Category Archives: Sacraments

Eucharist as idol

idols

I know what I am going to say is touchy. What isn’t these days except untruth which is universally palatable, but false, which is ostensibly why we like it so much. Lies are easier. Truth is hard.

I am musing on the concept of a fringe of Catholics who worship the Eucharist practically as an idol. It has no relation to them. It is so divine as to be totally, totally other. It goes far beyond reverence for the Real Presence. It is recognized when these Catholics USE the Eucharist as something to beat everyone else down who isn’t as holy as them or it. Feel me? To make others feel totally other.

I can find lots of non-Catholic critiques, but to say NO Catholic ever goes too far in the distance they put between their own sanctity and that of the Eucharist seems, at least, disingenuous to me, if not overly and falsely pious.

I revere the Blessed Sacrament, extremely. Sometimes, I encounter Catholics whose reverence for the Eucharist is so extreme, if that is possible, and while God dwells in unapproachable light, it seems to me moreso they are worshiping a thing rather than person? Feel me? Their reverence seems to lack the intimacy one may expect in having a personal relationship with Someone. God became man to become intimate. I just get this weird idolatry vibe from them.

I pray for myself and those Catholics who worship the Eucharist as idol rather than as personally intimate Savior, and who USE it to make others feel lesser. The Real Presence is a personal intimate relationship for me. Not a thing. Not a weapon. Not a reward. Medicine for we sinners. Not a thing, a person, with Whom I am in love. To make it too Divine is to separate man & God. A separation the Incarnation denies. It gets/got weird.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 7 – Our Lady of the Rosary & Victory & grace of & prayers for a happy death.

victories-2

O my Lord and Savior, support me in my last hour by the strong arms of Thy sacraments and the fragrance of thy consolations. Let Thy absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Thine own body be my food and Thy blood my sprinkling; and let Thy Mother Mary come to me, and my angel whisper peace to me, and Thy glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile on me, that in and through them all I may die as I desire to live, in Thy Church, in Thy faith, and in Thy love. Amen. Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman

O Dearest Lady, sweet Mother mine, watch the hour when my departing soul shall lose its hold on all earthly things, and stand unveiled in the presence of its Creator. Show thyself my tender Mother then, and offer to the Eternal Father the precious blood of thy Son Jesus for my poor soul, that it may, thus purified, be pleasing in His sight. Plead for thy poor child at the moment of his (or her) departure from this world, and say to the heavenly Father: Receive him (her) this day into Thy kingdom! Amen.

Through your help I hope to die a happy death. O my Mother I beg you, by the love you bear my God, to help me at all times, but especially at the last moment of my life. Do not leave me, I beseech you, until you see me safe in Heaven, blessing you and singing your mercies for all eternity. Amen, so I hope, so may it be.St Alphonsus Ligouri

Grant unto us, Lord Jesus, ever to follow the example of Thy holy Family, that in the hour of our death Thy glorious Virgin Mother together with blessed Joseph may come to meet us and we may be worthily received by Thee into everlasting dwellings: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Lord Jesus, pour into us the spirit of Thy love, that in the hour of our death we may be worthy to vanquish the enemy and attain unto the heavenly crown: Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that in the hour of our death we may be refreshed by Thy holy Sacraments and delivered from all guilt, and so deserve to be received with joy into the arms of Thy mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

hyacinth_grubb
-by Br Hyacinth Grub, OP

“It was not too long ago that I stood in a hospice center praying at the bedside of a friar in his final hours. At one point the social worker on duty came in to offer some surprising advice: leave him be. She told me that some people prefer to die alone, and that they’ll hold on until the room is empty. She described dying as “a wonderful expression of our autonomy.” Our society celebrates autonomy in all its forms, but this advice seemed particularly audacious. Especially because the limits of autonomy are most transparent at the end, when suffering and death strip away our illusions of ultimate power and self-determination.

It’s not that we don’t have a real power to choose, or that our will isn’t free, or that our choices are unimportant. Though, in a certain sense, the many choices we make throughout our lives on earth are really many acts of just one choice: the choice to pursue God or to pursue ourselves. We are continually deciding whether to worship God or ourselves, to follow His will or our own, and, ultimately, whether to accept His gift of Himself (heaven) or reject it (hell). In this way we are faced with the same choice that the angels had, but we decide it differently. For the angels are more noble beings, and when they were created they chose in a single act of the will. We, as men and women living in time and constrained by our physical natures, have to make this choice throughout our lives, in our daily acts. Our choice, and how each of our acts moved us toward it, will be the subject of our particular judgment.

Every act of ours is therefore a movement giving primacy to God’s will or to our own will. And in this sense it could be said that the most autonomous souls, the most independent, are those deepest in hell. Having chosen to reject every help, they have chosen instead to be utterly alone.

To speak of autonomy at someone’s deathbed is a futile grasp at a failing value. But what is proper to speak of, then? It’s not an academic question — we will all be there sooner or later. When we reach our end, facing a fate that seems to be a final defeat, what do we cling to? (For we should cling to something other than ourselves.) We should cling to our Savior and trust in His mercy.

We cling to Jesus and His Mother Mary, and especially to the lifeline that they have given to us in the rosary. Holding onto the rosary, we are pulled out of darkness and into light. Through the rosary we anchor ourselves in the mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection; in those chains of beads we are tangled up within His salvific love, we are bound to His divine life. There is a reason that Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Victory are two names for the same feast day. For in repeating the Hail Mary we repeat the names of Jesus and Mary, and we recall that in the Incarnation God “emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6) We ask Mary to pray for us, now and until the end. We ask her to be with us, and to not leave us to face the sting of death on our own. So that, remembering Christ’s victory over death, we can echo the bold words of St. Paul: “Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)

What better way to live and to die than in the rosary, in the continual repetition of those two holy and sweetest names of Jesus and Mary? What better way than by begging, again and again, for Mary’s intercession? So we stayed by our brother’s side in his final moments, praying the rosary when he could not. And in such a way may “the angels lead [us] into paradise,” may the martyrs receive us into the Holy City of our God, with the names of Jesus and Mary sounding in our ears and written on our heart.”

Love,
Matthew

The Limits of Ecumenical Dialogue

swedish-bishops
-Swedish Lutheran bishops

longnecker
-by Fr. Dwight Longeneckera former Evangelical Protestant, graduate of Bob Jones University, turned Anglican priest, turned Catholic priest.

“The ecumenical teams for Lutherans and Catholics have been hard at it and produced a new document on Church, Eucharist and Ministry called Declaration on the Way.

It’s all full of enthusiastic and optimistic language about how Lutherans and Catholics are all starting to agree after 500 years.

I hate to be a party pooper, but like the ecumenical talks with the Anglicans, it seems to me that we are further apart than ever before on some very key issues and that on these issues which are so divisive we are on ever widening tangents.

You remember Chesterton’s observation, “When two paths begin to diverge the gap between them always widens.”

The language of these ecumenical documents is always very elastic. The participants efforts to agree are laudable. We all want church unity, but too often they seem to be straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

In order to find “points of convergence” the dialogue masters find minor points of agreement, pump them up and then deflate the larger and more important points of disagreement that remain.

My other grumble about this sort of thing is that the language, in an attempt to be diplomatic and find points of agreement is invariably ambiguous, vague and deliberately confusing, and where it is not all this it is contradictory and illogical.

The attempts to find points of convergence must be balanced with a clear understanding of the truth. (Ed.  PLEASE!  PLEASE!  PLEASE!  DO NOT confuse consensus with Truth!  If everyone agrees, that does not make it TRUE!  And, if everyone disagrees that does not make it untrue!)  We must agree on the truth (not really, I take Fr Longnecker’s point here clearly, but as I just said, the Truth is the Truth,  More is not Better, often, Better is Better, always, whether we like it, dislike it, agree with it or not, hence the definition of the word Truth = Veritas,”Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.” Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen), not agree on some vague re-formulation of “belief statements.” (This is why classical Christianity has a CREED!!!!  Every syllable of which has had wars fought over it!!!  Every syllable of which has had much blood spilled over it!!  Perhaps I dramatize a little, but not THAT much!)

Here’s an example in a passage about women’s ordination for example. Fr Longnecker’s comments are in BOLD.

“Most Lutheran member churches of the LWF hold themselves free under the gospel to ordain women. Why is that? They see in this practice “a renewed understanding of the biblical witness” which reflects “the nature of the church as a sign of our reconciliation and unity in Christ through baptism across the divides of ethnicity, social status and gender” OK. They’re going to change the ordained ministry and admit women. (Lund Statement, § 40). At the same time, “it can be said that in general the Lutheran churches which have introduced the ordination of women do not intend a change of either the dogmatic understanding or the exercise of the ministerial office” (Ministry, § 25).OK We’ve changed the understanding of the ordained ministry but we do not intend to change the understanding of the ordained ministry. Significantly, churches in the LWF that do ordain women and those that do not have remained in communion with one another.

The Catholic Church does not consider itself as authorized to ordain women. Nevertheless, in The Ministry in the Church the international dialogue commission affirmed that the Catholic Church “is able to strive for a consensus on the nature and significance of the ministry without the different conceptions of the persons to be ordained fundamentally endangering such a consensus and its practical consequences for the growing unity of the church” (§ 25). This is gobbledegook. So the Catholics also want to have their cake and eat it. We are not going to ordain women but we think ordaining women doesn’t really matter. Really?”

Most worrying about this starry eyed optimism is the head in the sand attitude of those involved in the dialogue. Both the Catholics and Lutherans involved seem blind to the fact that most Lutherans don’t give two hoots about unity with the Catholics.

They’re like the Anglicans.

I can remember when I was an Anglican seminarian and found myself debating women’s ordination with a female theology student.

I said, “But women’s ordination will present a serious obstacle in the path to unity with Catholics.”

“Good God!” she exclaimed, “I don’t want to be a Catholic! What on earth do we want unity with them for?”

Whenever one of these documents from the ecumenicists came back to the Church of England General Synod it was invariably shot down–not by the Catholics, but by the Anglicans. When I was a priest in the Church of England the ARCIC folks came back all warm and fuzzy with a document about Eucharist, Ministry and Church. Oh, there was so much agreement! There were so many “points of convergence.” Then when it went to the CofE General Synod for approval it crashed and burned. Both the liberals who hate the Catholic Church for being so conservative and the Evangelicals who hate the Catholic Church for being Catholic shot it full of holes and it died a quiet and dignified death.

The worst thing about this document is the recommendation that Catholics and Lutherans perhaps should begin receiving communion together (Intercommunion, General Prohibition Concerning, Canon 844). “It suggests that the expansion of opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to receive Holy Communion together would be a sign of the agreements already reached and the distance traveled.”

When speaking about intercommunion I often say being in communion with the Catholic Church is like being married. You either are or you are not. If you are you can make love together if you are not you shouldn’t. To do so is either fornication or adultery.  (THINK about the word!!  INTERCOMMUNION, to be in UNION within!  As a visible sign!  Tangible act!  Finally, more than just WORDS!  VERY, VERY PUBLIC ACT & WITNESS!!!  And, there are now witnesses to your very, very public act and witness of affirmation of union within another denomination, affirming ALL THEY hold and believe to be True!!!  Now, answer the question whether you should receive outside your denomination?  Intercommune?  Are YOU, PLURAL, NOT SINGULAR!!!, as a member or your union, your denomination, in UNION?  Within?  Do you hold and believe to be True ALL this other union holds to be true?  Do you even understand ALL this other union holds to believe to be true?  This is the GRAVE & SOLEMN statement you give whenever you receive communion!!!  Whenever!!!!  Appreciate THIS the next time and every time thereafter you are in line to receive!!!!  LORD, MAKE ME WORTHY!!!!!  ONLY GOD CAN!!!)  🙂

To extend the analogy, for Lutherans and Catholics to start sharing communion before full unity has been achieved is a bit like saying, “Bob and Sally have had a wonderful vacation together, so they should wind up their fun time by jumping in the sack together.”

In other words, “Let’s celebrate full communion while we do not have full communion.”  (HERESY!!  HERESY!! HERESY!! “Hello?  Inquisition?  Come, right away!!  I’d like to report…”)

Once we cut through all the obfuscation, diplomatic double talk and intellectual mumbo jumbo that’s what it comes down to.
One final note: I can remember as an Anglican reading in the gospel that Christ called for their to be one flock and one shepherd.
I asked myself what I could do to help promote church unity and I realized that there was one, solid, sure and positive thing I, as one Christian, could do to bring about church unity.

I could become a Catholic.

So I did.”

Love,
Matthew

The Horror of Suffering

suffering1

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.   I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” -Philippians 3:7-11

All sin is a failure to be convinced of the Truth OR a failure of believing that it is true.

The consequences of sin are twofold, eternal and temporal. By sin a person incurs the guilt of offending God and loses God’s friendship and his right to the inheritance of eternal happiness. Absolution remits this guilt and loss. The second consequence of sin is chastisement, either here or hereafter, for violating God’s ordinances. This chastisement must be satisfied by penance here or atonement in purgatory. The penance that the priest gives in confession is imposed in the hope that with the proper disposition of the penitent it will satisfy for the temporal chastisement due for the sins confessed. The penance imposed may not, however, adequately satisfy for the chastisement due the sins; hence it is customary for penitents to voluntarily do various works of satisfaction for their sins, although absolved. The Church by its seasons and practices of penance reminds the faithful of the need of doing penance outside that imposed in the confessional.

-from Catholics Come Home, Sacrament of Reconciliation

1. Confession helps us to better “know thyself.”

St. Augustine and countless other saints and doctors of the Church talk about the importance of knowing ourselves well. Through coming to know ourselves better, we realized how fallen we are, and how badly we need God’s help and grace to get through life. Frequent Confession helps remind us to rely on God to help rid us of our sins.

2. Confession helps us overcome vice.

The grace we receive from the Sacrament of Confession helps us combat our faults and failings and break our habits of vice much more easily and expediently than we could otherwise do without the sacramental grace.

3. Confession brings us peace.

Guilt from the sins we commit can make us feel all mixed up inside and cause us to lose our peace and joy. When we hear God’s forgiving words to us from the lips of the priest in Confession, a burden is lifted off our shoulders and we can again feel the peace of heart and soul that comes from being in a good relationship with God.

4. Confession helps us become more saintly, more like Jesus.

Jesus was perfectly humble, perfectly generous, perfectly patient, perfectly loving—perfectly everything! Don’t you wish you could be as humble, generous, patient, and loving as Jesus? Saints throughout history have felt that way too, and they have frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help transform them into people who are more like Christ. Little images of Christ—that’s what saints are!

5. Confession makes our will stronger.

Every time we experience the Sacrament of Confession, God strengthens our will and our self-control to be able to resist the temptations that confront us in our lives. We become more resolute to follow God’s will and not our own whims.  His Grace Abounds!!!  I have experienced, benefited, and am sincerest witness to His merciful Love!!!  Ask, knock, seek for the strength to resist temptation, or to do any other holy work possible, YOU WILL RECEIVE IN SPADES!!!  A BOUNTIFUL HARVEST OF GRACES, OVERFLOWING, PACKED DOWN, SOLID.  MERCY!!!!  HAVE FAITH!!!  BE STRONG!!!!  BE NOT AFRAID!!!!  HIS LOVE ENDURES FOR AGES UPON AGES.  AMEN!!!!

suffering2

lg_cynthiastewart_v1

-by Cynthia Stewart

Suffering and evil are distinct and yet interrelated concepts in Catholic thinking. Ultimately, the fall of humanity is the cause of all suffering. Humans were created to exist in harmony with God, but instead they chose the path of disobedience, which brought suffering and death into the world. Catholics believe that while humans have the free choice to disobey, they can never find true joy and peace except in harmony with and obedience to God. As St. Augustine says so eloquently in his Confessions, “Our hearts find no rest until they rest in You.”

In the Catholic view, human action is not the only cause of suffering: while God as the source of all goodness can never act in a manner that is evil, God may send suffering to open the hearts of those who have refused to hear God’s call. In their pride and complacency, humans think that they need neither God nor the grace God offers, but tragedy, sorrow, and suffering can lead to transformation. Because this world is prelude and preparation for the afterlife, even a life filled with suffering is useful if it causes the person to turn to God and accept divine grace. This, Catholics believe, is a central fact of existence: that God uses everything, even suffering, to call people back to God.

The Catholic Church teaches that with their limited vision humans do not have the ability to see all the consequences of actions and events, and something they recognize as evil may also be the impetus for great good to occur: God is able to bring good even out of the evil that humans commit. When Catholics look at a troubled history that eventually led to a better situation, they recognize the hand of God drawing the whole process to a happy conclusion. In fact, this is the lesson of the felix culpa, the happy fault: human sin brought suffering into the world, but it also paved the way for God’s incarnation to occur. The evil remains evil, but the good that God causes to flow from it is greater still. According to St. Augustine, even this perception of good coming from evil is the result of a limited view: from the cosmic, eternal perspective of God, everything is ultimately good because God uses everything in the service of goodness.

Catholics distinguish between physical evil and moral evil. Physical evil is simply a lack of perfection: all of creation moves toward ultimate perfection in the coming kingdom of God, but nothing on earth yet achieves it. Moral evil is the greater issue, one that is all-pervasive in this world. It is moral evil to which the Church’s Catechism refers when it says, “There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil” (309). Yet moral evil, too, is simply a lack of perfection-in this case, perfection of the human will.

Just as God has not created a world of physical perfection, saving that for the coming kingdom, so too God has not created a world of moral perfection in which people do not have the ability to sin. St. Augustine explained that God is the source of everything that exists, and everything God created is good. Evil is the absence of good, so therefore it must not have real existence. It is instead a lack, the absence of good. God created humanity, Lucifer, and the rebellious angels as beings of goodness, but also endowed them with the freedom to choose their paths. They chose to turn away from the good, and in doing so their capacity for goodness was diminished. It is this lack, this diminishment, that is evil. Augustine’s formulation has proven to be the most influential understanding of evil in the western Christian tradition.

When they speak of evil, Catholics often make reference to Lucifer, or the devil, who is called the Father of Lies. Lucifer’s power lies solely in his ability to persuade humans to do his will, just as he persuaded the rebellious angels to follow him, and the result is just as disastrous. Lucifer is mirage and subterfuge, creating the illusion that following him will lead to happiness and light when all that will result is chaos and evil. He therefore causes evil, but only with the willing participation of humans utilizing their free will to choose diminishment of the good. He may be called the Evil One, but Catholic belief does not grant him the power to execute the evil he envisions. His power is very limited, his bid for predominance in heaven already thwarted, his final defeat already destined, just as the end of suffering and evil in the world to come is already destined.”

suffering3

O Lord,
You are the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
You do not grow faint or weary;
Your understanding is unsearchable.
You give power to the weak,
and strengthen the powerless.
Even the young will grow weary,
and will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for You
shall renew their strength,
and shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. Amen.
Adapted from Isaiah 40:28-31

Love,
Matthew

Help for non-Catholics & Catholics in understanding Catholic marriage…

catholic_marriage

-by Jacob Lupfer, a Methodist who admires the Catholic Church.

“Most people following this month’s Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome are aware that the specter of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion is the most controversial and difficult issue among many controversial issues being discussed.

I have followed reports from the Synod closely and have been very interested in Catholic perspectives on divorce, remarriage, and the sacraments. As a divorced and remarried person with an abiding respect for Catholicism, I suppose I am more interested than most. Few Protestants believe that remarried persons are unworthy to receive Communion. Many Protestants are wondering, “What’s the big deal?” A few have asked for help in understanding the debate. I hope to helpfully to offer some explanation here.

The puzzled Protestant must first consider Catholic teaching on marriage. For one thing, marriage is a sacrament (one of seven, whereas Protestants have only two – baptism and the Lord’s Supper). As an efficacious sign of grace, a man and a woman, after giving consent, mutually confer the sacrament upon one another in the presence of the Church. It is not the work of a priest or a church or a civil magistrate. And, following words attributed to Jesus himself, marriage is indissoluble: “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”

The next difference concerns divorce. Protestants typically assume that if a court grants a divorce, then the marriage no longer exists. In Catholicism, civil divorce is a mostly meaningless distinction. Church tribunals can grant annulments, which decree that the marriage was invalid. In recent generations, especially in territories like the U.S. where courts came to easily grant divorces, the standards for receiving an annulment have liberalized. (Though fewer U.S. Catholics are marrying, marrying in the Church, and seeking annulments.) Without an annulment, the Church considers the couple married as long as both spouses are still living. No action of a civil court can change that reality.

Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has complied some helpful data on marriage, divorce, and annulments.

Screen+Shot+2014-10-11+at+5.30.00+PM

Here is where it becomes complicated regarding Communion. A civilly remarried Catholic is, in the eyes of the Church, living in adulterous relationship. Every sex act with the new spouse is considered a mortal sin. Whereas Protestants came to accept subsequent marriages and stepfamilies without much trouble, the Catholic Church considers these situations “irregular” and maintains that without an annulment, the initial marriage remains intact. A civilly remarried Catholic could receive Communion if s/he is celibate. In Protestant churches, it would be virtually inconceivable for a pastor to confront remarried people about receiving Communion. But this gets to two more differences: fitness for receiving Communion and the nature of Communion itself.

In the United Methodist Church of my childhood, the minister invited everyone to the Lord’s Table, saying, “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith and take this holy sacrament to your comfort.” Over time, the language of intentionality was shortened and arguably watered down a bit. The most frequently used UMC Communion ritual now says, “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another…” Regardless of denomination, the invitation is relatively simple for Protestants: If you repent, you are welcome to partake. In true Protestant fashion, you are competent to determine for yourself your fitness to receive the sacrament. You and God know your heart. No priest or catechism is necessary to assist in that determination!

Not so in Catholicism. You cannot say, “Well, I am in good conscience, being happily and faithfully remarried.” Furthermore, if you receive Communion in a state of grave sin, you commit another grave sin.

A final significant difference between Protestants and Catholics on this question concerns the nature of Communion itself. Most Protestants suppose that the major Christian debates about Communion concern the frequency with which it is celebrated and the mode by which it is received. But this obscures a greater, more fundamental difference. For Protestants, Communion is a community meal, a moment of personal devotion, and a remembrance of Jesus himself. For Catholics, it is Jesus himself. Christians differ about how exactly Christ is present in the bread and wine. Liturgical Protestants hold that Communion is more than a remembrance. But for Catholics, through transsubstiantation, the elements become the actual body and blood of Christ.

With an arguably “higher” view of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Catholics take more seriously the idea that communicants must receive Him worthily. For the civilly remarried Catholic, this is apparently impossible without changes in Church doctrine.

In convening the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis deliberately sought a diversity of views. Some theologians, most prominently Cardinal Walter Kasper, have argued that civilly remarried Catholics be allowed to receive Communion. The most vocal opponents have been Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Raymond Burke. Their Eminences have engaged in a spirited and sometimes pointed public debate. Based on reports of the Synod’s first week, there seems to be an openness to pastoral innovation, but there is no sign that bishops want the Church to abandon its belief in the indissolubility of marriage.

Unsurprisingly, many lay Catholics have also weighed in on the question. Since Protestants will instinctively be sympathetic to the view that remarried people should be permitted to receive Communion, I will highlight two traditionalists. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has a characteristically thoughtful blog post that includes links to his other writings on this and related issues. In a provocative column, civilly remarried laywoman Louise Mensch states: “I am a divorced Catholic. And I’m sure it would be a mortal sin for me to take Communion.” Her perspective gives expression to the Church’s sense that Catholics in irregular relationships should attend Mass and remain part of parish communities even though they cannot receive Communion.

Protestants who wish to understand why it’s a big deal for Catholics to even debate the idea that remarried people can receive Communion, must bear in mind these vital differences:

  • Marriage as a sacrament vs. ‘merely’ a God-ordained union
  • Sacramental marriage vs. civil marriage
  • Annulments vs. divorce
  • Clerical/Church determination vs. individual determination of worthiness to receive Communion
  • “Real presence” as real presence vs. “Real presence” as holy mystery or ‘mere’ remembrance

Regardless of your position, Protestants should take note of the Synod’s consideration of how the Church can nurture marriage and family life. The challenges the pope hopes to address are not uniquely Catholic problems.”

Love,
Matthew

Objective True Meaning

objective Truth

“Objectivity is a central philosophical concept, related to reality and truth, which has been variously defined by sources. Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivity_(philosophy)

edwardnpeters

-by Edward Peters, JD, JCD, Ref. Sig. Ap.

“Rusty Reno has a fine essay over at First Things addressing the Kim Davis matter. I differ, however, with one paragraph therein. Reno writes: When the Supreme Court issued its decree, American civil law ceased to define marriage and instead became a law of civil unions, with the word “marriage” now having no real meaning. With that sort of reasoning, I might be able to wiggle my way toward signing licenses that say “marriage” but really mean “civil union.”

I wish the Supreme Court had only enshrined same-sex civil unions in law; such a ruling we might have lived with. But that is not what the Court did. Instead five justices imposed on marriage (true marriage, natural marriage, traditional marriage, whatever pleonastic phrase one wishes to use) the lie that marriage includes the union of two persons of the same sex. This judicially imposed lie is not a ‘little white lie’ that might allow one to hide a surprise birthday party, it is not a ‘public figure lie’ (half of which aren’t true in the first place), and it is not even a ‘planted lie’ designed to deceive military enemies or dangerous criminals. Instead, the Court has published a naked, gross falsehood that tears simultaneously at the fabric of law, language, family, and society.

The word marriage has, and will always have, an objectively true meaning—no matter how many times it has been degraded by sinful societies (usually by its legal institutions but more lately by its mass media) and by many recalcitrant individuals (including some religious leaders). Justice Kennedy’s atrocious prose in Obergefell can no more deprive marriage of its meaning than, say, Barney’s insipid theme song (“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family”) can deprive family of its meaning. Instead, Kennedy the Judge and Barney the Dinosaur teach something seriously false about marriage and family. But while Barney’s lyrics simply make one queasy, Kennedy’s words are now the pretext to throw people who do not accept his lie into jail.

The actual text of whatever document one is called upon to sign or certify is crucial to determining whether one may sign or certify it. I’ve not seen a Kentucky marriage license and so defer to those who have. But this much is certain: any document that declares two people of the same sex to be married, one may not sign or certify.

With that caveat in mind, again, I recommend reading Reno’s important essay.”

Love,
Matthew

There is no more “marriage” in the US, only “civil union”.

The_Myth_of_American_Religious_Freedom

Whither Freedom of Religion? So highly exalted while “proclaiming Liberty throughout the land”?

United States Constitution

Amendment I

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

R.R.+Reno+Picture

-by R. R. Reno

“I’m sympathetic to Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who has stopped signing marriage licenses. In her position, I’d do the same.

Her decision was straightforward, it seems. After Obergefell, the Supreme Court decision mandating a national right to same-sex marriage, Davis decided that she could not affix her signature to documents perpetuating the falsehood that husbands can have husbands and wives have wives. To do so would be to act in a way contrary to her conscience as formed by her Christian faith. With admirable consistency, she decided to stop signing marriage licenses altogether, not wanting to discriminate against gay couples.

One can judge Davis mistaken about the dictates of her conscience. Perhaps she is wrong about what Christianity teaches about marriage, as many liberal Christians argue. Perhaps she is mistaken about the implications of signing a marriage license. There might be a clever Jesuit who can convince us that her signature on same-sex marriage licenses should not have troubled her conscience.

One angle for the casuist: When the Supreme Court issued its decree, American civil law ceased to define marriage and instead became a law of civil unions, with the word “marriage” now having no real meaning. With that sort of reasoning, I might be able to wiggle my way toward signing licenses that say “marriage” but really mean “civil union.”

Whatever we might think of the moral or legal substance of the matter, however, we cannot claim Davis has misunderstood her situation. One of her duties as county clerk now asks Davis to do what her conscience tells her she must not do. The way forward is clear: She must obey her conscience. She must act, as she puts it, “under God’s authority.” That’s exactly right.

Many modern people have the wrong impression that conscience is active, impelling us to do things contrary to the law. This is not the tenor of Davis’ stance in Morehead, Kentucky. She is not issuing counter-opinions to refute Obergefell. Nor is she campaigning to get other county clerks to join her. There have been no press releases, no assertive shrill spirit of protest on her part. That’s the progressive mentality, which tries to upgrade its political ambitions with appeals to conscience. Instead, Davis simply won’t do what her conscience tells her she cannot do. She’s not acting contrary to the law; she’s not acting at all.

Some might say that her refusal to sign marriage licenses disqualifies her from holding her position as county clerk. She should resign or be removed. People are certainly entitled to that opinion. But Davis does not think she must resign. The county clerks in Kentucky are elected, so she can’t be fired. She could be impeached, but that’s for the legislators of the State of Kentucky to decide. And the citizens of Rowan County can vote against her in the next election. Conscience, properly exercised in civil disobedience that otherwise respects the law, isn’t always easy to dislodge.

I can imagine some harrumphing about the notion that Davis respects the law. After all, isn’t she refusing to act in accord with it?! I find this worry rather rich when expressed by progressives. For decades, elite colleges and universities run by progressives have made arrangements with local police that allow students to use drugs and drink while underage, free from the worry of arrest. These sorts of special arrangements, which are widespread in elite institutions, are not criticized for the obvious ways in which they undermine the rule of law.

Under the circumstances, Kim Davis poses little threat to the rule of law. Her actions have done nothing to prevent gay couples from getting marriage licenses throughout Kentucky. The couples that present themselves for her signature can easily go to the next county, as I’m sure heterosexual couples in Rowan County have done over the last two months. She’s not making grand public statements about a supposed right to dissent. She’s done nothing in the way of organizing resistance to Obergefell. No counter-revolution.

So why the furor? Because her refusal poses a symbolic threat to “marriage equality” and its claim to realize the high ideals of justice. One word of dissent, one act of conscience, disturbs the serene confidence of progressives that they have a monopoly on all that is right and good.

Neither you nor I nor Kim Davis have a “right” to follow our consciences. (Ed. as those red-faced, shouting, infuriated by her conscientious refusal insist she comply immediately in serving them have apparently, all this time?  Of all people that should be more sympathetic to Ms. Davis and her motives?  Whether or not they share the same motives?  Who have, of late, imitated her method?  How quickly memory fades in the shadow of self-interest.)  That’s silly. Our consciences do not wait upon the niceties of rights. I would not protest if higher authorities decided to remove Davis from her position. The law has a proper claim on public life, even if it does not have a final authority over our consciences.

Our legal and political system has no final authority over us, because there is a higher one. At times, one ought not to do what one is told to do. Kim Davis finds herself in just that sort of situation. Good for her. She’s doing something noble: quietly following the dictates of her conscience.”

Love,
Matthew

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony & AMAZING GRACE!!!

AMAZING-GRACE1

The President went from rainbow coloring the White House to singing Amazing Grace, all in the same day (6/26/15).  Wow.  Imho, that was quite the spiritual and intellectual contortion.  Let’s hope he has an analgesic for his soul and mind.  He’s gonna need it.

Unions, “marriages”, not in line with God’s commandments, limit, inhibit, mortally wound? their supply of sanctifying grace.  How, in the world, can hope remain?

-by Paul McLachlan (© 1997)
Thomas More Centre Winter School
St Leo’s College, Brisbane, UK
19 July 1997

“I have been asked today to tell you something about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. This is obviously because of my vast experience in this area, having been married for 3½ years so far, which by modern standards, appears to be quite a feat!

Marriage is a hot topic these days. Statistics tell us that a sizeable proportion of them are doomed to end in divorce, the majority of couples live together before they marry and about 10% of couples with children decide never to marry at all. And, we are told, Catholics are living together, divorcing and remarrying at about the same rates as the rest of the community.

Magazines, talk shows, pop psychology self-help books, even Catholic Marriage Preparation materials will all tell you everything you could want to know and more about the relationship of marriage, how to sustain it, how to improve it. You can get advice almost anywhere on how to get hitched, how to be enriched and when to ditch.

If you were to judge what marriage is and should be by reading the magazines or watching television or by talking to people on the street, you’d be led to believe that it’s a relationship founded on sexual compatibility and romance. If the sex goes bad or the romance dies, then the couple can walk away from the marriage. How do you work out whether you are sexually compatible. Well, of course, you try before you buy! You make sure you have a sufficient number of sexual partners (the prevailing wisdom is that the appropriate number is about 12) to work out what you like and what you don’t like so that when Mr or Ms Right comes along, you’ll know he or she is the one for you as soon as you sleep with him or her. You live together before you’re married, often before marriage is ever mentioned or contemplated, and often for several years before deciding to marry. You judge the strength of a marriage by how romantic it is: how often does he bring home flowers unexpectedly, how often do you go away for romantic weekends at luxury hotels, how often do you get breakfast in bed, how often does he tell you he loves you?

Marriage is no longer meant to stifle your individuality. Couples rewrite their vows to read something along the lines of: “I take you as an individual. I want to help you reach your full potential. I want to help you reach your own goals and dreams.” Children are a real dilemma. Do you have any at all? How much will they cost? Should we have just one or two? Children come after the mortgage has been paid off, after the trip to Europe, after studies are over and careers are firmly established. Then when they come, they’re treated as little more than accessories. Pay someone else to look after them during the week and complain about your lost freedom on the weekend.

Marriage is seen as a social construct built to protect sexual intercourse, or as a prison with woman chained to the sink and the children. The secularization of marriage so that it is merely a legal contract with attendant rights has led to demands that those rights be extended to those who live as though they were married, even homosexuals. These days, we define ourselves by our “sexuality” and our view of sex is warped by the omnipresent, omnipotent eroticism of the media.

Is it any wonder people are asking why they should get married in the first place? Who’d want to be?!

But, then, that’s what happens when you reduce marriage to just another human relationship, or worse still, an animal relationship. So, I’m not going to say another word about the relationship of marriage. Instead, I’m going to talk about Catholic Marriage, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. How is that different from the mere “relationship of marriage”? There are three things about a Catholic marriage that make it far more than just a relationship: it is a Sacrament, it is a Vocation and it is a path to Sanctity. Three things that we so often forget.

Path to sanctity

Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, repeats again for our modern ears the truth that each and every one of us is called to holiness, called to be a Saint. Saints are not meant to be isolated, rare individuals. You don’t have to be a monk and shave your head, or a contemplative nun to be a Saint. Every single one of us, no matter who we are or what we do is called to be “perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect”. That is what God expects from us! That is what we are called to strive for throughout our entire lives! So many of us are happy to live each day just getting by when it comes to God and our Faith. We go to Sunday Mass, we pray every once in a while. But “holiness”, “piety”, “sanctity” … no thanks, too hard, too different! Who wants to walk around with a halo on their head?!

There’s a tendency to think that holiness is for the Pope and priests and nuns who give up their lives for God, for people who lived in another age when there were kings and queens and crusades and inquisitions. People who have day jobs and are married with children just don’t have time for all that praying and helping the poor and smiling at everyone. You can’t wear sackcloth to work! Maybe this view has arisen because so many of the Church’s great Saints are priests and monks and nuns. But don’t forget all the married Saints as well. Our Patron Saint, St Thomas More was a married man. He died for his faith and for refusing to renounce allegiance to the Holy Father leaving behind a wife and several children…

Marriage should not be an obstacle to our growth in holiness.  (Ed. HARDLY!) The Church teaches very clearly that God gives us marriage as a way of becoming holy.

So, if you’re married, or think that’s what God has planned for you, there’s no excuse! You still have to be a Saint, and use your marriage as the means to that end, not as the excuse if you don’t make it!

Vocation

That leads me to my next point. One of the other things that makes Catholic marriage different is that it is a true Vocation.

Most of us tend to think that only Vocations to the priesthood or religious life are Vocations. That may be because the vast majority of people marry rather than live a life totally devoted to God. It may be because of the notoriety of the supposed shortage of Vocations to the priesthood in the Western World. It may be because the Church has always affirmed that a Vocation to Consecrated Virginity or Celibacy is more exalted than a Vocation to the married state.

Nevertheless, it is very clear that the Church teaches that God has a plan for each of us which He invites us to participate in. He created us, He knows us through and through, and He has a special role for each of us in this life. A select few, He calls to live lives devoted entirely to Him so that we can all have a foretaste of how He wants us all to live in entire union with Him in Heaven. Many others He calls to be married, so that we have someone to help and to help us reach Heaven, and so that we can beget even more Saints.

But, whatever we are called to be, it is clear that God is calling us to some particular state in life. Each of us must pray hard to discern what our Vocation in life is. And once we have discerned it, we must embrace it wholeheartedly.

OK, now how much more dignified does marriage seem already: it’s not just something you fall into: God calls you to be married, He wants you to be married, and He wants you to use your marriage as the way you become a Saint!

But hold on, I’ve left the big guns for last…

Sacrament

The most important thing about Catholic marriage, the thing that sets it apart from all other relationships, from civil marriage, from Jewish and Islamic marriages, is that Catholic marriages are sacramental.  (Ed. visible signs of grace!)…

We forget so often that marriage is a Sacrament. I suspect that it is so easily forgotten because none of us really understands what a Sacrament is!

So, maybe it’s worthwhile going back to basics to look at just what a Sacrament is. First of all, though, we need to understand what Grace is.  (Ed.  ALL is grace!!!)

“Grace is nothing else but a certain beginning of glory in us.”  St. Thomas Aquinas

“God gives each one of us sufficient grace ever to know His holy will, and to do it fully.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6 

There are three types of Grace: Sanctifying Grace, Sacramental Grace and Actual Grace. We receive Sanctifying Grace at our Baptism. We lose it completely when we commit a mortal sin. It is the presence of Sanctifying Grace in the soul that we refer to when we say we are in a State of Grace. We need Sanctifying Grace to be saved, to make it to Heaven, even if we have to take the “scenic route” through Purgatory on the way. If we are in a state of mortal sin after Baptism, then the Sacrament of Penance restores sanctifying grace to our souls. The worthy reception of all the other Sacraments, including the Sacrament of Penance when we are not in a state of mortal sin, increases sanctifying grace in our souls. Each Sacrament also imparts a special Sacramental Grace to us. This is a special Grace that is different for each Sacrament. Actual Grace is the grace that God gives us when we call on Him to help us, to give us strength not to sin.

A “Sacrament” then, is an effective sign which imparts Grace instituted by Christ. It is a channel between our souls and the graces poured forth by Our Lord on the Cross. It infuses the soul with God’s Grace.

And so, that is what is so incredible about Catholic Marriage, what makes it more than a mere relationship. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, not only do you receive an abundance of Sanctifying Grace, but you receive a special Sacramental Grace which elevates the natural order of Marriage and perfects it giving you the right, as a gift from God, to receive from Him whatever Actual Graces you need throughout your married life to live the Sacrament in the way God intended.

When we say that we take our spouse, “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”, God is giving us the promise of His guaranteed assistance to cope with the sickness as easily as with the health, with the bad times as easily as with the good. People say to couples who have remained successfully married, “How did you do it?!”. People say to Mothers who have had 10 children, “How on earth did you cope?!”. People say to spouses who have forgiven the serious failings of the other: “How could you forgive?!”. The answer is very simple: “Through the Grace of God!”.  (Ed. AMEN!!! -Mary D. McCormick & all other mothers!  The hardest job in the world!)

Pope Pius XI in his landmark encyclical on Christian Marriage, Casti Connubii, in 1930 wrote:

“By the very fact, therefore, that the faithful with sincere mind give such consent, they open for themselves a treasure of Sacramental Grace from which they draw supernatural power for the fulfilling of their rights and duties faithfully, holily, perseveringly even unto death. Hence this sacrament not only increases Sanctifying Grace, the permanent principle of the supernatural life, in those who … place no obstacle in its way, but also adds particular gifts, dispositions, seeds of grace, by elevating and perfecting the natural powers. By these gifts the parties are assisted not only in understanding, but in knowing intimately, in adhering to firmly, in willing effectively, and in successfully putting into practice those things which pertain to the married state, its aims and duties, giving them the fine right to the actual assistance of grace itself, whensoever they may need it for the fulfilling of the duties of their state.”

These days, the Wedding is so often a time of fear, uncertainty, and even secret pessimism for the couple. Couples sign pre-nuptial agreements in case it doesn’t work, in case they fall out of love, in case they can’t cope. But, Christians have infused in their souls since Baptism the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Their pre-nuptial agreement is the common Faith that God will give them all the assistance they need, the Hope that they will never reject His assistance, and the Love of God and of each other that will make their home a piece of heaven on Earth.

But, marriages do fail. Catholics do get divorced. Catholic husbands and wives commit adultery. Catholic couples do reject children in their marriages. That is because, however abundantly it is poured out for us, Grace cannot override our Free Will (more’s the pity!). We must respond to God’s Grace, we must choose to accept it, to call on it. We must not place obstacles in the way of His Grace. That means we have to try and live our Sacrament every day in a way that doesn’t hamper God’s assistance or Graces. More about how to do that in a minute…

The Church teaches that the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders impart a “character”. In other words, they place an indelible mark on our souls. While we can’t see it yet, it shines forth in the supernatural realm. That is why these Sacraments can only be received once. Holy Matrimony does not impart a character, instead it creates an indissoluble bond between the couple which is only broken by the death of one of the spouses. St Paul has taught from the very beginning that this bond is a great mystery because it is the same bond which unites Christ to His Bride, the Catholic Church. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St Paul says: “Wives be subject to your husbands as the Church is subject to Christ. Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church!” What an incredible responsibility! To love one another as much as Christ loves His Church! Each and every Christian marriage lived to its potential is a concrete sign to the world of the love Christ has for the Church, for the obedience the Church owes to Her Lord, to His promise to be with Her always even until the end of time.

Is it any wonder then that alone among all the religions and faiths of the world, alone among all the Christian Churches, the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church proclaims today with as much force as ever that Sacramental Marriage is indissoluble, that only those marriages that are judged never to have existed in the first place because of some defect or impediment can be dissolved?!

We are not called to love until the love dies, we are not called to stay together until the children are grown, we are not called to stick around only until the sex gets boring or our individuality is repressed: we are called to be a living witness of the love of Christ for His Church and the unbreakable bond between them.

And it is because of that unbreakable bond which is created by the Sacrament that many have compared the Sacrament to those Sacraments that impart a character, that consecrate us: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. Again, Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii wrote:

“If, however, doing all that lies within their power, they cooperate diligently, they will be able with ease to bear the burdens of their state and to fulfill their duties. By such a sacrament they will be strengthened, sanctified, and in a manner, consecrated. For, as St Augustine teaches, just as by Baptism and Holy Orders a person is set aside and assisted, either for the duties of Christian life or for priestly office and is never deprived of their sacramental aid, almost in the same way (but not by a sacramental character) the faithful once joined by marriage ties can never be deprived of the help and binding force of the sacrament.”

God understands that it is not easy to live holy lives, it is not easy to sustain a lifelong relationship. All these things take sacrifice and effort. But, thankfully, He never leaves us to our own resources. He gives us the Graces throughout our entire married lives to carry whatever crosses He sends our way. He never asks us to do the impossible.

That is a privilege that comes about through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, as a special privilege for having accepted God’s call to live the married life. That mere fact alone is enough to show you how different Sacramental marriage is from any other form of relationship.

You have no right to call on God’s grace simply because you have contracted a civil marriage. You have no right to call on God’s grace because you’re in a de facto relationship. But, you have the incredible right to call on the Grace of God to help you through all that life throws at you because you are sacramentally married.

In Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI also recalled how St Robert Bellarmine had likened the Sacrament of Marriage to the Blessed Sacrament. He says:

“Let them constantly keep in mind that they have been consecrated and strengthened for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament, the efficacious power of which, although it does not impress a character, is undying. To this purpose we may ponder over the words full of real comfort of holy Cardinal St Robert Bellarmine, SJ, who with other well-known theologians with deep conviction thus expresses himself. ‘The sacrament of Matrimony can be regarded in two ways: first in the making and then in its permanent state. For it is a sacrament like to that of the Eucharist, which not only while it is being conferred, but also while it remains, is a sacrament; for as long as the married parties are alive, so long is their union a sacrament of Christ and His Church.”

How, then do we live our marriages so as to reap the benefits of the Sacrament and please God? St Augustine teaches that there are three “blessings” of marriage, or in Natural Law terms, three “goods”: fecundity, fidelity and indissolubility. These three goods apply to all true marriages, even marriages that are not sacramental. The Church also teaches that marriage has two main purposes: the more important is procreation, the begetting and education of Children, raising them to worship God; the second, is the consortium vitae, the companionship and union of married love.

To live our marriages in a way pleasing to God, to take full advantage of the graces He offers and not put obstacles in their way, we must always respect these blessings and ends of marriage. Without going into much detail, because they are topics in and of themselves:

  1. We must respect the blessing of fecundity in marriage: entering marriage with the intention of never having children is a grave wrong and more than likely grounds for an annulment because you aren’t consenting to be married at all; blocking God out of your fertility, using technology to control it, limiting family size without serious reason are all attacks on the blessing of fecundity, contrary to God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply”, contrary to the generous love we are called to live every day, contrary to the faith and trust God wants us to have in Him. The atrocity of procured abortion is a direct attack on the fecundity of marriage. Resorting to technology for the conception of children, as Pope Paul VI terms it in Humanae Vitae, deliberately removing the unitive purpose of sexual intercourse, attacks the good of fecundity.
  2. We must respect the blessing of fidelity in marriage, we must fulfil the purpose of a communion of mutual benefit, the consortium vitae. Adultery obviously attacks this, but so does “adultery of the eyes and the heart”. Contraception and premarital sex in their own ways also attack the blessing of fidelity because they muddy our vision of sexual intercourse. Instead of a truly holy act, when each spouse says to the other, I love you with my whole self, I give you my whole self, they are led to treat sex as a means solely of deriving personal pleasure, to treat each other as objects of gratification rather than to give themselves as subjects of love. Doing the dishes strengthens the blessing of fidelity, holding each other while you watch the children sleep strengthens the blessing of fidelity, the million and one ways of saying I love you, I am yours, we are one in flesh and mind all strengthen the blessing of fidelity.
  3. And finally, we must respect the blessing of indissolubility. We must not treat marriage as a transitory thing, temporary or impermanent.

Apostolate

And it doesn’t stop there! The Church is calling married couples more than ever to change the world, to evangelize. The Second Vatican Council in its decree Apostolicam Actuositam said that the witness of Catholic couples faithfully living their marriages according to God’s will, their witness to the indissolubility of marriage, is part of the most important aspect of the apostolate of the laity. We have to be out there as shining examples of the truth about marriage.

The Holy Father also exhorts married couples in Familiaris Consortio to be the primary force in the Apostolate to married couples, teaching other married couples the value of the Church’s teaching on the family, sexuality, on birth control, on marriage itself.

We can’t sit and wait for our priests to give homilies on these things. The last 30 years have shown that they won’t! We have to live by example, we have to take advantage of the opportunities to witness to other couples, particularly those preparing for marriage. And most importantly, we have to raise our children well. Sadly, Catholic schools seem to do more to undo a child’s Faith than they do to foster it these days. We have to ground our children in the Faith so that they too are examples throughout their lives. It’s no small task, but with the Grace of God and a love of His Church, we’re up to it!

And the first step to take in restoring the esteem and value of marriage for Catholics is to restore the high esteem that celibacy and virginity previously held in the Church. Pope John Paul says in Familiaris Consortio, explaining the Church’s teaching that celibacy or virginity is preferable to marriage, that the truth of this can only be understood when marriage is also highly valued. Because if you value marriage, how much more do you respect those who have given up that great blessing for the love of God and the sake of His Kingdom?

How to get hitched

Well, hopefully by now, I’ve completely sold you on Marriage and all of you who think that that is your Vocation are going to set about finding a partner with great zeal! But, where do you look? How do you find someone?!

Well, again, you’re not going to get far if you follow the advice they give on radio talk shows or in Cosmo, if you ring the psychic hotline and ask “Is he the one?”. It’s no secret that compatibility and communication are the buzzwords for a successful relationship (even if Grace is the buzzword for a successful marriage!). I’ll assume that God and your Catholic Faith are the most important things in your lives: not your studies, or your careers or your material worth. If God and your Catholic Faith are not the most important things in your lives, then why on earth not?!

If your life is Christ-centred and faith filled, you should be out their looking for someone else who is Christ-centred and faith filled, someone who will understand your faith, who will understand why you love God so much because they do too, someone who you’re not going to have to fight with to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church and bring your children up in the Faith.

They’re scarce as hens teeth, I know! But, look, there’s a room full of people here who probably fit that description, most of them single! Nightclubs are not where you’re going to find a wife or a husband! Work is not where you’re likely to find one either. It’s at Mass, in Catholic Groups and Associations (and I mean, capital C Catholic, not your average youth group or Catholic singles group which tend to be anything but).

And you have to pray! Monique and I found each other on our knees, literally! She prayed, as young women do, to St Joseph on his feast day that he would find her a good Catholic husband. Her parents nabbed me because they saw me praying the Rosary all the time after Mass. Before long, we were praying the Rosary together, and then, angels started whispering things in our ears about how God wanted us to be together.

So, there you go! Talk to each other at Mass! Be brave, go out with people you meet at Church. There are over a billion Catholics in the world! Chances are God has at least one of them in mind for you!!

So, go find them, get married, “be fruitful and multiply” and hopefully, one day, we’ll be singing together in the Heavenly Choir rubbing shoulders with all God’s other married Saints!”

Love,
Matthew

In persona Christi Capitis…

in-persona-christi

Q.   What does “in persona Christi” mean?   Must a priest, when hearing the sacrament of reconciliation, be a native speaker in the language of the penitent for the sacrament to be efficacious?

Fr.-John8-2-14bartunek, lc

-by Rev John Bartunek, LC

“Yes, the validly ordained priest acts in persona Christi when he celebrates the sacraments. That phrase is Latin for “in the person of Christ.” The full theological phrase is actually in persona Christi Capitis, which translates “in the person of Christ the head” – meaning the head of the Church. Let’s begin by simply recalling what the Catechism explains about the meaning of this reality, and then we can attempt to answer your question:

In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ Himself Who is present to His Church as Head of His Body, Shepherd of His flock, High Priest of the Redemptive Sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis… Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers… (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraphs 1548, 1549)

In other words, through ordination a priest is united to Christ in a special way so that all the Catholic faithful can be guaranteed objective access to God’s grace through the priest’s ministry. In a sense, God chooses to continue the mystery of the Incarnation through the sacrament of the priesthood. By the incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity, God ministered to the world inside time and space, by means of Christ’s human nature. Jesus continues that ministry now through the human nature of the priest. In this choice, God shows that he yearns to meet us where we are, to enter into a real relationship with us, to redeem our human nature through his grace, not to get rid of or substitute for that human nature. He respects the human nature that He has given us, and reaches out to us through the continual mediation of that human nature, including the human nature of ordained ministers.

PriestHeader

Priests vs. Zombies

And yet, God doesn’t take over the human nature of the priest. He doesn’t possess it in such a way that the priest’s own personality and consciousness are suspended. If He did, then the priest would simply be a kind of robot or zombie, an inanimate channel of God’s grace rather than a true partner of Christ and a conscious, free sharer in Christ’s mission.  (Ed. there is no authentic love without free will, even God recognizes this, and does so primarily) God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t override our human nature. Instead, He calls and chooses every Christian to enter into a relationship with Him, and those who accept the call become partners in God’s work of salvation. The New Testament calls this, among other things, becoming “co-workers in the truth” (3 John 1:8). God refuses to violate our freedom, but works through us, and in a sacramental way through His priests, respecting our freedom. This manifests His love and respect for us, as well as our dignity from being created in His image. The Catechism explains this in terms of the priest’s human weakness, which isn’t obliterated by the sacrament of Holy Orders:

‘This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church. (CCC 1550)’

The Priest’s Role in Confession

Now we are ready to answer your question. In the sacrament of reconciliation, God’s grace reaches us through the priest no matter what, as long as the matter and form of the sacrament are respected, regardless of the wisdom, attention, or comprehension of the priest. Of course, the more responsibly a priest engages in this ministry, the more helpful will be his mediation. His advice and his manner can contribute to or detract from the penitent’s experience of God in the sacrament, but they don’t increase or decrease the sacramental grace itself. And so, even if you confess to a priest who doesn’t know your language, as long as you can understand the penance that he gives you the sacrament is still valid. Christ’s grace reaches you through the priest who is acting in persona Christi. But Christ’s grace doesn’t override the priest’s human nature and limitations (like language), rather it works mysteriously through them.

I hope this helps answer your question, at least a little bit. God bless you!”

Pope Francis - persona Christi

Love,
Matthew

mint, dill, cumin, gnats…

“Learn to do thy part and leave the rest to heaven.” -Bl. John Henry Newman

Mt 23:23-24

-from the New St Thomas Institute blog:

May 29, 2015 at 10:07 pm #12091
dominicanshield
Caleb Payne
Member
“I need some help. 1st, I’m tired of being scandalized. 2nd, I’m not sure I completely understand why there is an apparent disconnect between Catholic belief and Catholic practice, especially in the liturgy. Maybe I’m missing something, someone help.

I’ll make the story short. Three teens from our parish driving on the highway, freak accident, two dead, one in hospital. Tragic, very tragic. Two were in my confirmation class. One was just baptized, confirmed, and received into the Church after a year of RCIA. Funeral Mass. Huge, never seen the church so packed. Many high school students. Liturgy begins. It is apparent that most there do not know what to do, so priest gives brief directions (i.e. kneel, stand, etc.). Liturgy of the Eucharist. Communion. I begin to notice that many people are going up. Many are standing in front of the Eucharistic ministers grabbing the hosts, nibbling on them, spitting them out, shrugging their shoulders…they clearly have no clue what they are doing. I also notice that some large groups do not go forward, even after the ushers pass them, so then the ushers go up to them and prompt them to please go forward to receive Communion. To make a long story short the majority of the people went up for Communion, but it was clear that the majority of people there were not Catholic. I was very saddened by this. The teen we celebrated waited one year until she was Baptized, Confirmed and received her first Communion, and yet here the message was any one can go forward. To top it off, my daughter, who was altar serving, says to my wife that she could tell many clearly did not know what they were doing and even related one incident in which someone asked the deacon, “what am I supposed to do with this?” and He just replied, “Eat it.”

So very concerned, I approached our priest this morning after Mass. I acknowledged how tragic the deaths were, and then I asked him this question, “could we possibly say during the next funeral Mass (which was this afternoon for the second teen who had died and was just as big), ‘now those who are Catholic may come forward for Holy Communion’?” He of course understood what I referring to, but said that he does not feel anything should be said. He said he has heard both extremes, priests clearly saying anyone is welcome…which he acknowledged is wrong, and other priests saying things like I suggested but which he felt was too harsh. He said he didn’t want to write off my concern and said he would think about it, maybe possibly another avenue, but he was clear he would not say anything. So, long story short the same thing happened this afternoon. Pretty much anyone and everyone came forward for Communion (and there was maybe 800-1000 people there, half high school kids).

And the silence is killing me. The silence. And people are starving for Truth. But they are like clouds without rain.

And there have been omissions from the order of the Mass, portions which are supposed to be there are not sometimes. Maybe I don’t completely understand the rubrics. Omissions. In the liturgy, in the homilies. I mean a Gospel is read, and the main point of it is completely glossed over, or completely omitted in the homily.

Please pray.

Now my question: This is an issue that cannot be solved over night and a lot of people are probably going to have different opinions on how to go about it. But in a situation where it is clearly obvious that there is a significant portion of Mass attendees who are not Catholic, whose responsibility is it make sure they are informed on what they should or should not do? The priest? The deacon? The Eucharist ministers? The ushers? What should be done?”

May 29, 2015 at 10:38 pm #12092

fosterscott
Foster Scott
Member
“Ultimate responsibility in the parish falls on the parish priest. You should write to your bishop to let him know what’s going on. First recount the facts and only the facts. Then let him know why it bothers you that the priest denies people the information they need to know whether they are in a state of grace to take communion.

The Church is an army. The priests are its officers, and the laity must respect the office of the priests, just as Jesus told the people to respect the office of the Pharisees in his own day. Unfortunately, only a priest can directly solve the problem, but you can help by denying the Parish your money and tithing elsewhere, and by informing the Bishop. You also might consider attending a different Parish.”

May 30, 2015 at 12:16 am #12093
mattmp
Matthew M
Member
“Peace, Caleb. Peace. Let God be God. Refrain, as a healthy, holy mortification from straining anything less than a camel. Mt 23:24.”

May 30, 2015 at 9:35 am #12095
johnk
John K
Member
“Mathew I appreciate what you are saying, but I believe this is a huge camel. It shows great disrespect to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I don’t think God will hold those young people accountable, because they partook in ignorance, but I think the priest is endangering his own soul by treating the Eucharist in such a shoddy fashion. I would definitely go to the bishop. It’s not something to do out of anger but out of charity both for the priest and those partaking who shouldn’t be.”

May 30, 2015 at 10:08 am #12096
mattmp
Matthew M
Member
“John K, I appreciate what you are saying. I have learned the wisdom of beginning everything in life with, “YOU are God, and I am not!” It puts everything into perspective and right proportion, I have found, and informs me, I trust through the Holy Spirit, how much I should react and to what degree. I think the example presented is a time for welcome, compassion, and mercy, dear God hopefully not for a scene which leaves a bitter taste in the mouths, literally, of those so said ingnorati. I would let Jesus worry about who is worthy to receive and who receives worthily Himself. I, for my part, place my efforts at listening to Him ever more intently. “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.” 1 Sam 3:10.

I would caution, gently, about rushing to conclusion on the priest’s intention, motivation, or thought process with regards to this event, before sentencing. Even priests, in the real world, have to choose greater and lesser priorities. I doubt it ruins Jesus’ day. He’s God. Let God be God. Peace, blessings, and prayers, always.”

May 30, 2015 at 10:57 am #12097
johnk
John K
Member
“Mathew where are Mark and Luke?

I am not sentencing anyone. Nor do I think that explaining Holy Communion is meant only for Catholics needs to be done in a harsh or unkind manner.

I am not attempting to play God. I am simply going by what has been taught by sacred scripture, the tradition of the Church and by the magisterium. I am also pointing out that this is no light matter. The Blessed Eucharist is the holiest thing in the world. St. Paul warns about receiving the Eucharist in an unworthy manner, going so far as to say they eat and drink damnation to themselves.

As I said above, I don’t believe God is going to condemn people who partake unknowingly. However it is clearly a major responsibility of a priest to try to prevent people from receiving unworthily. For example, if there were a person who was excommunicated for teaching heresy and refusing to submit to the Church’s teaching, a priest who saw him approach to receive the Eucharist, would be obligated to refuse him.

The Eucharist is holy. There’s clear Church teaching on who can and cannot receive. This is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Son of God. It is to be treated with the utmost respect and administered properly, not just given to people who don’t even realize what it is.”

May 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm #12099
fosterscott
Foster Scott
Member
“Is there anything in canon law governing what the priest should say and do in this scenario?”

May 30, 2015 at 2:26 pm #12100
mary
Mary
Member
“This happens all too often, and the priest, by saying nothing, brings condemnation on those who receive unworthily. If they truly don’t know any better, than THEY are not at fault.

But that priest….may God have mercy on him, not only for his disrespect for our Eucharistic Lord, but also for allowing others to receive unworthily, and just as badly, scandalizing the Faithful by this public act.

I hope you persist in raising this issue. It will bring you a lot of grief from the Church of Nice folks, but you are in the right here.

May God have mercy on us all for the abominations done against Him.”

May 30, 2015 at 2:49 pm #12101
johnk
John K
Member
“Here’s an article discussing canon law. It is focused on whether socalled pro-choice politicians should be admitted to communion:

https://www.ewtn.com/library/CANONLAW/burkcompol.htm

May 30, 2015 at 2:59 pm #12103

mattmp
Matthew M
Member
“Foster, very fair question. I think you might find this article helpful. I think it is balanced, and I have a profound respect for Catholic Answers: http://www.catholic.com/blog/michelle-arnold/non-catholics-in-the-communion-line
I would also recommend an examen of conscience, in a healthy, holy, and joyful way to guard against the grave sin of scrupulosity. I have written about it here on my blog: http://soul-candy.info/2015/02/scrupulosity/. Above all, avoid Catholics who too, too much resemble scribes and Pharisees with their mint, their dill, their cumin, and their gnats. His peace and grace.”

FOR THE LAST TIME, CATHOLICS!!!!, and sadly yet, I so know how much it won’t be, IT IS NOT A PRIZE OR A WEAPON!!!!  It IS medicine for the sick of heart and soul.  Mk 2:17

Mt 9:13

A New Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not You.

Amen.
-Rev. James Martin, SJ

I am always concerned when Catholics start sounding pharisaical. While not throwing pearls before swine is appropriate, the Eucharist is neither a prize nor a weapon, nor ever should be. It is medicine, for the sick of heart and soul.

I am trying to recall the Gospel story where the sinner approaches Jesus and He says, “Get behind Me!!! YOU ARE NOT WORTHY!!!” Oh, yeah. Now, I remember. It wasn’t the prostitutes, the tax collectors, or the pagans He said this to. It was the first Pope, the first Bishops, the religious leaders. Yeah, that’s right. Now, I remember. The self-righteous, those are they who are unworthy to receive Him. Yep. Perfect.

Love,
Matthew