Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cardinal Dolan, The Catcher in the Rye and Matthew 28

Most of us read "Catcher In The Rye" by JD Salinger at some point in our adolescence. I think I was 16 when I read it. It has become a classic American novel. It has many themes in it, but one major theme is trying to save the loss of innocence. This is the explanation of the title, "Catcher In the Rye" from Yahoo Answers:
Have you read the book? It's like a big wheat field and the main character wishes to be the "Catcher in the Rye" when children are playing too close to a cliff, he wants to be the one that saves them.
Edit: Holden: "You know that song, 'If a body catch a body comin' through the rye'?..." 
Phoebe: "It's 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'!... It's a poem. By Robert Burns." 
"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be." ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 22, spoken by the character Holden Caulfield
Compare this with the writings of Pope Francis from his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium
24. The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (Jn 13:17).
An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. Faithful to the Lord’s gift, it also bears fruit. An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds.
The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed.
I think this is the job description of every Christian as given to us by Our Lord in Matthew 28:19 - "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We who have been washed clean by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ - we who have been saved by Our Lord from going over the cliff - now have a duty to spread this saving message to the rest of the world and try to pull them from the edge of the cliff. And truly, our evil and dying world has never been more in need of the glorious message of Jesus Christ than it is right now.

As much as the world needs the Gospel message of Christ's salvation, that is also how resistant they are to this message. And it is for this very reason that we need to go more and more directly to them. They are headed at break neck speed to their own destruction.  As Pope Francis wrote, "An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast."

This past week, Cardinal Dolan has come under vicious attacks from many Catholics because he has accepted the decision of the organizers of NYC's St. Patrick's Day parade to allow a gay group to march under its own banner.  Cardinal Dolan has said he has no problem with it, and will even act as Grand Marshal in the 2015 parade.  But there will be active homosexuals at this parade promoting their agenda.  Doesn't that mean His Eminence should denounce it?

Pat Archbold, who never minces words in his criticism of Church hierarachy, wrote the following [HERE]:
If reports are to be believed, a compromise is in the works that will amount to nothing less than an endorsement of the gay identity in the 2015 NYC St. Patrick's Day parade.
. . .

If this is true, and I pray it is not, it is a shameful and sinful capitulation by the parade organizers and Cardinal Dolan.
If a parade that is meant to honor a great saint is being used to promote a sinful agenda, it should be cancelled rather than allow it to be used in such a way. It is one thing for a parade committee to fold under pressure, but it is quite another that the Cardinal Archbishop of New York would be asked to lend his name and office to the parade. Such an action can be viewed in no other way than total capitulation to gay identity groups.
Pat Archbold needs to realize that while the parade is celebrated on the feast day of St. Patrick, for the vast majority who organize the parade and those who attend, it has little to do with honoring St. Patrick or being Catholic. I don't think this great saint would be honored by much of what goes on in his name. Catholics everywhere - at least as can be seen in the Catholic blogosphere this week - seem to think that the St. Patrick Day's Parade in NYC is some sort of religious event with the New York Archdiocese running the show. Nothing could be further from the truth. The archdiocese does not organize the parade. They are only one of many groups taking part in the parade. The parade is a cultural event.

Look at this video from Bill O'Reilly's show from March of 2013:

As stated in the video, not everyone at the parade is there to get wasted. But consider who the major sponsors of the parade are - Guinness, Heineken and Sam Adams. This was never a religious event. The NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade was started by the Irish laity as a way to celebrate being Irish. But St. Patrick is also the patron saint of the New York Archdiocese, and that is why the Archdiocese, among many other groups and individuals, takes part in it. And as it should, the Archdiocese does bring their Catholic beliefs and practices to the parade. However, this clearly does not mean that others see this as a religious event.

The following is from The Huffington Post [HERE]:
The parade has no direct ties to the church, but celebrates a Catholic saint and has always been a key event for the city's Irish Catholics.
Philip Lawler, the Boston-based editor of the theologically conservative Catholic World News, said Dolan should step down as grand marshal.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook with people who are upset," Lawler said. "Cardinal Dolan said, 'I'm sure there have been lots of homosexuals marching in the parade before,' but homosexuals identifying themselves seems a contradiction in honoring a Catholic saint."
Lawler said the New York parade is more of a civic event that has already lost much of its ties to religion. "Why don't we just admit it has no religious significance?" Lawler said.
Since, as Lawler says, the parade has little or no religious significance, should the Church step down from involvement in it, even though that involvement goes all the way back to the beginning of the parade? Would that be fulfilling the Church's role as evangelizer to the world?  Do we shun sinners, or do we heed the words of Pope Francis:
An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.
The same Huffington Post article quoted Cardinal Dolan from last year's parade, which I think is completely in line with the words of Pope Francis:
At the St. Patrick's Day Parade last March, Dolan said he supports individual gays and lesbians participating in the parade and hoped it could be a day of unity and joy. "I know that there are thousands and thousands of gay people marching in this parade," he said. "I know it. And I'm glad they are."
This parade was started in the 18th century even before the US became a country.  The New York Catholic Church has always participated in it.  Should they now run away because the parade organizers have decided to allow groups in with which the Church disapproves?  Many pro abortion and pro-homosexual politicians have marched in the parade for years, but no one ever thought the Church should pull out of the parade for that reason.

But, you say, the politicians were not at the parade to promote their anti-Catholic agenda as the gay groups will do.  I've got news for those with this argument - politicians are always about promoting themselves and their agendas.  

If this was the Pride Parade, which is all about promoting homosexuality, then I could understand people's angst. And if it does somehow devolve into that, then the Archdiocese should take appropriate steps to distance themselves.

But this parade is still about being Irish, not being gay. And the fact that gay groups will be present at the parade is an excellent opportunity for evangelization.  They are coming on to our turf, and we can now show them that although we disapprove of their life style, we still love and accept them as human beings.  There will be no more reason for signs such as this at the parade:

All of those rushing to condemn Cardinal Dolan seem to forget that he was the one who forbade the people at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church from marching in the Gay Pride parade with their Church banner.  He is also on the Board of Courage and has actively promoted this beautiful ministry, designed to help homosexuals come out of their sinful lifestyles.  

This is what Cardinal Dolan wrote about Courage in an editorial published in the New York Daily News [HERE].  The editorial was the Cardinal's protest against the cancellation of a speech by a priest speaking to a Catholic high school about Courage:
Pope Francis famously made headlines over the summer when he said in an interview, "If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?" His words made me grateful for the church's ministry, called Courage, which assists and supports people with a same-sex attraction to live virtuous lives, and EnCourage, dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents and relatives of those with same sex attraction.
Here we have a loving, welcoming, community, dedicated to helping those who strive to live as Jesus calls us to live. This is what our gay Catholics have long sought: a home, a welcome, a sense of inclusion in the church they love.
I would strongly encourage everyone to read this editorial by Cardinal Dolan.  Maybe it will help you understand how wrong people are when they accuse His Eminence of being "pro sodomy." There is a huge difference between supporting people and supporting their sins.  

The Catholic Church - the Mystical Body of Christ - never turns anyone away from her doors.  Only Catholics in good standing with the Church and in a state of grace can receive the sacraments, but the Church will never turn her back on any human being.  That is why we read the following in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
To use a cliché, what would Jesus do in this situation?  Would He go running for the hills because an open, professing homosexual took part in an event at which He was already present?  Or would He use this as an opportunity to reach out to a lost soul in great need of His Saving Grace?  

I know I will stand alone in my opinion.  I will be accused of being a hapless liberal who is actually against the Catholic Church and her teachings, just as so many have accused Cardinal Dolan.  But I truly wish that people would stop being so quick to condemn and instead put aside their judgments and reach out with love and compassion to those who need them, just as Cardinal Dolan is doing.

Cardinal Dolan is not inviting unrepentant homosexuals to the communion rail.  Despite the accusations of many, he is not endorsing the gay life style.  But as a pastor, he is taking every opportunity he can to reach lost souls.  He, like Holden Caulfield in "Catcher In The Rye", is trying to stop people from running off the cliff to their own destruction.  He realizes that turning and walking away from people is not going to stop them.  As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has told us, we must be willing to take on the smell of the sheep so they will be willing to listen to us.  That is exactly what Cardinal Dolan is doing and, sadly, what many other Catholics are refusing to do.

Do we reach people by standing in condemnation of them, giving them even more reason to hate us, or do we open our arms to them and say, in the words of the late Joan Rivers, "Can we talk?"  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Defeating The Forces of Evil

Reading the news, it would be very easy to live our lives today in a constant state of fear.

War seems to be everywhere, and it is seldom reported by our major news services.  For example, there have been over 170,000 people killed in Syria since 2011.  That is just one country.

There are the horrifying crimes against humanity being committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

There is Boko Haram in Africa basically mirroring ISIS.

Israel and the Palestinians have been going at each other and threatening to escalate into all out war.

Russia seem ready to declare war in the Ukraine, which is also a threat against NATO.  We are now hearing that Russia is planning "nuke exercises", which sounds ominous to say the least.

Ebola is killing hundreds of people in Africa and threatening to become a worldwide epidemic.

We have the unbelievable mess on the US southern border with tens of thousands of illegals streaming into the US.

Next week is the anniversary of 9/11 which is always a very anxious time here in New York.  And now we have a news report that says 11 jet airliners were hijacked from the Tripoli airport in Libya and there are fears they will be used in terrorist attacks next week on 9/11 [HERE].  From that report:
Intelligence reports of the stolen jetliners were distributed within the U.S. government over the past two weeks and included a warning that one or more of the aircraft could be used in an attack later this month on the date marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against New York and Washington, said U.S. officials familiar with the reports.
As a New Yorker who lived through 9/11/2001, this does not help me sleep better at night.

As a Catholic, I am also very concerned by the actions of many of my fellow Catholics.

We have modernists who pick and choose what they like about Catholicism, basically creating their own religion by rejecting everything with which they personally disagree.  They seem to be intent on making the Church into a toothless lion, jettisoning any teaching that is not "politically correct."

On the other end of the spectrum, we have traditionalists whose main occupation in life seems to be to find fault with the hierarchy of the Church.  If they don't like something they see or hear, they get on the Internet to tell everyone that the Church is going to hell in a handbasket.  They scrutinize and pick apart every word and action of Pope Francis and the bishops.  They are, in effect, their own magesterium and, as far as they are concerned, anyone who does not agree with them is a heretic and apostate Catholic.  As I have already stated elsewhere, I am truly concerned about a major schism.

How do we, who claim to be the children of God, deal with all of this?  Just what should we be doing to combat the evil around us and not become a part of it?

I felt that the Office of Readings from Tuesday, September 2, gave some really beautiful lessons on how to cope with the evil times in which we live.  It started with Psalm 37, one of favorite Psalms:
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not envy those who do evil:
for they wither quickly like grass
and fade like the green of the fields.

If you trust in the Lord and do good,
then you will live in the land and be secure.
If you find your delight in the Lord,
he will grant your heart’s desire.

. . .

Calm your anger and forget your rage;
do not fret, it only leads to evil.
For those who do evil shall perish;
the patient shall inherit the land.

A little longer–and the wicked shall have gone.
Look at his place, he is not there.
But the humble shall own the land
and enjoy the fullness of peace.
I especially love the antiphon associated with this psalm:
Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you.
This is followed by the next antiphon:
Turn away from evil, learn to do God’s will; the Lord will strengthen you if you obey him.
The Office of Readings then continues with Psalm 37:
The wicked man plots against the just
and gnashes his teeth against him;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked
for he sees that his day is at hand.

The sword of the wicked is drawn,
his bow is bent to slaughter the upright.
Their sword shall pierce their own hearts
and their bows shall be broken to pieces.
. . .
He protects the lives of the upright,
their heritage will last for ever.
They shall not be put to shame in evil days,
in time of famine their food shall not fail.

But the wicked shall perish
and all the enemies of the Lord.
They are like the beauty of the meadows,
they shall vanish, they shall vanish like smoke.
. . .
I was young and now I am old,
but I have never seen the just man forsaken
nor his children begging for bread.
All the day he is generous and lends
and his children become a blessing.
. . .
The unjust shall be wiped out for ever
and the children of the wicked destroyed.
The just shall inherit the land;
there they shall live forever.
I found the next antiphon very reassuring and comforting:
Wait for the Lord to lead, then follow in his way.
We as humans are always fretting and trying to figure out ways we can overcome the evil and hardships in our lives. But as Christians, all we need to do is "Wait on the Lord." However, waiting does not mean doing nothing. It means going to Our Lord and placing all of our needs, wants and concerns into His Hands, and then following through in the way He leads.

An example of this is Mother Teresa. In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Mother Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas. She did not do this through her own strength or her own reasoning. There can be no doubt she brought this to Our Lord in prayer, and then did not hesitate to follow in the way in which she was guided by the Holy Spirit with no equivocation and no fear.

Mother Teresa with one of the
37 children she rescued in Beirut
Back to the Office of Readings, we continue with Psalm 37:
The just man’s mouth utters wisdom
and his lips speak what is right;
the law of his God is in his heart,
his steps shall be saved from stumbling.
The wicked man watches for the just
and seeks occasion to kill him.
The Lord will not leave him in his power
nor let him be condemned when he is judged.

Then wait for the Lord, keep to his way.
It is he who will free you from the wicked,
raise you up to possess the land
and see the wicked destroyed.

I have seen the wicked triumphant,
towering like a cedar of Lebanon.
I passed by again; he was gone.
I searched; he was nowhere to be found.

See the just man, mark the upright,
for the peaceful man a future lies in store,
but sinners shall all be destroyed.
No future lies in store for the wicked.

The salvation of the just comes from the Lord,
their stronghold in time of distress.
The Lord helps them and delivers them
and saves them: for their refuge is in him.
What separates the "just" man from the "wicked" man?  Those whom the Lord calls "just" place all of their trust and hope in him.  They do not look to their own reasoning and do not rely on their own strength.  The just man or woman realizes, as our Lord said, that we have nothing to fear from those who can only harm our bodies.  They also realize that to glorify God means to allow Him to do our fighting for us.  That is the definition of "waiting" on the Lord.

The just man realizes that there is only one place where salvation - be it physical or spiritual - can be found. And that is with Our Lord. It is not in other men, and it is not in ourselves. The Psalm Prayer of the Office of Readings brings this out:
You proclaimed the poor to be blessed, Lord Jesus, for the kingdom of heaven is given to them. Fill us generously with your gifts. Teach us to put our trust in the Father and to seek his kingdom first of all rather than imitate the powerful and envy the rich.
As we look around our beleaguered world, it seems that good is being crushed and evil is winning. We need to remember this is just how it looked at Calvary when Our Lord was crucified on the Cross, so beaten and scourged that He barely looked like a human being. But it was precisely at this point that evil was being completely defeated. Death was defeated by the death of the Righteous One.

The first reading in the Office of Readings was from Jeremiah 20:7-18 - "The prophet's anxieties."  In this passage, Jeremiah voices his worries and anxieties about his situation.  But he realizes that the Lord will fight for him and rescue him.  The Responsory following this reading summarizes as follows:
I hear the whispered threats of those who were my friends;
now they watch for my downfall and say:
Perhaps we can deceive him,
and then we shall have him in our power
and take our revenge.
But you, Lord, are a mighty warrior,
always at my side
I hear the whisperings of the crowd,
threats from every side as they plot to take my life.
But you, Lord, are a mighty warrior, always at my side.
There are dark storm clouds surrounding us on every side.  Evil seems to be ruling the day and crushing the good and holy.  But Our Lord is always there with us.  Jesus Christ Himself suffered unjustly and mercilessly at the hands of evil.  But He did this so that we might be freed from this evil.  If we belong to Christ, we must be willing to do the same.

The movie, "For Greater Glory" was about the intense persecution of the Catholic Church by the Masonic Mexican government in the early 20th  Century.  Father Robert Barron talked about this film and how we, as Catholics, should react to evil and violence and unjust aggressors.

Father Barron says in this video:
"If we have confidence in the Power of the Cross and we're grounded in prayer, we can unleash this great resistance to the world. Not on the world's terms. Again, I understand it. I get it. When people are pushed against a wall, and there's such aggression thrown at them, that they respond in kind. But I think the Church should unleash its own dynamite. It should marshal its own power, which is the power of non-violent love. It doesn't mean acquiescence, it doesn't mean caving in. It means this provocative challenge to the violence of the world precisely through non violence."
Execution of  Saint Cristóbal Magallanes Jara
Father Barron then talks about the scene from "For Greater Glory" about the elderly priest played by the late Peter O'Toole who is martyred:
I think a very good example is Father Cristóbal Magallanes [canonized on May 21, 2000], played by Peter O'Toole. Old man, he is an old priest at the end of his life. And instead of taking up arms or fleeing - see, there is the fight/flight - he chose a third option, which is non-violent resistance. He knew, I think, that with this last great act of witness, he would strike a blow against this oppression. And so in his full Mass vestments and wearing his priestly biretta, there he stands against the wall and is put to death. That, too, is photographed. I think he knew that his last great act would be an act of witness against this terrible violence.
Now does this require enormous courage? Yes. Gandhi said it takes the courage of a warrior. Not the sword of a warrior, but the courage of a warrior, absolutely, to do this sort of work. I felt for a long time we are not good in training our people in non-violent resistance. But that is the way Christ is King.

Here is a beautiful video that includes the scene mentioned by Father Barron of  Father Cristóbal Magallanes' martyrdom from "For Greater Glory."  This scene involves Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río, who was also martyred by the Mexican government.  As Father says to Blessed José, "Who are you if you don't stand up for what you believe?  There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ. "  The heart wrenching scene of Blessed José's martyrdom is also shown in this video.

We need to wait on the Lord in the face of evil, and that means standing strong and allowing Him to work through us. We must not succumb to the ways of the world. We must allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, as we see in these scenes with Saint Cristóbal Magallanes' and Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río. That is the way to peace, and that is the way to true salvation. "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)
Incorrupt feet of Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, who gave 
his life for the cause of Christ and his Church.
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