Archives for 2015

Friday penance

Friday Penance

The modern Catholic Church in America has changed from customs and teaching of 50 years ago, often to its detriment. Not doctrine, of course, but in some important discipline, practices and traditions. This is not without harm to the Body of Christ. Friday penance is one such example.

What is penance?

Penance is an expression of repentance. It is a means to repair the temporal effects of sin, for us and in behalf of others, reducing the cleansing necessary in purgatory. For non-Catholics who may be reading this, it has nothing to do with forgiveness. Completely forgiven sins leave a trail of damage in their wake and in justice must be addressed (sooner or later).

Friday is set aside as a special day in remembrance of the suffering and death of our Lord. Practicing Friday penance reminds us of this, pleases God, brings us closer to Him and at least partially atones for the effects of sin. It is an act of humility, surrendering what we prefer (not to perform penance) to what God prefers. It is seeking and yielding to His will.

Penance can take several forms such as abstinence from things we like, fasting, prayers, or performing acts of charity. Friday penance has traditionally been abstinence from meat. If you already abstained from meat for some other reason (vegetarian, health, etc.) then some other form would be indicated.

Are we required to abstain from meat on Friday?

Friday penance is the universal norm of the Church.

That said, it saddens me to acknowledge that we Americans do not have to abstain from meat or perform any other act of penance on Friday. Many people therefore do not, give it no thought at all, or assume it was an outdated / unnecessary practice. That is a mistake.

How we got to this sad state of affairs is complicated. Canon law states:

Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless (nisi) they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1251

That seems clear enough in intent, requiring abstinence from meat unless the conference of bishops prescribe something else — which they presumably would do for good cause. The USCCB did this, but with complex wording, approved by Rome, which has the unfortunate effect of making Friday penance optional. For Americans, it is therefore not technically required and not a sin to ignore it. If you are interested in the legalities of this, Jimmy Akin has a good explanation here and here.

Officially, the USCCB strongly urges us to abstain from meat or perform some other act of penance on Friday. This is for our own good and the good of Holy Mother Church. Unofficially, this is never spoken of. While converting, I never heard a peep about this. Subsequently, I never heard a peep about this in homilies, Diocesan newspapers, or any other official channel. Very few people seem to know of the USCCB’s strong admonition to observe Friday penance. The vast majority of folks seem to believe it was “completely done away with.”

Unfortuante and wrong in my opinion. “Rules” which so many deride, are for the good of the faithful to help the greatest number possible get to heaven. That is the mission of the Church on earth. Making this optional, through what is in effect a legal sleight of hand, is counter-productive.

BTW this is another example of the “spirit” of Vatican II. That is, not in Vatican II at all but done anyway. The 1966 USCCB document says “In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance.” Yet, that is EXACTLY what has happened.

Now what?

Follow the universal norm and observe Friday penance by (for most of us) abstaining from meat. Do it for your own good and the good of the Church. Start now. Set an example for your family, friends and other parishioners. Ask them to join you and tell them why.

Pray that the USCCB learns from this giant mistake. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while president of the USCCB in 2012, wrote: “The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.” While the USCCB has yet to do this, the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, who were in the same situation as us, has done so. Friday penance is reinstituted there.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #160)

7 Quick Takes Friday

This week: The latest issue of New Evangelists Monthly awaits your perusal. Bishop Robert Finn is strongly supported in his defense against liberal media attacks by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Death with dignity, not suicide. Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Dennis Prager explains the power of the 10 Commandments. Amazing advances in prosthetics, for man and beast.

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New Evangelists Monthly

Issue #25, January 2015, of New Evangelists Monthly was completed last Saturday and is ready for your enjoyment! Scores of faithful Catholic bloggers have contributed their very best pieces from December. Contributing authors this month include: Chris Capolino, Melanie Jean Juneau, Matthew Plese, David Wong, Adam Crawford, Rick Becker, Tracy Smith, Ellen Gable Hrkach, Christian LeBlanc, Jamie Jo, Sarah Thèrése, Debbie Gaudino, Fr. John Corrigan, Cindy Hurla, John Schroeder, Jim Curley, Tony Agnesi, Nancy Ward, Joseph Shaw, Ebeth Weidner, Emily Davis, Ashley Woleben, Birgit Jones, Anabelle Hazard, David Torkington, Virginia Lieto, Mary Beth Brummond, Ruth Anne Holloway, Fr. Ben Hadrich, Anita Moore, Dn. Scott Dodge, Tom Perna, Blythe Kaufman, Nancy Shuman, Rich Maffeo, Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, Michael Brumley, Rose O’Donnell, Larry T, Roxane Salonen, Fr. Chori Jonathin Seraiah, Karee Santos, Jen Steed, Sr. Maresa Lilley, Kathleen S, Ellen Kolb, Michael Seagriff, Bartimaeus Timeo, Anthony Layne, Paul Roy, Leslie Klinger, Kathryn Cooper, Brian Gill, Denise Hunnell, Allison Salerno, Carolyn Smith, De Maria, Rita Buettner, Shannon Vandaveer, Brantly Millegan, Susan Fox, Lawrence Fox, Barbara Hosbach, Sharon Babineau, Barbara Szyszkiewicz, Fr. Adrian Danker, Lisa Ponchak, Fr. Tucker Cordani, Nanette Carey, Barbara Schoeneberger, Melody Marie, Michael Depietro, Jeff Walker, Ishmael Alighieri, Philip Kosloski, Michael Brandon, Sallie Thayer, Kim Padan, Msgr. Charles Pope, Christina Sawchuk, Vinny Carr, Celeste Ciarallo, Laura Pearl, Margaret Felice, Drusilla, Fr. Gerald Souza, Paul Smith, Niki Chris, Timothy McCormick, John Donaghy, Bethanie Ryan, Reese Cumming, Zoe Jumonville, Fr. Errol Fernandes, Allison DeWolf, Justin Soutar, Heidi Knofczynski, Kimberly Lynch and James Milliken.

This monthly “meta-magazine” showcases faithful Catholicism from theology to family life and “everything in between.” Enjoy it now at

Read Now

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Missouri bishop Robert Finn is an excellent shepherd, teaching truth in an area with many liberals and secularists. They don’t like him and their media works incessantly to undermine him at every opportunity.

Nuns Defend Their Bishop

Thank God for the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles who have spoken out strongly in support of this holy man. LifeSiteNews covers the story very well. BTW, you may know of the nuns from their very popular CDs:

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When I hear the phrase “death with dignity” I think of how congress names bills. Often the bills do the opposite of what their titles suggest. This is the same. True death with dignity is remaining in God’s hands and is the opposite of suicide. Christopher Stefanick produced this new video:

— 4 — has a new video on devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. If you somehow are not familiar with the story, it is quite fantastic. The full story is told many places, including here. The video is a somewhat abbreviated version.

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Dennis Prager explains the Ten Commandments, for those who have not figured it out:

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We are making a lot of progress in prosthetics, in the range of motion, the compact size and control. This project at John Hopkins is one of several which will control limbs by thought. Yes, reading the person’s mind sufficiently to interpret their intent.

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Prosthetics are for species other than human too. Derby was born with deformed front legs but has been helped by 3D printed prosthetics. Such technology will work its way up “the food chain” and help people too.

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was begun by Jennifer Fulwiler and is now continued by Kelly Mantoan. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Kelly for hosting this project!

Elsewhere: teaching the faith


Being Catholic: to know, love and serve the Lord. I like to add “in that order.” You can not love what you do not know, you will not truly serve what you do not love. If you are loving and serving only what you think (or hope or prefer) the Lord to be, then chances are you are missing the mark…   possibly by a wide margin (our separated liberal Protestant brethren come to mind).

We are called to serve in many ways, but at least in witness to the Lord (evangelization) as we are able. The Church, the bride of Christ in her earthly mission, suffers with poor catechesis. Those who leave typically do so without actually knowing what they have left. Others remain luke-warm. Many are not “ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

Part of the New Evangelization is utilizing all the modern tools that are available to communicate the Good News in its fullest. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen did this on television. Mother Angelica founded EWTN. Today countless folks work for the Kingdom in “new media” in all its diverse forms. This is a wonderful development!

One interesting Internet meme, the “sketching video,” can communicate quite a bit of information in an interesting and engaging manner. A recent example of this comes from the Sophia Institute for Teachers:


Houston, we have a problem. “God became man and took the punishment we deserve.” Nope.

This video is really good and I would recommend it to folks, but it has two problems (at least that I noticed). The most important one is presenting the Atonement as penal substitution. That is (essentially) Jesus bearing the wrath of God for our sins. Some Protestant denominations have this view (e.g. Calvinists) but it is not what we believe and is highly problematic.

One of my favorite apologists and expert on Calvin is Dr. David Anders (a convert). He describes Christ’s sacrifice this way:

Play Penal Substitution vs. Sacrifice

Bryan Cross at Called to Communion has a related piece Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement which includes this succinct graphic:

Reformed Catholic

Two other excellent pieces on this topic are Does the Catholic view of Christ’s Atonement permit the Reformed view of “Penal Substitution”? and Why Do So Many Catholics Believe in Penal Substitution?.

The video’s second (but lesser) problem is describing the grace we receive from the Eucharist. It is presented as actual grace (calling it just “grace”) whereas it is primarily sanctifying grace. (See Catholic Answer’s Grace: What It Is and What It Does for a description. Other good descriptions are here and here.)

There is much good in the video, so (these problems not withstanding) I still like and recommend it…

The Potter and the Vase

The Potter And The Vase

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“As clay in the hand of the potter – for all his ways are as he pleases – so men are in the hand of him who made them, to give them as he decides.” (Sirach 33:13)

Can a vase crafted by a accomplished potter say to his maker, “Why did you shape me such? I would have preferred a longer neck. I don’t like the colors you used either. I would have chosen greens and shades of yellow rather than the blues you selected. Perhaps you should remake me.” A guitar can’t tell the guitarist, “I really think the G-chord would have been better there. Oh, by the way, your fret work is really pretty poor.” Can the sculpture criticize the artist? “You should have made my hands bigger, you know. I think I should have been taller as well.”

Sounds pretty silly, right? But isn’t that what we humans do on virtually a daily basis? We had no hand in our making, yet we feel free to complain to our maker that we don’t like what He has made. Our legs are too short, our waist too big. I wish I had auburn hair rather than this dishwater blond. I wish I still had hair. What was God thinking? How dare He not ask us how we wished to be made? Shouldn’t we have had say in how were made? After all, we’re the ones who have to live with what He gave us.

Therein lies the clue most people miss; we are to live with what God gave us Shouldn’t we have had say in how were made? Apparently not. Listen to the Psalmist: “For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalms 138:13). God formed us with a purpose, not by accident.

Our longing to change ourselves physically has resulted in the development of several industries to respond to our desires. If you nose is too big for your liking, they’ll make it smaller. Need fuller lips, just inject some collagen. If we don’t like how we look as we age, we can fix that too. Face lifts, tummy tucks, Botox to eliminate wrinkles all play into our self-absorbed obsession with our appearance. Virtually every part of your body can be altered in today’s world.

I suspect that very few people would consider Mother Teresa to be beautiful in a physical sense, but her sole and her spirit were beautiful beyond compare. The love she shared with the poorest of the poor, those suffering horrible disease and affliction was the beauty that God had given her. She shared that beauty wherever she went. Each of us has the opportunity to share God’s love with others, just as Mother Teresa did. Unfortunately we tend to look at the poorest of the poor as people we avoid rather than welcoming them and caring for them in Christian love. We forget that they are the children of God as well. Without benefit of two thousand years of Christian history and teaching, how would we have looked upon Jesus carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem? Would we have seen a savior, or an outcast on His way to death. We must look for Jesus in every face we see, for we are all wonderfully made by God.

The truth is we sometimes forget is that God isn’t interested in a beauty contest. He isn’t looking for physical beauty. Rather, He is interested in spiritual beauty. We fail to seek our purpose in God’s plan, focusing instead on what seems to be important to us and the world. We forget that the world will pass away, but God’s plan for us is eternal.

We must also keep in mind that God does not make mistakes. That can be a very difficult concept to accept and live with. Particularly if we, or someone we love, suffers from a painful or even life-threatening disease. How can someone who has watched their child waste away with cancer still accept that God’s plan is perfect. We can’t know the reason for such an occurrence and it can be extremely hard to simply accept as part of the bigger plan of God. We want to know why. We can see no reason for such suffering. How could such a thing be of God? How many times have you heard someone say, “How could a loving God let this happen?”. We don’t have an answer for that question. We know that God is a loving God but we can’t know why such a thing happened. To simply say that it is God’s plan does little to alleviate the pain and suffering of someone who has lost a loved one or someone who suffering themselves. I am confident that at some point we will understand God’s purpose, but not in this world.

We have no reason to doubt that we are perfectly made and that each occurrence in our life is a part of God’s perfect plan. God’s creation is always perfect, whether it be us, the weather, the earth, the galaxy or the entire universe. But it is perfect to His plan, not ours. The problem begins when we try to add or subtract to God’s plan. We don’t know the entirety of his plan, so who are we to believe we should meddle in it? As God told Job when he questioned God’s plan, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know!” (Job 37:2-5). Job didn’t know and neither do we.

In fact, we insult God if we deny that He made us perfectly. Not, perhaps, to our idea of perfect, but to His. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29). Jesus wanted His disciples, and us, to know of their worth to the Father. The knowledge or our worth to God should relieve our concern over our well-being. After all, God considered us worth the death of his son to provide a path for us to share eternity in His presence.

We can’t place the responsibility for our faults and sins on the way God made us. We can’t use “that’s just the way God made me” as an excuse for sinfulness. God did not make us to commit adultery, fornication, murder, theft, envy or any other sin. We choose what actions we take. It’s called free will. We have the freedom to accept or reject God’s plan. When someone tells you they aren’t responsible for their failings, it’s just the way they were made, they are choosing to reject God. Not only are they rejecting God, they are attempting to hold Him accountable for the evil that they do. God is never the agent of evil. All evil is the result of turning from Him in one way or another.

If we want to question God about how He made us, shouldn’t we owe it to Him to find out the purpose for which for which He made us? We want to say that we are a self-made person. Our place in life is the result of our efforts. We’ve been taught from childhood that independence and self-reliance is a good trait. However, we are all God-made. God designed us as He desired and we are to use the gifts He gave us to the best of our ability. He knows His plans for us and it is our responsibility to make the effort to understand His plan for us. In order for this to happen we must have a relationship with God based on absolute trust. Trust that God wants only what is best for us and will provide it if we allow Him.

He is the potter, we are the vase. We need to accept the fact that some vases are larger and more ornate that others. Perhaps we are a simple vase in order to allow us to ignore ourselves and serve others, as Mother Teresa did. If we are a larger, beautifully accented vase, perhaps our beauty is intended to bring joy to others in some way. It certainly isn’t for us to take pride in and keep to ourselves, for our benefit only. Whether small or large, simple or ornate, we are made by God with a specific purpose in mind. It is our duty to discover that purpose and fulfill it as God desires. This is the path to true happiness.

“I praise you, for I am wondrously made. Wonderful are your works!” (Psalms 139:14)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”.

Available now for only $1.99 on Amazon,


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and other fine publishers.

New Evangelists Monthly – January 2015, Issue #25

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