Saturday, January 5, 2013

Meditation on the Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity of Jesus

Today, January 5, is the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
As far as the world is concerned, Christmas the holiday season is over.  The parties are done, no more frantic buying, the lights and decorations have come down, the trees have been thrown out.  But Holy Mother Church did not start celebrating Christmas until December 25, and she will continue to celebrate it for 40 days, until Candlemas, February 2, which is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord at the temple, and often called the Feast of Candles, candles representing the light of Christ come into the world.

So in honor of the fact that we are in the liturgical season of Christmas, I have decided to do a meditation on the third Joyful Mystery, the birth of our Lord.

There is nothing in the world as helpless as a newborn child
Christmas has many different themes, but I feel that one of the main themes of Christmas is humility.  The only larger display of humility than God coming to earth as a man is when God died on the cross, crucified as a common criminal.  In the Christmas Story, we see the great Creator God come to earth and take on the nature of His creation.  This is the same God who created all that is and who cannot be contained by the universe itself,  the One who gives us every breath we breathe and upon whom we are completely dependent for our existence.  We saw Him humble himself and enter the womb of a virgin, all the while retaining His Divinity.  He was born as all men are, a small helpless baby, unable to even turn himself.  The Great God of the universe made Himself completely dependent upon human beings to feed him, change his diapers, wash him and provide for his every need.  We have no way of knowing for sure, but I don't think it's likely that Baby Jesus cried as other babies do; however, he certainly couldn't communicate by using words, either.  He had to entirely rely on his mother and her husband Joseph to supply his needs and not allow anything to happen to him.

Not only did our Lord come to earth as a tiny, helpless baby, but he was born away from his family's home in a dark and dingy manger, a place where animals were kept.  It is safe to say that the manger was not in exactly a clean, pristine condition.  It was likely that it was filled not just with animals who ate and slept there, but no doubt it was crawling with vermin of all types.  On top of that, if you have ever been in a barn you know that the air was filled with a pungent odor from the animals' waste.

All of heaven was rejoicing at the birth of our Lord, but it was far different among earth's inhabitants.  The world was in complete ignorance of the fact that its Creator and Savior had been born.  The only ones who came to rejoice at the birth of the baby in the manger were the lowliest members of society:  shepherds, men who lived in the fields with their sheep, rarely bathing, no social skills at all, shunned by the rest of society.  But because they were apart from society and not preoccupied with the cares of this world, the angel was able to appear to them and announce Our Savior's birth.  They were the only ones, outside of Joseph and Mary, to welcome Jesus into the world.  The wise men, the Gentile kings who were considered unclean by Jewish society, arrived later to give their presents to Jesus and worship Him.

[Just as an aside, all of the people passing by the little manger where our Lord was born were completely unaware of the fact that their Lord and Savior was inside, and thus gave no acknowledgement to His Presence.   Yet how often do we Catholics, who say we believe that Christ is truly present in the tabernacle, pass by these same tabernacles in our own churches and not only do we not genuflect, we barely bow our heads in recognition of Who is there.   How often do we stand there having trivial conversations with each other while completely ignoring our Lord in the tabernacle?]

We are told that Mary and Joseph did not even have any clothes to put on the newborn Christ Child.  They wrapped him in swaddling clothes, which are strips of cloth that are wrapped around a newborn baby to restrict his movements and keep him quiet, very much resembling the cloths used to wrap our Lord's body when he was laid in the sepulcher 33 years later.

This was not the only foreshadowing of the Cross when Jesus was born.  The shadow of the cross actually hung heavy over the tiny stable in Bethlehem.  Our Lord's birth very much mirrored his death.  Just as he was born in a lowly stable away from civilization and "decent society," so he died, crucified outside of the city.  It is a traditional belief that Golgotha, the place of our Lord's crucifixion, was built on a garbage dump.  Like the stable he was born in, this was a place of vermin and refuse.   From
Jesus was taken to Golgotha, the place of the skull, for execution. The Romans used Golgotha for several purposes. The Romans used Golgotha for a garbage dump and took refuse there for disposal. The second purpose of Golgotha was an open grave. The Romans disposed of the bodies of homeless or executed criminals. There would have been a large number of skulls lying in the open, one of the main reasons the place was called Golgotha. The third purpose of Golgotha was a place of execution.
Just as he was born completely helpless and dependent upon others to take care of him, thus he was when he died.  We know that Jesus fell at least three times and most likely had to be picked up by others so He could continue His journey to Golgotha.  He had been so weakened by the beatings and whippings that he could not even carry his own cross, and Simon of Cyrene was made to help him.  Jesus was unable to even wipe the blood pouring into his eyes, and the brave Veronica, forcing her way through the crowd and Roman soliders, wiped his face for him.
Simon helping the weakened Jesus to carry His Cross
Of course, at the center of our Lord's humble birth and ignominious death and all events in between was our Blessed Mother, walking every step with her Son, carrying His pain in her heart.  How difficult it must have been for her from the very beginning.  What woman would want to have her baby in a dirty little stable surrounded by mangy animals?  The pain of watching her Son be crucified by the very ones He had come to save is beyond my ability to comprehend.  But like her Son, Mary always subordinated her will to the Will of God.  That is a key component of humility, saying no to ourselves and yes to God.

The lesson I receive from the humble circumstances of our Lord's birth is that Jesus will never be found with the high and mighty of this world.  His place has been and will always be with those whom the world considers lowly and basically expendable.  This is the message of St. Therese of Liseux in her prayer:
"O Jesus! Why can't I tell all little souls how unspeakable is Your condescension? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to Your infinite Mercy. I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your LOVE!"
As Romans 12:16 tells us:
Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits.
Jesus is not found in palaces with kings of this world.  He is among the lowly shepherds, those whom the world despises and for whom they have no time.  This is how the prophet Isaiah described our Lord as recorded in Chapter 53 of his book:
[2] And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: [3]   Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. [4] Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.
The world holds up the physically beautiful and powerful as role models, as the ones who command our respect.  But the One who is truly all powerful and who owns everything tells us this in Isaiah 66:
[1] Thus saith the Lord: Heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool: what is this house that you will build to me? and what is this place of my rest? [2] My hand made all these things, and all these things were made, saith the Lord. But to whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words?
As the Little Flower taught us, make yourself as small as you can, crucify your own will and give it to our Lord.  Come to the stable, learn of him who is lowly, as he tells us in Matthew 11:
[29] Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. [30] For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

US Congress - Much Ado About Nothing

So our beloved United States Congress has passed a bill that averts the "fiscal cliff."  They have voted to take less money from most of us (how kind of them to allow us to keep some of our own money), and they are extending unemployment benefits.  Other than that, I have no idea what is in this bill, and neither do most of the congress people who voted for it.  I guess, like the healthcare bill, they had to pass it to find out what is in it.  

We are told that there is $1 in cuts for every $41 in taxes. tells us how this compares to past bills:
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.
When Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush increased taxes in return for spending cuts—cuts that never ultimately came—they did so at ratios of 1:3 and 1:2.
“In 1982, President Reagan was promised $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes,” Americans for Tax Reform says of those two incidents. “The tax hikes went through, but the spending cuts did not materialize.
President Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency.
"In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through, and we are still paying them today. Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened.”
Don't believe what they tell you.  This bill is a farce.  We have gone "over the cliff"  in every sense of the word.  Sen. Rand Paul lays it out:

Put a fork in the US, honey, because we are so done.

It was a nice country while it lasted.


Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year?

Is anyone else as overwhelmed by the bad news in this world as I am?  Here in the United States our government is playing with our financial future, fighting and squabbling with each other while the US economy hangs in the balance.  We have been warned for months about the "fiscal cliff", but here it is only a few hours before it happens, and Washington is still fighting about it.

And that is actually some of the least of the bad news.  There is the ongoing persecution of Christian beliefs by our government in which we are being told that we must abide by the law no matter how it goes against our religious doctrines.  Hobby Lobby, which is valiantly standing up to the federal government and refusing to pay for birth control for its employees, will now be fined over $1 million a day for choosing to obey God rather than man.  Same sex marriage and homosexual rights are making vast inroad into our culture, and now even catholic politicians like Newt Gingrich are telling us we have to get with the program.  From
According to Gingrich, the GOP and conservatives are just going to have to accept same-sex marriage as a political reality in America.
Gingrich, who is currently on his third wife, after having committed adultery against the previous two, says that we must accept gay marriage because it “is in every family, it is in every community.”
He continues: “The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to… accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.”
And speaking of catholic politicians caving, Bobby Jindal, catholic governor of Louisiana, recently wrote an Op Ed for the Wall Street Journal saying that, for the good of the party, the GOP needs to get on the birth control bandwagon as well.  From the New York Daily News:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is recommending that the GOP endorse over-the-counter birth control as a prescription for the Republican Party’s political health.
In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, the Republican governor argued that allowing birth control pills to be sold without a prescription — as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — “would take contraception out of the political arena.”
“As a conservative Republican, I believe that we have been stupid to let the Democrats demagogue the contraceptives issue and pretend, during debates about health-care insurance, that Republicans are somehow against birth control,” Jindal said. “It's a disingenuous political argument they make.”  [So what else are Republicans "pretending" to be against??] 
He said requiring a prescription for birth control only drives up health care costs and boosts pharmaceutical company profits.  [Gov. Jindal, the fact that you're Catholic and your church teaches that birth control is intrinsically evil has no bearing on anything?  "Cost" is the only thing that matters?] 
Things are much worse in other parts of the world.  A judge in England just ruled that "Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a 'core component' of their beliefs."  From The Telegraph:
A new ruling by a High Court judge - the first on the issue in nearly a decade - says that Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.

The judgment - which upholds an earlier decision - means that individual Christians do not have any protection from being fired for not working on Sundays.

Campaigners said the decision puts Christians at a disadvantage to other religions and means the judiciary are deciding what the core beliefs of Christians can be, which they say is an interference in the right to practise religion.
The really sad part about this is that most Christians really aren't even going to notice because Sunday is just another day to them anyway.  Only about 2% of Anglicans go to Church on Sunday, and about 25% of Catholics attend.  Nonetheless, this ruling definitely represents an attack against Christianity and as stated in the article, the UK government is now deciding the validity of Christian beliefs, just as they are doing here in the United States.

Persecution of Christians has gone much further in other parts of the world.  From
At least 22 people have been killed in three separate attacks in northeastern Nigeria since Friday, including 15 Christians shot Sunday inside a church, according to officials.
In Sunday's attack, gunmen entered a church in Chibok, also in Borno state, and killed at least 15 worshipers, said Mohammed Kana, a regional official for the National Emergency Management Agency.
"Some of the people had their throats slit," Kana said, citing NEMA staff who responded to the scene.
Sunday's violence comes six days after attackers raided two churches during Christmas Eve services, killing 12 people.
And of course, the legal, systematic killing of our children continues unabated in abortion clinics throughout the United States and the entire world.  Here in New York City, 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion, with some parts of the city having a 60% abortion rate.

A dark, dark veil has descended upon this world, and it grows darker with each day.  I don't know specifically what our immediate future holds, but it sure don't look good.

Happy New Year?  I don't think so.

What Is The Cause of the Crisis in the Church?

Christ has endowed the Church with the gift of infallibility, the highest level of participation in His teaching authority. “This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of Divine Revelation; it also extends to those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed” (CCC, n. 2035).  
Cardinal Raymond Burke

I have posted many times on this blog about the great crisis of faith we have been experiencing in the Church in the last several decades.  The very fact that 50% of Catholics voted for a pro-abortion, pro gay rights, anti-Catholic for president of the United States should tell us everything we need to know.  Women want to be priests, priests want to get married, Catholics support abortion and same sex marriage, Mass attendance is at all time lows.  Many in the Church, including many religious, i.e., the nuns on the bus, feel they are completely justified in questioning and even disobeying the authority of the Magesterium.  But it isn't just the United States.  For example, Ireland, once the most Catholic country in the world, has had a major drop off in Mass attendance and those faithful to the church.  The entire country is down to one seminary and the continued existence of that one is in question.  Similar circumstances can be found throughout the entire world.

I was recently listening to Michael Voris, and I found one Vortex episode particularly interesting.  Michael asked for viewer participation in a survey to determine  the top cause of the crisis we have witnessed in the Church in the past 50 years. He started out by stating that there are many causes to the Catholic Church crisis:
The crisis in the Church in the west has many causes and these causes create NEW causes which sometimes become responsible for even MORE problems that the original cause.
We’ve heard from hundreds of priests and seminarians .. as well as sisters and brothers and deacons .. even some bishops on what they each are the most concerned with. We’ve communicated with thousands and thousands of laity .. a lot of it face to face. So .. as we said .. we have put together a list of the top 10 most frequently pointed to causes of the crisis in the Church and here they are .. in no special order:
The 10 ten causes listed by Michael Voris are:

1. False Ecumenism – (too much protestant influence in liturgies and life of the Church)
2. Liberal Social Justice Agenda (including lack of attention to Pro-life issue)
3.  Rebellion Among Clergy (being disobedient to the Magisterium)
4.  Secular Relativism (attacks against the faith from outside the Church)
5.  Cafeteria Catholics (indifferent and lukewarm Catholics)
6. Abuses at Novus Ordo Mass (lack of reverence, understanding of the Sacrifice)
7. Lack of Zeal by Bishops (more interested in earthly concerns than spiritual)
8.  Unwillingness/Cowardice in Confronting Dissent (a “don’t rock the boat” attitude)
9. The Homosexual Clergy network (the infiltration into parish life, seminaries and orders)
10. Poor Lay Education and Priestly Formation (on all levels, school, college, RCIA, seminary)
These are all extremely serious problems in the Church and put millions of souls at risk.  I see the problems listed above as spiritual cancers that have infected the Body of Christ, and just as cancer destroys us physically, these spiritual cancers are destroying millions of souls, robbing them of eternal life.  The Oxford dictionary defines cancer as "a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body."  Cancer is an organic disease, which means something has gone wrong with an organ or organs of the body.  Cancer does not occur without a reason.  There must be something to cause "an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells." All of these spiritual cancers attacking the church did not just spontaneously happen.

My question is this:  what has caused this explosion of spiritual cancer in the Church?

Raymond Cardinal Burke
I found a wonderful posting that I believes helps to answer this question,  It is a presentation given on July 15, 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky by then Archbishop, now Cardinal, Raymond Burke on the importance of "Obedience to The Magisterium and the Responsibility of the Bishop Toward the Laity."  Cardinal Burke was the bishop of St. Louis at the time he gave this talk.  He is now Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church.  I am personally a huge fan of His Eminence.

Archbishop Burke started out with a very profound statement in which he says that our very relationship with Jesus Christ and our eternal salvation are bound up in the Magesterium.  This should catch our attention immediately:
The relationship of the Magisterium to our eternal salvation lies at the very foundation of our life in Christ.
"The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops are servants of Christ
and of His Holy Word. The Magisterium 'teaches
only what has been handed on to it. At the command and 
with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this 
devotedly, guards it with dedication, 
and expounds it faithfully' (Dei Verbum, n. 10b)."
His Eminence further explained how the Magesterium, which is vital to our salvation, has become so marginalized in the lives of Catholics:
In a world which prizes, above all else, individualism and self-determination, the Christian is easily tempted to view the Magisterium in relationship to his individualism and self-pursuit. In other words, he is tempted to relativize the authority of the Magisterium. The phenomenon today is popularly known as “cafeteria Catholicism.”  [This statement supports #5 (Cafeteria Catholics) of Michael Voris' list.] 
Archbishop Burke defines the "Magesterium" :
The entire content of our faith, what Saint Paul in his First and Second Letters to Timothy calls the deposit of faith, is found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition (1Timothy 6:20; and 2Timothy 1:12-14). The faith, in its integrity, has been entrusted to the Church by Christ through the ministry of the Apostles. The deposit of faith is the teaching of the Apostles and the living of that teaching in the life of prayer and the sacramental life, and the witness of the teaching in the moral life. The foundation is the sound doctrine which finds its highest expression in the Sacraments, above all the Holy Eucharist, and which is witnessed in the holiness of life of the believer (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter CCC), n. 84).
When Christ gave Peter the
Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,
He established the Magesterium
The Magtesterium  - the teaching authority of the Church - has been given directly by Jesus Christ to the Church.  Since the Magesterium is "the entire content of our faith. . . entrusted to the Church by Christ through the ministry of the Apostles," everything we think, say and do should be completely in line with the Magesterium.  This point is emphasized even further in the next statement from Archbishop Burke:
The responsibility for the deposit of the faith and its transmission in every age belongs “to the living teaching office of the Church alone” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, “On Divine Revelation,” 18 November 1965, n. 10b). The “living teaching office” or Magisterium of the Church, exercised by the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him, has its authority from our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has conferred upon the Apostles, with Peter as their Head, and their successors, the Bishops, with the Successor of Peter as their head, the authority to teach authentically (CCC, n. 85).
The Magesterium gets its teaching authority directly from the Head of the Church:  Jesus Christ.  This means that to follow the Magesterium of the Catholic Church, the "living teaching office of the Church", is to follow Christ.  Conversely, to reject the Magesterium - to reject the authority of the Bishops and the Pope - is to reject not just the Church, but to reject God in the second Person of the Trinity.

Archbishop Burke emphasizes the fact that the Magesterium is the voice of Christ on this earth:
The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops are servants of Christ and of His Holy Word. The Magisterium “teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully” (Dei Verbum, n. 10b). The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him teach only what is contained in the deposit of faith as divinely revealed truth (CCC, n. 86).
The Magisterium, in obedience to Christ and by the power of the particular grace of the Holy Spirit, interprets the Word of God, contained in the Sacred Scriptures and Tradition, in matters of both faith and morals. The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him define the dogmas of the faith, that is, the truths contained in the deposit of faith and “truths having a necessary connection with these” (CCC, n. 88).   
The Magesterium leads the
Church just as the Pillar of Cloud
and Fire lead the Israelites
Our loving and merciful Lord did not leave us alone on this earth to try to figure out on our own the best way to serve him, as the Protestants believe.  In the Old Testament of the Bible, we are told of how God led the Israelites through the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  This directly foreshadowed the Magesterium of the Church.  Since He founded His Church 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ has led His Mystical Body through the spiritual desert on this earth by means of "the 'living teaching office' or Magisterium of the Church, exercised by the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him."

Archbishop Burke gives a further explanation into the workings of the Magesterium:
The Magisterium is exercised in solemn declarations and in “catechesis and preaching” (CCC, n. 2033). The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him are, in the words of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: Lumen gentium, n. 25).
Archbishop Burke would seem to take strong exception with those who say teachings of Vatican II are not part of the Magesterium and that we are not bound by them because Vatican II was pastoral and not doctrinal in nature.  As a side comment, it is interesting to note that Archbishop Burke constantly referred to the documents of Vatican II to show the authority of the Magesterium.  Archbishop Burke makes it plain in the following statement that all ecumenical councils are part of the Magesterium:
The Magisterium is either ordinary or extraordinary. The Ordinary Magisterium is all that the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him teach. The Extraordinary Magisterium consists of the “definitions of the ecumenical councils or the ex cathedra definitions that the Popes might pronounce” (Louis Bouyer, Dictionary of Theology, tr. Charles Underhill Quinn, New York: Desclee Company, 1965, p. 290).
This is not something we can take lightly.  To turn away from the teachings of the Magesterium puts us in the same danger spiritually that the Israelites would have been in physically if they had not followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night.  They would have been subject to the dangers of wild animals and dangerous men intent on killing them.  The Israelites would have further been exposed to the inhospitable and life-threatening conditions of the desert itself.  They also would not receive the daily manna that was given to them directly from heaven. The Magesterium was given to us by Jesus Christ to protect us from the spiritual dangers in the world and to lead us to the true promised land:  eternity in the presence of the Beatific Vision.

When we reject the Magesterium, we put our souls in extreme peril, and that is as true for "traditional" Catholics as for "progressives."  This is why our Holy Father is insisting that the Society of St. Pius X accept all of the Second Vatican Council.  To allow them to reject any part of the Council is to allow them to reject the Magesterium, an act expressly forbidden by the Holy Spirit.  

Next, Archbishop Burke goes on to explain how and why the Magesterium is infallible.  The gift of infallibility of the Magesterium "extends as far as does the deposit of Divine Revelation; it also extends to those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed” (CCC, n. 2035)."  The Magesterium, according to this statement, not only explains the "saving truths of the faith", but actually preserves them.

Further, the infallibility given to the Bishops and the Holy Father in teaching the Divine Truth is also given to the faithful when it comes to believing these truths so that the "whole body of the faithful cannot err in matters of belief".  The faithful's belief and acceptance of the Magesterium is just as much the work of the Holy Spirit as it is in the teaching of the Bishops and the Roman Pontiff:
The gift of infallibility, by which the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with Him, exercise most solemnly the teaching authority of Christ, refers to the all-generous gift of Christ to the Church by which the “whole body of the faithful cannot err in matters of belief” (Lumen gentium, n. 12). The gift is manifest in what is called the sensus fidei, which is the grace to give assent to the faith, poured out by Christ on all the faithful. The Magisterium guides the faithful by handing on to them “the faith, once for all delivered to the saints” (Lumen gentium, n. 12).
The faithful, inspired by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them “unfailingly [adhere] to this faith, [penetrate] it more deeply with right judgment, and [apply] it more fully in daily life” (Lumen gentium, n. 12). It is clear that the sensus fidei is not the foundation for some democratic form of Magisterium but a reflection of the fundamental and essential obedience to the Magisterium in the lives of the faithful.
The next statement by Archbishop Burke gives, I believe, the key to the crisis of faith that we have seen in the Church:
When Bishops and faithful obediently submit themselves in mind and heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the perennial truth of the faith shines forth in the whole Church for the building up of the Body of Christ and the transformation of the world.  
I say that this statement is the key to understanding the crisis in the Church because the converse would also have to be true, that when the Bishops and faithful do not "obediently subject themselves in mind and heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit", then the "perennial truth of the faith" will not shine forth and the Church and the world will be left in darkness and chaos.

Archbishop Burke shows us the consequences that arise when the bishops and the faithful do not "obediently subject themselves in mind and heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit":
In what pertains to morals, in particular, the faithful “have the right to be instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human reason” (CCC, n. 2037). At the same time, the faithful “have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church” (CCC, n. 2037). The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that even the disciplinary norms of the Church “call for docility in charity” (n. 2037). One cannot fail to observe the grave harm done in the Church and in her mission to the world by the lack of obedience to the disciplinary norms regarding the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the teaching of the faith and the right order of the individual communities of the faithful. Our Lord Himself cautioned us that our fidelity in little things is the indispensable condition to our fidelity in great things (Luke 16:10).   [This statement would seem to support #6 (Liturgical abuse), #7 (Lack of zeal by bishops) and #10 (poor Catechesis) of Michael Voris' list]
Archbishop Burke puts the major responsibility upon his fellow bishops:
When the shepherds of the flock are obedient to the Magisterium, entrusted to their exercise, then the members of the flock grow in obedience and proceed, with Christ, along the way of salvation. If the shepherd is not obedient, the flock easily gives way to confusion and errors. The shepherd must be especially attentive to the assaults of Satan who knows that, if he can strike the shepherd, the work of scattering the flock will be made easy (cf. Zechariah 13:7).  [This covers #3 (rebellion among the clergy) on the Voris list]
I would submit that the root cause of the cancerous growths in the Body of Christ and, by extension, throughout the world, can be summed up in one word:  sin.

Oh c'mon, you say. That's not the question. We want to know what causes people to turn away from church teachings.

Sin is both the the cause of all the ills in life we suffer and the result of our actions.  It can be either our personal sin or the sin of others.  Sin is what causes the growth of "abnormal cells."  Sin is when, like Satan, we say to God "Non Serviam",  "I will not serve."    Each sin we commit is a replay of the original sin of our first parents. We are taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We are becoming our own magesterium, deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong, what is good and evil.  When we do that, like our first parents, we are cast out of the Garden of Eden to a greater or lesser extent, and we are on our own in a spiritual wilderness.  Disobedience to the Magesterium of the Church is sin, which leads to even greater sin in our lives until, if our sin is not repented of and absolved, we say to God as Satan did, "Non Serviam."

Since the time of Christ, our Lord has worked through only one Church, and has guaranteed that the teachings of that one church, the Catholic Church, are perfect.  This does not mean that the people in the Church are perfect.  Far from it.  But the one thing in this world that you can rely on with 100% certainty is the Magesterium - the teaching - of the Catholic Church.  You will never be led astray if you stay in line with the teachings of the Church.

Archbishop Burke tells us that obedience to faith is "the disposition of mind and heart to believe all that God has revealed to us and to do all that He asks of us."  He goes on to say that obedience to the Magesterium, which is "the guardian and teacher of the faith, is the fundamental disposition of the baptized and confirmed Catholic."  In other words, disobedience to the Magesterium destroys our faith, and as Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "without faith it is impossible to please God."

A glaring example of how problems of morality
stem from disobedience to the Magesterium
Archbishop Burke tells us that "the moral life flows from faith in God.  It is the 'obedience of faith' in action. . . . When we fail morally, we also fail in faith. . . . Where there are problems of chastity, there are problems of obedience."  If we live a life of faith, then we are living a life of obedience to the Magesterium, which produces a moral life.  Immorality is a sign of disobedience to the faith and thus, to the Magesterium.   Therefore, it is wrong to blame the Church for the immorality found in the clergy.  In fact, the answer to immorality among the clergy is not to change the teachings of the Church by allowing the clergy to marry, as so many argue, but for them to return to "obedience of faith" and obedience to the Magesterium.
The moral life flows from our faith in God. It is the “obedience of faith” in action. The first tablet of the Ten Commandments governs our right relationship with God, which makes possible our right relationship with others and the world, governed by the second tablet. When we fail morally, we also fail in faith (CCC, nn. 2087-2088). I often recall the words of a sage professor of Canon Law, who taught me the Church’s discipline regarding clerics. More than once, he told the class: “Where there are problems of chastity, there are problems of obedience.” Our rebellion against the moral truth is a rebellion against God and all that He teaches us. 
Archbishop Burke readily admits that obedience to the Magesterium is no walk in the park.  It has always been difficult and in many ways, is even more difficult in our modern times:
Obedience to the Magisterium is difficult for man in every age. The practice of the “obedience of faith” is difficult to master. The difficulty comes both from within us and from outside of us. We suffer the effects of the sin of our First Parents, which fundamentally was a sin of prideful disobedience, of rebellion against God’s will. The grace of the Holy Spirit, poured forth into our soul through Baptism, strengthened and increased in our soul through Confirmation, and nourished within our soul through the Holy Eucharist, alone helps us to overcome our inherited tendency to rebellion and disobedience.
Archbishop Burke goes on to explain the difficulties we face in our modern culture in being obedient to the Magesterium:
The world around us, the culture in which we live, to the degree that it is has succumbed to Satan’s deceptions, is a source of strong temptation for us. Our culture, in fact, has been described as “godless” both by the late and most beloved Pope John Paul II and by Pope Benedict XVI. Our culture teaches us to act as if God did not exist. At the same time, it teaches a radical individualism and self-interest which lead us away from the love of God and from the love of one another.
Now Archbishop Burke makes a very important point.  He points out that our obedience to the Magisterium often is "not total but selective."  This is where "cafeteria Catholicism" comes from.  This is the accusation Traditionalists often make against Progressives, and that, sadly, is often a very true charge.  But Traditionalists must realize that they are not above this error, either.  They can do the "traditional Catholic thing", but if they are speaking out against the Magesterium, they are in as much spiritual danger as the Progressives:
Often the lack of obedience to the Magisterium is not total but selective. Our culture teaches us to believe what is convenient and to reject what is difficult for us or challenges us. Thus, we can easily fall into “cafeteria Catholicism,” a practice of the faith, which picks and chooses what part of the deposit of faith to believe and practice.
Archbishop Burke now touches upon what I believe is one of the main sources of the crisis in the Church.  It is not Vatican II, but the rejection and disobedience to Humanae Vitae:
A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968. The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life.
Archbishop Burke now goes on to tell us how to obey the faith:
To meet the challenges to the practice of the “obedience of faith,” we must draw upon the grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. 
How do we draw upon the Holy Spirit?  Archbishop Burke gives us two key steps.  First of all, we must have a life of prayer, "an indispensable condition for being able to obey God’s commandments.  It is only through communion with God in prayer that we come to know His will in our lives and that we find the courage to do what God asks of us."  Archbishop Burke emphasizes contemplative prayer, which is "hearing the Word of God."  He tells us this is not a passive act, as it may appear from the outside, but "attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child."  It is our participation with Christ in saying to the Father, "Not my will but yours be done", and with Mary when she said "Yes" to being the Mother of God.

Then we must do something that is pretty much considered anathema in our world today.  We must live a life of discipline and sacrifice, which means saying no to our own desires and wants on a fairly regular basis.  We must make sacrifice a regular part of our lives.  These sacrifices are "our union with Christ in His Eucharistic Sacrifice throughout the day. We must embrace those sacrifices, both small and great, which are necessary if we are truly to love God and our neighbor (CCC, nn. 2099-2100, and 2340). If we are to meet the great challenges in the following of Christ, we must discipline our thoughts and desires, so that they become more Christlike. The more we practice self-discipline, the easier it becomes for us to grow in the obedience of faith."  To understand more fully what it means to make daily sacrifices in our lives, I cannot recommend highly enough the autobiography of St. Therese of Liseux, "The Story of A Soul."  I did a post on her "little way" which is a life of sacrifice in our daily lives.  You can read the post here.

Prayer and sacrifice will lead us directly to obedience of faith.  In fact, Archbishop Burke says that it is impossible to have a life of obedience of faith without prayer and sacrifice:
Prayer and sacrifice necessarily lead us to attend to our growth in the life of the virtues. Prayer and sacrifice both unveil for us the virtues which make obedience possible and win for us the grace of the Holy Spirit to grow and develop in those virtues, for example, justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, humility, chastity, and, above all, charity (CCC, nn. 2340-2342).
Prayer, sacrifice and the practice of the Christian virtues lead us to hear God’s Word ever more attentively in our lives and to put it into practice, without hesitation or compromise. There is no other way to know God’s will in our lives and to do it, to know who we are and to be true to our identity. Clearly, they are the most important heritage for us to hand on to our children and young people.
Archbishop Burke does not hold back but tells us plainly that our obedience of faith could ultimately lead to martyrdom, especially as our culture becomes more and more anti-Christian, as the trend now is:
The obedience of faith obliges us in all situations of life, also in situations in which it is most difficult to do what God asks of us. Ultimately, the obedience of faith could require martyrdom. In his Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, “Regarding Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church’s Moral Teaching” of August 6, 1993, our late and most beloved Holy Father Pope John Paul II taught us that there can be no compromise in the obedience to the moral teaching of the Magisterium:
Even in the most difficult situations man must respect the norm of morality so that he can be obedient to God’s holy commandments and consistent with his own dignity as a person. Certainly, maintaining a harmony between freedom and truth occasionally demands uncommon sacrifices, and must be won at a high price: it can even involve martyrdom (n. 102a).
How often our beloved Father John A. Hardon, S.J., taught us that living the Catholic faith today in our totally secularized society demands a readiness to give the ultimate witness of martyrdom!
Going way back to the beginning of this post, what is the answer to Michael Voris' question on the cause of the crisis of faith in the Church?  It is all of the reasons he listed, which are in reality the result of rejection of the Magesterium of the Church.  The Magesterium is our Pillar of Cloud and Fire to lead us through the spiritual desert in which we live.  It is the means by which God protects us from the mortal dangers that surround us.  To step outside of the protection of the Magesterium is to place ourselves outside the protection of our Lord and Savior, and to subject our souls to the very real danger of eternal hellfire.

A crisis of faith boils down to a crisis of authority, and takes us right back to the Garden of Eden - shall we eat of the Tree of Life, which is the Magesterium of the Catholic Church, or do we become our own Magesterium and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and find ourselves cast out into spiritual darkness.

Archbishop Burke concludes with the following statements, in which he tells us that there is no other way to salvation than obedience to faith, which is obedience to the Magesterium:
It is my hope that these few reflections will help us all to understand the fundamental importance of obedience to the faith for our eternal salvation and the irreplaceable service of the Bishops in leading us all to an ever purer and stronger obedience. There is no other way to salvation than hearing God’s Word and putting it into practice with all our being. The Letter to the Hebrews which teaches us, in a particular way, the “obedience of faith” reminds us that our Lord Himself “learned obedience from what He suffered” and thus became the source of eternal life, of eternal salvation, for us all. We ask for the obedience of Christ each time we pray to God the Father in the words which our Savior Himself taught to us: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” We pray through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we may imitate her belief that God’s promises to us will be fulfilled.
I conclude with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, inspired by our prayer, Christ’s prayer in us, that God’s will be done in all things. How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in Him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to His Son’s, in order to fulfill His will, His plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of His Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to Him and decide to choose what His Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father (n. 2825).
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles, intercede for us, that we may grow in the obedience of faith, in obedience to the Magisterium, for our own salvation and for the salvation of the world.
"Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." 
-St. Ignatius of Antioch

Sunday, December 30, 2012

To Judge Or Not To Judge

I have been involved in Catholic blogging for a very short time, only about a year.  For the first several months I was pretty much blogging to myself.  Even my own wonderful DH didn't bother reading much of what I wrote. Although I will never be much more than a tiny minnow in the ocean of blogging, I have gotten a few readers here and there, and some favorable and not so favorable feedback.

One thing that concerns me in the Catholic blogosphere is the cult of personality that seems to surround certain people, leaving an unwritten rule that these are people we must never criticize.  I expect this in the world at large.  We have an innate need for heroes, and if we are not guided by our Creator, we will find something or someone else to fill that role, be it Abraham Lincoln or Lady Gaga.

But I really didn't expect to see hero worship in the Catholic blogosphere.  I have discovered that the followers of certain people will defend their heroes no matter what, and if you are not as supportive as they are, they will go after you.  We make our heroes bigger than life and attribute virtues to them that they may or may not deserve.  The scariest part is we completely turn off our critical thinking.

One example from a couple of years ago is Father John Corapi, who was a hero to many people before his spectacular fall from grace.  His own Order brought very serious charges against him, and instead of just sitting back and let the truth come out, his followers immediately starting jumping on the messenger and claiming that Father Corapi was set up.  I know people to this day who tell me Father Corapi was framed.  There is even a Facebook page called "Father John Corapi Is Innocent" which was started in March 2011 and is still active.   And that is just one of several Facebook pages that support Father Corapi.  Here are a few postings from that Facebook page:

I really believe he is truly innocent and a very good person . Please we need you so badly. May God bless you always .
Like ·  · Thursday at 12:29pm via mobile

Nobody ever did more to communicate the Catholic faith in terms you could understand and realize the one true path to Jesus. I pray for you Father.

I know you are a holy priest, no one can change my mind on that. I will pray for you. K Willets 
Like ·  · November 16 at 6:29pm

I miss your sermons Father John Corapi. I am praying for you. You are the real deal. I love you with the sincere love of Christ.
Like ·  · September 27 at 5:44pm

Father Corapi I support you and I am praying God sustains your strength in bearing this unjust persecution. I know that you will overcome, but I also know that it is not easy. However, God prepared you, you are no ordinary soldier, you are a Marine. Sempre Fidelis! They gave Christ hell on earth didn't they. Father take comfort, eternity will be very long and you have your crowns in glory.
Like ·  · September 27 at 5:42pm

Those who are still defending Father Corapi are not doing him any favors.  I know that in their hearts they truly believe he is innocent.  But the only way they can believe this is if they totally disregard reality and engage in hero worship.  If they really cared about John Corapi, they would lovingly but firmly let him know that what he did was wrong.  When your child runs out in the middle of the street, you let him know without hesitation that he is putting himself in extreme danger.  This is even more true when someone has put him or herself in mortal spiritual danger.  When Holy Mother Church disciplines or even excommunicates someone, it is an act of love and compassion.  She is not saying, "you're nothing but a dirty rotten sinner and deserve to go to hell."  She is actually doing just the opposite.  She is exhorting the person to repent and turn from their sin and receive the love and forgiveness of our Lord.  She is quite literally trying to pull that person from hell.

Father Corapi is just one example.  Yesterday I was talking with a couple of good, devout Catholics who defended the apparitions in Bayside, Queens, New York called "Our Lady of the Roses", which has been officially condemned by the local bishop.  The people I was talking to insisted on believing what they wanted to believe, telling me, "Well, the Vatican hasn't condemned it."  You can find several websites devoted to this false apparition, despite the fact that it has been disallowed by the local bishop.

I think it is important to be cognizant of the fact that we are all participants in a spiritual war.  And the stakes in this war could not be higher:  the eternal salvation of souls.  We also have a very devious and cunning enemy who has been engaged in the battle against our souls since the first man was created, and he knows us better than we know ourselves.  We must never under estimate this enemy, and we must never over estimate ourselves or others. As I Cor. 10:12 says, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall."  Just as a soldier in the midst of war must be constantly aware and vigilant of what is happening around him, so we as soldiers in this great spiritual war for our souls must always be vigilant.  None of us are exempt from falling.

As Christians, we must constantly ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother, and never for an instant turn off our critical thinking.  First and foremost, we must apply this to ourselves. One of the most important things we do each day is an examination of conscience.  This is when we stand spiritually naked in front of a mirror and closely examine our faults, being brutally honest with ourselves as to where we have failed in imitating our Lord, and admitting when we have put our own will and pride before obedience to our Creator.  To be a Christian means to never make excuses, but to always be willing to face the truth about ourselves, no matter how unpleasant it is.  If we don't do it now, we will be doing it in the cleansing fires of Purgatory, or if we choose to live in complete delusion about ourselves, we may not even make it to Purgatory.

We also need to be discerning about others.  This does not mean judging one another.  To judge is to attribute motives and to judge the value of another's soul.  When our Lord told us not to judge, he told us not to condemn, not to make personal attacks on the worth of another individual.  How many of us would have stood at the foot of the Cross and condemned the thief hanging next to our Lord, not knowing that he was fully repentant and completely forgiven.  We have a right and even a duty to say that the actions he took which led to his crucifixion were wrong, but we would be completely out of line to say he was personally condemned by God.  Only the Creator has the right to make this pronouncement.  Even the Church does not do this.  It is vital, however, that we be discerning of people's actions and words.

We are told by our Lord to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16).  I John 4:1 says:
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."  
St. Jude, the brother of Christ, warns us in his small but important book:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
We all have our good points and bad points, and just because someone is not perfect, this does not mean they are a "minister of Satan."  If occasionally being on the wrong side of matters means we are a "false prophet", then we would all be doomed.  But we have to acknowledge that every person on this earth is fallible (with the exception of the Holy Father, of course, and his infallibility extends only to faith and morals).   And as St. Jude tells us, sometimes we need to pull someone from the fire.  And that can and often does involve being critical of their actions and words.

Pope Benedict XVI sending his first tweet
Our Holy Father has told us that Catholics must make use of technological resources such as blogging, and has personally given us the example now by entering the world of Twitter.  Just as missionaries in past centuries had to travel to the lands of the pagans, so we must travel to where we can meet  people, and in the 21st Century, the Internet has become one of the main places in which to evangelize.  Those of us who are engaged in Catholic blogging have been given a platform that we must use wisely and with great discretion, whether we have an audience of 1 or 2 people or millions of people.

The following is from a speech Pope Benedict XVI gave on January 23, 2009:
Those who are active in the production and dissemination of new media content, therefore, should strive to respect the dignity and worth of the human person. If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.
Blogging puts us right out there on the front lines.  It absolutely humbles me that I am potentially reaching people in every corner of the world, and that I have a potentially bigger audience than most of the great saints had down through history.  I have dedicated my blog to the Blessed Mother, and I ask her guidance and help in every post that I do, and to keep me in line with the Will of her Son.

Since most Catholics who blog concern themselves with subjects of current interest, this will and does involve being critical of others from time to time.  What guidelines do we follow?  How do we know when we are right in criticizing others?

I think first and foremost, we need to ask ourselves why we are writing such posts.  As one person told me, when we post about popular people, it tends to spike our stats and that appeals to our vanity.  We need to be sure that this kind of vanity is never a motivating factor.  I think as bloggers we would like as many people as possible to read our blogs, but I think of Mother Teresa's statement:  "God has not called me to be successful, He has called me to be faithful."  Don't worry about building your audience, worry about being faithful to the teachings of the Church and to showing true love for others.

I think we also need to ask ourselves if we are posting criticisms of others just because we personally don't like them.  To allow our personal feelings to enter in, be they positive or negative, turns our blog into nothing more than a sounding board, and will not be edifying to anyone, not even ourselves.

As I posted at the beginning, we need to discern if are we being critical of others just because they said something negative about one of our "heroes".  I saw a lot of that in the blogosphere when it involved the Voris/Father Z cruise.  Instead of discussing the issue - is it right to do a luxury cruise in Lent - people were instead attacking each other.  It was a very sad display indeed.

We also have to realize that championing another human regardless of what he or she says or does can be very destructive to that person.   We all need critical advice from time to time.  Our Lord says he chastises every son he loves.  When we see someone occasionally going off the rails, we need to point it out, in love of course, but also in no uncertain terms.

Proverbs 27:5-6 says:
Open rebuke is better
Than love carefully concealed.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
First and foremost, we must do this with ourselves.  We must not make excuses for ourselves, but always ground ourselves in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ and be ready at all times to admit when we are wrong.  We must say as King David said in Psalm 19:13
Who can understand sins? from my secret ones cleanse me, O Lord
We live in a very wicked world that has turned its back on its Creator.  Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the church to become involved in evangelization, more particularly in the new media of the Internet, and use these amazing tools to spread the Gospel of the glorious Good News of Christ's redeeming sacrifice, which is a bright light in a world engulfed in darkness.  The world desperately needs what we, as followers of Christ, can give them.  But we can't do it if we are attacking and devouring one another.

Galatians 5:
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if you bite and devour one another; take heed you be not consumed one of another.
The words of St. Paul, Romans 12:
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

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