Sheavings

Sacraments: Baptism, Part 5

Naaman, the great Syrian general, had a little problem. He was a leper. His Israelite slave girl gave him news that a prophet of Israel, a great man named Elisha, might be able to help him out of his predicament. So, being a great man himself, he went to the

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Sacraments: Baptism, Part 4

Most of us don’t wake up in the morning thinking of ourselves as The Fulfillment of Prophecy. Still and all, we are. Oh, not because we are any great shakes ourselves, of course. Left to our own devices apart from grace we’d only be the fulfillment of somebody’s worst nightmare.

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Sacraments: Baptism, Part 3

A common question bedeviling the whole discussion of Baptism is the issue of what the Church means by the “necessity of baptism”.  Extremes can be found on both sides. Some Catholics will insist that all that “necessity of baptism” jazz went out with Vatican II and nobody really believes that

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Sacraments: Baptism, Part 2

It seems to be a basic rule of the universe that whenever something is simple, the devil tries to complexificate it and whenever something is complex, the devil is always insisting that it should be simple. So it is only in keeping with this pattern that something as simple as

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Sacraments: Baptism, Part 1

Ponce De Leon trooped around the New World looking for the legendary Fountain of Youth. If he’d been as good a Catholic as he was a soldier and explorer, he’d have known that the Fountain of Youth was right there in his local parish back in Spain. The power unleashed

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Sacraments: Introduction, Part 2

Previously, we noted that the Incarnation is not simply an isolated anomaly, but the establishment of an eternal principle: namely, that God reveals himself to us sacramentally, first in the body of Jesus Christ and, till he comes again, through the sacraments of Holy Church Christ established. We looked at

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Sacraments: Introduction, Part 1

Evangelicals, like all orthodox Christians, vigorously affirm the doctrine of the Incarnation—the faith of all Christians that God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became man. Evangelicals, like Catholics, believe this doctrine with

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Confirmation: Charisms

The Church teaches that there are two kinds of gifts given us by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. The first kind, which we have been surveying over the past few weeks, are called the sanctifying gifts. These are so to speak, the gifts you get to keep. That

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Confirmation: The Gift of Wisdom

The last—and greatest—of the sanctifying gifts is Wisdom. Wisdom can mean different things to different people. The Greeks often thought of wisdom in speculative and abstract terms. They loved logic puzzles and riddles like “Can you step in the same river twice?” or “Can God make a rock so big

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Confirmation: The Gift of Understanding

One of the curious paradoxes of our time is summed up in the saying, “Scratch an atheist, find a fundamentalist.” So often, atheists and fundamentalists don’t disagree about things so much as they disagree about whether the things they agree on are good or bad. Atheists and fundamentalists agree, for

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Confirmation: The Gift of Might

After Vietnam, the West in general and America in particular went through the great MASHification of culture, in which military and masculine virtues were despised and denigrated for a decade or two. Soldiers were routinely painted as baby-killing psychos, or as brain-dead gung ho types ready to order their troops

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Confirmation: The Gift of Counsel

Proverbs 15:22 tells us, “Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.” One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given in Confirmation is the gift of Counsel. That’s a gift that can work in a couple of different ways and it is one of which the

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Confirmation: The Gift of Knowledge

God did the Jews a huge favor early on in their history: He made them losers. Not losers in the sense of being the sort of nebbish who lives in his Mom’s basement, but losers in the sense that, when it came to coming out on top in the whole

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Confirmation: The Gift of Piety

The second of the sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit given in Confirmation is the gift of piety. Like all the sanctifying gifts, this is a gift you get to keep (as distinct from charisms, which are the gifts you are given in order to give them away to somebody

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Confirmation: The Gift of Fear

God gives us the gifts we need, not the gifts we necessarily want. Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof famously complains, “If wealth is a curse, O Lord, then smite me!” But his old friend, in his love for Tevye, leaves him poor—and Tevye. On the other hand, in Confirmation,

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Confirmation: Delivered

We seem so often to be incurable legalists when it comes to the things of God. Some people talk as though Baptism doesn’t really stick unless you are confirmed too. Others wonder whether, since Baptism does “stick”, Confirmation is really necessary—as though the goal is to achieve a sort Minimum

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Confirmation: Sealed

Biblical authors (and other ancient Christians) have a habit of referring to the mysteries of the Christian faith by means of euphemism or code words. The Church began as a persecuted faith whose members were not always inclined to blab about their holiest rites and sacraments in a way that

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Confirmation: Signed

There are two traditions—East and West—when it comes to the sacrament of Confirmation, and they show how doctrine can develop and unfold within the Church much as the branches on the mustard plant can develop from the seed in ways which, while different for different branches, retain the mustardiness of

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Re-Inventing the Wheel

One of the things that goes with being a writer, I have discovered, is that lots of people send you books, book announcements, and book review requests. Here’s a little item that just came in over the transom: THE NEW BIBLE COOKBOOK – TAKE GOD INSIDE YOUR BODY!! God’s Food for

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Rubbing Salt In the Wound

In the wake of the mass slaughter at Virginia Tech, National Review‘s John Derbyshire labored to help grind the faces of survivors by writing: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? … It’s not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness’ sake—one of

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In All Things Charity

The great blueprint for preserving the unity and catholicity of the Church is found in the epistle to the Romans. Many moderns have this rosy view of the New Testament Church as “all in one accord”. All those Bible characters in their togas were pretty much on the same page,

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In Doubtful Things Liberty

One often hears about the supposedly monolithic or totalitarian character of the Catholic Church.  You know the drill.  The Pope tells everybody what to think.  Catholics all have to believe exactly the same thing.  Freedom of thought is anathema for Catholics. Et Cetera. I heard much of this and believed

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In Essential Things Unity

The unity of the Church is one of the great misunderstood notions of history. This is understandable because the unity of the Church is not a human idea but a mystery of revelation—one almost as profound as the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Many modern people are sure they have

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The Risk of Love

Recently a reader wrote me to say, “I read a story on the internet about a Catholic couple whose new baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and anencephaly (no brain).  They chose to abort it. How on earth would you deal pastorally with such a horrible situation?” Such questions involve

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The Inner Ring

Recently there was a sketch on Saturday Night Live featuring the character of an incredibly self-important secretary for some minor star (the sort of star who hosts low-rating game shows). The secretary is utterly oblivious to his client’s puny standing in the grand scheme of things and instead, basking in the reflected

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