March 3, 2015

Many Catholics are aware that Jesus “opened the gates of heaven” and allowed the righteous dead to go there.

The Catechism even says it:

CCC 637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven's gates for the just who had gone before him.

This leads to a question that comes up periodically: What about figures like Enoch and Elijah, who seem to have been assumed into heaven prior to the time of Christ?

The obvious answer, I’ve always held, is that they were exceptions. As a general rule, heaven was not open to those who lived before the time of Christ, but God is omnipotent, and he can make exceptions if he chooses.

Some of the people I’ve...

March 2, 2015

Some years ago, I watched an interview with the late actor Eli Wallach. In a documentary on the legendary Marilyn Monroe, Wallach recounted how he and Monroe had been fellow students in an acting class. One evening after class, they decided to get a bite to eat at a nearby diner. After a friendly supper together, the two stepped outside and were about to part ways when Monroe glanced up and then stood staring with a great deal of sadness on her face. Wallach looked to see what had caught Monroe's attention. Overhead was a billboard of Marilyn Monroe in her iconic white dress, skirt flying about her waist...

February 27, 2015

Then Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, published in 1988, warns against depicting heaven as an extension of this life prettied up with depictions of “lions laying down with lambs,” and eternal picnics. Not only do we have the real problem with the fact that most of the world lives in abject misery, materially speaking—we forget that living in our modern United States of American where “the poor” often means not being able to afford all 2,000 cable channels—but we also must remember that lions, lambs, and picnics get boring after a few million years. These depictions just don’t cut it for the modern, thinking man.

On the other hand, I Cor. 2:9 is overused as well. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,” with regard to...

February 23, 2015

The terrifying images have become ubiquitous in recent months. Men in orange jumpsuits kneeling before a camera, with a specter draped in black at their shoulder. The black-costumed specter waving a knife and issuing threats, the threats offered in English with a British accent. Then, unimaginably, using that knife to deliver death.

At first, just one man at a time. Then two. Then the violence shifted. Another orange-suited man, this one soaked with gasoline and waiting in a cage for the inevitable fire. Then the violence escalated. Nearly two dozen men in orange marched along a beach, each flanked by their own shadowy executioner.

This brutal slaying of hostages—journalists, humanitarian aid workers, a prisoner of war, Coptic Christians kidnapped in a foreign country in...

February 20, 2015

In a previous blog post, I talked about the error of both Fr. Robert Baron and Hans Urs von Balthasar in positing the real possibility that Hell could be empty for all eternity. This post led to people asking more questions about the nature of Hell itself. What is it? Is it really "eternal?" and more.

Below find my answers to some of those questions.

By definition, according to CCC 1033, hell is “[the] state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.” Some people cannot fathom how Hell could be a reality if God is truly an “all-loving” and “merciful God.” Yet, Hell could be said to be both the definitive expression of God’s justice and of...

February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday makes me think twice about something: the common practice among Catholics of each person’s selecting his own private sacrifice to observe during this holy season. Mom gives up TV while her teenage son gives up xBox. Little sister gives up chocolate, and Dad gives up red wine. You can see one problem already: Dad is going to be tempted to spiritual pride since his is the only real sacrifice! (That's a joke, chocolate lovers.)

As my pastor pointed out this morning, none of our sacrifices are worth the effort if the intention that drives them is not the correct one. Father Edward Leen, very likely my favorite spiritual writer (I strongly recommend his In the Likeness of Christ), points out that our service to...

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