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Happy Thanksgiving

We live in a world that is very often at odds with our Catholic faith.  Still, when you are a Catholic you have hope.  In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

 “The one who has hope lives differently;

the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.”

On this Thanksgiving, let us remember that.  Let us remember that despite the world we live in, that we have our Faith and we have Hope.

Happy Thanksgiving to all from everyone here at The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide.

Maureen Williamson

A New Christmas Book for Children with Special Meaning for Today’s World

Ishmael_Distributor (2)

Ignatius and Magnificat have combined to publish a new Christmas story for children, Ishmael: The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem

The plot revolves around a young boy named Ishmael who comes with his family to Bethlehem, their native village, as ordered by the Emperor Augustus, so a census could be taken.  Another young boy, Isaac, lives in Bethlehem and is not happy to see so many people come to his town.

Both Ishmael and Isaac are descendants of Abraham.  Ishmael is named after Abraham’s son by Hagar, the slave girl, and Isaac is named after the son of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  The Jews descended from Isaac and, according to Islamic beliefs, Mohammed descended from Ishmael.

As with the Jews and the Moslems, Isaac and Ishmael fight.

But there are other things happening.  Also in Bethlehem are the carpenter Joseph and his expectant wife Mary.  The story of the Nativity unfolds and Ishmael and Isaac visit the Christ Child together:

“As Isaac and Ishmael contemplated the newborn, they saw themselves as they truly were, and they felt their hardened hearts softening within them.”

Ishmael: The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem is obviously a story meant to mirror the centuries-long conflict between the Jews and Moslems.  The moral of the story is that it is through the love of Jesus Christ, the savior, that men come together.

The book is illustrated in full color with lovely delicate pictures.  Special features include the words and music of Away in a Manger and the text of a moving Christmas prayer from Pope Benedict XVI.

This is a nice Christmas story that teaches children Christian virtue and makes a broader point as noted above. Yet, I find, it lacks charm.  Still, it could easily make a good gift for the children on your Christmas list.

Maureen Williamson

The Lost Concept of Redemptive Suffering

I was standing in line in the supermarket the other day when I noticed all the tabloid and magazine headlines about the sad story of Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old who took her own life because she had terminal brain cancer.

In a People Magazine story, Brittany said: “For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me.  They try to mix it up with suicide, and that’s really unfair because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying.”

Philip Johnson, a Catholic seminarian in Raleigh, NC, received a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer in 2008.  Last month he wrote about Brittany’s choice to take her own life.  “Suffering is not worthless,” he wrote, “and our lives are not our own to take.  As humans we are relational – we relate to one another and the actions of one person affects others.  Sadly, the concept of ‘redemptive suffering’ – that human suffering united to the suffering of Jesus on the Cross for our salvation can benefit others – has often been ignored or lost in modern times.”

Six months or so ago my husband and I went to a wake for a Catholic young lady who, like Brittany, had had terminal brain cancer.  We didn’t know her.  She was the niece of friends.  When she was first diagnosed she was given three or four months to live.  She lived almost a year and enjoyed some wonderful times in those months with family and friends.  We don’t know why God chose to take her; but we know He had His reasons.  This young lady died with true dignity and, we hope, is in the arms of the Lord.

Maureen Williamson

How Not to Solve the Problems Surrounding Marriage

The recent Extraordinary Synod on the family was fraught with controversy.  Traditional Catholic teachings on the indissolubility of marriage, homosexuality and cohabitation before marriage were on the table.  While the final document released by the Synod did not, of course, change Church teaching, some of its conclusions along with the Synod discussions and media reports of these discussions were sources of confusion which could not help but hurt the Church and its faithful in today’s pagan culture.

As reported by the UK’s Catholic Herald, Cardinal Raymond Burke said the other day at a Catholic Voice conference on family and marriage, “Even within the church there are those who would obscure the truth of the indissolubility of marriage in the name of mercy.”

Perhaps as an attempt to counter the confusion of the Synod, Pope Francis, in his opening address to the Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman, said:

“We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis.  We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.  This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

“I urge you to bear in mind,” His Holiness further noted,  “especially the young people, who represent our future.  Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.”

Yet, the final document of the Synod says, “[T]hose who are divorced and remarried require careful discernment and an accompaniment of great respect [italics mine].”  Why great respect?  There is nothing to respect.  They are committing sin – public sin – which not only affects the couple involved; but also any children they may have and, perhaps, one or both of their legitimate spouses.

I don’t suggest that one shouldn’t behave civilly towards such couples.  Nor that one should be unkind to them or ridicule them.  After all, the object isn’t to alienate them from the Church; rather to bring them back.  Certainly they should be encouraged to continue to go to Mass; but not to receive Holy Communion.

One doesn’t combat crises in marriage and sexual morality by talking about changing the Church’s teaching or minimizing the seriousness of the wrongs done by those who marry outside the Church, practice homosexuality or cohabitate when they aren’t married.

Why can’t liberals understand that obfuscating truths accomplishes nothing?

On the other hand, it is clear that some want to obfuscate – or change – the rules, thus denying truth.

Maureen Williamson

Books on the Beach: A Book Group Getaway for Catholic Women

death of ivanNow here’s an idea.  A book group for like-minded Catholic women in Florida in the dead of winter.  The leader is Priscilla McCaffrey who used to help run Roman Catholic Books’ Rome trips.  Priscilla is a teacher and a homeschool mom.

The place is St. Augustine, FL, a lovely town where America’s first recorded Mass was celebrated.  Dates are January 30 to February 2.

Geared to women, the group will discuss six books of interest to Catholics:  Viper’s Tangle (Francois Mauriac), The Death of Ivan Ilych (Tolstoy), Ida Elisabeth (Sigrid Undset), Essay on the Widow (St. Ambrose), Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers), and The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis).

Although the book group is for women, husbands are welcome to attend the social parts of the weekend.  The weekend will include daily Latin Mass, two receptions, three dinners and two light breakfasts.  For more information and prices email or leave a voicemail at (203) 417-3022.

Maureen Williamson

Here Is What Happens When Marriage Is a Legal Contract

I live in one of the now-numerous states that have legalized gay marriage.  Here’s the thing that continues to amaze me: of the many non-Catholics who maintain that marriage should be between man and woman, as God intended, I have not heard a single person acknowledge that the gay marriage wave springs from the fundamental belief that marriage is defined by, and governed by, the law.  I.e. not by God.  It might be a vague reflection of God’s will, but it is independent of God.

This is a belief that was introduced by Henry VIII, quite emphatically. I even know people who are glad that they are not Catholic because their religion places marriage in the legal realm, as a human choice founded on a temporary legal contract, perhaps with a nod of approval from God or perhaps not.

As long as that is the case, those of us who believe in a permanent, God-founded matrimony will continue to be outvoted.  This is the direct result of Protestant/“Christian”-based legal marriage, and it is gay marriage, not the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, that is consistent with the Protestant belief.

-Michelle Gracia

The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide to News and Notes for Catholics

Father Dwight Longenecker

Father Dwight Longenecker

The long-rumored demotion of Cardinal Raymond Burke from head of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura to the largely ceremonially position of patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta is now official.   Check out interesting blogs on the subject from Father Dwight Longenecker, Father Z and Joan Frawley Desmond and, from another perspective, the National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winter who says, “Cardinal Burke’s influence at the Vatican has been crushingly backward looking.”  Catholic truth being backward, I guess.  Also check out Cardinal Burke’s interview with Aleteia….The final report on the just-concluded Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family is available from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops….Catholic radio personalities Jim and Joy Pinto will also be on television now.  Catch them on EWTN Thursdays at 2 pm ET for “At Home with Jim & Joy.”…Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of Wyoming Catholic College takes on the Common Core in a lecture entitled “What Went Wrong and How to Fix It: The Troubling Story of America’s Decaying Education System” to be delivered on November 14 at the Augustine Institute in Denver….The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 10th annual Christmas exhibition opens December 1 and features Nativity scenes from Italy.  The museum is located in New Haven, CT…From Ignatius Press comes a new novel by Roger Thomas called The Accidental Marriage that touches on today’s cultural issues.

Maureen Williamson

Houston Pushes the Envelope on Separation of Church and State, Then Backs Off

Mayor Annise Parker of Houston (from the City of Houston website)

Mayor Annise Parker of Houston (from the City of Houston website)

I came back from vacation to see that Houston mayor Annise Parker has withdrawn the city’s subpoenas of the sermons of five clergy who oppose Houston’s equal rights ordinance which was recently expanded to include gays and transgender individuals.

That’s right, the mayor was trying to get five conservative pastors to, according to World magazine, hand over “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO [Houston Equal Rights Ordinance], the Petititon [to put the ordinance on the ballot and allow Houston’s citizen’s to vote on it], Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”  The idea was to see whether the pastors in question attempted to influence their congregations on the issue.

Opponents of the ordinance tried to petition to have repeal of the ordinance placed on the ballot to be voted on by the citizens of Houston.  The petition fell short of the needed number of signatures because some 40,000 were disqualified.  The next step for opponents of the ordinance was to sue the city.  The city countered with the aforementioned subpoenas, now withdrawn because of the hue and cry they caused over the state’s interference with religious entities and the issues of the separation of church and state and freedom of religion.

For more information on the whole story go to the World magazine website or National Review Online which both have some good pieces on it.

Are you as appalled as I am that any government official would actually attempt such a thing?  On the other hand the HHS mandate has shown us that anti-religion zealots continue to push the envelope.  Unfortunately, the more they push, the more they succeed – with the help of the cooperative courts.

Maureen Williamson

New York and the Church Closings

I came home from a vacation in Italy to the announcement by the Archdiocese of New York that it is closing or merging 112 parishes in the archdiocese.  Among the parishes being merged are two in Pelham, NY in Westchester County, just outside the city where I grew up and lived a good deal of my adult life.

My father went to St. Catharine’s Church and its parish school in Pelham.  Our family was part of the parish when I was a young child.  I made my first Holy Communion there and I also went to the parish school.  Back in those days – the late fifties – the school was eight grades plus kindergarten and each grade had at least two classes there were so many Catholic children.  In fact, the parish and school were so big that a new parish (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) with its own school was founded on the other side of town.  My family moved to that end of town in 1960 and I was part of that parish until I moved west in 1997.

Now, ironically, St. Catherine’s is merging into Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  The church will be staying open as part of the new merged parish with Masses, Baptisms, weddings and funerals still being celebrated there.

Father George Rutler

Father George Rutler

Father George Rutler, pastor of St. Michael’s Church in New York whose latest book is Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943,in an interview with Aleteia, pointed out that, “Among the factors [in the parish closings and mergers] is a decline in Catholic life.  One statistic I was given recently is the Catholic population of New York City is just about the same as it was 70 years ago.  There’s not a decline in Catholic population; there’s a decline in Catholic life, and there are all kinds of reasons for that.”

Father Rutler further noted, “The primary fact is that most Catholics aren’t practicing the faith.  Mass attendance in New York is about 12%.  You’ve had about a 50% drop since the Second Vatican Council.”

There are a couple of other factors, of course, that affected the decision to close or merge these parishes; but the low percentage of practicing Catholics is certainly first and foremost among the reasons that the archdiocese can’t afford to keep these parishes open.

I doubt it will get any better soon.

Maureen Williamson


Spiritual Consulation for the Sick and Dying


The Bible for the Sick was first published early in the 20th century.  Compiled by Antoine Ozanam, the saintly founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, it is now available again from Roman Catholic Books.  Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro of Human Life International calls it an “extremely valuable compendium of Bible passages for the seriously ill.”

Here is one passage I think is especially helpful:

Fear Not Death

O Death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee

To a man that hath peace in his possessions:

To a man that is at rest, and whose ways are prosperous in all things,

And that is yet able to take meat!

O death, thy sentence is welcome to the man that is in need,

And to him whose strength faileth,

Who is in a decrepit age, and that is in care about all things,

And to the distrustful that loseth patiene!

Fear not the sentence of death.

Remember what things have been before thee,

And what shall come after thee:

This sentence is from the Lord upon all flesh:

And what shall come upon three by the good pleasure of the most High?

Whether ten, or a hundred, or a thousand years.

(Eccli. XLI. 1-6)

Maureen Williamson


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