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Catholic Life | Tag Archive | John Paul II
Tag Archives: John Paul II

How to Eat an Elephant

How do you reconcile feminism with Catholicism?

First you reconcile John Paul II with Catholicism.

You start with the assumption that John Paul II was indeed a real pope (not an anti-pope) and that Benedict XVI (also a real pope) is in the process of declaring him to be a Saint, not merely a saintly person. This will lead to the recognition that John Paul II was not a heretic, and thus you will know that you can reconcile him with the rest of Catholicism, though it may take some time.

Then you take that time.

And when you are done, you will look to the side and see that–by the Great Saint Anne!–you’ve reconciled feminism with Catholicism!

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John Paul II on Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Guardian of the Redeemer

1. “Here is the wise and faithful servant, whom the Lord has put in charge of his household” (cf. Lk 12: 42).

This is how today’s liturgy presents St Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Guardian of the Redeemer. He was the wise and faithful servant who, with obedient docility, accepted the will of the Lord, who entrusted him with “his” family on earth to watch over it with daily devotion.

St Joseph persevered in this mission with fidelity and love. The Church, therefore, offers him to us as an exceptional model of service to Christ and to his mysterious plan of salvation. And she calls upon him as the special patron and protector of the whole family of believers. In a special way, Joseph is presented to us on his feast day as the saint under whose powerful protection divine Providence has wished to place the persons and ministry of all who are called to be “fathers” and“guardians” among the Christian people.

2. “”Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously’…. “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?‘” (Lk 2: 48-49).

In this simple, family conversation between Mother and Son, which we heard a few moments ago in the Gospel, we find the characteristics of Joseph’s holiness. They correspond to God’s plan for him, which he, being the just man that he was, would fulfil with marvellous fidelity.

“Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously“, Mary said. “I must be in my Father’s house“, Jesus replies. It is precisely these words of the Son that help us to understand the mystery of Joseph’s “fatherhood“. In reminding his parents of the primacy of the One whom he called “my Father”, Jesus reveals the truth about Mary’s and Joseph’s role. The latter was truly Mary’s “husband” and Jesus’ “father”, as she affirmed when she said:  “Your father and I have been looking for you”. But his being a husband and father is totally subordinate to that of God.

This is how Joseph of Nazareth was called, in turn, to become one of Jesus’ disciples:  by dedicating his life to serving the only-begotten Son of the Father and of his Virgin Mother, Mary.

It is a mission that he continues to carry out for the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, to which he never fails to give his provident care, as he did for the humble family of Nazareth.

Monday, 19 March 2001


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Me on Memory, John Paul II on Hope

I am quite convinced that holiness has little to do with happiness. I know that misery is often wonderful for drawing people to God while happiness causes us to focus on our own enjoyment rather than God. But we cannot merely ignore happiness in an attempt at an oh-so-holy misery.

I know, I know, I know. Sort of.

But then something happens and it makes me wonder whether there isn’t also something to the idea of formation and cultivating a certain disposition which may bear fruit at the most unexpected time. Who is to say what the appropriate gestation is for hope?

Despair is my disposition. It isn’t a deliciously tempting sin, it simply is a part of me. And my flesh and my heart fail continually and I wonder if perhaps my hidden heel somehow missed being covered by the baptismal waters. I swim in sin and breathe grace.

Somehow hope has take hold of me and I have understood it to be perfectly mysterious and random.

But then I was looking through old papers over Christmas, and I wonder whether I am not being a bit silly and even perhaps dishonest with myself. I used to cultivate hope. I thought that I had failed, but perhaps, perhaps not? I do not presume that my peaceful optimism will last–and it feels so much less presumptuous to think of hope as optimism–but it is another sort of sin to fail to appreciate what is both real and Good.

And so I must give at least a slight nodd to the person I once was: a young woman who dared to cultivate hope.

I have no idea where I found these quotes, they were printed without citation and only labeled “John Paul II for those who find it hard to hope.”

Being holy means living in deep communion with the God of joy, having a heart free from sin and the sadness of the world, and a mind that is humble before him.

What could seem to human eyes a slow and uneven path, is actually God’s method.

Do not be afraid; Christ has overcome the world. He is with all of you. May his peace always brighten the horizons of your life.

Where are you, you ask the Lord. “I am here. Wherever you are, I am also there. I am the Eucharist. I am in your midst.”

This is the condition of the true Christian. He can nurture a trustful optimism, because he is certain of not walking alone. In sending us Jesus, the eternal Son made man, God has drawn near to each of us. In Christ, he has become our traveling companion. If time marches on inexorably, often shattering even our dreams, Christ, the Lord of time, gives us the possibility of an ever new life.

I hadn’t read those in years, but I was silenced by the last lines: “If time marches on inexorably, often shattering even our dreams, Christ, the Lord of time, gives us the possibility of an ever new life.” Oh, how could I have forgotten that I ever knew them and then have them show up as a deep internal truth later? Of course this is my whole life, but I am somehow still surprised.

I imagine myself to be somehow passively, randomly hopeful now. I have forgotten the many, many times I played this song incessantly. I have forgotten how desperately I tried to live Hope.

I remember so little of my life. Perhaps it is a protective blessing. But I do not want to forget to be thankful for the ways that I benefit from faithfulness during bitter times.

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The Theology of the Body Fostered the Sex Abuse Crisis

Or at least you’d think so if you read Eugene Cullen Kennedy’s “Rigali’s new old time religion: The theology of the body or how to keep catholics feeling guilty.”

At Vatican II the church rediscovered its traditions of understanding rather than over-controlling the human person. The notion that this Rigali endorsed movement will bring back the old days is the scary part for it means a return to the constricted and repressive attitudes toward human sexuality that caused so much suffering for so long for so many good people. That world of confused thinking about human sexuality was also the incubator for the sex abuse crisis from which so many still suffer.

Which is strikes me as odd because one of the things that I noticed most about people who learn the theology of the body via Christopher West is how very new they think it is. Meaning that John Paul II’s theology of the body is so very different from the “old time religion” with its supposed endless list of “don’ts.”

But the part of the article that really got me was  where Kennedy described John Paul II’s view that “Love can, as it were, keep company with desire as long as the latter is subordinated to the former and does not do what healthy human passion does: ‘overwhelm all else.'” Does any adult really want a sexual passion which “overwhelms all else” in their relationship? And if they do, do they really want a religion to teach them that they should pursue an overwhelming sexual passion? Thus saith the LORD, passion, and nothing else shall save you!

If that is the case, then there has got to be a more appropriate religion than Catholicism. If you want overwhelming sexual passion to be your standard of healthy relationships, then you don’t just need a new Catholicism, you need a new religion.

So can we please return to a more sensible discussion of the Church’s teaching on sex and human reality? Because dramatically misconstruing John Paul II’s take on human sexuality is not going to provide any clarity or consensus. It is certainly possible that John Paul II’s particular approach will not resonate in 100 years, and that the current popularized version is quite off-base. But there is no point in talking about either if we are not going to at least understand what is actually going on. And insinuating that John Paul II somehow went against Vatican II isn’t going to help any more than implying that the theology of the body was the cause of the sex abuse crisis!

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What if John Paul II Was a Feminist Theologian?

This morning I was thinking about how anyone who can accept MacIntyre’s Dependent Rational Animals (as many of my most conservative young male Catholic can and do) should accept the fact that they can accept feminist theology.

And as I was thinking about what feminist theology really is1 I realized that John Paul II was not just influenced by phenomenology, he was also influenced by feminism2. It is everything but stupid to compare him to Mary Daly and conclude that he was not a feminist. It makes far more sense to compare him to his tradition, to Augustine and Aquinas and past popes.

Off the top of my head I thought of a few ways that John Paul II differed from many of his predecessors:

  • He believed that women were created in the image of God as much as men
  • He believed that women could teach the highest of truths as Doctors of the Church
  • He believed that a woman’s orgasm was important for the completeness of the marital act

And suddenly I was greatly amused at those who spend their time trying to say that John Paul II did not mean it when he called for a new feminism. Not only are their arguments poorly founded, but they may be missing a far larger bear walking in these woods: what if John Paul II was not merely calling for a new feminism, but subtly incorporating it at the highest levels of Catholic theology?

So now I must re-read Love and Responsibility and Mulieris Dignitatem and Familiaris Consortio and Evangelium Vitae as well as the new translation of John Paul II’s theology of the body with all of this in mind. I am not sure that I will be convinced that John Paul II wrote feminist theology, but I am quite certain that I will thank God once again for how much the Church has changed in a few short years. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you read Casti Connubii?

1. Feminist theology is simply taking feminist philosophy and combining it with theology, just as we have done with many other great philosophies in the past.
2. And I am aware that this is something of a highly scholarly “no duh” for those who are familiar with John Paul II’s incorporation of the work of Edith Stein, but that does not mean that it is obvious to most readers of JPII. And I am a bear of very little brain who quickly forgets such things.

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