The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Sacraments: The Eucharist - Presence

Sunday, May 06, 2012
When thinking about the Eucharist it is important to be clear from the very beginning that we are dealing with a mystery. God is not some ‘thing’ that we will ever get our thoughts around, not some thing we will ever get our language around; the infinite God exceeds our finite mind’s capacity to understand. We ought, then, to be suspicious of any attempt to ‘explain’ the real presence of Christ among us in the Eucharist. In the end, an understanding of how bread and wine can become the Body and Blood of Christ will be beyond us; it is not something we can demonstrate or prove but a truth revealed by God that must be accepted on faith. Nevertheless, if we are to remain faithful to this revelation, faithful to the tradition we have received, and in our turn to hand it on to others, then we must be sure that what we are preaching is the true faith and not nonsense. Catholicism is not contrary to reason, the mysteries of God are not truths that we can say nothing about; they are simply truths that we cannot say everything about.  Read more

Sacraments: Confirmation

Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Confirmation is the sacrament of Christian maturity. By a unique sealing with the gift of the Holy Spirit, baptismal grace is strengthened and perfected, confirming the Christian for public witness to the Gospel. But why is Confirmation necessary – is it not enough to be born-again in Baptism? Read more

Sacraments: Baptism

Friday, April 27, 2012

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Sacraments: The Sacraments in General

Monday, April 23, 2012

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New Series: The Sacraments of the Church

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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Sacraments: Marriage

Sunday, May 22, 2011
Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste (Song of Songs 2:3).

One of the most beautiful things that can happen to a human being is to love someone and being loved in return. It becomes even much more agreeable when both people choose to spend their lives together forever and to start a family. That is why, since the dawn of time, societies saw marriage as an important institution, not only for their survival, but also for their happiness.

Philippe Béguerie and Claude Ducheneau in their work How to Understand the Sacraments state that “[t]he church did not invent marriage. Marriage existed long before the church. And the first Christians married, like those around them, without needing a special religious ceremony. However, from the beginning marriage was considered important in the Christian community” (1991:137). Nevertheless, Canon 1055 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, tells us that “[t]he matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” And it is “[f]or this reason [that] a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament” (CIC 1055 §2).

Canon 1056 tells us that “[t]he essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness by reason of the sacrament.” The firmness consists in the fact that God is the one to unite the spouses and no one should separate them (Mark 10:9). Thus, one could say that when God created a man and a woman it implied complementarity (Gen 2:18) which is more clearly expressed in the sacrament of matrimony. Thus, marriage, that union between a man and a woman, is part of God’s plan. The Catechism of the Catholic Church thus tells us that “[m]arriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics” (CCC 1603).

Marriage leads to family. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in his letter to families, Gratissimam Sane, that “Christ … entrusted man to [the Church] as the 'way'of her mission and her ministry… Among these many paths, the family is the first and the most important. It is a path common to all, yet one which is particular, unique and un-repeatable, just as every individual is unrepeatable; it is a path from which man cannot withdraw” (1994: §1 – §2).

It is obvious that today the institution of the family suffers a lot. Many people no longer are born in torn families, in many countries children are born in deplorable situations that leave them orphaned, and hundreds of thousands of children grow in separated families or in child-headed households. It becomes even sadder when Christian families choose to end their relationship and opt for a separation. However, Christian families are not immune to the problems that tear down our society.

Where families are torn from the separation of the spouses, the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us the reason saying that “[e]very man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character” (CCC 1606). A more compassionate approach towards current problems in families might assist in helping to solve them. It would be an enormous mistake and utterly wrong to start looking at marriage as a less important vocation. It is different from the calling to religious life but it has its own irreplaceable role to play in the building of the kingdom of God. But still, we need to find a solution to this persisting – maybe worsening – crisis in the institution of marriage.

We need to be continuously reminded that, as Herbert Vorgrimler puts it in his book Sacramental Theology, marriage being the symbol of the love of Christ for the Church, is an enduring sacrament [which] implies this continuing symbolic value and the ongoing state of being Church and building Church. From this fact alone results the indissolubility of the marriage of believing Christians and the unity (monogamy) of this marriage, things that cannot be made conclusive with purely rational arguments based on nature. The result of this theological reflection is that marriage – at least a marriage that is deliberately sacramental – cannot be built on a love that is primarily thought of as feeling, emotion, sympathy, or attraction […] love expresses itself not only in the decision made at the beginning, but above all in fidelity (1992:309 - 310).

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