Category Archives: sacraments

The Oak Tree

There’s a great temptation to think that the goal of any and all true renewal in the Church should be to return to the exact life and practice of the early Church.   Even movements within the Catholic Church have fallen into this particular trap, which goes by the names of “Restorationism” and “Christian Primitivism.”

I invite you to spend 2 minutes listening to Catholic evangelist Steve Ray share a startling insight he had about this as he began to look seriously at the Catholic Church while he was still a Baptist. This is an excerpt of a talk that Steve gave at the Agana Cathedral Basilica in Guam in 2006.


“And for a scary moment I took my Baptist glasses off and stared into the horizon and guess what I saw?

This beautiful oak tree standing in the field. This beautiful oak tree, the Catholic Church, which was standing there and I had never seen it before. It had been covered with fog, the fog of lies, the fog of misrepresentation and caricatures.

And I looked out and I saw that beautiful tree, at one time it had only been an acorn. And that acorn had been planted in the ground by Jesus. He said that when the seed is planted it will die, but unless it dies, it cannot bear fruits. And Jesus was buried in the ground, he said like wheat. And when the seed died, then came forth fruit.

It’s like the oak tree growing, and two thousand years later this oak tree is beautiful. And it’s huge. And it covers the whole world and it’s big enough for all the birds of the world to build their nests in.

But I said that the oak tree doesn’t look like the acorn. It doesn’t look what the apostles started. That was just a little tree. But God never intended the acorn and the little tree to stay a little tree! You don’t plant a tree to only grow this tall!

When you plant an acorn you want it to grow into a beautiful tree, and that what the Church did and of course it’s going to look different today then it did in the first century. I would expect it would. When I look at my baby pictures, I look very different now than I did when I was a baby. I have about the same amount of hair! <<laughter>> But other things look different.

So I saw for the first time this beautiful oak tree, and my wife and I started to look at it and ask questions about it.”

Are married priests on the way?



By: Sandro Magister

ROME, September 21, 2016 – Pope Francis received in audience a few days ago the Brazilian cardinal Cláudio Hummes, accompanied by the archbishop of Natal, Jaime Vieira Rocha.

Hummes, 82, former archbishop of São Paulo and prefect of the Vatican congregation for the clergy, is today the president both of the commission for the Amazon of the episcopal conference of Brazil and of the Pan-Amazonian Network that joins together 25 cardinals and bishops of the surrounding countryside, in addition to indigenous representatives of different local ethnicities.

And in this capacity he [Hummes] supports, among others, the proposal to make up for the scarcity of celibate priests in immense areas like the Amazon by also conferring sacred ordination upon “viri probati,” meaning married men of proven virtue.

The news of the audience therefore gave the idea that Pope Francis had discussed this very question with Hummes, and in particular an “ad hoc” synod of the 38 dioceses of the Amazon, which is effectively in an advanced phase of preparation.

Not only that. There is renewed vigor behind the rumor that Jorge Mario Bergoglio wants to assign to the next worldwide synod of bishops, scheduled for 2018, precisely the question of ordained ministers, bishops, priests, deacons, including the ordination of married men.  Read more.

Book Review: “A Map of Life”

A Map of Life“, by Frank Sheed, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1994.  Originally published by Sheed & Ward, London, 1933.  147 pages.

Francis Joseph "Frank" Sheed, 1897-1982.
Francis Joseph “Frank” Sheed, 1897-1982.

I first heard of Frank Sheed, a 20th lay Catholic apologist while I was in college when a friend recommended his book, “Theology and Sanity” to me.  After moving to Guam I learned of Sheed’s involvement in the Catholic Evidence Guild in the United Kingdom and of his other works, including “A Map of Life“, which I am reviewing here.

A Map of Life“, a short work of only 147 pages, is subtitled, “A simple study of the Catholic faith,” and that it is.  And a map too, a map that lays out the principle features of Revelation, with the ultimate destination highlighted.

In fact, a map is useless unless it clearly shows how to get to the destination, and it is there that Sheed starts, with heaven.  Not the heaven of pearly gates, harps, and clouds, but the heaven as the great Doctors of the Church describe it, as the state of direct knowledge of God and of direct love of God, the source of infinite knowledge, love, and beauty.  This decripition doesn’t do justice to Sheed’s prose, which soars far above mine.

“There is a road leading man to that ineffable intimacy with God that we call heaven.  The condition of walking the road aright is the Supernatural Life.  It will seen that every single thing that happens to man has its bearing on this Supernatural Life and is a good thing or a bad thing depending on whether it helps or hinders it.  Every single doctrine of the Catholic Church is bound up with this, and every single practice of the Catholic Church is concerned with this and with nothing else, and apart from this, has no meaning.” page 35.

The book has only 14 chapters, with an average length of 10 or so very readable pages.  After discussing life’s purpose and heaven, Sheed goes on to Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation, the Church, the Trinity,  Sin, Suffering, Supernatural Life, Hell, Purgatory, and finally, Heaven again.

Sheed is very “Thomistic” in his perspective, that is, he follows the reasoning of St. Thomas Aquinas.  One thread that runs throughout the book is the Thomistic concept of the two faculties of spirit, any spirit:  intellect and will.  The intellect’s chief action is to know, and it’s object is truth, while the will’s chief action is to love, and it’s object is goodness.  And the supreme truth and goodness, is God, of course.  The relation of God’s infinite intellect and will to the Holy Trinity is discussed in chapter 8, in a way that was never presented to me before in my fifty years as a Catholic.  The effect of the “theological virtues” of faith, hope, and charity on our fallen intellects and wills is discussed in an enlightening way in chapter 12.  I doubt that you’ve ever heard those virtues presented that way ever before.  I certainly have not.

In summary, “A Map of Life” is a marvelous introduction to the Catholic faith for an adult reader thinking about entering the Church, or even for adults like me, who never quite got the big picture by attending CCD as a youth.