his shoulders. At other times he is shown milking a ewe. Carrying a lamb/sheep is the most common representation of the shepherd type.

dobl shepherd

Left: Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” is represented in this Christian catacomb as carrying the deceased (represented by the lambs) to heaven (“Paradise”, as represented by the trees and birds). In the painting we see some context: trees and birds which help us understand the Christian meaning. The statue on the right has no context. It is now known as Christian and yet it was thought to be pagan for a long time after being discovered.

The Christian icon of the Good Shepherd is, of course, well known to Christians and we think of the imagery as unique to Christianity and so it may be troubling to learn that it originated in pagan imagery. That seems, somehow, to cause us to think that perhaps Christianity is not all that unique –and truthful– after all.

I was once on a flight seated next to a man who noticed I was reading the Divine Office which he interpreted as being a Bible. He remarked that he used to be a Christian but was put off when he learned that so many Christian “things” actually had origins or similarities to paganism. I’m not sure if maybe he thought I was ripe for picking. I told him that his observation of pagan “inspiration” was one of the reasons why I became convinced of the truth of Christianity.

Pagan, polytheistic, and other pre-Christian religions were not so much evil inventions as misguided attempts to reconnect the fallen world with God. They represented man’s searching for a way back. They had some sense of which way to go but lacked a truthful, reliable, guide. With the Incarnation, God came into the world as it was and redeemed it. All those previous wandering routes could be made straight, realigned, reoriented in Christian truth. Tweaked, as it were. (It’s more than just that, of course, but I’m trying to be brief and simple, here.) God, in the Incarnation, redeemed man and the world. He didn’t destroy man and the world in order to make something entirely new.

The shepherd image, when used by the pagans, personified gentle protective care, and charity or philanthropy; good sentiments. The shepherd, sometimes, was also a symbol of the god Hermes who guided the deceased to the underworld and the afterlife. The Christian image of the Good Shepherd, on a primary level, communicates the same sentiments (with exception to the reference to Hermes).

In their myths pagans yearned for a “good” shepherd. God provided the “Good Shepherd” who, in addition to being gentle and protective, laid down his own life for the flock so his sheep might enjoy eternity with God.

Several Christian icons or symbols have their origins in pagan imagery. I’ll post a few as part of this series on “Basic Christian Iconography”.


Clarity vs. the Veil of Sin

November 7th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Yes, we are all sinners.  Let’s get that out of the way first.  But there is a crucial difference between being repentant, repeatedly, with a firm purpose of amendment, or wanting to be indulged and coddled in sin.  There is a crucial difference between humility and pride.  And there is a crucial difference between the clarity of seeing our own sinfulness for what it is, and the veil of rationalization which tries to justify wrong behavior in the interest of personal self esteem, mine or someone else’s.

A recent National Catholic Register article by Edward Pentin (who followed the Synod sessions so well, and so professionally) is the short, must read article, for the background on what prompts this post.   And the first subject is Cardinal Danneels. Do you remember that just before the conclave began in 2013, there was a random generator of Cardinal profiles, “Adopt a Cardinal,” to pray for during the conclave? Well, the person assigned to me was Cardinal Danneels. In retrospect, my prayer warrior skills must need serious sharpening.  Now, thanks to the revelations associated with the Synod, we are learning more than perhaps we can stomach about Cardinal Danneels.  He is the one who has named himself as part (if not leader) of the self-styled ‘mafia’ group within the hierarchy who now gloats over his opposition to Pope Benedict XVI. He is also the one Pope Francis invited into the Synod process as a special guest.

Holy Spirit Window in St. Joseph's Church in Zabrze, Poland

Holy Spirit Window in St. Joseph’s Church in Zabrze, Poland

My purpose isn’t to probe those matters; Pentin does an excellent job and I doubt we’ve heard the last of it. Rather, it is to peer at some commonality of agenda among those who cloak their permissiveness as mercy, while really only accommodating sin or easing their own consciences. And I’ll just choose one item, the centerpiece of those who advocate encouraging what has always been against Catholic Church Teaching, i.e. the matter over which the Church lost England, and Sts. Thomas More, John Fisher, Edmund Campion and many others lost their lives. That matter is about what really does matter: the Church’s two millennial teaching, directly from Christ, that valid marriage cannot be dissolved, that pseudo-remarriage is adultery, a mortal sin in which state the Church would be less than a true guardian of the most sublime gift, if she were to selectively admit adulterers to the Sacrament.

Danneels, Kasper and other prominent dissidents to Church Teaching, and those who lobby gay activism, e.g., seem to be following in the path of the U.S. government, that the more permissive the leadership, the more they will be supported by the people whose individual sins make the ‘approved’ list; hence, the rapid slide down the slippery slope of abortion, euthanasia, same sex ‘unions’. Whether it is transgender teens using whatever bathroom they choose, or clerks jailed for refusing to sign a same-sex marriage license, or a Little Sister targeted to carry contraceptive coverage, the bleachers of the coliseum cheer on the entertainment, and tolerate each other’s sins because their own will be permitted. To have the arrogance, obstinacy and aggression to be a Church Leader and to behave in ways approving of what Christ called adultery, or to help people feel good in their adultery, betrays everything which a guardian of Eucharist should defend.  Thus, while perhaps they can’t see through their own veils, they are easy to recognize behind the veiled distortion, like through a one-way mirror.

In the current situation, dissident Church leaders and their minions would try to argue that some kind of ‘treatment’ can bring the divorced/remarried/adulterers back into receiving Communion.  The euphemism seems to be ‘walking with them.’  No, I don’t want to walk with anybody in their sin (or mine.)  I want to walk with them OUT of their (and my) sin. But those dissidents would argue it is about ‘mercy,’ a code-word that should be carefully watched as it unfolds over the ‘Year of Mercy,’ IMO. In some ways, but I hope I’m wrong, I worry that this is a year to get us more used to tolerating certain sins.  May it not be so.

If we probe more deeply what these proposals mean, it seems to be yet another ‘end-run’ around Christ’s and the Church’s teachings.  There is already an answer in place which allows divorced/remarried (without annulment) Catholics to come to Communion every week, every day if they choose.  The only thing they have to do is stop having sexual relations with the person in the ‘second marriage.’  The Church used to call that ‘living as brother and sister.’  It keeps families together, and sacrifices one’s self-centeredness for the love of God.  But in today’s secular world, surrounded by enticements of SEX at every turn, the soul needs powerful medicine to get free of the tendrils of living as a pagan.  It seems that SEX is treated as being as important to the body as oxygen or water, and people who are able to surrender such needs to God as being a bit ‘off,’ like a truly celibate priest whom the world will never understand, but will always respond with discomfort to what they themselves cannot control, and envy someone else’s ability to do so.

We just had the reading at daily Mass from Luke 14: 25-33, in which Jesus says:

“If anyone comes to Me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  

This passage is a stumbling block to many over the word “hate.”  And the word from the Greek is ‘miseo’ and does, indeed, mean “hate.” Sometimes this verse is preached to mean we should love God first, and then family, etc.  But that does not do justice to the use of the word ‘hate’ which does not just imply ordering in importance those whom we love, but rather removes God entirely from the order of love of other humans.  The use of such a word shows that, by comparison, our love for other humans should be so far removed in importance from our love of God, that the difference is night and day, hate and love.  It isn’t even on the same scale, so the word hate has to be used, not in the sense of actually hating, but of having a love for God which can’t even be on the same scale as love for other humans.

So, if someone in an ‘irregular’ marriage, to use the common euphemism of not a marriage at all, has such a love for God that he or she deeply desires to receive Communion, the Church in her mercy does provide a way, simply live in the current relationship without SEX.  That it seems so impossible is simply the disordering of the love we are called to have regarding our love for Christ.  And if we put the SEX of a relationship first, in any relationship, then perhaps we really shouldn’t be going to Communion?  And perhaps it isn’t a matter of finding tricky synod loopholes, or ‘counseling’ for ‘feelings’ of repentance.  There is a great arrogance about thinking that somehow any ‘counseling’ or ‘behavior change’ can bring souls to a metanoia ready to receive the Eucharist.  The Holy Spirit works in souls, not the spiritual advisor.

But there will still be confessors, spiritual advisors and simply people behind the veil of their own distortions, who lack clarity and understanding, or who will jump the barricade and try to ‘forgive’ a sin not being repented.  They abrogate the Holy Spirit’s working in souls at His own pace, they may well interfere with the process of true conversion of heart and finding the God to love above all, and they even (knowing better) put their own souls at risk.  I don’t understand why any priest, bishop or Cardinal would risk going to hell for somebody else’s SEX life.


The “New Classicism”

November 7th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

From the New Liturgical Movement website

by David Clayton

Here is the fourth in the series of short videos by Denis McNamara, Professor on the faculty of the Liturgical Institute, Mundelein; his book is Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy.

Before I sat in on some of his lectures this summer, I had been aware of Denis’ emphasis on the classical tradition in architecture. I have to admit, I did have half a suspicion that his…

Read more here.

View 5 minute video here.


Sweeping up after the Synod and the Pope’s US Visit

November 3rd, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

LifeSiteNews continues to do an outstanding reporting job (Let’s think about sending them a contribution, please!):

While the last subject isn’t about the Synod per se, nevertheless it is handled (or manhandled as the case may be) by some of the same clergy responsible for architecting Synod news.  And the mechanism is especially transparent. There is a very — very — small circle around Pope Francis to translate and approve what the English versions say.  In some ways, he may even be like the alleged “Prisoner of the Vatican” (Pius IX), not with troops, but without language.  The inner circle can function more as a noose, make him look good or bad, wise or not, and filter the Synod news as well as travel news and even encyclicals.  It is a fair question to wonder who pulls the puppet strings, if there are any?  And how would we ever know?



Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – November 2015

November 1st, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your November 2015 calendar. Thanks to the good folks at for providing these calendars freely available to all on the Internet.

Also, here are the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for November:

Universal: That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own.

Evangelization: That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope.



The Jewish Roots of Catholic Church Architecture

October 29th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

From The New Liturgical Movement website

by David Clayton

Denis McNamara on the Jewish Roots of Church Architecture

In this, the third of a series of ten videos, Denis McNamara discusses how church architecture reflects the roots of a church’s function in those of the Temple and the synagogue. Read more….

See 5 minute video here.


Full HD Video: Bishop Salvatore Matano celebrates Mass at St. Mary’s in Auburn for the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady

October 28th, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

UPDATE 2015-10-28: I’m reposting this from over a year ago for those who could use some post-synod pick-me-up. I just stumbled across it again and was so very encouraged by it.

I was privileged to be in attendance for this most beautiful celebration of the Holy Mass. The schola and choir were outstanding. The church was absolutely beautiful and was decked out with roses. There were multiple organs being played by excellent musicians. The bishop’s homily was so uplifting. The congregation was outstandingly reverent. In the bishop’s closing remarks he stated, “How beautiful is the praise you have given to the the Mother of God. I hope this film goes all over the diocese as an example of fidelity to God, fidelity to worship, and true union with the Mother of God as she leads us to Christ.” A big hats off goes to the A/V team that did the recording and converted it into this high quality video now on youtube, doing their part in the bishop’s request. Now it’s time to do your part. Set some time aside over the next week to watch this video and be sure share it with your friends on facebook.


God’s Time

October 27th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie
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Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.

(click on photos)

Sainte-Chapelle is considered one of the highest artistic achievements of the medieval period. Consecrated in the spring of 1248 it was created by King Louis XIV to house the relics of the Crown of Thorns. Sainte-Chapelle, on the Île de la Cité in the middle of Paris, consists of one of the most extensive “in-situ” collections of 13th-century stained glass anywhere in the world. The “walls” of the chapel are veritable curtains of stained glass.

The thirteen huge windows are a pictorial presentation of the events of the Bible. Both the Old and the New Testaments are depicted with the New Testament scenes occupying the eastern apse. Old Testament scenes are depicted in the north and south windows. A rose stained glass window depicts the Book of Revelation in the west end.

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In Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.

(Isaiah 42:6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles… ) Standing in the center of the chapel you feel engulfed by the light of salvation history. Sunlight –Divine Light, if you will— shines through the pictorial images of the Bible. It’s impressive: the Bible glowing, floating and projecting its content on the floor and walls of the church. Each episode in the Bible in this experience seems timeless, eternal. Each episode emanates Divine Light. (Psalm 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.)

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In Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

Christianity is an historical religion; everything has a this time, this place, this person historical reference (Jesus suffered “under Pontius Pilate”). Historical events have a definite time limit and reference, yet, in Christian theology, Biblical events are eternal as well as “in time”. They exist “once and for all time”. They are eternally efficacious. Similar to the Passover and the Sacrifice of the Cross they are always present. They exist in God’s time.

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In Beauvais Cathedral, France.

Figurative stained glass windows effectively communicate the experience of the essential and eternal nature of salvation history. It’s not the only medium able to do so but it might be the most effective given its great dependence on sunlight, and also effective because of our awareness of the ubiquitous references to light throughout the Bible that convey the sense of divinity. (Matthew 17:2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.)

The divine is eternal and divine light is therefore eternal, driving away the darkness forever. (John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.)

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From the beginning, Catholic churches were meant to convey a foretaste of heaven. Down through history images from salvation history (and also images of the saints in heaven) were always numerous and richly presented in our churches. The experience was of beautiful timelessness. Worshipers entering Catholic churches had a sense of entering into God’s place and God’s time.

When we enter our contemporary Catholic churches whose time zone do we feel we are in: God’s or ours?


Synod Report Breaking News

October 24th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

And from Cardinal Burke:



A New Reason for Not Going to Confession

October 21st, 2015, Promulgated by Hopefull

Someone I know thinks that it is a good idea before going to confession to check out the priest’s “Friends” on Facebook, and not to go to someone who is friends with someone who poses any kind of risk to the potential “confessee” or even who they’re uncomfortable about — not because they don’t trust the seal of confession (which they do believe in) but “just because….”


True Beauty

October 20th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

Video: Catholic Church Architecture – Episode 2

Originally published July 9, 2012

Dr. Denis McNamara, faculty member at the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, Illinois, speaks on church architecture and its relation to beauty, theologically understood.

More from the New Liturgical Movement website:

Text introduction by David Clayton: Denis McNamara on the Meaning of Beauty and its Importance in Church Architecture

…he points out that beauty is not simply “in the eye of the beholder,” but is a property of the object itself…


North American Martyrs Local Marker

October 19th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Today is the Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, (North American) Martyrs.  The readings can be found in the Lectionary #473.  For those of us in the Rochester area, these are the men who directly paved the way for the Catholic Faith we embrace today.

Our churches have grown out of roots sprinkled wHF Shrine cropith the blood of these martyrs.  It is a shame we don’t acknowledge them more often, but at least we are reminded by their roadside shrines.

Previously I posted on A Blackrobe Shrine in the Canandaigua area.  A second marker is in Honeoye Falls where Route 15A heads north and Main Street veers off toward the northeast and the commercial area of Honeoye Falls.  The prior posting contains the research detail on the martyrs and a bit of history.

Today is a good day to drop off a flower and pray our gratitude, and perhaps occasionally to pick up litter when necessary.

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HF Shrine center cropped

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