The Seven Day Bible Rosary for Christmas

When St. John Paul II gave the five Luminous mysteries to the Church, he noted that they filled a gap that had previously existed between the end of the Joyful mysteries and the beginning of the Sorrowful mysteries. In other words, what the Lord did in his public ministry was not the subject of rosary meditations.

I am happy to say that my mind traveled the same track as the Pope’s. Back in the mid-Sixties, I had a stronger stomach for reading the Left, and I read the National Catholic Reporter, usually enjoying the “Roving Reporter” column. The writer typically asked a well-known Catholic a question of general interest, and I still remember one of those questions. “Do you pray the rosary?” The only reason I remember the question is the answer. “Oh no. I don’t want to bore God.”

Well, I thought, she’s confusing herself with God but she has a point. It wasn’t the first time I had heard the “boring” complaint, and the Pope also referred to it. So I gradually developed seven sets of mysteries, one for each day of the week, with a verse before each Hail Mary and a short meditation before each decade (95-105 words, very tough for wordy me).

It will fit in a man’s shirt pocket (3½ x 5½ inches) and in a woman’s purse. It’s only $5.00 with a huge discount on multiple copies (3 for $12 and 5 for $15), and I pay the postage. It’s a neat hospitality gift, and its size makes it a great stocking stuffer at this time of the year.

If interested, you can find out more and order it at https://johnkippley.com/the-seven-day-bible-rosary/ .

Regardless of how you and your family pray the rosary, please try to pray it every day and get others to do the same. Our Lady at Fatima told us to pray the rosary daily for world peace, the conversion of Russia, and for the conversion of sinners throughout the world. Russia has undergone tremendous conversion since our Lady asked us to pray for that intention, but it still has a long way to go. And if we are praying for world peace, it seems to me that it might also be good to pray specifically for the conversion of North America, Islam, the Jews, and peace in the Middle East.

Thanks for reading, and may God grant you a blessed Advent and Christmas.

John F. Kippley, December 7, 2014

 

 

The Synod and the Meaning of the Marriage Act

The recent Vatican conference on the Complementarity of Man and Woman (November 17-19) got high marks from reviewers. Pope Francis invited speakers from a wide spectrum of religious traditions including Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Jains, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Muslims and Sikhs from around the world to discuss marriage consisting of male husband and female wife. It was good to see such a widespread agreement on traditional marriage, but from the reports I read, it seems that the speakers avoided those subjects on which they would differ.

That is, there seems to be wide agreement that marriage is a divine and natural institution between one man and one woman, but nothing was said about the events that have led up to the growing acceptance of “same-sex marriage.” For that we turn to an unusual source, a book review in the Wall Street Journal (weekend edition Oct 11-12, 2014).

In Henry Allen’s review of a new book, the Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig, he favorably quotes journalist Margaret Wente as saying, “The pill decoupled sex and marriage, and it also decoupled marriage and procreation. The purpose of marriage was mutual satisfaction, not children. And once that happened, gay marriage probably became inevitable” (my emphasis).

A problem with traditional natural-law theology is that it commonly explains various evils in terms of their natural effects rather than in terms of their violation of the created order. For example, the evil of fornication can be seen in a consequentialist way—it might cause the birth of an out-of-wedlock baby with all the difficulties that entails for both the child and the parents, especially the mother who is typically the permanent caregiver. That explanation is by no means erroneous, but effective contraception makes it seem that fornication no longer has evil consequences. (Of course, it is never 100% effective in real life.) Something more is needed to explain its evil, regardless of the effectiveness or failures of contraceptive devices and drugs.

I suggest a theology that starts with a stated norm. “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be, at least implicitly, a renewal of the marriage covenant.”

That means several things. First, God has a plan for love, marriage and sexuality. Second, in that plan, sexual union is reserved exclusively for marriage. If you believe that, then it is easy to understand that most sexual sins are evil first because they are not marriage acts and then also because of their evil consequences. Regardless of affection in adultery and fornication, they still contradict the divine plan and are evil. Third, within marriage, the marriage act ought to be a true marriage act, renewing and not contradicting the marriage covenant. Within marriage, a contraceptive sexual act is not a true marriage act; its body language clearly says, “I take you for better but definitely NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy.” That contradicts the “for better and for worse” of the marriage covenant, and such an act is thus dishonest and immoral.

It seems to me that the Pope and bishops simply have to find a way to clearly express the evil of sins against love and marriage. They have to preach and teach meaning, not consequences. The renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant theology offers one way to do this. Many have found that it makes good sense, and some have found to be helpfully persuasive.

Somehow, the Pope and bishops need to make it clear that they believe that God really does have a plan that gives beautiful meaning to married love and sexuality. The marriage act is meant to be a renewal of the marriage covenant. That can help young people tempted to fornication to realize that sex outside of marriage is seriously dishonest, violating the very meaning of sexual union. It can help married couples to realize not only the evil of marital contraception but also that their marriage act ought to be a renewal of the faith and caring love they pledged on their wedding day.

The bottom line is that the sexual act has a God-given built-in marital meaning, and Pope Francis and his fellow bishops need to make this meaning clear and promulgate it enthusiastically to the entire world. They also need to clarify and preach the essential dishonesty of all sexual sins. And along with Blessed Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, they need to encourage the weak and the fallen to make good use of the sacrament of healing and reconciliation given us by the Lord on Resurrection evening.

John F. Kippley, November 29, 2014

 

 

 

The Synod and the New Evangelization

I think it is certain that the Synod on the Family will address preparation for marriage and will probably do this in the context of Humanae Vitae. What is not at all certain is how they will do this. Considering what came out of the first Synod meeting of October 5-19, it would not be surprising if there will be at least some effort to portray the teaching of Humanae Vitae as requiring heroic virtue of everyone. Along with that there could be considerable emphasis on the dissenting priests and the numbers of couples ignoring the encyclical and practicing various contraceptive behaviors including the use of drugs and devices with abortifacient potential. Such an approach will not be helpful to the teaching Church or to the laity.

In my opinion, the teaching of Humanae Vitae needs to be placed in the context of Christian discipleship and the New Evangelization, and that term needs to be clarified. As I recall, when Pope John Paul II began talking about the New Evangelization, he was emphasizing that what was “new” was that it would be directed to those already wearing the Catholic label and that it would seek to show us Catholics that Jesus himself is the author of the teachings of the Church including its difficult moral teachings.

The New Evangelization addresses a very basic and important question. “Why should I believe what the Catholic Church teaches about love, marriage and sexuality—or, for that matter, about anything?”  Doesn’t every Catholic have to deal with that question? Doesn’t every separated Christian have to deal with that question regarding his own denomination? Can’t the Synod Fathers make an appeal to the gospels, an appeal so basic that it will make sense to all Christians who really believe that Jesus can and does keep his promises? Allow me to offer a brief practical example of how this can be done by simply quoting from page 12 of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach.  What follows occurs in Chapter 1, Section 5 titled, “Why NFP only? The moral and religious reasons.”

“Why should I believe what the Catholic Church teaches?

“The fundamental reason for believing what the Catholic Church teaches is that Christ Himself founded the Catholic Church to keep alive his way, his life and his truth. “God developed the Church of the Old Covenant upon Abraham, and through it for 2000 years prepared the way for Christ the God-man. Christ established the Church of the New Covenant upon Peter and promised at the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit would lead the Church for all ages.  Jesus keeps his promises.

“A familiar example of common Christian faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the Nicene Creed professed at Sunday Mass in Catholic Churches and also professed by the Eastern Orthodox Churches and many Protestant communions. This profession of faith did not just happen to drop out of heaven. In the early fourth century of the Christian era there were controversies about the very being of Christ and his relationship with God the Father. The bishops at the Council of Nicea made the profession of faith now called the Nicene Creed, and all who accept it as true do so because they believe that the Holy Spirit guided those bishops as Christ had promised.

“There are many excellent books about the Catholic faith. An easy and very readable one is Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn, converts to the Catholic Church. While still Protestants and studying in a Protestant seminary, they accepted Catholic teaching on birth control.”

* * *

That’s a very basic and simple way of explaining the basis for Catholic faith. Any priest in the world can sit down with his engaged couples and review this and explain things more fully. But the bottom line is that we either believe that Jesus can and does keep his promises to send the Holy Spirit, or we don’t. And if we believe that the Holy Spirit enabled the bishops at Nicea to get it right about something so difficult as the very nature of Christ, then it is no great leap of faith to believe that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church during its 2000 year history of condemning contraception and reaffirming such teaching in Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio when the doctrine was being attacked within the Church as well as from the outside.

John F. Kippley, November 15, 2014 also at www.nfpandmore.org where you can find related material including blogs.

Next week: Love, marriage and sexuality in the context of Christian discipleship.

THANKSGIVING SALE: Through November 28.  50% off the following print books: Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach (both perfect bound and coil versions), The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, and Battle-Scarred (John’s memoirs).  The Seven Standards and BF&NCS together make an excellent gift for an expectant mother.  Go to lulu.com for the discounts.

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 5

This is my fifth and last commentary on The Church in America.

What can ordinary lay people do to make their parish one that truly radiates Christ?

First of all, they need to make sure they are on board with full Catholic teaching. I recently had an email from a couple who had been practicing sexual immoralities during the fertile time for some 23 years in their misunderstanding of NFP. They said they were never told that abstinence meant CHASTE abstinence.   That is, their NFP program and teacher never told them that chaste abstinence entails sexual self-control and that cuddling should not proceed to climax, masturbation or marital sodomy etc.

Second, they can and should pray for their parish priests to do what only they can do. Third, they can also talk with their priests and ask them to do everything they can to preach and teach marital chastity.

Third, they can support the teaching of Humanae Vitae via the covenant theology of sexuality. “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.” This makes sense to people of faith and good will. It is so simple and so obvious once people learn and believe it that they can use it to explain and support Catholic teaching. Ordinary lay people can also promote and teach chaste Natural Family Planning including ecological breastfeeding and generosity in having children. It cannot be forgotten that the Church needs at least three children per family for long term survival.

The bottom line is this. When the teaching of Humanae Vitae is accepted and lived by the majority of fertile-age married couples in a parish, that parish will have healthy-sized families, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the basis for being a community of small communities. Then our parishes will truly be radiating the Lord Jesus and attracting men and women of good will.

Not to be ignored, when a diocese is filled with believing parishes, it can have a significant influence in the election of representatives who are truly pro-chastity, pro-family, and pro-life.   The truly Catholic parish and diocese will be counter-cultural. Thus it can and will make a difference. Amen.

John F. Kippley, August 31, 2014

 

 

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 2

This is my second comment on the 1999 papal exhortation titled The Church in America.

This teaching from St. John Paul II presents a beautiful ideal, but it is far from being realized. It seems to me, a man who sits in the pews, that it might be helpful to have greater clarity and emphasis on the ultimate purpose of the parish. That is, what is the real purpose of the parish? Isn’t it to help individual persons grow in Christian holiness?

It is certainly true that one way in which the parish leadership assists its members to grow in holiness is to encourage community among parish members and to encourage service to others, whether parish members or not, as indicated in section 41 of The Church in America. Let’s call that the Matthew 25 Last Judgment and humanitarian aspect of parish life.

But that’s not all. What about the call of Jesus as he started his public ministry? “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Or, in a few more words: Have a change of heart. Wherever necessary, have a change in behavior. You can’t serve God and mammon. Don’t worry about what to eat and drink. Seek first the kingdom of God and trust Him to take care of the rest of it.

Is this the way it is? We are supposed to be a Eucharistic community, but some statistics indicate that a very large percent of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence. We have very clear teaching against all unnatural forms of birth control and in favor of generosity in having children, but the statistics show that only a very small percent of fertile-age couples accept these teachings. If they were followed, we would anticipate lots of babies and larger families.   Our seminary problems would chiefly be having enough space and faculty to handle the crowd.

Next week: Why isn’t it happening?

John F. Kippley, August 10, 2014

See also Sheila’s blog at www.nfpandmore.org/wordpress .

P. S. My effort to explain and uphold Humanae Vitae via the covenant theology of sexuality is published by Ignatius Press as Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality. This is the book that, in a previous edition, helped Scott and Kimberly Hahn, while still Protestants, to accept Catholic teaching on birth control. During its summer sale, Ignatius is offering it for only $6.00, but only through August.

 

 

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 1

Recently I was part of a small retreat team, and the topic assigned to me was “Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes.” My talk was supposed to be, more or less, a commentary on section 41 of The Church in America, an Apostolic Exhortation by Saint John Paul II, dated January 22, 1999. The background for the Exhortation was a Latin American synod of bishops held in 1997, but it is addressed to the entire Church concerning “the encounter with the living Jesus Christ, the way to conversion and communion and solidarity.”  References are to a Synod document.

Section 41 is titled, “The parish needs constant renewal as a Eucharistic community.”

1.  The parish is a privileged place where the faithful concretely experience the Church. (137) Today in America as elsewhere in the world the parish is facing certain difficulties in fulfilling its mission. The parish needs to be constantly renewed on the basis of the principle that “the parish must continue to be above all a Eucharistic community”. (138) This principle implies that “parishes are called to be welcoming and fraternal, places of Christian initiation, of education in and celebration of the faith, open to the full range of charisms, services and ministries, organized in a communal and responsible way, capable of utilizing existing movements of the apostolate, attentive to the cultural diversity of the people, open to pastoral projects which go beyond the individual parish, and alert to the world in which they live”. (139)

I suspect that almost no one can find fault with that statement as far as it goes. But what is lacking is any clear statement about the need to challenge the individual person, the married couple, and the family to grow in faith and holiness.   Reading that statement, one would not perceive as a great challenge to the Church the fact that only a small percent of adults in the typical American parish actually believe and follow the moral teaching of the Church. It does not challenge the parish leadership to try to persuade adult Catholics to conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church and to cease conforming to the culture.

2.  Because of the particular problems they present, special attention needs to be given to parishes in large urban areas, where the difficulties are such that normal parish structures are inadequate and the opportunities for the apostolate are significantly reduced. The institution of the parish, however, retains its importance and needs to be preserved. For this, there is a need “to keep looking for ways in which the parish and its pastoral structures can be more effective in urban areas”. (140) One way of renewing parishes, especially urgent for parishes in large cities, might be to consider the parish as a community of communities and movements. (141) [emphasis added]. It seems timely therefore to form ecclesial communities and groups of a size that allows for true human relationships. This will make it possible to live communion more intensely, ensuring that it is fostered not only “ad intra”, but also with the parish communities to which such groups belong, and with the entire diocesan and universal Church. In such a human context, it will be easier to gather to hear the word of God, to reflect on the range of human problems in the light of this word, and gradually to make responsible decisions inspired by the all-embracing love of Christ. (142) The institution of the parish, thus renewed, “can be the source of great hope. It can gather people in community, assist family life, overcome the sense of anonymity, welcome people and help them to be involved in their neighborhood and in society”. (143) In this way, every parish, and especially city parishes, can promote nowadays a more person-centered evangelization and better cooperate with other social, educational and community work. (144)

I want to draw attention to the underscored sentence about one way to renew—become a parish that is a community of communities. A most obvious application would be Presentation Ministries based in Cincinnati and with home-based communities in a number of states. My talk was given at one of its retreats.

3.  The kind of pastor who is needed. Moreover, “this kind of renewed parish needs as its leader a pastor who has a deep experience of the living Christ, a missionary spirit, a father’s heart, who is capable of fostering spiritual life, preaching the Gospel and promoting cooperation. A renewed parish needs the collaboration of lay people and therefore a director of pastoral activity and a pastor who is able to work with others. Parishes in America should be distinguished by their missionary spirit, which leads them to reach out to those who are faraway”. (145)

Again, no one can find fault with this statement as far as it goes, but I would like to put it in context. This Apostolic Exhortation was published on January 22, 1999 in Mexico City. Much of its talk about the problems of the apostolate in large cities refers much more to Latin America with its huge city slums than to North America. I wish that Pope John Paul II had also included in this document the recommendations he had made just four years previously in Rome. In May 1995 he co-sponsored with the Royal Society of England a conference on breastfeeding and mothering. Bishop James T. McHugh of the United States made the introductions. In his address, the Pope endorsed the recommendations of the World Health Organization and UNICEF that mothers should breastfeed their babies for at least one year and then up to two years and beyond.

It would be very helpful if the Pope had carried that sort of thought forward into this document. It would be helpful to the Church as a whole if Catholic parishes were known as centers of breastfeeding. Here in the United States such thinking is apparently not yet on the radar of parish expectations.

The document is beautiful, and I don’t think anyone can take exception to its message as far as it goes dealing with the communal aspects of the parish and the ideal pastor. I hope that it has had good effects in Latin America and all throughout the world.

Next week: Current challenges in many parishes.

John F. Kippley, August 3, 2014

P.S. This week is World Breastfeeding Week and Sheila is blogging daily at http://nfpandmore.org/wordpress/ .

 

 

 

 

 

What God Has Put Together

Every informed Christian is aware that even in the Catholic Church today there are significant efforts to undermine the teaching of Jesus about the permanence of marriage. Fortunately, the traditional teaching is being well defended by eminent Churchmen and theologians.

What is not often pointed out is that the words of Jesus about marriage also help to illustrate the evil of marital contraception. Just ask any believer, “Who put together in one act what we commonly call making love and making babies?” The believer has to answer, “God Himself put together in one act what we call making love and making babies.”

The next question: “What is marital contraception except the deliberate effort to take apart what God Himself has put together in the marriage act?” The answer is obvious. Marital contraception is nothing less than the effort to take apart what God Himself put together in the marriage act. For believers, the lesson should be obvious. “What God has put together, let no one take apart.”

I am hoping that the Synod of the Family will make these connections. It seems to me that the Church-listening and the entire world need to hear the words of Jesus about the permanence of marriage affirmed clearly and beautifully. In his teaching, the Lord Jesus is not trying to make life difficult with artificial hoops and hurdles. Rather, as Pope Francis said so well, Jesus is teaching us the way of love and authentic happiness (“Ten Commandments are a signpost of freedom,” Wednesday, June 13, 2013).

Along with a beautiful and clear affirmation of the Lord’s teaching about the permanence of marriage, I hope the Synod will also affirm the teaching about marriage affirmed in Casti Connubii and reaffirmed in Humanae Vitae and the Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II. “In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant” (Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II, 2/2/1994, The Year of the Family).

In this statement, Blessed Pope John Paul II may be the first Pope ever to use that phraseology — that the marriage act ought to confirm the marriage covenant —  and that is significant.

First of all, the renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant theology points at the intrinsic meaning of human sexual intercourse. It ought to be exclusively a confirmation or renewal of the marriage covenant. That helps to explain why fornication is morally evil. There may be romantic love in some such actions, but there is no commitment. There is no marriage. There is no covenant to renew. This does not eliminate the traditional explanation that fornication is a sin of injustice because it may bring a child into the world with only its mother to love and support her or him. The revisionists, however, have worked overtime for the past 100 years to say that contraception does away with such reasoning. But nothing can do away with the fact that fornication is essentially dishonest because it is not a marriage act.

The same thing can be said about the other abuses of the powers of sex—adultery, incest, and so on. The evil of same-sex marriage is also illustrated and shows the need to emphasize that the covenant is not of one’s own description but the natural covenant of marriage that has existed from the beginning.

Experience has shown me that the covenant theology makes sense to those who seek to know and do what God wants them to do, and that includes not only truth-seeking Catholics but also truth-seeking Protestants and even truth-seeking agnostics and atheists.  The problem to day is not with the teachings of the Church.  The real challenge for the Pope, bishops, priests and the believing laity is to increase the number of the baptized who truly WANT to walk the path of self-sacrificing love, the narrow path of Jesus.

John F. Kippley
http://www.nfpandmore.org  where Sheila blogs every week.