Monthly Archives: December 2016

So, you don’ t like your priest?

Is it because he refused to visit sick people, saying, “Come to me
when you’re healthy?”
Is it because he said that “working weekends” entitled him to play golf Monday through Friday?
Is it because he had a gigantic pornography stash in the rectory?
Is it because he had magazines like _America_ in the rectory?
Is it because he was hanging out in hot tubs with married women?
Is it because he expressed hope for the death of St. John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI so he’d get the pope who would “allow” [insert liberal litany here]?
Is it because he told parishioners to not help the poor and instead to refer them to charities?
Is it because he insults people with disabilities?
Is it because he insults laity who want adoration and other devotions?
Is it because he tells you in confession that a sin isn’t a sin anymore, that it’s OK and/or you need a psychologist?
Is it because he does the exact opposite and practically refuses absolution because you’re such a horrible sinner?
Is it because he treated his parishioners so badly that someone wouldn’t receive last Rites if he was the priest, and then he mocked the person for it from the pulpit, without so much as a “maybe I should treat people better”?

I could go on, but now it’s time to ask:

Or is it because you don’t like him enforcing canon law?
Maybe you just don’t like his personality?
Or he’s so busy being a priest that he doesn’t have the time for socializing that you expect?

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“God wants me to forgive THEM?!”

To see people holding on to grudges breaks my heart.

Be angry but do not sin;u do not let the sun set on your anger,*27and do not leave room for the devil.v28The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work* with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.w29No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.x30And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.*31All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.y32[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.zBe angry but do not sin;u do not let the sun set on your anger,*27and do not leave room for the devil.v28The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work* with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.w29No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.x30And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.*31All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.y32[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. 

(Ephesians 4:26-32).

Then there’s this:

21n Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”22* Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.23o That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.24* When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.25Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.26

We must forgive if we want God to forgive us. Our Dear Lord makes this point many tmes:

* At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.28When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.* He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’30But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.33p Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.*35* q So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

(Matthew 18:21-35).

“That’s a lot of times!” said Junior Asparagus.

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.*8Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The Lord’s Prayer.9* “This is how you are to pray:c

Our Father in heaven,*

hallowed be your name,

10your kingdom come,*

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.d

11* e Give us today our daily bread;

12and forgive us our debts,*

as we forgive our debtors;f

13and do not subject us to the final test,*

but deliver us from the evil one.g

14* If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.h15But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

Matthew 6:5-14).

“This is hard teaching,” the disciples said when Jesus first proclaimed the Eucharist (John 6:20), and certainly it applies to our duty to forgive, as well.

“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Luke 5:23)

I think for many Christians it is easier to “babble like the pagans” then say “rise up and walk,” than it is for them to say “I forgive you” or even “Please forgive me.”

In both the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great, we pray for forgiveness *immediately* before receiving Communion–are we not already forgiven?  If we’re going to communion, we should be confident that we’re not conscious of any mortal sins.  When we wake up, when we pray Morning Prayer, when we pray before Mass, and at the beginning of the Liturgy, we pray for forgiveness of our venial sins.  Why does the Liturgy call us to repent one last time before going to Communion?

Well, are we recollected?  I know I rarely am.  I get distracted.  I think about my kids behavior and I start getting angry.  Odds are there’s someone there I’m not getting along with–maybe even a member of the clergy or one of the lay ministers–and I think about that  in a non-prayerful manner.  Maybe I think inappropriate-for-the-situation thoughts about my wife.  Maybe there’s a woman who’s immodestly dressed, and I sin by either thinking lustfully or angrily.

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”–so much so that we can’t even make it through the very Divine Liturgy without sinning! And our Fathers in the faith were so wise that they built it into the Liturgy!

The Lord reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount that thinking sinfully is bad, too.  In the Byzantine version of the Confiteounforgiveness. r, it says that Christ “came to save sinners, of whom I am the greatest.”  I was shown in April 2013 that this is not just pious language.  Each of us is the greatest of sinners because if we’re thinking about it, and not doing it, we’re still entertaining the sin in our hearts *and being slothful about sinning*.

15“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.* I wish you were either cold or hot.16* So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16).

Those words kept coming to me.

I got to see what a repulsive person I would be if I actually the kinds of things I used to think. I surrendered my will to God, and He freed me from a lot of the temptations that used to plague me.
As I started to regain consciousness, I laid in bed thinking of “seventy times seven” but thinking it was “seventy times seventy,” and forgetting whether that was the number of times I was supposed to forgive or ask forgiveness. I tried individually praying for forgiveness to and from every person I could thinkin of. Then I thought how that seemed impossible, so I just started praying the Jesus Prayer and the Our Father over and over, nonstop, till I “came out of it.” I’m not sinless, by any means, but the experience freed me from a lot of bad habits and chronic temptations, and I was largely freed from judgementalism and unforgiveness. Behaviors that used to make me angry now make me sad.

On “Belief” and “Believing”

“It’s that time of year . . . ”
If you tell me you’re going to go win a marathon, and I say, “I believe in you,” what am I saying?
Am I saying, “Yes, I do believe you’re real.  You go on existing”?
Or am I saying, “I have confidence that you can achieve this difficult feat”?

Why do we do the same with God?

Scripture takes for granted that God exists.  Belief in God is, rather, about confidence that He would do what He says.

This problem is compounded by the “Santa Claus” question.  My kids were smarter than I was.  They could tell from all the disparate accounts–even in Rankin and Bass specials–that something was amiss in the pop culture narrative.  My wife always worried about people who equate “belief in God” with “belief in Santa,” so we told them the truth from the beginning: St. Nicholas is a real person who lived on earth, and performed many acts of charity and many miracles in his earthly and heavenly lives.

He saved three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by tossing three bags of money into their home at night to pay off their father’s debts.  For this, he is the patron saint of pawnbrokers (the pawn broker symbol is the three bags of coins from St. Nicholas).

He is said to have miraculously flown to a sinking ship.  Thus he is associated with flight and is a patron of sailors.

In the middle ages, people would commemorate his feast by anonymously giving to the poor and saying the gifts were from St. Nicholas.

Ironically, Protestants who thought devotion to Saints was “too pagan” changed it to the Christ Child bringing gifts of Christmas (Krist Kinder, or Kris Kringle), or else the very pagan figure of Father Christmas, all of which got merged in the US to the figure of “Santa Claus,” greed and commercialism personified in the guise of generosity.

Contrary to Peter Pan, simply insisting you believe doesn’t make something happen-that’s Gnosticism. Something is either real, or it isn’t.  You can “believe” the Earth is flat, or that the moon is made of green cheese.  Insisting otherwise isn’t going to change the facts of what the earth and the moon really are.

You can “believe” that God doesn’t exist.  You can “believe” God exists.  However, your belief has no bearing on reality.  Either He does, or He doesn’t.  Belief if it applies to questions of objective truth at all, applies to our assent to the truth, not to whether it *is* true.

“What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do: Truth Himself speaks truly, else there’s nothing true.”

It annoys me when we say things like, “For us, the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ” or “We believe that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception,” and mean, “For us, Santa Claus is a magical being who lives at the North Pole,” or “We believe that the Easter Bunny brings eggs.”

Yes, it is “for” us, teleologically speaking, but it is not “for us” versus “for you.”  The Eucharist *is* the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.  It’s not “just a symbol.”  It doesn’t *stop* being the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ because you think otherwise.

The Immaculate Conception is a question of historical reality.  I can believe or not believe in the testimony, the evidence and the logical arguments that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin.  It does not cease to be an historical fact if I choose not to “believe it.”  Similarly, my belief doesn’t make it real if it didn’t actually occur.

 

“Doesn’t She Look Tired”: Evita, Doctor Who and the power of Words

On the new Doctor Who, there was a character called “Harriet Jones,” known for her running joke, introducing herself as “Harriet Jones, Minister of Parliament,” etc., which is usually answered with, “Yes, I/we know who you are.”  In the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, he thwarts an alien invasion with minimal violence and convinces the would-be invaders to leave, but Harriet, now “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister,” has been working on a secret weapon to defend earth and wants to prove earth can defend itself without the Doctor.  In spite of the treaty he just negotiated, she destroys the fleeing ship with her weapon, after the Doctor threatens her by saying that he’s powerful enough to take her down with six words.  After she defies him and fires the weapon, destroying the fleeing aliens, he leans in the ear of her closest advisor and asks, “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

One of the reasons Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were a successful team was their contrasts: ALW was always a believer to some extent; Rice was an agnostic, and so on. Rice developed an admiration for Eva Peron in the early ’70s and wanted to write a musical about her. ALW resisted for several years, till he saw her story as a modern tragedy of the cost of fame.  While Lloyd-Webber has never been a lyricist, he usually collaborates on the “book” (play) of his shows, and on the basic idea behind a song.

So with Evita, who was known as the “Rainbow of Argentina,” he thought about Judy Garland.  He had attended one of her final concerts when he was younger, and he reflected on how pathetic she was–how she could barely sing, how broken she looked, and how people were literally throwing money on the stage.

Lloyd Webber worked in an “Over the Rainbow” theme to Evita (he’d later acquire the rights to Wizard of Oz and turn it into a sung through musical with his own new songs added to the classic movie tunes.   In “Eva Beware of the City,” she says, “Birds fly out of here, so why, o why the h— can’t I?”   In the song “Rainbow Tour,” Eva’s visit to France end when “She suddenly seemed to lose interest; she looked tired.”

It only takes a few words to destroy someone’s reputation.

A Feminist Weights in on The Annual “Mary Did You Know” Debate.

I’ve previously blogged about this atrocious “Christmas” song, film critic and recently ordained deacon Steven D. Greydanus wrote a far more eloquent line-by-line response.  However, a new feminist, Protestant response adds a different dimension to the song.  A Presbyterian going by “pulpitshenanigans” published a blog post abou thow “Mary Did You Know?” is “Everything Wrong with American Christians.”  While her post is about 75% correct, she starts off on the wrong foot by essentially granting the song’s central premise.  She asserts that

From day one [Mark Lowry] was taught that women in the bible are evil, maybe Mary was an exception to the evil, I mean she and her “purity” is what all woman should subscribe to.

More likely, as a Liberty University grad fundamentalist, Lowry was taught that Mary was the most sinful woman in history.

We’ve missed the fact that the news that Mary gets through this angel is that her body is about to be violated, she will become pregnant without her consent. She is to carry the child and she is to name him Jesus. She has no choice over her body or even his name.

Uhh, no. She is one of only four human persons in history who ever made a truly free choice.

Adam and Eve were “immaculately conceived,” so to speak. They were created without sin. Faced with the cosmos-shattering decision of following God or themselves, they chose themselves.  They committed the Original Sin that each of us has had since conception (Psalm 51:5).

In Catholic teaching, there are four kinds of “real Presence” of Jesus Christ.  The first is “wherever two or three are gathered in My Name” (Matthew 18:20).  The second is in the Sacred Scripture, the Word of God.  The third is in icons or crucifixes.  The highest, though, is His Presence–Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity–in the Eucharist.

In the Israelite tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was the Presence of God in a similar way, containing in itself the Law (Scripture), the staff of Aaron (foreshadowing the Cross) and manna (foreshadowing the Eucharist).  Anyone who touched the Ark with any sin on his conscience, Scripture tells us, would die.

Gabriel said Mary was “full of grace.”  How can anyone with sin be “full of grace”?  How can anyone with sin truly be “at enmity” with the Devil, as God describes in Gen 3:15?  If a creature with sin cannot touch the Ark of the Covenant, how could a creature with sin bear in her very body God Incarnate?

Here is Mary, greeted by Gabriel, with the message that she’s been chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah.  She knows the Scriptures.  She knows what it will entail.  She knows she will be potentially accused of adultery and stoned.

Almost every other figure in Scripture who gets visited by an angel, usually with news of a coming miraculous answer to a prayer, including Zechariah, questions the angel out of doubt, even legitimate doubt, and is given either a punishment or a sign.  Mary questions the angel out of concern for her virginity.  She says, aware of the risks, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done unto me as you say.”

Eve had no sin, yet faced with obeying God or potentially dying from self-service, she chose death.  How would we expect Mary to have chosen the hard way of obeying God, when she knew it might mean death, unless Mary *at least* had the same grace that Eve did to start out with?

Revisiting Akita

Unity Publishing is probably the best site I’ve found over the years on apparitions, prophecies, etc., analyzing their content in the light of Scripture and Tradition, and emphasizing those that are approved while debunking the clear errors in many false apparitions.  Since 2012 it has seemed increasingly clear that we are living in times many Catholic mystics have warned about.  I’ve mostly sat quietly without comment hoping that what I strongly suspected wasn’t true.  The events of the past few months have made it harder to stay silent.  Since they are fully approved both as an apparition and a message, I thought I’d revisit the appearances of Our Lady in Akita, Japan, from 1973 to 1981.  Here is the Unity Publishing article’s introduction on how solidly approved they are–including Cardinal Ratzinger approving the content of the prophecies and allegedly confirming the Bishop’s theory that the prophecy of Akita is the same as the prophecy of Fatima.

Apparitions Approved – An Urgent Message In 1984, just before retiring at a venerable age, the diocesan Bishop of Niigata, Bishop John Shojiro Ito, in consultation with the Holy See, wrote a pastoral letter in which he recognized as being authentically of the Mother of God, the extraordinary series of events that had taken place from 1973 to 1981 in a little lay convent within his diocese, at Akita, Japan. Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in June 1988, approved the Akita events as “reliable and worthy of belief”. In fact the Philippine ambassador to the Vatican, in 1998 spoke to Cardinal Ratzinger about Akita and the Cardinal: “personally confirmed to me that these two messages of Fatima and Akita are essentially the same”.

Here is the prophecy:

As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

“The demon will rage especially against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them.