Stabat Mater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fifteen Prayers of St. Bridget of Sweden

THE FIRST PRAYER

O Jesus Christ! Eternal Sweetness to those who love You, joy surpassing all joy and all desire, Salvation and Hope of all sinners, Who have proven that You have no greater desire than to be among us, even assuming human nature at the fullness of time for the love of us, recall all the sufferings You have endured from the instant of Your conception, and especially during Your Passion, as it was decreed and ordained from all eternity in the Divine plan.

Remember, O Lord, that, during the Last Supper with Your disciples, having washed their feet, You gave them Your Most Precious Body and Blood, and while, at the same time, You sweetly consoled them, You foretold to them Your coming Passion.

Remember the sadness and bitterness which You experienced in Your Soul as You bore witness saying: “My Soul is sorrowful even unto death.”

Remember all the fear, anguish and pain that You suffered in Your delicate Body before the torment of the Crucifixion, when, after having prayed three times, bathed in a sweat of blood, You were betrayed by Judas, Your disciple, arrested by the people of a nation You had chosen and elevated, accused by false witnesses, unjustly judged by three judges during the flower of Your youth and during the solemn Paschal season.

Remember that You were despoiled of Your garments and clothed in those of derision; that Your Face and Eyes were veiled, that You were buffeted, crowned with thorns, handed a reed, crushed with blows and overwhelmed with affronts and outrages. In memory of all these pains and sufferings which You endured before Your Passion on the Cross, grant me before my death true contrition, a sincere and entire confession, worthy satisfaction and the remission of all my sins. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE SECOND PRAYER

O Jesus! True liberty of angels, Paradise of delights, remember the horror and sadness which You endured when Your enemies, like furious lions, surrounded You, and by thousands of insults, spits, blows, lacerations and other unheard-of-cruelties, tormented You at will. In consideration of these torments and insulting words, I beseech You, O my Saviour, to deliver me from all my enemies, visible and invisible, and to bring me, under Your protection, to the perfection of eternal salvation. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE THIRD PRAYER

O Jesus! Creator of Heaven and earth, Whom nothing can encompass or limit, You enfold and hold all under Your Loving power. Remember the very bitter pain You suffered when Your enemies nailed Your Sacred Hands and Feet to the Cross by blow after blow with big blunt nails, and, not finding You in a pitiable enough state to satisfy their rage, they enlarged Your Wounds, and added pain to pain, and, with indescribable cruelty, stretched Your Body on the Cross, pulling You from all sides, thus dislocating Your Limbs. I beg of You, O Jesus, by the memory of this most Loving suffering of the Cross, to grant me the grace to fear You and to Love You. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE FOURTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Heavenly Physician, raised aloft on the Cross to heal our wounds with Yours, remember the bruises which You suffered and the weakness of all Your Members which were distended to such a degree that never was there pain like unto Yours. From the crown of Your Head to the Soles of Your Feet there was not one spot on Your Body that was not in torment, and yet, forgetting all Your sufferings, You did not cease praying to Your Heavenly Father for Your enemies, saying: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Through this great Mercy, and in memory of this suffering, grant that the remembrance of Your Most Bitter Passion may effect in us a perfect contrition and the remission of all our sins. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE FIFTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Mirror of eternal splendor, remember the sadness which You experienced, when contemplating in the light of Your Divinity the predestination of those who would be saved by the merits of Your Sacred Passion, You saw at the same time, the great multitude of reprobates who would be damned for their sins, and You complained bitterly of those hopeless lost and unfortunate sinners. Through this abyss of compassion and pity, and especially through the goodness which You displayed to the good thief when You said to him, “This day, you shall be with Me in Paradise,” I beg of You, O Sweet Jesus, that, at the hour of my death, You will show me mercy. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE SIXTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Beloved and most desirable King, remember the grief You suffered, when, naked and like a common criminal, You were fastened and raised on the Cross, when all Your relatives and friends abandoned You, except Your Beloved Mother, who remained close to You during Your agony and whom You entrusted to Your faithful disciple when You said to Mary: “Woman, behold your son!” and to St. John: “Son, behold your Mother!”
I beg of You, O my Saviour, by the sword of sorrow which pierced the soul of Your holy Mother, to have compassion on me in all my affliction and tribulations, both corporal and spiritual, and to assist me in all my trials, and especially at the hour of my death. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE SEVENTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Inexhaustible Fountain of compassion, Who, by a profound gesture of Love, said from the Cross: “I thirst!” suffering from the thirst for the salvation of the human race. I beg of You, O my Saviour, to inflame in our hearts the desire to tend toward perfection in all our acts; and to extinguish in us the concupiscence of the flesh and the ardor of worldly desires. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE EIGHTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Sweetness of hearts, delight of the spirit, by the bitterness of the vinegar and gall which You tasted on the Cross for Love of us, grant us the grace to receive worthily Your Precious Body and Blood during our life and at the hour of our death, that they may serve as a remedy and consolation for our souls. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE NINTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Royal virtue, joy of the mind, recall the pain You endured when, plunged in an ocean of bitterness at the approach of death, insulted, outraged by Your own people, You cried out in a loud voice that You were abandoned by Your Father, saying: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
Through this anguish, I beg of You, O my Saviour, not to abandon me in the terrors and pains of my death. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE TENTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Who are the beginning and end of all things, life and virtue, remember that for our sakes You were plunged in an abyss of suffering from the soles ofYour Feet to the crown of Your Head. In consideration of the enormity of Your Wounds, teach me to keep, through pure love, Your Commandments, whose way is wide and easy for those who love You. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE ELEVENTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Deep abyss of mercy, I beg of You, in memory of Your Wounds which penetrated to the very marrow of Your Bones and to the depth of Your being, to draw me, a miserable sinner, overwhelmed by my offenses, away from sin and to hide me from Your Face justly irritated against me, hide me in Your wounds, until Your anger and just indignation shall have passed away. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE TWELFTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Mirror of Truth, symbol of unity, link of charity, remember the multitude of wounds with which You were afflicted from head to foot, torn and reddened by the spilling of Your adorable Blood. O great and universal pain, which You suffered in Your virginal flesh for love of us! Sweetest Jesus! What is there that You could have done for us which You have not done! May the fruit of Your suffering be renewed in my soul by the faithful remembrance of Your Passion, and may Your love increase in my heart each day, until I see You in eternity: Who are the treasury of every real good and every joy, which I beg You to grant me, O Sweetest Jesus, in heaven. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE THIRTEENTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Strong Lion, Immortal and Invincible King, remember the pain which You endured when all Your strength, both moral and physical, was entirely exhausted, You bowed Your Head, saying: “It is consummated!” Through this anguish and grief, I beg of You, Lord Jesus, to have mercy on me at the hour of my death when my mind will be greatly troubled and my soul will be in anguish. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE FOURTEENTH PRAYER

O Jesus! Only Son of the Father, Splendor and Figure of His Substance, remember the simple and humble recommendation You made of Your Soul to Your Eternal Father, saying: “Father, into Your Hands I commend My Spirit!” And with Your Body all torn, and Your Heart Broken, and the bowels of Your Mercy open to redeem us, You Expired. By this Precious Death, I beg of You, O King of Saints, comfort me and help me to resist the devil, the flesh and the world, so that, being dead to the world, I may live for You alone. I beg of You at the hour of my death to receive me, a pilgrim and an exile returning to You. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

THE FIFTEENTH PRAYER

O Jesus! True and fruitful Vine! Remember the abundant outpouring of Blood which You so generously shed from Your Sacred Body as juice from grapes in a wine press. From Your Side, pierced with a lance by a soldier, blood and water issued forth until there was not left in Your Body a single drop, and finally, like a bundle of myrrh lifted to the top of the Cross, Your delicate Flesh was destroyed, the very Substance of Your Body withered, and the Marrow of Your Bones dried up.
Through this bitter Passion and through the outpouring of Your Precious Blood, I beg of You, O Sweet Jesus, to receive my soul when I am in my death agony. Amen.

Our Father …
Hail Mary …

CLOSING PRAYER:

O Sweet Jesus! Pierce my heart so that my tears of penitence and love will be my bread day and night; may I be converted entirely to You, may my heart be Your perpetual habitation, may my conversation be pleasing to You, and may the end of my life be so praiseworthy that I may merit Heaven and there with Your saints, praise You forever.

“He who seeks to keep his life will lose it; he who loses his life will save it.”: Vaccines versus viruses; prepping versus providence

If there’s one thing the Bible is clear about, it’s not putting our trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no help, not trusting in our own devices, etc., for God chooses the weak things of the world that no flesh may glory in His sight. The foolish man cannot know this, and the fool cannot understand.
From the time when Satan refused to trust God, then tempted Adam and Eve to “be like Gods who know,” to the Tower of Babel to Israel being punished over and over for not doing things Gods way, while those who were justified were justified by their absolute trust in God, even when His instructions were foolishness to human wisdom, the Bible tells us over and over that we should, as Jesus says, “Consider the lilies of the field,” for we know no the day nor the hour. Just when we are saying “peace and security,” the Lord will come like a thief in the night and say, “You fool! Don’t you know this very night your life will be demanded of you?”
I am always dismayed by Christians who insist that they should put their trust in worldly goods, rather than building up treasure in Heaven, be they investors, “preppers,” etc. Obviously, there is a common sense level of protecting ones health and family, and keeping an emergency reserve if possible, but some people seem way too concerned about storing up treasure on earth.
Then there’s the vaccine issue. Again, nothing wrong with protecting health, but doing so at the expense of other people’s lives should be avoided, and it is difficult to suppress the instinct to say, “I told you so,” when the efforts people cling to prove futile in the face of worse and worse viruses and bacteria strains. We hear about “herd immunity” (a term that’s offensive in itself), and see arguments about what that does or does not mean. We see arguments about old viruses returning supposedly because of unvaccinated families, though others arguing they’re spreading among the vaccinated and that they’ve gotten worse because of resistance. Now, there is apparently a virus spreading that mimics a cold or flu but is far worse and they barely even know what it is. . . .

The SSPX, like the Dwarves in _The Last Battle_, will refuse to be taken in

Haven’t written much lately, and have several posts saved as drafts, but wanted to post some thoughts on a report that talks are still continuing informally between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X’s superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay.

When he spoke in Columbia several years ago, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, said that, in his experience, the higher you go in any given “denomination,” you’re generally more likely to find people who are reasonable and open to dialogue. He told a story of giving an address to a Baptist seminary once on the Marian dogmas and how they reinforce authentic Christology. He said the ordained ministers and the theology professors all nodded in agreement. The students and other laity present got angrier and angrier as his talk progressed.
I’ve only ever met one SSPX family “IRL” that I can recall. It was at the Traditional Latin Mass the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP; the Order established by St. John Paul II for former SSPX members who were willing to return) used to offer monthly in Columbia–ironically, after Summorum Pontificum, they said they could no longer afford to drive from Atlanta every month unless the attendance increased. They offered to train one of the local priests. The only one who was willing was transferred, and no other pastor would volunteer to host or celebrate the Extraordinary Form.
Anyway, one of the only times I brought my whole family, there was this “nice” young family visiting their family for the holidays (I am not being politically correct; I forget which holiday it was). Our kids played with their kids while we talked after Mass.
They told us, “We only came here because there wasn’t an SSPX parish nearby. . . . ” They actually said they felt guilty for attending a “fake” Latin Mass and that, back home, they had both FSSP and SSPX but attended the latter. That, to me, summed up the problem and crushed any hope of formal reconciliation.
Bishop Fellay seems like a man of good will. He may get some of the other bishops and many of the priests to agree to reconciliation with Rome, but the priests and the laity already have the freedom to rejoin “full communion” (I’m choosing my words carefully) if they want. The priests can join the FSSP. The laity can just come to a local EF, but they won’t, because they fundamentally oppose the “New Church.” If Rome tomorrow said, “The suspension of SSPX is lifted, and they are in full communion and enjoy full canonical status as a [personal prelature or ordinariate],” there would still be Ross Perot’s “Giant Sucking Sound” of people defecting to Williamson’s group, the SSPV, etc.
Most people think the Mass is the issue, but it’s really a relatively small issue. The real problems the SSPX and other (for lack of a better term) “RadTrad” groups have stem from the documents: the vague wording, the teachings on religious liberty, _Nostra Aetate_ (which Pope Benedict XVI said was open to criticism for its naivete), etc. The fundamental issue of the “schism” (for lack of a better word), though not an official SSPX position, was the new rite of episcopal ordination. Bishop Fellay and other critics of the Second Vatican Council argued that the new rite has key points in which it diverts from the common traditions of all Catholic rites in history that render all post-Vatican II episcopal ordinations, in their view, invalid–including that of Josef Ratzinger. That is why Bishop Fellay ordained the group of four relatively young priests as bishops in 1988 against Vatican approval: to ensure in his view a valid line of Apostolic Succession, but ignoring that the ordinations would be canonically illicit and incurring excommunication on himself and the four young valid but illicit bishops.
When B16 succeeded St. John Paul II, the SSPX website got friendlier to Rome. It praised him and featured him prominently when he lifted the excommunications of the four bishops and opened discussion. It praised him even more when he issued Summorum Pontificum. Then suddenly it got very quiet. Rome made an offer. The SSPX refused. Controversial Bishop Richard Williamson was expelled but Fellay started sounding like Martin Luther.
The Benedict, for whom reconciliation with SSPX was a target of his papacy (how could the Church expect to heal centuries of other divisions without starting from the most recent?) gave his radio address saying it’s OK to criticize _Nostra Aetate_. He appointed Archbishop Gerhard Muller, often seen as something of a “liberal” to many of us because of his sympathy for liberation theology and his calls for St. JPII to retire, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Then, a few months later, after few headline-grabbing statements, Benedict resigned. His resignation of course created the situation of “two Popes,” a scenario which many traditionalists and many who were not previously “traditionalists” saw as potentially fulfilling warnings from various saints and visionaries.
There is so much pride and anger and hard-heartedness mixed up in all of this. I don’t doubt there are forces at work in the Vatican who squashed the talks and probably contributed to the Holy Father’s decision to resign, but there is so much hard-heartedness among the rank and file of the SSPX that, if Rome issued a statement tomorrow saying, “The faculties of all bishops and priests of the Society of St. Pius X are reinstated, and the Society will enjoy canonical status as an Ordinariate,” even then you’d hear Ross Perot’s “Giant Sucking Sound” of SSPX members starting yet another group, joining Williamson’s group, or joining the Society of St. Pius V.

St. Pius X and St. John Paul II, pray for unity of the Pilgrim Church on Earth.

On Melancholy: the Physiological aspects of depression and bi-polar

Last night, I posted a semi-defense of certain controversial comments made in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide and a general suggestion of how Matt Walsh, Rush Limbaugh, Bryan Kemper and others might have done better.

Part of Matt Walsh’s appeal is that, like the early Limbaugh, he uses sensationalistic packaging to get people’s attention to pieces that are usually very thoughtful. In this case, which backfires horribly because his piece isn’t as thoughtful as he thinks, he emphasized the notion that “Robin Williams didn’t die of a disease; he died of a choice.” At one point, he says, “First, suicide does not claim anyone against their will.”

He anticipates this response a few paragraphs above, but that is precisely the problem. Mental health issues, addiction, etc., reduce or remove culpability. Now, the mentally ill person may remain culpable for what is done while sane, but the question–which none of us can answer in this life–is whether the person who commits suicide truly has control of his or her will.

People like causes. They like to have someone or something to blame, especially if it isn’t themselves. “He was depressed because his career was in the tank” is an easy target versus “He was depressed because he had a genetic condition that made it difficult to control his emotions.” That gets into a mess of problems about free will versus determinism. Then there’s the controversial, “He was post-abortive,” which I want to discuss in a separate post, but while guilt, financial troubles, or frightening medical diagnoses may contribute to mental health issues, we cannot deny that there are physiological components. Matt Walsh is right that there are spiritual components, but wrong to dismiss “chemical imbalances” as modernist mumbo jumbo. Physiological understandings of depressive disorders are nothing new at all.

It is precisely “He was depressed because of XYZ” that is “modernist mumbo jumbo,” originating with Freud’s era.  Back in the old days, instead of “chemical imbalances,” people talked about “humors.” Melancholy is usually associated with depression, though the “melancholic temperament” would be what we now call “bipolar” and possibly include even autism. The melancholic is concerned about the troubles of the world, prone to mood swings, etc. Literature’s most notorious melancholic is perhaps Prince Hamlet from Shakespeare’s eponymous play. Three major movies made of the play within a decade demonstrate different psychological interpretations of the character:

The Zeffirelli/Gibson film (1990) depicts Hamlet as bipolar, mostly manic or “rapid cycling.”  
The Branagh/Branagh (1996) version depicts Hamlet as almost sociopathic (choleric), with the melancholy a complete facade.
The Almereyda/Hawke (2000) version depicts Hamlet as straight-up clinically depressed.  

Either way, all effective writers are natural psychologists and write their characters so well that they can be readily diagnosed (always baffles me that people insist you can’t “diagnose” fictional characters because a particular health problem or mental health issue wasn’t named: people still had problems).  Shakespeare drew from the psychology of his day and also left the character open to interpretation because he was aware of the debates that existed even then.

One of the concerns Walsh, and many others raise in critiquing a biological interpretation of mental health, is the spiritual component.  Fr. John Corapi would compare it to any physical disease: you might have a genetic predisposition to something. Then you add in the component of an actual physical trauma, poor nutrition, etc. Then bacteria come into the wound and infect it.

With mental health, you may have a genetic predisposition to bi-polar, depression, schizophrenia, autism spectrum, etc. You experience traumas that other experience but they hurt you more because of your predispositions. Things that might cause a brief situational depression for anybody are devastating (or, conversely, one thrives in a crisis). Then the demons, like bacteria in a wound, come along and whisper “You’re unworthy.” They infect the emotional wound and refuse to leave.  That certainly needs to be dealt with, and most treatment programs acknowledge it.  

“Madame has moments of melancholy,” says Max in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).  Norma Desmond, also clearly bipolar (mania demonstrated by her literally insane, rambling “script” that she’s been working on for years), has made several attempts on her life, and Max has removed all the doorknobs in the house, as well as all knives and razors (“Madame got the razor from your room, and she cut her wrists!”)

If Robin Williams had shot himself, certain people would be calling for restricting the ability of mentally ill people to own guns. They cite statistics on gun deaths in America, more than half of which are suicides.  It is noteworthy that these same people objected to “politicization” of his death when some pro-lifers pointed to his status as a post-abortive father (post-abortion syndrome contributing to many suicides), or when Rush Limbaugh, ironically or inadvertently “politicized” his death by complaining about the media politicizing it.  Yet the same people would have readily “politicized” it if it had been a gun suicide.

That’s another easy cause, though, that  people look for.  They try to say, “It’s guns,” except when it’s not guns.  Nobody is talking about legal action to restrict ownership of ropes, or belts, or plastic bags, or knives or razors by mentally ill people.  The real issue there is why people must rely on the government for everything. 

A desperate person will find a means.

One last observation under this topic is the question of medication.  Some people will say, “See?  This proves meds don’t work!” or “This proves meds make things worse!”  One of the reasons it’s important to nail down the right diagnosis is that the wrong medicine really can be disastrous.  Someone with bipolar needs to be on bipolar meds, not necessarily anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, which can cause a horrible mania and, in turn, drastic behavior.  

Accurate diagnosis is so very important, as are accurate treatment methods.  

On celebrity deaths and the Spiritual Works of Mercy

Generally speaking, my view of how the media, and society in general, handle celebrity deaths (or any deaths) can be understood by Fr. George Rutler’s “Speaking Well of the Dead” from the November 1997 Crisis, which addresses the problem of insta-canonizations and eulogies, particularly of people who do not seem deserving of it. Or, as Crisis co-founder Ralph McInerny once quipped in his own column, “We cannot be certain of the fates of anyone but the Saints and our mothers.”

Plus, I have never been comfortable with getting emotional over celebrities, whether living or dead. I pray for them, either way, and leave it at that. Somehow, even before I knew the details, however, the death of Robin Williams kind of hit me, and when the details came out, it hit even closer to home. The subsequent media frenzy has touched on a number of issues that I have been wanting to write about, anyway.

Some people have been condemned, rightly or wrongly, for calling for caution in how the issue is being handled, especially given the circumstances, and I’d like to address those two main areas of concern *in general*.

Again, there is generally a reaction in these situations to the true neo-Pelagianism of “he was a ‘good man.'” As the cartoon that accompanies Fr. Rutler’s piece reminds us, Our Lord, and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (whose death was one of the events that inspired it) have both cautioned “No one is good but God.” “Judge not” works both ways. Salvation is not a game of mathematics, where good deeds win points and bad deeds take them away. Nor is it a magic formula of sacramental grace or saying, “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior” being a “Get out of Hell free card.” Salvation is about relationship, and again I’ll address that later, perhaps.

Right now, I wanted to focus on what I think is the problem when dealing with death from a pastoral theology standpoint, and the major worry regarding suicide.

While they may or may not have phrased it badly, and often the harshest critics have been those who’ve faced this temptation itself, one of the biggest problems some people are having is language like the now-infamous, “Genie, you’re free” meme, or saying things like, “He’s in a better place.” These words may seem consoling, but they can, as Rush Limbaugh, Matt Walsh, Todd Bridges and others have attempted to warn, be severely tempting to someone in the grip of despair. If such language is problematic with a natural death, it’s dangerous in this case.

When I was seven years old, and first became aware of how different I was from other children, I first thought about jumping out a window because I’d heard about reincarnation on TV and thought I could come back with a better body. “I didn’t break any mirrors. Why have I had seven years of bad luck?” I cried on my birthday. What saved me then was my parents telling me there was no such thing, and that if I did that, I would go to Hell.
Just last year, when I was on a respirator and feeding tube, and sedated, and hearing the ICU nurses debating questions of Obamacare regulations, organ donation, and “why don’t they just pull the plug,” and for a time (time at that point was irrelevant, but that’s another story), I became convinced that everything I believed as a Catholic was wrong, and that it would be better to pull the plug. Thankfully, they didn’t take the new “living will” I attempted to draft seriously. They *did* take it seriously in assigning my a psychiatrist, but again that’s another story. I just bring it up here to say that, attempts to console one person might bring another to despair.

That brings me to my other main thought. These “insta-canonizations,” as they’re referred to, whether of celebrities or the fellow down the road, are often well-meaning attempts to practice two of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy at the expense of others. It is a corporate work of mercy to bury the dead. It is a spiritual work to comfort the sorrowful. However, in comforting the sorrowful, we must be cautious not to use language that discourages praying for the dead.

Purgatory is temporary, and the holy souls in Purgatory know they’re going to see Jesus, but that no one imperfect can stand in the presence of God. They can intercede for us, but not for themselves. However, they still suffer, and our prayers and sacrifices on their behalf can alleviate their suffering if not free them, so well meaning attempts to say that someone “is in a better place” and presume that he or she went straight to Heaven is failing in one of the spiritual works and discouraging others from practicing it.

The traditional Requiem prayers are all about the awesome judgement of God, and in addition to praying for the deceased, reminding those in mourning that we, too, are mortal. That’s where admonishing sinners, instructing the ignorant, and counseling the doubtful come into play.

We’ve covered 5 of the 7 spiritual works of mercy, and the other two provide the last guidepost in these situations: bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving willingly.

Whatever wrongs a deceased person has done must be forgiven by us if we are to show mercy. We must always forgive as we would be forgiven, so even if the person hasn’t asked God’s forgiveness that we know of, and while we must not commit the sin of presumption ourselves, we may and should offer forgiveness to the dead–though, again, forgiveness requires acknowledging something to forgive. We can talk about a person’s good qualities and the signs of hope while acknowledging the things that need forgiveness.

Thus, when we look at the various arguments surrounding the Williams suicide, there have sadly been many offenses against Mercy, but we should forgive each other.

God Comes to Us in the Soft Voice: O Me Of Little Faith!

People like to say, “Jesus will understand.” They talk of their “nice guy,” thumbs of Jesus but then come readings like this week’s. The Apostles are cowering in a boat in a storm. They’re *fishermen* and they’re scared. They see Jesus and think He’s a ghost (when I was a kid, I assumed this was a post-resurrection story). Of all of these twelve chosen men, who have already come back from their first commission and worked miracles on the Lord’s behalf, one has the courage and love to jump out of the boat and run to Jesus. Then he wavers. And what does Our Lord say?
“Oh you of little faith!”
If *that* is “little faith,” imagine what we all should be capable of. If St. Dominic Savio told his former teacher, St. John Bosco, in a dream that he could have saved many more boys if he’d had more faith, what does that say of us?
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I had my aortic repair surgery in March 2013, I lost my left vocal cord. The laryngeal nerve was paralyzed: they don’t know whether it was cut or pinched off. After 3 months in the hospital and multiple follow-up surgeries, I had an injection to try and restore some of my speech. The injection was basically Botox, and the goal was to swell the left vocal cord so instead of being permanently open, it was permanently closed. That helped restore my ability to speak enough that I could make a phone call and carry on a conversation.

It was a temporary injection supposed to last a couple months at least but only lasted a little over a month. I didn’t like the side effects, and the surgeon told me the only option was likely to be “reenervation,” when they somehow do a nerve bypass. After doing some research, I decided I didn’t feel comfortable with that path and its risks. I also figured that if Julie Andrews doesn’t have enough money to get the right procedures to get her singing voice back, I might as well pray and wait for a miracle.

A few weeks ago, we were in Virginia visiting my wife’s family and met a couple Facebook friends in person. This one lady (keeping her anonymous so she doesn’t get bombarded) brought along a rosary from the Holy Land. She’s a traditionalist, so I was a bit more open to her claim than I might have been rom a charismatic. She said that the first time she prayed it, her dog was healed of pancreatic cancer. Another time, she touched a lady at church with it, accidentally, and the lady was cured of cancer.

“Do you mind if I touch your throat with it and pray?”

I was like, “Sure, why not?”

I was wavering between doubt and hope, skepticism and faith.

People describe a feeling of warmth with a healing. As I was arguing in my head about whether God would be willing to give me such a wondrous miracle, I felt that sensation, and a bit of a buzz.

I started talking: nowhere near my old voice, but as good as it ever got with the injection. I also felt better. There was a sense of relieved tension. When we got back to my in-laws’, I called my mom, and she understood me. While some family members have been able to understand if they tried really hard, my father in law has barely heard me on the phone. Our conversations the past year have amounted to:
“Hi, John, is Mary around?”
“No, but I . .. . “
“Ok, I’ll call back later.”

The evening we were driving back to South Carolina, he called and asked how we were doing, whether we were home yet, etc. We actually had a conversation!

I called my sister and one of my brothers that weekend. I have managed to handle several phone calls in the subsequent weeks that my wife would have had to handle for me.

Plus, my energy levels have generally increased. I’m feeling much better, overall, than I have in years. Not quite a “call the Vatican” miracle, but definitely a “healing.”

So, that brings me back to these week’s readings. Hearing Jesus reprimand Peter for his doubt, I thought, “Is He reprimanding me for my doubt? Did He have more in store for me that I failed to accept out of fear?”

Then Father started his homily and addressed the first reading. “God comes to us in the soft whisper,” he said.

God has come to me in the soft whisper. It pains me (literally) to be unable to sing today. Our organist played the Holy Holy and Amen I grew up with. She played “All Creatures of Our God and King” for the recessional. I tried to sing. I managed a bit, but it was painful.

Might I be able to sing now if I’d had a bit more faith in that moment of healing? Or did God give me just what I needed, my daily bread, though He still wants me to learn from my “soft voice”?

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!