The Godfather – “Do you renounce Satan…and all his works…and all his pomps?”

Whenever I watch this scene from the Godfather, I always am asked questions about what the Baptism rubrics actually mean.

Firstly, this baptism is done in the Traditional Latin Mass which was the Mass that was used in the Roman Catholic Church from the Council of Trent to the Second Vatican Council, a period of about 500 years.  Today, we would call this Mass the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite.  Most Catholics in the western world attend the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, in the vernacular.

The priest opens by breathing on the child, harkening back to when Jesus breathed on the disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22)”  You will also see the priest touch his stole to the child later, just as the woman with the hemorrhage touched Jesus’ garment and was healed in Mark 5:29-31.

The priest uses two types of substances to signal sanctification.  He first puts salt on the lips of the boy.  This is an ancient practice which has roots in the biblical story of Elisha.  Elisha sprinkled salt over water to ward off evil.  Of course, salt was used as a preservative in ancient times (and still is), and the image of salt is seen as preserving one from the evil of satan and the demons. St. Augustine, also, in the third century reports that he frequently received a blessing of salt on his forehead to help him stay away from evil.  The second substance used is holy oil, which also has biblical roots.  You remember that Mary Magdalene poured oil over Christ’s head and was used as a perfume; it was quite the luxury.  This is also a sign of sanctification.  These substances have no power in themselves, but serve as a sign or reminder of the holiness that is being conferred upon the infant at baptism, or wherever these substances are used in a liturgical setting.

Michael is asked questions concerning his faith.  These clauses are first written by St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century, and they quickly become a measure used  for true belief and faith in God.  Much of the early Councils focused on these clauses and developed them into the creeds we say today – the Apostle’s creed and the Nicene creed.

The Nicene Creed was codified at the Council of Nicea, and then again added on to at the Council of Constantinople.  The Apostle’s Creed is a later development, which is basically a shortened Nicene Creed.  The priest asks Michael to renew his declaration of faith by asking him if he believes in the fundamentals of the Catholic faith:

“Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth?”
“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord?”
“Do you believe in Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church?”

Those questions are pretty simple, but then there are additions to the normal creed that is added to the declaration of faith:

“Michael Francis Rizzi, do you renounce Satan?
“And all his works”
“And all his pomps”?

Michael, of course, says he renounces them, but obviously the juxtaposition of his words with the effects of his actions as portrayed in the movie, makes his hypocrisy even more evil.  His renunciation of Satan’s works is simply a renunciation of all evil in the world.  As Tradition holds, Satan was cast into Hell, along with other angels that we now call demons, when Satan revolted against God.  Many theologians believe he revolted because he foresaw Jesus’ incarnation, and Satan – the most powerful of all angels – chose to never serve a man, even though he was also God.

Satan’s pomps are uniquely distinct from his works.  Pomps are generally seen as the attractive lure of evil.  We have all wanted things we know we shouldn’t want – billions of dollars at the expense of others, supermodels for wives rather than our current wife, power and authority over other people, etc.  Those are Satan’s pomps, which must be renounced lest we fall into the evil snares of the devil and his demons, and ultimately, into hell itself.

Enough talking, here is the clip.  I must say it’s pretty badass, even though it shows the depths of Michael’s evil and hypocrisy, something we all struggle with (or at least should be, but that’s another discussion).  Michael, obviously, doesn’t exactly renounce Satan ,all his works, all his pomps.  If one possesses a rightly ordered spiritual life, acts, words and beliefs should all be in conformity with each other.

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Excommunication

An excommunication is intended to shock the sinner into repentance.  Some sins are so grievous in their very object that they warrant an automatic excommunication.  Violating the seal of Confession, for example, is one of those sins.  To be accepted back into communion after an excommunication, one must do special penance in order to be received again.  Of course, much has changed on this topic over the long history of the Church. Excommunications just don’t happen anymore.  I, personally, would like to see them make a comeback in order to shock people into repentance, with the entire community there to participate.

 

I probably would repent.

 

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Our Children, The Adults

All the children grew in length and size.  Their position moved from one locality to another.  They took their skills learnt during their teenage years and applied them to their adult life.  Skills of coercion, deceit and treachery.  Whatever end they propped up as pleasurable, its means were carried out in such a delicate fashion.  No hair was left disheveled.  No speck of dust indicted their act.  Not a set of eyes nor a beat of sound gave them away.

Yes, many ages ago the elders would have called them adults – young men and women.  But this generation, they are yet children in bodies of  adults, boys trapped in the illusion of man. girls moving about in flesh proper to grown women.

One thing changed, however.  One thing moved with their transport to another locality.  With their fleeing of the scenes traditional ideas set before them, innocence went with.  Their innocence fled like a burning city, but they predestined its estrangement from the start.  It didn’t fit anymore.  It wasn’t useful.  Innocence was grabbed by every sensitive part and buried out back.  The thought of its presence there lingered for days, but thankfully for the lot left quickly, and the vacuous state that ensued would come to be called the Humean world.  A man living hundreds of years prior would only come to realize the manifesting reality of his vision, but only prior to his death must he have known of its callowness.

Ignorance reigns supreme in this world.  But, alas, it isn’t an ignorance which impresses innocence, it is the ignorance that is all the more culpable.  It is the ignorance of natural truth.  Such an ignorance is the worst violation imaginable, and some knew from the start of the inevitable destruction its wake would leave.

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We All Love Something

On the eve of my trip to college, I laid on a mat in my basement, beside my pretty young girlfriend and cried hysterically for hours.  I cried like a mother who had just lost her son.   No funeral, no breakup, no thought of death nor destruction could previously bring about such an emotional outburst in me as it, the thought of my leaving, did that night.  I had loved something, and I knew that tomorrow was the beginning of its end.

You may be thinking that this loved object of mine was my girlfriend.  It was in part, but it was oh so much more than that.  It was in those days that the winsomeness of youth which paraded down my streets, up the drive and through the halls of my house and school became the object of my deepest love.  My craft of manipulation became so perfected, so that nothing short of violence could part the bond of love which emanated from my heart toward this thing. It is a thing, so vague and theoretical, but yet so real in its concrete manifestations, and so pleasurable in our possession of them.

We possessed them in their entirety.  The drinking binges, the incessant sex, the almost daily smoking of marijuana, the comfort of low expectations, little responsibility, the glory of victory in our sporting events and all the fruits which came from it were all lowly dangling; we need not even leave the ground to pluck them with our grasp.  And yet, on that eve, I knew I would continue on in search of these manifestations.  I knew of my high probability of possessing them again, but these things were just ancillaries, like an altar propping up an empty throne.

As the college years passed and I attempted to regain my lost love through the typical channels that young men travel down at that age, I finally came to knowledge that had evaded me for sometime.  It was the simple knowledge that loving can only be had through perfect possession.  It was perfect possession of the object, in its freedom and entirety, that I really longed for.  I unfortunately came to this conclusion through the necessary results of desiring an object that couldn’t be possessed – despair.  I despaired at the end of those college years.  Whereas my tears indicated a love lost on that eve in the dark of a basement, I wondered the nights, awake and starving, craving for food that was incapable of satisfying my hunger.  I ate and ate, and yet my hunger only grew in severity.

The sadness at the end of my high schooled life was the sadness of one parting from his love.  It was agonizing for a time, but the sensation subsisted only a short time.  The end of my college years were something far different.  That period was the realization that what I was desiring in my high schooled years was but a mirage, an idea of a perfection I could grasp and hold in my bosom.  It wasn’t real.  It was a myth. And I despaired.  I grew sickly thin, thought seriously about suicide, slept 8 hours a week, and eventually fixed my gaze at something I found to be so real and true that I certainly knew of its ability so  satisfy my hunger.

We all love something, but we all can’t possess that something.  Gold corrodes.   Fine linen is overrun by moth.   Banquets of the most delectable foods will spoil and rot.  The desire  for these things is useless.  They are only supplements to what we truly long to possess.  And we must each find this thing, and when we do, we will find  peace.

“My heart is restless until it rests in thee.”

“But those who drink the water I give him will never thirst again.”

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Short Meditation on the Value of Morality in Business

What is the value of morality?  Well there is Heaven, which I hear is pretty good.  Hell, which isn’t good at all.  Then there is purgatory, which was described by St. Paul the apostle as being saved “as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15).  But, for once, I don’t want to talk about its value after you die, I want to talk about the value of morality before you die.  Specifically, I want to talk about the value of morality in business, especially as it regards employment.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

The alarm rings way too early.  You get up for your morning shower and coffee.  Somewhere between stripping down before running water that takes a curiously long time to get hot and the coffee that routinely burns your tongue as you chug it for the needed early morning energy boost, you begin dreading your day at work.  The reasons are never the same.  You hate your boss, hate the mission of the organization, hate the way in which the mission is fulfilled, hate the type of work or just simply hate those things because it’s better to feel something other than the malaise of the daily routine.

Perhaps you begin to wonder, is it me?  Other people seem to at least tolerate the job, even though some less inspiring people are openly hostile to it.  Then you get depressed, and there is a feeling of near hopelessness as the weeks turn into months and years at your some position.  And yes, you are still unhappy with it.

What happens to you then?  Some would drone on in their existence, filling up the gaps around work with things that make them happy, like family and friends.  They use their paycheck as an excuse to keep coming back to their job, but if they were free from the constraints of a paycheck, they would leave this god-forsaken place to never think of it again.

Some, on the other hand, fill up the gaps around work with things that make them happy, alcohol, sex and drugs.  They live not for sustainable happiness, but only for the fleeting exuberance of pleasure.  Only when they have to face their own selves in an excruciating moment of silence to they realize their panoply of despair.

Ok, so what does morality have to do with this?  Is a company supposed to be concerned about the personal moral lives of their employees?  Not exactly, but wouldn’t it be nice if you worked somewhere, somewhere that had a culture that made each individual working there WANT to become a better person?  It would be nice, I say, if there was a company that made me want to donate money and time to sponsored charitable organizations that I absolutely know help people who are down on their luck.  It would be nice if there was a company that made me want to be a better husband, father, brother, wife, mother, sister, etc.  It would be nice if there were a company that made me want to create an environment – social and natural – that isn’t only for my own generation’s use, but for my children’s, grandchildren’s, great-grandchildren’s, etc. generation’s use for hundreds and even thousands of years to come.

That would be nice.  That is something I can get behind.  That is something that I can get up in the morning for, regardless of the stress involved in the position.  When I know that I’m part of something larger than my own personal desires, I feel that I’m doing something that extends beyond my own personal limitations.  I am participating in something greater than myself.  I am participating in the will of God.  And it’s this feeling that I secretly long for, it’s this feeling in which more perfect happiness lies.  For this company, I would work tirelessly for it.  I would do whatever my employer would want, because I trust that they know what is best for the company.  I don’t want to retire at 65; I want to work for this company until I’m physically or mentally unable to do so anymore.  That is the value of this company; it has a great financial value, sure.  But it’s social value to the common good is priceless, and I want to keep it that way.

So what is the value of morality to a company?  Employee retention, increased productivity, efficiency, employee happiness, trust and much more.  But what is the value of a business’ morality to society?  Peace, environmental stewardship, stability, charity, well-educated children, many possessing a joy of family life, free distribution of a more just income, moral and intellectual development, etc.  But what is more, a moral company influences and increases an entire society’s happiness.

The moral company exalts every community it touches into a higher dignity.  Each person of that community begins to see him or her self as an individual with limitations, but as they grow in the virtue of humility, they begin to see themselves as a selfless part of something much greater than their own limitations.  In that, each individual will find happiness.  And when many individual’s discover this sense of happiness, so too will an entire society realize that they are living in a time of unparalleled peace.

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Brideshead Revisited

If you haven’t read or watched this mini-series “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh, you absolutely must. (Don’t watch the Brideshead Revisited movie from 2008.  It’s absolutely dreadful.)   The book’s characters are so mysteriously complex and deep, I can barely wrap my mind around them.   The entire mini-series is on youtube, and it will be well worth your while some winter to watch it in its entirety.

 

Here is a rather humorous clip with the main character, Charles Ryder, and the pious Cordelia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Know I’m Anti-Catholic Because…

So you just completed a rousing discussion with your Catholic friend.  You feel pretty satisfied that what you have proved Catholicism to be rubbish.  God will accept you for who you are, and all this stuff about Catholicism, with confessing priests, praying Saints, a woman who is Queen of the universe and pedophiles is “fucking bullshit”, as you so vehemently said in one of your finer moments.  Your friend sat back and took your all out assaults on his Faith.  Sure he tried to refute some of your indictments, but he ultimately bowed beneath your strongly worded points.  You won!  Perhaps, though, you should really be wondering:  Do I hate the Catholic Church?  Am I an anti-Catholic?

Looking back, I am pretty embarrassed at myself for that unbridled display of emotion toward my good friend.  After all, it’s not as though I was raised to hate the Catholic Church…right?  I mean, that is part of my creed, I accept all people for what they are, and God does too.  Catholics are just so…wrong.  At least, that is what I used to think.  And now that I am Catholic, I have found it difficult to fight myself from believing “Anti-Catholicism: the last acceptable prejudice.”  The anti-Catholic sentiment is so strong in some circles that it’s almost useless to attempt to inform people in those circles about the truth.  I used to be one of these people, are you?  Here is a short list on how you would know if you are anti-Catholic.

I frequently argue that the Church is not good because priests are pedophiles.  While some priests are pedophiles, the number is staggeringly small compared to the rest of the male population.  Compared with male ministers from other denominations, the rate of sexual abuse among Catholic clergymen is the same.  Finally, public school teachers sexually abuse minors at a far greater rate than Catholic clergymen.  (All this can be found via the John Jay Report, or maybe just wikipedia it?  Yes, it’s that simple)   The fact that this happens doesn’t make public schools a terrible institution, so too do bad priests not make the Catholic Church a terrible institution.

To put it frankly, if I frequently use the sexual abuse of children by priests as an atrocity, I am right.  If I cite those numbers in an effort to prove celibacy is wrong, I am ignorant.  If I claim that because of the sex abuse numbers the Catholic Church is wrong, evil, a sham, then I am anti-Catholic.

Famously anti-Catholic quotes I have heard on this subject in the last week:

“I think it’s stupid you confess your sins to a priest who may or may have not touched a little boy’s penis.”

Out of nowhere: “Yeah it’s a pretty nice car.  If a priest drove it, it would be a little boy magnet.”

“They told me after my divorce I couldn’t receive the Sacraments, but the real reason I left was because I just think it’s disgusting what they did to the little boys.”

See:  NYT columnist Maureen Dowd.

I am completely ignorant of the reasons why the Catholic Church believes the things they believe, yet I find that their worshiping of Saints, Mary and icons, along with many other of their “weird” practices (celibacy) to be repugnant and wrong.  

No Catholic “worships” icons, Saints or Mary (well…hyperdulia, but let’s shelve that for now).  Icons, statues, paintings and other depictions are merely beautiful pieces of art that remind us of Christ’s life, the life of the Saints, or the life of Mary.  They aid in the person’s contemplation of the Divine.

Catholics pray to Saints in order to ask them to pray for us.  It’s the same as asking your sister to pray for you during a difficult time, except the Saints are in Heaven and hence can pray more effectively than somebody who is on Earth.

But all this understanding isn’t really the point.  The point is that why or how is it acceptable in modern society to hate something you know you don’t understand?  If we did this with Muslims, homosexuals and Chinese people we would rightly be labelled bigots and hate mongers, but when it’s against Catholics it’s ok!  This is anti-Catholicism.

Groups famous for this line of anti-Catholic thought:

EVERY SINGLE “Non-denominational” aka Baptist person I have talked to about religion, LCMS and WELS Lutherans – especially their ministers, Muslims and of course most other nominal protestants.

Famous Quotes:

First line of the sermon at a Lutheran wedding I stood up in, “Many hundred years ago some people thought it’d be a good idea to get rid of this whole marriage thing, with cloistered nuns and monks and celibacy.”

“You’re Catholic!  So you’re a saint worshiper!”

“Oh you’re studying Catholic theology?  I think the Catholic Church is a cult, but I’ll be nice to you.”  (Thanks for being so nice!  And we are a cult, but not  the type of cult you’re thinking of.)y,

“The office of the Pope is the office of the anti-Christ.”  Whoa boy, Lutherans!

I think the Catholic Church caused all the evil wars of the world, and the inquisition was one of the worst periods of time in the history of civilization.  

Sigh.  Yes I thought this, and then I read a book.  And as it turns out, the inquisition really wasn’t that bloody given the length of time it went on in Spain.  On average, approximately 10-12 people per year were executed by the inquisitors.  All will agree that the inquisition was bad, but 10-12 people per year isn’t exactly a grim reaper’s pace.  To put it into perspective, the USA has had 1264 executions since 1976.  Sure the people executed in the US can be presumed guilty of brutal crimes, but during the Spanish inquisition civilian prisoners oftentimes claimed they were heretics to be transferred into the Church prison because of better conditions there.  So it can be presumed those “penanced” or executed in the prisons of the inquisition weren’t just your run of the mill heretics.

And as for that thought that the crusades were really bad basically the fault of the Catholic Church.  Um…not quite.  I don’t want to get into the entire history of how soldiers were directed, but basically the Pope was appealed to by the Byzantine Emperor as he was facing the fact that he would be overrun by Eastern armies.  The Western military leaders were unmotivated to help the emperor, for any land or treasure seized by them during battle would have to be returned to him, so why risk their lives and the lives of their troops for no reason?  Yes, it was the right thing to do, but the greedy counts and princes remained unmotivated, that is until the Pope took up the cause and ordered those greedy warlords to come to the emperor’s aid.  They did, and it was called the Crusade.  The Westerners were Christians, the Easterners were Muslims, but that was only one aspect of a skirmish that had many causes.

Secular wars and their estimated death toll:

WWII 72 million  (The Jews being killed were ethnic Jews, not necessarily religious Jews.  It was based on eugenics, not religion.  Hitler wasn’t Catholic.  Stalin wasn’t either.)

WWI 15 million

American Civil War 646,000

Russian Revolution:  9 million

And the beat goes on…

Sure there were religious wars, like the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, but even though religion played a more influential role in those wars, much of the motivation behind these wars still was land, money and power.

I am for outlawing Catholicism.

Thank God I never thought this, and this isn’t a popular position at all, but I’m sure somebody, somewhere has uttered this phrase.  And why not?  The Catholic Church is pro-life (read: completely against abortion) and pro-traditional marriage (read:   against gay marriage).  Those two ideas are completely counter-cultural.  To think that the biological complementarity between a man and a woman which produces life should be of essence to a marriage can be, well, just plainly anti-American, Canadian, Mexican, or anti-whatever  country you’re in.  The same goes for a woman’s “right to choice”, even what that choice results in the death of an otherwise healthy, innocent nascent human being.  Is the cry for outlawing Catholicism that far off?  In many countries the answer is thankfully ‘yes’, but then in many countries it is ‘no’.  The precepts of Catholicism are being disregarded on many national stages, and the effect is a growing disdain for all things Catholic.  We once were a Church of martyrs,  and a Church  of martyrs we yet may become again.

I was part of the problem.  My ignorance was kindling for the ignorant fire which awaited  inside many other uninformed people just like me.  I studied for years before converting, asked the questions, found the answers, disagree with a lot of it, but kept on searching.  I finally concluded what many Catholics have concluded regarding the fundamentals (i.e. dogmas) of the Faith.  “I think they’re right.   I think it’s true.  I believe.  I assent.   I have faith.”

Are you part of the problem?  Are you doing your homework into faith?  Or are you simply vilifying Catholics over what you think  you know about them, their history, and the history of the world?  Are you using straw man arguments?  Ad  Hominem attacks?  Is your logic sound?  Your intention just and charitable?  Or are you simply closed off to any explanation regarding Catholicism and instead making fun of it for your own peace of mind?

“Ask and it will given, seek and you shall find, knock and  the door will be opened for you.”

 

Don’t be Joy Behar.

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