Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Man of Sorrows

Father Longenecker With My Added Thoughts

Father Dwight Longenecker is a talented writer, particularly when he shares his own experiences with insight added.  Here he writes about Spiritual warfare, and holiness, and the battle between God's good manifest in Jesus, and which we are called to manifest as well, and Evil personified in the devil Satan.
From time to time I have the privilege of visiting with a saint. She's a very holy woman who has given her life to prayer. I hear her confession and we talk. Then once in a while maybe I'll say something which is unkind about someone and I see her smile fade just a little and she winces as if in pain. I realize I've hurt her.

At that time I have a little glimpse of the effects of holiness. I think the holy person hates sin not out of some sort of misguided legalism and self righteousness, but because they have drawn closer to God and they sense deep down the horror and waste of sin and they're wounded by it. They're wounded very deeply. Because they have dwelt in the light they look across the wide gulf of grace and see the darkness beyond and they are ashamed and sad and grieved and frustrated by the horror. Sin hurts them as the dawn hurts a vampire. Sin grieves them because of it's violence and shame and waste and emptiness and despair. Sin hurts them at an ontological level.

Of course, I am speaking theoretically. I believe this to be true because I have seen it in others although I do not think I have experienced this feeling myself in any more than in a fleeting manner. If it is true of saints, then we must magnify the effects of this holiness to Our Lord in Holy Week. His whole life he must have carried the heavy burden of the seeing the world's sin and experiencing the pain of it all, but in Holy Week it all came to a sudden and terrible climax.

There is more: if the holy person feels the horror and repulsion at the sight of sin, the feeling is mutual. The demons and humans given over to them are equally repulsed by the light of holiness. They hate holiness. They spit with venom, foam with fury and are rabid with rage. They lose all reason. They fulminate and lie. They plot and scheme to bring about the destruction of the holy one. Witness the attack on Christ and his Church by the powers of atheism every Christmas and Easter.

I suddenly begin to see why so many holy ones eventually retreated from the world and went into seclusion. They simply couldn't take it anymore. The darkness of this world was too heavy a burden to bear. They had to retreat into the light in order to survive. Not only was the darkness too much to bear, but the evil ones were too much of a threat. Had the holy ones stayed in the world they would have been devoured by the world. They retreat to the hermitage, the cell, the cabin in the woods. They go into hiding and go underground to engage in the Spiritual Battle.

So in the Sacred Triduum we see the Holy One face to face with the UnHoly. We see the Man of Sorrows--and why a Man of Sorrows? Because he looks into the heart of darkness. He sees the depth of depravity and the horrors of hell. He sees and understands and feels compassion for all those poor children of light who are lost in the dark. This is what we mean when we say he goes down into hell, for he descends to the very lowest place and stares the Evil in the face. Then he is devoured by the Dark, and it is Night. 
I have had personal experiences with the Prince of Darkness, and there is nothing alluring about him.  He is a liar and a deceiver, and all the things he tempts us to do are for his evil purposes.  We go along because he knows our weaknesses and tries to lure us to feel good at the time, or we have developed an addiction to some type of feeling that we observe.

We must resist Evil, by prayer, fasting and charity.  We are all called to be holy because He is holy, but the move towards holiness is a happy slow move, because it is a journey not a destination.

B16 at Mercator.Net

New Blog on Benedict and the scandals

Mercator.net has created as of yesterday a blog to keep people up to date with the sex abuse scandal.  This will be of little interest to most, since it is focused on the facts of the situation, and is empty of the vituperation of so many of the Main Steam Media outlets that have jumped on a non story to give it legs.

Good for Mercator.net.  Go here to read the truth.


Above all Pray.

As We Prepare to Celebrate the Triduum

Take It All In

Dear Readers:

Tomorrow starts the Easter Triduum, the main event, as it were, for the Christian Church.  We celebrate the institution of the Eucharist with the Last Supper, then the Passion and Death of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and then his Glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

There has been much distraction as the Main Stream Media have jumped on fictitious stories of our beloved Pontiff, and have made much noise about the sexual abuse scandal, which though real and sad, is mainly old news.  However, it has been distracting.  As My Dear Wife commented to me the other day, the timing of this distraction is at least curious, and not surprising.  Do not let it move your focus away from the spiritual wonders of this season.

Should you receive Communion at any time this weekend, remember that it is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus, the one who bled and died and then arose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures.  Remember too, that He did it just for you.  If you were the only one on the face of the earth, you would have had to condemn Him, nail Him to the cross, then take Him down, place Him behind the stone, and finally discover that He was truly risen from the dead.  After that, like Thomas, He would have invited you to put your fingers into His wounds.

How much does Jesus love you?

See His outstretched arms.  That's how much.

Why

Why Do We Betray the Lord?

He loves us so much.

Michael Card.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Young Catholics and Relativism

An article by the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus

Moral Relativism is a bane on our society, because it appeals to us all, but particularly to the young, who are searching for meaning in life.  It does not offer any, as ultimately Moral Relativism is about the individual being a god, and choosing for him/her self from the smorgasbord of options in life, but without the foundation of a formed conscience.

You know, it is all relative.  Here's what I mean.  Unless we will speak the truth, and bring the light of our Saviour Jesus Christ into this sick and dying world, a lot of our relatives may spend eternity in Hell.  Is that relative enough for you?

Here is what Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, a noble leader of the Knights of Columbus has to say, echoing and writing on the words of our Pontiff, Benedict XVI from his Palm Sunday celebration at the Vatican.

Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)
Overcoming the allure of relativism with a message of truth has been a consistent project of Pope Benedict.

On Palm Sunday, the Pope also reiterated
On Palm Sunday, the Pope also reiterated "to all the young men and women […] that being Christian is a journey, or better: It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ, a going in that direction that he has pointed out to us and is pointing out to us."

NEW HAVEN, CT.  (Zenit.org) - Twenty-five years ago, Pope John Paul II inaugurated the celebration of World Youth Day -- to be celebrated on Palm Sunday each year. He understood -- as does Benedict XVI -- that the future of the Church depends on the youth, on the next generation of Catholic parents, priests and religious.
But reaching the next generation is not always easy -- especially when young people today are inundated with messages that push them toward a "relativistic" view of morality, toward a value system in which relevant values are chosen on an individual basis -- and are not thought to be universally applicable.
It was this relativistic interpretation of living that Pope Benedict spoke out against in the days just before his election as Pope -- when he warned of a "dictatorship of relativism."
There is certainly a problem with relativism among young people today. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 82% of 18-29 year old Catholics see morals as "relative."
That's a shocking number, but fortunately there is more to that statistic than meets the eye. First, the majority of "practicing Catholics" disagreed, and second, the 82% who see themselves as relativists nevertheless don´t consistently apply relativism to moral issues.

When confronted with a series of moral issues, those same Catholic young people who saw themselves as relativistic chose overwhelmingly to categorize issues such as abortion or euthanasia as "morally wrong" -- despite being given the option of classifying each as "not a moral issue" -- which one would assume would be the logical choice of a true relativist.
Inconsistencies
Relativism, unlike truth, leads to exactly such inconsistent thinking, and so ultimately is not a fulfilling philosophy of life.
Overcoming the allure of relativism with a message of truth has been a consistent project of Pope Benedict. Again this weekend, on the 25th celebration of World Youth Day, the Pope took the opportunity to address the young people in St. Peter's Square for his Palm Sunday Mass on the subject of leading a life based on truth.
At the Angelus following the Mass, he appealed "to the new generations to bear witness, with the mild but luminous power of truth, that the men and women of the third millennium may not lack their most authentic model: Jesus Christ."
Truth -- in the person of Jesus Christ -- must be the basis for witness to the faith. It´s a simple, yet profound statement.
But to witness to the truth that is Christ requires a relationship with him. As then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger pointed out ten years ago in an address to catechists and teachers that the art of living "can only be communicated by [one] who has life -- he who is the Gospel personified."

We cannot expect to change culture or influence people if we ourselves do not present an authentic witness to Christ, whom we know personally. And we cannot expect young people to witness effectively to their peers unless they have first developed a relationship with Christ that they are able to present in a very real way.
On Palm Sunday, the Pope also reiterated "to all the young men and women […] that being Christian is a journey, or better: It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ, a going in that direction that he has pointed out to us and is pointing out to us."
This is not to say that being a faithful young Christian in the face of peer pressure is easy.
Be not afraid
The Pope recognized this in his remarks when he said: "Do not be afraid when following Christ leads to misunderstandings and affronts. Serve him in the weakest and most disadvantaged people, especially your own peers in difficulties."
There are many reasons such a message can resonate with young people.
Who -- even among relativists -- could oppose or not be moved by the witness of one of their peers helping those in need? It is the preaching by deed more than by word that can often have the greatest effect.
In contrast, the Christian message of love of God and neighbor is both consistent and fulfilling. What it requires to be accepted by those searching for answers in their lives is the effective witness of their peers and of the previous generations.
Only in light of the truth does the passion of Christ, which we celebrate this week, make any sense. Under a relativistic interpretation, Christ´s death for others is senseless -- unless he died only for himself -- since the rest of humanity would have no need of him, or of salvation.
Our job is to bring the truth to those young Catholics searching it, to the two in three in the recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll who expressed openness to learning more about their faith.
In witnessing to the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, let us bring into our hearts that love of God and neighbor so that we can effectively share it with our peers, and with future generations. 
Let us take as our own the words of St. Francis: "Preach -- and if necessary, use words."
-----
Carl Anderson is the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus and a New York Times bestselling author.
Zenit.org is a good source of information Catholic and Christian, and I urge you to link to their site above at the top of the reproduced article, and see what else is there.

What Will It Take?

Michael Card

Well, what WILL it take?  This week, Holy Week, is a good time to figure that out.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Most child sex abuse never sees the light

Beyond the Church

I am fatigued by the abundance of drivel being written about the sex abuse of young by Catholic Clergy, because the bias makes it seem like this scandal is about the Church.  It is not about the Catholic Church.  Sexual abuse of minors was rampant in our society, and there are even organisations about today who want to make it legal for men to have sexual relations with young boys, because it is "healthy".

From personal knowledge of some women that I know and have the greatest respect for, who were victims of heinous sexual abuse by their own father, I have known for many years that the sick abuse that was committed by Catholic clergy is a small portion of the whole.

To make this a Church bashing issue is to minimize the pain and suffering of these women and many other men and women like them, because in general they have not place to turn.  Many have carried the burden of shame and loss with them for their adult lives, because who will believe them, and can they even believe themselves.  Can they believe that they did not bring this on themselves in some twisted logic?  The women I know best who were abused, were told by their own mother at the time that it never happened, or that if anything happened, it was really nothing.  She was more concerned about how the family would look to the outside world, than about their pain and suffering, and the loss of their innocence and childhood.

But, in the midst of a lot of yellow journalism, and invention of links that do not exist, and finger pointing from major main stream media outlets, comes a writer for the Oregonian, who actually did some research before putting fingers to keyboard, and produced a real balanced article.  Figure it to come from Oregon, not Washington or New York. 

Here is what was published in The Oregonian:

By Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian

March 28, 2010, 7:39AM
popewindow.JPGView full sizeMost victims of child sex abuse stay silent, whether they are abused at church by a clergy member or, more commonly, at home by a relative or family friend. Is it hard for survivors of child sex abuse to speak out?

Is the pope Catholic?

Victims worldwide continue to pour forward with stories of abuse as children at the hands of clergy. Many of the allegations have been substantiated by priests who've confessed. Even the pope himself was drawn into the scandal last week with questions about his past role in protecting an abusive priest from earthly consequences.

The surprising part here isn't the sheer number of victims, from the deaf children in Wisconsin to the altar boys in Ireland. The real shocker is remembering that most child sex abuse victims aren't connected to churches, don't file lawsuits and never speak publicly at all.

At least one in five girls and one in 10 boys experiences unwanted sexual touching or other sex abuse, based on federal data and research cited by the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most of the bad actors in these cases are not priests or pastors. They are stepfathers, family friends, fathers and neighbors.

The majority are never held accountable.

"I think of that as the hidden iceberg," says legal scholar Marci Hamilton, a national authority on child abuse at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the author of "Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children."

She added, "There is a tremendous amount of suffering."

Traditionally, about 90 percent of victims don't speak out, and the reasons are as messy and common as the crimes themselves. It can take decades for victims to shake off enough of the shame to stop feeling responsible.

"Denial and survival play a huge part in the reason why victims of abuse 'wait' to come forward," or never say a word, says Kristi Kernal of Beaverton, a co-founder and board member of OAASIS, Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service.

Also, until recently, most state laws enforced a tight window of time during which victims could successfully seek justice. The statute of limitations would close while victims were still in their teens or early 20s, typically unprepared and ill-equipped to take on the authority figure who abused them.

Finally, there are stark personal costs to coming forward. If the abuser was a family member, victims risk an ex-communication of sorts by their own family. If the abuser was a trusted coach or pastor or teacher, victims risk other forms of social exile.

Staying quiet is a rational decision. So is eventually speaking up years later, whether in a counselor's office or a lawyer's conference room.

The alternative is to keep paying the price with compromised health and troubled relationships.

"Depression, anxiety, fear, post traumatic stress, trust issues, body image issues, relationship problems, suicide attempts -- the list goes on," Kernal says.

The Catholic Church eventually will work through its backlog of sex abuse cases. Some evidence suggests that American churches are inching toward resolution, even while Europe confronts its own crisis: In 2009, the number of new allegations, victims and known offenders in the United States dropped to the lowest point since 2004, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The process of legal and spiritual atonement is terribly wrenching, both for the Catholic Church and the people within it. But a clear upside exists.

The scandal is transforming American culture, forcing people to adopt prevention strategies and talk to children about warning signs. The fog of shame around sex abuse is beginning to lift.

This change may help the church recover and renew itself.

More important, it will help victims -- including the silent ones everywhere -- slowly heal.

 -- Associate Editor Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian
The truth will set us all free.

From Jewish Passover to Christian Eucharist

The Story of the Todah

H/t Norm Sutherland

This is a very interesting article about the origins of the Eucharist in the Jewish tradition of Todah. It was written 8 years ago by Tim Gray for Catholics United for the Faith, located in Steubenville Ohio. This article fits with the theme of Lay Witness Magazine where it was originally published, "Our Mission ...to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church" It provides food for thought, and I am grateful to my friend Norm for bringing it to my attention.

It can be found online here.
Scholars have often wondered how the practice of Christian Eucharist could have arisen from the Lord’s Supper, which occurred in the context of the Jewish Passover. Since Passover occurs only once a year, how is it that the Christians got the notion that they could celebrate Jesus’ sacrificial meal weekly, if not daily?

The answer is found in the ancient Israelite sacrifice called the todah. While most people have heard of Old Testament sacrifices such as the holocaust offering or burnt offering, those who have heard of the todah sacrifice are as rare as lotto winners. Today's ignorance concerning the todah, however, should not imply that it was unimportant to the Jews. Far from it. The todah was one of the most significant sacrifices of the Jews.

Indeed, an old Rabbinic teaching says: "In the coming Messianic age all sacrifices will cease, but the thank offering [todah] will never cease."(1) What is it about this sacrifice that makes it stand alone in such a way that it would outlast all other sacrifices after the redemption of the Messiah?

A todah sacrifice would be offered by someone whose life had been delivered from great peril, such as disease or the sword. The redeemed person would show his gratitude to God by gathering his closest friends and family for a todah sacrificial meal. The lamb would be sacrificed in the Temple and the bread for the meal would be consecrated the moment the lamb was sacrificed. The bread and meat, along with wine, would constitute the elements of the sacred todah meal, which would be accompanied by prayers and songs of thanksgiving, such as Psalm 116.

What does the word "todah" mean? It is Hebrew for "thanksgiving," although it also connotes a confession of praise in addition to gratitude. For example, Leah gave thanks to God when she bore her fourth son, and so she named him yehudah — or Judah — which is the verbal form of todah — to give thanks.

There are many examples in the Old Testament of people offering todah — thanks — to God. Jonah, while in the belly of the whale, vows to offer up a todah sacrifice in the Temple if he is delivered (cf. Jon. 2:3-10). King Hezekiah offers up a todah hymn upon recovering from a life-threatening illness (cf. Is. 38). However, the best example of todah sacrifice and song is found in the life of King David.

Temple Liturgy
After David had defeated the last Canaanite stronghold, he decided to bring the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem. The bringing of the ark to Jerusalem was the occasion of a great national todah festival. The sacrifices were "peace offerings," and the todah was the most important and common peace offering. All the elements of the todah were present. For example, David offered bread and wine along with the meat of the sacrifices (1 Chron. 16:3). Most importantly, David had the Levites lead the people in todah hymns, that is, psalms of thanksgiving (1 Chron. 16:8-36).

At this pivotal point in Israel's story, David not only changes the location of the ark, but he also transforms Israel's liturgy. At the todah celebration that brought the ark into Jerusalem, David gave the Levites a new mandate — their primary job was to "invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord" (1 Chron. 16:4). The Hebrew word for "invoke" is zakar, which literally means to remember — the noun form signifying "memorial" (zikkaron). One of the most important purposes of a todah meal was to remember the saving deeds of the Lord. Indeed, this is one of the functions of the todah psalms: to recount the mighty deeds of God (cf. Ps. 22:28).

We are also informed that "on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving [todah] be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brethren" (1 Chron. 16:7). The Levites were to give thanks and praise to God "continually" (1 Chron. 16:37, 40). This perpetual adoration was to characterize the Temple liturgy as a todah liturgy — a liturgy of thanksgiving.(2)

The Psalter made up the heart of the hymns and prayers of the Temple liturgy. In light of David's appointing the Levites to give perpetual thanks, we can see why "the thank offering constituted the cultic basis for the main bulk of the Psalms."(3) The todah psalms have a twofold structure. First, although they may begin with thanks and praise, the first half of the song is largely a lament, where the psalmist recounts how his life was in peril. Then the psalmist recounts how God graciously heard his plea and brought about deliverance from death. Thus the second part of the song, or at least its conclusion, is usually taken up with giving thanks and praise to God.(4) So the movement of the todah psalms is from plight to praise — a movement that reflects Israel's movement from enslavement to exodus — while also looking forward to the paschal mystery of Our Lord.

Todah and Jesus
The importance of the todah as a backdrop for Jesus and the Last Supper comes into sharp focus when we realize that in Jesus' day the Greek word that would best translate the Hebrew todah was eucharistia, which also means "thanksgiving." From the earliest Christian sources we learn that the celebration of the Lord's meal, or what we call the Mass, was known by Christians as the Eucharist. After all, at the Last Supper Jesus took the bread and wine and gave "thanks" (eucharistia) over them (Luke 22:19).

The German biblical scholar Hartmut Gese claimed that the todah stands behind what Jesus did at the Last Supper. He goes so far as to argue that Jesus' giving thanks over the bread and wine came in the context of a todah sacrifice rather than a Passover meal. However, no other Scripture scholars have followed Gese's theory about the todah backdrop of Jesus' meal, because the evidence for the Passover in the Gospel narratives is overwhelming.

Here is where I would like to make an adjustment to Gese's theory. I think he is right to see the todah backdrop, but wrong to deny the larger Passover context. The solution to the seeming dilemma is actually quite easy. The Last Supper celebrated in the upper room is both a Passover and a todah meal. The Passover has all the same elements found in the todah: bread, wine, and sacrifice of a lamb, along with hymns and prayers. Indeed, the Hallel psalms (113-118), that were sung during the Passover meal were all todah psalms! The Exodus narrative itself has the basic contours of a todah hymn, with Israel in distress and lament calling out to the Lord (cf. Ex. 2:23-25), while the Lord in turn hears their cry and delivers them (cf. Ex. 6:5-7). The Passover has both the form and content of the todah, because it is a concrete example of a todah sacrifice.

Philo, a first-century Jew, describes the Passover as a festival of thanksgiving: "And this festival is instituted in remembrance of, and as giving thanks [eucharistia] for, their great migration which they made from Egypt."(5) Philo focuses here on two key reasons for the Passover: remembrance and thanksgiving (cf. Ex. 12:14, 13:3). Here again we must note how the Passover fits into the todah genre, for remembrance was one of the primary purposes of the todah. The Passover is Israel's corporate todah meal.

When Jesus takes the bread, breaks it, and declares thanksgiving (eucharistia), He is performing the key function of both the todah and Passover — giving thanks for deliverance. But here Jesus is not simply looking back at Israel's history of salvation, but forward to His death and Resurrection. In other words, Jesus is giving thanks to the Father for His love and for the new life to be granted in the Resurrection. Note that Jesus' words over the bread, His thanksgiving, is what the Christian tradition has focused upon — so that they could call every re-enactment of the Last Supper "Eucharist."

In the Eucharist, Christians give thanks for God's deliverance and remember how Jesus brought about the new exodus with His death and Resurrection. For Jesus had told them, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). This act of remembrance is what the todah is all about — recalling in gratitude God's saving deeds. This leads us to one of the key fruits of a todah — or Eucharistic — spirituality: A deep sense of thankfulness leads to worship. Worship flows from gratitude; cut off from gratitude the will to worship withers.

The todah teaches us to trust God with a grateful heart. By "remembering" Jesus' gift of Himself upon the Cross our love for God is rekindled. Such "remembrance," which is the purpose of todah, leads to deeper trust. As the psalmist says, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Ps. 20:7). (6)

ENDNOTES

  1. Taken from the Pesiqta as quoted in Hartmut Gese, Essays On Biblical Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1981), 133.
  2. The prayers for the morning and evening sacrifice were characterized by the todah thanksgiving (1 Chron. 16:40-41). See also Allan Bouley's discussion of how the prayers at the morning and evening sacrifices included thanksgiving formulas in From Freedom to Formula: the Evolution of the Eucharistic Prayer from Oral Improvisation to Written Texts (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1981), 7-13.
  3. Gese, 131.
  4. Some examples from the multitude of todah psalms are Psalms 16, 18, 21, 32, 65, 100, 107, 116, 124, 136.
  5. Philo, The Special Laws, II, 145. The Works of Philo, trans. by C.D. Young (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 582.
  6. I use here the KJV translation of Psalm 20:7, which is closer to the Hebrew in my judgment.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Tim Gray. "From Jewish Passover to Christian Eucharist: The Story of the Todah." Lay Witness (Nov/Dec. 2002).

Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.

The Author



Scripture scholar Tim Gray is a member of CUF's board of directors. His book Sacraments in Scripture may be ordered by calling Emmaus Road Publishing toll-free at  (800) 398-5470  (800) 398-5470 . CUF members receive a 10% discount.
Copyright © 2002 LayWitness 

Support Our Priests, And Pray for Our Holy Father


Father Dwight Longenecker Hits Another One Out of the Park

Father Longenecker is on his game, and is speaking with a great deal of wisdom.  In this article posted on his blog, linked below, he takes aim at the evil forces that would seek to bring down the Catholic Church.  But, like many of us Father Dwight has read the end of the book (The Holy Bible) and knows how it ends.  Do not be fooled by the reasonable voices of secular humanism and moral relativism.  They are lies, though they sound good at first blush.  Follow your hearts, not your heads, in what guides your path.

Support the Holy Father


By all means let us grieve over the terrible sins of a few wicked priests who abused children. Let us beat our breasts over the weak, corrupt and short sighted bishops and religious superiors who covered up for them. Let us weep tears of repentance and cry out with anger at this blot on our holy church. Let us resolve to continue our efforts to punish the guilty and weed out the offenders from our church and protect our children with stringent measures. Let us repent of our own sins with true repentance.

However, let us also be aware that a spiritual battle is engaged. The one enemy the forces of secularism in the world hate most is the Catholic Church. The Protestants are divided and cannot speak with one global voice of authority. They are easily ridiculed for their wild eyed evangelicalism or their loopy liberalism, but the Catholic Church is not so easily dismissed. There is no other ancient, historic and universal religious and moral authority in the world but the Catholic Church. The hateful forces of secular atheism know this and will do everything they can to destroy the Catholic Church. The ranks of demons have seen the Catholic Church survive for two thousand years and hate our church.

The forces of secular atheism are on the attack, and the Catholic Church and the Holy Father specifically are the target. Why else are the cases of pedophilia in all other religions downplayed or ignored? Why else are so many of the cases of child abuse in schools swept under the carpet or actually laughed at? Why else are the existing cases in the Catholic Church reported partially, distorted and every attempt is made to link them with the Holy Father?

I do not like conspiracy theories and I have always been wary of the kind of religious paranoia that accuses 'the world' of always being ready to attack the faith. On the other hand, Catholics should be prepared. The attacks on the church will increase and become more virulent, and here is why:

Secularism begins by being tolerant and 'open minded' about religion. This benevolent face of secularism does not last long. It is a sort of atheism which does not realize it is atheism. This 'atheism by default' soon becomes angry and aggressive towards organized religion and the more organized the religion, and the more dogmatic the religion, the more this atheism reacts--first with ridicule, then with organized resistance and finally with aggressive attacks. The 'atheism by default' becomes fully fledged aggressive atheism gradually without people noticing.

The second force in the attack is linked with the first. Along with secularism goes moral relativism--which is a nice word for total sexual license. What seems to be 'free love' soon turns violent towards any force that seeks to criticize it. Those who live outside marriage, those who pursue homosexualism, those who pursue promiscuity and a permissive lifestyle soon come to hate themselves, and one another and their mutual self hatred joins forces and is inevitably directed towards anyone or any group they perceive to be disapproving of their wanton lifestyle.

When these two forces of moral relativism and secular atheism come together and face the Catholic faith, be prepared for the perfect storm.

Read the history of the papacy and you will see that the attack will always come at the head of the church. The Pope will be attacked. He set out from the beginning of his papacy a direct attack on what he calls 'the dictatorship of relativism.' We should not be surprised when the dictator strikes back.

The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy

Ever Wondered?

At various times in my life, the Lord has given me a word of prophecy, really a word of wisdom, for a person, or group of persons.  Sometimes I know it because it is clearly not me.  I mean it is my voice, but the words are forming on my lips not in my brain.

Frankly, I am well aware of my own sinfulness, and as a sinner, it is somewhat embarrassing to me to speak wisdom to someone, while trying against the forces of evil dwelling in me, mainly, to be virtuous, particularly when whomever I have a word for knows what a fool I am day to day.

On a couple of occasions lately, I have felt something percolating up inside of me, and being a pragmatist, I want to be sure that what pops out will be of God, not of me.  So, I have held back, and prayed to God to make sure it is Him not me that will be speaking.  Each time that I have done this, the word has almost forced itself out of me, to a point where keeping it in would be harder than letting it out.  Then, I am pretty sure that it is the Lord speaking, and using me as an instrument.

Then today I was over at Anne Bender's blog and read something in her header that got my attention.  I had no idea that what I was doing was biblical in origin.  Jeremiah wrote about it when he said: "I say to myself, I will not mention His name, I will speak in His name no more. But then, it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones, I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it." Jeremiah 20:7-10.


Don't get me wrong.  We are talking a big difference here.  Jeremiah was a PROPHET of God.  Me, I get these little prophecies from time to time.

Scandalon

Michael Card

Boy, did the people of Jesus' day get it wrong about what the King of Kings would come like.

Boy, do the people of today, me included, get it wrong about what the King of Kings would come like.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Come Home Please

Father Ron Rolheiser Writes

H/t Father John Pert, St. George Parish, London Ontario

Father Rolheiser is an Oblate priest, and is currently President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.  He wrote this letter below in late January and it was also published on his web site here.  It is an invitation for those who have abandoned the faith, or never knew the faith to come and join us.
Dear Fellow Pilgrim:

I greet you as someone who is looking for meaning and happiness, as we all are. I know you're sincere or you wouldn't be reading this letter. Know this first of all: We miss you at church. There's not a Sunday goes by when your absence isn't felt. You're missed. Join us.

Yes, I know this isn't a simple thing. The heart has its reasons, Pascal said. Well the church too has its complexities. Perhaps it is precisely one of these complexities that make it difficult for you to walk regularly through a church door. So l won't try to sugarcoat the church. It is a far-from-perfect expression of God's love and mercy and it is a far-from-perfect expression of God's universal salvific will for everyone. Sometimes the church blocks God's love as much as it reveals it. It has been, and remains, a vehicle both of grace and sin. How do we get past its dark side?

Carlo Carretto, the renowned Italian spiritual writer, in his old age, wrote this Ode to the church:

How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you!

You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone.

I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.

You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.

Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, and yet I have never touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful.

Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face-and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!

No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you.

Then too-where would I go?

To build another church?

But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ's church.

No, I am old enough. I know better!
That's a mature description of the church, expressing both love and realism. It's an honest description too. The church has a long history, both of grace and of sin and we who make up the church on earth don't do God very well. Nobody does. We need to admit that.

I can only guess at your reasons for not coming to church regularly or for not coming to church at all: Perhaps you have been hurt by the church, by the institution itself or by one of its priests or ministers. Perhaps you have been one of those who have experienced it as callous, as insensitive, as denigrating you in some way. Or perhaps you are intellectually disenchanted with the church, unable to square its claims with your own sane grip on life and its mysteries. Or perhaps you have found what you are looking for elsewhere, outside the doors of the church you attended when you were little. Or perhaps you have just drifted away and don't think about church very much at all. Perhaps you don't feel a need for church in your life. Or, perhaps you are convinced that Jesus and his teachings are in fact tainted by the church, that Jesus never wanted to found a church, but wanted only that people take his teachings to heart and live in love and graciousness. There are many reasons why people don't go to church. I can only guess at yours.

But your reason for not going is not important for this letter. I don't want to defend the church here, make some kind of apologetics for it, or argue against any of the reasons that people give for not coming to church. And I don't want to try to show you reasons why, I think, it is important to go to church. This I not an apologetics, but a plea, an invitation:

Come back! Try us again! Or, if you have never belonged to the church, try us!

Maybe this time you will find life in the church and be able to drink in some of its graces. Maybe this time you will find it in you to forgive the church for its faults, see those faults are your own faults, and see why Jesus picked such an imperfect vehicle to carry on his presence. Maybe this time you will be able to see in the church what Jesus saw in it - an imperfect body made up of men and women like you and me, full of sin, full of ourselves, petty, small-hearted, less-than- sincere, miserly, and tainted, but also full of grace, full of Christ, big-hearted, sincere, generous, and pure, a group of men and women worth dying for - and belonging to. Come be with us!

A fellow pilgrim and a flawed church member.

Thoughts on Dare to Discipline

Father Longenecker's Recent Blog Posts

Father Dwight Longenecker is upping the ante lately, as you can tell by the number of comments that some of his posts are getting.  His latest Dare to Discipline had 17 comments over night.

Here is the first recommendation that he made about self discipline, and it has garnered mostly favourable response, but a little response along the lines of it being possibly too hard, so I wanted to revisit it and ponder it.
1. We're soft and decadent. We give ourselves too much of a break. We're materialistic, self indulgent and too easy to let ourselves off the hook. What we need is some good old fashioned asceticism. Let's look to the desert fathers who, repelled by the decadence of established Roman Christianity, fled to the desert to practice mortification. "These only come out by prayer and fasting..."
On the face of it, it does sound a bit over the top.  One could think that he is calling us all to head out to the desert for some locusts and honey, and some parching of our throats along the way for good measure.  However, I don't think that is what he has in mind, and as he certainly seems to be giving godly wisdom, I don't think it is quite what Jesus has in mind for us either.

He is speaking about prayer and fasting as ways to holiness, something we are all called to. "Be holy, for I am holy."  Jesus, above all, knows where we are at individually, and He meets us there, and leads us on the path that will take us individually to the foot of His Cross.  We do not start at the foot of the cross, but wind our way there day by day, as He gently calls us on to take up our cross to carry to His.

The day 30 years ago, as I look back to when I knew He called me, as I stood in my kitchen with my wife, and He said only 3 words to me, was the day that I took up my cross for the first time as an adult.  It was really just a little tiny sliver, not a real cross at all, at all.  He said "Go to Church."  That was it.  He did not tell me anything about what He wanted from me in the future, just that.  We obeyed. 

He didn't tell us to join the Church, just to go there.  When we joined fully into the worship and Eucharistic celebration  a few years later, we did so because we consciously chose to do so.  Maybe you have heard him say that to you, or maybe you don't need to hear a voice to know in your heart that it is time to go to a faith community, or move deeper into your own faith and community.  If so, that is the start of moving away from the soft, decadent life style that we have become so accustomed to.

I was not suddenly healed of my sinfulness; in fact, I have not been healed of my sinfulness completely to this day, and don't expect it to happen this side of the grave.  Some of the worst sinning I have ever done in my life came after that long ago day, but I have learned to feel the weight of my sins, and I have also learned the grace of the sacrament of Reconciliation.  For most of the intervening years, I felt ashamed of myself for sinning, trying to hide from it, and beat myself up for it.  Of that, Jesus has healed me.  Now, I feel deep sorrow for my sins, not shame, because He went to His Cross to take away my shame, and to make me worthy of the Salvation that He died and rose to reveal.

Then there was the day 15 years ago, that I was frustrated with following Him, and when by myself I asked Him what he wanted from me; it was a watershed day/moment.  Again, He spoke to me, but like before gave a simple answer.  This time, it was one word only, "Everything."  In an instant I understood in my heart, though my brain was several years behind.  I confess I had not a single clue as to what it would really mean for me.

Jesus does want everything from us, our "joys, works, trials and tribulations" as we can say in the Morning Offering prayer.  But, He will take only that which we willingly give to Him.  He does not just want our successes, but our failures, because of them he can make true successes, particularly the eternal success of spending it with Him.

Jesus has always accepted me just the way I am, but He, in His infinite wisdom, has always invited me on to more.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have run away, because I would not have been able to grasp it.  But, now though the cross has grown over the years, for me anyway, it is easy to carry, because He does all the heavy lifting.  I only need to say, like Our Gracious Mother Mary did, "Yes."

Over time, now 30 years, I have learned to pray, and to enjoy prayer.  I have learned to give from my heart, and I have learned to love in ways I never imagined possible.

But, it is a journey and I hope is only just beginning, as I yearn to draw closer to Him every day.

Jesus wants us to give Him our heart, maybe only a tiny piece today, but given freely.  He will take up residence in whatever we give Him.

That is ascetism, the slow process of yielding ourselves to the Pursuer, the Lover of our very soul.

Praise - Palm Sunday 2010

Praising and Thanking God

This week in the midst of sex abuse scandal murmuring and US health care reform craziness, I realized that God is on His throne, that he knew all that would happen and that it fits into His plan perfectly. I mean, I knew it, but now I KNOW it.  Well, maybe I Know it.

He is worthy to be praised.

I praise God that this week I fell even more in love with my dear Wife.  She is awesome, just like the One in whose image she is created.  How cool is that!!!

I am thankful to Our Great and Mighty God for the first signs of Spring starting to appear.  We have a couple of little crocus in our front garden, and the day lilies are pushing up ever so slightly out of the ground.  The robin has arrived and is strutting his stuff, while the male cardinal to starting his spring song, looking for a mate.  The junco is cleaning up the seeds on the ground that the winter birds have scattered.  Signs of New Life.

And today I praise God for this coming week, when we celebrate Jesus and his horrible death on the Cross for us, and then rejoice once again as He is risen.

Yes, Dear Lord it is a good week to be alive, and above all to be alive in You.

Praise Your Mighty and Holy Name.

Here I Am To Worship

Michael W. Smith

You Lord, are all together worthy of all Glory, Praise and Honour.

You took my sinfulness to the Cross at Calvary with you, and set me free.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dare to Discipline

Father Longenecker Provides A Way Out of the Dilemma

Father Dwight Longenecker wrote a piece the other day at his blog Standing on My Head about "The Real Problem Beneath the Pedophilia".  It was in part a follow up to his own article "The Myth of Pedophile Priests."

The first article about the myth appeared on the way to viral and received 37 comments to date, but the article about the Real Problem went postal and has garnered to date 84 comments.

As I watched this unfold, I realised that there are a lot of hurting Catholics out there, some of whom have been abused, though I don't think any of the commentators were actually abused by a member of the clergy.  But, everyone has an opinion, and since very few of them agree in their details, probably no one has the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God.

In fact,the baby and the bath water seem to be converging out on the sidewalk, and the Church that so many of us love, and the faith in Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that so many of us hold dear is taking a battering in the court of mistaken public opinion, and in the court of mistaken Catholic opinion.  The feelings that so many beleaguered Catholics and other Christians have about what is being reported are real; the facts not quite as much so.  But, such is the case when we have serious feelings about anything.  We become blinded to the facts, and miss the forest for the trees, along with the baby and tub of water.

No person's pain should be diminished, and every person who has commented to Father D's blog has the right to vent their spleen.  It just has stopped being productive.  It is meaningful, just not productive.

So, the good Father, has written a follow up posting with the remedial action that is required of the Church to move forward, and he entitled it  "Dare to Discipline".   In this post, he lays out an explained list of the steps that we, as faithful Catholic Christians, or those desirous of being faithful to the call of Christ that is upon us, must take to overcome the damage done, and to make the Church the holy place it is called to be.

This is not new stuff.  In fact, what Father has written is being followed by many believers as the Holy Spirit has put it on their hearts to so do.  But Father in obedience to the Holy Spirit has written it down for us to examine.  He claims early on that the list is neither infallible, nor probably complete, but may be a good starting point.  Well, it is a wonderful starting point.

As I read it, I can see that there are points that God has put on my heart as well, and I have begun, as have others I know, to operate in it.  There are a few points that God has put on my heart, and I have been reluctant to deal with, and I take the criticism put forward as both personal and valid.  Here is what he wrote:
In the wake of the Catholic soul searching and hand wringing over the child sex abuse allegations and cover up, I've got some ideas on how the situation might be improved. It involves discipline, and lest this sounds too harsh for our delicate soft, selves, let's remember that 'discipline' and 'disciple' are from the same root.

Here are some problems and solutions. I don't propose this as infallible or as a complete (or even accurate) list. But see if it gets some discussion going.

1. We're soft and decadent. We give ourselves too much of a break. We're materialistic, self indulgent and too easy to let ourselves off the hook. What we need is some good old fashioned asceticism. Let's look to the desert fathers who, repelled by the decadence of established Roman Christianity, fled to the desert to practice mortification. "These only come out by prayer and fasting..."

2. We've lost the idea that we're involved in a spiritual battle and that the devil is like a roaring lion stalking about seeking whom he may devour. What we need is more prayer and a new alert and vigilant spirit that does not give the devil even one toe in the door. We need that vigilance first for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters. St Therese cries out, "Sanctity! It must be won at the point of a sword!" Call on the angels and saints.

3. We lack discipline and direction. People consider it essential to have a coach and strict self discipline for success in every other endeavor. Athletes, musicians, business men, academics all demand professional direction and discipline. We think we can get to heaven by sauntering along in some kind of spiritual feel good hippie trance. We need firm spiritual direction and self discipline.

4. We're good at acknowledging that we're good, but bad at admitting that we're not perfect. We've gone too far in the "I'm OK. You're OK" philosophy. God does love us just as we are, but he loves us far too much to leave us that way. He wants each one of us to be saints, and most of us are far from that goal just yet.

5. We're too cowardly in dealing firmly with one another. All of us, but especially fathers, husbands and pastors need to speak out against sin and speak to family members, colleagues and Christian brothers and sisters who offend or who are in danger of offending. When a person is caught in sin proper forgiveness should be balanced with proper restitution and reparation.

6. We think we can be half a saint. We want enough sanctity to make us feel good and no more. St Therese cries out, "You must be a whole saint or no saint at all!"

7. We think that morality doesn't matter. This is gnostic. It's a false separation of the spiritual from the physical. What we do in our bedrooms, what we do in our boardrooms, what we do with our check books and what we do with our prayer books all affect our spiritual life.

8. We've replaced worship with good works. We've made the church into a social services organization, a fund raising agency, a school, a charity, a glorified soup kitchen, a babysitting service, a luncheon club, a dating agency, a social networking group, a group therapy session, a singalong and just about anything  but the gathering together of the saints of God. Only when we worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness will we begin to be transformed not by our good ideas and good works, but by contact with God's awesome grace, and only when we are truly transformed can we hope to transform the world. Thomas a Kempis says, "Why do you wish to change the world when you cannot change yourself?"

9. We are too easy on our clergy. We love our priests. We love our deacons. We love our bishops. We support them. We honor the sacrifices they make. However, we should also hold them accountable. The fact is, money and power corrupt and priests and bishops often have more money and power than they know how to deal with. Together we should uphold the sanctity of their office and the laity should work together to confront and challenge clergy in a respectful and firm way when they go astray. We should not be surprised at corruption, and I think a bit of healthy suspicion of those in power is not a bad thing.

10. We have neglected catechesis and spiritual formation. Instead of teaching the fullness of the Catholic faith, liberals have dished out sentimental, feel good religion on the one hand while the conservatives have dished out dogma and apologetics and liturgical 'correctness' without enough spiritual formation and direction in dynamic life of the Spirit. Christian love is always tough and tender at the same time. Liberals give us tender without tough. Conservatives give us tough without tender. We need both.
Thank you Father Dwight for your insights. The Spirit is alive and well, and we would be wise to follow this sage advice.

I have been bothered by the liberal/conservative choice that we seem to have to make.  But, Father is pointing us toward taking the best of all worlds that present themselves to us, and to be whole persons.

You Are Holy

Michael W. Smith

Let this song of Praise enter your hearts.

Let us all bow down before Him.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Father Groeschel Reflects on the Healthcare Vote

From Deal Hudson of Inside Catholic

Deal Hudson wrote the following article that appeared at Catholic Online, and Inside Catholic.

Father Groeschel has many years of faith living behind him, and we hope many more ahead.  He is a voice of reason, and warrants listening to.  He has earned that respect.
Father Groeschel had good things to say about the consistency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' message.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel at the Pro-Life March.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel at the Pro-Life March.
WASHINGTON, DC (Inside Catholic) - Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with Rev. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., on the phone from his Trinity Retreat Center in Larchmont, New York. Father Groeschel is recovering from a nasty cold, and we were speaking about other matters, but I couldn't resist keeping him on the phone long enough to hear his thoughts on the health-care vote.

This is a priest who has worked with, and for, the poor all his life. Given the prominence of the health-care reform proponents' appeals to "helping the poor" during the many months of debate, I was interested in the opinion of the nationally known and prolific 77-year old Franciscan. (One of his latest books is After This Life: What Catholics Believe about What Happens Next.)

I remember the many times Father Groeschel has spoken to me about the wisdom of the poor, even their happiness. I still remember my puzzlement and amazement while listening to his stories of friends from the worst streets of the South Bronx.

On the subject of health-care reform, Father Groeschel had this to say: "Well, there is no doubt we should be concerned about the 30 million Americans without health insurance, but there were so many other ways to address that." He went on to speculate that the Democrats would pay a big political price for forcing legislation with abortion funding through the Congress against the wishes of the Catholic bishops.
Father Groeschel had good things to say about the consistency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' message to the Congress and the White House, although he didn't disagree with me when I remarked that the message could have been broadcast at a higher volume.

Then the discussion turned to President Barack Obama, and I asked him what he thought. "I think it's a mistake to impute any kind of invidious intent to Obama -- he's from Chicago, he's a pragmatist, a man who learned to be tough growing up." There was something cathartic for me in hearing Father Groeschel speak about Obama without any of the rancor that has become common among many pro-life Catholics -- including myself.

It's as if he were saying to me, "Deal, I've been around a long time, and known a lot of people; and this kind of man and these kinds of events are nothing new -- take a deep breath."

Father Groeschel has explored the depths of the culture of death as deeply as anyone, yet he is neither tragic nor apocalyptic; laughter comes much more easily to his lips than condemnation. His mirth begins with the recognition of our human fallibility and the evil we do, but it ends with the hope of finding our redemption through faith. As the Christian playwright Christopher Fry once wrote: "Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith."

In the past 24 hours, I've heard many sighs of despair, cries of desperation, and claims that it's time to quit the fight because "it's over." Perhaps the reason for all the drama is not merely the passage of the disastrous health-care bill but our attitude of tragic finality about it. History does not work in only one direction, in spite of what Hegel, Marx, and the Catholic progressives claim.

What history takes away it can give back. However, nothing will be given back if we are consumed by anger toward a group of politicians who, as Father Groeschel pointed out about Obama, are mostly pragmatists rather than characters out of Rosemary's Baby.

Yes, there are committed ideologues out there who must be fought and defeated another day. But I am taking Father Groeschel's hint and refraining from an angry chest-beating that, let's be serious, will only hurt my chest and gain us no advantage in the struggle going forward.

When the anger wanes, hope will remain. Therein lies our future.
-----
Deal W. Hudson is the director of InsideCatholic.com and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).

The mission of InsideCatholic.com is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square.We believe that truth is both attractive and compelling and that in the marketplace of ideas, it will invariably win out.
While I have been quick to condemn the President as the most pro-abortion elected official in US history, a bandwagon that I did not create, but jumped on with both feet, Father Groeschel echoes the words of My Dear Wife, who has cautioned me to not get too worked up about an individual.  Fr. Groeschel gives sage advice about the pragmatism of President Obama, and about our need to be calm in the face of trials of many kinds.

The battle is far from over, and requires prayer, fasting and charity to all, including the opposition.

Above All

Michael W. Smith

This song came to mind this morning when I gathered with my Christian brothers for the Liturgy of the Hours.  My dear friend Wayne Zimmer had planned to sing this song at the Good Friday service at St. George Parish here in London.  For some reason he will not be singing it.  Too bad!!

But here it is for you to hear again.

This is an awesome song of God, and His Power.  Let it wash over you, and fill you with His Love.  Jesus took the fall for all of us, you, me, those living and those who have gone before, and all those who will come.  How Awesome is that!!!.

We Have a Pro-Life Intercessor in Heaven as of Sunday Morning

As a Canadian Christian, I awoke the other morning, hoping that Pro-life forces in Washington had somehow stood firm enough, and weathered the storm, fought the good fight to the end, and managed to overcome the Democrat Goliath with their Healt Care Reform Bill.

That morning as I gathered with friends to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we interceded for our brothers and sisters in America.

I knew the previous night that Rep. Bart Stupak had made a deal with the President to get an Executive Order to maintain the Hyde Amendment, as I read and reposted on my own blog site what Deacon Keith Fournier had written about Stupak’s deal.

The deal done, victory was no longer an option, and so I read everything I could to understand what had happened

I particularly zeroed in and posted on the informative letter that Archbishop George H. Niederauer, of San Francisco wrote to and about his parishioner, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Surely, the Speaker would be able to see the danger her very soul was in at this critical time.

I even looked to see what the secular world here in Canada, our own conservatives were saying in support of those who opposed the Bill that was before Congress the other day. There was a lot of noise going on over at Small Dead Animals, one of Canada's foremost conservative blog sites. SDA is a site that brings a lot of insight to things, and some interesting commentary, sometimes incendiary, sometimes humorous, but most often thoughtful and concerned, like this time.  The posting was not about the issue of abortion that is so important to Catholics and all those who support life, but primarily about the constitutionality of the whole mess. Different perspective. Same result. Same disappointment.

As I commented in my own posting about what I had read at SDA: “If you think for a minute that we here north of the 49th do not care about our friends and neighbours south of us, you would be mistaken. And we do so passionately. We also care about freedom, something that is disappearing at such an alarming rate in North America.

But, as I continued to read and ponder, I thought that a very dark day had come to pass, and I was saddened. But, suddenly, that afternoon, I received the most wonderful news, that the battle was not lost, but that it has in fact just begun. The day was not dark, but a bright light was shining on us.

So, do you think a bunch of empty suits in Washington or Ottawa or any other alleged power center of this universe stand a chance at winning for the pro-death folks, in the abortion fight after the weekend? I don't and what follows is why.

Fr. Paul Marx, the founder of Human Life International went to his eternal reward Sunday morning. Though his passing is in some ways sad, as he is no longer with us here on earth, he is in a far better place for him, and also for us. As he was approaching his 90th birthday, he had fought tirelessly for 40 years for the cause of the unborn, and now he is in heaven with all the aborted children of all the ages, and guess what he is going to do.  As he rallied the troops here on earth, I am betting that he will be rallying the troops in heaven, and they will be interceding for us all, for the unborn and for those who would take their lives. Watch the miracles come now, folks!!!

Father Paul and the host of heaven will be seeing the things we cannot, and praying for justice for the unborn, and for the fullness of the reign of heaven.

May he rest in peace, for a moment or two, while he catches his breath, and then may he carry on the fight he did on earth, but with the aid of the heavenly host. This is, in fact, far more exciting news than the debacle in Washington the other day. This is big news in the spiritual realm.

Dear Father Paul, pray for all of us who have any inkling of the belief in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, that we will be strengthened in that belief, and that we will carry on your work on earth, as you carry it on in heaven. Pray that we will come to know deeper the meaning of life, and God's plan for it. Intercede for the opening of our eyes and our hearts to God’s will for us in this fight.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In A World Gone Completely Mad

Western Nations Continue to Pressure Nicaragua on Abortion Laws

From C-FAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute)
Nicaragua is a central American country with quite a political history.  But on one issue at least, they are prepared to stand against the tide.  Abortion is totally illegal for whatever reason there.  But, if the UN gets its hands into them, this one particular area of sanity will be lost.  Read from C-FAM what the UN HRC is up to, and who is on the bully pulpit against them.
     (NEW YORK – C-FAM)  At the recently concluded session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nicaragua came up against intense and concerted international pressure from fellow United Nations (UN) member states over the abortion ban the Latin American country’s National Assembly adopted unanimously into law four years ago.

     Despite promising initial evidence that the prohibition on abortion has helped lower maternal mortality rates, Nicaragua has been the target of international pressure and scrutiny from UN agencies, donor governments and non-governmental organizations. 



     Last month, Nicaragua underwent the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is an opportunity for the UN Human Rights Council - an inter-governmental UN body made up of 47 States responsible for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them - to examine the human rights record of all member states. Each country is reviewed every four years with the aim of ensuring compliance with international human rights obligations.  

     
     As part of its UPR, Nicaragua defended its pro-life legislation reporting that “legal amendments reflected the exercise of sovereignty, and had been adopted by the parliamentary majority in the national assembly.”  Nicaragua stated that the abortion ban was “an issue of sovereignty, not a religious one” as “the majority of Nicaraguans believed that the right to life of the unborn was important.”

     Countering criticisms previously issued against the ban by members of the international community, Nicaragua concluded that “those who opposed the amendment could seize the courts.”  Nicaragua reported that many cases had been brought before the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the amendment, and decisions are still pending. Medical staff are not forbidden to provide medical care when the life of the mother was in danger.

     Prior to Nicaragua's UPR appearance, Amnesty International (AI) launched a campaign calling on other countries to pressure Nicaragua to repeal the abortion ban.  The AI campaign argued that "UN member states should take this opportunity to hold Nicaragua to account for a law that violates women's right to life, health and dignity." 

     However, no UN treaty mentions abortion and there is no binding human rights obligation to allow abortions. Members of the committees charged with overseeing state compliance to the treaties have taken it upon themselves to attach a "right to abortion" under long-established rights like the rights to the highest attainable standard of health, privacy or the right to be free from discrimination and have used this misinterpretation of international law to push abortion on sovereign nations.

     At the Human Rights Council meeting, a number of countries lined up to chastise Nicaragua and urge a repeal of the ban.  Eleven countries spoke out against the law, urging Nicaragua to consider: the decriminalization of abortion, ‘hard-case’ exceptions to the ban such as rape and incest, or for “therapeutic” reasons, and removing punitive provisions against women and against medical personnel who have “exercised their professional responsibilities.” Slovenia, Netherlands, Norway, the Czech Republic, Mexico, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Finland, Sweden and Germany all pressed Nicaragua to repeal the abortion ban.

HUA - Heard Understood and ACKNOWLEDGED

Canadian and US Military

H/t Libby and Bob for the US military. 

As a Canadian, I acknowledge that we are shy, quiet and reserved.  As such, there is not a lot of noise about our fighting men and women over in Afghanistan.

But, I received a picture of the daughter of an old friend, who used to wear pony tails at our company picnics many years ago.  She seems to be missing the pony tails now, but the automatic weapon and even the dog in her arms is a statement.  She is with the Canadian military in Afghanistan, and has also served in Kosovo.  Our Canadian military personnel are serving with valour and distinction in Afghanistan, and we pray for their safe return upon successful completion of their mission. (picture removed)

My friends noted above sent this collection below of a picture of deploying troops, and possible bumper stickers seen with comments about US military might.

It takes guts to do what our young friend above and our brothers and sisters pictured below do to protect us and others.  So, a little bragging about their might and power does not bother me, though I am sure the politically sensitive (correct) might disagree.

So to the politically correct who are offended, I say, when you are ready to put your own money where your mouth is, sign up and go fight for something.  Until then, sit back and shut up.

All these brave men and women need our prayers and support, not our criticism.



Bumper-Stickers Seen On Military Bases.

"Except For Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism, WAR has Never Solved Anything."

"Marines - Certified Counselors to the 72 Virgins Dating Club."

"U.S. Air Force - Travel Agents To Allah"

"When In Doubt, Empty The Magazine"

"Naval Corollary: Dead Men Don't Testify."

"The Marine Corps - When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be Destroyed Overnight"

"Death Smiles At Everyone - Marines Smile Back"

"Marine Sniper - You can run, but you'll just die tired!"

"What Do I Feel When I Kill A Terrorist? A Little Recoil"

"Marines - Providing Enemies of America an Opportunity To Die For their Country Since 1775"

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Anyone Who Threatens It"

"Happiness Is A Belt-Fed Weapon"

"It's God's Job to Forgive Bin Laden - It's Our Job To Arrange The Meeting"

"Artillery Brings Dignity to What Would Otherwise Be Just A Vulgar Brawl"

"One Shot, Twelve Kills - U.S. Naval Gun Fire Support"

"My Kid Fought In Iraq So Your Kid Can Party In College"

"Machine Gunners - Accuracy By Volume"

"A Dead Enemy Is A Peaceful Enemy - Blessed Be The Peacemakers"

"If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher..  If You Can Read It In English, Thank A Veteran"

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But the U.S. ARMED FORCES don't have that problem." ...Ronald Reagan

To the Contrary: A Plea for Calm: Reflection on Bart Stupak

The Passion of Being Pro-Life

Two people I have come to regard with respect and admiration for their Passion for Jesus Christ, for the Catholic Church in Christianity, and for their zeal for the life of the unborn are Deacon Keith Fournier of Catholic Online, and Mrs. Jennifer Hartline, a writer for that publication, as well as publisher of her own blog My Chocolate Heart.   In the mystery that is the Body of Christ, they are becoming friends of mine through our connections.

As for Catholic Online, I have the privilege of having some of my own articles picked up by the publication, and find it to be a powerful source of information on contemporary Catholic thought, my own articles not withstanding.

That both of these upstanding Catholic Christians felt abandoned by the process of voting and the conclusion that came with the Health Care Reform Bill should come as no surprise, since they did not waver at any time along the way, and that they wrote from their sorrow and their passion comes as no surprise either to me.  I admire it.

But, linked here is a piece authored by Robert Stackpole STD, an Associate Professor of Theology at Redeemer Pacific College with the title "To the Contrary:  A Plea for Calm: Reflection on Bart Stupak".  It is a reasoned response, and merits thought.  It is not in favour of Bart Stupak, nor critical of him, but an attempt to bring reason to the debate.

I personally share Jennifer's and Deacon Keith's passion for the life of the unborn.  They are the most helpless of our society and NEED us to stand up for them.

But, I have linked the article because Jesus passion for us came on the Cross, when he offered himself up to the Father in expiation of all of our sins.  It must have made no sense to His disciples at the time.  Our passion for Him and for his precious sons and daughters, especially those who cannot speak for themselves must also take us to the crucifixion of our own selves, and those parts of our selves that are not of Him.  We do not know how Christ will bring good out of this disaster in Health Care, but we of faith know that He will.  It is at the core of our faith.  "All things turn to good for those who trust in the Lord."

The failure to have prevented the growth of abortion over these last 40 years is not a failure of Bart Stupak, even though he might have been able to do more, but is in fact a prayer failure; that all of us who during our lives have at one time or another failed to turn our eyes to heaven day in and day out, and implore our Mighty God to bring about a stop to this evil.

Who of us has turned our hearts to God in such a way as to have totally trusted Him in prayer, to have believed Him and His Holy Word totally?  Not me, that's for sure.

We must bring ourselves before the Lord, and place our prayers and petitions, and the responsibility for answering those prayers to Him.  We must offer Him daily our joys, works, trials and tribulations.

We must become holy because He is holy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Profoundly Flawed: U.S. Catholic Bishops Oppose Health Care Legislation

A Clear Statement from the US Bishops About Health Care Reform

Catholic Online reports that the US Catholic Bishops have spoken out about their specific concerns.  All Catholics are biblically mandated to stand behind the leaders of our Church.  So, let's get on with it.  Disobedience of their authority is not an option that will bring peace to our hearts.
"As Bishops of the Catholic Church, we speak in the name of the Church and for the Catholic faith itself".

Cardinal Francis George Speaking for the US Catholic Bishops
Cardinal Francis George Speaking for the US Catholic Bishops
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – Less than an hour before the President of the United States signed the Senate version of Health Care Reform into law, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, through their President, Cardinal Francis George, issued the following release:
From The Catholic Bishops of the United States:
"For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for reform of our health care system so that all may have access to the care that recognizes and affirms their human dignity. Christian discipleship means, "working to ensure that all people have access to what makes them fully human and fosters their human dignity" (United States Catechism for Adults, page 454). Included among those elements is the provision of necessary and appropriate health care.
"For too long, this question has gone unaddressed in our country. Often, while many had access to excellent medical treatment, millions of others including expectant mothers, struggling families or those with serious medical or physical problems were left unable to afford the care they needed. As Catholic bishops, we have expressed our support for efforts to address this national and societal shortcoming.

"We have spoken for the poorest and most defenseless among us. Many elements of the health care reform measure signed into law by the President address these concerns and so help to fulfill the duty that we have to each other for the common good. We are bishops, and therefore pastors and teachers. In that role, we applaud the effort to expand health care to all.
"Nevertheless, for whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions.
"Its failure to preserve the legal status quo that has regulated the government´s relation to abortion, as did the original bill adopted by the House of Representatives last November, could undermine what has been the law of our land for decades and threatens the consensus of the majority of Americans: that federal funds not be used for abortions or plans that cover abortions. Stranger still, the statute forces all those who choose federally subsidized plans that cover abortion to pay for other peoples´ abortions with their own funds. If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.
"We share fully the admirable intention of President Obama expressed in his pending Executive Order, where he states, "it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services." However, the fact that an Executive Order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself. We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.
"The statute is also profoundly flawed because it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context). As well, many immigrant workers and their families could be left worse off since they will not be allowed to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges to be created, even if they use their own money.
"Many in Congress and the Administration, as well as individuals and groups in the Catholic community, have repeatedly insisted that there is no federal funding for abortion in this statute and that strong conscience protection has been assured. Analyses that are being published separately show this not to be the case, which is why we oppose it in its current form. We and many others will follow the government´s implementation of health care reform and will work to ensure that Congress and the Administration live up to the claims that have contributed to its passage. We believe, finally, that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required.
"As bishops, we wish to recognize the principled actions of the pro-life Members of Congress from both parties, in the House and the Senate, who have worked courageously to create legislation that respects the principles outlined above. They have often been vilified and have worked against great odds.
"As bishops of the Catholic Church, we speak in the name of the Church and for the Catholic faith itself. The Catholic faith is not a partisan agenda, and we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to working for health care which truly and fully safeguards the life, dignity, conscience and health of all, from the child in the womb to those in their last days on earth."

- - -

Deacon Keith Fournier asks that you join with us and help in this vital mission by sending this article to your family, friends, and neighbors and adding our link (www.catholic.org) to your own website, blog or social network. Let us broadcast, we are PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC!

 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A CALL TO ARMS: War must be engaged with energy and faith!

Fr. Tim Moyle - Where the Rubber Hits the Road

When Father Moyle speaks at his blog, I tend to listen.  He is an Evangelical Catholic Priest, and does not run off half cocked. In this case, he wisely is locked and loaded, and is calling all of us to be the same.  Only the blind are unaware that the battle is being waged against the faith, from all comers.  But we, of the Christian faith has the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings on our side, with which to win that battle.  It does not matter how ugly the battle looks, we are to remain firm in the faith, and trust in the love of our God, and the power of His Holy Spirit to win the battle.  The battle is His, but we are to be his foot soldiers, and we are to stand, when all else fails, we are to stand.  Here is what Father Tim has to say this morning:
War has been declared by the forces of darkness in an attempt to extinguish the light of faith within the Roman Catholic Church.

This is not a war of our choosing. Nevertheless, it is a war which must be joined with every facet and weapon that the Church has at its disposal. It may be the start of the famed battle foretold in Revelations or it may be another attack from the forces of evil in the world designed to wound the faith, but it is a war which must be fought and which will be won.

Commentators throughout the blogosphere have been crying out a warning since the creation of the virtual world - but it has been a warning that has been too long ignored. Most decision and opinion makers within the Church have thought these cries to be the clucking of nothing more than modern manifestation of Chicken Little. Sadly, just as the forces of liberty & faith were taken by surprise by at Pearl Harbor and in Jerusalem in 1967, so too have the leaders of the Church failed to heed the warnings of those who have been arguing that the Church was in peril. Now the evidence should seem clear to all that it is time to awake and rouse ourselves to the ramparts as we begin to engage in the battle for our souls.

Such militaristic and violence laced language is offensive to many both within and outside the Church. The instinct of faith is to follow Christ, the Prince of Peace. The voice that calls for 'proposition not imposition' seems to be incompatible with this call to arms, but it is not. Remember too that Christ said that he did not come to bring peace, but division. That “two will be divided against three and three against two, “father against son and mother against daughter.” It is true that Christ’s victory over death in his passion and resurrection is the guarantee of the ultimate victory of Good over Evil, but he did not promise smooth sailing for the Barque of Peter.

Evil still roams and menaces the faith in this life. Trial and tribulation marked not only the Church's birth but, was promised to return prior to the Messiah's return. With the passing of legislation in the USA that will result in federal funding for elective abortions, the forces of death have won a considerable victory. In the face of this victory by the forces of death, the scandals which have erupted within and around the Church has discouraged and disorganized it exactly when its forces need to be marshaled to face the coming persecution and opposition on a global scale as has not been experienced since the days of the earliest Church martyrs at the hands of the Roman Empire.

It is ironic that it has been from within a nation that saved Christianity after the dark ages that this grievous wound has been struck against the Catholic faith. The sinful witness of a few Irish priests and bishops stands in putrid contrast to the heroic witness of Saints Bridget, Brendan and Patrick. It brings into disrepute the tireless efforts and sacrifices of pious Irish women and men who were among the first to bring the Catholic Church to America; sacrifices now viscerally polluted in the public eye by the infidelity and sinfulness of their spiritual and ethnic progeny. These criminal and sinful acts served to vitiate the voice of the Bishops and fracture of the Catholic community in that crucial American debate which will result in the wholesale slaughter - by the state- of future millions of pre-born souls. A 'fifth column' of predator priests, compromised religious, and weak-kneed bishops, (concerned more with their reputation and influence than with ensuring fidelity and justice) have effected a body-blow to the faith, unparalleled in modern history, striking at the Chair of Peter, and into the center of the Christian world's preeminent political and military power in Washington, DC.

C.S. Lewis could not have scripted the story-line more chilling than is being experienced within the Catholic community today.

The Irish do not stand alone in suffering this fate, but it has been the tinder that has lit the fires which burn now across the entirety of Christendom. Media outlets are replete with the disclosures of utter evil with every day that passes. This does seem to justify a certain sense of indignation as antagonists for simply being the  vehicles of bad news 'from the front'. Alas, the Church has been shot by a weapon of its own making, fired from within its own ranks. To quote an old pastor, "an enemy has done this, even if the wound was self-inflicted." Blaming the media will not be a successful strategy in winning back the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens of both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms.

Mind you, there are numerous examples where media managers use this shot to the Body of Christ to great malicious advantage. Throughout the pro-life arguments broadcast on Sunday on CNN by Christian politicians during the health care debate,  allegations challenging the Church's sanctity and truthfulness  crawled unceasingly across the news-ticker at the bottom of the screen - an omnipresent challenge to the voices of the US Bishops and   the political coalition of the forces of life.  The Times of London even published an article declaring the pontiff's Pastoral Letter to the people of Ireland an abject failure, rejected across the land, eight hours in advance of the letter's release. The condemnatory comments it contained from some involved in the 'victims rights' movement clearly demonstrate that they were not open to ANY initiative of the Church. Reconciliation and healing is not their agenda. Their true goal is the utter destruction of the Petrine Office and the Body of Christ gathered in communion with him. We neglect this truth at our own peril in this spiritual and cultural conflict.

Pope Benedict has recognized the danger. His call to the Irish to lead the universal Church in rediscovering the use of such spiritual weapons as prayer, fasting and penance to strengthen the forces of faith, hope and charity; practices foreign to those malformed by the Cathechetical failures that followed in the immediate wake of  the Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul the Great understood this urgent need for penance: a responsibility he literally took upon his back with the practice of self-flagellation during his pontificate. Now is the time for all Catholics inspired by their examples, to defend the faith in every way possible.

There is a time to heed the call of the Spirit to progress in theology and our understanding of the divine will. It is not now. Not when the enemy is inside the walls of the Church. Not when the 'Barque of Peter' has been holed below the waterline. Now IS the time for Catholic leaders to sound the ‘klaxons’ and call all hands to 'battle stations'. Now IS the time to deploy every spiritual weapon at our disposal to fight the righteous fight for the faith.

Now is the time to stand with Peter.

It is time to take up arms and stand with Christ: to take up both the cross AND sword to defend the faith.

It is time for the Church to declare war. 
 I stand with Peter.  How about you?