The Catholic schools in America that have adopted state standards and seek state accreditation have left the path of wisdom

As Monsignor Ronald Knox said: “We are here to colonize heaven not make things better on earth.” Our beloved Catholic schools seem to have blurred the line between first and second things. Pope Benedict elucidates the first things that concern Catholic schools. First things are permanent things: charity, Christ, Church doctrine, principles of truth, and the virtues. Second things are temporary: material goods, contributing to society, and committing to action.

The reason that a Catholic education must not focus on improving conditions in society is best explained by C.S. Lewis, who said, “When you put first things first, second things are not suppressed, but increase.” Improving material conditions in society is a second thing that follows the first thing of a well-ordered character, especially a character conformed to Christ. C.S. Lewis further explained that “when you put second things first, you lose both first and second.” A proper philosophy of Catholic education is concerned solely with the first things as is demonstrated by Pope Benedict’s clear statement; the second things, like societal welfare, will take care of themselves.

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Editor’s note: This is almost diametrically opposed to the teachings of our current pope.

Having a bad day, Bunky? Writer explains why.

Chastisements or trials must never be seen outside of God’s attempts to save us and break cycles of sin so that we can be saved.  Human freedom is so powerful and key that not even God forces it or takes away our responsibility to make good choices.  If he did, then the union between us and God through the virtues, and the very purpose of freedom would not be real.

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“Ask and You Shall Receive.” – But there’s a catch …

And Jesus answered saying to them,

“Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, be taken up and cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” – Mark 11:22-24

The “Catch”

The virtues of faith, hope and charity are a reflection of the power of God’s grace in our life, and our free will choice to cooperate with that grace … for our own salvation and for the glory of God … all of which are in full agreement with God’s will and his plan.

Should it happen that we ask God for something which is not compatible with his grace, his will, or his plan … then we probably shouldn’t look forward to moving mountains … anytime soon!

Nihilism

But sadly most people today suffer from some form of Nihilism. Most people deny the fact of objective moral norms. Even more deny the notion of absolute moral norms. Most people today no longer consider things to be true or false. Rather, most everything is seen just as opinion or a subjective point of view. It may be true that many things are just opinion but does this mean that there is really no objective truth to be found? It would seem so, according to many if not most people today. All of this of course leads to a rather deep cynicism as well as an incapacity to come to agreement on many important issues of the day. Since no agreed upon norms exist, life amounts to a power struggle between factions. Nihilism has so permeated our culture that most people don’t even know its there. It’s like talking to a fish about water and the fish says, “What water?” Most people congratulate themselves for their Nihilism by calling it other things like “open-mindedness”, “tolerance”, “acceptance”, “progressiveness” and the like. There are real virtues by these names but it is likely that most who claim these virtues for themselves are actually just suffering from some form of Nihilism. Yes, I want to argue that nihilism has reached the suburbs, the kitchen table, the family hearth.

And more than ever this is why we need Catholic culture and faith. It is only with something that we can battle nothing. I have come a long way out of my Nihilism that reached full flower in the late 1970s. I had turned my sights away from God and the Church and found only  “nothing.”  I cannot say I have fully emerged from Nihilism for it has  so permeated everything. And yet I credit the Catholic faith for restoring to me to truth and its existence. I credit the faith for restoring my hope and healing so much of my anger and cynicism. I thank the Catholic Faith for restoring to me my sight. Truth inevitably leads to beauty and goodness,  and what a beautiful view it is. There is great serenity and freedom in the truth. I know that Nihilism brought me only anger and struggle against perceived enemies (i.e. my father, the Church et al.) that was far from serene.   So here I stand more blessed than I deserve, coming out of nothing into everything, out of darkness into light. The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. (Matt 6:23-24)

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