Thursday, December 13, 2007

It is ROSE, don't call it "pink"! (Gaudete Sunday)

Courtesy of Catholic Exchange:

Br. Hyacinth Marie Cordell, OP

Why “Gaudete?”
December 13, 2007

Violet is the liturgical color of Lent and Advent. Yet, in both holy seasons, over half way through, we discover the bright color of rose in the liturgy... but only for one Sunday.
[i] The Sunday in Lent is called Laetare Sunday, in Advent Gaudete Sunday. Both these Latin words (Gaudete and Laetare, from the Entrance Antiphons at Mass) are translated, "Rejoice!" But why the color rose, and why "rejoice"?

The Meaning of Rose
To understand the meaning of rose, we first need to be aware of a certain liturgical principle, here expressed in the words of Dr. Pius Parsch:
"Nature's annual cycle is characterized by two phenomena, light and life. Out of the darkness of night comes light; out of death comes life. The transition from night to light characterizes the winter season; the transition from death to life is proper to summertime. The holy year of the Church is likewise divided into two phases which have similar characteristics."

In other words, nature and the mysteries of our salvation coincide. The dark color of violet in Advent harmonizes well with the diminishing sunlight late in the year, and in Lent with the silence of life through Winter leading up to Spring. In both cases, we see a parallel. Just as darkness gives place to light at the turn of the Winter Solstice and death to life at the beginning of Spring, so the violet of Advent gives place to the bright white of Christmas joy, and of Lent to the brightness of Easter life. "But wouldn't black be more appropriate as a color of darkness and death?" someone might wonder. Ah, here again we encounter the Church's wisdom! Black is the absence of all color and light. But as "children of the light," we are never in complete darkness. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."[iii] Even in funeral liturgies where priests can wear black as a symbol of mourning, the liturgy speaks of light: "let perpetual light shine upon them." Violet is a dark and penitential color, but it is also the ancient color for royalty and wealth. Through baptism, we have been immersed in Light and Life, and we have been given the royalty of being children of the King of Heaven! So, violet expresses well both these aspects: darkness and royalty.

With this dramatic backdrop, we can understand the rose color of Gaudete and Laetare Sundays and the hidden lesson contained here for us. Rose is a softening of violet. It is violet approaching white. In this sense, it anticipates the pure white of the Birth and Resurrection of Christ. It intimates the mystery of the "already, and not yet" of Christian life. The Messiah has come. We have been redeemed. We have been washed. We have been sanctified. The Light that is God has come to dwell in our souls. The Father "has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
[iv] And yet, we wait for Christ to come. We wait for eternal life. We wait for "the redemption of our bodies."[v] We are still in a "valley of tears." "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face."[vi]

But even in the night of this life, this expectancy fills us with joy. Gaudete and Laetare Sundays express the foretaste of the good things to come that we experience even now. The Church summons us to "look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
[vii] In this sense, Laetare Sunday is like an oasis in the desert of Lent, and Gaudete Sunday like the appearance of the first streaks of dawn in the night of Advent. It is as if we were sentinels keeping watch at night, longing for the sun to appear, being buoyed up with joy at the first streaks of light. With the words of Psalm 130, we pray, "My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn."[viii] And with the prophet Habakkuk, we resolve: "I will take my stand to watch, and station myself on the tower, and look forth to see what he will say to me."[ix]

The Expectation
So, what are we waiting for? We are waiting for the One who said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
[x] St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains that, "We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible... In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty."[xi]

In Advent we, in a sense, wait with expectation and joy for all three. We place ourselves along the prophets of old as they waited for the coming Messiah. We do this mystically in order to comprehend more profoundly what a difference Christ's coming has made. We also wait in the darkness of this life for the coming of the Son of man "with the clouds of heaven."[xii] That is, we rekindle our longing for the Second Coming and the completion of our life's journey toward God. And finally, we wait for the coming of Christ more deeply into our life now, in preparation for the last coming. St. Bernard explains that this middle coming is the road from the first to the final coming of our Savior.

Advent is a time consecrated to this road. The nearness of the Lord's coming is announced to us at the beginning of Advent in the words, "Our Savior is coming."
[xiii] It is made even more imminent during Gaudete Sunday when the announcement is changed to, "The Lord is near."[xiv] Just as the color rose approaches white, so in the middle of Advent we approach the Lord with joy. We are closer than ever before: "For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed."[xv] And here is the point: we rejoice not only in the future coming of the Lord; we rejoice now as we have the opportunity to let Christ penetrate more deeply into our hearts. In Advent, the Holy Spirit wishes to open the doors of our hearts more fully to the Savior of our souls: "Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in."[xvi] For, "the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day." "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."[xvii] Nothing matters more in life than that we grow in the divine light of love that is in Christ. And nothing can give us greater joy.

Joy, Fortitude, and Patience
Holy Mother Church knows that it is easy for us to get distracted by "the cares of the world,"
[xviii] and overly sorrowful due to the trials of life. That is why she rouses us to joy in the Entrance Antiphon of Gaudete Sunday, which comes from Paul's letter to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near." This text in Scripture continues: "Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

We can all reflect: in what ways am I overly anxious about the cares of life? In what ways have I let despair and self-pity conquer my hope? Jesus revealed the ways of the kingdom to us in his words, so that, as He said, "my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." As He approached the Passion and Resurrection, He also said, "So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."[xix] Even further, He reassures us: "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."[xx] Gaudete Sunday is an opportune time to examine how free we are to embrace the joy of the Lord's coming into our lives more completely.

But where will we find strength to embrace this joy? In the Mass Readings for Gaudete Sunday this year, two virtues in particular are extolled for us to possess the Lord's joy more fully. In the first reading, Isaiah urges us on to fortitude: "Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak... Be strong, fear not!" In the second reading, St. James exhorts us to patience: "Be patient... until the coming of the Lord."

Both virtues serve us in time of trial. Trials over time have a way of making us apathetic, complacent, and discouraged. Exercising the virtue of fortitude gives us the strength to endure times of pain, loss, sadness, and strain in relationships. And when the distress seems overwhelming and too much for human strength, the Holy Spirit provides us with the gift of fortitude to "go forward,"
[xxi] so that we can know with St. Paul: "for when I am weak, then I am strong."[xxii] Patience, in turn, can be thought of as "fortitude over time." St. James insightfully associates patience with waiting through hardships. This waiting involves letting go of trying to control what is beyond our control. It also involves joyfully accepting these elements as within the will of God, which is always for our good in the end.

Fortitude and patience together are antidotes against apathy and anxiety. They enable us to have joy in the cross. We don't have the ability to give ourselves these graced virtues. But just as in the Gospel the Messiah is identified precisely as the One who can open the eyes of the blind and cleanse lepers, so He is the One Who can heal our own complacency and impatience and give us the strength to wait for Him in times of trial. In this fashion, the Lord heals us of our despondency and opens up to us the joy of His advent.

As the darkness augments at the close of this year, we know the light will prevail. Christ has come. And Christ is coming. With joy, fortitude, and patience, we keep watch for the approaching light. In rose vestments and with the rose candle of the Advent wreath, we rejoice in anticipation of the Day of our Redemption. What are we anxious about? St. Peter exhorts us, "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful."
[xxiii] Let us cast them thus, so that the "Dawn from on High will break upon us"[xxiv] and saturate our hearts more completely. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Help us to receive Him. Maranatha! "Come Lord Jesus!"[xxv]

[i] The color rose is popularly but incorrectly thought of as pink.
[ii] Parsch, Dr. Pius. The Church's Year of Grace. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1962: p.169
[iii] Jn 1:5 (All Bible translations are from the following unless stated: The Holy Bible: RSVCE. 1st Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press)
[iv] Col 1:13-14
[v] Rom 8:23
[vi] 1 Cor 13:12
[vii] Lk 21:20
[viii] Ps 130:6 (Translation used during the daily Dominican prayers for the dead)
[ix] Hab 2:1
[x] Jn 8:12
[xi] Liturgy of the Hours. Vol. 1. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co.: p. 169
[xii] Dan 7:13
[xiii] From the Entrance Antiphon of Monday of the First Week of Advent.
[xiv] From the Entrance Antiphon of the 3rd Sunday of Advent.
[xv] Rom 13:11
[xvi] Ps 24:7
[xvii] 2 Cor 3:18
[xviii] Mt 13:22
[xix] Jn 16:22
[xx] Jn 16:33
[xxi] Ex 14:15
[xxii] 1 Cor 12:10
[xxiii] 1 Pt 5:7
[xxiv] Lk 1:78 (Translation is from The Liturgy of the Hours)
[xxv] Rev 22:20

Br. Hyacinth Marie Cordell, OP is a Dominican Friar in formation for the priesthood at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Please visit our vocations blog at

Other articles:

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

With Recent Advances, Democrats Have Dropped the Issue of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

In Yet Another Stem-Cell Miracle, Dems Have Dropped The Subject
Posted 12/11/2007

John Edwards had a lot he wanted to say at the Democratic National Committee's fall meeting on Nov. 30.
In a fiery speech, he ran down a litany of issues such as Iraq, health care and workers' rights, going well over his allotted 10 minutes and stepping on the other presidential candidates' time.

But as lengthy as his remarks were, there was one issue he never mentioned: stem cells.
He wasn't alone. Barack Obama didn't address the topic in his speech, either. Nor did any of the other candidates present. Stem cells also slipped the minds of DNC chairman Howard Dean and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

What's more, nobody seemed to notice.

"Yeah, it didn't come up," shrugged Robert Asaro-Angelo, executive director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. The fact had not even occurred to him until someone else pointed it out.
The issue also went unmentioned during the NPR-hosted Democratic presidential debate on Dec. 4. Instead Iran, Iraq and immigration dominated the debate's two hours.

A few weeks ago this would have been unthinkable. For years, Democrats have pushed the stem cell issue hard, making overturning the White House's restrictions on federal funding a key part of their platform. Yet almost overnight the issue seems forgotten.

The reason is the publication last month of two scientific papers indicating that skin cells can be reprogrammed to act like embryonic cells, potentially eliminating the need for embryonic cells in the first place.

The results were splashed across major papers.
In one fell swoop the politics of the issue shifted, says Ramesh Ponnuru, a harsh critique of the Democrats' stem cell policy and author of "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life."

"I am not surprised to see that politicians running for office on the Democratic side are talking about this issue less because there is not as much profit to it anymore," Ponnuru said.

Democrats had downplayed the possibility that adult stem cells could be used as an alternative. They argued instead that embryonic cells represented the cutting edge of science.

"Now that same argument can be turned against them," Ponnuru said. "If they want to go based on clinical results, adult stem cells are better. If they want to go based on which has more promise, these (new) alternatives are better."

The new technique already is showing great promise. Last week, the journal Science reported that scientists had used reprogrammed skin cells to cure mice with sickle cell anemia.
Embryonic stem cell research first became an issue in 2001, when President Bush limited federal funding for it.

Bush argued that moral concerns over using the embryos, which are potential human life, prompted him to restrict the funding to existing stem cell lines. In those cases, he said, the life and death decisions already had been made. No new lines would be funded.
There was no limit put on private funding of research. The administration funded adult stem cell research, too.

Still, most scientists involved in the field cried foul, arguing that without federal funding progress would grind to a halt.

Democrats eagerly seized on it as an issue. They argued that Bush was holding back science and preventing the creation of major — even miraculous — new therapies. Their rhetoric rarely held back.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last year that President Bush's veto of a bill to lift the funding cap "crushed the hopes of millions who suffer from serious and debilitating diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's and Parkinson's."

During the 2004 presidential election, John Edwards went so far as to say that embryonic stem cell research would let "Christopher Reeve . . . get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

The Democrats even recruited Ron Reagan Jr., to talk about it at their 2004 convention, implying that President Reagan would have wanted embryonic stem cell research to go forward.

That push helped to turn it into a major issue for rank-and-file Democratic voters. A late October study by the Pew Research Center found that 43% of Democrats rated stem cell research as "very important." Only 33% of independents and 25% of Republicans rated it that way.

Even then the issue was fading for Democrats. In 2004, 52% had cited it as very important.
Democrats such as Rep. James Langevin of Rhode Island say that the recent innovations haven't eliminated the need for embryonic research because it still offers the most promise.

The issue doesn't come up in debates these days, Langevin says, only "because it's not an issue the candidates are divided on . . . I think every one of us is pretty much in lockstep."

Nevertheless, Langevin concedes that the new avenues of research are "certainly exciting" and that won't make the case for overturning the cap any easier.

"The president has twice now vetoed legislation to remove the restrictions he put in place." Langevin said. "It's unclear whether the Democratic leadership will bring it up again because we don't have the votes to override."
Democrats had been counting on more Republicans to flip and vote with them. That prospect now looks dim.
In other words, Ron Reagan likely will stay home next year and watch the Democratic convention on TV.
Higgins is a correspondent in IBD's Washington bureau.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Questions/Answers about the Golden Compass

This question-answer guide has been published by the ....

MAGISTERIUM [cue sinister music: duhn duhn DUHN!!!!]

That's right... the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization for the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Yes, you read correctly, a BISHOP of the MAGISTERIUM was behind this. OOooohhhh.

Letter from Bishop Listecki:

What every parent should know:

My bottom line would be: why pay to see a film that debases your deeply cherished faith?

Here is a link to the guide (I have it typed out below in this post)

New Movie Release - The Golden Compass
The Office of Catechesis and Evangelization—Diocese of La Crosse

So, what is the big deal about this movie? Why should
parents be concerned?

The movie The Golden Compass is the fi rst book of the
trilogy, His Dark Materials. Parents need to be concerned
because it attacks the foundation of the Catholic Faith.1
Author, Philip Pullman says,
• “My books are about killing God.”2
• “I am all for the death of God.”3
• “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian

The author is an atheist, but how does that affect
the fi lm?

“Though much of Pullman’s trilogy involves… mystical
worlds with talking animals and magical witches, the
underlying theme is no simple fantasy. In the fi ctional universe
of His Dark Materials, there is no real God; rather
there is a high angel called the Authority, who purports
to be God.”5 The Catholic Church, frequently called the
Magisterium, is portrayed as the dark force to be overcome.

Isn’t His Dark Materials just fiction?

It is fiction but it presents good as evil and evil as good.
It portrays the evil of dark, demonic forces that battle God
and ultimately kill God. So a fi lm like this (and especially
the trilogy it is based on) invites us to join forces against

How is the Golden Compass different from Narnia and
the Lord of the Rings?

The Chronicles of Narnia are a fantasy representing the
battle between God and His followers and Satan and his
devils. In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien shows the power
of God and His grace and invites the reader to join Him.
Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, promotes the lie
that evil can ultimately defeat God. But we know that Jesus’
death on the Cross has already won the ultimate victory.

Why can’t kids go to it as a fun, fantasy movie? What
am I to tell my child?

It is no simple fantasy. It is about evil being presented in
an enticing and glamorous way. As the fi rst teachers and
protectors, parents would not allow their children to be desensitized
to evil so that it becomes commonplace and they
no longer recognize it as dangerous and seek to avoid it. It
is the same as saying that parents would not let their children
drink poison. Tell your children that this movie is definitely
poison for the soul. In the Our Father, Jesus taught
us clearly to pray, deliver us from evil.6 Jesus does not
want us to toy with evil even when it looks fascinating.

The producers say any references to the Catholic Church
have been removed. Doesn’t this leave the movie as just
a fun fantasy adventure?

The references to the Catholic Church have been removed
from the movie but a different word has been substituted,
it is the Magisterium. The producers of the movie are not
stupid. They have removed some of the most sinister aspects
against Christianity. But don’t be fooled. The fundamental
direction of the story is the same even if it has been
sanitized and Pullman’s goal is to entice people to read his
books and reject God.
The books are much more detailed, more evil, and they
attack, with a hateful vengeance, priests, nuns, bishops, the
Mother of God and the Pope.

What is Pullman’s philosophy and how is it dangerous?

Pullman’s worldview is a world without God. He thinks
the very idea of God needs to be destroyed. Pullman spreads
his hatred for religion through these books.
The Christian worldview is that God is our loving Father.
We cannot exist without Him; God created us and has given
us everything out of love. To believe in God and embrace
Him for all eternity is the joy and very center of our lives.
How can we use this movie’s debut as a teaching experience?
Talk about this with your children. Do not be in denial
that evil exists and that skilled marketers can disguise it and
make it look attractive. We need to have a healthy level of
concern about the power of evil even though Satan does not
have equal power with God and cannot defeat God.
Satan is a fallen angel who hates God and wants us to
hate God.7 We love God and therefore we reject Satan and
all his evil. This is why you promised at baptism:
■ “to reject the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered
by sin.”

What should Catholic parents do?

Please do not go to the movie and do not buy the books.
Return the books if you have already bought them. Spread
the message to family and friends. Embrace the positive
movies that have come from Hollywood like the Chronicles
of Narnia or read the Lord of the Rings, and refuse to give
your money or your approval to “Dark Materials” that try
to snuff out the Light.8

1 1 John 4:1-4 “…every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God.”
2 Tony Watkins, Dark Matter, pp. 21, 152
3 Philip Pullman,
4 Alona Wartofsky, “The Last Word; Philip Pullman’s Trilogy for Young. Adults EndsWith God’s Death, and Remarkably Few Critics,” Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2001.
5 The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked, Catholic League. p. 7
6 Matthew 6:13, Philippians 4: 8
7 See Revelation 12:7-9; John 8:44; I John 2:18-25; Catechism of the CatholicChurch, #391
8 Wisdom 4: 12 “ … the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good.”

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reviews of The Golden Compass, the Narnia for silly militant atheists and the child in them

There is a lot of commentary on this film all over the web, but a nice post can be found on the blog of popular Catholic author Amy Welborn:

Among other things, she comments on how the US Bishop's relatively positive review of the film has been used as advertisement by the promoters of the anti-Catholic film!


Movie review by Catholic News Service:

The Golden Compass

By Harry Forbes and John Mulderig Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Hollywood history is rife with examples of literary works that by dint of problematic sexual, violent or religious content have been softened to varying degrees to mollify public sensibilities.

So it appears to be with "The Golden Compass" (New Line) which, we'll say right at the start, is a lavish, well-acted and fast-paced adaptation of "Northern Lights," the original title of the first volume of Philip Pullman's much-awarded trilogy, "His Dark Materials," published in 1995.

The film has already caused some concern in Catholic circles because of the author's professed atheism, and the more overt issue of the novels' negative portrayal of his (very much fictionalized) church, a stand-in for all organized religion.

The good news is that the first book's explicit references to this church have been completely excised with only the term Magisterium retained. The choice is still a bit unfortunate, however, as the word refers so specifically to the church's teaching authority. Yet the film's only clue that the Magisterium is a religious body comes in the form of the icons which decorate one of their local headquarters.

Most moviegoers with no foreknowledge of the books or Pullman's personal belief system will scarcely be aware of religious connotations, and can approach the movie as a pure fantasy-adventure. This is not the blatant real-world anti-Catholicism of, say, the recent "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" or "The Da Vinci Code." Religious elements, as such, are practically nil.

The narrative itself charts the adventures of spunky 12-year-old Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), an orphan who leaves Oxford's Jordan College, where she resides as a ward to become apprentice to a glamorous scholar known as Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman).

She's allowed to leave, equipped with the titular compass -- a truth meter which Lyra is among the privileged few to know how to interpret. Once in Mrs. Coulter's care, Lyra begins to surmise that the woman's motives are far from pure, and she escapes.

Inspired by her Arctic-exploring-uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) -- who, to the consternation of the Magisterium, is about to make some discoveries about the mysterious substance called Dust -- Lyra journeys northward. She hopes to rescue her young friend Roger (Ben Walker), who has been kidnapped by the Magisterium.

Lyra picks up several useful allies along the way, including John Faa (Jim Carter), a piratelike seafarer of the wandering tribe called Gyptians, Texas aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliott), and a great polar bear named Iorek Byrnison (voice of Ian McKellen).

Even if Pullman's fanciful universe has a patchwork feel, with elements culled from other fantasy-adventure stories -- most especially "The Chronicles of Narnia" (a work Pullman disdains) -- there's hardly a dull moment, and the effects are beautifully realized, including the anthropomorphized creatures like the polar bears whose climactic fight is superbly done.

Richards makes an appealingly no-nonsense heroine, and Kidman makes a glamorous and chilling villain. Christopher Lee, Tom Courtenay and Derek Jacobi round out a distinguished cast, with excellent voice work from McKellen and others (e.g. Kathy Bates, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ian McShane and Freddie Highmore).

Whatever author Pullman's putative motives in writing the story, writer-director Chris Weitz's film, taken purely on its own cinematic terms, can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism.

To the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching. The heroism and self-sacrifice that they demonstrate provide appropriate moral lessons for viewers.

There is, admittedly, a spirit of rebellion and stark individualism pervading the story. Lyra is continually drawn to characters who reject authority in favor of doing as they please. Equally, only by defying the powers that be, can a scientist like Lord Asriel achieve progress. Pullman is perhaps drawing parallels to the Catholic Church's restrictive stance towards the early alchemists and, later, Galileo.

The script also makes use of some of the occult concepts found in the books, such as the diabolically named "daemons" -- animal companions to each person, identified as their human counterpart's visible soul.

Is Pullman trying to undermine anyone's belief in God? Leaving the books aside, and focusing on what has ended up on-screen, the script can reasonably be interpreted in the broadest sense as an appeal against the abuse of political power.

Will seeing this film inspire teens to read the books, which many have found problematic? Rather than banning the movie or books, parents might instead take the opportunity to talk through any thorny philosophical issues with their teens.

The religious themes of the later books may be more prominent in the follow-up films which Weitz has vowed will be less watered down. For now, this film -- altered, as it is, from its source material -- rates as intelligent and well-crafted entertainment.

The film contains intense but bloodless fantasy violence, anti-clerical subtext, standard genre occult elements, a character born out of wedlock and a whiskey-guzzling bear. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

From Church of the Masses, Barbara Nicolosi's blog:

Golden Compass Points to Religious Bigotry
4:07 PM Comments (4)

I haven't seen The Golden Compass yet, although I have been aware of the problematic nature of the books for several years. In case you haven't heard of the series, the author Philip Pullman, hates Christianity, and has been pretty vocal about the point of his book being to help free children from the lies of religion, and let's stamp out the damm-ned thing and anyway don't forget the inquisition and ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz.Where was I? Oh yes, so, I can't imagine going to see this film because nobody pays me to be a critic, and no amount of money would be worth it to me anyway.But
here is a helpful piece featuring friend and Christian critic, Jeffrey Overstreet talking about the substance of the stories. He also cautions Christians about creating any kind of extra publicity for the film by some kind of protest. The best thing to do is to just keep your kids away.

Other reviews:

Bill Donahue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights views the film as less benign:

Rotten Tomatoes:


more news stories: Golden Compass promoters trying to advertise in Catholic press

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Scotland Prelates Speak Out Against Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill

U.K. Church Leaders Oppose Fertilization Bill
Legislation to Pave Way for Hybrid Embryos

GLASGOW, Scotland, NOV. 18, 2007 - Two of Scotland's leading prelates are urging politicians to seriously consider the Catholic community's concerns regarding the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, which will legalize the creation of human-animal embryos.

The statement released today was signed by Cardinal Keith O'Brien [pictured on left], the archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, and Archbishop Mario Conti [pictured on right] of Glasgow, who is also chairman of the Joint Catholic Bioethics Committee of Britain and Ireland.

The bill, previously known as the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday. It updates current regulation of assisted reproduction and embryo research in Great Britain.

If passed, the bill will legalize the creation of hybrid embryos by fertilizing animal eggs with human sperm and vice versa, and also allow lesbian couples to be named as the parents to test-tube babies, without reference to a father. Opponents of the bill also worry that it could reopen the abortion debate, leading way to even greater liberalization of the procedure.

The statement of Cardinal O'Brien and Archbishop Conti states that the bill's proposal to create hybrid embryos "is not a justifiable direction for legitimate scientific research."

Human dignity

They added, "It is a dangerous and unnecessary precedent which does not respect the dignity of the human person. We note that such practices are banned in Canada, Australia and many European countries."

The prelates also noted with concern that the bill will diminish the natural status of fathers, and disrupt the natural bonds between parents and children.

Noting the complexity of the issues, the cardinal and the archbishop proposed the creation of national advisory committee to give appropriate advice to the government on bioethical issues.

"The public debate has so far been dominated by scientific and medical opinion," continued the statement, "when in reality mature ethical systems have a more crucial contribution in dealing with the issues at stake."

Archbishop Conti told reporters: "We are frankly appalled at proposals which would allow the creation of organisms which cross the species barrier. We call on the government to think again about the role of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority which has proved completely inadequate in dealing with ethical issues.

"The bill includes disturbing developments in embryonic experimentation and breaks down the natural bonds of family life linked with procreation."

"Profoundly wrong"

Cardinal Comac Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster, also spoke out against the bill. In a letter published in today's edition of The Times online newspaper, he called the legislation "profoundly wrong."

He wrote: "The bill proposes to remove the need for in-vitro providers to take into account the child’s need for a father when considering an in-vitro application, and to confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of in-vitro.

"This radically undermines the place of the father in a child’s life, and makes the natural rights of the child subordinate to the desires of the couple."

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Resources for Advent 2007

Advent Resources

A nice listing from PhatCatholic Apologetics:

Advent at

Domestic Church [search the site for "Advent"]:

Catholics United for the Faith:

St. Nicholas: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus:


Advent links from last year:

All Advent-Christmas posts on Swallowed Scroll:

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An Instruction on Advent

I steal this post in its entirety from the blog Catholic Apologetics of America:

Taken from Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine's The Church's Year.

Originally published in German in 1880.

What is the meaning of Advent, and what do we understand by the term?

The word Advent signifies coming, and by it is understood the visible coming of the Son of God into this world, at two different times.It was when the Son of God, conceived of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the immaculate Virgin Mary, was born, according to the flesh, in the fullness of time, and sanctified the world by His coming, for which the patriarchs and prophets had so longed (Gen. 49:10; Is. G4:1; Lk. 10:24).

Since Christ had not yet come, how could the Just of the Old Law be saved?

Immediately after their sin, God revealed to our first parents that His only-begotten Son would become man and redeem the world (Gen. 3:15). In the hope of this Redeemer and through His merits, all in the old covenant who participated in His merits by innocence or by penance, and who died in the grace of God, were saved, although they were excluded from heaven until the Ascension of Christ.

When will the second coming of Christ take place?

At the end of the world when Christ will come, with great power and majesty, to judge both the living and the dead.

What is Advent, and why has the Church instituted it?

Advent is that solemn time, immediately preceding Christmas, instituted by the Church in order that we should, in the first place, meditate on the Incarnation of Christ, the love, patience and humility which He has shown us, and prove our gratitude to Him, because He came from the bosom of His heavenly Father into this valley of tears, to redeem us; secondly, that we may prepare ourselves by sincere repentance, fasting, prayer, alms-deeds, and other works pleasing to God, for the coming of Christ and His birth in our hearts, and thus participate in the graces which He has obtained for us; finally, that He may be merciful to us, when He shall come again as judge of the world. "Watch ye, for ye know not at what hour your Lord will come" (Mt. 5:42). "Wherefore be you also ready; because at what hour you know not, the Son of man will come" (Mt. 24:44).

How was Advent formerly observed?

Very differently from now. It then commenced with the Feast of St. Martin, and was observed by the faithful like the Forty Days' Fast, with strict penance and devotional exercises, as even now most of the religious communities do to the present day. The Church has forbidden all turbulent amusements, weddings, dancing and concerts, during Advent. Pope Sylverius ordered that those who seldom receive Holy Communion should, at least, do so on every Sunday in Advent.

How should this solemn time be spent by Christians?

They should recall, during these four weeks, the four thousand years in which the just under the Old Law expected and desired the promised Redeemer, think of those days of darkness in which nearly all nations were blinded by saran and drawn into the most horrible crimes, then consider their own sins and evil deeds and purify their souls from them by a worthy reception of the Sacraments, so that our Lord may come with His grace to dwell in their hearts and be merciful to them in life and in death. Further, to awaken in the faithful the feelings of repentance so necessary for the reception of the Savior in their hearts, the Church orders that besides the observance of certain fast days, the altar shall be draped in violet, that Mass shall be celebrated in violet vestments, that the organ shall be silent and no Gloria sung. Unjust to themselves, disobedient to the Church and ungrateful, indeed, to God are those Christians who spend this solemn time of grace in sinful amusements without performing any good works, with no longing for Christ's Advent into their hearts.

What are Rorate High Masses, and why are they celebrated?

They are the solemn high Masses celebrated in some countries in commemoration of the tidings brought to the Blessed Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel, announcing to her that she was to become the Mother of God; they derive their name from the words of the Introit in the Votive Mass, Rorate coeli desuper. They are celebrated very early in the morning because the Blessed Virgin preceded our Lord, as the aurora precedes the rising sun.


O God, who by Thy gracious Advent hast brought joy into this world, grant us, we beseech Thee, Thy grace to prepare ourselves by sincere penance for its celebration and for the Last Judgment. Amen.


The first Sunday in Advent is the first day of the Church Year, and the beginning of the holy season of Advent. The Church commences on this day to contemplate the coming of the Redeemer, and with theprophets to long for Him; during the entire season of Advent she unites her prayers with their sighs, in order to awaken in her children also the desire for the grace of the Redeemer; above all to move them to true penance for their sins, because these are the greatest obstacles in the path of that gracious Advent; therefore she prays at the Introit of the day's Mass:

INTROIT To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed: neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded. Show me, O Lord, Thy ways, and teach me Thy paths (Ps. 24). Glory be to the Father.

COLLECT Raise up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power, and come; that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins, and to be saved by Thy deliverance. Through our Lord.

EPISTLE (Rom. 13:11‑14). Brethren, knowing the time, that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep: for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is past, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and strife; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does St. Paul teach us in this epistle?

After fully explaining the duties of a Christian life to the Romans who were converted mainly by St. Peter, he exhorts them to hesitate no longer to fulfil these duties, and he seeks to move their hearts by this time of grace, presented them by the Christian dispensation, and by the shortness of the time of grace.

What is here meant by sleep?

The stupidity and blindness of the soul that, forgetting her God, is sunk in a lukewarm, effeminate, slothful and lustful life, which, when it is gone, leaves nothing more than a dream.

Why does St. Paul say, "salvation is nearer"?

He wishes to impress upon the Romans that they now have far greater hope of salvation than when they first became Christians, and that they should secure it by a pious life, because death, and the moment on which depended their salvation, or eternal reward, was drawing near. "What is our life," says St. Chrysostom, "other than a course, a dangerous course to death, through death to immortality?"

What is the signification of day and night?

The night signifies the time before Christ, a night of darkness, of infidelity and of injustice; the day represents the present time, in which by the gospel Christ enlightens the whole world with the teachings of the true faith.

What are "the works of darkness"?

All sins, and especially those which are committed in the dark, to shun the eye of God and man.

What is the "armor of light"?

That faith, virtue and grace, the spiritual armor, with which we battle against our three enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, and in which armor we should walk honestly before all men. A Christian who in baptism has renounced the devil and all his pomps, must not live in vice, but must put on Christ Jesus, that is, must by the imitation of Christ's virtues adorn his soul, as it were, with a beautiful garment. This text (verse 13) moved St. Augustine to fly from all works of uncleanness in which he had been involved, and to lead a pure life which he had before thought difficult.

ASPIRATION Grant, O Lord, that we may rise by penance from the sleep of our sins, may walk in the light of Thy grace by the performance of good works, may put on Thee and adorn our souls with the imitation of Thy virtues. Amen.

GOSPEL (Lk. 21:25‑33). At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars: and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves, men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them a similitude: See the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Why does the Church cause the gospel of the Last Judgment to be read on this day?

To move us to penance, and to induce us to prepare our souls for the coming of Christ, by placing the Last Judgment before our minds. Should not the thought of this terrible judgment, when all good and all evil will be revealed, and accordingly be rewarded or punished in the presence of the whole world‑should not this thought strengthen us in virtue!

What signs will precede the Last Judgment?

The sun will be obscured, the stars will lose their light and disappear in the firmament (Is. 13:10), lightning and flames will surround the earth, and wither up every thing; the powers of heaven will be moved, the elements brought to confusion; the roaring of the sea with the howling of the winds and the beating of the storms will fill man with terror and dread. Such evil and distress will come upon the world, that man will wither away for fear, not knowing whither to turn. Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, the holy cross, the terror of the sinners who have scorned it, the consolation of the just who have loved it (Mt. 24:30).

Why will all this come to pass?

Because as the people love the creatures of God so inordinately, more than the Creator, and use them only to His dishonor, He will destroy them in this terrible manner, arming all creatures for vengeance against His enemies (Wis. 5:8‑24, and showing by the manner of their destruction the evils which will fall upon all sinners. The darkness of the sun will indicate the darkness of hell; the blood-red moon, the anger and wrath of God; the disappearance and falling of the stars, will represent the fall of sinners into the abyss of hell and their disappearance from earth; and the madness of the elements, will exhibit the rage of the beasts of hell. Sinners will then vainly, and too late, repent that they have attached their hearts to things which will end so horribly, and that only increase their torments.

Why does Christ nevertheless command: "Lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand"?

These words are spoken to the just who as long as they live on earth are like prisoners and exiles, but who at the Last Judgment will be taken body and soul into their long desired fatherland, the kingdom of heaven: into the freedom of the children of God. These will have reason to raise their heads, now bowed in mourning, and to rejoice.

How will the Last Judgment commence?

By the command of God the angels will sound the trumpets, summoning all men from the four parts of the earth to come to judgment (I Thess. 4:15). Then the bodies of the dead will unite with their souls, and be brought to the valley of Josaphat, and there placed, the just on the right, the wicked on the left (Mt. 25:33). Then the devils as well as the angels will appear; Christ Himself will be seen coming in a cloud, in such power and majesty that the sinners will be filled with terror. They will not dare to look at Him, and will cry to the mountains to fall upon them, and to the hills to cover them (Lk. 23:30).

How will the judgment be held?

The book of conscience, upon which all men are to be judged, and which closed with this life, will be opened. All good and evil thoughts, words, deeds and motives, even the most secret, known only to God, will then be as plainly revealed to the whole world as if they were written on each one's forehead; by these each one will be judged, and be eternally rewarded, or eternally punished.O God! If we must then give an account of every idle word (Mt. 12:36), how can we stand in the face of so many sinful words and actions!

Why will God hold a universal public Judgment?

Although immediately after death, a special private judgment of each soul takes place, God has ordained a public and universal judgment for the following reasons: First, that it may be clearly shown to all how just has been His private judgment, and also that the body which has been the instrument of sin or of virtue may share in the soul's punishment or reward; secondly, that the justice which they could by no means obtain in this life, may be rendered before the whole world to the oppressed poor, and to persecuted innocence, and that the wicked who have abused the righteous, and yet have been considered honest and good, may be put to shame before all; thirdly, that the graces and means of salvation bestowed upon each, may be made known; fourthly, that the blessed providence of God which often permitted the righteous to suffer evil while the wicked prospered, may be vindicated, and it be shown on that day that His acts are acts of the greatest wisdom; fifthly, that the wicked may learn the goodness of God, not for their comfort or benefit, but for their greater sorrow, that they may see how He rewards even the slightest work performed for His love and honor; finally, that Christ may be exalted before the wicked on earth as before the good in heaven, and that the truth of His words may solemnly be made manifest.

ASPIRATION Just art Thou O God, and just are Thy judgments. Ah, penetrate my soul with holy fear of them, that I may be kept always in awe, and avoid sin. Would that I could say with the penitent St. Jerome: "Whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, I seem to hear the awful sound of the trumpet in my ears: `Arise ye dead, and come to judgment."'

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