I am a huge fan of fantasy literature and among my favorite authors is J.R.R. Tolkien, better known as the creator of Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien described the creation of Middle Earth more as a discovery of a fictional world already in existence.
It was not until I started creating my own board game when I realized the truth in Tolkien’s words. My journey in making my board game was more of a discovery of a game already existent. I simply happened to be the one to uncover it.
There is a connection of Tolkien’s and my own personal experience to the truths of the Catholic Church. Truth is not something to be manufactured or fabricated. The objective truth of the Gospel—preached and housed in the Catholic Church— have always existed!
Jesus gave the honor and responsibility to his Apostles and Original members of the Catholic Church to safeguard, teach, and articulate the Truth for future generations until His Second Coming. Let’s examine some examples as evidence for this claim.
Jesus Entrusted Peter with Authority
In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Humanity thrives on clarity of thought and stability in leadership positions. Jesus planted the seeds to the papal office with Peter. The Greek name for Peter [πέτρος] translates as “stone” or “rock”. God gifted Christianity [and the entire world] with the office of the papacy to be the authority in the matter of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit works in a special way through the pope to guide him whenever a moral truth comes into debate or question.
Evidence from the Didache
According to many scholars, this document was written around 65-110 A.D. This text is known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. When I read this document I was surprised to hear many Catholic truths proclaimed from such an early 1st century document. The Didache specifically mentioned the Eucharist in Chapter 9 and the sacrament of Holy Orders in Chapter 15.
Pope Pius IX on Papal Infallibility
The solemn declaration of papal infallibility occurred on July 18th, 1870. Pope Pius IX’s statement on papal infallibility related only to matters of faith and morality. Only in his office as pope could the leader of the Church speak with such authority. The Holy Spirit planted the seeds of papal infallibility in Matthew 16:18-19.
While the doctrine of papal infallibility may be a hot-buttoned issue, especially among non-Catholics, it does not have to be. Seeing the role of the Catholic Church as the guardian and teacher of truth and not the creator of truth was a notion that transformed my approach to this subject.
Tolkien’s discovery of Middle Earth, as a place already present, is like Catholic Church teaching as a truth existent for eternity. Our role is to discover anew how the truth of the Gospel may shape our daily lives!
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Hope you had a blessed Pentecost! Today marks the official start (or resuming) of Ordinary time in the Liturgical year. But Monday are anything but ordinary. In case you’re having a typical Monday melancholy here’s some Catholic memes to inject humor and inspiration into your day!
That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The SimpleCatholic blog.
Throughout history humanity has experienced periods of suffering and loss. Suffering often causes people to question previously held beliefs—even belief in God. Why does God allow pain and torment? How can He be good if disease, war, and domestic violence exist? If you are asking these questions don’t think you’re alone. I’ve wondered these things before (especially in the days and months after losing babies to miscarriage).
Suffering Unites Humanity
Suffering is humanity’s common denominator. It’s inescapable. And it comes in many different forms. Financial. Mental. Emotional. Physical. Spiritual. You’ve likely suffered multiple different ways the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic caught many people off-guard and upended (and eneded) countless people’s lives. I contracted the coronavirus in late April 2020 and it was a miserable experience. Prayers helped sustain me during the lowest points.
Some of the unexpected blessings from my experience was getting to know other Catholics online and developing regular correspondence. Another fruit has been people emailing me opportunities to review books related to the suffering that occurs during pandemics.
The Saint of Suffering
Our hope is in the Lord. How often have you heard this? My mom has told me this over and over. And I read about this message in the writings of the saints. One of the best spiritual role models from the last century is Saint Padre Pio.
The book The Pandemic of Padre Pio: Disciple of Our Lady of Sorrows by Stefano Campanella and translated by Bret Thoman is a timely read for our current suffering.
Divided into two sections this book focuses on Padre Pio’s experience of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Campanella tells of the saint’s experience using several letters he wrote. He accepted the suffering from contracting the virus as a way to save souls and bodies by offering his pain to God.
Padre Pio’s Marian Devotion
While the first part of the book provided more historical context, the second half gave a glimpse into Padre Pio’s spiritual life. Campanella wrote, “The maternal presence of Mary was constant, visible, and concrete in the life of Padre Pio” (page 57). The Capuchin priest had mystical experiences often (he received the gift of the stigmata too!). One of my favorite parts of the book is this quote below:
I feel everything burning without fire; I feel tight and tied to the Son through this Mother without even seeing the chains that hold me so tightly; a thousand flames consume me; I feel as if I am dying continuously, and yet I still live (page 60).
The fiery imagery to describe his connection to Christ reminded me of Saint Catherine of Siena’s description of God’s love as a “furnace of Divine Love”. She too was gifted with stigmata.
I highly recommend The Pandemic of Padre Pio. At only 83 pages you could complete this book in one sitting or digest his wisdom little by little. Reading about his direct experience with a pandemic was both informative and comforting. My only regret is that I didn’t discover this book earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic. Padre Pio will gave you spiritual insights on how to deal with pain and found joy in carrying your cross. Get your own copy of The Pandemic of Padre Pio: Disciple of Our Lady of Sorrows today!
P.S. Special thanks to translator Bret Thoman for reaching out to me about writing a review on this book.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 13, 2017.
The centennial anniversary for any historical event is impressive. Reaching one hundred years is a relatively rare thing in the animal kingdom: humans, tortoises, bowhead whales, and jellyfish to name a few centenarians. May 13, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of Mary’s appearances to three young shepherd children in the city of Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady of Fatima’s message is always applicable. Here are three reasons why.
Mary is Always God’s Mother
Icon portraying Mary as Theotokos
The Catholic Church has always believed that Mary is the Mother of God. Jesus entrusted Mary as Mother of the Church in John 19:26-27. The evangelist writes, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
To combat a false teaching that tried to deny Mary’s role as the Mother of God, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. formally declared Mary as Theotokos—God-bearer. It’s also fitting the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima fell on the Eve of Mother’s Day! This is another reminder Mary is a spiritual mother to all.
The Fatima Prayer and Divine Mercy
One of the most popular Catholic prayers that we learned from this Marian Apparitation in Portugal is simply known as the Fatima Prayer. It is a simple yet powerful prayer:
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.
The most important message Mary brought to those three shepherd children to share with the rest of the world is— Divine Mercy. Mary desires to bring all people closer to her Son. God desires Christians to pray for the the salvation of EVERYONE!
Our Lady of Fatima as Bridge to Islam
The single greatest book I have ever read about Mary is The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. He begins chapter 17 of this book title Mary and the Moslems by mentioning the references Mary has in the Koran and the honor she has in the religion of Islam.
Fulton Sheen on Our Lady of Fatima
One of the best book on Mary I’ve ever read!
The passage I found most fascinating is when Sheen explains why Mary appeared to the small village of Fatima,
“Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: “Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary.”In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”… Since nothing ever happens out of heaven except with a finesse of all details,
I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as “Our Lady of Fatima” as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too” ( The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God p. 141).
I agree with Sheen; the selection of Mary’s 1917 Apparition seems too fitting to be a mere coincidence. Let us continue to ask Mary to work in the hearts of non-Christians to draw them to Christ!
Today is also the completion of my wife and I’s Marian Retreat which culminates with a consecration to Jesus through Mary. Through drawing ourselves closer to the person who is closest to Jesus we ourselves are drawing ourselves closer to Jesus Himself. Thank you God for the gift of Our Lady of Fatima and we pray that all of humanity is able to more deeply grow in love!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 23, 2017.
We already looked at the first novel in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy—Out of the Silent Planet. Here’s my thoughts and analysis of his second installment of his Space Trilogy—Perelandra. Like the diversity of the planets of our solar system so too does Lewis paint another vivid portrayal of Dr. Ransom’s trip to Earth’s other neighbor: Venus.
Perelandra: Lewis’ name for Venus.
The book opens up with Dr. Elwin Ransom a few years removed from his celestial journey to Malancandra [Mars]. Here he receives an assignment from Oyarsa—the angelic ruler of Malacandra—to travel to Perendra [Venus] to thwart an attack by Satan! Before I continue on with the synopsis, I want to point out something interesting I discovered about the first name of Dr. Ransom. While I do not necessary know the exact motivation for Lewis’ selection of appellations I think it is telling, along with a type of foreshadowing, that Elwin is a splicing together of the ancient word for God plus win thus equaling God wins as a meaning of the main character’s name!
Now to go back to the story, Ransom travels to the second planet from the Sun in a coffin-like spaceship and wakes up to a vastly different world from his time on Malancandra. Kaleidoscopic and oceanic, Perelandra is largely composed of fluid raft-like islands and the planet contained a singular geographic feature called the Fixed Land.
New Mission (and Planet) for Dr. Ransom
Unlike his first space adventure, Ransom initially only encounters a single rational being—known as the Queen of the planet, an Eve-like figure. The green-skinned Queen hints at Ransom’s mission of savior and prevention of a reenactment of the Genesis Fall when she says, “that in your world Maleldil [Jesus] first took Himself this form, the form of your race and mine…Since our Beloved became a man, how should Reason in any world take on another form?” (p. 54). What the Queen refers to is that the Incarnation of God only happened once—on Earth.
Perelandra represented a “New Garden of Eden”.
Another Garden of Eden/The Fall
It is not until the antagonist Weston from the first novel suddenly arrives on the scene that the battle over Perelandra begins. Through a constant onslaught of materialistic arguments Weston, who is possessed by the Devil, tried to get the Queen to disobey Maleldil’s order to avoid sleeping a night on the Fixed Land.
Weston continues to charismatically expand on his reasons for the Green Lady to disobey Maleldil and spend a night on the Fixed Land. He focuses on the fact that this command does not really seem to make much sense and urges her that rules are meant to be broken.
The possessed Weston says,
These other commands of His—to love, to sleep, to fill this world with your children—you see for yourself they are good. And they are the same in all worlds. But the command against living on the Fixed Land is not so. You have already learned he gave no such command to my world. And you cannot see where the goodness of it is. No wonder. If it were really good, must He not have commanded it to all worlds alike? For how could Maleldil not command what is good? There is no good in it. Maleldil Himself is showing you that, this moment, through your own reason. It is mere command. It is forbidding for the mere sake of forbidding (p. 100).
The Incarnation Happens Only Once
Eventually, the diabolical argument posed by Weston crescendos when he tells the Queen the side effects of the First Fall on Earth—namely Maleldil becoming Incarnate to save humanity.
While hope is seemingly lost, Dr. Ransom realizes through a guidance of the divine voice that he himself is the savior of Perelandra. Lewis writes,
What happened on Earth, when Maleldil was born man at Bethelham, had altered the universe for ever. The new world of Perelandra was not merely a repetition of the old world Tellus. Maleldil never repeated himself. One of the purposes for which He had done all this was to save Perelandra not through Himself but through Himself in Ransom (p. 123)
Ransom eventually defeats the Un-man [Satanic possessed Weston] and the Queen is reunited with the King and the heavenly bliss continues on Perelandra. Finally, Ransom returns to Earth and continues to follow Maleldil’s mission to fight evil.
I loved reading this book! Like Out of the Silent Planet I give Perelandra four out of five stars. The only real downside to the book was the minimal amount of characters used throughout the novel. Aside from that issue, I enjoyed the abundant and colorful descriptions of the planet and the theological insight provided by Lewis.
So far this is the only book I have ever read that satisfies my speculative theological appetite and scientific curiosity about extraterrestrial life. The author also provides a compelling explanation for how life may exist on other planets without contradicting the Christian truth of Jesus Christ as the sole mediator.
Due to the linear nature of time, God never repeats Himself and as a result only one Incarnational event took place—2,000 years ago in Israel. Our mission as Christians if intelligent life exists outside of Earth is to unite ourselves to the One Mediator and evangelize. I highly recommend this book to any curious soul that loves C.S. Lewis, space travel, or theology!