Sunday, April 20, 2014


I love to watch old movies from the 30's and 40's, and yet I am very much sobered when watching these movies because I realize that 99% or more of the people I am looking at in the movie, who seem so alive, are actually now very dead, and one day I will join them.  It is a a fact of life which cannot be negotiated in any way.

All of us live with the fear of death, our own death and that of those we love.   No matter how much happiness and satisfaction we may find in our lives, we know that one day it will all come to an end.

But today, Easter Sunday, we celebrate the victory over death. Jesus Christ has risen and conquered death and sin, and there can be no greater message. "You shall not die." St. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:55
“O death, where is your victory?
Where is your power to hurt?”
As Catholics, we celebrate the physical death of our saints because we know that is the day they entered into eternal life, into glory and eternal bliss in the presence of God.  It is Jesus Christ, the God Man who died a horrendous death on a cross and then rose to life who made this possible for us.  It doesn't matter how black our sins are, it doesn't matter what we have done in life.  If we are willing to coming to Our Lord and let Him cleanse our soul in His Precious Blood, we can be made whole and enter into True Life with Him.

Here is a very joyous, upbeat video which I think really expresses it well.  I have included the lyrics below:

Have a wonderful, happy Easter (which lasts all week long) as we celebrate the great victory over death.

For all the earth had trembled,
The sun had hid its face,
All the men that walked with him
Had turned and run away,
They crucified Our Savior,
And laid Him in a tomb.
The Life that once brought love and hope slipped away that afternoon.
Satan gleamed with pleasure that day at Calvary,
For he thought he had won a mighty victory.
And like him all of the demons of hell began to cheer,
Oh but little did they know that their end was drawing near.
Cause early Sunday morning just like Jesus said,
He broke the curse of sin and death and He rose up from the dead.
Now we have a new beginning in a Kingdom that has no ending. 
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!!
Jesus Is Alive!
Death has lost its victory and the grave has been denied.
Jesus lives forever.
He’s Alive! He’s Alive!
He's the Alpha and Omega
The first and last is He.
The curse of sin is broken,
And we have perfect liberty
The Lamb of God is risen.
He's alive! He's alive! 
He’s the author and the finisher of our faith,
The Stone they threw away is the Cornerstone today.
Death has no more victory and the grave has no more sting.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!!
Wonderful Counselor, A Mighty God is He!
The Everlasting Father, He’s the Precious Prince of Peace.
He’s the Word that lives forever.
He’s Alive! He’s Alive!

Oh Hallelujah!
Jesus is Alive!
Death has lost its sting, and the grave has been denied.
Jesus lives forever! He’s Alive!
He’s Alive!
He’s Alive!
Jesus is alive!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Divine Mercy: Becoming a Living Martyr

Often times those who oppose and challenge us contribute more to our growth than those who support us. That is what has happened just recently with me. I just did a post entitled "Are We Judge or Healer" which you can read HERE. In this post, I discussed two recent speakers at Catholic High Schools, Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P. and Father Rocky Hoffman, who gave separate unrelated talks at different schools regarding homosexuality and Catholic teaching. Both of these speakers were met with outrage from many of the students and parents who felt the talks were bigoted and hateful. The problem for the rest of us is that no one outside of the talks knows what was said because no recording or transcript was made of Sister Jane's talk, and although Father Hoffman's talk was recorded, that recording has not been released. So all reports basically amount to hearsay.

That has not stopped the Catholic blogosphere from launching into major attacks against those parents and teachers who complained about the lectures, with the bloggers condemning those who complained for not accepting orthodox Catholic Church teaching. And it is most likely true that the parents and students do not understand and/or accept Catholic teaching.

But my problem with attacking the parents and students is that we don't know what was said, so we really can't make a just judgment. Further, I see the reaction of the parents and students as a wake-up call to the rest of us not so much that there are Catholics who reject the teachings of the Church as the fact that they are spiritually wounded, and condemnation is not going to help but will most likely only drive them further away from the Church and from Jesus Christ. I believe that our Lord would have us lead them to the truth not with harsh words and condemnation but with mercy and compassion. I gave the example of Pope Francis' statement of the Church being a field hospital for the wounded.

This did not sit very well with a few readers, and they let me have it. I was accused of wanting to "pamper" sinners, and told that my ideas were basically protestant, and even go against common sense. The discussion evolved into one about Divine Mercy as given to us through St. Faustina, and I was again told that I had no idea what I was talking about. Those commenting argued that I was misinterpreting Divine Mercy and the words of scripture, which the commenters feel is a sure road to disaster.

For the record, St. Faustina wrote this in regard to the difference between judgment and mercy:
O my Jesus, when shall we look upon souls with higher motives in mind? When will our judgments be true? You give us occasions to practice deeds of mercy, and instead we use the occasions to pass judgment. In order to know whether the love of God flourishes in a convent, one must ask how they treat the sick, the disabled, and the infirm who are there. (Diary 1269)
How does Divine Mercy work in leading people away from their sins and to the saving graces of Jesus Christ? The message of Divine Mercy as given to St. Faustina involves much more than just being "nice" to people. Divine Mercy involves us doing penance and reparation in order to save the souls of sinners. It involves uniting ourselves to the greatest act of Mercy ever known, that of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  Here is an example from St. Faustina's Diary:
On one occasion I saw a servant of God in the immediate danger of committing a mortal sin. I started to beg God to deign to send down upon me all the torments of hell and all the sufferings He wished if only this priest would be set free and snatched from the occasion of committing a sin. Jesus heard my prayer and, that very instant, I felt a crown of thorns on my head. The thorns penetrated my head with great force right into my brain. This lasted for three hours; the servant of God was set free from this sin, and his soul was strengthened by a special grace of God. (Diary 41)
Notice the actions of St. (then Sister) Faustina. She saw a priest "in the immediate danger of committing a mortal sin." Her reaction was not to go and verbally warn the priest, or to say anything at all to him. She, instead, asked to join with the suffering Christ.  Our Lord obliged by allowing her to suffer the pain of a crown of thorns for three hours, which is something that I cannot even imagine.  This example of St. Faustina shows that the answer to sin is prayer and penance.  Her reparations joined with the sufferings of Christ saved a priest from mortal sin.  This priest, I am sure, never knew what a great sacrifice St. Faustina had made for him.

There is another example from the diary in regard to St. Faustina's own sister.  
My sister [Wanda] came to see me today. When she told me of her plans, I was horror-stricken. How is such a thing possible? Such a beautiful little soul before the Lord, and yet, great darkness had come over her, and she did not know how to help herself. She had a dark view of everything. The good God entrusted her to my care, and for two weeks I was able to work with her. But how many sacrifices this soul cost me is known only to God. For no other soul did I bring so many sacrifices and sufferings and prayers before the throne of God as I did for her soul. I felt that I had forced God to grant her grace. When I reflect on all this, I see that it was truly a miracle. Now I can see how much power intercessory prayer has before God.
Once again, St. Faustina pulled back another person from the brink of eternal destruction mainly through prayer, reparations and sacrifice.  St. Faustina says in this passage that "for two weeks I was able to work" with her sister.  We don't know exactly what this means, but this passage mainly brings out the great healing effect of prayer and reparation.

These are only two examples of the suffering and reparation St. Faustina did on behalf of sinners. There are many more examples given in her diary.

Most of us are not capable of the great sanctity shown by St. Faustina nor are we able to bear such suffering as she did.  But in Diary paragraph 246, she gives a list of "small mortifications" that we can consider:
Small Mortifications

To recite the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy with outstretched arms.
On Saturdays, to say five decades of the Rosary with outstretched arms.
To sometimes recite a prayer [while] lying prostrate.
On Thursdays, a Holy Hour.
On Fridays, some greater mortification for dying sinners.
In Diary #243, she gives a further list of mortifications that she engaged in for the sake of others:
I will thank the Lord Jesus for every humiliation and will pray especially for the person who has given me the chance to be humiliated. I will immolate myself for the benefit of souls. I will not count the cost of any sacrifice, I will cast myself beneath the feet of the sisters, like a carpet on which they can not only tread, but also wipe their feet. My place is under the feet of the sisters. I will make every effort to obtain that place unnoticed by others. It is enough that God sees this.
In the comment section of my post regarding Sr. Jane and Father Hoffman, one person said that we need to confront people and tell them they are "dirty rotten sinners headed to hell."  St. Faustina would not agree:
235 O Jesus, I long for the salvation of immortal souls. It is in sacrifice that my heart will find free expression, in sacrifice which no one will suspect. I will burn and be consumed unseen in the holy flames of the love of God. The presence of God will help my sacrifice to be perfect and pure.
Many of us believe that our words to sinners are what will save them, that we have to confront them with the evil they are involved in. But how many of us are wise enough to truly understand the hearts of others, to know exactly what is motivating them? We don't know the experiences of their lives that may have brought them to the sin they are involved in. For example, many homosexuals were abused as children, spiritually and emotionally wounded. Despite their outward show of pride and defiance, they are really dealing with the constant pain of self condemnation. Our words of condemnation will only drive them further away from the saving graces of Jesus Christ.

The diary of St. Faustina shows us that the greatest way to bring sinners to repentance is to join with the suffering Christ. to spiritually hang on the Cross with Him:
To suffer without complaining, to bring comfort to others and to drown my own sufferings in the most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

I will spend all my free moments at the feet of [Our Lord in] the Blessed Sacrament. At the feet of Jesus, I will seek light, comfort and strength. I will show my gratitude unceasingly to God for His great mercy towards me, never forgetting the favors He has bestowed on me, especially the grace of a vocation. 
I will hide myself among the sisters like a little violet among lilies. I want to blossom for my Lord and Maker, to forget about myself, to empty myself totally for the sake of immortal souls – this is my delight (Diary 224)
In Diary #324, Our Lord told St. Faustina, "When I was dying on the cross, I was not thinking about Myself, but about poor sinners, and I prayed for them to My Father."  In Jesus' greatest moment on earth,  when He was hanging on the Cross literally pouring out His Precious Blood for the salvation of mankind, suffering beyond comprehension, He said He was thinking only about "poor sinners."  Notice the complete lack of condemnation in His words.  He was talking about us, the ones responsible for His horrendous death, and yet all He shows is compassion and mercy.

In this same passage, #324, Jesus tells us the way to save sinners:
There is but one price at which souls are brought, and that is suffering united to My suffering on the cross. Pure love understands these words; carnal love will never understand them.
In the very next paragraph, #325,  Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Faustina and emphasized the importance of prayer:
My daughter, what I demand from you is prayer, prayer, and once again prayer, for the world and especially for your country.
This statement from Our Blessed Mother echoes almost exactly what she said at Fatima less than 20 years before the time of St. Faustina:

The angel of Fatima also told the children to pray and sacrifice for sinners:
What are you doing? Pray! Pray very much! … Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the most High…. Make everything you do a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country…. Above all accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.
Nowhere in any of these statements or examples are we told that the way to convert sinners is to confront them with their sin.  Even Our Lord saved sinners not by confronting them but by His Death on the cross.

In the Diary of St. Faustina, Jesus praises those who make great sacrifices:
To comfort you, let Me tell you that there are souls living in the world who love Me dearly. I dwell in their hearts with delight. But they are few. In convents too, there are souls that fill My Heart with joy. They bear My features; therefore the Heavenly Father looks upon them with special pleasure. They will be a marvel to Angels and men. Their number is very small. They are a defense for the world before the justice of the Heavenly Father and a means of obtaining mercy for the world. The love and sacrifice of these souls sustain the world in existence. (Diary 367)
St. Faustina would often feel that she was not accomplishing anything, but Jesus assured her otherwise:
In the evening, I saw the Lord Jesus upon the cross. From His hands, feet, and side the Most Sacred Blood was flowing. After some time, Jesus said to me, All this is for the salvation of souls. Consider well, My daughter, what you are doing for their salvation. I answered, “Jesus, when I look at Your suffering, I see that I am doing next to nothing for the salvation of souls.” And the Lord said to me, Know, My daughter, that your silent day-to-day martyrdom in complete submission to My will ushers many souls into heaven. And when it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength, contemplate My wounds, and you will rise above human scorn and judgment. Meditation on My passion will help you rise above all things. (Diary 1184)
In Isaiah 55:8-9, God says:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

What may seem to be "common sense" to us is not the way of God but the way of the world which will only lead to death. Certainly we need to speak out against the evil in the world. Our Lord commanded us to preach the Gospel to all creatures. That is the purpose of the Church. We must never hesitate to proclaim the Word of God. But if we are truly sincere in wanting to save sinners, to pull them from hell, then we must be willing to suffer with Jesus on the Cross. If we put our main efforts into condemnation of sinners, we are no better than Satan, the great accuser.
In the book of Numbers, the children of Israel had rebelled against God, and God had sent deadly snakes among them as punishment.  Many people died from the poisonous bites of these snakes.  Our Lord instructed Moses to put a brass snake on a pole and hold it up for the people to look at, and when they did so, they would be healed of the poisonous bites of the snakes:
Numbers 21:4-8:
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
Moses and the brass snake
The brass snake on the pole is a picture of Christ on the Cross and the healing that comes from His Great Sacrifice.  If we want to help save people from their sins, we must turn them towards the Cross, let them look at Christ's Sacrifice, from which all true healing comes.  We do that by joining our sacrifices to His.

We should also be aware that our acts of mercy towards others may well decide our own fate:
If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment. Oh, if only souls knew how to gather eternal treasure for themselves, they would not be judged, for they would forestall My judgment with their mercy. (Diary 1317)
In this Holy Week in which we are commemorating that great sacrifice that saved us all, let us not stand in condemnation of the world but instead truly endeavor to become one with Jesus Christ, and bring healing and hope to those in such dire need. As John 3:17 says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." If we are to be followers of Jesus and allow Him to live in us, we too must be about saving the world, not condemning it.

Some final words from St. Faustina:
I often communicate with persons who are dying and obtain the divine mercy for them. Oh, how great is the goodness of God, greater than we can understand. There are moments and there are mysteries of the divine mercy over which the heavens are astounded. Let our judgment of souls cease, for God's mercy upon them is extraordinary. (Diary 1684)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Are We Judge Or Healer?

There has been a lot of buzz on Catholic websites and blogs during the last couple of weeks over two speakers at two different Catholic high schools. Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P. gave a speech about Catholic teaching on sexuality to a Catholic high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sister Jane is an experienced speaker and has never met with controversy in any of her previous talks. However, this time something went wrong, and as the Charlotte Observer reported on April 2:
Nearly 1,000 parents gathered at Charlotte Catholic High School on Wednesday night to air complaints about a recent speech to students by a nun who made what many considered inflammatory comments about gays and lesbians, divorce and single parenthood.
So many parents lined up to speak that the meeting with high school officials, the school’s chaplain and the Diocese of Charlotte’s vicar of education lasted more than an hour longer than scheduled.
The article goes on to state:
Diocese spokesman David Hains acknowledged after the meeting that the Rev. Matthew Kauth, the school’s chaplain, apologized to the parents for a March 21 speech by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel that was not the one he expected her to give.
Hains also said the high school committed to developing new policies that would better scrutinize visiting speakers in the future. He said the school also wants to do a better job of communicating with parents ahead of time when such speeches will deal with sensitive subjects such as sexuality.
“Parents should have been better informed,” Hains said.
Most Catholic bloggers and websites immediately rushed to support Sister Jane against charges made by the parents and students of this high school. Father Z typified many of the responses by Catholic bloggers to this situation. I don't mean to pick on Father Z. I am using his posts because I think they are representative of the thinking of many Catholics. He posted several times on this issue, always in support of Sister Jane. On his first post, entitled, "Sister explains the situation. Spittle-flecked nutty, bullying, intimidation ensue" [HERE], Father Z wrote this:
This is [what] we are going to experience for a long-time, friends. If we Catholics (read: faithful to the teachings of the Church concerning faith and morals) actually dare to speak in public about the Church’s doctrine favorably or attempt to govern our lives by it, the blow-back will be instantaneous, relentless, savage.
There is one big problem with this statement:  neither Father Z nor anyone else who was not at Sister Jane's talk knows exactly what she said.  And we will never know specifically what she said because there was no recording and no transcript of her remarks.  As the title to Father Z's post implies, he feels, even though he does not know exactly what was said, that the problem is entirely with those who were in Sister Jane's audience, and it has nothing to do with her.

In a subsequent post entitled, "Nun Under The Bus", which you can read HERE, Father Z wrote:
I suspect [emphasis mine] that what happened, to build this up into such a thing, is that parents heard vague reports – I say vague because teens are such great sources of accuracy in reporting – about her remarks from their politically-correctly conditioned children and, stung in conscience, got out the pitchforks and torches.
This is a very inflammatory statement on Father Z's part, which he admits is based on assumption, not actual knowledge.   In this same post, Father Z ironically wrote, "Surely there is something of a mob mentality building, and swiftly."  Canonist Dr. Ed Peters was the first to comment, and he made a very wise statement:
My hunches are almost exactly like unto yours, but hunches don’t cut it in the kinds of battles around us now. No one who has not heard (apparently there is no recording) or who has not read (apparently there was no text) Sister’s talk CANNOT weigh in on what she said, for the simple reason that they don’t KNOW what she actually said. Lesson: Keep a record, people.
Unfortunately, neither Father Z nor any of his readers heeded this statement by Dr. Peters, as you will see if you read the comments.  

Sister Mary Sarah, O.P., President of Aquinas College, posted a statement [HERE] on the school website which read in part:
The events around the recent talk by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P. in Charlotte, NC have produced a great deal of speculation from many sides. Among the commentators, there are few who were actually present to hear the talk, which was not recorded.
. . .
We believe it is our privilege to bring the best aspects of our faith tradition to bear on the moral and cultural questions of the present age. In her presentation, Sister Jane Dominic spoke clearly on matters of faith and morals. Her deviation into realms of sociology and anthropology was beyond the scope of her expertise. Sister is a trained theologian from a Pontifical University and has the credentials to contribute to scholarly bodies of work. This she has done in the past with distinction. The unfortunate events at Charlotte Catholic High School are not representative of the quality of Sister’s academic contributions or the positive influence that she has had on her students. The students at Charlotte Catholic were unprepared, as were their parents, for the topic that Sister was asked to deliver. The consequence was a complete misrepresentation of the school’s intention to bring a message that would enlighten and bring freedom and peace.
Of course, for those who already had their minds made up, this statement by Sister Mary Sarah will make no difference.  Typical of one comment from Father Z's post:
I am just a sinner who reads the CCC and tries his best to live the teachings of our Church. But from my perspective, and the available reporting, I would take Sr. Jane Dominic over Sr. Mary Sarah, hands down. As I recall, we are here to afflict the comfortable, not cater to their delusions.
Why do we feel we need to take sides? The person who posted does not know either Sr. Jane or Sr. Mary Sarah, yet he has already made up his mind that he will "take Sr. Jane Dominic over Sr. Mary Sarah, hands down." Why is he pitting one against another? Why is he making the judgment that Sr. Mary Sarah is somehow the "bad guy" in this situation?

Another very similar situation happened just recently involving Father Rocky Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio, who gave a talk to teens at a Rhode Island school on sexuality. You can read about this story HERE. Once again, parents protested against the speech as being divisive. Once again, Catholic bloggers and websites, without knowing exactly what was said, rushed to judgment to support Father Hoffman and condemn those who complained against him.

As in the situation with Sr. Jane, the school involved in Father Hoffman's situation also apologized for the comments made by Father. In an email sent from the school to the parents:
My intention in inviting him here was to have a priest articulate Church teaching in a manner that was pastorally appropriate, doctrinally sound, and deeply respectful of the trust the students showed in bringing these questions forward for answer. My prior knowledge of Fr. Hoffman and his program gave every reason to expect this outcome,” [Principal David] Carradini wrote. “My expectations, and those of the faculty and staff, were not met, and for that I am deeply sorry. Several of the answers provided were not entirely representative of the full breadth of Church teaching on a number of complex and sensitive issues. Several members of the student body, faculty, and staff – including me – were personally offended by his manner of presentation.
This statement, like the one by Sr. Mary Sarah, only brought out more condemnation from many Catholics, who are convinced that all of these people are Catholic in name only and really want to destroy the Church.  Many Catholics look at these fellow Catholics as the enemy.

The world is in very bad shape right now. People have completely lost almost all sense of right and wrong, good and bad. What use to be completely taboo in our culture is now accepted and even embraced. For those of us who are trying to live according to traditional moral values and, most especially, for Catholics, the world has become an alien, antagonistic and hateful environment in which we have no place. Here in the United States, even our government is trying to force us to violate our own beliefs with such actions as the HHS mandate. And it is much worse in other parts of the world where Christians are paying the ultimate price for their beliefs.

The question is, how do we deal with this situation?  Who is our real enemy here?  

As I write this, we are beginning Holy Week in which we commemorate the great Sacrifice of our Creator who poured out His Precious Blood on the cross to save all mankind from sin, and that includes those Catholic parents who are seemingly protesting against Catholic orthodox teaching. When Our Lord was hanging on the Cross and the last drops of His Precious Blood were pouring out of Him after having been brutally beaten on every inch of His Body, He looked down at those who had inflicted this unspeakable punishment, and said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Does this mean we should never point out sin, that we should never let people know when they have strayed from eternal truth?  Absolutely not.  But it does mean that we may have to re-think HOW we present the truth of the Gospel to this post-Christian world.  We can't just say, as far too many have, that if people won't listen, then let them burn in hell.  This completely defeats everything for which Jesus died such an excruciatingly painful and humiliating death. 

We have to realize that many people are victims of our anti-God culture.  In one interview he gave, Pope Francis said the Church is like a field hospital:
“I can clearly see that what the Church needs today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of faithful, it needs to be by their side. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle. It’s pointless to ask a seriously injured patient whether his cholesterol or blood sugar levels are high! It’s his wounds that need to be healed. The rest we can talk about later. Now we must think about treating those wounds. And we need to start from the bottom.”
In this regard, Father Kevin Cusick, a chaplain for the Marines, wrote a fascinating article explaining just what a field hospital does.  You can read his article HERE.  Father Cusick explains the function of a field hospital:
Why does a field hospital exist? Where there is a war or a battle there will be the wounded and the dead. In support of the fight the field hospital must function to keep as many as possible in the battle for total victory. Those whose wounds can be treated on the spot and sent back out to join the others in battle continue to be force-multipliers and better enable the military unit to achieve its objective. In more serious cases the wounded will need to be transferred to the rear for more intensive surgery or therapy.
Father Cusick explains how a field hospital functions in aiding those who have been injured.  He then explains how this relates to the statement by Pope Francis:
What is Pope Francis getting at when he compares the Church to a field hospital in a war zone? I believe he wants us to remember that our faithful often have wounds, though we cannot see them, perhaps, and those wounds have tremendous spiritual and other effects on human beings that hamper a full, free and joyful relationship with God as offered in the Church. I believe he wants us to adapt our care to include sensitivity to those wounds that prevent others from partaking fully in the Church’s life and the Lord’s healing from sin and other realities that hurt them and burden them.
I think far too often many of us look at others who are spiritually wounded, whose spiritual legs are broken, and we condemn them because they can't walk like we can. But is this how Our Lord looked on those who were so spiritually lost? Think of Luke 13:34, when Jesus said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the [city] that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen her brood under her wings, and ye would not.

From Father Cusick:
If we Catholics are to now see ourselves as workers in a field hospital, what kind of mindset do we need? We must be concerned with customer care. We must be ready to meet others where they are before we know what they need, to get where they need to be. We need to be with them enough to “have the smell of the sheep” on us, as Pope Francis says. In this way we will be able to truly care for them, to prescribe not some arbitrary medicine but to focus on their real needs. This way others will begin to experience the love of Christ truly present already in the Church and in the local church of the parish.
If parishes are to be like field hospitals, what kind of things do they need to do differently? We must always operate with the knowledge that grace builds on nature. If families or children are not getting to Sunday Mass, if families are not attending together, there may be human reasons underlying the symptom that need to be treated first. Parenting skills must be dealt with before parents are prepared to see they are leaders in the home, the first teachers of our children in the ways of faith, and then to act on that God-given role. Our witness must be one which compels our recently confirmed young people to pursue their faith and to continue to attend Mass. Our religious education must be effective in handing on the truths of faith to our young people, and so on.
Our proclamation of the Gospel and teaching of the Faith will not have effect without a knowledge of those we are sent to serve. We must take the time to examine and diagnose the spiritual illness before able to effectively offer a cure. This takes time and love.
These are very wise and loving words, from someone who truly cares about others. I think that far too often we are more concerned with being right than helping others. We are so quick to condemn, to point the finger, to write people off as hopeless. We hear bits and pieces of situations, and we think we know all the facts and can accurately judge what is happening.

Like Dr. Peters, I suspect that both Sister Jane and Father Hoffman gave very orthodox talks on Catholic teaching.  I don't believe this is the issue at all.  I believe the issue is whether these talks in the format in which they were presented were helpful to those who heard them.  The answer seems to be an obvious no.  So do we just walk away from these people?  Or do we, instead, try to find another way to reach them, because it would seem that they are obviously among the spiritually wounded.  

We need to ask ourselves what our purpose is as Christians.  Is it just to uphold our own righteousness and look down on those who don't agree with us?  Where would any of us be if Our Lord had done that?  Our Lord has shown great patience and love with us, gently correcting us and leading us in the right way.  Don't we owe that to others for whom He also died?      


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Michael Voris Instructs The Holy Spirit

Michael Voris basically makes his living from criticism of Church hierarchy. He has recently made a public statement that he is drawing the line at the Pope and will not engage in public criticism of the Holy Father. His followers, rightfully, have asked how he can justify tearing into the bishops but not the Holy Father when the Pope is saying the same things about which Voris is so critical of the bishops.  Voris says it doesn't matter how bad the pope is, we are not free to criticize him. In effect, Voris is not saying that he likes or agrees with the pope, but since the pope does sit in the Chair of Peter, Voris will refrain from criticizing him.

And Voris wonders why his followers cannot understand him.

I for one, am glad Michael Voris has decided to draw some kind of line in the sand, even if it is too little and too late. However, Voris has now stepped into a new area of criticism in that he is now giving the Church advice on how she should choose the men who are to be priests. He recently did a Vortex episode in which he maintains that if a man does not have a strong father figure in his life, he should be rejected for the priesthood because he is not a strong man.

First, it should be stated that Holy Mother Church definitely has set down rules as to who is allowed to enter the priesthood. Not every man who enters the seminary is actually called by the Holy Spirit. There are men who enter the seminary in order to run away from something.  No man can enter the priesthood without a direct calling from the Holy Spirit. The Church in her wisdom realizes this. And because of the abuse scandal, the Church has placed certain restrictions on homosexuals entering the priesthood. But this is directed towards those who have not fully renounced their homosexuality.  This is from the 2005 document, which you can read HERE:
In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture."
As a further clarification, the document says:
Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.  
The document also states:
There are two inseparable elements in every priestly vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of the man. A vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church. In responding to the call of God, the man offers himself freely to him in love. The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient, and there does not exist a right to receive sacred ordination. It belongs to the Church - in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for receiving the sacraments instituted by Christ - to discern the suitability of him who desires to enter the seminary, to accompany him during his years of formation, and to call him to holy orders if he is judged to possess the necessary qualities.
However, Michael Voris does not seem to believe in the process of discernment. He feels that if someone lacked a strong father figure, that automatically disqualifies a man for the priesthood. Voris starts out by explaining how the lack of a strong father figure can hurt the development of boys into men. And he actually makes some good points. But he then uses this reasoning to say that no one who was without a strong father figure while growing up is eligible for the priesthood.

From Voris:
The culture is awash in these young men – many of whom have physically matured now into middle aged men and even older.
And they have also entered the Catholic clergy, in some places in droves.
And there is little else more dangerous than a man who does not know how to harness his masculinity .. presenting himself before a congregation with a roman collar on his neck.
Weak men being ordained .. and even consecrated to bishop has been the bane of the Church for the past 50 years.
I have looked throughout the Bible, and nowhere do I find anything that says if you don't have a strong father figure, then you better not even think about being a priest. In fact, there is that pesky statement that says with God all things are possible. Michael Voris, however, evidently does not believe this. According to him, The Holy Spirit is not enough. Men who did not have strong father figures are beyond the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and should not be in the priesthood.

Voris then goes on to explain just why these "fatherless" men are so unqualified for the priesthood:
We call them “Father”, but they are ill-equipped to bear such a noble title – not totally their own fault. The anger some of these men feel is not entirely unjustified.
They were victimized in their youth. Turning around to look for a father to draw them up out of their silly selfish boyhoods, they had no one. They deserved – had a right to such a man – but one was not there.
No one was available. So they had to go in search of something or someone to fill the role of father. Often enraged while at the same time despondent of their lot in life, they could encounter all kinds of mischief – and the diabolical is always prowling around doing its best to ensure they did.
Many men in the priesthood and the episcopate have undergone this kind psychological stress – they are truly victims. Having been ordained, they carry this trauma into their priesthood and become paralyzed in their new found role of father or shepherd.
Father Donald Calloway
Father Don Calloway is a member of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.  You can find Fr. Calloway's story HERE.  The story starts out as follows:
Heroine, cocaine, opium, marijuana, excessive alcohol, not to mention hallucinogenic drugs like mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD – he consumed most of these before the age of 18, many before he turned 14, the addictions growing stronger as the existential emptiness deepened. What sounds like an introduction to a Hunter S. Thompson novel actually constitutes the autobiography of a Catholic priest. Fr. Donald Calloway of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception retells his dramatic and heart-wrenching life story in No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy.
As a destructive youth, Calloway spent his adolescence succumbing to temptations large and small, from sins of the flesh with constant promiscuity, to crimes against the law with thousands of dollars of grand theft in stolen merchandise, as well as nightly partying with friends consuming all forms of drugs and addictives while listening to heavy-metal music.
Michael Voris would tell us that a man such a Father Don Calloway would be eminently unqualified to be a priest. He lived such a debauched life that there is no way he could ever lead a congregation. Voris needs to tell this to all the tens of thousands of people that Father Calloway is leading to God.

Then, of course, there is St. Augustine. This is the story of his father, which you can read HERE:
Patricius, the father of Augustine, was a man whose darker qualities sorely tested the Christian charity of his wife and his older son. ...

Patricius (Patrick) worked in the local Roman administration.

He was a decurion, which meant that he was a town councillor with the duty of collecting taxes.
Although he belonged to the influential class in the local society, Patricius lived in difficult financial circumstances.

Augustine said that his father owned only a small amount of land.

His vineyards were worked by slaves, and Augustine had a slave (called a pedagogue) who took him to school.  Patricius seems to have had nothing remarkable either in mental ability or in character.

He was a lively and sensual person, and one who easily became angry.

He was entirely taken up with his daily concerns. He was hostile to the Christian church until the end of his life.

Thanks to the efforts of Monica, Patricius died a baptised Christian.
The father of St. Augustine seems to have died a holy death, but he sure didn't live a holy life.  So, according to Michael Voris, St. Augustine should have most definitely been rejected from the priesthood.

Voris explains why "weak men" must be barred from the priesthood:
Weak men, psychologically and emotionally weak men, who have never been taught how to be a father, can lead the flock astray with little effort because they do not understand because they have never been taught, that a father lives for his children and not himself.
But a weak man, is weak specifically BECAUSE he has this paradigm totally backwards. He lives for himself, for his own desire to be accepted and not rejected. And too many men in authority in the Church are unwilling to eschew this basic human desire, fueled by rage and self-doubt, in favor of the needs of their flock.
They crave being admired – or advancement up the clerical ranks – clinging to these things in the belief they are loveable.
So a paralysis has set in, where the most common approach on the part of leaders is to offend as few of the faithful as possible. The RATIONALIZATION is of course, that this is done for the sake of unity.
I wonder if Michael Voris has ever read the Gospel accounts of the apostles. Men don't come a whole lot weaker than those who were handpicked by Jesus Christ to found His Church. The first apostle to be chosen, Matthew, was a tax collector, which meant he was a professional thief who collected large amounts of money and then kept most of it for himself. They all, with only one exception, ran away when Christ needed them most. They argued about who would be greatest. Our Lord even accused Peter of working for Satan when Peter said he would never allow Christ to be crucified. None of these men were admirable, respectable men in society. They were just a rag tag bunch with major character flaws whom most would dismiss as insignificant and unimportant men.

Yet, Judas was the only one to be lost from this bunch of weak, vain and cowardly men. The rest went on to become strong men of God willing to give up their very lives for the Gospel. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. Our own personal weaknesses and failings mean nothing to God. The key is how much we submit to the power of the Holy Spirit to TRANSFORM who we are. To dismiss a man from the priesthood just because of his background without any discernment of his heart and attitude goes against everything God says.

It is interesting that Michael Voris, whether he realizes it or not, is portraying the priesthood as just another profession in which we need "qualified" men.   Yes, we do need qualified men for the priesthood, but as stated earlier, the only real qualification is a calling by and submission to the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord decides where we will be in His Body, the Church. And as He tells us, he does not look at who we are or the things as we do.

When the prophet Samuel was choosing a king for Israel, God told Samuel:
"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  (I Sam. 16:7)   
Isaiah 55:8 tells us, 
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."  
In fact, St. Paul writes that God purposely picks those the world considers weak to achieve His purposes:
Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  (I Cor. 1:27)
In this Vortex episode, Voris pronounces his usual judgment on the priests and bishops:
We need to pray and sacrifice mightily for our priests and bishops my fellow Catholics – the Church will be impotent in fighting the powers of hell, of storming the gates of hell with weak men as leaders.
Everyone has psychological junk to deal with. But there comes a time in the lives of some, when it must be dealt with and laid aside – or those incapable of dealing with it must at the very least recognize it and STEP aside.
Again, Voris totally discounts the work of the Holy Spirit with the statement, "the Church will be impotent in fighting the powers of hell, of storming the gates of hell with weak men as leaders." Just where does Voris think our strength as a Church comes from? Is this the Church of Strong, Manly Men or the Church of God? And again, Voris takes it upon himself to tell duly ordained priests and bishops to "STEP aside." When did Michael Voris become judge and jury over people's souls?

This is certainly not to say that we don't have weak priests among us. We always have and we always will. Judas was only the first. But does this weakness come from the lack of a strong father figure and/or some other character flaw, as Voris would have us believe? Or is it the result of abandoning their relationship with their Heavenly Father? Doesn't weakness in all of us, not just priests, come from the fact that we have not totally submitted ourselves to Our Lord, that we are trying to do things "our way" instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us?

Not every man is qualified for the priesthood.  In fact, only a tiny percentage of men are actually called into this great vocation.  But let's leave it to the power of the Holy Spirit and Holy Mother Church to make this decision, not lay people like Michael Voris.

Every time I think Michael Voris has jumped the shark, he goes even further. His hubris seems to know no bounds. He condemns and criticizes priests and bishops with abandon, telling them that they are headed for hell and they need to get out of the church. Voris tells us that the institutional church we see around is nothing but a sham, and that only he and others who think like him constitute the true church. They are the only "faithful" Catholics. If you don't agree with Voris, you belong to the "Church of Nice", which he says is the great false church of our time.

There is a reason why Voris is not allowed by his bishop to use the word "Catholic" in his organization. I use to be a loyal follower of Voris, and I understand his appeal. He seems to give concrete answers to all the confusion around us. But I have learned that we need to stay far away from anyone who stands in constant criticism of the Church and purports to know more than those who have been ordained to watch over our souls.

It doesn't matter what has happened to you in life. It doesn't matter how low you have sunk. The Holy Spirit can completely remake you into a child of God. Don't listen to people like Voris who say you don't have what it takes. Alone, you don't have it. But if you submit your will to God, He will raise you up and use you in ways you would have never dreamed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lord, Let Me Never Stop Searching

In writing the last few posts here, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the scribes and pharisees and why it is that they were the only ones whom Jesus publicly rebuked during His earthly life. For point of clarity, it has been pointed out to me that Our Lord also rebuked the money changers in the temple. However, Jesus' rebuke of the money changers was a rebuke for one specific action - desecrating the temple - rather than who they were as people. This is found in Matthew 21:12-13:
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
The words of Jesus Christ to to the Pharisees and scribes was directed precisely to who they were as human beings.  And Our Lord's words were nothing short of scathing.

Mark 12:38-40:
“Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places,  and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,  who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
To the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:4-7):
They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.
And Matthew 23:27-28:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
And Mark 7:6-8:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

There are more, but I think you can get the idea from the above scriptures.

We have no record of Jesus publicly rebuking anyone else. He never even rebuked those who were possessed with demons. He rebuked the demons, but never the people. The first man he called to be an apostle - Matthew - was a tax collector, which meant he was a professional thief, collecting large amounts of money from the people and pocketing a good portion of it. Jesus, as far as we know, did not say a word to Matthew about his corrupt practices. The only thing Jesus said to him was, "Follow me." And the amazing thing is, Matthew did so without hesitation.

Jesus met public sinners throughout his ministry and had no problem whatsoever in socializing with them, for which He received constant criticism from the Pharisees.  The Pharisees would never think of sullying themselves by getting anywhere near a public sinner, and they accused Christ of making himself a sinner by associating with them.  Jesus characterized their rebukes in Matthew 11:19 when He said, "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners."

God does not tolerate any form of sin, so we know that Jesus' association with sinners did not mean he was endorsing sin in any way, but like the woman taken in adultery, he was extending mercy to people so that they would be able to repent and turn from their sinful lives.  But why didn't Our Lord extend this same mercy to the Pharisees and Scribes?  Why, unlike his actions towards others, did Christ feel the need to publicly rebuke the Pharisees and Scribes, and to do so in such harsh, unrelenting words?

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus told us that in order to find him all we had to do was ask:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
What has this got to do with anything? The sinners our Lord met - adulterers, prostitutes, publicans, thieves, etc. - were all seeking something. They knew something was missing in their lives. They didn't know what it was, but they thought if they could just fill it with that "one" thing - be it sex, money, power, etc. - then they would be happy.  They were searching, but like the old song says, they were "looking in all the wrong places." Our Lord, seeing this, would go to them and gently say, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Our Lord showed them kindness and compassion, never the harsh and unbending criticism He displayed towards the Pharisees.  

This is beautifully illustrated in the story of the woman Jesus met at the well, which is depicted in John 4. The woman was a Samaritan, and as we are told in verse 9 of John 4, Jews do not associate with Samaritans. So when Jesus was sitting at the well and asked her for a drink of water, he was violating serious social protocol. And the woman knew it. At first she was very defensive, and said "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" Her contemptuous tone did not deter Jesus in the least, and He very compassionately answered, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (Verse 10)

Not only was this Jew speaking to her, a Samaritan, but he was speaking kindly to her.  She had never experienced anything close to this in her life.  But she did not understand Jesus' answer, and she was also still somewhat skeptical about what He really wanted, so she asked Him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?"  (Verse 11)

An interesting side point.  Venerable Fulton Sheen pointed out how this woman becomes progressively more respectful towards Jesus as the conversation ensues.  She starts out calling him "You Jew."  In the next statement, she calls him "Sir."

Jesus answers the Samaritan woman by telling her He has what she has been searching for (verses 13-14):  "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman is deeply intrigued, but she still doesn't understand Jesus (verse 15):  "Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

At this point, Jesus very kindly points out that she has a problem in her life that needs to be corrected. He asks her to call her husband. She says she has no husband. In verses 17-18, He responds, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."

The woman realizes that Jesus is not trying to condemn her in any way. He is merely stating a fact. But the issue of her failed marriages is not something she wants to talk about, so she tries to change the subject: "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus does not go back to the problem with her marital status, but instead answers her statement about worship (verses 21-24):
“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Here, Jesus is saying to a Samaritan woman that her people have no idea what true worship is and that salvation is from the Jews, their avowed enemies.  Yet she takes no offense at this, because in this same statement our Lord is describing true worship to her, and now she is beginning to understand.  She knows that Jesus is speaking of that for which they all seek (verse 25):
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus tells her outright:
“I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Our Lord brought salvation to the Samaritan woman not by scolding her and telling her she needed to turn from her sinful lifestyle.  She came to salvation, or at least the knowledge of who Jesus was, because Jesus told her that He was what she was searching for.  He told her to stop looking in the wrong places, and instead look at Him.  And when she did, she was thoroughly convinced.

So why couldn't Jesus do this with the Pharisees and Scribes? Because the most important element in the equation was missing - the Pharisees and Scribes were not looking. They were convinced they had all the answers. They looked at themselves and saw only goodness personified. They had supreme self confidence. They were completely and totally infected with the most serious of spiritual sicknesses: self righteousness and self confidence.

Despite His harsh criticism of them, Our Lord loved the Pharisees and Scribes as much as anyone else, and longed for them to accept Him. But he was up against a stone wall with them.

The Pharisees knew they were the "chosen people." As they told Jesus, Abraham was their father. God had worked directly through the Jews throughout the centuries. They had a couple thousand years of tradition. Their religious practices had been tried and proven throughout the centuries. They didn't need a poor uneducated Nazarene carpenter, who was rumored to be a bastard child, telling them about God. And this Jesus was constantly flouting their traditions and practices. Why, he and his followers didn't wash their hands before eating, as the Law said. They picked corn on the Sabbath! They socialized with non Jews. And Jesus even healed on the Sabbath - a deed worthy of stoning!

They knew the people were listening to Jesus and following Him, but the people were all so stupid, anyway. These common people did not have the education and training that the Pharisees and Scribes did. The people didn't know the law, so why pay attention to anything they say.

The Gospels teach us that often those who appear to be the most hardened sinners are sometimes much closer to Christ than those who appear to be "righteous." Why was Jesus able to reach the Samaritan woman at the well but not the Pharisees? Because the woman at the well was searching. She knew that she didn't have all the answers, she knew something was missing in her life. And all it took was Our Lord to compassionately show her the right way to go and her life was changed. The Pharisees would have treated her contemptuously, if at all, and scolded her for her sins, and that would have left her right where she was.

As Christians, we must never become self complacent. We must never think we have it made, that we have learned all we need to know, and there is no further room for spiritual growth in our lives. Once we do that, we have taken ourselves out of the Lord's Hands. Once we think we have it all together and therefore have the right to judge others and most especially those put in charge of our souls, we are in big trouble spiritually because we are putting a huge wall between us and the mercy of God. We have, in effect, become Pharisees.

Terry Anderson of Abbey Roads posted a beautiful prayer on my blog from Saint Claude de la Colombiere. There is one line in it that especially touched me:  "As for myself, Lord, all my confidence is my confidence itself. Because You Lord, only You have secured my hope."

Lord, let me never depend on myself. Let me never stop searching for you.

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