Sunday, January 30, 2011

Strength Through Weakness -- St. Peter

"Look at [Peter], the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church [Matt. 16:18]. And what does our Lord say to him? ‘Oh you of little faith,’ he says, ‘why do you doubt?’ [Matt. 14:31]" (Homilies on Exodus 5:4 [A.D. 248]).  Origen

As I said in my previous post on the topic St. Peter was probably the most "human" of all the apostles. He was a man prone to fits of emotion. When I read the Gospels I see myself in him a lot. Wanting to step out onto the water and walk to Jesus, like we are told he did in Matt 14: 28-32, but as soon as I get my feet out of the boat, I start sinking. I think Jesus knew exactly what he was doing in giving Peter the keys of the kingdom. If the weak link could stand after Jesus' death then surely his church would survive through all time.

Jesus knew Peter would be tested mightily not just by temporal authorities, but by Satan himself. In Luke 22: 31-33, we see Jesus telling Peter that Satan has asked for the Apostles to sift them like wheat. Jesus tells him, that He has prayed for Peter to be strong and to strengthen his brethren. That is one of my favorite verses. Jesus tells him all of this just before telling Peter he will deny Christ three times. Peter always seems to need a little urging from Christ, just a little nudge to get his head right. After all it's Peter who draws the sword, showing his emotions once again, when Judas comes with the Romans to arrest Jesus.

After the Resurrection and before Jesus' Ascension he and his prime minister, Peter have a quiet little chat where Our Lord instructs Peter to watch over His flock in His absence (John 21: 15-17). This and the keys of the kingdom verses in Matthew are among the bedrock of the Catholic Church's belief that Jesus installed Peter as the head of his earthly ministry.

Returning to our links in the chain analogy. I have always thought that most of the other apostles probably looked at Peter and wondered what he might do when the rubber met the road. Always a little unsure of how Simon son of Jonah would react. I think most of us are that way we believe, but we occasionally let our doubts swallow our faith whole.

Reading the Gospels several of the other disciples seem like more logical choices to head Jesus' earthly kingdom. John, the disciple Jesus loved, the youngest (?) apostle he lived beyond the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. James or John, the sons of Zebedee, so full of spit and vinegar Jesus calls them Sons of Thunder (Mark 3: 17). Jesus however relies on his "Rock" to anchor the faith through the ages. Indeed Peter always seems to have the answers for the apostles when Jesus questions them directly. See John 6: 68, Matthew 16: 16.

Even to the end of his life we see Peter not wanting to endure his trials. I speak of course of the beautiful tradition that says Peter was fleeing Rome to escape martyrdom when he saw Jesus going into Rome. Peter turned to him and said Quo Vadis Domine? (Where are you going, Lord). Jesus tells him to Rome to be crucified again. Peter's strength is once again buttressed and he returns to his martyrdom, crucified upside down.

Between 1939-50 an archaeological expedition dug out the Vatican Necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica and found many catacombs and tombs as well as many previous structures dedicated to the saint. What they found at the end of their excavation however was a grave which had been marked with attributions of being Peter's resting place. The Vatican website has an awesome virtual tour showing the many tombs and shrines, the tour ends at Peter's grave.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Who is Going to Clean Up This Mess?

The coming election cycle should be an interesting one. Now I know a lot of you are probably tired of the last election cycle. Indeed they seem to merge into one never ending melange of political ads, posters and sloganeering. I am interested in where the GOP will find their candidate.

Some things we know already. It won't be Mike Pence, the former Indiana representative, officially took himself out of the race earlier this month. In recent times the Republican nominee has almost been decided by whose turn it was. Witness Dole '96 McCain '08. Two men who largely earned their nomination as a sort of honor for years of service. I don't think we will have the same situation this time.

The GOP needs to do one thing in the next year, close their primaries. Too many states have open GOP primaries and we allow too many "independents", "moderates" and assorted others too much sway in choosing our nominee.

All that being said here is my take for who is on the radar. The following names are in no particular order.

  • Mike Huckabee -- The former Arkansas Gov., 55, has solid credentials in the conservative department, endorsed by Chuck Norris in 2008, the southerner has enjoyed exposure on Fox News Channel since then and has a national profile. He won the governorship in Ark. with the largest percentage of the vote ever for a GOP candidate. I like him, but if Chuck Norris couldn't put him over the top...who can? Not to mention the last former Arkansas Gov. to live at 1600 Pennsylvania, was a bit of a schmuck. But he was from the other party. 
  • Tim Pawlenty -- Minnesota's former Gov. The 50 year old Pawlenty recently placed third at the New Hampshire Straw Poll behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. He is a self-described social conservative and has said Roe v. Wade was decided wrongly. Another guy I like, but I am not sure he has enough national recognition.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

St. Peter and Jesus

If you are new to my blog and don't know me, you might not know I am Catholic. Yesterday's links probably let the cat of the bag in that regard. Being Catholic has always been a part of who I am but to varying degrees. In my early years I only vaguely had a knowledge of it as we didn't always attend Mass as regularly as we should have. In my teen years it was a HUGE part of who I was. To the point that I was seriously questioning if I was being called to the seminary. Through my 20's it held varying degrees of importance as I allowed work or football or any of a number of things to keep me from being faithful. 

As I hit my 30's it has become a big part of me again. I have always loved my Catholic faith, but I haven't always been able to defend it or define it. I decided to change that and have consumed a ton of books on apologetics as well as determining to read my Bible and Catechism this year.

As part of this journey of strengthening my faith I have been perusing the discussion forums at Catholic Answers and taking part in many discussions. A routine discussion on the forums is whether or not Jesus intended to found a church, which church it was and whether St. Peter holds any special place in that discussion. Protestants and Catholics line up on the appropriate sides and hurl scripture, dictionary definitions and other sources at each other attempting to sway the other side.

Obviously being Catholic I believe he did intend to found a church. The Catholic Church traces her hierarchy from Benedict XVI back to Peter through an unbroken line of succession.

Now Peter is an interesting guy. A simple fisherman Simon son of Jonah. perhaps the wobbliest link in Christ's chain of Apostles (aside from Judas- the son of Perdition). Peter was prone to anger, doubt, fear and passion.

Yet Christ gives him a special mission:

[13] And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? [14] But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. [15] Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

[16] Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. [20] Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

Jesus was a Davidic King. Kings in the line of David had many servants there are 12 in 1 Kgs 4:7. There was always a chief between the king and the other ministers. That Prime Minister if you will held all authority as if he were king himself if he was disobeyed it was tantamount to disobeying the king. Isaiah 22: 15-25 directly prefigures Jesus' giving Peter that authority and is in fact quoted by Jesus in the above verses from St. Matthew's gospel. 

Now in Acts we see Peter taking charge of the 11 and the first thing that is done, even before Pentecost (the birthday of the Church) is naming a successor to Judas. The assembled apostles relying on guidance from the Holy Spirit, appoint Matthias as his successor.

Peter also issues punishments in Acts and plays a leadership role at the Jerusalem Council, the Church's first ecumenical council.

The evidence that Jesus intended Peter to steward his ministry after his Ascension becomes overwhelming. All this without even touching on the "Feed My sheep, tend My lambs" discussion.

And so this was a very long way to get around to saying everything I hold in faith, germinates from this one central idea.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A few of my favorite places

A trip to Spokane for doctor's appointments has left me tired and in no mood to write anything of my own of note today so here are some links.

  • One of my favorite apologetics blogs, Shameless Popery, even the name of the blog is fun. The post is about Martin Luther and the idea of Once Saved Always Saved. An interesting read as are most of the posts over there.  
  • My brother in law's blog, detailing his desire to get his garden going on his small homestead. This is a good blog for all you green thumbs out there. 
  • The Holy See's homepage, A great resource to read papal encyclicals and tons of other stuff. They have an online catechism and bible available as well. They also have a virtual tour of the excavations of St. Peter's Basilica, which is super neat and at the end is the original burial site of the prince of the Apostles. 
  • My favorite celeb gossip site, Be warned though sometimes its a little NSFW-ish. The guy who writes it is pretty snarky about celebs in general especially those who get a little self-important. 
  • I go here to keep up on my WWE news, especially since I tend to miss the last few minutes of Raw every Monday. 
Well, I hope these links give you guys something to read. I plan on doing some writing of my own tomorrow so there should be something for you if you come back.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Book Club

    Just call me Oprah because I am rolling out some of my favorite books in this post. I intend this to be a somewhat regular feature. Which means I will probably post a book club whenever I read or remember a great book.

    1. The Spirit of the Liturgy: Written by then Cardinal Ratzinger it s a phenomenal, deep little book about the nature of worship and the Catholic liturgy specifically. Reading it felt like a visit through the history of worship. Also sheds some light on Benedict's views of where the celebration of the Mass has gone off the rails. My biggest complaint with it was that it was way too short.It was barely over 200 pages I could have read 500 pages from him on the topic.
    2. True Grit, Charles Portis: I read this one in high school. I hadn't seen the movie yet, but was of course familiar with John Wayne's look as Rooster Cogburn, because of that I couldn't not see him in my mind as I read. The book is phenomenal and if you like either version of the film you will love the book. Jeff Bridges was really good in the Coen Bros. adaptation but he is no John Wayne, still an amazing film though.
    3. Under the Dome, Stephen King: Get ready to lift some weights with this one. It's hefty but well worth the read. Just don't get hung up on the idea that King ripped off the Simpson's Movie. He says in his author's note that he started this idea in the late 70's. In other words around the same time he was turning out Carrie and The Shining. The story centers on a small Maine town, shocking right, that suddenly has a large impenetrable dome mysteriously descend on it. It is a great story dealing with the ideas of claustrophobia and panic that sets in. There is quite a bit of intrigue in the town as the survivors deal with getting out from under the dome and figuring out where it came from. 
    Anybody read any good books out there, let me here about it in the comments.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    I Wasn't Ready for That.....

    This post deals with all the things that have happened in the three and a half years since I posted this:

    The first part of the story is here

    Little did I know that a week or so after that initial post I wasn't worried whether or not Tommy grew up a 49er fan. Reality crashed down on Traci and I hard after that. Tommy was born with Holoprosencephaly and owing to that he was born with a cleft lip and palate and deformities of his hands, feet and ears.

    When the doc hands you your son and tells you there are problems before letting you hold your firstborn child, your whole world stops and shrinks to about the size of a half-filled balloon. Traci and I each hurried questions at our doctor, what problems, what do you mean, what, why, how.

    It feels like getting punched in the face by Muhammad Ali. Everything catches in your throat. Your breath and your stomach meet around your Adam's apple. Then you start looking, looking for anything you recognize as part of yourself or your spouse.

    Then the guilt comes. Did I/we do something to cause this? What did we do wrong?  

    Tommy's face was the first one I had ever seen with an open cleft. Kid looked like he had lost a fight with Wolverine.  After my eyes adjusted to the reality of his face, I saw how beautiful he was. Tommy and I soon took to walking the halls of the family birth center while the doctor and nurses tended to Traci's follow-up checks. Mostly because I had to get out of that room.

    Traci and I talk about it now: It's like Tommy died in that room. He didn't but the real Tommy wasn't our idealized Tommy either. In fact when the nurses asked us for his name I couldn't say it. I just kept thinking this isn't my Tommy.

    The rest of that day is a blur as are the five weeks he was in Spokane at Sacred Heart. I do remember that first day after he and I got there on the helicopter and he was situated being sent down to the cafe with a meal ticket and zero cash. The meal ticket didn't cover my selection and I just started tearing up. The lady at the register just said don't worry about it and sent me along my way.

    I remember trying to eat, being overwhelmed with grief and being so lonely. I had been taken an hour and a half from my wife with our child; my parents were en route to us but still probably in New Mexico. Her mom was supposed to come the next day. I was alone. I used the last little bit of life in my cell to call Traci and check on her.

    I was so happy to see her when she finally got released from the hospital and was driven up to Spokane. I was whole again, battered but whole. We went to see Tommy sleeping peacefully in the NICU. We went back to the Ronald McDonald rooms at SHMC and tried to rest. My parents got in late that night/early the next morning and I got them situated at the hotel and took them to see Tommy, before I attempted to sleep on the hard floor of the room.

    As I said the next five weeks were a blur of rounding doctors and tests and our little man's first surgery. I know August happened in 2007, but I don't remember much of it.

    As for everyone in our community the outpouring of love and support they gave us was like a life raft in a raging sea. I know we will always hold Moscow special in our hearts regardless of where we end up.

    So that covers the early days of Tommy, but now not only do we have Tommy but he has a little brother. He and Matty are co-presidents of the mutual admiration society.

    "As The Young Man Held The Warm,
    and Sleeping Bundle To His Chest,
    he Saw The Imperfections,
    and Although He Tried His Best,
    he Couldn't Stop The Tears From Falling,
    as He Held His Little [boy]
    and In A Low And Trembling Voice,
    he Gently Said These Words;

    you're Beautiful In Every Way, So Beautiful.
    how I've Waited For This Day.
    if The World Was Offered To Me,
    I Just Couldn't Make The Trade.
    cause You're Beautiful."

    Bob Carlisle  

    Shaking the Dust Off

    So I decided to reopen the blog. It's definitely been awhile but I think it will be worth it. I hope you will come with me on this journey as we discuss a lot of things. Religion, sports, politics, children, special needs. Let's see where the road takes us.

    Super Bowl XLV Early Thoughts

    My initial thought is that it is a heck of a match-up. Two of the league's premier teams locking up in the biggest game. I think Green Bay is the real deal. Thinking about that makes me a little sick though as Aaron Rodgers could have and probably should have been San Francisco's number one pick over Alex Smith. Also head coach Mike McCarthy was Alex's first offensive coordinator in SF. So there is a little what might have been for Niner fans with Green Bay.

    As a 49er fan I don't want to see Pittsburgh extend their lead in total Lombardi Trophies over my Niners, but I think they could do it this year.

    They have their traditional tough defense and a ton of offensive weapons. The game should be close and still hanging in the balance long after Fergie and the rest of her Peas' cohorts have left the field.

    Green Bay 24-Pitt 17.