Saturday, August 9, 2014

Slaughter of Innocents in Iraq

If this picture does not tear you apart inside, then you are made of stone.  The events in Iraq are beyond my comprehension.  I feel that we should all be in constant prayer and mortification about the unspeakable evils that are occurring not only in Iraq, but in many other parts of the world.  I also hang my head in shame as an American, knowing that this is happening as a direct result of our invasion into Iraq.  Saddam Hussein was an evil man, but the evil that has erupted since we invaded and "liberated" that country makes Saddam look like a boy scout.  

I took the picture of this child from former Rep. Allen West's website.  In his article, which you can read HERE, Allen West unfortunately uses this horror to make a political statement, as can be seen in his title, "ISIS Is Beheading Children, and Obama Drops Two Bombs."  Yes, I agree Obama is a total incompetent who is in so far over his head that he can't see straight.  

But that is besides the point.  We could bomb Iraq into oblivion, but that is not going to stop the evil.  Is it just a coincidence that everywhere America goes, Christians are persecuted?  Our beloved land has become an evil country as we have turned our back on our Creator.  We no longer allow Him into "polite society."  We kill our own children in "legal abortions" at the rate of almost 1 million every year.  We want religion to be, at best, a private action, not interfering with our lives.  This is far more than politics.  This is a crisis of the spirit.

The answer to the evil that is happening in Iraq and around the world will not be found in politics. There is no human being who can make things right. The only answer is to go on our knees before Our Creator and beg His mercy and forgiveness for our sins.

Back in 2003, I remember St. John Paul II pleading with President George Bush not to go into Iraq. There is an interesting account of this written by Gerard O'Connell on a website called  
On March 5, 2003 [interestingly, this was Ash Wednesday], Pope John Paul II sent the Italian Cardinal, Pio Laghi, to intervene with President George W. Bush and ask him not to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, but the US leader rejected the appeal claiming he was “convinced it was God’s will”.
A source close to the situation at that time, but who does not wish to be named because of the position he holds, has given me an account of what happened then based on what the cardinal told him in private.
He recalled how the Polish pope had already referred to this planned military intervention as an “adventure” and had warned that war would have serious consequences for both nations and the world. He said the pope chose Laghi for this delicate mission, because he was a friend of the Bush family and might have stood a better chance of being listened to.
The day before the scheduled meeting with the President, the cardinal was asked to meet with officials from the US State Department, as the President wanted to know the agenda of the meeting in advance. Cardinal Laghi was “interrogated” by the National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, the source said; they spoke “with great clarity and great frankness”.
Condoleeza Rice was also present at the meeting next day when the cardinal met the President. So too were two other members of the National Security Council, as well as General Peter Pace, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jim Nicholson, the US Ambassador to the Holy See, and Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the papal nuncio.
When the Cardinal arrived, the source said, he handed Pope John Paul II’s letter to the President, “who immediately put it on a side table without opening or reading it.”
The President then launched into an argument for war, the source added. He told the cardinal that he, the president, “was convinced it was God’s will”, and sought to convince the papal envoy that it was the right thing to do.
“After a few minutes of what the Cardinal termed ‘a sermon’ ”, the source said Laghi interrupted President Bush and said, “Mr. President, I came here in order to speak to you and to give you a message from the Holy Father and I would like you to listen to me.”
Cardinal Laghi told Bush that three things would happen if the United States went to war, the source recalled. First, it would cause many deaths and injuries on both sides. Secondly, it would result in civil war. And, thirdly, the United States might know how to get into a war, but it would have great difficulty getting out of one.
He told the president that with peace nothing is lost, but with war great turmoil would be created, especially in the Arab world.
He also told President Bush that “the most important issue” in the Middle East is the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. That has to be dealt with if there is to be peace, the source stated.
As the forty-minute meeting came to a conclusion the President told Laghi, “We are not in agreement on Iraq but we are in agreement on other positions important to the Catholic Church and the Holy Father.”
According to the source, the Cardinal responded, “Yes, the values of promoting life and the family are very important, as they are based on the principles of natural law, human rights and the Gospel. But, Mr. President, I came here to ask you not to go to war, which is another value based on these same principles.”
Cardinal Laghi realized from this exchange that the President had already made up his mind, the source said. This was confirmed shortly afterwards by General Pace, as he accompanied the Cardinal to his car. He shook hands with the Cardinal and told him, “Your Eminence, don’t be afraid. We’ll do it quickly and we will do it in the best way.”
“Laghi knew his mission had failed, but he also realized that the Bush administration was very naïve about the consequences of war “, the source said
He recalled how the press corps was waiting outside the White House after the meeting to interview the cardinal, but administration officials did not allow him to speak to them at the White House. Arrangements to talk to the media had to be hastily made elsewhere.
The next day, March 4, when it was reported that the administration had blocked the Cardinal from speaking to the media at the White house, a person from the State Department called Laghi at the Nunciature in Washington and asked him to clarify with the media that he was not prohibited from giving an interview at the White House. Cardinal Laghi replied, “It is for you to make the clarification as you made the decision.”
Looking at this in hindsight, we can see the great wisdom of St. John Paul II. He had lived through the horror of World War II. He knew that war is never an answer. But President Bush refused to listen to him, and now evil has been unleashed upon the innocents. At the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. In 2013, that number had dropped to 450,000, the drop coming from those who fled the country and those who had been killed. And now the remaining Christians are faced with genocide while the world watches.

We live in the most serious of times. But there is a verse in the Bible that gives me hope: Romans 5:20 - "But where sin increased, grace increased all the more." As the world descends more and more into darkness, we who have been given the grace of forgiveness from Jesus Christ are obligated to rise up in prayerful intervention. We must throw ourselves into prayer as we never have before. The evil we see is going to get worse, and it will eventually come to our land, just as we saw on September 11, 2001. We must be willing to join with the Cross of Jesus Christ as we see exemplified by those in Iraq, Africa and other places of the world giving their lives for their faith.

Revelation 6:9-11:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Sign of Peace: Greeting Jesus

Pat Archbold of Creative Minority Report recently did a post entitled, "Ditch The Sign of Peace or 'Take your stinking paws off me you darn dirty ape!'" [HERE]  Mr. Archbold, if you haven't already surmised from his title, doesn't have a lot of use for the Sign of Peace.  Mr. Archbold writes:
I note with no small sense of irony The Congregation for Divine Worship's recent circular letter announcing that the placement of the sign of peace within Mass will not change, though it could be performed with greater dignity, lesser dignity being unavailable, of course.
Mr. Archbold related one incident to illustrate his dislike of the sign of peace:
Last year I went to mass while travelling on business and this lady, before my Kung Fu training could kick in, hugged me. Sensing my profound discomfort, she said, "That is how we do it here!" This left me channeling Chuck Heston for my inner dialogue at the unruly and distracting anthropocentric mauling, "Take your stinking paws off me you darn dirty ape! That is Jesus up there!" But hey, that's just me.
I have to admit that until recently, I would have been in complete sympathy with this sentiment.

Not anymore.

After many years of primarily attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I have now started exclusively attending the Ordinary Form.  Like any good Traditionalist, I struggled with the OF, and at the top of my list of struggles was the Sign of Peace.  My argument was the same as that given by Pat Archbold:
All joking aside, it is almost always a terrible interruption to the mass and a distraction from where our collective focus should be at that moment.
However, I have now done a complete 180 on this and feel that the sign of peace is one of the most profound moments in the Mass.


There is no doubt that any traditionalists reading this will think I have gone completely off the rails and am in serious danger of losing my salvation.  I am not sure that anything I write will convince a Traditionalist of the value of the Sign of Peace, and most especially the value of placing it right after the consecration.

But I am a hopeless optimist and will attempt to do so anyway.

For a long time, my reaction to the Sign of Peace was to keep my head down and refuse to even look at people.  But I slowly began to see that this was nothing more than snobbery, so I decided to at least acknowledge those who were right next to me.  I found myself unexpectedly touched by the kind and welcoming smiles on people's faces.  Then I began turning around and acknowledging those both in front and in back of me.

Now, believe it or not, the Sign of Peace can often move me to tears, and not out of anger, but out of joy and a true feeling of the presence of Jesus Christ.

Trust me, there was a time when I could not have ever imagined voicing such a sentiment.  But, unlike many traditionalists who wail and complain about this part of the Mass, I have begun to understand the wisdom of Holy Mother Church in placing the sign of peace directly after the Consecration.  I, for one, am very grateful that it is not going to be changed.

Allow me to explain.

At the Consecration, we see the great miracle of transubstantiation, when ordinary bread and wine are literally turned into the Body and Blood of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is always, by far, the most dramatic moment of the Mass and quite frankly, it is the most dramatic moment of any day in which I attend Mass.  How amazing it is that the One who created the earth, the planets, our sun, the entire universe is now before me under the appearance of bread and wine.  It is unfathomable that the One who gave up His place in heaven to take on humanity and pour out His Life on the Cross to save mankind from certain eternal damnation is now before me in the Blessed Sacrament.

At the moment of transubstantiation, there is no great visible display of the greatness of Almighty God. Our omnipotent and unfathomable Creator allows an ordinary man to grasp Him with his fingers and hold Him up for all to see. All we see with our physical eyes, of course, is a piece of bread and a cup. In fact, an observer with no understanding would surely think that people bowing and worshiping a piece of bread and a cup of wine must have completely lost their minds.

After a few more prayers are said by the priest at the Consecration, the congregation then recites the Our Father, using the words given directly to us by the One who is now hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.  Truly it is the greatest most perfect prayer in the history of mankind, containing in a few simple words praise, thanksgiving and petition to The Father.

Immediately following the recitation of the perfect Lord's Prayer, we are told to turn and give one another a sign of peace.

This is where the howls of protestation come from the Traditionalists.  As Julie of Connecticut Catholic Corner [HERE] stated on her blog:
I don't like the "Sign of Peace" at Mass.

I just don't.

First, it seems like an interruption of the Mass to me. Secondly, it appears to me to be completely out of hand and not at all what it was/is supposed to be. And third...well I am not a touchy-feely type person who wants to be subjected to shaking strangers hands and/or getting hugs or kisses by strangers.
I don't like it.
That is a very typical reaction of most traditionalists, almost word-for-word.  It certainly reflects the feelings of Pat Archbold in his post when he wanted to say to the person who hugged him, "Take your stinking paws off me you darn dirty ape! That is Jesus up there!"

Yes, that is Jesus up on the altar.  But who is the person next to you, the "darn dirty ape" with the "stinking paws"?

Well, you say, that is a human being.  Yes, you are looking at a human being who is the very reason Our Lord is on the altar.  That human being reaching out to you in greeting is there because the One on the altar spilled His Precious Blood on the Cross.  That "darn dirty ape" is the reason for the Mass.

We can declare our love for Our Lord by showing great reverence at Mass, refusing to handle the Blessed Sacrament with our hands and receiving on the tongue.  I applaud these things.  Reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is absolutely vital and necessary.

But as important as reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is, this is not the standard by which we will be judged.  In Matthew 25, Jesus says He will judge us in accordance with how we treat others. Think about the words of Our Lord in verse 40:  "Whatsoever you do to the least of these my brethren, you do to me."  Jesus is telling us that He basically sees no difference between our treatment of the Blessed Sacrament and the way we treat "the least of these my brethren".  

The reason I love the sign of peace and its placement in the Mass is that, just moments after seeing Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine, we now look at our neighbor and see Jesus Christ under a multitude of appearances: young and old, rich and poor, major athlete and sick and handicapped, brilliant minds and simple minds, sinner and saint, black, brown, yellow and white, male and female. These are the ones for whom Jesus gave His Life. He is in all of them. In some ways, it is even more important to see Jesus in the people around us than to see Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

Mother Teresa, in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize said,
“It is not enough for us to say: ‘I love God, but I do not love my neighbor.’ Saint John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. (1 John 4:20) How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so this is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt.”
This is the lesson I feel I am learning each time I give the sign of peace to others at Mass. I am greeting them, but through them, I am giving the sign of peace to Jesus Christ.

Mother Teresa lived Matthew 25 every moment of her life, as can be seen in this statement from her:
“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
We are told by those who oppose it that the sign of peace is a "distraction", a "disruption" in the Mass. I say that this attitude is missing a great lesson that we can take with us after we leave Mass. When the priest (or deacon) tell us to offer a sign of peace, look at the other person, and as Mother Teresa did, see Jesus in that person.

Yes, there are valid arguments that the sign of peace could be done in a more dignified way. Certainly people should not start running around the church, as I have seen many times. But that does not take away from the value of the sign of peace. And it does not take away from the fact that we are greeting Jesus as much as we are greeting human beings.

As Mother Teresa said:
“If now we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten how to see God in one another. If each person saw God in his neighbor, do you think we would need guns and bombs?”
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