Book Review: The Smile of a Ragpicker

November 22, 2014

Satako Elizabeth Maria Kitahara in the little chapel in Ants Town

Satako Elizabeth Maria Kitahara in the little chapel in Ants Town

Father Paul Glynn, S.M. has done it again, bringing us a story of saintliness in post war Japan. He introduced us to the extraordinary Dr. Takachi Nagai in A Song for Nagasaki, and now to Maria of Ants Town in The Smile of a Ragpicker.

One of the great charms of the lives of saints is learning about how they overcame self to be Christ for others. Satoko Kitahara was a young woman of privilege and nobility, college educated in pharmacology, and accustomed to the best life has to offer. In this book we learn how God prepared her heart to receive His call to conversion and holiness, and the enormous effect she had on post war Japan through her life among the poor.

In 1990 the prestigious Japanese monthly, Bungei Shunju, named Satoko as one of the fifty Japanese women who “moved the nation the most” during the sixty-two year reign of Emperor Hirohito. Numerous plays, movies, and books about her life have been produced over the years, such was the inspiration she gave to others. She, herself, would never have thought of such honors nor fame as she lived and died destitute in a Tokyo slum where people displaced and impoverished by the war found a way to survive and the way to Christ.

We should never underestimate the power of grace nor the power of simple religious objects to stir the heart of one who unknowingly longs for the good, the true, and the beautiful. Satoko wrote of her awakening to that nameless “something” upon beholding a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Church of the Sacred Heart on a visit to Yokohama. This descendant of Shinto priests going back well over a thousand years wrote:

This was the very first time I had seen a statue of the Blessed Mother. Drawn, I know not why, to enter that church, I gazed on the statue, sensing the presence of a very attractive force that I could not explain. I had always experienced a vague but strong yearning for the Pure. It was not something I could describe in words but it was definitely with me from childhood. The very first time I remember glimpsing what seemed a worthy object of this deep longing was in Meiji Shrine when I was about seven years old. My parents had taken me along for the religious festival called Shichi-Go-San, and I had my first glimpse of miko, the shrine maidens who serve in Shinto sanctuaries. I was only a child but those miko in their brilliant red skirts and white cotton blouses are vividly etched in my memory to this day. I suppose my heart was conditioned for that experience by a long line of Shinto priest ancestors.

Satoko, to the discomfort of her parents, threw herself into the study of Catholicism and was baptized Elizabeth on Sunday, October 30, 1949. Her patron saint, Elizabeth of Hungary, well known for her care of the poor, was to have great significance in the vocation Satoko soon followed. On November 1, 1949, she was confirmed with the name, Mary after the Mother of Jesus.

From her teen years Satoko suffered with tuberculosis, a disease without a sure cure in the early 1950s. I myself remember being tested for TB every year at the Catholic grade school I attended, and dreading the test coming up positive, so Satoko’s suffering was a real possibility for many of us in those days. However, she gave herself wholly to the poor of Ants Town, and in so doing brought hope and joy to the poor she picked rags and trash with every day until she became too weak to do more than pray in her small room near the chapel in that slum. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Maximilian Kolbe through Brother Zeno played a big part in her transformation from a young woman of privilege with numerous opportunities to make a good marriage into a leader and nurturer of the poor children and families she pushed carts with.

Reading this book will help westerners understand a bit about Japan and how extraordinary Satoko’s life and work were for her times and culture. It also shows how Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism were building blocks for her conversion, illustrating St. Thomas Aquinas’ statement that “grace builds on nature.” By the time of her death at age 29 in 1958, God had polished all her rough edges of selfishness into His likeness. People flocked to her grave, Christian and non-Christian alike, reporting numerous cures due to her intercession. In 1975 Archbishop Shirayagi of Tokyo began inquiries into her reputed holiness. Newspapers described her as an “heroic witness against the selfishness and materialism” taking hold in post war Japan.

Upon reading this book I am once again amazed at how God raises up amongst us in our times those who will show His face to the sick and suffering, completely counter to the so-called wisdom of the world.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 Book Review 1 Comment

Arise and Walk

November 16, 2014

SS. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man at the Beautiful Gate, 17th century, Bolognese painter

SS. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man at the Beautiful Gate, 17th century, Bolognese painter

A forty year old man, lame from birth, sat on his mat just outside the Beautiful gate of the temple of Jerusalem. This way of life, begging for daily sustenance, was nothing new to him, nor to those who passed him regularly on their way into the temple. Depending on friends to transport him to and from his home was also nothing new. But it probably was never easy to humble himself like that just to live, yet he persevered because he had no other choice.

One day he saw two men, Peter and John, about to enter the temple at the ninth hour (3 o’clock) and asked them for alms. That encounter changed his life forever. Acts 3: 3-8 tells us what happened.

He, when he had seen Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. But Peter with John fastening his eyes upon him, said: Look upon us. But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them. But Peter said: Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and walk. And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up, stood, and walked, and went in with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Some things that struck me about this passage as I was meditating on it are:

  • This occurred at the 9th hour, the same hour Jesus died on the Cross, the hour of mercy, the hour of freedom from the chains of all evil. Today countless Catholics all over the world recite the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3:00, pleading mercy for sinners everywhere, including themselves, that we all may arise and walk in the way of the Lord as this man did. At three o’clock I will forever think now of that lame man and what God is telling me through that healing.
  • Peter instructed the man to “Look upon us.” The first step in healing is to ask for it. The second step is to look with earnestness and hope upon Christ, who in this case used Peter as His instrument. Anyone who visits Adoration chapels where “favors granted” binders are left for adorers to write of the blessings they have received will immediately know the healing that comes from looking upon Jesus with earnestness and hope. I always find myself humbled and awed at the daily miracles Jesus does for others simply because of their earnest prayers before Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Silver and gold would not fix the man’s lameness but the name of Jesus not only cured the man, but gave him the strength to go out and support himself. He received a new life entirely instead of money. He received much more than he asked for, way beyond what he could have imagined when he begged Peter for money. How powerful that name is! God is so generous that when we ask for all we need in the name of Jesus, He gives us much more than we ask for in terms of grace and blessings even if we don’t get exactly what we want or if it takes time for Him to answer our plea.
  • Peter, as did Jesus sometimes when He healed, touched the man, even though he could have healed him without touching him. Peter was the hand of Christ just as we are to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to others. Living like Christ we are to allow God to use us to heal the broken hearted, bind up spiritual, psychological, and physical wounds, and bring joy to those in grave circumstances starting with our own families and reaching out to others.
  • Peter seized the man’s right hand. The right hand signifies ownership, power, and control that the person exercises, and can stand for the entire person. In an instant, the lame man went from powerlessness to being able to exercise more control over his life. He was no longer at the mercy of his lameness. He was more free than at any other time of his life to go places and do things, but most especially he was free to adopt all the body postures the rituals of the temple followed in worshiping God. When God heals us from our spiritual lameness, we are able to pursue Him with complete freedom of heart. We receive the grace to exercise more control over our unruly flesh and to resist the false charms of the world.
  • In a way, this man who went into the temple leaping and dancing and praising God is a sign of resurrection. On that final day when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, those who have been faithful to Him will be resurrected with our bodies unto life and will enter into an eternity of joy of which the lame man’s situation is a pale imitation even if it’s a foretelling of what is to come. I look forward to leaping and dancing in the praise of God with my new body some day.
  • We encounter Christ in the confessional where we ask God for the alms of forgiveness and make a firm resolution to “sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.” He gives us a new life every time just as He gave the lame man his legs. Huge weights of sin, making us lame and causing us suffering, are lifted from our shoulders. We can breathe again. The joy of His mercy makes our hearts leap and dance and the lame man did in the temple. Countless penitents have testified to this. We can look at our being freed from our sins as mini-resurrections from the poverty of sin that allow us to testify to the glory of God to fellow sinners who may be hesitating to ask for the alms of forgiveness. The words of the Church, some of the most beautiful of all in the sacred liturgy of this sacrament, send us sinners on our way:

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Perhaps we might ask ourselves,

What do I need to be freed from so as to begin a new life of spiritual wholeness and joy?

Am I humble enough to lay even my most complicated situation in front of the priest and ask for the healing grace of Confession?

Looking back on my life, when was it that I begged God for help and he answered me with far more than what I asked for?

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Sunday, November 16th, 2014 Sacred Scripture, spirituality 6 Comments

The Right Food

November 12, 2014

Still life with Fruits, Nuts, and Cheese, 1613, Floris Claesz van Dijck, 1575 - 1651,  Oil on panel, 49 x 77 cm, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

Still life with Fruits, Nuts, and Cheese, 1613, Floris Claesz van Dijck, 1575 – 1651,
Oil on panel, 49 x 77 cm, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

As Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays approach, a lot of people start obsessing over weight gain. Many of us overindulge on goodies during this time, while those attending Weight Watcher meetings discuss ways of controlling eating behaviors during this season. I own up to the fact that having been very hungry, though not starving, during some years of my childhood, I have something of an obsession with food as do many of those who attend the WW meetings. I actually fear being hungry.

While WW has a great psychology to its eating program, being a secular organization it lacks something indispensible to me. That’s God. We can’t overcome our obsessions without the grace of God, and learning to discipline ourselves in sensible ways is possible only by His grace. I’ve found that instead of focusing on a weight loss goal as the only marker of success, which is something WW cautions against, what’s more helpful is to bring in the spiritual perspective along with the other types of goals WW encourages.

Beyond focusing on the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost and behaving in ways that support good health within the limitations we may each have such as my fibromyalgia, it’s helpful to return to another basic truth. God is the source of all our food and He gives it to us to sustain ourselves to do His will. Now I can approach the table with the question, am I ready to eat for the greater honor and glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) and to be better able to do His will?

St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215) adds another facet to the crystal of self-discipline in the area of food, one that helps us when in times of feasting.

We are not, then, to abstain wholly from various kinds of food, but only are not to be taken up about them. We are to partake of what is set before us, as becomes a Christian, out of respect to him who has invited us, by a harmless and moderate participation in the social meeting; regarding the sumptuousness of what is put on the table as a matter of indifference, despising the dainties, as after a little destined to perish.

“Let him who eats, not despise him who eats not; and let him who eats not, not judge him who eats”(Romans 14:3). And a little way on he explains the reason of the command, when he says, “He that eats, eats to the Lord, and gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks” (Romans 14:6).

So the right food is thanksgiving. (Instructor 2.1)

Perhaps meditating on the traditional Catholic table blessing, “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive through Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen” can help us keep a right perspective in the upcoming days and whenever we enjoy celebrations.

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Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 spirituality 5 Comments

Thinking and Speaking According to the Mind of God

November 3, 2014

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

At the recent synod on the family we saw how language was used to promote a secular agenda on certain topics rather than supporting God’s will for His people. In The Language of the Devil I wrote about how ambiguity in language serves the purpose of confusing others and leading them away from truth. Clarity in language is only one aspect, though, that we must adhere to in order to bring others to Christ no matter how difficult their life situations may be, without compromising with the world.

How we think is reflected in how we express ourselves. If we are thinking according to the mind of God, we will engage the world on His terms, not on its terms. Our language will reflect this. Make no mistake, strengthening families is an evangelization challenge that must be thought and expressed according to the mind of God.

One of the most compelling speakers who sets evangelization challenges in language from God’s perspective is Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. On October 17, 2014 he addressed the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in a speech titled: THE THEOLOGY OF FREEDOM. CHRISTIANITY AND SECULAR POWER: FROM THE EDICT OF MILAN TO THE PRESENT. The talk is quite long and worthy of being read in its entirety because we can learn a lot about how the Church engaged the world and how we must do it today.

My purpose isn’t to present a history lesson here, but to show the framework we need to use in thought and word if we are to address the challenges families of today face in acting as a leaven of Christ and a spiritual force in the world while fulfilling the duty to join God in heaven one day. Here are some paragraphs from the speech, my emphasis:

Thanks to the Edict of Milan, Christians were faced with the necessity of thinking not only of their own salvation and the welfare of their small community. Their new position in society obliged them to think of the quality of this society, of their role in it – the role of active citizens, of men of prayer for their homeland and people of good will.

Contrary to widespread opinion, Christianity did not simply become a substitute for the decayed paganism of the Roman Empire; it entered its life and structure as something principally new. It was not subject to the dictatorship of secular authority, it influenced this very authority, at times embarking upon an unequal conflict with it. [Do we see our mission today like this?]

In other words, the Church, upon entering the structure of state power, did not merge with it….

In my view our era – the era of the Church’s revival [he is speaking of the Russian Orthodox Church post 1988] – has something in common with the era following the publication of the Edict of Milan.

The link in time is the concept of freedom. The principle of freedom of conscience proclaimed in the Edict of Milan lies at the foundation of the new attitude of the authorities to its subjects. The Edict of Milan presaged sixteen centuries ago that which was possible in full measure only in the twentieth century after hundreds of years of wars and discrimination. In a whole series of international documents at the basis of the modern legal world (such as, for example, the International Bill of Human Rights and the European Convention on the Defence of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms) the freedom to confess one’s faith and live according to it – the main idea of the Edict – is postulated as one of the most important freedoms of the human person….

Certain events in the Church’s history cannot be explained other than as a divine miracle. Such a miracle was the era following the Edict of Milan in 313. No less a miracle happened in our country at the end of the 1980s. Could people, who only a few years before this risked their welfare for their faith, and in some instances their lives too, evaluate the freedom that had unexpectedly fallen on their heads as anything other than a divine miracle? Could they have hoped that the godless ideology would collapse and be replaced by another worldview in which the Good News of the Church again will be viewed as one of the foundations of society and the pledge of its success in the future? Numerous believers, who had gathered at the festivities in July 1988, would be able to repeat the words once uttered by Eusebius of Caesarea on the occasion of the general church festivities that heralded a new era: “All the fear in which our tormentors had held us hostage has evaporated. Now the joyful and triumphant days of popular festivities have come: all has become filled with light.”

In both instances it is precisely the gift of religious freedom that preceded the gift of other civil liberties, viewed in our time as one of the main achievements of a democratic society. And it is not fortuitous, for it is in the Christian system of values that the concept of freedom acquires its special content. We Christians believe that the gift of life is a gift from God, and that human life is not under the power of anyone other than the Maker of the human race. This belief renders Christians free from the oppression of any political power and any ideology. It makes them capable of being martyrs and confessors when the Church is persecuted; and witnesses to the truth and heralds of the Kingdom of God when the Church is recognized. No other religion or ideology characterizes such a reverential attitude towards freedom. The great Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev said that “freedom, above all freedom, is the soul of Christian philosophy and this is what cannot be granted by any other abstract and rationalistic philosophy.”

Christian freedom does not tear us away from our families, from our social ties or from our country. On the contrary, within the Christian understanding of freedom, in the recognition of an absolute and living connection of the human person with God there is embedded a moral potential of great strength. [This is the mindset we need as we consider how to build strong families and resolve problems that have arisen today because of injustice, wanton hedonism, and rejection of reason.] 

Being the creation of a beneficent God, sons and daughters of the Maker, we are called upon to plow the garden that has been entrusted to us, thereby bringing the Kingdom of God closer to humanity. It is precisely this moral potential, rooted within the free human person, that the emperor Constantine saw in Christianity when he allowed this powerful positive creative energy to be released and act upon all of society….

In recent times we have more often been able to observe how in the West another type of freedom has been proclaimed: freedom from moral principles, from common human values, from responsibility for one’s actions. We see how this freedom is destructive and aggressive. Instead of respect for the feelings of other people, it preaches an all-is-permitted attitude, ignoring the beliefs and values of the majority. Instead of a genuine affirmation of freedom it asserts the principle of unrestrained gratification of human passions and vices remote from moral orientation…. [Sounds like Pope Benedict XVI, doesn’t he?]

That which is happening today in the West is the gradual restoration of the Pax Romana, of global international hegemony.

Along with this, if Roman power at certain periods was indifferent towards immorality, then today that immorality is being proclaimed as the norm. The modern-day democratic state is even viewed by some as the role of guarantor of the legal status of immorality, for it protects citizens from the encroachments of “religious sanctimoniousness.” The role of religion, as in Rome, is seen in an exclusively utilitarian light – it is the servant of the state without any claims to truth, the “personal affair of each individual.” And yet the state must be recognized unconditionally and we must obey its laws, including those that undermine its foundations.

Nevertheless, Christianity in its very essence cannot renounce its claim to truth – that is her eschatological nature, to seek out the City of the age to come. The Kingdom of God, as preached by the Church, fills the contemporary secular state with fear and is a threat to the kingdom of men that cannot bear competition….

To possess freedom for the Church means to be the “salt of the earth,” the yeast of the Gospel, a spiritual force and the conscience of the people. [This is precisely why the Church is hated by those who want to kill their consciences and keep them dead.] To realize freedom means to act and use those opportunities that the Lord has given us for serving and preaching. The world is so constructed that freedom is the condition of a decisive, yet well thought out action. Freedom is the means, the condition of creative work. And creativity is engagement in the life of society with all of its inner contradictions. [Lack of divinely inspired creative work is at the heart of compromises with the world as we saw among some at the synod.]

We have been judged to live in times when in our hands, in the hands of Christians, is the precious gift of freedom – the same gift which Christians received in the era of emperor Constantine the Great. This gift of Divine Providence opens up before us great opportunities. The ability to dispose of the gift of freedom demands from the older generation of people in the Church a special wisdom, and from the young workers in God’s field colossal self-sacrifice…. [Self-sacrifice is necessary, the colossal kind, to preserve and heal the family. This is the message we have to adhere to, not instituting practices that make a slide into hell certain.]

The freedom to confess Christ as Lord and live according to his commandments will remain constant in the life of the Church and the life of every Christian until the moment when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3: 10).

I would like to wish you all, and in your person the future generation of Western Christians, to preserve the spirit of the Christian freedom which considers as vanity all that which does not incline its head before the living God and the Saviour of the world Jesus Christ. 

In preserving this freedom, do not be afraid of creativity, do not be afraid of the risk of creativity. For God calls us to be his co-workers in this world and co-workmanship cannot but be creativity in the loftiest sense of this word. [Each Christian is in a partnership with God to bring about His kingdom. Do we discount His grace to help us and those we are seeking to bring to Him to act in accordance with His will?]

And there is another wish which I would like to convey to you all: in bringing into the world the word of Christ, let us not forget that the best testimony always has been and always will be the example of our own lives.

Often when I read Metropolitan Hilarion’s talks, I feel deeply the schism between Rome and the Orthodox, so obviously the work of Satan. Both in the words of our Eastern rite brethren and in the Orthodox we see a godly spiritual orientation that lights the way for a decadent world, more so than what we too frequently hear from the USCCB and other Church leaders. We must keep our purpose in mind, as Hilarion expressed in many ways here, as we go about bringing the Good News of Christ to a world bent on self-destruction. If we do not frame the issues in relation to God, we can never find the solutions we need based on truth. Can you imagine what would have happened at the synod had Hilarion been a participant? Fortunately we had Cardinals Burke, Pell, Napier and others.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Monday, November 3rd, 2014 Catholic culture, spirituality 1 Comment

The Language of the Devil

October 26, 2014

Satan Exulting Over Eve - William Blake, via Wikimedia

Satan Exulting Over Eve – William Blake, via Wikimedia

If we want to be understood, the language we use as we attempt to communicate our thoughts to one another must be clear. This golden rule of communication holds true whether we are “talking out” our thoughts in conversation or writing them down…

So writes D. Q. McInerny, Ph. D., professor of philosophy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska, home of the formation of F.S.S.P. priests in North America. Although the chief orientation of his essay, “Clarity”, in the November 2014 F.S.S.P. newsletter is focused on clarity in writing, his chief points apply to all communication. I found his article helped me organize my thoughts concerning the problem of politically correct speech/writing and the use of code words by Church leaders, political leaders, college professors, and the average Joe on the street who takes to parroting word usage and concepts heard in the media without knowing what is really going on nor the true meaning of the words and intentions of the communicator.

My question, How do we answer potently the falsehoods and ambiguities proclaimed around us daily? starts with ourselves. We have the obligation as Christians to speak/write truth with charity which means not wimping out because we’re afraid of being disliked, ridiculed, etc. when we really know what the truth is. It means that we, through prayer and meditation, must have a firm grasp of the truth before opening our mouths or setting our fingers on the keys of our computers. McInerny says:

Clarity, like charity, begins at home. If we want to be clear in addressing others, we must first of all be clear in addressing ourselves. [Bingo!] This is not as easy as it might sound, and it certainly is not something that comes automatically. It is clear thinking that is foundational here; we can talk to ourselves clearly only if we think clearly. . . .

Ambiguity is the direct antithesis, the bane of clarity. Our language can become ambiguous – in consequence of which people simply have no reliable idea of what we are trying to say – simply out of carelessness on our part. If that is the case the remedy is obvious: we must discipline ourselves so that we become ever more careful in our writing. [And thinking and speaking.]

But there is a type of ambiguity which is positively pernicious, and that is ambiguity which is deliberately intended by the writer. [Think here, for example, of Pope St. Pius X’s clear admonitions against and exposure of Modernist tactics of deliberate ambiguity in Pascendi.] This type of ambiguity was identified by a former colleague of mine as “the language of the devil.” When someone deliberately engages in the employment of ambiguous language in writing about issues which have to do, let us say, with philosophy, or theology, or politics, it is with the express purpose in mind of keeping people in a state of disoriented confusion about important issues, whereby they can be more easily manipulated to serve certain ideological inspired ends.

An ambiguous statement is one which can be understood in more than one way, and therein lies its great danger, for it defies all efforts to identify it clearly as either true or false. Ambiguous language is permanently open to a variety of interpretations, some of which can be, and often are, frankly contradictory. If ambiguity is the direct antithesis to clarity, then clarity is its obvious antidote. Clarity serves a dual purpose which is of the utmost importance: it unambiguously identifies falsity as falsity, and – here is its chief benefit – it gives full, illuminating exposure to the truth. And the truth, as we know, is the very font of our freedom.

In light of this we would help ourselves greatly if we made liberal use of the question, “What do you mean?” rather than applauding mindlessly or reacting with fury over written or spoken words. Too much evil is done these days because we make assumptions about what people mean without seeing the ambiguous possibilities in their language and demanding clarification. As Christians we must get to the premises behind the words and discern whether those premises are true or false based on God’s revealed truth and sacred Tradition.

Although most people are not called to confront ambiguity in some official or public role such as bishops, priests, and political leaders ought to do, we are obligated to know the truth and conform our personal actions in accord with it, whether it be in the voting booth or our volunteer activities, or in teaching our children, or in parish activities to name but a few instances. Rabanus Maurus (780-856) tells us in regard to Matthew 5:37, “But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil” that

What you affirm with the mouth you should prove in deed, and what you deny in word, you should not establish by your conduct.

We are obligated to assent to the teachings of the Church whether we fully understand them or not. They are clearly stated in the Baltimore Catechism, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If we don’t fully understand them or are troubled by them, in humility we must ask God to enlighten us through the Holy Spirit. He will always answer that prayer sooner or later. If we do this, we will be able to identify ambiguity and be able to clarify things for ourselves and others. As to our discourse with others, when, armed with the truth, we should not worry about what to say or how to say it to clarify matters, but to count on the Holy Spirit to give us the right words as promised in Mark 13:11.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Sunday, October 26th, 2014 philosophy, politics, religion, Sacred Scripture 4 Comments

The Truth About Oikonomia and Cardinal Kasper

October 20, 2014

Five cardinals banded together to write Remaining in the Truth of Christ in which they address various aspects of marriage and the family according to Church teaching and practice. This book, published by Ignatius Press, was supposed to be out before the recent Synod in Rome, but many who ordered it ahead of time have yet to receive it. However, it seems to have been available to the Synod participants. In any case, it looks like the Kindle edition is ready at Amazon and I think that Catholics should get a copy to read and pray about. It could easily spark conversations that might lead fallen away Catholics back to Christ as well as strengthen marriages of practicing Catholics. Certainly it would be a book parishes could use in study groups to spark ideas on how to reach out to those in troubled situations.

I, personally, am glad of the lio at the Synod. It made perfectly clear in word and action who the wolves are. It brought into the open the mistaken thinking of some in the approach to solving many problems we must address. The Church, that’s we in the Mystical Body, will err in our approaches if we allow the world to define the issues and propose solutions.  We can’t be lazy and buy into those solutions rather than defining our orientation to those issues within the context of Christ’s teaching and the truths of the Faith. I’ll be writing more on that after I pray more.

Meanwhile, it is counterproductive to give into anxiety and fearfulness about what the bad actors will be up to in the coming year before the 2015 Synod. That weakens us. It is, in fact, a demonic trap. We know their tactics, but the Holy Spirit will not allow any teaching or practice that contravenes faith and morals to become official. If they pursue their current path, while it causes a lot of unrest and confusion, they cannot help falling. Instead of worrying about what they are doing and saying and fighting with them, we should take time to arm ourselves with facts and the true teachings of the Church so that we can think with the mind of the Church and articulate Christ-like solutions. We need to be thinking about what we can legitimately do, not what others propose that can’t legitimately be done. We need to be sharing our thoughts with our bishops.

To this end I post an interview of Raymond Arroyo with Father Robert Dodaro, OSA, editor of the book I recommend above and President of the Patristic Institute (Augustinianum) in Rome. Enjoy, and grab a copy of the book!

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Monday, October 20th, 2014 Catholic Church 2 Comments

Cardinal Pell on the Synod of the Family

October 18, 2014

Faithful Catholics the world over have been deeply concerned about the machinations going on at the Synod these past weeks. I am no exception. While I firmly believe that Jesus meant it when He said in Matt. 16:18: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, I, nonetheless, am horrified to see a very small group of bishops conniving to control the outcome of the synod in the favor of secular desires. Visit Father Z’s blog to read more details on the Synod.

The midterm report, called the Relatio (full text here), was a scandalous piece of work and caused the Synod hall to erupt as faithful Cardinals reacted against its contents. The Kasperites and gay ideologues in attendance must have thought they could shove their agendas down the throats of the majority, but fortunately that failed. What I noticed was a complete lack of quotes from Sacred Scripture, the CCC, and Fathers of the Church to bolster their secular nonsense in this document, precisely because no such quotes exist. Nevertheless, Kasper has been the darling of the media and has given numerous interviews in which he continues to claim that the majority of the Synod backs his approaches and that he has the backing of the Pope.

One interesting event this week was the release of an interview Kasper gave to Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register and published at Zenit on Wednesday, October 15. Pentin recorded it on his iPhone and Kasper seemed only too happy to promote his views. When severe criticism erupted over his remarks, not only on the Synod atmosphere concerning divorce and remarried Catholics being admitted to Holy Communion, but particularly on the African Cardinals of whom he said, “they should not tell us too much what we have to do,” Kasper denied that he had ever given the interview in the first place and Zenit removed it from their site. Read the entire interview at Pentin’s site.

Claiming that “this is the spirit of the Council”, Kasper is the poster child for why Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had to declare repeatedly that the Second Vatican Council had to be interpreted with the “hermeneutic of continuity”. That a Pope would even have to make such statements shows that skullduggery is, and has been for the past 50 years, afoot on the part of key Church leaders. These men are well educated in theology, Scripture, and the Catechism but we’d never know it by their utterances. It’s obvious that they want to court the adulation of the world and that Christ appears not to be the center of their lives. They seem to truly want to change Church teachings through subterfuge bit by bit.

I was thinking this morning of Judas, the betrayer of Our Lord. Jesus loved him and kept him with the rest as His closest companion. Even up to the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the sacred priesthood, Judas was there. He saw all the miracles Jesus wrought, His compassion and mercy towards sinners, the sick, and the dead, His unwavering expression of the truth, but still he persisted in his evil ways. Did Judas remain in Jesus’ inner circle because he believed that one day he would have even greater power and control over money to feed his greed? Surely it couldn’t have been because he believed and took to heart all of Jesus’ teachings and admonitions, or that he had a commitment to the truth. Jesus must have known all along what Judas was up to and his motivations, yet He permitted him to stay close.

I am sad to say that in our Church today we have a frightening number of apparent Judases among the clergy. How else can we interpret the words and deeds of bishops and cardinals that are in clear opposition to the words of Christ? These past couple of weeks surely show that we laity must pray and sacrifice for our bishops, and keep them close as  Jesus did even when they are up to questionable behavior.

God never asks a person to live a particular vocation without giving that person abundant graces to fulfill his calling. That would be utterly cruel and against His nature. Therefore, we must assume that when a person acts contrary to his calling, and in this case the bishop’s calling is first and foremost to teach the faith clearly,  he is betraying his vocation and repulsing the graces God is giving him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #888 couldn’t be more clear about the preeminent task of bishops:

Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command. [Mk. 16:15] They are heralds of the faith who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.”

Attempting to introduce new practices that undermine the teachings of Christ is a betrayal. Refusing to reach out with the truth in charity yet not compromising with the world is a betrayal. Peace of heart and life in union with God is only found in staying true to the teachings of the Church which we received from Christ and the apostles. To downplay or deny these teachings when ministering to those in pain from their mistakes and sins is the height of cruelty. The bishop who does this will be accountable to Christ on judgment day, less so the flock he has deceived.

Fortunately, Cardinal Pell has some comforting words concerning the outcome of the Synod for faithful Catholics everywhere. You can also find today’s Bulletin from the Synod here, which places the focus where it belongs. Take a few minutes to listen to Cardinal Pell, who is one of Pope Francis’ advisers on the council of eight cardinals.

 

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, October 18th, 2014 Catholic Church 13 Comments

Divorce, Remarriage, Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Burke

October 11, 2014

It’s a shame when members of the Catholic Church launch epithets such as “fundamentalist” at others within the same Church. However, maybe we should re-think whether the term really is an epithet, i.e. an abusive, defamatory, or derogatory phrase.

The user, in this case Cardinal Kasper in reference to the five bishops and cardinals who wrote a book called Living in the Truth of Christ in preparation for the Synod on Marriage and the Family taking place in Rome this week, certainly intended it to be so. However, I’m not in favor of anyone defining who I am, and as you will see from Raymond Arroyo’s interview with Cardinal Burke, neither is the good Cardinal. If taking Jesus at His word means I’m a fundamentalist, call me that all you like. I’ll consider it a compliment.

I hate to say it, but I personally believe Cardinal Kasper is promoting weasel Catholicism. As in “weaseling out of the difficult job of teaching and living the truth.” The solutions to helping families become strong in Christ need to be innovative the world over, but never at the expense of the teachings of the Church which come from Christ. And never discounting the role the grace of God plays in helping us live our vocations either.

Please relax and enjoy this interview with Cardinal Burke on the Synod. I’ve admired him greatly because of his firmness in the truth and his compassion for the sinner. A worthy successor of the Apostles to be sure. I learned a few things from him and maybe you will, too.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, October 11th, 2014 Catholic Church 6 Comments

Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Benignity

October 9, 2014

St. Gregory the Great, Titian, via Wikimedia

St. Gregory the Great, Titian, via Wikimedia

In a recent post, Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Continency, I opened the door to discovering a deeper meaning than self-control for continency. Today I am opening the door to considerations on benignity, which is frequently translated as “kindness”.

St. Paul tells us in Galatians 5: 22:

But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity.

I favor the translation of the Douay Rheims Bible because it forces us to look beyond the mere word, “kindness”, which limits the true meaning of the Greek chrestotes (khray-stot’-ace). The Greek means “usefulness, i.e. morally, excellence (in character or demeanor) — gentleness, good(-ness), kindness” according to Strong’s.

Chrestotes is different from the next word, agathosune  (ag-ath-o-soo’-nay) in the same passage: meaning goodness, i.e. virtue or beneficence, translated as “goodness” in many Bibles, which we will take up in the future. The Latin Vulgate translates chrestotes as benignitas, from which we get the English word, “benignity”.

In today’s world moral excellence in character or demeanor is not prized, nor do we see much goodness and kindness from public figures who have the most influence on our lives whether in government, media, sports, etc. I am not sure whether teachers preparing children and adults for the sacrament of Confirmation are delving into the meanings and application of this fruit of the Holy Spirit either. Therefore, in the spirit of living the Gospel, let’s walk a little way with the Church Fathers and learn a fuller meaning of benignity.

The Fathers invariably use this word in the context of a person of power exercising this fruit with regard to someone of lesser stature in the social order of things, or someone who possesses something generously giving it or its use to another regardless of stature.

The benignity of rulers

St. Gregory the Great in his letter to Romanus, Guardian (Book IX, Letter 26):

Although the law with reason allows not things that come into possession of the Church to be alienated, yet sometimes the strictness of the rule should be moderated, where regard to mercy invites to it, especially when there is so great a quantity that the giver is not burdened, and the poverty of the receiver is considerably relieved.

And so, inasmuch as Stephania, the bearer of these presents, having come hither with her little son Calixenus (whom she asserts that she bare to her late husband Peter, saying also that she has labored under extreme poverty), demanded of us with supplication and tears that we should cause to be restored to the same Calixenus the possession of a house in the city of Catana, which Ammonia, her late mother-in-law, the grandmother of Calixenus, had offered by title of gift to our Church; asserting that the said Ammonia had not power to alienate it, and that it belonged altogether to the aforesaid Calixenus, her son; which assertion our most beloved son Cyprian, the deacon, who was acquainted with the case, contradicted, saying that the complaint of the aforesaid woman had not justice to go on, and that she could not reasonably claim or seek to recover that house in the name of her son; but, lest we should seem to leave the tears of the above named woman without effect, and to follow the way of rigor rather than embrace the plea of pity, we command you by this precept to restore the said house to the above-named Calixenus, together with Ammonia’s deed of gift with respect to this same house, which is known to be there in Sicily—since, as we have said, it is better in doubtful cases not to execute strictness, but rather to be inclined to the side of benignity, especially when by the cession of a small matter the Church is not burdened, and succor is mercifully given to a poor orphan.

To John, Archbishop of the Corinthians St. Gregory the Great writes (Book V, Letter 52):

Yet, inasmuch as it is fit for us to incline to mercy more than to strict justice, it is our will that the same Euphemius and Thomas be restored to the rank and position, but to that only, from which they had been promoted to sacred orders, and receive during all the days of their life the stipends of these positions, as they had been before accustomed. Further, as to Clematius the reader, I appoint, from a like motive of benignity, that he is to be restored to his rank and position.

We can see in both of these cases, benignity is associated with both justice and mercy.

The benignity of God

The Fathers often refer to the benignity of God. St. Cyprian of Carthage in his treatise on the Our Father says:

He who made us to live, taught us also to pray, with that same benignity, to wit, wherewith He has condescended to give and confer all things else; in order that while we speak to the Father in that prayer and supplication which the Son has taught us, we may be the more easily heard.

Saint Irenaeus.jpg

St. Ireneaus, engraving, public domain

St. Irenaeus in Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 24) writes about those who bring in false doctrines:

Wherefore they also imagine many gods, and they always have the excuse of searching [after truth] (for they are blind), but never succeed in finding it. For they blaspheme the Creator, Him who is truly God, who also furnishes power to find [the truth]; imagining that they have discovered another god beyond God, or another Pleroma, or another dispensation. Wherefore also the light which is from God does not illumine them, because they have dishonored and despised God, holding Him of small account, because, through His love and infinite benignity, He has come within reach of human knowledge….

Daily life illustrations

From these examples we can see that benignity is always exercised in the context of relationships, whether they be between ourselves and others or God and ourselves. Parents, bosses, owners of property, government officials, civic leaders all have the chance to show this fruit in their everyday actions. Whenever we use our power or authority in favor of someone without causing harm to others, we exercise benignity.

For an example, a company’s policy says that hourly workers are to be docked wages to go to doctor appointments. However, hardworking single parents struggling to make ends meet who need to take sick children to the doctor cannot afford to be docked. A supervisor who offers make-up time to the employee rather than docking wages is exercising benignity. The company loses nothing because the time off is made up doing work that needs to be done. The employee gains by keeping wages that would otherwise have been lost, and the boss gains from greater commitment on the employee’s part. Whether the supervisor will escape punishment for acting with benignity is another story, depending on the atmosphere of management. Clearly, though, St. Gregory the Great shows us by his actions that in small things the exercise of benignity is warranted.

Another example would be of a parent who has established a family rule that everything in the house must be picked up and put away – toys, clothes, etc. before going to bed. But Johnny has taken sick. Benignity and common sense says that he take medicine and go to bed without regard to toys strewn about. When Mom, Dad, or a sister or brother picks up Johnny’s things, benignity is shown.

Then there’s the farmer with a small grove of fruit trees. He has no use for the fruit so he allows a friend to gather it for his own use. Nothing obligates the farmer to permit someone to come on his land and take what he owns, but benignity governs his permission.

Whenever a judge exercises discretion in sentencing, he may show benignity. A criminal may deserve a life sentence, but a judge, considering circumstances, chooses to hand down a lesser penalty. As custodian of the law, he shows benignity. The same applies to the police officer who lets a speeder off with a warning ticket.

Benignity can never be such when a ruler allows a situation destructive to the common good of the people he is responsible for to continue unabated. Allowing illegal immigrants to pour across a nation’s borders may look like benignity, but the ruler has no duty or obligation to the illegals. He does, however, have a duty and obligation to the citizens of his country to protect them from diseases and violence brought in by illegals. He has an obligation to maintain order in the economy and daily life of citizens which is disrupted when people willy-nilly flood across borders. Moreover, he is enabling the governments of illegals to get off without practicing benignity to the people they are obligated to care for.

A parent who fails to enforce house rules and lets Mary Sue get away with all kinds of laziness, disrespectful language, sarcasm and bullying of siblings is not exercising benignity but raising a horror, abdicating a God-given responsibility to raise righteous children for the kingdom of God. Such a parent is not behaving in a morally upright manner.

Let us ask ourselves these questions:

What do I have power/authority over and how can I use it with benignity?

Do I conduct myself in a morally upright way with excellence of character and demeanor, or do I fail in justice and mercy towards others?

Do I rationalize sins by telling myself that nobody is getting hurt from my secret actions, thus going in the opposite direction from benignity into malignity?

If someone offends me, can I cut him slack without falling into the enabling category? Not make a mountain out of a mole hill?

God exercises constant benignity towards us in the graces He continually gives us; graces we neither merit nor deserve. Should not benignity be one of the ways we pattern ourselves after God, bringing the light of Christ into our world?

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Thursday, October 9th, 2014 religion, sacraments, spirituality 6 Comments

Living in Todays Chastisement

September 27, 2014

Winged demon, Exterior Relief, Catedral Nueva de Vitoria-Gasteiz. Wikimedia Commons

Winged demon, Exterior Relief, Catedral Nueva de Vitoria-Gasteiz. Wikimedia Commons

It seems likely that every demon in hell has been loosed upon this world. How else are we to make sense of the hatred and chaos all around us and the unconscionable suffering of our fellow man but to recognize the hand of the evil one stirring hearts against one another and the Lord? Make no mistake about this; we are in a major chastisement for the sins of all nations. Moreover, we delude ourselves if we think we will be spared the consequences of the sins of the world and our own nation just because we are personally doing our best to follow Christ.

A couple of years ago someone asked me where in the Bible does God show us that wars, bad weather, plagues, etc. are His punishment on us. After all, a lot of good people are hurt by these events. I gave the answers in a simple way, not going into much depth, but this past week I read an excellent post by Rich Maffeo explaining it all, complete with Bible quotes. Please read his commentary because it’s quite clear and convincing and then come back here for my thoughts.

No Escape

We gain nothing and garner greater pain by denying what is right in front of our eyes and in our own back yards. The beheading this week, and not a one off case, of an employee at Vaughn Foods in Oklahoma City by a follower of Islam who reportedly shouted the Muslim cry repeatedly as he attacked her is a prime example of the bloodshed coming our way unless we as a nation perform a Nineveh (Book of Jonah) and embrace the Lord. But how likely is that to happen? The murder of innocents is enshrined now not only in Roe vs. Wade, it’s in the Obamacare laws, and I’m speaking not only of abortion, but the denial of care to those most in need, especially the elderly, that has and will have the effect of their premature deaths if not outright murder. We could show many more examples of laws and rulings touching our everyday lives that not only produce evil effects materially, but also violate our freedom to choose God before mammon.

We are not going to be able to escape these evils any more than most Jews were able to escape Hitler’s death camps because the depth and breadth of personal sin results in deathly harm to all. When enough people push an ungodly agenda it inevitably becomes law, and the law is used to justify expanding the sin by force. St. Paul minces no words in Romans 1:28-32 in describing the sins and the fate of those who persist in them:

And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are disgraceful; Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.

What to do

Unfortunately, living in a nation where these evils are now forced upon us shows how personal sin tortures the corporate body of society. So what shall we do, given that we who follow Christ are the anawim Zephaniah speaks to in Chapter 2:3? St. John Paul II gives us a hint in his General Audience of May 23, 2001 where he expounds on Psalm 149:

5. There is a second term which we use to define those who pray in the Psalm:  they are the anawim, “the poor and lowly ones” (v. 4). The expression turns up often in the Psalter. It indicates not just the oppressed, the miserable, the persecuted for justice, but also those who, with fidelity to the moral teaching of the Alliance with God, are marginalized by those who prefer to use violence, riches and power. In this light one understands that the category of the “poor” is not just a social category but a spiritual choice. It is what the famous first Beatitude means:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The prophet Zephaniah spoke to the anawim as special persons:  “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of wrath of the Lord” (Zep 2:3).

First, we must embrace the suffering that comes from living in a Godless world the same way that Christ embraced His suffering for the sins of the world. Why? Father F. J. Remmler tells us in his book, Why Must I Suffer? that

Public and national sins must be expiated in this world for the very simple reason that they cannot be expiated in the next. In the world to come families, cities, provinces and nations will have no continued corporate existence. There, men and women will exist merely as individuals, without being united by those social, civil, political, and national bonds which are necessary in this life for the welfare and preservation of the human race. In eternity, they will individually enjoy the fruits of their life on earth – the good will possess the kingdom of God in Heaven, while the wicked shall suffer for their evil deeds in the unquenchable fire of Hell. But public sins require public expiation, and as this expiation cannot be made in this next life, it is clear that it must be made on this side of the grave….

The sufferings endured by the good have a much greater atoning value than those endured by the wicked. Hence, the more good persons there are to join in making the required atonement, the more quickly will it be made. Besides, God is easily moved , out of consideration for the sufferings of the good, greatly to mitigate His punishments, and sometimes even to cancel them altogether.

Such sufferings afford the good an opportunity of making full atonement for their personal sins. For there is no one so holy and so confirmed in grace that he has not committed some sins, such at least as are venial. “Even the just man shall fall seven times,” i.e., frequently. But it is an unchanging law that every sin, even the smallest, must be fully expiated either here, or hereafter in Purgatory. But expiation made here is vastly more profitable than that which is made after death.

Second, we must constantly study God’s teaching in the Bible and its truths in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Knowing and accepting God’s truth gives us the power to call out and refute evil. It enables us to speak and live as a good example to others according to our state in life.

Third, we must frequent the sacraments and nurture the grace from them just as the good servant made the talents the Lord gave him grow from five to ten (Matt. 25). The Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens us through the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit to do what we ought and not shrink from necessary controversy.

Fourth, we must prepare ourselves to weather the onslaught through prayer, fasting, and self-denial, performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. If we are to die directly from the evils we face, we must make sure that we are in the state of grace and the confession of Christ is on our lips.

Finally, we must trust in God’s mercy and care for us personally, always seeking to see as God sees and to love others as He loves them. These are the ways that we can bear victoriously the onslaught of evil and join our King for eternity.

Psalm 149

Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let His praise be in the church of the saints.

Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: and let the children of Sion be joyful in their king.

Let them praise His name in choir: let them sing to Him with the timbrel and the psaltery.

For the Lord is well pleased with His people: and He will exalt the meek unto salvation.

The saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds.

The high praise of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands:

To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people:

To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.

To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all His saints. Alleluia.

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Saturday, September 27th, 2014 Catholic culture, penance, psalms, spirituality, suffering 9 Comments

Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Continency

September 19, 2014

Fresco of Basil the Great in the cathedral of Ohrid. The saint is shown consecrating the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. Wikipedia

Fresco of Basil the Great in the cathedral of Ohrid. The saint is shown consecrating the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. Wikipedia

The other day I stumbled upon a letter St. Basil (329-379) wrote to a monk about continency. We know from Gal. 5:22-23 that this is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity

The root of the word comes from Latin; con, meaning “together” and tenere, meaning “to hold”. In today’s sex saturated society, continency is most often taught to mean refraining from indulgence of the sexual appetite, especially from unlawful indulgence. Certainly that is true, but it is also much more. The CCC(1832) calls it “self-control” in the English translation. But what exactly is self-control? To what does it extend or what does it encompass?

St. Basil, one of the great Fathers of the Church fleshes out the meaning of continency for us and in doing this causes us to examine our lives for areas where we may not be exercising self-control to the extent that we should.

You do well in making exact definitions for us, so that we may recognize not only continency, but its fruit. Now its fruit is the companionship of God. For not to be corrupted, is to have part with God; just as to be corrupted is the companionship of the world.

Continency is denial of the body, and confession to God. It withdraws from anything mortal, like a body which has the Spirit of God. It is without rivalry and envy, and causes us to be united to God.

He who loves a body envies another. He who has not admitted the disease of corruption into his heart, is for the future strong enough to endure any labor, and though he have died in the body, he lives in incorruption. Verily, if I rightly apprehend the matter, God seems to me to be continency, because He desires nothing, but has all things in Himself. He reaches after nothing, nor has any sense in eyes or ears; wanting nothing, He is in all respects complete and full.

Concupiscence is a disease of the soul; but continency is its health. And continency must not be regarded only in one species, as, for instance, in matters of sensual love. It must be regarded in everything which the soul lusts after in an evil manner, not being content with what is needful for it.

Envy is caused for the sake of gold, and innumerable wrongs for the sake of other lusts. Not to be drunken is continency. Not to overeat one’s self is continency. To subdue the body is continency, and to keep evil thoughts in subjection, whenever the soul is disturbed by any fancy false and bad and the heart is distracted by vain cares. [Today we could specify, not to give in to drugs, pornography, being a shop-a-holic, inordinate watching of television regardless of the subject, being a work-a-holic, excessive expression of emotions such as anger are all continency.]

Continency makes men free, being at once a medicine and a power, for it does not teach temperance; it gives it. Continency is a grace of God….If only there be a little continency in us, we are higher than all.

We have been told that angels were ejected from heaven because of concupiscence and became incontinent. They were vanquished; they did not come down. What could that plague have effected there, if an eye such as I am thinking of had been there? Wherefore I said, If we have a little patience, and do not love the world, but the life above, we shall be found there where we direct our mind. For it is the mind, apparently, which is the eye that sees unseen things. For we say “the mind sees;” “the mind hears.” I have written at length, though it may seem little to you. But there is meaning in all that I have said, and, when you have read it, you will see it.

We can see the fruit of continency in our detachment from all earthly things except what is necessary for living and for loving our neighbor, especially those closest to us. Our purpose of doing all for the honor and glory of God requires a daily crucifixion of inordinate desires opposed to continency. It means not throwing away this fruit God has generously given us. Rather, we should bite into it and taste its sweetness – the companionship of God as St. Basil tells us.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Against the Black Mass in Oklahoma City 9/21/14

September 18, 2014

Archbishop Coakley

Archbishop Coakley

Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City has been fighting a valiant fight for nearly three months now, and has been unsuccessful in halting the celebration of a Black Mass by a group of Satanists at the civic center this Sunday. Needless to say, if a bunch of people mocking Mohammed were scheduling an event in the civic center, most likely they would have been prohibited. But since Christians don’t run around beheading people right and left when God is mocked, or for any other reason for that matter, they are, and the Catholic Church in particular, fair game for this kind of abuse and neglect by public officials who are permitting this “event” to go forward.

Would all my readers join me by doing something in reparation for this evil taking place this Sunday? Here is Archbishop Coakley’s latest letter to the Catholics of his diocese published in the Sooner Catholic. Emphasis is mine.

On Sunday, Sept. 21, a local satanic sect apparently will be allowed to conduct a public act of blasphemy in the form of a so-called black mass at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City. In spite of an overwhelming outcry of alarm from around the world, our city leaders will allow this outrage to take place in a publicly supported facility. They will not accede to the reasonable requests of local citizens to stop this outright mockery of the Catholic Mass nor the reasonable concerns of so many that this satanic ritual invokes powers of evil and invites them into our community.

Even though our city leaders apparently do not take this threat seriously, I do. As a Catholic priest and bishop I have witnessed in my ministry the battle between forces of good and evil in both ordinary and extraordinary ways. It is not merely a struggle rooted in human weakness and ignorance, though these are certainly the source of much suffering and mayhem in our lives and in our world. Demonic activity and the chaotic forces of evil are very real. The madness of war accompanied by increasingly brutal acts of terror, the violence in our schools and communities are all evidence that something is terribly wrong.

The crucial battleground for the forces of good and evil is the human heart. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ came to conquer the power of sin and to cast out demons. This was an essential part of his mission and ministry. It continues in his Church. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has gained the victory. He has destroyed the power of Satan, the Prince of Darkness and Father of Lies. The war has been won, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes again in glory. As people of faith we dare not lose hope. Victory is assured.

This ordeal in our community has been ongoing for nearly three months, since we first became aware of the scheduled black mass. In spite of our apparent inability to prevent this sacrilegious event from taking place, I am grateful for a number of blessings that have accrued through this trial. I am grateful for the significant legal victory that allowed us to regain possession of the consecrated Host that would have been desecrated during the black mass. I am deeply grateful for the strong response to our appeal for prayer throughout the Christian community. People across Oklahoma, throughout our great country and around the world have responded with prayer and fasting. We have been given an opportunity to express our faith in the Lord and our profound gratitude for his gift of the Eucharist through acts of devotion. Many of our Catholic people have been appealing to St. Michael the Archangel for heavenly protection against the powers of evil in our world.

On Sunday, Sept. 21, we will gather for a public act of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Church. I invite all Catholics as well as other Christians and people of good will to join us for a Eucharistic Holy Hour, an outdoor Eucharistic procession and Benediction beginning at 3 p.m. We will prayerfully bear witness to our faith as an expression of our solidarity and in reparation for acts of blasphemy.

I am aware that other groups are planning to show their opposition to the blasphemous event that evening at the Civic Center. I urgently ask everyone to avoid confrontations with those who might oppose them. Our witness ought to be reverent, respectful and peaceful. I urge those who might plan to attend the black mass in order to pray or to protest not to do so! Please do not enter the venue. It would be presumptuous and dangerous to expose oneself or others to these evil influences.    

Finally, let us demonstrate our faith in the power of the Lord’s grace by praying for the conversion of those who are perpetrating this sacrilege and are bound by the Evil One. “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Mt 5:44,45)

Please join the Archbishop and Catholics of Oklahoma City in prayer this Sunday. Part of the demonic ceremony will be the casting out of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not in us, who do you think will move in and take up residence. Very scary.

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets.

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! Amen.

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Thursday, September 18th, 2014 Catholic Church, Catholic culture Comments Off

I Thirst for Your Love – Book Review

September 14

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Pope with Broken HostAll of us need reminders of how much God loves us and how much He desires that we give Him our hearts. Our weak and distracted human nature all too often is pulled in many different directions at once and we forget that the invisible, immortal God took on flesh, suffered in all the ways we suffer except for sin, and remains by our side right now ready to sustain us, console us, and quicken us.

Michael Seagriff has written a book full of little reminders as eye-opening as they are stimulating and, in some cases, conscience pricking. We are taken on a journey of considerations surrounding our behavior and attitudes toward Eucharistic Adoration and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the effect of stirring us to spend more time with Our Lord in Adoration and being more focused and attentive at Mass.

I’m sure all of us know what it is like to desire love and attention from someone we love and to be disappointed when we don’t receive it, or when we don’t get it to the extent we desire it. Jesus truly does thirst for our love, to have us choose Him above all other things for the purpose of giving us Himself fully and filling us with joy and peace no matter what our circumstances are. He has a personal interest and care for each one of us, no matter how gravely we have sinned nor how insignificant we may be in the eyes of the world. This book shows us that truth in varied ways.

Each section contains short essays easily read and meditated on, provoking resolutions resulting in ongoing conversion of heart and greater unity with Jesus, most especially resolutions to spend more time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. The Appendices contain the Litany of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Acts of Reparation, and the Litany of Reparation, all moving us to a deeper reverence of the Treasure many of us all too seldom cherish. Moreover, the content made me consider not only how much our individual souls profit from making an effort to give more time to Jesus, but also families and parishes as well.

Everything in life comes down to priorities. How different would family life be if, before rushing off to shop or to attend some form of entertainment or other activity, the entire family went out of their way to stop in for a short visit in front of the Blessed Sacrament? What if the pastor on Sunday regularly encouraged parishioners to do this? How revitalized could a parish become? How much less under the thrall of the world could a family become?

I think this book needs to be promoted in every parish for the sake of evangelizing ourselves and others. It would be great to use in a parish spiritual book club discussion group, and to prepare a parish to institute or maintain a regular Eucharistic Adoration program. Even children can read and be inspired by this book, especially if it is read out loud in a family setting.

The price is reasonable and the print is suitable for even old eyes like mine. I highly recommend it for everyone, especially those who want to do a little bit more for the Lord.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

This post linked to Sunday Snippets.

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Sunday, September 14th, 2014 Book Review 2 Comments

Trusting God with St. Therese – Book Review

September 10, 2014

St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can readily admit that we have a problem with trust in God. Unless we examine our thought patterns and behaviors in light of trust, we may unknowingly be counting too much on our own native abilities and ambitions to solve our problems in everyday life and not enough on God’s power. Connie Rossini’s book is not only one of the best I’ve read on St. Therese, it is a practical guide to developing greater trust in God by patterning ourselves after her.

St. Therese is a great example of a Christian who strove mightily to live a Christ centered life. She had many faults and struggles to overcome, and was not born a saint from the womb as some syrupy biographies would have us believe. Rossini reveals her to be the valiant woman she became, on fire with the greatest charity, a great warrior victorious by the grace of God over selfish tendencies most of us can probably relate well to.

Our final destination is heaven and we aren’t going to make it there unless, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:3, we convert and become as little children. St. Therese, although she spent many years being severely tempted against faith and trust, took the idea of becoming a trusting little child and turned it into a powerful drive to reach for Christ. She knew she could not do great things to get to heaven, but she also knew that whatever Jesus asked of her she could do by His strength (Phil. 4:13). Ironically, her “Little Way” was a very great thing and something we can do too.

This book gave me a much greater appreciation of St. Therese and great respect for the author, who reveals her own spiritual journey into greater trust in God. Many readers will be able to identify with her personal struggles. It is well organized, researched, and written with questions at the end of each chapter that help us to discover and examine our own blocks to trusting God. It’s a book to be kept and read again over time for the new insights it can provide. In fact, it provides a blueprint for solving a problem St. John Chrysostom wrote about in his Homily 2 on Matthew (9):

Indeed, the things of this life are like smoke. And this is why someone once said, “My days pass away like smoke” (Ps. 102:3). He was referring, of course, to how short they were, but I’d say we should take what he said not only in that sense, but also referring to their murkiness. For nothing hurts and dims the eye of the soul so much as a crowd of worldly anxieties and a swarm of desires. These are the wood that feeds the smoke. (Translation by Mike Aquilina in A Year with the Church Fathers.)

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

This post linked to Sunday Snippets.

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Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 Book Review 4 Comments

St. John Chrysostom on Understanding Scripture

August 18, 2014

Mosaic, St. John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia, via Wikipedia

Mosaic, St. John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia, via Wikipedia

“There really wasn’t a real Adam and Eve.”

“Noah? I don’t believe there was a Noah. Way too far-fetched.”

“Jonah and the big fish? Hah! Could never have been.”

“Jesus didn’t really mean it when He said ‘This is My Body’. He was just speaking figuratively.”

These are typical comments I’ve heard from fellow Catholics who easily dismiss Old Testament characters as fictitious inventions of the writer to tell a story, and difficult passages in the New. However, this attitude points to something we all need to be aware of. That is, humility in our approach to Scripture study. If any one part of the Bible isn’t true, then doesn’t that call into question every part? Would it not be better to start with the premise that everything in the Bible is true since God can’t lie? I may not understand what God is telling me, or I may be confused about certain passages. That is the fault of my limited intellect, not God’s Word. Then, should I not seek understanding by following Jesus’ instruction to ask, seek, and knock?

We have one no less than the great St. John Chrysostom to tell us a thing or two about seeking understanding of Sacred Scripture. He was not only the bishop of Constantinople, he is revered as both a Father and Doctor of the Church and is one of the four great Doctors of the Eastern Church. Born in 349 in Antioch, he earned the appellation Chrysostomos, “golden-mouthed”, because of his eloquent preaching, especially on Holy Scripture. In Discourse Three of his Four Discourses he contrasts the worldly scholars with the straightforward exposition of the truth by apostles and prophets.

3. For those without—-philosphers, rhetoricians, and annalists, not striving for the common good, but having in view their own renown [I naively thought this phenomenon was restricted to our times]—-if they said anything useful, even this they involved in their usual obscurity, as in a cloud.

But the apostles and prophets always did the very opposite; they, as the common instructors of the world, made all that they delivered plain to all men, in order that every one, even unaided, might be able to learn by the mere reading. Thus also the prophet spake before, when he said, “All shall be taught of God,” (Is. 54: 13.) “And they shall no more say, every one to his neighbor, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest,” (Jer.31: 34.) St. Paul also says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God,” (1 Cor. 2: 1.) And again, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Cor. 2: 4.) And again, “We speak wisdom,” it is said, “but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to naught,” (1 Cor. 2: 6.) For to whom is not the gospel plain? Who is it that hears, “Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart,” and such things as these, and needs a teacher in order to understand any of the things spoken?

But (it is asked) are the parts containing the signs and wonders and histories also clear and plain to every one? This is a pretense, and an excuse, and a mere cloak of idleness. You do not understand the contents of the book? But how can you ever understand, while you are not even willing to look carefully?

Take the book in your hand. Read the whole history; and, retaining in your mind the easy parts, peruse frequently the doubtful and obscure parts; and if you are unable, by frequent reading, to understand what is said, go to some one wiser; betake yourself to a teacher; confer with him about the things said. Show great eagerness to learn: then, when God sees that you are using such diligence, He will not disregard your perseverance and carefulness; but if no human being can teach you that which you seek to know, He himself will reveal the whole.

Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Being a man of a barbarous nation, occupied with numerous cares, and surrounded on all sides by manifold business, he was unable to understand that which he read. Still, however, as he was seated in the chariot, he was reading. If he showed such diligence on a journey, think how diligent he must have been at home: if while on the road he did not let an opportunity pass without reading, much more must this have been the case when seated in his house; if when he did not fully understand the things he read, he did not cease from reading, much more would he not cease when able to understand. To show that he did not understand the things which he read, hear that which Philip said to him: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8: 30.) Hearing this question he did not show provocation or shame: but confessed his ignorance, and said: “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (ver. 31.) Since therefore, while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason, he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher.

But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our own salvation! “All these things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come,” (1 Cor. 10: 11.) The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation. This ignorance is the cause of heresies; this it is that leads to dissolute living; this it is that makes all things confused.

It is impossible—-I say, it is impossible, that any one should remain unbenefited who engages in persevering and intelligent reading. For see how much one parable [The rich man and Lazarus] has profited us! How much spiritual good it has done us! For many I know well have departed, bearing away abiding profit from the hearing; and if there be some who have not reaped so much benefit, still for that day on which they heard these things, they were rendered in every way better. And it is not a small thing to spend one day in sorrow on account of sin, and in consideration of the higher wisdom, and in affording the soul a little breathing time from worldly cares. If we can effect this at each assembly without intermission, the continued hearing would work for us a great and lasting benefit.

I can truthfully say that every time I have asked God to help me understand particular verses of Scripture He has eventually given me the light. Sometimes it is in a sermon I hear, sometimes in a conversation, and sometimes it comes from reading a commentary such as Discourse Three or the notes in my study Bible. In all cases, I had to do something to receive the understanding. I had to ask, seek, and knock, sometimes for quite awhile. But when the flash of light came, it was worth all the trouble.

We can never sit back and complain that it is too hard, or dismiss what we don’t understand as fictions, or say we don’t have time to seek the truth. If we do we will never be as holy as God wants us to be because we won’t be letting Him completely into our hearts.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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