Sunday, December 27, 2009

Who did Adam & Eve's children marry?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
I have a question from the 4th grade class that I teach. “Since God created Adam and Eve and there was no one else on earth, wouldn't their children have to have married each other?  (Insert general grumbling, 'yuck,' 'gross!', etc. from the students.)”  Whom did Adam and Eve's children marry?"  
And if you wouldn't mind including, because I think it will also be asked, "By whom were they married?"
I am extremely grateful for your help. 
Miss Inge Link

Dear Inge, 
I must be running out of material. I am going to quote something verbatim from last weeks column: 
 I love the story that Corrie ten Boom tells in her magnificent book, “The Hiding Place.” When she was a little girl, perhaps 4or 5, her father would often take her with him when he went to the big city to buy supplies for his watch repair business. One day, as the train rolled through the Dutch countryside, little Corrie, having heard older girls talking on the playground at school, asked her father, “Papa, what is sex?” Casper ten Boom, looked at little Corrie and silently turned to stare out the window again, leaving his daughter’s question unanswered. When the train pulled into the station, Casper asked Corrie to pick up his tool bag. She did her best  but couldn’t budge the bag. Casper then said to her, “Corrie, there are some things too heavy for you to carry right now. When you are old enough, I will tell you what sex is. Til then, trust me.”  (In telling this story to your children perhaps you can substitute the word “robbery” for “sex.” I don’t want to risk a law suit. It’s odd that your students go home to watch prime time pornography masquerading as children’s programming but if you so much as mention the wrong thing some parent will haul you into court. Oh well. Where was I?)
I don’t know how God worked the whole situation out. Perhaps He made wives for the sons of Adam and Eve the same way he made Adam. Out of clay. Sort of like Gumby. Maybe He himself did the weddings. After all He walked in the garden, the Bible says.  Certainly He had the authority to officiate at weddings.  The point is that I don’t know. I don’t need to know.
The Bible isn’t a history textbook, though it has history in it. It is God’s commentary on the nature of humanity. I’ve said it before and will say it again. The Bible, especially the first chapters of the Bible, are God’s view of real events. He sees them in a fuller and more meaningful way than we can.  Perhaps Adam and Eve were a couple of cave persons. God saw more. Perhaps the ark was a flat boat on a flooded Mesopotamian plain. God saw more. Perhaps the Tower of Babel was just a three-story mud hut where a family had a really bad fight. God saw more. Perhaps Abraham was just a greasy desert wanderer. God saw more. Perhaps you and I and your little students are just short lived blips in the cosmic scheme of things. God sees more. 
That’s the point. We look at things and pretend we can take in the whole reality We can’t That’s why God gives an interpretation of these great realities and then says, “Trust me.” He tells us just enough to get us to heaven,. We want to pick apart the text in a way hides its meaning rather than reveals its meaning. I’m not saying that scholarship is a bad thing. The more we understand about the language and the context of the Scriptures, the more fully we will be able to hear what the Holy Spirit is telling us. However, a lot of so called scholarship assumes that if you can’t see it or touch it, it isn’t real and has no meaning. That was the very sin of Adam and Eve, the original sin.
Read the text before you pull it apart. Eve looked at the fruit of the tree and saw that it was good for food and for the gaining of knowledge. In other words she believed that she would be God’s equal and not have to be His child. She would no longer have to trust Him. So it is with us old folks, and believe me I have met some very old fourth graders, real cynics.  Mary, our Blessed Mother, when confronted with an impossibility, “Behold the Holy Spirit will overshadow you” said. “Okay. I’ll trust God. Whatever He wants.” The new Eve trusted. The old Eve connived. What the text says is so much more important than what the text leaves out. When the devil gets us to look at what the text doesn’t say, he manages to keep us from hearing what the text says and says so beautifully.
I am reminded of W.C. Fields, the great comedian. A friend came to visit it him as he lay dying. He found Fields reading the Bible. He said “I thought you didn’t believe any of the that stuff h. Why are you reading the Bible?” Fields responded, “I’m looking for loopholes...” Sometimes, when we try to find out what the Bible doesn’t say instead of hearing what it says, we are doing exactly the same thing, looking for loopholes.
As I have said before, some people have the souls of poets, others have the souls of appliance repairmen. When a poet says “her lips were like roses, her eyes like flame,” the literalist will say “How did she keep from burning her eyebrows? And did she have thorns to go with roses? That’s gotta hurt.”  
So tell your little cynics this: God only tells us the things in the Bible that we need to know. When science describes things one way and the Bible describes them another way, God is being a little bit poetic in order to help us understand, but He’s telling us more about the story than even scientists can.
I am reminded of one more story. St Augustine was walking by the shore trying to understand the mysteries of God, He saw a little boy digging a  hole in the sand. The little boy would dig the whole, run to the water with a clay pot and pour the water into the hole, which would then collapse. He repeated the process over and over and over until finally St, Augustine asked him what he was trying to accomplish. The boy said, “ I am trying to put the whole ocean into my hole in the sand.” Augustine laughed and said, “you’ll never fit the whole sea into that tiny hole. It’s too small and it collapses constantly. The little boy said, “And Augustine, you will fit the greatness of God into your little mind,” and then the little boy vanished from sight.
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What do I tell my son about Santa Claus?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

Our youngest boy, Tim, will be turning twenty-three soon and we are worried that he may ask us whether or not there really is a Santa Claus. As Catholics, what do we say? We are disturbed by the increasing materialism of the Christmas season and worry on the one hand that our little boy will be swept up in current attitudes, the “Holiday Spirit,” so called. On the other hand, we worry that our baby will be disillusioned if we tell him that there is no Santa Claus. He still cherishes the hope that he will Santa Claus coming down the chimney on Christmas night and waits by the fireplace every December 24th with a baseball bat and a pair of handcuffs. It’s so cute to find him asleep there in his jammies on Christmas morning.

What should we do?

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cratchet

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Crachet,

Not to worry, there is a third alternative. Somewhere between breaking the little tyke’s heart and having him continue in a deluded state of ignorant innocence, there is another alternative. There is a certain danger in allowing him to believe in a large red-suited home invader who should have died years ago from clogged arteries. Eventually he will discover that he has been duped all along, and that goes for the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Appendix Elf and that whole crowd. At that point he will probably make the leap to “If my parents have been lying to me all these years about someone as important as Santa Claus, perhaps they have been lying to me about God!" The loss of innocence and parental trust can be a bit unsettling, especially for one of such tender years as is your son.

I am of the opinion that parents should never lie to their children. There are a few options. I love the story that Corrie ten Boom tells in her magnificent book, “The Hiding Place.” When she was a little girl, perhaps 4 or 5, her father would often take her with him when he went to the big city to buy supplies for his watch repair business. One day, as the train rolled through the Dutch countryside, little Corrie, having heard older girls talking on the playground at school, asked her father, “Papa, what is sex?” Casper ten Boom, looked at little Corrie and silently turned to stare out the window again, leaving his daughter’s question unanswered. When the train pulled into the station, Casper asked Corrie to pick up his tool bag. She did her best but couldn’t budge the bag. Casper then said to her, “Corrie, there are some things too heavy for you to carry right now. When you are old enough, I will tell you what sex is. 'Til then, trust me.” We can always tell our children that some things are too heavy to carry now and we will tell them later. Santa Claus is not one these things, despite his girth.

As I said, I am of the opinion that parents should never lie to their children. If little Timmy asks, “Is there is a Santa Claus,” this is what I would tell him. “Yes, Timmy, there is a Santa Claus, but his real name is St. Nicholas and he doesn’t live at the North Pole, he lives in heaven with God. He doesn’t actually bring all the toys and those wonderful new pairs of sweat sox, but he was a very kind and generous bishop a long time ago, who gave gifts and helped little children. He inspires Mommy and Daddy to give gifts, and Jesus gives Mommy and Daddy the ability to give the gifts. All that stuff about elves and the North Pole is make believe, but make believe is all right and a lot of fun, if you know the truth, so you can just keep waiting for Santa by the chimney if you want to. It’s great fun”

We tell our children the dandiest things like the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the boogey man in order to get them to do what we want. No wonder psychiatrists make a decent living. However, St. Nicholas and God are real. Perhaps you are among those who think that God is just an imaginary friend for grown-ups. I beg to differ. Jesus lived. We have more documentation about Jesus than we do for people like Julius Caesar and no one doubts that

Caesar existed. Further despite our modern pseudo-scientific skepticism, God who is unseen leaves His fingerprints everywhere. I just got a fascinating video on the latest new about the Shroud of Turin. I can hear you scientific types beginning to giggle and guffaw. Look at the issue scientifically. A flawed carbon test made on a medieval patch has convinced people who wanted to be convinced that this amazing relic is a fake. Well, read the latest. It is interesting to note that every time there is a new imaging technology, it seems that it is already built into the cloth. When Secundo Pia took a picture of the Shroud in 1898 using that relatively new-fangled technology of photography, lo and behold, the Shroud turned out to be a photographic negative. Then someone invented the VP-8 Image analyzer to interpret radio waves bouncing off distant objects. Lo and behold, when given a picture, any picture, of the Shroud, it produced a three dimensional image, something no photograph or painting had ever done. So the Shroud was shown to contain three dimensional information. Now, Dr. Petrus Soons and Dame Isabel Piczek — a Hungarian trained particle physicist, have shown that the Shroud contains holographic information. Dame Piczek says the image can only be compared to a singularity, an event horizon like a black hole!?! To believe that the thing is a medieval fraud or just an accident makes believing in Santa’s elves seems reasonable. Or how about the appearance of the Blessed Mother in Zeitoun, Egypt?. Apparently she and a few angels stood on the roof of a Church in suburban Cairo a few nights a week for about three years in the 1960's. thousands came to gawk, even Egypt’s president Gamal Abdul Nasser. (Just go to your computer and do a web search using the word “Zeitoun” Some of the websites start with the idea that such things are impossible and try to explain them away. I know people from Egypt whose families were present at the event. How about... I could go on and on. God who is bigger than the universe may be impossible to see, but He is certainly able to be known because 2000 years ago the invisible God became visible in the person of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and Mary who may well have wrapped Him in the Shroud when he died also wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. He remains visible in so many, many ways. He certainly lived and lives still.

As for your little gem by the fireplace, I see no harm in his waiting by the fireplace to deck Santa with a baseball bat. Perhaps, by some miracle of grace, the Lord will allow the real St. Nicholas to descend from heaven and to appear in your living room. Timmy should watch out however. There is a legend that St. Nicholas punched Arius the heretic at Council of Nicea. I doubt that it’s true, but these days one can’t be too careful.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us everyone!
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Farewell to a wonderful priest...

Dear Friends,
In my sadness, I hesitate to put pen to paper, (or better, finger to word processor) this week. My associate, Fr. Ron Plomillo, is returning to the Southern Philippines and I may actually have to do some work here at the parish. He is such a fine priest and such a hard worker, thus it was inevitable that his bishop would want him back. I write endless columns about the struggles of the church in the modern world and the thousands of unknown martyrs who shed their blood for Christ. He is actually going to a place where martyrdom is common. Keep Him in your prayers, and if you know Him, thank God for the privilege.
Rev. Know it all

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why priestly celibacy? part 2

(Part 2 of response to Mr. E. Z Wayout questioning the practice of priestly celibacy in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church)
Continued from last week……..
Let’s look at the Bible. Yes, we Catholics read the Bible. We’re the ones who first wrote, edited and published it. I wonder what your wife does with such passages as Matthew 19:12 “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” This certainly seems to indicate that Jesus saw some role for celibacy.
Then there is St. Paul, who seems to be boasting about his celibacy in this next passage (1 Corinthians 9:5) “Have we not power to travel about with a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” Perhaps your wife would say “See, this proves that the early Church didn’t practice celibacy. After all, no one required it of
St. Paul ”Oh, yes someone did. Jesus required it of St. Paul: (1Cor, 7: 7, 8 ) “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. Therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I (unmarried). ......v.28... Nevertheless, such (those who are married) shall have trouble in the flesh: but I (want to) spare you (trouble).”
The introduction of celibacy to the life of ministry was not a late thing, it happened right at the beginning. We see it in the life of St. Paul and even in the life of our Lord Jesus. (I don’t believe those loons who think Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a number.)
The following passages are even more helpful in understanding the development of priestly celibacy: (1 Timothy 3:12) “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” And (1 Timothy 3:2) “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, able to teach.” We know from the continuous history and teaching of the Church, that in the earliest days of the Church, married men might be chosen as clergy. They could be already married but married only once. That means if the wife of an ordained man died, he could not marry again. In fact, in most places all those who were widowed were required to remain unmarried. Any second marriage, was considered adultery. The Church wisely took the lenient view that St. Paul took, that, though celibacy for widows and widowers is better, it is still “better to marry than to burn.” (1Cor.7:9) St. Paul clearly believes that celibacy allows a person to be single minded for the service of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:33) “But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, that he may please his wife.”
The Church still follows this general rule; married men may be ordained, but ordained men may not be married. Huh? Simple. If a man comes to the sacrament with a spouse, he remains married. That is more common now with certain men who are ordained and is the general custom for permanent deacons.
I think that your wife gives herself away when she says that because deacons can do just about everything priests can do, except for the 5 sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Anointing). Buried in her comment is the reason for the development of celibacy in the Western Church. The Eucharist! Remember a long way back I said that Eastern Rite parish priests are generally married? This is not true of Eastern Rite monastic priests. They are celibate as a form of self denial. It is very interesting to note that the Eucharist is not celebrated daily in most Eastern parishes. If you want a daily Mass in much of the Eastern Christian world, you have to go to a monastery, where men are celibate. Why? Because it is customary in the Eastern Churches for even married clergy to refrain from “intimate relations”  (remembering this is a family column) as a kind of fasting and preparation for the SACRIFICE of the Mass. I don’t know if this is still common, but it certainly was.
We in the west are almost all monastic priests in that sense. We, like St. Paul, make a sacrifice, a kind of fasting for the advancement of the kingdom and the salvation of the world. It is a sacrifice worth making, but a sacrifice nonetheless. Your wife however, has given up on sacrifice by leaving the Church. She says as much when she asks, “What can a priest do that a deacon can’t?” A priest only says Mass and hears confessions and anoints. Nothing that important, he just brings Christ physically into the world and announces His healing and forgiveness. That’s all.
Luther and his followers did not believe that Mass is a sacrifice. They misinterpret the verse from Hebrews 9:28, “ Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” So many forsake the Christian religion for the American religion in which God does nice things for me and never tells me things I don’t want to hear. The Scriptures are clear. God wants to make us like Himself and if He is the sacrifice offered for the world, we become part of His sacrifice. In the Sacrifice of the Mass we unite ourselves to His sacrifice. (Col 1:24) “In my own flesh I make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” In the sacrifice of the Mass I, unite my small sacrifices and self denials to His perfect sacrifice. That is the Eucharistic heart of the Catholic Faith which we is so inconvenient, that with ears itching we “find teachers to suit our own fancy.” (2Tim 4:3)
I wish your lovely wife, Anny Wayout, much luck in her search for a Church that agrees with her. I always worry that if I ever found the perfect local church, it would stop being perfect the minute I joined it. Just tell her that she is free to worship God in her way and you will worship Him in His. Happy year of the priest. 
Your friend as ever,
Rev. Know-it-all