Tuesday, October 26, 2010

something different

Hey guys, if you're looking for St. Augustine questions we're going to hold off until class tomorrow. Things will be a little different tomorow - including the location of class. See you in the morning.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

St. Augustine Questions, pt. 1

These questions take us through part 1, Chapter 6.
1. What do you think Augustine means by his desire being “not to be more sure of [God] but to be more steadfast in [Him]?
2. What is the single thing that Augustine identifies as preventing him from giving himself over wholly to the Christian faith?
3. He points out that neither Christ nor St. Paul forbid marriage, so why does he not pursue that path and choose to live his life as a married Christian man.
4. Augustine says that God and His word are “everywhere implied” in the writings of the Platonists. Do a little digging on the Platonists and identify some Christian values that are implied in Platonic thought.
5. Victorinus asked “Then is it walls that make Christians?” His same argument is made today by those who assert that they are Christian but do not “go to Church”. Is the argument any more valid coming from Victorinus than it is today?
6. St. Augustine observes that human nature is to love “regained” things more than those that we have had all along. Do you agree that this is in fact part of human nature? Provide an example from scripture that reflects this as part of God’s nature as well?
7. Again, Augustine observes that “the greater joy is heralded by greater pain.” Does this mean that it is impossible for us to know great joy without great pain? Explain – provide an example from your life and a theologically based example. How does Augustine’s life reflect this maxim? 8. Compare Augustine’s metaphor of the Chain with that of St. Gregory of Nyssa. How could you combine these metaphors.
9. St. Augustine writes at length about how he postpones his conversion and keeps saying later, and later still. He then says the “law of sin is the fierce force of habit”. Does this mean that by repeating a sin we forfeit our will and give the sin control? Explain.
10. Why do you think the influence of the story of St. Anthony is not as strong today as it was on Augustine and Alypius?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Lady of Victory Chapel, St. Catherine's University MN

Below are images from the chapel at St. Catherine's University. It is, I suspect, the one that Sam visited for a wedding last weekend. Even if it is not, this is still a good example of a church for us to study. It is a classic basilica style with traditional Romanesque features inside.

The stained glass window above the altar, featuring "Christ the King", pointing to a higher Christology.

St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46

1. Christ says that we do not come to God unless we are “drawn” to him. Explain how Chrysostom says that this does not interfere with our Free Will. Would this imply that God only chooses to draw “some” people to Himself and not all?

2. In discussing the Bread of Life Discourse, what reason does Chrysostom give for Christ “shrouding his explanation in mystery”? What is his criticism of Christ’s audience upon hearing this “hard saying”?

3. At the bottom of pg. 104 Chrysostom describes the role of a disciple in regard to asking questions. What do you think of his description? Do you agree or disagree, and why?

4. Explain why Chrysostom thinks asking the question “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” is the wrong question to ask. What should have been asked instead – and what do you think the results would have been of asking the “right” question?

5. Chrysostom writes a particularly beautiful passage on page 105: “Therefore, in order that…as the body is joined with his head.” What is the purpose, in his opinion, of this “commingling” with Christ and humanity? What role does the Eucharist play in this “commingling”?

6. What type of action would be expected of us if we were like “Lions breathing out fire”?

7. Chrysostom references the Eucharist as a “fountain”. How is the Eucharist like a fountain in the life of a Christian?

8. On pg. 107 Chrysostom talks about the danger of taking the Eucharist “unworthily” or with the wrong disposition. What do you think makes for an appropriate (or inappropriate) disposition?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

How, without a systematic study of the doctrine of the Church (a privilege which most Catholics do not have) are Catholics to know their beliefs, if they do not even know the Chruch's prayers.

In light of this observation of mine (take it for what it's worth) we will be examining the Memorare. First let us examine the prayer and articulate what it is actually saying:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

The Memorare is at least 500 years old, and its popularity was spread by a French priest with the surname Bernard. This led to the popular assumption that the prayer was written by St. Bernard of Clarivaux, whose theology of Mary we will investigate later this semester.
Please write a brief summary or "translation" if you will, of what this prayer is saying. next time we will begin the process of committing it to memory. Such "prayers of the heart" give utterance to our prayers when words would otherwise escape us.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Christology Data Gathering

We discussed Christology in class today: the study of the nature and identity of Jesus Christ. It is basically addressing the question that Jesus asked of his own Apostles, "Who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:29)
How we answer that question is absolutely pivotal in shaping the rest of content of what we believe, the character of our worship, guiding our actions, and even the depth of our relationship with God.
Christology becomes an issue because we find in the one person, Jesus Christ, the hypostatic union of two natures: Human and Divine. All of our efforts to articlate who Jesus is will place, even if only slightly, into a "high" or "low" Christology.
Part of the function of the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church has been to establish the boundaries of orthodoxy (right belief). This means setting brackets, if you will, along the Christological spectrum. Beyond the brackets of orthodoxy we find heresy - an alternative, and false belief about the nature & identity of Jesus.

Your Assignment is to study your local parish for this coming weekend (and this past weekend) and try to create a "snapshot" of the operative Christology in the parish. You will do this in four ways:

I. Creed - What is expressly taught about who Jesus is? You will find this in the homily, in the Pastor's message in the bulletin, and in any religious formation classes the parish offers. You might also want to ask this question, "who is Jesus?" of a few people.

II. Liturgy & Sacraments - How does the parish engage in the worship of Jesus and how does it present the sacraments as encounters with Jesus? This you will find through astute observation in a few areas:

A. What is the "feel" of the Church before mass? What is going on in the fifteen minutes or so before mass begins? What are the Hymns sung at Church? What is the content, what are they about?

B. How many altar servers and other lay ministers (lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion) are there? What is their decorum? How are they dressed? How active are they in the mass?

C. What prayers are used? It would be unreasonable to write down each one in its entirety, but identify some of the key phrases that are used. What is the general tone of the language of the prayers?

D. What is the environment like? Describe, or even sketch the layout of the Church. Where is the tabernacle? Where do you find statues or images of Jesus, Mary, or the Saints? What is the "feel" or style of those statues or images? Describe any prominent stained glass, banners, or seasonal decorations. Finally, describe the vestment of the priest.

III. Morality - What is the parish attitude toward sin? Are there explicit references to it during the mass - particularly the penitential right at the beginning? What about during the homily or in the bulletin? Are pro-life or other issues addressed? Is the confessional in a prominent location? How often is confession available? What percentage of people would you estimate make use of confession on a regular basis?

IV. Prayer - What opportunities does the parish offer for private or group prayer outside of Sunday mass? Is weekday mass celebrated regularly? Is there an adoration chapel? If so, is it widely known or used as such? Do people pray the rosary or other prayers before or after mass? Does the priest offer suggestions for personal or private prayer?

Remember, this is the data gathering portion of the assignment. I am not yet asking you to draw any conclusions, though if they begin to emerge, please jot them down to incorporate later.

Monday, October 4, 2010

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Please read Pope Benedict's catechetical essay on St. Gregory, as well as the writing in your text.

1. Very early on, Gregory compares being a Christian to being a doctor, a politician, mathematician, etc. and says that just as these professions require an education, so to does being a Christian. Do you think that we really must have some level of education before we can call ourselves Christian? Explain.

2. What do you make of the "dancing monkey" illustration? We live in a society that largely calls itself "Christian" and yet we persist in crime, violence, injustice, and vice. Are we any more than dancing monkeys?

3. Gregory writes that to unite ourselves to Christ means to share in the "lofty ideals" that are used to describe him. Does this mean that if we do not assume the noble virtues in our character that we are not truly united to Christ? Compare the meaning of this segment to the discussion we had about the Ascension a few weeks ago. (Why did Jesus have to ascend?)

4. How does Gregory assert that Christianity "returns" man to his former or original state?

5. What reason does Gregory give (on the top half of pg. 64) for us being accurate imitators of the Divine?