BOBF: 40 days of what?!?!

As we continue through the Lenten season, we look back today at On the Road's musings on Lent from February 2010. As he asks, how committed are you to the Lenten fast? Two weeks into Lent, how are we getting on?

I have been reflecting on the upcoming Lenten season, my 2nd as a Catholic. I love the journey the Church takes us on leading up to Easter. Culminating in the Easter mass, it is a real time to draw closer to Christ and remember His journey and suffering.

Growing up, when the liturgical season bared little relevance to the nature of the church service, Lent was not much different to every other part of the year, except the pastor was adamant on dressing up the church in purple. Every 2nd or 3rd Lent I would be forced to give up something trivial by my parents, and of course I made out like it was the biggest deal in the world.

This year, I hope to really give myself in the Lenten fast. It is something I have never taken very seriously, but I have realised that it is a great opportunity to unite myself more fully to Christ and His suffering. I have learned recently that we are not called just to 'give something up' and then yearn for Easter so we can have it back. We are called to a true fast, one which daily we are impacted in such a way that we remember who made the ultimate sacrifice for us and that we are to remain masters of our own desires. Fasting does not merely mean giving something up either – but adding virtue everyday. So, in the same manner, we have the opportunity to 'add' something to our day – such as going to weekday mass or volunteering or giving extra for a certain cause.

So how committed are you to the Lenten fast? What are the ways in which you draw closer to Christ during this time of year? While I have chosen what I will be abstaining from (God help me on this one), I would be keen to hear how others give of themselves during this season.

God Bless.

BOBF: What goes on upstairs?

In our continuing Being Frank retrospective, The Dumb Ox asks "What goes on upstairs?" in this post from 2010. Spoiler alert: He's not talking about the choir loft…

I was in Mass a while back, and at one point I found myself looking around the church at everyone else present for Mass (yes, I know, I probably should have been paying more attention to Christ, and less to my fellow congregants!).

It was quite obvious, based on what they were doing, that some of the people at that Mass had no real investment in what was going on, in fact some of them seemed downright bored by it all.

But here’s the interesting thing, many of these people attend Mass at my parish every week, and they show exactly the same sort of disinterest each time.

Please understand that I am not being judgmental or critical at all here, I am simply trying to understand why someone would keep coming back to Mass each week if it doesn’t actually mean anything to them at a deeper spiritual level.

This phenomenon really intrigues me.

I often find myself asking whether it’s because of some sort of loyalty to a family member (did they once promise their mother on her deathbed that they’d attend Mass every week?)

Maybe it’s because they enjoy the social interaction after Mass?

Maybe it’s because they think that it brings them some sort of prestige in certain circles, or will earn them a better chance at getting their kids into a Catholic school.

Maybe they feel an obligation to go each week?

Maybe they view it as some sort of cultural thing that their family has always done on a Sunday, so they do it too?

Maybe they enjoy organ music and singing hymns?

Maybe they carry guilt and other burdens, and they see this as some sort of atonement?

Like I said, I find this a really intriguing phenomenon.

BOBF: Death penalty = travesty

As leaders in Australia and around the world make last-ditch pleas to stop Indonesia's plans to execute two men convicted of attempted to smuggle drugs from Indonesia to Australia, we revisit The Captain's post from November 2007.

Cor blimey. Got breathlessly excited last week when I saw John Grisham had written another book and judging by the cover (as I do so often…) it looked like he'd finally returned to doing what he does best; gritty courtroom dramas (after a smewhat disturbing foray into touchy feely rubbish). So, I skimmed the back cover and bought the book (for four quid – gotta love the UK sometimes!).

Only then did I realise that it's a non-frickin-fiction. About a man condemned to death row in Oklahoma 1987 for a murder he didn't commit. It's a hell of a read so far, and the number of people on death row with him who are innocent is just crazy.

I don't know too much about this issue -with the exception of the occasional Hollywood portrayal of the subject, I haven't seen or read much about it – but, like most people I guess, the more I see the more disturbed I am at the system.

Now, I'm a passionate anti-death-penalty person. In any circumstances. I know we've covered this topic before on the blog, but my happening-upon Grisham's latest book (which I highly recommend) has brought it to the forefront of my mind lately so I wanted to raise it again.

It seems criminally ridiculous – and sinful – that this carry-on still occurs. What's wrong with us as humans that we sanction this? Amnesty International did some work on this recently in New Zealand, getting Helen Clark to add New Zealand's voice to the call for a ban on the death penalty worldwide. I just pray that it's heard.

BOBF: You face Mecca, while I pray the Benedictus…

Tuppence was one of the most itinerant authors in Being Frank's history, writing from as far afield as Africa. In this "Best of" post from early 2009, she reflects on her new home in a Muslim country. 

My voyage on this gargantuously large continent that is Africa has shifted from the East now to the West as I find myself in the predominantly Muslim-populated Senegal.

I can tell you that if you look out my bedroom window then turn 90 degrees to your left, you are facing Mecca. How do I know? My hosts come and plant their prayer mats in that direction right outside my window a number of times each day.

There's no need for an alarm clock (which is lucky, since you can't buy one in Nairobi airport…you can buy plasma screens, irons and car stereos though!)…because you're bound to get woken by the 5am call to prayer that blares throughout the neighbourhood. And in case that doesn't work, there's the 6.30am call to prayer also.

I have to admit, it's very handy. Their call to prayer is my call to prayer. I pull out my Liturgy of the Hours Prayer book and find some rest as I pray the Psalms and other scripture. Sometimese it can be a real challenge to prayer, travelling, being disorientated etc, that I find a lot of comfort in the routine of the Divine Office (aka LotH).

It's a bizarre situation I guess, but in this country there is an incredible tolerance for the Catholics (they don't really have any other sense of there being other denominations of Christian…bad luck for the Proddies!). And there's a respect for and understanding about the fact that you have a faith. In some ways, more so than in a country like New Zealand where faith can seem a bit strange.

Hmm, I think it's time for evening prayer…

BOBF: What a History!

He might be one of the most polarising Popes in recent memory, but that wasn't going to stop Filia Day from giving some blog time to Pope Pius XII. Check out Filia's post from October 2008 on the man hailed as a hero in some quarters and denounced in others.

Often families and individuals go to great lengths to uncover their family roots. I was thinking about it the other day and, as Catholics, we should really be doing the same. Of course, like in any family, sometimes we find villains in our ancestry – in the case of Christianity those who have rejected outright the message of Chraist. As we know from history, and past blogs, Hitler and Stalin feature among the names of those baptised who refusing to follow, in word and deed, the call the sanctity. At the same time, the history of the Church is full of heroes and heroines, those who have responded to grace, would rather die than not follow our Lord will and eventually fallen head over heels in love with Love. Ironically, often these heroics persons are often overlooked, underrated and even criticised. Pius XII is one of our unsung heroes.

I bring this topic up this week because it is fifty years since Pope Pius XII's death in 1958 (one could say it's a family anniversary). Pius XII is often portrayed by the mass media (and in academic scholarship) as cold-hearted and unceasingly on a quest for political power. One of the most strident attacks against Pius XII is that he refused to assist persecuted Jews and persecuted Catholic faithful during the Second World War. Attackers take the position that Pius XII, as a public and powerful leader, should have formally condemned the atrocities against humanity committed by the Nazi regime. However, they refuse to consider the fact that Bishops who had previously openly condemn the regime via letters or from the pulpit were severely punished; Nazi officials responded by deporting more jewish and Catholic civilians to concentration camps as well as increase violence against Jews and Catholic dissenters. Likewise, those who attack Pius XII ignore the fact that Pius XII organised a mass clandestine effort to save as many Jews as possible – hiding thousands in the Vatican (not to mention his holiday home) as well as encouraging the lay faithful to hide those persecuted in Europe at the time.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a recent homily for the occasion of Pope Pius' anniversary adds "How can we forget his radio message of Christmas 1942?" Pope Pius asserted in the address "In a voice stirred by emotion he deplored the situation of "hundreds of thousands of people who through no fault of their own, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, are bound for death or who slowly waste away"

Although he couldn't speak out blatantly against the atrocities, this was a clear reference to the deportation and extermination of the Jews. As a recent study (for the life of me I can't remember the name of the book) showed the lay faithful understood his message clearly and acted to assist those persecuted by the Nazi regime.

At the end of the war and at the time of his death because of his many actions he received many and unanimous expressions of gratitude from the highest authorities of the Jewish world, people like Israel's Foreign Minister Golda Meir who wrote: "During the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and commiserate with their victims." He ended by saying "We mourn a great servant of peace."

Pius XII was truly a great man and a great pope. Let us not forget the Church's unsung heroes.

BOBF: All’s Fair in Love and War?

On our continuing journey down Being Frank's memory lane, and in light of the Government yesterday saying it will send troops to the Middle East to assist in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State — and the NZ Bishops supporting that decision — this post from EyeWitness in October 2006 examines the Catholic understanding on war.

Something that has always vaguely puzzled me is how come war “heroes” are regarded as such even though they killed people in war.  Are you allowed to kill people in war as a special exception to the commandment “thou shall not kill?”  

Customary International Law and the Geneva Conventions certainly say the killing of a combatant by another combatant in an international armed conflict is not murder, and is legal.  It’s an odd concept really that at international law we have all these rules about how we might kill each other and conduct wars against each other.  The use of force is illegal unless in self defence.  Fundamentally, you must always distinguish between civilians and combatants once you're at war.  If you are going to kill civilians (collateral damage) the military advantage or military necessity must outweigh the loss of innocent life.  You can use certain weapons but not others that cause unnecessary or superfluous suffering.  Not that you would notice that countries have agreed to any rules at all if you watch the news! 

So are we justified as Catholics in going to war?  The catechism of the Catholic Church states on legitimate defence that: 

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."65 

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:  

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66 

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.     

 The theory of “Just War” is thought to have been first developed by St Augustine.  He writes of the right of rulers to declare a just war to maintain peace.  St Thomas thought a sovereign has the lawful right of recourse to “the sword” to defend its people against internal strife by punishing those that do evil for the common good, justified by St Paul in verse 4 of Chapter 13 in the letter to the Romans.  Moral theologians have taught that “only an injury so grave that it outweighs the risks and losses of war is a justification for making war”.  The second Vatican Council justified “the right of a nation to defend itself by a discriminate and proportionate use of force as a last resort”.   

Modern age warfare with its massive destruction capabilities has come along since the era of the bible.  It’s quite scary what we can do to each other.  Obviously we should avoid war if at all possible, but could we have stood back and let Hitler kill so many people because we didn’t want to use armed force?  Would the Iraq war have been justified if it had turned out they really did have nuclear weapons and were a threat to world peace and security?  Would you feel justified pulling the trigger of a gun and killing another human being? 

Or is this all a little heavy for a Sunday afternoon!! 

BOBF: The Cafeteria Myth

As we trawl through the archives, we come across these musings from Peter the First, a Being Frank original, from August 2007: The Cafeteria Myth.


As the title implies, I'm inclined to place the notion of "cafeteria Catholics" into the same box as Bigfoot. I have never met, heard or read about anyone who would fit the criteria so often espoused.

The central concept of these elusive beings is that they "pick and choose" which teachings of the Church they adhere to – correct me if I've been mislead there.

I have yet to meet any human being who has any real choice about what they really believe: which makes "picking and choosing" problematic.

We have free will in our conscious response to stimuli and in thought. We are free to ponder particular questions, to choose which shirt to wear. Over a lifetime, we make millions of conscious decisions of this type. We are shaped by our choices, by our long-term response to experiences, and that shapes the way we interpret every new situation we enter. It shapes the way we understand a blog post, the way we ignore a particular word or nuance, and it shapes our attempt to grasp the divine.

Given that, how dare anyone imply that anyone else "picks and chooses" their beliefs? All people meet their faith in one place: life. As soon as you separate faith from life, and try to reduce it to purely academic arguments, you've lost the point. We are immersed in life.

I don't wake up and decide to disagree with the magisterium on "x" today. I live my life, of which faith is one important aspect, and encounter different situations, texts and people whose sum influence leads me to see and understand "x" in a particular light. Because these encounters are, implicitly, modified by my response to them, or participation in them, it's never a simple reduction to x=y.

I'd ask people not to nitpick particular words I've chosen, or take phrases out of context, but to actually consider the thesis of this post in the context of your own experience: there is no such thing as "cafeteria Catholicism".