Monday, August 21, 2017

On Our Behavior At Mass

There is an old Catholic maxim that provides the basis of today's reflection, "Lex orandi, lex credendi."   The Latin means, literally, "the law of prayer is the law of belief."  More colloquially, it often is recited as "we believe as we pray", or perhaps "as we pray, so we believe."  You get the picture.  The maxim expresses a truth observed by fathers and doctors of the Church throughout her nearly two thousand years of existence.  It bears frequent repetition and contemplation.

Liturgy, which includes both the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office (a/k/a Liturgy of the Hours), is the public prayer of the Church.  As such, the manner in which we comport ourselves at Mass and while praying the Office (the latter being optional for the laity, but highly recommended!) not only reflects, but forms, the core of our beliefs as Christians.  This is one of the more important reasons why the Church specifies rubrics, or rules, for the Liturgy.

Logically, it follows that the more reverent and focused we are at Mass on the Word of the Lord and the holy Eucharistic sacrifice, the stronger our faith will become in all that the Word and the Eucharist are and represent.  The Word is, after all, God speaking directly to us through the instrument of the authors He inspired, and the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, given to us by God's boundless grace for our eternal redemption, and offered back to the Father by the whole Church in thanksgiving for this indescribably awesome gift.  Since God does not need this offering, he accepts our prayers and remains on the altar, to be received and consumed by us, the faithful members of Christ's mystical body on Earth, as a channel of sanctifying grace, after which we are sent back into the world to carry Christ and his Gospel to all.

This is the essence of the Mass, which we accompany with prayers, chants (preferably) or songs, and with meaningful gestures, all according to the rubrics--standing, kneeling or sitting at appropriate times for appropriate reasons.  As the priest or bishop leads the faithful in prayer, all should be participating not only externally but internally as well, praying from the heart all of the words of our audible responses as well as silently praying with the priest as he consecrates the Holy Eucharist.  As stated in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: (a/k/a "G.I.R.M., or the "rulebook" for the liturgy):

17. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that the celebration of the Mass or the Lord’s Supper be so ordered that the sacred ministers and the faithful taking part in it, according to the state proper to each, may draw from it more abundantly[26] those fruits, to obtain which, Christ the Lord instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood and entrusted it as the memorial of his Passion and Resurrection to the Church, his beloved Bride.[27]
18. This will fittingly come about if, with due regard for the nature and other circumstances of each liturgical assembly, the entire celebration is arranged in such a way that it leads to a conscious, active, and full participation of the faithful, namely in body and in mind, a participation fervent with faith, hope, and charity, of the sort which is desired by the Church and which is required by the very nature of the celebration and to which the Christian people have a right and duty in virtue of their Baptism.[28]
[26] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 14, 19, 26, 28, 30.
[27]Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 47.
[28]Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 14.

Now, a question: how many Catholics in the pews at any given U.S. parish understand any, much less all, of the foregoing?  More importantly, how many act accordingly when they attend Mass?  If you answered "hardly any", you're probably right.  And that's sad.

A fellow blogger recently commented on this general topic, expressing her frustration and mystification with the way so many Catholics in the U.S. engage in extraneous gestures at Mass, such as raising hands in the priestly orans position, and/or holding hands (like Protestants!) during the Our Father, neither of which is prescribed by the faithful by the G.I.R.M.  Here is a short excerpt from her post:

I know why I used to lift my hands in the air when I was a Protestant during services. It is a verse from the New Testament (there are several other verses as well, some in the Old Testament) and encouraged by the ministers to join them in raising our hands (the only 'priesthood' is among all the believers). This was done to show the congregation was the same as the minister- mere believers. Ministers were nothing special.
1 Timothy 2:8 "I will therefore that men pray in every place, lifting up pure hands, without anger and contention."
But that isn't how a Catholic Mass works...or so I thought when I first became Catholic a decade ago. The missal said "stand" and I stood, the missal said "sit" and I sat, the missal said "kneel" and I knelt. The missal never said "hold hands" or "raise your hands in the air" etc., so I didn't, but others do. I don't get that. 
Read the rest of her post here.

I think Julie makes a great point.  And it's not confined to raising hands or holding hands during the Our Father.  Look around you the next time you go to Mass on Sunday, and ask yourself these questions:

1.  Before Mass, are people kneeling in prayer as they prepare to hear the Word of God and witness the miracle of the consecration of the Holy Eucharist?  Or are they glad-handing and chattering as if they're attending a happy hour or a birthday party?  I'll bet the latter greatly outnumber the former.

2.  Are you and your fellow parishioners dressed as if you're preparing to meet the God who created the universe out of nothing?  Or like you're going to a ballgame or to the beach?  In my regular parish in the Great State of Texas, where summer lasts for the better part of the year, it's mostly the latter. Shorts, tank tops or t-shirts, jeans, and flip flops are everywhere.  (I sometimes want to ask these people if they would dress that way for a personal meeting with the Governor or the President?  And if so, why would they not show at least as much respect for Jesus in the Eucharist as to an elected politician?)  The more "formally" dressed are likely wearing something appropriate for the golf course or "casual day" at the office.  I confess falling into this category myself, since while I never wear shorts to Sunday Mass, I rarely even take the trouble to wear a sport coat and dress slacks, much less a suit and tie, which would be most appropriate to the occasion.  Mea culpa!

3.  Are you one of the unfortunates whose parish forces a completely artificial "let's all greet our neighbor" ritual into the beginning of the Mass?  The "Liturgy of the Greeting" that doesn't appear anywhere in the G.I.R.M. or Missal?  If so, you have my sympathy.  You should be getting ready to meet Christ in the Eucharist, instead.  But I'm repeating myself.

4.  After Mass starts, how many are really paying attention to the readings, vs. looking at their smartphones, or gazing around at just about anything except the lector or the deacon or priest? Again, the latter probably outnumber the former.

5.  Back to Julie's comments quoted above--I'll almost guarantee you that most of the people are at least reciting the Our Father in the orans position, if not holding hands Protestant-style with total strangers. Amiright?  Eeeuw.

6.  Now comes my least favorite part of the Mass, the "sign of peace."  Is it barely controlled chaos, not to mention a great way to spread cold and flu germs throughout the congregation?  And if you have the temerity to refuse to shake hands with everyone around you, get ready for the hurt or even angry expressions on the faces of your pew neighbors, or even to be poked and prodded by someone who wants to insist that you hold hands with them.  Sheesh.  The more reverent parishes omit this optional exercise, and I wish mine would.  Notice, you'll never see it done during the televised EWTN Mass celebrated at their chapel in Irondale, AL or at the Shrine in Hanceville.  Never.

7.  Aaaand....Holy Communion.  Does your congregation unanimously shuffle down the aisle toward the priest or "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion" as if walking up to the counter at Burger King, without even so much as a reverent bow of the head? Does anyone make a profound bow, or even maybe genuflect, before receiving the Blessed Sacrament?  Very rare in most places, I would guess.  The real question here, I think, is: how many folks act as if they are about to hold in their hands or receive on their tongue the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ?  Do not most people treat the whole thing as nothing more than a symbol, a cultural exercise devoid of faith in the Real Presence?  In other words, aren't most people acting like they don't really believe what the Church teaches about the Holy Eucharist?  And do you ever wonder how many of those people heading down the aisle to receive the Eucharist have darkened the door of a confessional at any time in the recent past?  Or even the not-so-recent past?  Amazing how many people never commit a serious sin, isn't it?  :)

All of the foregoing behaviors (excepting, I think, the ones in paragraph 7) might seem more or less innocuous by themselves, but added together they spell a significant lack of reverence for, and likely tenuous belief in, the truths of the Mass, and therefore the key truths of the Faith itself.  And these are the behaviors of people who actually attend Mass!  To paraphrase the Holy Apostle Paul, how much more lack of faith must there be in those who don't even bother to show up on Sundays?

Here's the thing: we didn't arrive at this state of affairs quickly.  We are witnessing the cumulative effects of decades of neglect of proper instruction, both in homes of the faithful and in the parishes and dioceses.  We are stuck with a whole generation or two, at least, of priests and bishops who were formed under Modernist seminary faculty, as a result of which they themselves often do not fully believe all that the Church teaches.  Even if they do believe, so long as the money keeps rolling into the parish and diocesan coffers, they see no reason to "rock the boat" by admonishing the faithful as to proper behavior in the celebration of Holy Mass.  The Novus Ordo liturgy itself also must share a large chunk of the blame, having stripped so many pious prayers from the Mass while it shifted the focus of the liturgy from Christ on the altar to the priest and other "ministers" milling around the sanctuary--a liturgy centered on Man instead of God.

One way to find more reverence at Mass it to attend a TLM parish, but most of us don't have that as a realistic option, at least not yet.  Otherwise, there's not much any of us can do by ourselves, except resolve to provide a good example to our fellow parishioners, and spend time in prayer and adoration asking the Lord to help move the hearts and minds of all toward a more reverent and respectful attitude, in word, gesture and deed.  And I suppose I should spend less time worrying about how other people behave and do a better job myself of imitating Christ.  That's a full-time job for anyone.  But it still makes my heart ache to see so many people essentially disrespecting Our Lord in his own house.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Monday, January 23, 2017

On Mission Statements

I am now retired, but I spent over 30 years working in a large US corporation.  In the course of my career, my company went through all of the corporate management fads that swept American businesses, one of which was the infatuation with "mission statements" that began not too long after I came on board in 1983.  This is not the forum in which to discuss the pros and cons of the mission statement culture; like most corporate fads, it has its good and (mostly) bad points, and is only as effective as the people who use it.  I only bring it up because...believe it or not, my parish has a "Mission Statement." I won't repeat it here, but it's somewhat verbose, running fifty-five words, and is stated as the "mission" of "we, the members of St. XYZ parish."  That seems a bit exaggerated, since like most "modern" parishes, all the work not done by the priests and deacons and paid staff is done by about five or six percent of the registered parishioners.  Another fifteen to twenty percent actually show up for Mass at least once a week, and the rest are phantoms except possibly at Christmas or Easter, when they roll in with their guilt offerings (much appreciated, but where were you the rest of the year?) and clog up the church and the parking lot for the rest of us.  :)  In any event, the idea of "we, the members" issuing the mission statement is, in my view, just silly, and is one of the regrettable results of the attempt by the Second Vatican Council to de-emphasize the Church hierarchy.  As far as I can tell from studying the history of the past fifty years, (admittedly just the blink of an eye in the overall 2,000-year history of the Church), we likely would have been a lot better off if they had left the hierarchy alone and concentrated more on evangelizing and saving souls than on trying to make lay people feel more important.  Which leads me back to my real point.

The notion that a Catholic parish needs a spiffy "mission statement" at all simply bewilders me.  This is not a business.  It is not a public service organization, despite all the charitable and community works we do--those are some results of what we do, not the essence.  Every parish is simply a place where we gather to worship the God of the universe and to thank him for sending his Son to die for us, that we might have the chance to spend eternity with him in Heaven, and where we can receive the Sacraments established by Christ as channels of sanctifying grace to help us along the way.  So the "mission statement" ought to be very simple: "To bring souls to Jesus Christ and thus to eternal salvation."  There you have it, in eleven words that probably could be shortened even more.  Anything else is redundant.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Different Gospels

In Matins for today, January 22, we begin a sampling of readings from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians. Readers are undoubtedly familiar with the often surprising way in which Sacred Scripture presents messages relevant to the events and concerns of our time and our individual lives, and today's reading was a great example.  Here is an excerpt, emphasizing the verse that particularly caught my attention:
(Galatians 1:8) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.
9 As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
11 For I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
12 For neither did I receive it of man, nor did I learn it; but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(Emphasis added.)

In your correspondent's opinion (which I hope is humble), these verses ought right now to be a subject of deep reflection on the part of certain Bishops and Cardinals of the Church.  I mean those who are telling the faithful that "pastoral accompaniment" and "discernment" allow for practices involving the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist which are quite clearly contrary to the bimillenial praxis and teachings of the Church. For the most glaring example thus far, go here. Not incidentally, these practices are just as clearly contrary to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ himself--which, come to think of it, might just be why the Church teaching has been what it has been for almost 2,000 years.  (Sarcasm off.)  One of several examples from the Gospels follows (emphasis added):

(Mark 10)

2 And the Pharisees coming to him, asked him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
3 But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you?
4 They said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away.
5 Jesus answering, said to them: Because of the hardness of your heart, he wrote you that precept.
6 But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.
7 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife.
8 And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh.
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
10 And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing.
11 And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
12 And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Similar words can be found in Matthew 5, Matthew 19, and Luke 16; see also 1 Corinthians 7:10.

Now, your correspondent is just an ordinary layman, trying to live according to the Lord's Commandments and example, and probably not doing a great job of it.  So I don't presume to know what could be in the hearts and minds of prelates and shepherds of the Church who are creating what looks an awful lot like a de facto schism by telling other ordinary laypeople that what the Church has strictly prohibited for almost 2,000 years is suddenly now OK.  I'm no historian and certainly no theologian, but I'm also not an idiot, and I know a logical contradiction when I see one.  It cannot possibly be OK in one diocese but a serious sin in the next one for a person living in a second "marriage", without having had the first marriage declared invalid, to be admitted to confession and holy communion with no intent to cease marital relations with the second "spouse." Yet, that is exactly the situation we now see before us, in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the one founded by Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life.  One of the two cases is seriously wrong, and while I'm also not a betting man, I would put pretty much all I own on the 2,000 year old practice, which matches the words of Sacred Scripture, being the right one.  Again, I do not and cannot know what is in the hearts and minds of the bishops and cardinals who are promoting the other practice, but it seems to me, based on their words and actions, to be one designed to please men, not God.  Whereas, St. Paul wrote..."If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."

Please pray and fast and offer sacrifices for the Pope and all the Bishops and all of our priests.  This is a matter affecting the eternal salvation of souls, starting with theirs. "And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required...". Luke 12:48b.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Does Anybody Really Know What Day It Is?

Today, September 8, is the date on which the Roman Catholic Church has, since approximately the Sixth Century, (in other words, for no more than about 1500 years) celebrated the birth of Our Lady, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  While it is far from the most solemn Marian feast day on the Church calendar, it's still a big one, because it's her birthday (or at least, the day we've chosen to celebrate it, because we don't really know exactly what day she was born.)  We love and honor Mary because Jesus gave her to us as our spiritual Mother as he hung in agony on the Cross, and because ever since that dark day her sole occupation has been to lead each and every one of us closer to her divine Son, all glory and honor to him forever and ever, Amen!  This, not to mention that as any good Catholic knows, we are pretty sure Jesus loves his Mother a lot, and that it makes him happy when we love her, too. 

Now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a nice email service that sends out the Scripture readings for each day's celebration of the Mass, very early in the morning.  They also have a general communications email service.  Anyone can subscribe to both of them at no cost by going to the USCCB website. I get the daily Mass readings and also subscribe to the general email blasts because every now and then they actually send out something really interesting or helpful.  So on the day the Church celebrates the birthday of Mary, our Blessed Mother, does the USCCB mention this, and perhaps suggest ways in which we might honor her in prayer, and ask her to intercede with her Son for us, and for others in need?  No.  In fact, there is no mention whatsoever of today's feast.

Instead, we get this:
"In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has invited faith communities across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities on September 9th.

To assist in observance of this occasion, USCCB is offering a Prayer for Peace in Our Communities prayer card."
How nice.  But not one word about the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.  That was the best that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could do today?

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm as big a booster as you'll find anywhere of prayer as our number one tool against everything bad in the world and in support of everything good, in this world and the next.  All prayer is good, and when groups of people get together to pray for the same things, it's even better.  It's especially handy for the salvation of souls through the redeeming grace of our Lord.  (You know, that's sort of why we think it's important to go to Mass at least once a week!)

But to the USCCB communications team I have to say: You, of all people, should be aware that in the entire liturgical year, the Church only celebrates the nativity of three people--Jesus, Mary, and St. John the Baptist.  Every other saint is honored either on the date of their death (i.e., their birth into eternal life), or some other important date, such as being ordained a bishop or being elected Pope. That would tend to suggest that, well, maybe the Church thinks those three people are kind of important, you know?  Nevertheless, your email blast completely ignored today's celebration of Mary's nativity. 

This is just poor judgment, at best.  The bishops are supposed to be the shepherds of the CATHOLIC Church in the USA, the Church that still gives the Virgin Mary the honor she deserves, when very nearly all others who profess the name of Christ have thrown her overboard except for a couple of weeks around Christmas each year.  But instead of making even the merest mention of today's celebration, a very Catholic day, the USCCB PR machine sends out a release that could have come from any Protestant.

Now, here's the other kicker, another complete swing and miss that really makes me wonder if anyone at the USCCB communications office ever looks at a Church calendar.  Did you perhaps wonder why the bishops chose tomorrow, September 9, as the day to call "faith communities" to prayer to end racial tension?  I have an idea: September 9 is the feast day of another Catholic Saint, St. Peter Claver.  Ever hear of him?  He was a 16th Century Spanish Jesuit priest, whose missionary work in South America was primarily dedicated to the corporal and spiritual needs of the thousands of Africans who were transported into Cartagena, Colombia to feed the slave trade in the New World.  He is now revered as the patron saint of slaves and African-Americans, so his feast day is a perfect time for this prayer effort. But the email communique' from the USCCB managed to miss that, too! Not a word about St. Peter Claver! 

Next year, my suggestion for the USCCB is:  By all means, have another call to ecumenical prayer for the end of racial tension in the US on September 9, the feast day of St. Peter Claver.   But try to remember to mention him in your announcement, and send it out a few days in advance.  Then, on September 8 you can send out a reminder for all us to celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  See how easy that is?

Good thing the bishops have me around to straighten them out, right?  :)

Laudator Jesus Christus! 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Re-Posting: The Coming Tribulation?

This was originally posted in November, 2015.  Now seems like a good time to review these observations.  One introductory paragraph has been deleted since it no longer applies.  The rest is copied mostly verbatim.

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

Francis Cardinal George, former Archbishop of Chicago (d. 2015)

I continue to be intrigued by one thread that seems to be running through many of the blog posts and comments I've been seeing: the idea that the Church is facing a crisis unlike any other in its history, and that the resemblance of the present situation to apocalyptic prophecies in 20th Century private revelations, especially Our Lady's appearances at Fatima and Akita, is strong enough to warrant the most serious concern.  The End is near!  Fear, fire, foes! Awake! (Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.)

Well, OK then.  It does seem clear to many (most?) of an orthodox mindset that the Church is indeed in a state of crisis, and I have a hard time disagreeing with such an assessment. See my August 10 (2015) post, for example.  To run through another brief summary of the "bad stuff":  In recent times we have witnessed the violent slaughter of many thousands of Christians (mostly Catholics and Orthodox) in the very birthplace of the Faith, together with wanton destruction of their churches and holy treasures, by barbaric Jihadists bent on eradication of everything and everyone that is not Muslim; the near total collapse of European Christendom; a seeming rush of North and South America to follow suit via declining Mass attendance, millions of annual defections to "evangelical" or "none" status, the enshrinement in secular law of false marriages and the concomitant state and media persecution of Catholics and Catholic institutions who refuse to affirm them; and a papacy that praises material heretics (e.g. certain German Cardinals) while excoriating as "pharisees" those who stand for traditional doctrine and practice, and which sometimes seems more concerned with pleasing the international secular media than with the salvation of souls and the preservation of the deposit of faith.  To be fair, at other times we hear strikingly orthodox statements and exhortations of the type to which we have grown accustomed over the past several pontificates.  (Confused?  So am I.)

Even so, however, is it really as bad as some maintain?  Stated another way, whatever the magnitude of the crisis, is it in fact unprecedented?  Or is it just another day in the life of the Church that Our Lord promised would prevail to "the close of the age" (Cf. Mt 16:18, 28:20), despite being constantly under attack? (Cf. Mt 5:10-11; 10:16-23).

After all, the Arian heresy had most of the bishops in the world in its grasp at one point, and it took not one, but two ecumenical Councils (Nicea and Constantinople) to put it to rest.  (See here.)  In fact, legend has it that the Council of Nicea included the spectacle of Saint Nicholas (yes, that Saint Nicholas) punching out the heresiarch himself, in full view of the entire assembly.  Indeed, one could argue that at least a stepchild of Arianism survives to this day in certain quarters, where Modernists (see extensive discussion of Modernism here) insist upon a distinction between "the historical Jesus" and "the Christ of faith."  The former, these enlightened scholars solemnly inform us, was merely a man, albeit a wise man and great teacher, while the latter, the Son of God co-equal and consubstantial with the Father, is a mythical construct of a self-interested Church fearful of "reason and truth", which virtues the Modernist claims as exclusively his own. We beg to differ.

In any case, there were other serious heresies throughout the early Church, not to mention two major schisms, first the departure of the Eastern churches in the Eleventh Century A.D., followed by the Protestant revolt in the Sixteenth.  Finally, let's not forget how close Christendom came to being swallowed up by the Muslim hordes, not long after Luther and Calvin took their toys and went home.  The Battle of Lepanto, at which a massive Ottoman fleet bent on the sack of Vienna was defeated by a coalition put together by Pope St. Pius V, was a close-run thing, and many (including St. Pius V) believed the victory to have been secured only through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. (See here.)  Now, those were crises!  Can today's situation match up, and more importantly, are we really on the verge of the Last Days?

In my view, the most likely answer to both queries is "no."  Nevertheless, it is not hard to understand why people are fretting.  I find myself doing it too, more often than I care to admit.  See that August 10, 2015 post again, for example.

Of course, I wasn't there for any of the events just listed, so I don't know what it was like for the lay faithful in those times.  But it seems pretty certain that most of them, given the absence of any sort of rapid communication over long distances and the general illiteracy of the vast majority of the population, didn't even know anything was wrong.  Taking the Arian case for example, if your average layman was told by his bishop that Jesus was not really a God-man, but a mere creature given great power by God the Father, he probably just shrugged or nodded and kept praying, and going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.  Ignorance was bliss, one might say with some degree of assurance.

For better or worse, we no longer have this luxury.  In our day and age, when even the most trivial matters can gain world-wide attention via social media in a matter of minutes or hours, we have immediate access at any given moment to more information than, until very recently, even the most industrious seeker of knowledge could have acquired in a lifetime.  We know of many things occurring in the Church at large and in the Holy See in particular that were never before open to all the world as they are now.  Frequently, the result is information overload, and unless we are very careful we can find ourselves, in the classic idiom, unable to see the forest for the trees.  In a more recent idiom, we suffer from "TMI", or "too much information."  In this light, it seems prudent to keep in mind the following:

First, we have the aforementioned guarantee of Jesus himself that his Church will survive until his return, and we should take some comfort in the fact that the Church has survived for nearly two millennia despite all the challenges She has faced.  This is not something to be taken lightly.  No human institution has ever lasted more than a few hundred years, and most didn't make it that long.  Only a Divine institution could still be around after this much time.  God is in charge; let him take care of it!

Second, recall the vast time scale of the Church and of Salvation History.  Even if we go back to the very dawn of humanity, we are only talking about a few thousand years.  This is nothing in the sight of God.  Man has a natural tendency to view all things through his own extremely limited lens, where around eighty years is an average lifetime and even a single hour, if spent with, say, an extremely boring speaker, can seem interminable.  When we add up all the bad news available to us now, we conclude rather easily that things could not possibly ever have been worse, so the end must be near.  But in the "big picture", we exist in a blink of God's eye.  Father John Zuhlsdorf, a/k/a Father Z, a prolific and excellent blogger of traditional bent, recently exhorted his readers:
I am trying to take the longer view.  I remind myself that each pontificate is a parenthesis in the long history of the Church and of our Salvation.  This parenthesis will close one day and another will open.
Wise advice from a wise and holy priest.

Third, recall and heed the advice Jesus gave the Apostles just before his Ascension:
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:6-8 (Emphasis supplied.)
It is not for us to know when the Last Days will come.  In the meantime, we share in the Great Commission given by the Lord here and in Mt 28:18-20.  See next point.

Fourth, there are only a few things we lay members of the Church Militant can do, and we ought to be doing all of them anyway.  We can share the Gospel of Christ with the world.  We can obey the Commandments.  We can pray, a lot.  We can fast.  We can perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  We can (must!) continue going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.  We can attend weekday Mass.  We can go to Confession regularly.  Cardinal Burke has encouraged us to stay faithful!  The great Twentieth Century Saint Pio (Padre Pio) frequently advised everyone to "Pray, hope and don't worry."

If we do all these things, we can rest assured of Christ's promise: the Church will prevail over the gates of Hell, and those who persevere will be saved.  In the end, it doesn't really matter when the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming will occur.  What I do know is that my Day of Judgment is coming, and even assuming I survive to a ripe old age, it's coming a lot faster than I like to think about.  The same applies to every one of us, regardless of age.

I conclude with another Scriptural quote, one of my favorites:
"Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him." Jn 14:1-7.
Laudator Jesus Christus!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

St. Raymond Nonnatus: Evangelizer of Muslims

Here is the brief story of another Saint of whom most people know nothing (which included yours truly until I read this article on EWTN's website), and whose feast day is today, August 31.  St. Raymond Nonnatus underwent severe mistreatment by Muslims for preaching the Gospel of Christ and converting (and saving) many souls.  May his example be of great value for us all in these darkening times.

St. Raymond, ora pro nobis!

St. Raymond Nonnatus
Feast: August 31
Feast Day:August 31
Born: 1204, La Portella, Comarca of Segrià, Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon
Died:August 31, 1240, Cardona, Province of Barcelona, Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon
Canonized:1657, Rome by Pope Alexander VII
Patron of:Childbirth; children; expectant mothers; falsely accused people; fever; infants; midwives; newborn babies; obstetricians; pregnant women

Born 1200 or 1204 at Portello in the Diocese of Urgel in Catalonia; died at Cardona, 31 August, 1240. His feast is celebrated on 31 August. He is pictured in the habit of his order surrounded by ransomed slaves, with a padlock on his lips. He was taken from the womb of his mother after her death, hence his name. Of noble but poor family, he showed early traits of piety and great talent. His father ordered him to tend a farm, but later gave him permission to take the habit with the Mercedarians at Barcelona, at the hands of the founder, St. Peter Nolasco. Raymond made such progress in the religious life that he was soon considered worthy to succeed his master in the office of ransomer. He was sent to Algiers and liberated many captives. When money failed he gave himself as a hostage. He was zealous in teaching the Christian religion and made many converts, which embittered the Mohammedan authorities. Raymond was subjected to all kinds of indignities and cruelty, was made to run the gauntlet, and was at last sentenced to impalement. The hope of a greater sum of money as ransom caused the governor to commute the sentence into imprisonment. To prevent him from preaching for Christ, his lips were pierced with a red-hot iron and closed with a padlock. After his arrival in Spain, in 1239, he was made a cardinal by Gregory IX. In the next year he was called to Rome by the pope, but came only as far as Cardona, about six miles from Barcelona, where he died. His body was brought to the chapel of St. Nicholas near his old farm. In 1657 his name was placed in the Roman martyrology by Alexander VII. He is invoked by women in labour and by persons falsely accused. The appendix to the Roman ritual gives a formula for the blessing of water, in his honour, to be used by the sick, and another of candles.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia; emphasis added)

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Passion of St. John the Baptist--But, Mercy!

Today the Church commemorates the passion, that is, the suffering and martyrdom, of St. John the Baptist, he who prepared the way of the Lord, baptizing Him in the Jordan and preaching of his coming.

And why was he martyred?  For telling the truth to someone who didn't want to hear it.  He told King Herod that he was an adulterer for "marrying" his brother's wife while his brother was still alive. This somewhat displeased the woman in question, Herodias, who took advantage of her "husband's" rampant lust for her daughter and forced him to have John executed.  See Mark 6: 17-29; Matthew 14: 1-12. 

St. Ambrose, in his Treatise Concerning Virgins, (the third Reading for today's Matins prayers in the traditional Office) states in part:

 “We must not hurry past the record of blessed Baptist John. We must ask what he was; by whom he was slain; and why and how. He was a righteous man, murdered for his righteousness by adulterers. He was a judge, who suffered condemnation to death by the guilty ones because he had justly judged their guilt. He was the prophet whose death was a fee paid to a dancing-girl for a lascivious dance."

Imprisoned and later killed for speaking the truth to those who knew their own guilt but sought to pretend righteousness, John the Baptist is a type for the Church today, which is reviled and scorned and legally attacked for trying to uphold God's moral law.  Oh, wait... 

 At least, it used to be.  These days, we're not really hearing much from the Church about heroes like John the Baptist or St. Thomas More, who similarly lost his head for refusing to condone his king's adulterous desires.  Instead, we're told by various bishops and cardinals that we who stand up for Christ's definition of adultery are "Pharisees" and "fundamentalists" who "throw stones at people's lives."  You can verify all those statements, and more like them, quite easily with a word search or two.  Try names like Paglia, Schornborn, Kasper, Marx...and Francis. Or Bergoglio, as he still apparently prefers to be known, having re-upped his Argentinian passport in that name. 

Yeah, him.  I'm sorry, but I can't let this go. The guy who is supposed to be in charge of defending the Deposit of Faith seems hell-bent (no pun intended) on forcing priests worldwide to give Holy Communion to "the divorced and remarried"--in other words, to persons living in open and notorious adultery, which he and his fellow travelers prefer to call "irregular unions." Don't believe that?  I guess you haven't read the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which attempts to justify such a practice, among other problems.  Never mind those guys who were martyred for insisting that when Jesus defined divorce and "remarriage" as adultery, he meant it.  Because, you know, mercy.  Without repentance and conversion of heart, without a firm purpose of amendment, without any commitment whatsoever to cease engaging in mortal sin as Jesus Himself and His Church have defined it since the beginning.  You see, these definitions are too harsh, too...unmerciful.  As if these men, these fallen humans, can better define mercy than God can.  Righty-o, gentlemen, you go!  That guy Jesus, well, maybe he wasn't really God after all, you know, since he didn't really multiply the loaves and fishes, 'cuz that was just, you know, a miracle of "sharing" according to Bergoglio.  So why should we get hung up on what he said about adultery?

I would really like to see these prelates stand before John the Baptist and Thomas More and tell them how their martyrdom still means anything once unrepentant adulterers are admitted to Holy Communion.  What I don't want to see or imagine, because I really don't want any soul forever to be lost, is those same bishops and cardinals standing before the Lord trying to explain themselves, unless they reverse this perilous course before then.  I pray daily for their conversion of heart.  You should, too. 

Laudator Jesus Christus!