Category Archives: Ecclesiology

Catholics void of kindness

Eph4-32

I was telling Kelly, if I had not been born into being Catholic, had a mother who regularly reaffirmed, “If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!”, had met so many wonderful consecrated and/or ordained Catholics, true servants of the Lord, I might definitely choose not to be Catholic.  I can see, clearly, too clearly, why many people do not choose the Catholic faith because of Catholics1.

I would, instead, be and always try to be, as I hope I am, committed to a constant ethic of kindness.  Love might be stretching it.  But, I do try on any initial encounter to offer kindness as a first impression.  Not naivete’, but mature, sincere, respectful kindness, no matter whom.

I don’t know what group that is, or if that even exists in reality/is realistic.  Not so much doctrinally orthodox, or much worried about that, and never subscribing that somehow orthodoxy may be a strength in lieu of kindness, but just…kindness.  As Dickens wrote, “The milk of human kindness”, offered by the Ghost of Christmas Present, an intoxicating beverage.

I try to make it exist in myself and offer it to others as immediately serenely and naturally as I can.  I also believe, sincerely, it is a mercy to fellow Catholics, especially, to clearly identify when they are not living up to their baptismal promises, I do.  (I, also, sincerely, sincerely, hope another would extend the exact and exacting same mercy to me.)  I feel at peace and confident in this, as I ONLY do it in the most dire of cases and as a last resort, fully aware as I can be of my own sinfulness.  I believe this is the only way to live.

I had hoped “Love ye one another!” would be the ultimate, and Jesus Christ is the most sane person I know, including myself.  Also, I recognize and believe the Catholic Church as the historical church founded by Jesus Christ, but I am also truthful enough to admit those facts, that reality is not enough to keep me Catholic.  I would seek something better.

I also tell Kelly if there actually were a better religion/community that existed, I would have left a long time ago.  Since, I don’t believe I really will find them, I will live and die in the faith 1600 years of my ancestors have lived and died in, and Mara, will live in, God willing.  I just don’t want to be the one in the chain who breaks it without REALLY GOOD reasons.

It is, I trust, the imitation of Bl Pier Giorgio, OP, I most admire in this case.  Performing acts of selfless charity secretly, which ultimately lead to his death.  THIS is a good life.

9432Donald DeMarco
-from an article by Dr. Donald DeMarco, PhD

…”Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre famously stated. His cynical image, however, is apt, but only for a gathering of unvirtuous people who, as is their wont, prey upon each other. A community of virtuous people, on the other hand, who love each other, is at least a foretaste of paradise. Sartre found life absurd because he did not find love at all. Where there is no virtue, love remains unexpressed. Hell is not only the place where there is no love, but also the place where there is no virtue.

…Love does not flow directly from one person into another; it requires virtue that serves as a mode of transmission. We express love to each other not directly, but through virtue. Virtue is our moral medium of exchange. Without it, we are spiritually bankrupt.

Only God can transmit His love directly. Nonetheless, He chose Mary, the Mother of God, to serve as the Mediatrix of all grace. Nathaniel Hawthorne, though not a Catholic, revealed a fine understanding of Mary’s role in this regard when he made the following statement: “I have always envied the Catholics their faith in that sweet, sacred, Virgin Mother who stands between them and the Deity, intercepting somewhat His awful splendor, but permitting His love to stream on the worshipper more intelligently to human comprehension through the medium of a woman’s tenderness.” Mary’s tenderness is her virtuous way of directing God’s love into our hearts.

Each of us comes into the world with a certain capital of love. It is ours to spend. And the remarkable thing about spending love (unlike spending money) is that the more we spend, the more our supply is increased. With love as our currency, we can go on a lifelong spending spree and never go broke. But we cannot spend a dollop of our love unless we channel it through some virtue. A simple act of kindness, for example, can brighten a person’s day. Kindness is love’s low voltage way of expressing itself to complete strangers without fear of embarrassment or threat of obligation. Kindness is a natural way of affirming the inherent goodness of others and of stirring up their own supply of love. Kindness begets kindness. It can even prepare the way to friendship where additional virtues such as fidelity, patience, and courage come into play. Kindness, which demands so little of us, can open the door to a flood of subsequent virtues.

In Psalm 118 we read: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His kindness endures forever.” Here, God is telling us not only that His virtue is constant and everlasting, but also that His virtue is more powerful than our sin. In addition, He is telling us that if we want to be more Godlike, we, too, must be virtuous. But as we become more Godlike, we do not become less human-like. In fact, because we are created by a God Who loves us, the more Godlike we become, the more human we become, which is to say, the more we become ourselves, the person God intended us to be.

As Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik states in his book, The Hidden Powers of Kindness, “Kind words have converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” “He who is kind is free, even if he is a slave,” wrote St. Augustine; “he who is evil is a slave, even if he is king.” The power of this seemingly modest virtue is inestimable. And it is good to know that such a power is always readily available to us.

Expressing love through kindness allows us to stop complaining and begin building a culture of joy.  We often complain about how much unkindness there is in the world. But this amount of unkindness, however much it may be, exists only because of the lack of kindness practiced by individuals who live in it. The supply of kindness is available; all that is needed is its expression. Expressing love through kindness allows us to stop complaining and begin building a culture of joy. Then we will understand and properly appreciate why virtue is our most important medium of exchange, giving practicality to love and bringing conviviality to life.

It is clear, then, that according to the Christian tradition, virtue is rooted in love. “Love is the form of all virtues,” states St. Thomas Aquinas. For St. Augustine, “Virtue is the order of love” (Virtus est ordo amoris). Nonetheless, virtue is not an exclusively religious notion.

…All humans, religious or otherwise, have an inherent capacity to love. This means that all human beings are capable of expressing their love through any number of virtues. And no one wants to argue that non-religious people are incapable of love. Christianity is not a substitute for humanism, but builds on it and perfects it. Therefore, Christians and non-Christians can work together virtuously, as long as their expressions of virtue are based on love. In this regard, we can take heart in St. Thomas More’s celebrated comment that, “The times are never so bad that a good man can’t live in them.”

There is a light that true virtue sheds that can be recognized and respected by all human beings, regardless of their religious affiliations. Even random acts of kindness can help to bring about a better world. In the words of the Immortal Bard:

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world

(Merchant of Venice, Act. V, Sc.1, 90-91).”

kind_word_gun

Love,
Matthew

Prayer for frustrated Catholics

jesus_frustrated

francis-surprised

oy_vey!_bxvi

giphy

Like Fr Jim, I love the Church. And, too, I have long said it’s a lovely institution until you want something. Then the Church brass knuckles come out. If the Church is supposed to represent Jesus, I just don’t don’t think Jesus was this difficult, seriously. It is a penance to be a Catholic, and not just the times for atonement. Geez!

james_martin_sj
-by Rev. James Martin, SJ

“Dear God, sometimes I get so frustrated with Your Church.

I know that I’m not alone. So many people who love Your Church feel frustrated with the Body of Christ on Earth. Priests and deacons, and brothers and sisters, can feel frustrated, too. And I’ll bet that even bishops and popes feel frustrated. We grow worried and concerned and bothered and angry and sometimes scandalized because Your divine institution, our home, is filled with human beings who are sinful. Just like me.

But I get frustrated most of all when I feel that there are things that need to be changed and I don’t have the power to change them.

So I need your help, God.

Help me to remember that Jesus promised that He would be with us until the end of time, and that Your Church is always guided by the Holy Spirit, even if it’s hard for me to see. Sometimes change happens suddenly, and the Spirit astonishes us, but often in the Church it happens slowly. In Your time, not mine (always, all ways…Thy will be done, Thy Kingdom come!). Help me know that the seeds that I plant with love in the ground of Your church will one day bloom. So give me patience.

Help me to understand that there was never a time when there were not arguments or disputes within Your Church. Arguments go all the way back to Peter and Paul debating one another. And there was never a time when there wasn’t sin among the members of Your Church. That kind of sin goes back to Peter denying Jesus during His Passion. Why would today’s church be any different than it was for people who knew Jesus on earth? Give me wisdom.

Help me to trust in the Resurrection. The Risen Christ reminds us that there is always the hope of something new. Death is never the last word for us. Neither is despair. And help me remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to His disciples, He bore the wounds of His Crucifixion. Like Christ, the Church is always wounded, but always a carrier of grace. Give me hope.

Help me to believe that your Spirit can do anything: raise up saints when we need them most, soften hearts when they seem hardened, open minds when they seem closed, inspire confidence when all seems lost, help us do what had seemed impossible until it was done. This is the same Spirit that converted Paul, inspired Augustine, called Francis of Assisi, emboldened Catherine of Siena, consoled Ignatius of Loyola, comforted Thérèse of Lisieux, enlivened John XXIII, accompanied Teresa of Calcutta, strengthened Dorothy Day and encouraged John Paul II. It is the same Spirit that is with us today, and your Spirit has lost none of its power. Give me faith.

Help me to remember all Your saints. Most of them had it a lot worse than I do. They were frustrated with Your Church at times, struggled with it, and were occasionally persecuted by it. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by Church authorities. Ignatius of Loyola was thrown into jail by the Inquisition. Mary MacKillop was excommunicated. If they can trust in Your Church in the midst of those difficulties, so can I. Give me courage.

Help me to be peaceful and forgive when people tell me that I don’t belong in the Church, that I’m a heretic for trying to make things better, or that I’m not a good Catholic. I know that I was baptized. You called me by name to be in Your Church, God. As long as I draw breath, help me remember how the holy waters of baptism welcomed me into Your holy family of sinners and saints. Let the voice that called me into Your Church be what I hear when other voices tell me that I’m not welcome in the church. Give me peace.

Most of all, help me to place all of my hope in Your Son.  My faith is in Jesus Christ. Give me only His love and his grace. That’s enough for me.

Help me God, and help Your Church, Your Spouse.

Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 7 2016 – God as terrorist?

charlie-hebdo-cover
-it is interesting to note the image above is of God-the-Father in the Trinitarian Christian God. It is recognizable by the triangle symbol and surrounding the Eye of Providence, as on US currency, connoting the Trinity and is classic iconography of the Christian God-the-Father. Charlie Hebdo did not satirize the Prophet Muhammed on its cover as it has in the past. Easier target?

-by Lara Rebello, International Business Times, UK

“The Tuesday edition of the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano criticised French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for the cover of its edition that marks the first anniversary of a terrorist attack on the publication’s Paris office. The anniversary edition cover shows God wearing blood stained robes with a Kalashnikov over his shoulder, accompanied by the headline: “One year on: the assassin is still out there.”

The newspaper said: “Behind the deceptive flag of uncompromising secularism, the weekly is forgetting once more what religious leaders of every faith unceasingly repeat to reject violence in the name of religion – using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy, as pope Francis has said several times.”

The magazine’s review went on to add: “In Charlie Hebdo’s choice, there is the sad paradox of a world which is more and more sensitive about being politically correct, almost to the point of ridicule, yet does not wish to acknowledge or to respect believers’ faith in God, regardless of the religion.”

Today (6 January), one million copies of the magazine will hit stands, according to AFP. A year ago, on 7 January terrorists entered the publication’s office in Paris and killed 12 people, including eight members of the magazine’s staff.

Following the shooting, Pope Francis condemned killing in God’s name but warned religion could not be insulted. “To kill in the name of God is an absurdity,” Francis told reporters on the papal plane during an Asian tour.

While defending freedom of expression, he also cautioned “each religion has its dignity” and “there are limits”. “If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched, and that’s normal. You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it.”

Love, and praying always for peace,
Matthew

The Mystical Body of Christ – Why the Catholic Church?

sheen_mystical

The “cause” for the canonization of Archbishop Sheen (1895-1979) was opened in 2002. The enthusiasm for the cause of a deceased holy person of heroic virtue is called its “cultus”, or cult, in the most positive sense of the word. The enthusiasm by those who hold a special devotion to the Virgin Mary is her “cult”. Get it?

I attended an informal informational meeting in Chicago a while ago on the status of the good archbishop’s cause. Very interesting, to say the least. His beloved memory now bears the title Venerable. The Vatican is very interested in his cause, as he would be the ONLY beati to have won an Emmy!!! Take THAT modern media!!! A SAINT amongst ye!!!

Only Catholics could create the current situation though, sadly. Catholics!!!!!!!! Grrrrrrr!!!!! 🙁 . The cause is currently in stasis. 🙁 Miracles are good to go, except the good archbishop was buried in New York, where he did much of his work and ministry. His home diocese, where any cause must begin, is in Peoria, IL.

Wait!!!! It gets better!!! Part of the official process of canonization is there must be a formal, very formal, examination of the remains of the candidate of heroic virtue in the home diocese, called the “elevation” of the remains, to a place of honor and respect, and the removal, get your Catholic dictionaries out!, of the “first class” relics, i.e. actual parts of the remains!

You guessed it!!!! There is a kerfuffle!!! It seems New York, typical, after many, many promises to release the remains and remove them to Peoria, has reneged. Internal Church politics stands in the way of sainthood!!! There is no current Church process around this!!!! So, we’re and the good archbishop’s cause is stuck!!! Do you see why the typical expression in the Vatican is “Come and see me on Wednesday, and I’ll get back to you in 300 years!!!!! Catholics!!!! My greatest frustrations in the life of faith are Catholics!!!!! I pray for that same Spirit who comforted the Lord with His Keystone Cops Apostles!!!! 🙁 Who knows WHAT generation of our children may yet enjoy this great celebration. 🙁

http://www.archbishopsheencause.org/

CaseyChalk
-by Casey Chalk, a “revert” to the Catholic Church, who was raised Catholic, left the Church with his parents for Evangelicalism & Presbyterianism, spent time in Thailand, and has now returned to the Church of his birth.

“A good friend and elder at my former Presbyterian (PCA) church once invited me over for beers and conversation several months after my decision to become a Catholic. In that exchange, he expressed what he termed as his predominant concern with my entrance into the Catholic Church: that the decision embraced a form of sacerdotalism, effectively putting certain individuals – be they priests, bishops, cardinals, or the pope – or even the institutional church, between the individual and God. This mediated reality, my friend believed, was in some sense an affront to Biblical Christianity, presumably because it obscured or obstructed the primary mediatory role of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, one of the most iconic American Catholic figures of the 20th century, would respectfully disagree.

Fulton Sheen died on this day 36 years ago: December 9th, 1979, before I was even born. Yet his influence is felt far beyond the end of his earthly life and reaches far beyond the millions of American radio listeners and television viewers he reached. Even the Redemptorist parish I attend in Bangkok, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, bears Sheen’s mark. The architectural design of the parish, built to model the traditional Thai Buddhist wat, was an idea suggested by Sheen himself during a visit to Thailand.

Sheen’s writings and teachings likewise continue to influence Christians and non-Christians the world over, largely because Sheen so accurately recognized philosophical and religious trends that increasingly were dominating our culture. Take for example the individualist tendencies of our current age, asserting that no institution or denomination is needed between man and God. Many people, even those with robust prayer lives or strong convictions in historical doctrines regarding Christ or Holy Scripture, hold such a “low church” position. Indeed, some form the limits of their Christian experience around the reading of the Bible or other spiritual literature, listening to podcasts or sermons in the privacy of their homes or cars, and maybe the occasional Bible study or prayer group.1 To this popular, commonly Protestant trend, Sheen’s The Mystical Body of Christ offers a surprisingly Scriptural critique. Indeed, Sheen’s presentation of the Church as Christ intended and directs it stands in contrast even to those Protestants – be they Reformed, Evangelical, or Mainline – who affirm some conception of the visible Church, since, Sheen argues, even these efforts lack a fully Biblical account of the Church as Christ’s very own mystical body.

Biblical Foundations for the Mystical Body of Christ

Sheen begins by citing Fr. Emil Mersch – who observed that the New Testament’s use of “kingdom,” “mystery,” and “life” all appeal to different aspects of the same reality: the mystical body of Christ2. Sheen argues that the Mystical Body is not an abstraction, but “something visible and invisible, something tangible and intangible, something human and something Divine; it refers to a reality which is the subject of attribution, of properties and rights, to an organism with a supernatural soul, to a prolonged Incarnation, to the extension of Bethlehem and Jerusalem to our own days, to the contemporary Christ: the Church.3 We share a bond with Jesus quite different than what we might share with any other religious teacher or philosopher: a life of which we are partakers, in His earthly life, His glorified life, and His mystical life.4 The third of these, the mystical life, He continues to live through us by means of His Holy Spirit, which was given quite publicly to the visible Church at Pentecost.5

In this reality, Christ is the Head, His people are His body: “Christ is our contemporary.”6 With exacting exegetical detail of the Biblical texts, Sheen demonstrates that one cannot separate Christ from His mystical body, and that the “spiritual, not religious” Christian ideal is untenable. Christ identified Himself too intimately with His followers to believe otherwise: Sheen notes that our Lord taught that He and His body would be one, referring to such Gospel passages as the vine and the branches (John 15:5), or “He that heareth you, heareth me” (Luke 10:16).7

Also central to this argument is Sheen’s analysis that St. Paul’s language of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians must be properly understood not as a post-facto Pauline analogy, but as a reality that preceded the Apostles in the very life of Christ.8 Indeed, it was Christ Himself who said he would assume another body in John 20:17.9 The Church would be this body, not physically or morally, but mystically and intimately united to the risen and ascended Christ. Sheen helpfully articulates:

‘He said that whatever happened to Him as Head would happen to His Body; if He was persecuted His Body would be persecuted; if He was hated His Body would be hated; if the world did not receive Him it would not receive His Body, for the servant is not above the master…. The relation would be so close between the members of that Body and Himself, that anyone [who performed a work of mercy for one His members] would be doing the service unto Him. It would seem that He had exhausted all analogies to mark the unity between Him and His new body; but the night before He died, He said that He and His flock were not to be one merely as shepherd and sheep, they were to be one as He and the Father are one.10’

The Mystical Body of Christ is His Church

Building upon this identification of Christ with His Church, St. Paul and St. John extend these analogies of mystical union to include a building (1 Corinthians 3) and marriage (Ephesians 5, 2 Corinthians 11, Revelation 19, 21).11 The Church effectively extends Christ “beyond the space of Palestine and the space of thirty-three years to prolong His influence unto all times and to all men.” “Without the Church,” Sheen asserts, “Christ would be incomplete,” for the Church continues the Incarnation.12 The “actions of the Mystical body are the actions of Christ.”13 Through Christ, the ultimate prophet, priest and king, the Church would extend “His posthumous Self, His prolonged Personality… Very simply they were to do the same three things as He had done in His earthly life: they were to teach, to govern, and to sanctify.”14 These include the Church’s mission to baptize, to perform the Eucharist, and to forgive sins (Matthew 28, Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11, John 20).15 Sheen’s analysis strikes at the heart of much contemporary Christian spirituality and Protestant religiosity:

‘How far removed is this doctrine of the Church from the false conception of those who would accuse the Church of standing between Christ and us? How often we hear it said: “I do not want an organization between Christ and me,” or “True religion consists in union with Jesus of Nazareth without priest, or prelate, or sacrament.” Anyone who understands the Scriptures will see that the Church does not stand between Christ and me. The Church is Christ16’

The Church, if she is truly Christ’s mystical body, cannot then be some voluntary organization, as if the Apostles heard Christ’s message and on the “basis of their common faith” agreed to form a religious society. No, Sheen declares, the Church began “the very moment” the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.17 Anyone then who claims the visible, institutional Church and its sacramental system is an “obstacle” to a relationship with Christ has misunderstood “the meaning and beauty of the Incarnation of our Lord.”18 Through the Church, Bethlehem is revived in every baptism, “the Cenacle in every Mass, the instruction of the doctors of the Temple in every definition, the pardon of Peter in every absolution, and the Crucifixion in every persecution.”19 Rather than an obstacle to relationship with Christ, the Church is the very means by which that relationship is fostered.

The Catholic Church as Christ’s Mystical Body, Preserved by the Holy Spirit

Christ is of course the head of this mystical body – per St. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 1:18. Yet if Christ is the head, one might reasonably ask, which conflicting group or sect within Christianity is the “one Body of Christ”?20 According to Sheen, the “obvious way” for Christ to identify His post-ascension body would be “through a visible head or a primate.”21 This is appropriate, he contends, because the “democratic form of government” visible in many forms of Protestantism is problematically individualistic:

‘…each individual [is] his own supreme authority, allowing him either to interpret the Scriptures privately or else interpret his own religious experiences without any dictation from without. Religion on this theory is a purely individual affair: each one casts his own vote as to what he will believe, rejects all creeds, beliefs, and dogmas which run counter to his moods and prejudices, determines for himself the kind of a God he will adore, the kind of an altar before which he will kneel – in a word, he worships at the shrines his own hands have made.22’

Rather than this subjective, individualist model, Christ gave us what Sheen calls the “monarchical” model, citing Matthew 16, where He rejects both what “men say” about who He is, and even what the Apostles together say about who He is (the “aristocratic model”), but ultimately affirming St. Peter’s declaration that He is the son of the living God.23 Peter had divine assistance, the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16), and the commission to feed Christ’s lambs (John 21). This is not to say that St. Peter is “a Head apart from Christ.” Rather, he is “one authority with Him,” the “visible representation, the concrete symbol, the vicar of the Sender among the Sent.”24

Sheen further argues that it was the Holy Spirit who conceived the Church in the incarnation, guided St. Peter’s declaration of Christ’s divinity, and who remains its very soul, and speaks first not through inspired writings, but a “voice,” carried by the Apostles and their successors.25 This is to contrast the Catholic conception of Holy Tradition, Holy Scripture, and magisterial teaching, as cooperating spheres of authority, against the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Indeed, it was the Holy Spirit, acting as the soul of the Church, who inspired the writings of Holy Scripture and guided their collection and inclusion into a canon. The Bible stands not on its own but “within the life of the Church.” It is the Church that “makes its meaning clear.”26 And if the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, “there can be no contradiction, no variety of opinions, no divided loyalties, no half-truths, no schisms, no heresy where God is.”27

Moreover, the Holy Spirit vivifies the Church to maintain its four marks so that neither sin nor scandal within the ranks can nullify her intrinsic holiness.28 Sheen observes, “the world has yet to point out a single age in which the Church has not produced her heroes whom she calls saints.”29 The last mark, the Church’s apostolic character, is best understood within the Catholic paradigm as requiring a discernible “origin or source.” Sheen elaborates: “it would be too late for her to begin sixteen hundred years after the life or our Lord; it would be too late for her to begin even twenty years after the life of Christ. She must be in intimate contact with Him from the beginning.” He cites several pieces of evidence of this from Scripture and history. These include the choosing of Matthias (a witness to the resurrection) to replace Judas in Acts 2 and the centrality of the appeal to Apostolic origin by the immediate successors of the Apostles: “Everywhere in the early Church the test was: ‘What is the source of your authority and truth?’ It if did not come from Christ and the apostles, it was false.”30 What a remarkable testament it is that the Catholic Church, longer than any nation, empire, or heretical movement has withstood the test of time: “Who today venerates Eutyches? Where are his disciples? Who today knows of Novatian?”31 Because it is the Holy Spirit alive within the Church, she cannot be killed.32

Further Implications of the Mystical Body of Christ

Having presented His biblical argument for the Mystical body of Christ — and that it be identified with the Catholic Church — Sheen devotes the remainder of his book to exploring many other realities that flow from this initial truth: the infallibility and unique authority of the Church, the role of the priesthood and individual Christians in this mystical body, the communion of the saints, the value of reparation, and the expansion of the body throughout the entire world. 33 Of particular interest to Protestants investigating Catholicism, Sheen devotes a chapter to the role of Mary, the mother of God, as mother also of His mystical body. The bishop explains that this is a natural logical progress: “if the fullness of Christ embraces not only His historical Life in Galilee but also His Mystical Life in the Church, then should not Mary be not only the Mother of the physical Christ, but also the Mother of the fullness of Christ or the Mother of the Church?”34 Also of potential interest to Protestants are chapters on how the sacrifice of the cross is translated to the sacrifice of the Mass, Sheen arguing that the sacrifice of the Cross is “complete and perfect in it itself,” yet “not complete as regards us; the merits of that great redemptive act have to flow unto us.”35 The Eucharist then serves to project Christ’s sacrifice into the present: “the Mass is the one thing in the world which makes it possible for us who live in the [present age] to share in the sacrifice of Calvary…. The Mass is Calvary realized, made present, contemporized, lifted out of the limit of space and time living in the members of the Mystical Body….36

The Mystical Body of Christ is a helpful – nay, essential – concept for how Christians should understand their role individually and corporately to Christ their Lord and Savior. This is the way Christ wanted it: for His Church to be the extension of His earthly ministry projected through time and space to our present era. To respond to the legitimate concern of my Presbyterian elder friend: Christianity at its core is sacerdotal — the Incarnation, the beginning of the Church on earth, exemplifies God’s extension of grace to Christians through matter. Christ then, fully God and fully man, is Himself a sacerdotal figure, mediating between man and God in His very flesh. It is entirely fitting then that Christ would appoint members of His own mystical body to do exactly what He had done: bear God’s authority and mediate between members of His body and the eternal God. In Sheen’s analysis, this does not detract from Christ’s mediatory role; it preserves and perfects it.37

Venerable Fulton Sheen, one of America’s great defenders and explicators of the Catholic faith, pray for us!

  1. Sheen’s own critique of Protestantism is quite prescient. In his 1935 introduction to the book, he notes that Protestant churches “no longer claim to be Divine or to be Deposits of Revelation.” He asserts that Protestantism has been reduced to “the individualistic type of religion in which each man’s subjective religious experience determines the God he will worship and the altar he will serve,” or a “purely social form of religion.” See Fulton J. Sheen, The Mystical Body of Christ (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, 2015), p. 2.
  2. The reader should take note that in addition to the extensive Biblical exegesis Sheen offers in the main body of his work, the footnotes of the text supply a wealth of additional Biblical references and analysis that should not be overlooked.
  3. Sheen, p. 5.
  4. Sheen, p. 7.
  5. Sheen, p. 15.
  6. Sheen, p. 18.
  7. Sheen, p. 20.
  8. Sheen, p. 56.
  9. Sheen, p. 37.
  10. Sheen, p. 27.
  11. Sheen, p. 29.
  12. Sheen, p. 41.
  13. Sheen, pp. 42-43.
  14. Sheen, p. 45.
  15. Sheen, p. 32.
  16. Sheen, p. 33.
  17. Sheen, p. 48.
  18. Sheen, p. 49.
  19. Sheen, p. 50.
  20. Sheen, p. 51.
  21. Sheen elsewhere explains that baptism is the mechanism for incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ. See Sheen, p. 298.
  22. Sheen, p. 57.
  23. Sheen, p. 58.
  24. Sheen, p. 59.
  25. Sheen, pp. 61-63.
  26. Sheen, p. 66.
  27. Sheen, p. 304. Sheen extensively highlights the evidence for the historicity of the primacy of St. Peter and Rome in his footnotes for Chapter Three. See Sheen, pp. 305-308.
  28. Sheen, p. 75.
  29. Sheen, p. 79.
  30. Sheen, p. 81.
  31. Sheen devotes an entire chapter to explaining how scandals in the Church can be reconciled with her role as Christ’s mystical body. In rhetorical flourish typical of the bishop, Sheen exhorts the Church’s detractors to “reveal the worst, for it will only help to make clear her true nature.” See Sheen, p. 99.
  32. Sheen, p. 85.
  33. Sheen, pp. 86-88.
  34. Sheen, p. 91.
  35. Sheen, p. 96.
  36. Sheen argues that “the Infallibility of the Church is nothing more than the Infallibility of Christ,” and asks rhetorically whether the Holy Spirit died after Pentecost or the early councils of the Church. See Sheen, p. 117, 121. On the unique authority of the Church, Sheen observes, “a book could not preserve [Christ’s] authority, for the book needs interpretation, and who would interpret it?” See Sheen, p. 134.
  37. Sheen, p. 225.
  38. Sheen, p. 242.
  39. Sheen, p. 247, 249.
  40. It is in this book that one of Sheen’s most famous aphorisms can be found: They do “not really hate the Church; they hate only that which they mistakenly believe to be the Church.” See Sheen, p. 140.

Prayer for the Canonization of Venerable Fulton Sheen

Heavenly Father, source of all holiness, You raise up within the Church in every age men and women who serve with heroic love and dedication. You have blessed Your Church through the life and ministry of Your faithful servant, Archbishop Fulton J Sheen. He has written and spoken well of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and was a true instrument of the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts of countless people.

If it be according to Your Will, for the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the salvation of souls, we ask You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint. We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Imprimatur:
+Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria

Love,
Matthew

Christian Joy!!!: wimps need not apply…

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I have on the wall in my office the reproduction of a help wanted sign from Boston in 1910. It says, “Help Wanted: Irish need not apply!”

I think the Church and Jesus, the same thing, according to St Joan of Arc, should have signs which say “Christian Joy!: wimps need not apply!”

If it were easy, where would the glory be?

randy_hain
-by Randy Hain

“Here is something to ponder in the remaining days of Advent. I recently had coffee with a fellow Catholic who gloomily shared his ongoing struggles with overtly living out his faith in the real world and reluctance to discuss his faith with others. He made it clear that going to Mass on Sunday was all he could or should be doing. Unfortunately, this is a very common tale. The conversation became really interesting and a little uncomfortable when we discussed why people become apathetic about their faith, hesitate about converting or leave the Church altogether.

It became obvious to me after a few minutes that how my coffee companion presented his faith to the world and how others view the Catholic Church may be connected.

Why do some of our Catholic brothers and sisters lose their enthusiasm for the Faith? Why do some leave the Church? Why do those curious about the Church have reservations about converting? The unfortunate truth is that many (not all) of us make being Catholic look about as exciting as having a root canal. Each of the groups identified in these questions may be looking for inspiration from people who are truly joyful about Christ and the Church He founded. They want to see us have genuine passion for the Eucharist and the other Sacraments. They would love to see us have prayer lives worth emulating. Does the thought ever occur to us that our actions as well as our words are being observed by others and this places an important burden on our shoulders?

So, let’s ask ourselves: Are we “islands of joy” reflecting the light of Christ to others or have we lost our Catholic identity and become completely assimilated into the surrounding secular culture?

We might be tempted to say that we should not be responsible for helping the faith and spiritual welfare of others, but indeed we are partly responsible. We are here to help ourselves; our families and everyone we know get to Heaven. If we are living up to the world’s expectations and not showing others the light of Christ, the path to Heaven that leads through the Catholic Church will not be attractive to them. They will not see what is so special about being Catholic if those of us who are Catholic fail to live up to our responsibility. On the other hand, if we stay focused on serving Christ, living as faithful Catholics and pursue lives of personal holiness we will make the path to the Church look more appealing. They will want what we have and will seek us out to find the reason for our joy.

We have so much to be truly thankful for in our relationship with Christ and the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith. But, being truly joyful should lead to sharing that joy and the ability to express the truths of our faith in a way that shows the depth of our sincere belief and love to others. Consider this quote from writer Cormac Burke: “A Christian who is not convinced he has the Truth is not convinced he has Christ. Only convinced Christians have any chance of convincing others. Half-convinced Christians won’t even half-convince anybody. They won’t convince at all.”

St. Paul reinforces the call to be joyful, “Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). The Apostle makes it sound simple, but why do we struggle to do something that appears to be so easy? We all deal with various forms of adversity. Some of us are unemployed, some are dealing with illness and others are struggling with relationship or financial problems. The current economic crisis, the global attacks on religious liberties and the relentless attacks on the Church by the secular media have made many of us apathetic, gloomy and frightened. These are real obstacles to joy and they must be acknowledged, but should remember to “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12).

As tough as things may be, Catholics have work to do for Christ. Like the early Christians, we too are called to share the Good News. Do you recall that in the life of St. Paul he was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, starved and stoned? He showed incredible courage and fortitude to share his joy and the message of Christ to the Gentiles despite his suffering. We should follow his example today.

For Catholics, joy in the midst of extreme adversity is our obligation and our duty. Remember that we are not alone. Our faith in Christ and our devotion in the Sacraments that bind us to Him will see us through the tough times and help us share a joy which will not evaporate in the face of tough challenges. Be encouraged by our Lord’s words, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

It is so easy to get lost in our problems and forget to be joyful. It happens to me and just about everyone else I know. But, remember that we are surrounded by people who are watching us. They may be seeking Him and looking for someone, anyone, to show them the way to Christ. They could learn from our good example, be inspired by our joy and be encouraged by our faith journeys if we will only remember that we are called to share the Good News. If we are gloomy, frustrated, inward-focused and critical of the Church we will never be able to help anyone and may put our own salvation at risk.

Six Practical Steps to Catholic Joy this Advent

Let me leave you with six simple actions which I try to follow in my desire to be joyful. This is by no means the definitive list and I would love to learn what others are doing, but here is what often works for me:

Surrender to Christ. Every day I recommit to putting Him first in all areas of my life.
Give up my burdens to Jesus in daily prayer. I can’t do it alone and I need His help!
Go to frequent Reconciliation. Unburdening my soul of sin brings me peace and joy.
Be thankful for my blessings. I can gripe about my problems or I can focus on all of the incredible blessings in my life and express my gratitude to the Lord in prayer.
Stay out of the “Catholic Cafeteria Line.” I fully accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and follow the Magisterium. I don’t follow the parts I like and reject those I do not like. I know that what I may not understand will be revealed to me over time if I have faith. (Ed. doing your homework wouldn’t hurt either!)
Start with the end in mind. Are my actions each day serving Him? I hope to hear Jesus say at the end of my life on earth, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” My goal is Heaven and I must live a life that leads me there.

I am not sure where you are on the “joy spectrum,” but please reflect on this post and take it to prayer. Ask yourself if you find it difficult or easy to share your joy. Reflect on the obstacles between you and the fuller, engaging and joyful Catholic life which awaits us all. Remember that Jesus is coming to us next week and our hearts and minds must be prepared. As for me, I personally subscribe to the thinking of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow.”

Love, (…and as my mother always used to say to her six children through loving, gritted teeth!!! “You’re going to take those swimming lessons, and you’re going to LIKE IT!!“)
Matthew 🙂

Faith means to stay – the Faithful, momentary Sorrowful Mother

keep-calm-for-i-have-overcome-the-world

Jn 6:68

This 13th-century hymn is variously attributed to Gregory I, Bernard of Clairvaux, Pope Innocent III, St. Bonaventura, Jacopone da Todi, Pope John XXII, and Pope Gregory XI, and others; translated from Latin to English by Edward Caswall (1814-1878). It was the liturgical sequence for the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin (Sept. 15 and the Friday before Palm Sunday). It is no longer used on the Friday before Palm Sunday and is optional on September 15, but it continues to be sung at the Stations of the Cross during Lenten services. It was not admitted as a liturgical sequence until 1727, and musical settings are more numerous after that date.

Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based upon the prophecy of Simeon that a sword was to pierce the heart of Our Lord’s mother, Mary (Lk2:35).

Prayer:

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had pass’d.

Oh, how sad and sore distress’d
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm’d in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?

Bruis’d, derided, curs’d, defil’d,
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord.

Holy Mother! pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn’d for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon’d
In His very blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defence,
Be Thy cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

Latin

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.

Cujus animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
Pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti!

Quem maerebat, et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati paenas inclyti.

Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis,
Et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem natum
Moriendo desolatum,
Dum emisit spiritum.

Eia Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.

Tui nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Paenas rnecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
Crucifixo condolere,
Donec ego vixero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara:
Fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem
Passionis fac consortum,
Et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari
Fac me cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die judicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per Matrem me venire,
Ad palmam victoriae.

Quando corpus morietur,
Fac, ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.

Love,
Matthew

“May the souls of the faithful departed…”

CelticCrossMeanings

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and the torment of death shall not touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die;
but they are in peace.

braquinasbealeop

-by Br Aquinas Beale, OP, is a fellow WAHOO!!!!  LIKE ME!!!  GO HOOS!!!!!

Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt. In 1605, English composer William Byrd published his motet based on this text from the Book of Wisdom. The souls of the just are in the hand of God, the sacred author asserts, and the torment of death does not touch them. Pointing to the privileged position the saints enjoy, in the hand of God, this antiphon would have been sung at the Offertory of the Mass celebrating the Solemnity of All the Saints.

Et non tanget illos tormentum mortis. God protects the souls of His saints, and the torment of death shall not touch them. Yet, the ethereal harmonies of Byrd’s setting are interrupted at this point by some jarring dissonance; the text tormentum mortis is repeated three times, each iteration bringing more dissonance into the piece and reminding the hearers of the reality of their earthly existence in which the torment of death still looms large.

Though we are told that the souls of the saints enjoy peace and security in the hand of God, how can we be certain? Ordinary experience seems to point only to the fleetingness of life and the certainty of death. Where is the hand of God in all of this?

At the time Byrd composed his setting of Justorum animae, his country was still reeling from the upheaval of the English Reformation. Henry VIII had broken with Rome and executed many dissonants; his daughter tried to restore union with Rome, acquiring the moniker “Bloody Mary” along the way; her sister sought a compromise, albeit with the sword. Even after the nearly half-century reign of Elizabeth, the religious and social unrest remained.

Two years after her death (and the same year Byrd published Justorum animae) anti-Catholic sentiment was once again aroused by the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Considering this environment of perpetual religious warfare, there is little cause for wonder at the ominous turn of Byrd’s motet. Indeed, the confident hope in avoiding the pains of warfare and the torments of death must have appeared more like folly than wisdom to at least some of Byrd’s more enlightened contemporaries. The hand of God seemed to have slipped away from the affairs of men, allowing them to sink into the mire of war and strife.

Visi sunt oculis insipientium mori. The souls of the just are in the hand of God. Yet, to the eyes of the foolish, they appear to be dead. Dead is dead, and it would seem that there are no two ways about it.

In the decades following the Crucifixion, the early Christians were no strangers to the scoffing and ridicule of the faithless. To the eyes of many, Christ appeared to be dead, and faith in Him seemed to be foolishness (1 Cor 1:22). The author of the Book of Wisdom, however, asserts that it is the eyes of the foolish that see death as the final end.Through Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, the final enemy—death—had been defeated, once and for all. And so, those who now place their trust in God shall shine like stars in the night for all eternity (Dan 12:3).

Illi autem sunt in pace. Those who persevered in their faith in Christ no longer walk the face of this earth, but—we firmly hope—they are in peace. And if they do not yet enjoy the peace of Christ, we trust and pray that they will one day see Him in glory.

In the new form of the Mass, this same passage of Wisdom is read as the First Reading during today’s liturgical celebration, the Commemoration of All Souls. It provides a fitting reflection for the living, prompting them to recall the snares of death in this earthly life and to pray that the departed may experience the peace and rest of being in the hand of God.

We have a confident hope that is full of immortality (Wis 3:4), but the suffering we experience in our lives is a daily reminder of our human frailty. The death of the body remains, despite the triumph of the Cross. Therefore, if our hope is founded on our own strength and merit, we are bound to fall into the snares of death. Rather, we throw ourselves and our loved ones upon the mercy and love of God, in Whom we place all our trust. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

Holding you and all your departed loved ones in prayer on this day of remembrance. Kindly remember me and mine. May God bless you for your faithfulness.

Love,
Matthew

“I’m Catholic, but…”

catholic_but

oliver_llewellyn

-by Oliver Llewellyn

“I’m Catholic, but… I don’t believe in ….” How many times have you heard those dreaded words? What does being Catholic even mean? Is it merely a cultural identity tag that people inherit through birth, or does it mean so much more? Can you be truly Catholic while then denouncing certain Church doctrines?

By its very definition, being Catholic means existing in a faithful relationship with the Magesterium, and accepting the notion of Apostolic Succession. How can anyone claim to be Catholic while openly disagreeing with the teachings of the Apostles’ successors? Protestantism today displays the visible scars of this individualistic approach whereby essentially theology and dogma are moulded around individual convictions. If you don’t like an interpretation of a particular section of scripture, then simply move to another Church until you hear a homily that you agree with.

Unfortunately Catholics are not immune to this phenomenon of adapting God and theology to our own needs and desires. If we don’t like a particular teaching of the Church, then we may simply chose to ignore it, or worse still openly object to it, while still maintaining that we are ‘Catholic’. Who am I to disagree with the Magesterium of the Holy Catholic Church? Is there a chance that some of the teachings of the Church will challenge me both intellectually and spiritually? Of course. May I have to spend significant amounts of time in prayer trying to understand a particular doctrine? Of course. But what I do not have any right to do is declare Church doctrines as errant – to struggle with doctrine is one thing, but to declare it false is another.

The Holy Catholic Church does not pretend to be a democratic institution in which theology is determined by the majority of believers.  Truth is NOT determined by a majority, but by a simple minority of ONE, the GREAT I AM, OUR CREATOR AND LORD!!!!  OUR JUDGE AND GOD!!!!  JESUS CHRIST, TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN!!!!  The Author and Protagonist of ALL TRUTH!!!!  Truth does NOT fit neatly into sound bites!!!  Life is NOT that simple!!!  Neither are we nor should we be!!  At the head of the Church is Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit was sent to guide the Apostles (not you or I) and their successors into all truth. Do we really expect that the way of God would not challenge us? Do we really expect the way of God to be susceptible to societal changes of opinion?

Should we then simply blindly accept whatever the Church teaches? I’d hesitate to go that far. God gave us minds, hearts, wills, and intellect for a reason!!  Use them, rightly, to give Him honor, laud, glory, and praise!  Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!!!!   I believe that we are all called to faithfully examine our own beliefs and those of the Church. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are seriously doubting Church doctrine, then what should you do? Well here are a few suggestions that have helped me in the past:

  1. Make sure you know what the Church actually teaches. I can’t remember the amount of times that I read a ‘belief’ of the Catholic Church, or had people question me about so called ‘beliefs’, and later discovered that that Catholic Church doesn’t even teach these ‘beliefs’! Always check a teaching with the Catechism or your local parish priest. After all, you may find that you have spent precious time doubting something that the Church of Jesus Christ has never even believed. Papal infallibility can seem off putting when you falsely assume that the Church believes that Popes are born without sin and are actually incapable of sinning throughout the lives. The concept becomes much easier to digest when you understand what the Church actually believes.
  2. Spend time reading around the topic/belief you’re struggling with, and try to understand the origin of the Church’s belief (e.g. scriptural verses) and the implications of the belief. Merely being able to recite the Church’s teaching on contraception doesn’t mean that you will automatically find yourself agreeing with it. Spending time learning what the church believes about the marital act and studying Humanae Vitae will, however, help to understand the Church’s teaching.  It is beautiful.
  3. Pray about the issue. The God of the Universe, of Heaven and Earth, of Time and Space is eager to help you understand His Truths.  Don’t ignore Him.  He will give you ALL you truly need.  Knock.  Seek.  Find.  Have it opened unto you.  O ye of little faith!!!!  Don’t be afraid to tell God that you really don’t understand something, and that you actually find some beliefs incredulous. I’ve always found it really helpful to ask the Saints to intercede on my behalf and join their prayers with mine when I’m going through periods of doubt.  AMEN!!!!  AMEN!!!  AMEN!!!!!

The above list isn’t meant to serve as an infallible guide to resolving all our spiritual doubts and needs, but I’m offering advice from my own personal experience of doubting the beliefs of the Church. Interestingly enough, I can honestly say that I’ve always managed to become fully reconciled with the teachings of the Church. Of course some teachings have been more difficult than others to agree with, but through the grace of God I’ve always been moved to a point of complete communion with the body of Christ.

So the next time we hear the words “Unam, sanctam, catholicam” at Mass, let us spend a minute to dwell on their implications, and may we remember that there is only one church of Jesus Christ, and that church is not answerable to you or I, but is headed by Jesus Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit.”

cafeteria_catholicism

Pray Psalms 135, 136.

ALL I want, in this life, or the next, is MY JESUS!!!

Love,
Matthew

Growing in holiness…struggling with the Church, growing closer to Him

jesusteacher

If you are a faithful follower of Jesus Christ you will suffer.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  It is it’s definition.  Jn 15:20.  Do you dare accept the terrorizing challenge of baptism?  Do you?  Have you? :/

If you are growing closer to the cross, imho, and fews saints’ opinions, you are doing something right.  The point is not suffering in itself, for its own sake.  That would be a symptom of less emotional health than desirable.  Suffering is a consequence of the Truth in this world, doing the work of the Master, and growing closer to Him in all things, holiness and the crucifixion, being united to Jesus Christ in ALL things.  His love is so great, His conquest so complete, His power so redound, suffering can become joy, for the sake of the beloved, i.e. a parent for their child, in earthly terms, as a practical example, but His goes so far beyond that.

How does the old joke go?  If you want to lose your faith, go to work for the Church?  🙂  Get over your being scandalized, quickly.  Get on with it.  There are lives and souls to be saved.  For me, there is endless comfort in the Gospels, not only in the words of the Lord, but especially in the antics, hi-jinks, lo-jinks, pure and plain sinfulness of the Apostles.  Goofballs.  What a bunch of Keystone Cops!!!?  Endless comfort.  Humans do not change much in history, do they?  Blessed be the God Who saves us, from ourselves, especially!!!  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you.  Don’t need a Redeemer?  Really?  I do.  I most certainly do.  Praise Him!!!

I relate distinctly with Lauren’s experience, though maybe not in the details, and heartily endorse her prescription.

Ask questions –  it’s the thing I like most about being Catholic.  Never listen to anyone who says Catholics are not supposed to ask questions.  They don’t know what they are talking about and are therefore a bad source.  Asking questions will get you crucified, undoubtedly, but here we have no lasting city.  Heb 13:14.

Find reliables sources – the world is replete with stupidity and ignorance.  Keep pushing.  Find your reliable, faithful, holy resources for those endless questions.  Find good teachers.  Those who can speak to you in the way you can most easily relate.  It is your right, your are entitled to good, relevant, understandable answers as a child of God.  You are.  It just is so.   The Church, as one may hope and pray, has excellent answers.  The Church’s ability to communicate those into digestable, everyday, everyperson answers needs a lot of work.  I kind of think/hope that is the point of the New Evangelization.  Let’s pray.

Pray – Amen!  Jn 15:5.  Prayer is life and breath for the Christian.  ‘Nuff said.  There is a story regarding Mother Teresa and the enthusiastic young women who would come to her, ready to save the world and deal with the worst of the worst of human suffering.  Mother would say to them, “Come and pray.”  They would respond, “But, Mother, there is so much to do.  Let’s get started!!”  Mother would patiently, calmly repeat, “Come and pray.”  Her postulants would insist, persist in wanting action.  Mother would calmly, patiently, repeat “Come and pray.”  Mother finally said to them, “If you don’t pray, you won’t last.”  Wise words for all of us.  Amen.  Amen.  Be creative in your prayer.  Do what works for you, that good spiritual wisdom would advise.  Give Him glory, honor, and praise always in ALL ways!!!  As you can probably tell, blogging and reading are forms of prayer for me.  I also enjoy quiet meditation and reflection, as well as the many other forms of prayer the Church recommends.

Persist!!!!  Be TUFF!!!  No louts, no wimps in Heaven!!!! Rev 7:14 – pray for the grace of final perseverance.  Struggle, fight, work, not that our efforts have any primary merit whatsoever, but out of sheer joy and gratitude for God’s amazing grace and love, we respond, in response to that gift of unmerited grace, in utter, sheer joy, with every gift God has given us in praise of Him and to His glory.  We work, we shout, we rejoice, we suffer, we proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified with ALL we have!  1 Cor 2:2.

laurenmeyers

-by Lauren Meyers

“I would like to say that my faith is uncomplicated — to say that I accept and embrace every teaching of our Church with a gleeful smile and without a shred of doubt. There was probably a time when this was the case; maybe in my later teens or early twenties, when the love that I had for the Lord and the excitement and novelty of living in such a counter cultural way filled me with zeal and a promise that the world could be changed and could be a better place.

Ten years later, I still love the Lord, I still desire to draw close to Jesus, and I still have hope and joy, I still love the Catholic Church, but it’s not as easy as it once was. It was easier to accept the Church’s teaching on contraception before I was married and had to face that temptation. It was easier to go to Mass when I was in college and had more free time than I ever realized. It was easier to trust the Magisterium before I read beyond John Paul II and into history, and it was easier to hope before I had experienced any significant, personal loss. Over time, I have grappled with the Church and with God, and in that struggle I have found that there are a few ways to enter into that interior conflict and emerge closer to Jesus and His Church.

Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions. The greater threat to our faith is not that we ask difficult questions, but that we become too indifferent to even consider them. Ask questions. St. Augustine was correct when he said that, “The truth it like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” Take time. Ask questions. Seek truth, because the Truth can handle it.

Seek reliable counsel and documents. I hate to say it, but I really like “sound bite” information. I’m not one for reading long books or encyclicals, and so this is a difficult thing for me, but it is essential. When we are able to ask those difficult questions about the Eucharist, about morality, about the clergy, the sacraments, the abuses, or anything else, we have to seek out real and reliable information and anwers. Seek the advice and guidance of a few, diverse people. Ask for answers from individuals without twisted agendas, who are more experienced and more knowledgable, and who can give new insights. Ask for books, articles, encyclicals, and scripture commentary to delve into. It will take time, and that’s OK. You can’t cover thousads of years of history, theology, and philosophy in a sound bite.

Pray. Whenever I’m strugging with the Church’s teaching on something, I always remember playing that childhood hide and seek game. The one where someone had hidden something and, as you search, they tell you if you’re getting “hot” or “cold” on your search. That’s sort of the prayer that I pray as I am questioning and seeking. Lord, open my heart to your truth. Is this leading me toward peace? Am I being motivated by selfishness or by sincerity? Am I seeking Your Truth or my own will? Lord, reveal Yourself to me in this search. When we seek God, we ought to ask for His guidance. Take time to pray, to ask the Lord to guide your steps. He isn’t trying to hide from us, He wants us to find Him and He can help us, if we ask.

Do not give up and do not let go. This is so difficult, because it’s the easiest thing to do. It is so easy to tire and become indifferent in the journey toward Truth, and I feel like indifference has just made a cozy little home in this place called relativism. So many times I have thought it would just be easier to forget about seeking truth and instead, to do whatever I think feels right. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Is there objective moral truth? Do our private choices have communal ramifications? Does what I believe really matter? All of these questions demand real thought, and work, and change within ourselves. And although giving up on it all and choosing indifference and relativism seems like the easy way out, I beg you, do not give up and do not let go.

First, do not give up the search for truth. Do not give up on these questions as though they were unanswerable. The answers may be hard to find, and we may seek those anwers for our lifetime, but that does not make the search meaningless. In fact, the search for Truth may be the most noble of pursuits that we can take up. Second, do not let go of Jesus and the Church. Leaving the Church, the community, and the sacraments is not the way to reconcile yourself with the teachings of the Church. Keep praying. Keep going to Mass. Keep serving the poor in the community. Keep receiving the Sacraments as your conscince allows. Seek the Lord in his Church. There are times of conflict and struggle in all of our relationships, but it is when we are faithful and steady and don’t give up that those relationships and shared love grow strong. Let your love for the Lord and his Church become strengthened and solidified in your struggles and questions. Stick with it, expect great things, and don’t be afraid.”

Love,
Matthew

“to live in loneliness…” – US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Obergefell v Hodges

longing

jordan zajac

-by Br Jordan Zajac, OP (prior to joining the Order, Br Jordan earned an MA at the University of Virginia and his PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, both in English Literature)

“In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, and reflecting on what that decision might hold for the future of the Church in America, I thought about reading Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” or a monograph on the persecutions of Catholics during the French Revolution. But instead, I picked up “Faith and the Future”, a thin volume containing five addresses given in 1969-1970 by a priest and professor named Joseph Ratzinger.

Those familiar with a better-known title published fifteen years later, The Ratzinger Report, can appreciate how well the man who would become Pope Benedict XVI has been able throughout his life to read the signs of the times and anticipate cultural and ecclesiastical shifts and trends that have since become clear for the rest of us. So I closely read and re-read the final pages of Faith and the Future, appreciating that our country was likely about to take another definitive step in the direction he foresaw Western society moving close to a half-century ago. When in 1970 Fr. Ratzinger considered the Church’s future, he envisioned that “terrific upheavals” in the secular world would result in a socially marginalized Church—a Church made small, but in her smallness, made stronger:

“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges…. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.”

I was bolstered by these words when I checked the news on the morning of Friday, June 26. Already the proponents celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision were heralding the final paragraph of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion. As I read that paragraph, there was one line in particular that gave me goosebumps (though not for the reason those praising it were getting them). Speaking about those with same-sex attraction, Justice Kennedy wrote,

“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”

To live in loneliness. Loneliness certainly catalyzes our search for companionship. We were made to find happiness in Another. Justice Kennedy recognizes this. The people he is writing in support of recognize this. But loneliness—especially fear of loneliness—can also cause us to compromise and confuse our true home with a false refuge. We coax ourselves into believing a certain desire or person will make us happy, when by happiness all we really mean is distraction from our deeper, existential loneliness—an interior emptiness that’s frightening to confront.  (Fact: people would rather endure electric shock than be alone with their thoughts.  Jul 3 2014.)

Kennedy perceives the malady at work, but misidentifies the cure. I got goosebumps because Fr. Ratzinger identifies precisely the same affliction and even frames his discussion in the same terms: loneliness, hope, and finding a home (Kennedy speaks of homemaking earlier in his opinion). Yet Fr. Ratzinger also understands how the Church alone can—and will—offer the true remedy for empty hearts. In his closing paragraphs he explains that when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally human-only engineered world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. (Ed. my experience on social media bespeaks of such.  I often find digital media socialites Orwellian double-speak of being “bored”.  This thinly veiled code means “lonely”.  Six billion people and you’re lonely?)

If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty.  (Ed. Heaven is often alternatively described as perfect union with God; hell as perfect separation.  God honors free will.   There is no actual love without free will. You will get what want, what you desire.  Careful what you wish for.  Mt 6:21) Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it [the Church] as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret…. [The Church] will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.

Loneliness serves a different function in Fr. Ratzinger’s final analysis. It has the potential to awaken in man his need not for another but for Another. The “totally human-only engineered world” is one in which individuals construct the edifice of their lives according to their own, subjective blueprints. The Master Craftsman goes unconsulted. The “horror of their poverty” is the existential angst described above, which refuses to be smothered or numbed by fleeting pleasures and arrangements made with false gods. Such pursuits may offer temporary housing, but they are not homes. As St. Thomas observes,

“Homes are not beautiful if they are empty. Things are beautiful by the presence of God.”

The men and women Justice Kennedy writes in support of have always been searching—and will continue to search—for a transcendent foundation and grounding for life; for a true home.

This court decision may seem to alleviate their burden, and the deep fear we all share of being alone. But no human institution, no human relationship, can, in and of itself, offer a true, lasting antidote to loneliness. It takes a divine relationship to do that. (Ed. Christians understand no material, no earthly thing, no person, no possession, no power, endures, and therefore all will, ultimately disappoint.  They must.  It is their nature.  Only Christ remains.  Mt 24:35)  And because it is a divinely inspired and sustained institution, the Church will endure all opposition—including the assaults of those who may someday benefit from the refuge only she can offer them.

All men hope to not be condemned to live in loneliness. That is why God sent His only Son; that is why Christ founded the Church.”

Ps 63

Love,
Matthew