The HHS Mandate: Formal Cooperation?

There is a hot debate over whether or not compliance with the HHS mandate is "formal" or "material" cooperation. A lot depends on this distinction, because if compliance with the law is formal cooperation, it is to be avoided. If, however, it is material a case can be made that compliance is justifiable.

For a more thorough orientation on the debate check out this link: Is it Moral to Comply with the HHS Mandate? In her article, Prof. Janet Smith, references a couple other articles. Two stand out, those of Dr. Michael Pakaluk and Dr. Steven Long, both of whom are professors at Ave Maria University, my alma mater, and both of whom agree that compliance is formal.

I have a great deal of respect for Profs. Pakaluk and Long. The reason I think these two articles stand out is because Prof. Smith avoids arguing with them in favor of the material cooperation stance. She specifically says, "In a future column I will respond to Pakaluk's and Long's arguments that the cooperation is formal."

I am disappointed that she would respond at another time. If they are wrong and worth mentioning, why not refute them at the same time? Because of her avoidance, I would like to take a closer look at the situation that arises from the HHS mandate, and submit my own understanding. I concede that each of the aforementioned are smarter than I, but nevertheless, it is worth pondering.

Pakaluk explains the difference between formal and material cooperation by saying:
A clear example is the difference between the stagehands who set up the music stands and chairs on stage before a concert, and the musicians of the orchestra who follow next upon the stage and actually play the music.  Although the performance could not go on without the work of the stagehands, the stagehands cooperate only materially with it, whereas, say, the triangle player who just sits there and has no notes to strike in a piece nonetheless is cooperating formally with the orchestra’s performance, since he is a member and participant.  
If Dr. Pakaluk is wrong, his analogy should fail. So, I would like to play with his analogy a bit and see what comes of it.

I agree with this analogy, but it seems that business administrations who purchase insurance in compliance with the HHS mandate are more like the stagehands than the musicians. They set the stage for the participants, right? The problem is that business administrators have more participation than that. Maybe we can put it this way: The administrators are more like the owner of the opera house who commissions a piece of music to be written for the orchestra. The insurance company is like the composer who chooses what to write. The stagehands are like employees who work for the company but receive no benefits (they contribute to the mission of the company and its profit). The musicians are like employees who receive benefits.

If the owner of the opera house commissions a bad piece of music, the musician ultimately has the choice of playing the music or not. They stagehands contribute to the conditions that provide for bad music to be played, but have no actual participation in the performance of bad music. Both the composer and the owner have direct participation in the performance of the music, therefore their participation is formal. In which case, it should be fairly easy to agree with Drs. Pakuluk and Long, but the situation is still more complex than that.

Now, lets say that the state issues a law that says that all opera house owners if they choose to employ musicians and not just stagehands, must commission musical pieces that have at least several instances of  complete gut-wrenching discordance. The opera house owner may disagree with that idea. He believes that such discordance hurts people. He needs to provide music for his musicians, but if he does he will either harm people or break the law which results in him paying a fine. He is coerced. Ultimately, however, he can still choose whether or not to comply. Even if all composers start writing discordant pieces, he can choose to write his own or refuse to supply his musicians with music. He does have options. This seems to further imply that his cooperation with the musicians is formal. Even if the opera house owner desire for the composer to write good music and his musicians to play good music, but the composer does not in order to comply with the law and the owner knows this, his participation is still formal cooperation.

Does this make sense? Am I totally off? What are your thoughts? Set up your own scenarios with this analogy and we can talk about them.

What we can learn from the NFL referee fiasco...

So, I, like many, am a fan of professional football. That is not to say that I do not also appreciate college football (and I do think NFL is a better sport, which I will have to discuss some other time), but after this weekend's blown calls, I had to rethink my position.

I am going to make a quick analogy between Protestantism vs. Catholicism and football. Here it is, college football is like Protestantism, simply in as much as it is simply an attempt to 'play the game' at its best but coming up short. Where that analogy fails is the same place I want to focus my attention: the referees. There is no real difference between the NFL refs and college refs, at least until recently. By now anyone who watches NFL football knows that our favorite refs have been replaced [I miss you Ed Hochuli and your exploding biceps!].

There have been some pretty minor missed calls in previous games this year, but until last night, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. There was one major blown call in last night's Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. The call was so obvious in replay and affected the outcome of the game. To top it off, it took place in the last seconds of the game.

After listening to all the hubbub and rants since the game last night, I came to a certain insight. Referees are important to the game. Without them, the game would be nothing but bickering. The rules are there, we may not agree with all the rules, but they are there and we have to follow them if we want to play the game. This is what the refs give us. With the right refs we have certainty, clarity, and better game. Regardless of the rules, when a referee makes a call on the field, unless it is a reviewable call (which happens immediately) the call stands even if it is the wrong call. Even if it is reviewed, under certain circumstances the call cannot be overturned. In most circumstances the call on the field determines the outcome of the game. For this reason, it is all the more important to have good refs.

People get it. It does not take a genius to figure this out. So, when people complain about what we need, no says, "We need a different kind of ref." They say, "Give us our refs back." Similarly, when it comes to our Church, we recently went through a terrible turmoil with the sex-abuse scandal. In fact, the turmoil is still lingering. Faithful Catholics, in general, did not go running around screaming, "We need a new and different kind of priesthood." Many Catholics were so saddened and infuriated by the scandal that they left the Church. I doubt that the situation with the NFL is viewed as seriously as the priesthood, so I would not expect NFL fans to start flocking to college football or stop watching football altogether.

Rather, football fans have called for their old priests back. In the Church we have done something similar. We want the priests that we all remember. Many of us have been influenced in our lives by great priests. When we encounter an awful priest, we do not start demanding a new priesthood, but instead, we want priests like we used to have. We need refs/priests that are devoted to their occupation, who love the game but remain impartial. We need ref/priests who understand the rules, judge rightly and prudently, and enforce the rules. We need refs/priests who do no not give in to pressure. We need them to be well-trained and well-vetted.

Why don't we have enough priests?

I heard it again this last Sunday. In Father's homily, he made reference to the recent closure of 100+ parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, due to a so-called "lack of vocations." This raises the question: Is there a lack of vocations?

Surely we have to say this if there are not enough priests to serve in those communities, but we have to stop and think about what is meant when we say, "vocations." Just about all of us, if not explicitly, implicitly know that 'vocations' derives from the Latin root 'vocare' meaning to call. We call use the term generically to refer to our 'callings' in life.

The question we should answer first is: Who does the calling? I think most of us would immediately respond, "God." If we do that, then we ought to also ask, "How does God call us to any given 'calling?'" Let us assume for the moment that God does not wake us from our sleep to speak with us the way he did Samuel. Or let us assume that we are not exactly on the same face-to-face speaking terms with the Almighty that Moses was. Or let us assume that God does not lead us through our lives as a pillar of fire and smoke as He did with Israel.

I am not going to deny that God speaks to us through the stirrings of our hearts, but God is not the only one/thing that stirs our hearts. So, if we want to hear God speaking to us in our innermost amidst the upheaval of emotions, the excitement of our passions, and the distractions of our desires, we are going to need first to order our desires, quell our passions, and keep a sober mind. Even after we have done this, there is still the risk that the stirring we feel, the restlessness that moves us is not from God. We still run the risk of confusing our own misguidings as God's call.

Lucky for us, we do not live in a vacuum. And if we are truly lucky, we know one or two others who work hard at living lives that are properly ordered toward God, people that rely whole-heartedly on the Sacraments and Scripture. These people are great resources for us. They can help us determine God's calling for us. One of the most dangerous things we can do is to determine our vocation on our own.

Now that we have some sense of how God calls us and how we hear God's call, we can ask: What kind of vocation shortage to we really have? What is the cause of the shortage of vocations? If there is a shortage of vocations, we have to attribute this shortage to one of two causes. There is either a lack of being called, or a failure to respond to that call (for any number of reasons). Has God stopped calling young men to the priesthood or have young men stopped responding to God's call?

I do not know the mind of God well enough to know which is the case. I do know that there are some pretty serious implications in saying that God is not calling as many. There is not much we can do if this is the case. If, however, God is still calling many, but they are not responding in the numbers that they once did, then we know that there is something that we can do. We can help others to hear that call.

Here is my final thought on the matter: If God's not calling men to the priesthood in the same numbers that he once did and we strive to help young men find their vocation anyway, or we help them to test a vocation to the priesthood,  we do no harm (as long as we are not 'pushing' these men into priesthood). Shame on us if we ever discourage anyone from testing a vocation to the priesthood. Shame on us if we ever discourage any young man from applying to study for the priesthood.

We should be thankful for the vocations that we have. We should encourage every young, single Catholic male to apply for priestly studies.

Pray for vocations. Pray for our priests, deacons, and bishops. Support those in formation, and the Religious Orders who pray for vocations.

A Catholic Apology Even Atheists Should Be Able to Appreciate:

Is faith opposed to reason?

Atheists like to try and take the philosophical high ground with Christians making claims like, "the Catholic Church abhors reason," but anyone who has dared to study history knows how important of a role the Catholic Church has played in two specific areas, namely Philosophy and Science.

With so many Catholics making some of the greatest advancements in science, it would be dishonest, or neglectful at best, to omit their achievements, achievements of persons such as Gregor Mendel (the father of modern genetics) or Georges Lemaître (the Catholic priest who penned the Big Bang Theory).  We should not forget about the numerous other non-Catholic Christians who see no conflict between their faith and science, e.g. Lutheran Werner Heisenberg (theoretical physicist) or Mormon Henry Eyring (American chemist and author of the Eyring equation).

Furthermore, we should not fail to mention the fact that every seminarian studying for Catholic priesthood, in normal situations, studies philosophy (as the basis for their liberal arts education) for four years in minor seminary. The philosophical studies are thorough, ranging from chronological studies, e.g. Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary/Post-Modern Philosophy, to topical studies, e.g. Logic, Epistemology, Natural Theology (proofs for the existence of God using reason alone), Human Nature, et al.

It should be obvious by this point that the Catholic Church and most Christians do not 'abhor reason.' To drive this point home, I want to suggest that you read, if you have not already, Fides et Ratio a papal encyclical written by Pope John Paul II. The encyclical explains the mutual relationship between faith and reason. It promotes the study of philosophy and science, and encourages those who study them to remember the limits of both and to allow both to be further illuminated by the light of faith.

Can reason alone prove the existence of God?

Simply speaking, no, but nothing is ever that simple. What reason-alone arguments can do is prove that it is more reasonable than not that there is a God. What we generally consider a proof in today's day and age is physical (meaning that can be proven using the physical sciences). Philosophy is not a physical science, so philosophical proofs are logical not physical. Logical proofs come in two kinds: 1) coherent and 2) correspondent. A coherent proof is one that makes sense within a system.  A correspondent proof is only a proof if it corresponds to reality. Moreover, proofs are not proofs unless they are true. 

Today, unfortunately, many college professors are teaching unadulterated skepticism. We could sit down and fruitfully argue with some philosophers about whether or not there is truth, but these professors side step the entire argument by simply saying that we cannot know whether or not there is truth. So, let us for one moment take time to rebut both. We have all heard the logical argument that to say, "there is not truth," implies that it is in fact true that there is no truth. Here is the thing, saying either "there is truth" or "there is no truth" does not necessarily denote a correspondence to reality. So, I am not going to use that argument because I am more concerned about correspondence. Furthermore, correspondence truth means nothing if it does not affect the way we live.  So, for the sake of making my point we will only concern ourselves with reality and the way we act. 

We act as if there is truth and as if we can know it. So, we will concern ourselves with truth, both correspondent and coherent. We will assume that there is truth and we can know because that is how we live our lives. The truths that we claim to know change, e.g. we thought we knew that Santa Claus was real and so we asked a red-suited, bearded man for presents. Then, when we knew he was not real, we stopped asking strange men for presents. No one, however, doubts that gravity exists, and we all act accordingly. No one on earth holds an anvil above their head and lets go expecting it to float away. 

Next, I would like to make some big leaps into my argument. What is true is good. If something is good it actually exists.  Therefore, truth is convertible with good and being. 

Is it unreasonable to believe in God?

This is where we butt heads with most atheists. Most atheists would be fine with what I have said above. They might even say, "I think it's great that Catholics and other Christians have contributed to science and philosophy, but now it's time for them to recognize that the sooner they stop believing in God, the sooner we all can make major scientific headway." This sort of thinking is usually rooted in misunderstandings about evolution, history, scandals, et al. There is very little or no correlation between what the misunderstanding is whether or not God exists. In fact, it would be in some ways easier if God did not exist. There would certainly be fewer moral restrictions and obligations. 

The question is whether or not it would be easier, or if there would be fewer wars or less corruption. The question is not is not why does God allow so much evil. The question is simply whether or not God exists. Arguing that a good God would not allow evil is convincing, but fortunately for our sake, has little import to our argument. Our concern it not the source of evil. 

In order to argue the existence of anything, we have to know what it is we are looking for. We have to know what we mean when we say, "God."  In this sense, we have to admit that our argument contains the conclusion in the premise. This is how all arguments for the existence of anything work. Does a violin exist? That depends on what I mean by violin. If by violin I mean: pink and purple spotted water dwelling mammal that sings Italian operas on Mars, then no. So, when we say, "Does God exist?" We have to know what we mean by God. We have to avoid misunderstandings. 

It is not unreasonable to believe that truth exists. It is not unreasonable that good exists. It is not unreasonable that being exists. If this is the case, it is not unreasonable that God exists.

What is meant when Catholics say, "God?"

Catholic theology can be done in three ways. The first way that we tend to do theology is what is known as the Via Positiva (the positive way) or the cataphatic way. It is the way in which we make affirmative claims about who or what God is. Generally, as Catholics we say that God is good. If God is good, and good is convertible with being and truth, then it is also true that God is true and exists. This is not the proof mind you. This is merely part of defining what Catholics mean by "God." God is; God is Good; and God is True.

The second way that we do theology might appeal more to atheists. It is the Via Negativa (the negative way) or the apophatic way. It is the way in which we make negative claims about who God is. That is to say, we say who/what God is not. For example, "God is not good," is a perfectly Catholic claim. When Catholics say it, however, what we mean is God is not good in the way what we know good. If God is good it is in a way that surpasses what we know good to be. So, God is not good, true, or being, at least not in the way we know good, true, and being. For, the way we know these things is limited. God is not limited.

The third way does not have a cool Greek name like cataphatic or apophatic. It is known as the superlative way or the supereminent way. I would like to suggest a Greek equivalent, the "hyperphatic" way. This is the way we make the affirmative claim that God is good but in a way that transcends limits. It goes like this, "If God is, then God is good but not how we know good. So, God must transcend all good." So, as Catholics we say that God is beyond good, beyond true, and beyond being. That is to say, that God is infinite goodness, infinite truth, and infinite being. 

God does not exist in this world. Everything in this world is limited/finite. If it is finite, it is not God. If it is limited, it is not God. So, what do Catholics mean when we say "God?" Nothing. God is not some thing. God is no-thing. God is beyond everything. Things are finite. So, God cannot be a thing. So, mental pictures of the Old-Bearded Man in the sky, fuh-ged-abaü-dit. 

But we go further. If God is infinite, everything must exist in God in some way. Infinite does not apply to nothingness. It only applies to being. If something exists, it must therefore exist in God in some way. If something is good or true, it must exist in God in some way. The way it exist in God is in an infinite way. If man is a person, therefore, personality must exist in God in some supereminent way. So, it is appropriate to call God a personal God, but we have to remember that He is not personal in the way we know personality.


Is it reasonable to believe in goodness, truth, and being? Yes. Life as we know it is founded on these ideas. We rely, on truth and its existence. We rely on scientific truth every time we get on an airplane. We rely on our own being every time we go to sleep. We rely on goodness every time we give a gift. Do these things have a source? Undeniably. Is it unreasonable that that source is a transcendent infinitude of goodness, truth, being, and personality? No. That transcendent source is what we call God. 

Is it more reasonable to believe that there is a single source of every existing thing in the universe than to believe that the universe perpetuates itself with infinite regress? Yes. In light of the Big Bang theory, it is particularly more reasonable to believe that there is a single source of everything in the universe. In "The Grand Design," by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking claims that it is because of gravity that we do not need to rely on God for spontaneous creation. Rightly, philosophers and scientist all over have asked the question, "Where did gravity come from?" If the universe is created spontaneously on account of gravity, but the universe does not exist, how is it possible to say that gravity exists? This is the current popular scientific opinion, and yet it points more than ever towards a spontaneous creation in time of the entire universe from a single source. The question is whether or not that source is gravity or some transcendent infinitude, which would even be the source of gravity.  

Once we establish that there is a God. We can try to explain the problem of evil. We can try to look for the true worship. We can talk about what that means for every other problem that arises when we claim that there is a God. 

Who is the better quarterback Peyton Manning or John Elway?

Sunday Night Football, one of NBC's greatest inventions, hosted a magnificent event last night, namely Peyton Manning's new career as a Denver Bronco. It is debatable whether or not Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all-time. What is not debatable is that he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.

Last night, Lady Mischief had inspired me to antagonize some friends and family with arguments about who is a better quarterback, Peyton Manning or John Elway. I feel that I can safely say that for Bronco fans, they have not seen a comparable quarterback play for their team since the greatness of Elway. If you were to talk to a Bronco fan, you might walk away thinking that John Elway is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

So, I asked my friends if, now that Manning is a Bronco, they were willing to concede that he is a better quarterback than Elway. Without hesitation I received negative responses from everyone I asked. One person, who shall remain anonymous and dear to me, said, "I will when he wins us three Super Bowl titles." The reference here, for those of you unfamiliar with football history, is to Elway's two back-to-back Super Bowl wins, with which he ended his career.

The problem is that no one player wins the Super Bowl by himself. He necessarily needs to be surrounded by the right players. So, it is unfair to judge any single player as being the best simply by his championship titles. Titles as a criterion for best ought better be applied to coaches and executives who pick and manage the players that work together for the championship titles and Super Bowl victories.

I will say this, it is difficult to judge any player as being the all-time greatest at any position, but the two positions that I would say it is most difficult to make a call are quarterback and receivers (this includes all receiving positions). The two positions are so interdependent on each other that if the greatest quarterback had a team of the lousiest receivers, he would either never complete perfectly thrown passes or be forced to run.

The position is one that requires exceptional passing to exceptional receivers and on occasion exceptional running. If you were to ask, "Who is the better QB at running?" John Elway would win hands-down. Everybody who loves football knows that Manning is one of the worst quarterbacks when it comes to running. He is a slow, big target. Elway, who was also big, came in 15 lbs. lighter and two inches shorter. So, pretty comparable in size, but a much better runner. In fact, in Elway's 16 years as quarterback for the Broncos, he racked up a total of 3,000+ yards just by running. In Manning's 14 years in the NFL, he has only racked up a mere 700+.

When it comes down to self-reliance we can say that Elway was better at making up for his teams defects by running down field. Manning, however, is not to be outdone. What he lacks in running speed he makes up for with both accuracy and passing yards. Manning's career pass completion percentage is 65%, whereas Elway's is only 56.9% Furthermore, that figure plays out to 55,081 career passing yards, whereas Elway's figure is a not so mere 51,475 yards, a difference of 3,606 yards. In Manning's fewer years he has racked up more yardage passing than Elway had passing and rushing combined. Going a bit further, Manning has over 100 more passing touchdowns than Elway, which again is more than Elway has passing and rushing combined.

At this point we can pause and reflect and come up with more arguments about how Elway could have been a better quarterback than Manning, such as leadership qualities, Super Bowl titles, etc... Manning, though, who has won more regular-season MVP awards than any other quarterback, still has a few years ahead of him if he stays healthy. Elway even conceded that Manning will go down "without a doubt" as the greatest quarterback of all-time if he can win two more Super Bowls. So, even by Elway's own standards, all he needs to do is win one Super Bowl for them in order to be at least as good as he is. In Elway's mind, for all we know, Manning might already be considered the superior QB.

With all the stats I have thrown around, I find it difficult to say that Elway is the better quarterback. I would only consider conceding that Manning is equal to Elway if the right qualifiers were in place. The facts seem to me to be stacked against Elway, but nevertheless, Bronco fans refuse to admit it.

All that being said, it seems to me that this situation is a great analogy for the sort of sentimentalism that keeps us from the truth. For many of us, we identify ourselves so strongly with certain groups, things, people, events, etc... that we find it difficult to concede the truth without feeling like we are betraying ourselves, and self-betrayal feels worse than death itself.

Our teams are our teams because we choose them as our teams. We generally have little or no real attachment to these teams. Many Los Angeles Rams fans were Rams fans until they were burned by the Rams move to St. Louis. Our choice to cheer for the home team is usually a great reason, but often times we ourselves move, and then the are no longer the home team. We put ourselves, at that point, at choosing to cheer for a new home team or to cheer for the team of our former home. What then would we do if our home team moves? Again, we often find that our favorite players are those who play for our team. What then do we do when they are traded to our rival team?

Here it is. Elway spent his career with the Broncos and finished his career as a Bronco with two Super Bowl wins. It would be hard to call any other quarterback better if he was not a Bronco. Moreover, it would be just as difficult to call another quarterback better if he spent the great majority of his career with another team. The problem is that we set up a lot of obstacles to the truth. These obstacles are to us our favorites because of we choose them to be our favorites. We think that it will ruin our integrity if we were to choose another favorite team or another favorite player.

So, what about politics? Sure, same thing. We find it difficult to admit the other side is right because we are afraid that we will betray ourselves and those with whom we associate ourselves. How about religion? Again, I imagine it is the same. We surround ourselves with others who see us as Catholic or Protestant or Buddhist or Atheist, and we cannot get ourselves to admit that we are wrong because we identify ourselves so strongly with the Catholics, et. al. that see us as their kind of people. To be otherwise would destroy our integrity, not to mention our friendships, social ties, self-image, etc... So, rather than turning toward truth, we avoid it. We say, "It's right for me." or "I know it's right because it feels right." We avoid encountering the truth. We come up with half-baked reasons why this is better than that, regardless of the facts.

My grandfather always said, "Don't take any wooden nickels," and that is exactly what we do. We take all sorts of wooden nickels and we refuse to trade them in for real ones. We tell ourselves that these wooden ones are better because they are ours, even if it means that we cannot spend them.

I will stick with Manning. He is the better quarterback. And the Catholic Church? She is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic bride of Christ, the only Church of Christ. The Pope, he is the best Church leader not because he is the most charming or my favorite. He simply has the right stats: 2,000 years of continuous succession from Christ to Peter to each of the popes. He is the Vicar of Christ. Democrats or Republicans? I will vote Republican or whoever is most pro-life until the Right to Life is granted to every person from conception to death. For, without that most fundamental of rights, we have no rights. If we do not recognize the right as proper to all, then it is illogical to think that it is proper to any.  Feeding the hungry makes no sense unless we recognize the human dignity of each and every one. Certain things have priority, and we just have to admit it.

Go Eph yourself... and by Eph I mean "Ephphatha!"

In this Sunday's Gospel we will hear the story of the deaf man with a speech impediment. Christ takes this man away by himself and does something very strange to him. Christ sticks His finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touches the man's tongue. I want to note a couple of things in this scene: 1) Christ touches the man's ears first. 2) Christ touches the man and spits.

We see in this act that there is a priority to Christ's actions, and I would not be so quick to dismiss it as incidental. The fact is, if you cannot hear, it is difficult if not impossible to speak. Hearing as a priority to speaking.

Next, I want to emphasize that Christ's actions are intimate. He touches the man. Unlike our other senses, touching is reciprocal. A person may see me if I see him, but not necessarily. A person may hear me if I hear him, but not necessarily. If I touch another person, they are necessarily touching me back. So, when Christ touches the deaf mute, the act is incredibly intimate.

Furthermore, this intimate act of touching relies on Christ's human nature to make the contact. Christ's actions are not simply divine actions. This sort of action theologians refer to as theandric, derived from the Greek words Theos-God and andro-Man. It refers specifically to divine actions carried out through Jesus' human nature. We can call it sacramental. These actions are signs of an invisible reality that takes place on account of the sign performed.

There is a sort of ex opere operato (from the work worked) that takes place. The healing of the deaf mute takes place because of the actions that Christ does. The reception of the healing does not rely on the merits of the man, but it does require his openness. Unlike the Sacraments, which are carried out by a priest, this action is also ex opere operantis (from the work of the worker), which is to say that it relies on the holiness of the worker, namely Christ. All sacraments derive their efficacy from Christ's holiness. The holiness of the minister of the Sacrament, who stands in the place of Christ, has no effect on the Sacrament. Christ's grace is conferred simply in the action of the Sacraments so long as they have the same intention and means.

We see these actions used in our ritual for Baptism. Luckily for us, we omit the spitting. The rite is even referred to as the Rite of Ephphatha, which is the word quoted in this Sunday's Gospel. It is an optional rite in Baptism, and not every priest uses it. Blessed are you whose priests use this rite. Faith comes through hearing we are told in the scriptures. The Rite of Baptism is concerned with Faith. At the beginning of the rite, the minister asks the parents, "What do you ask of God's Church for N.?" The more traditional response is, "Faith." The Extraordinary Form (ExForm) of Baptism only allows this response. In Ordinary Form (OForm) of the Rite of Baptism for Adults, it is the given response with other responses as optional. In the Rite of Baptism for Infants, "Baptism." is the given response and "Faith." is one of five optional responses.

The reason "Faith." is given as a response is because 'baptism' simply means 'washing.' All washing has a purpose, and the purpose of this particular washing is the forgiveness of original sin. The forgiveness, however, has its own purpose. It restores the original relationship that Adam had with God and exceeds that relationship with added grace. Adam's relationship with God was one in which Adam received natural life with preternatural gifts, e.g. St. Augustine says that Adam would receive so much grace from God that he would have had an extraordinary control over his body to the point of making music with his flatulence (City of God XIV:24). What Adam did not have was supernatural life.

Our baptism exceeds Adam's relationship by God granting us, through no merit of our own a share in His divine life. In the Mass when water is mixed with wine prior to the consecration the priest or deacon prays, "By the mixing of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity." In Baptism, Christ's divinity touches our humanity the same as it does in the reception of the Most Holy Eucharist. When it does, the immediate effect of that grace, in Baptism, is Faith. So, we can say that the effect of Baptism is Faith.

Faith is a supernatural gift. It is God's knowledge of Himself. It is a knowledge of things unseen. In our Baptism we have been made open to "hearing God's word and proclaiming His faith" just as the deaf mute was made open through Jesus' touch.

In openness we receive Faith. That same faith compels us to be perpetually open to Him. It compels us to spiritual poverty. It compels us to recognize our need for God and His wealth. Those who remain open to Him will be heirs of His kingdom. This is His promise to us.

Confirmation and Pauline Theology: A Catholic theology of spiritual strength...

Breaking down St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians...

Taken from Eph 6:10-17:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Any good Sacramental Theologian, should be able to read this text and understand immediately its import with regard to the Sacrament of Confirmation. Let me render the translation of just the first line a little more directly:
Finally, be [strengthened or confirmed] in the Lord and in the [potency] of His [virtue]
and so you know that I am not taken advantage of you, here it is in the Latin, which is the Universal Norm for the Latin Rite (Roman Catholic) Church:
De cetero confortamini in Domino et in potentia virtutis eius.
The word 'confortamini' is a pretty uncommon word meaning, "with-fortify-you-all." The English word confirm has a similar meaning, "with-make-firm." The difference is 'firm' vs. 'fort' both referring to strength. So, it is appropriate to render the line, "Finally, be strengthened..."

I only rendered the other two words differently to show that the second of the two, 'virtutis,' is related to the English word virtue. The root of "virtue" is "vir," which means man/male. The word "virtus" literally translated means, "manliness." Strength was seen as the predominant 'virtue' that distinguished men from women, and so often times, the word means nothing more than strength, as it does in this case. For, surely we cannot expect that St. Paul is referring to the quality in God that makes Him manly.

The other word, which I rendered as 'potency,' is related to the English word omnipotent, which has its roots in the Latin word, "omnipotens," meaning 'almighty' or 'all-powerful.' So, it is appropriate to substitute either English word, 'might' or 'power,' for 'potentia' I would recommend you do not use 'potency.' That was purely for pedagogical purposes.

So, read it again this way:
Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the power of His strength. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Or again this way:
Finally, be confirmed in the Lord and in the might of His virtue. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firmStand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 
Nice, huh!? I think so. So... what does this have to do with the Sacrament of Confirmation?

Confirmation and Strength...

It is likely, especially if you have not grasped the relation at this point, that you were taught in your own Confirmation preparation classes that Confirmation is all about receiving the "Gift of the Holy Spirit" and the "gifts of the Holy Spirit." You may have even heard, if you were lucky, that it is the perfection of the Grace that you received at Baptism. Even luckier if you were taught that the Sacrament is about 'Strength.' There is a tendency to shy away from the language of 'Strength' because it implies that there is something against which we need to be strong.

If you read Pope Paul VI's words when he revised the rite of Confirmation after the Second Vatican Council, he says:
The sharing of the divine nature which is granted to men through the grace of Christ has a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of confirmation, and finally are sustained by the food of eternal life in the eucharist... the body is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the body is signed, that the soul too may be fortified... Through the sacrament of confirmation, those who have been born anew in baptism receive the inexpressible Gift, the Holy Spirit himself, by which ‘they are endowed... with special strength. (Pope Paul VI. Divinae Consortium Naturae; 1975)

The Divine Mathematics behind the sacraments...

The sacrament has at its core the reception of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, but every sacrament has at its core the reception of grace which is a share in the Divine Life. As the Holy Father says "The sharing of the divine nature which is granted to men through the grace of Christ." In Confirmation, one receives the Holy Spirit, but that reception is still only a participation in the Divine Life of the Holy Spirit.

As finite beings, our share in the infinite must necessarily be finite, or it would mean the annihilation of the finite thing, the human person. For, ∞ + x = ∞. That is to say,  an infinitude plus any finite is equal to the infinitude. The finite thing ceases to exist. As a finite thing, we receive a share in the infinite each according to our individual nature.

What I am trying to say is that in the sacraments we do not cease to be ourselves. We do not become the Holy Spirit, in the simplest of terms. We receive some share in the life of the Holy Spirit, and by way of concomitance, we receive a share in the life of the Son and of the Father. For, where there is one, the other two must also be. In this way, all the sacraments are alike.

Distinguishing between their purposes...

That being said, every sacrament is for the same purpose, namely to receive some share in the Divine Life. That being the case, if there are different sacraments we must necessarily distinguish them by some other purpose. Pope Paul VI gives us an example of these distinctions quoting from Tertullian:
The body is washed, that the soul may be cleansed; the body is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the body is signed, that the soul too may be fortified; the body is overshadowed by the laying on of hands, that the soul too may be enlightenened by the Spirit; the body is fed on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul too should be nourished by God (Tertullian. De resurrectione mortuorum.VIII, 3: CCL, 2, 931). 
When Tertullian says, "the body is washed..." he is referring to baptism. When he says, "the body is anointed..." It is unclear to which sacrament he is referring for both Baptism and Confirmation make use of holy oils. He may be referring to both, but Confirmation requires the Sacred Chrism in order to be valid, when Baptism can be performed validly without the Oil of Catechumens. So, it follows that he is speaking of Confirmation. Likewise, when he says, "the body is signed..." and "body is overshadowed..." he is also referring to Confirmation. When he says, "the body is fed..." He is clearly speaking of the Eucharist.

From this, we can say that in the Sacrament of Confirmation these signs are used for the consecration, strengthening, and enlightening of the confimand. It is also important to point out that in Confirmation, these three signs take place at the same time. The most important aspect of this sacrament seems to be strengthening. The confirmand is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, so that he might be firm in his conviction. The confirmand is consecrated, that is to say set apart for a special purpose, and strengthened to perform that purpose.

So, what is that purpose?

The importance of a good offense and defense...

Every great team defeats other great teams by having both a great offense and a great defense. The the offenses are equally matched, but one team has the stronger defense, a scoring attempt will be thwarted by the stronger defense leading that team to victory. Likewise, if both defenses are equally matched, the stronger offense will score leading that team to victory. 

The Catholic Church has an offense and a defense. Evangelization is the way in which the Church scores points. The defense of the Church is likened to apologetics. The goal of the Catholic Church is to win souls for Christ, to draw more sheep into His flock so that they too may feed on verdant pastures. By extension, every Christian has the obligation to evangelize and defend the faith. 

The Christian person, however, primarily evangelizes by the example of his life. So many are turned away from the Church by the hypocritical way in which we live our lives. This should not be the case. For, if we recognize that we are hypocrites, then we also should recognize that the Church is for hypocrites. The Church is for sinners striving to be better. The Hospital is for the sick who want to be healthy. 

Our lives need to reflect this. We need to draw people into the Church by acknowledging our own shortcomings. If we recognize our own faults and live our lives accordingly, our actions speak volumes about the grace of God. Whereas if we act superior and judge others by our actions, we will never score points. 

The interior struggle...

St. Paul's words are clear, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." This is not simply a worldly battle. We should not so much concern ourselves with 'fighting the powers that be,' the injustices of government, the oppression of poor by the wealthy. Rather we should defend ourselves against the temptations, against our own lusts, against our own passions, and the interior assaults of the devil.

We need to rid ourselves of discord and the desire for wealth, power, pleasure, and fame. When we turn our focus inward, our outward actions follow and in a much more persuasive manner. When our heart is properly ordered, we draw others into a relationship that leads to their hearts being properly ordered. When the majority of people's hearts are properly ordered, we can change the world, but it starts inside us.

We have to be strong enough to fight this interior battle. Our evangelization begins within and moves outward from a properly ordered life. The outward battle requires that we put on certain armor:
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We must be true and honest to ourselves first, if we are to be true and honest to others. We have to just to whom we are indebted and merciful toward those indebted to us. We have to prepare ourselves to understand the Gospel with reason and faith. We must receive the forgiveness of our sins and repent. And we must have the word of God always on our mind, and ready to speak it if necessary.

This is the strength that Confirmation offers us: the strength to be true and honest, just and merciful, reasonable and believing, and firm in our reliance on God.