Category Archives: Christology

I *am* guilty of this Man’s Blood.

“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains” (Jn 9:41).
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Matthew 9:12).
“I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24).
“Then may his blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25)

“Blood that but one drop of/ has the worth to win/all the world forgiveness/of its world of sin” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, after St Thomas Aquinas).

It is a great disgrace that one of the most important verses in the Passion narrative has been distorted into a statement of hate such that to even quote it is considered hate speech.
Unless we accept Christ’s self-offering, we have no place in His kingdom (Jn 13:8).  Pilate, by professing his innocence, proclaims his own guilt.  The people, by accepting the guilt for Christ’s death, and accepting His blood, are actually accepting their own redemption.

When the people say “Let us blood be upon us and upon our children,” that means all of us.  Unless we accept our guilt for Christ’s death, and not only accept His blood offered for our sins upon us but into us through the Sacrament, we can have no life in us (Jn 6:53).
This is something to consider when public figures profess their alleged Christianity by saying they have never told God they were sorry.

What the Pew Poll on Catholics can tell us about Muslims.

This week, yet another Survey came out showing that most who identify as “Catholic” are not,morally.  Whatever happened to Catholics needing to “believe all the Church believes and teaches”?  Where would we be if the priest who gave Dietrich Von Hildebrand instruction hadn’t required him to accept everything?

Yet we’re told that, because the vast majority of “Catholics” use contraception without batting an eye, that means it’s O.K.  for Catholics to contracept.  The majority of Cstholics think the Eucharist is a “symbol,” which in the old days would have meant anathema, yet somehow that tells society that “the Church” (including much of the hierarchy) thinks differently than the Magisterium, but those of us who *do* believe (and go to Confession when we fall short rather than literally parading our sins) are “extremists.”

So, when the media, politicians and even well meaning Catholics insist “Islam is a religion of peace, the majority of Muslims are peaceful,” I don’t buy it.

I went to a nominally Catholic high school where, for “religion,” we once had to sit through a lesson on Islam from one student.  Back then, everyone said, “‘Islam’ means ‘submission.'”  That’s what my classmate said in a pro-Islam talk.  It’s what my professor and textbook in the Islamic history class I took for my multicultural requirement said.   Only after 9/11 did it suddenly start meaning “peace.”

Jesus Christ preached to fight spiritually, not physically.  As Tim Rice puts it, “To conquer death, you only have to die.”  He was crucified–in part, because the crowds rejected Him for *not* conquering.  Yes, Moses and the Judges took the Holy Land by force, and that is a Mystery in understanding God (most straightforward answer is that, before Christ, all mortal sin was literally mortal).  Regardless, we regard Vlad the 

Impaler, who protected all of Europe for a generation, as a monster.  Do 

Muslims do the same to their impalers?  No, they honor them as caliphs because they follow in the footsteps of Mohammed.

That is the difference.  Even when we honor those who’ve fought in just wars as Saints, it’s usually for what happened after more than before.

Yet why, in Islam or Christianity, does society point to the majorit’s beliefs and actions to represent the religion?  As Fr. Dubay put it, you don’t judge a belief system by those who do it badly.  You judge it by its heroes who best e employ its teachings.

How can you believe in a God who allows [insert problem here]?

A common objection to Christianity is that we worship a cruel, capricious God, that God is distant, that God does not understand human frailty or have compassion for our suffering. Yet, we do not worship some vague God. We worship Jesus Christ, crucified (1 Cor 1:23), a God who became one like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15).

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
. . . 10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. 12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14).

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

6 Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. 7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:6-11).

18 He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, 20
and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven. 21 And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him, 23 provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven. . . . 24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking* in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, (Colossians 1:18-24).

That’s the God I believe in, Charlie Brown.

Was Jesus “Bound By His Times”?

So, Jimmy Carter thinks that, if Jesus “were alive today,” He’d approve of gay marriage, abortion, women’s ordination, etc. . . .
One of the popular notions of “Christian” liberals is that “Jesus was bound by His times,” that if He had not been so bound, He’d have approved of all the things they want to do–things that, at the same time, they remind us were popular in most pagan cultures, anyway. So, 1) How was “Jesus” bound by His times for teaching people not to do things that pagans and in some cases even Jews allowed?
2) If they truly believe Jesus is God, how could He be bound by the times He chose to be born into,
3) if Jesus is God, and the Jews were God’s Chosen People who received His Law, how could the time and place Jesus was born into *not* be what He wanted them to be?

“We deserve our punishment”

I know a lot of people  who suffer from chronic pain.  Most of my Marfan friends are non-Catholics, and I observe how very differently they approach the question.  Often, “Offer it up” has become such a cliche that it loses meaning.  Even Jesus cried out from the cross, and sometimes that’s what we have to do, but we must always remember to keep focused on the goal.  I constantly have to remind myself of these things:

1.  “Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, . . .”

2.  “We deserve our punishment, but this Man has done no wrong.”

3.  “In my own body, I fill up what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

4.  Mother Angelica once asked, “Why me, Lord?”  She got a response: “Why Me?”  She never asked again.

5.  A single mortal sin merits eternal suffering.  The worst we can bear here is nothing compared to that.  Imagine enduring *anything* forever.  My mom’s all-time favorite homily was, “You think it’s hot here?!”

C. S. Lewis once responded to someone who said, “It’s hot as Hell,” with “How would you know?”  When I was in CVICU last year, thinking I was dead and in Gell, everything seemed unendurable because ?I thought it was forever.  I was hot (high grade fever and screwed up post op metabolism).  I was thirsty (living off a feeding tube and npo).  I was in pain.  Most of all, I was *bored.*  I couldn’t move or speak.  I was strapped in a bed with tubes all over my body.

The only way to survive such a situation without despair is the Lord’s grace.  The Voice kept telling me to stop waive ring and make a choice.  It kept telling me it was over: I was in Hell or destined for it, that Jesus would never forgive me.  Yet, I thought of Faust, and I prayed, and I used the seemingly endless monotony to pray.  In particular, I thought about “70 times 7 times,” though I confused it as “70×70” and couldn’t remember if I was supposed to ask or grant it, so I kept naming people in my prayers and asking their forgiveness while offering mine.  I prayed the Pater repeatedly, the Publican’s Prayer and St Dismas’s prayer, over and over, 24/7, for at least 2 or 3 days.  My recovery began.

Lenten Reminder: He comes like a thief in the night

Reminder: whatever you do, Keep in mind you could be dead tomorrow.

People say, “What would Jesus do?”

They should really ask, “What would Jesus think?”

When you make a decision, consider that “Nothing that is hidden will remain hidden” (Lk 8:17) .  It’s a scary thought that everything that has ever happened will one day be known by everyone who has ever lived.

Remember the man to whom the Lord said, “You fool!  Don’t you know this very night your life will be demanded of you?”(Lk 12:20)  People like to prepare so much for the “future” when the “future” that seems so looming is nothing compared to the true Future that awaits after “death.”  We prepare for “retirement,” and we even prepare “funeral expenses,” but do we really prepare ourselves for Death and Judgement?  Or do we presume on God’s mercy? I know I do far too much of the latter.

One of the Devil’s greatest lies is that we have plenty of time.

Yet we’re told, by the voices of advertising that taunt us to break the 9th and 10th Commandments, that we have lots of time and need to “prepare” (not to store up treasure in Heaven), or that we have no time at all.

Fukushima; ever-impending nuclear war with Russia, Iran, North Korea, China or whomever; Climate change; bee depopulation; GMOs and various -icides: the media, new and old, are constantly telling us of the things that are going to kill us all before we know it, to create panic and get us to but stuff, not to get us to get right with God.  In the meantime, every one of us is a blood pressure spike or clot away from death–some of us are just more keenly aware of that fact.

Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!

Discussion: is Jesus a “Saint”?

When I ask questions like this, I usually get responses that are sarcastic, condescending, etc., assuming I’m being rhetorical or sarcastic or that I’m expressing ignorance about basic catechesis.

I’m asking philosophically.

What is a “Saint”?

I was thinking of this in terms of patronage: there are some particular causes for which Jesus (or His Holy Face, Wounds, Sacred Heart, manifestation as an Infant, etc.) is listed as “patron,” which doesn’t make sense to me. Then there’s what we say about Litanies embodying the difference between Jesus and Saints: “have mercy on us” or “hear our prayer” versus “pray for us.” Yet there are traditional devotions, particularly in the East, which address Our Lady by asking her to “Hear us” or “save us”, and we know there are some “prayers” in which saints can directly assist us without having to technically “pray to God for us.”

Then there’s the title of “Saint” itself: the angels, for example, are “saints” in that “saint” means “holy one,” a citizen of Heaven. We usually use “saint” to distinguish humans in Heaven from Angels. Yet Jesus is eternally the God-Man.
So, while it would obviously be redundant to call Him such, I wonder if, in a theological sense, Jesus could be counted as a “Saint”?

Lenten Spirituality: Why do We Fast?

Jesus in the Desert

Jesus fasted completely for 40 Days, and we complain about fasting for 2 and giving up meat on Fridays?

Often, we hear pragmatic explanations of fasting, to try and make it more acceptable to a modern “consciousness,” such as “we fast to save money to give more to the poor.”  While that certainly has some grounding in Tradition, it is not the principle reason for fasting.  Fasting and self-denial are about recognizing that this is not our true home.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. (C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)

It is about recognizing that we are, ultimately, immortal, and  that we must not become attached to temporary things like electric lighting and seek reward in this life.

[1] Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. [2] Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. [4] That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. [5] And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:1-5, Douay-Rheims).

We deny ourselves to imitate Jesus,

[6] Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. [8] He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8, Douay-Rheims)

To imitate Jesus, we must so empty ourselves and take the form of slaves:

[21] Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. [22] And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions. [23] Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. [25] And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved? (Matthew 19:21-25, Douay).

This is why prayer is more effective when accompanied by fasting, as Our Lord teaches:

[19] Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.[20] But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:19-20, Douay)

“Mary, Did You Know?”

Mary, did you know that some blasphemous jerk would write a song about you?
Mary, did you know that thousands of ‘Christians’ would curse, deride and doubt you?
Mary did you know that people who claim to follow the Bible literally would completely dismiss the verses about you?

The song asks:
“Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.”
Yes, she did know, but He had already delivered her and made her new at the moment of her conception.
Luke 1:28 (how can anyone be “full of grace” who is in sin?); Luke 1:42 (“my spirit rejoices in God my savior”–how can He be her “savior” if she is not already “saved”?); and Luke 1:42 (“blessed are you among women”) tell us this. The sinlessness of the Virgin is recognized in the Orthodox tradition and even in Islam, yet denied by a relatively small group (Protestants) who have co-opted the name “Christian” from Catholics and Orthodox in the past 500 years, such that we now have to prove to them that we are “really” Christians. The only dispute between Catholic and Orthodox theology is the point at which her sin was removed: her immaculate conception having been dogmatically defined by Bl. Pope Pius IX, quoting the arguments of Bl. John Duns Scotus, OFM.
Yes, it was a retroactive action of the salvific grace of the Passion, in a Mystery, just as she is “daughter of her own son,” but I think we can be pretty sure that the intent of an Evangelical song-writer is not to build faith in the Immaculate Conception.

Again, the song asks, “Mary, did you know . . . when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God. . . .
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great [inappropriate use of the English translation of the Tetragrammaton, resulting in the singer’s inadvertent proclamation of himself as God]”
Again, it’s in the Bible:
Luke 1:32 (“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High”);
Luke 1:43 (“the mother of my LORD,” or “KYRIOS” in Greek, “ADONAI,” in Hebrew, which, of course, means God);
As for the collective question of what Mary “knew,” and if she knew all the great works Jesus would do, just read the Magnificat. Being free from original sin, Mary’s mind was not clouded from understanding the Scriptures the way the rest of our minds are. That is why she accepted Gabriel’s message so readily, knowing that being an unwed mother would put her at risk of stoning, making an act of faith that echoed Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22:1-19).

Luke 1:45 (“blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”) and 11:28 (Jesus echoes Elizabeth’s words and says that Mary is blessed because she heard the word of God and observed it), Luke 1:48 (“all generations shall call me blessed”), Luke 2:19 and 51 (“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart”), Luke 2:34 (“and you yourself a sword shall pierce”), John 19:26-27 (Mary is our mother, too, and a beloved disciple takes Mary into his home).

Protestants take the few verses that vary on Luke 11:28 and Mk 3:34-35 as indicating that somehow Mary did *not* “hear the word of God and keep it,” yet that is clearly confirmed by the aforementioned verses in Luke 1 & 2. She *did* hear the word of God and keep it in her heart.

Many fundamentalists have tried to argue that the Mother of Jesus somehow strayed away from Him. I have been told that Mary was indeed a great sinner. Yet we see her standing by her Son at the Cross–not even off in the crowd, but near the Cross.

So, yes, Mark Lowry, Mary *did* know. This seemingly pious lyric is really an insult to the Theotokos, a contradiction of the Holy Bible, and a denial of the truth of the Immaculate Conception.

It’s bad enough to hear it on the radio, at the mall, etc., but, what’s worse, this song gets “performed” at many Catholic parishes, even at Mass, and people are offended when anyone points out that it is heretical.

Based upon a post I wrote in 2008.

The Bottom Line On Salvation

I saw a video on Facebook of Larry King grilling semi-televangelist/semi-New Age Guru Joel Osteen about the question of salvation. A lady caller, apparently a Christian, asks Osteen to be clear on whether he believes Jesus is the only Savior and it’s necessary to believe in Jesus to be saved, essentially pressing him to answer whether he’s really a Christian. King hounds Osteen on the question, from the other angle, of the infamous, “So are you saying Jews are going to HELL???” Osteen, thrown off his guard, stammers out a pathetic answer about yes, that’s what he believes, but he also believes God judges each soul individually??? The video is presented as “Osteen Denies Jesus is the only Savior,” but he doesn’t really deny it. He just fails to articulate any competent theology. Further, for a guy who built his name on his “discovery” that there’s no such place as Hell, Osteen even refers to Hell. For a guy whose whole message is a twisted form of universalism, that “It’s OK to live as you like, because if you don’t go to Heaven, you just cease to exist! Yay!”–you’d think he’d have a ready answer for those questions.

All it showed me about Osteen is that he’s a shyster and an idiot and has no theological competence, but it raises some questions about that underlying notion.

It actually ties into something else I was reflecting on. I watched _Star Trek V_ the other night, and was reading up on it in the “Memory Alpha” and “Memory Beta” wikia pages. Now, Star Trek has never been friendly to Christianity, except in a more allegorical way, but I have always appreciated stories like _The Final Frontier_ that at least show the characters open to God’s existence. In the late 1990’s, Pocket Books published a series of novels–Q-Space,Q-Zone, and Q-Strike, which tried to explain some of the mysteries of “Q” in Star Trek the Next Generation as well as, as “Trek” fiction often does, provide explanations for other Trek phenomena. The back story is that, millions of years ago, “Q” was part of a band of higher-plane beings who terrorized the galaxy for millennia until the Q Continuum finally punished them and put various restrictions on Q’s companions (Q himself was exonerated for helping the Continuum fight his former friends, and his punishment was to undo the damage he did by training growing civilizations, including humanity). One of those companions was the entity from _Star Trek V_, and at one point one of the characters says, “He’s the guy who invented monotheism.” I’m glad I never read the books.

It’s an intriguing notion, for pretty much anyone with a non-Abrahamic worldview (and even some who claim a Judeo-Christian worldview), that monotheism was a deception by a power hungry “higher power” who wanted to shut everyone else out.

Monotheism, as Larry King attests and Joel Osteen shies from, is a challenge. When Pharoah Akhenaten tried to introduce monotheism to Egypt, he was solidly opposed, and the reforms he enforced were disposed of soon after his death. The Jews were a thorn in the Romans’ backsides because they were monotheists. The Romans didn’t care what you believed as long as a) you acknowledged the divinity of the emperor and b) you tolerated everyone else. Judaism held that there was one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose Name is the great Tetragrammaton, and that one should have no other gods besides Him. And while Jews did not seek to convert Gentiles to their faith, they still looked down on the Gentiles. Christians took it a step further and said that a guy the Romans crucified was the son of God–the very title of the Emperor!–and that He should be worshipped, *and* the Christians called for the Gentiles to adopt their faith and turn away from other gods, including the emperor. This was a major problem for the Romans, just as it is for today’s “multiculturalists.”

Judaism doesn’t officially even address the question of “salvation”, as the Sadduccees would gladly point out. For Sadduccees, the notion of Heaven and Hell was as troublesome as the notion of Purgatory is for Protestant Christians, for the same reason: they didn’t see where it was in the Bible. Of course, Jesus showed Sadduccees how the Resurrection is implied in the Torah, and Catholics are constantly trying to show Protestants where Purgatory is implied in the Bible. But the point is that the Hebrew Scriptures do not even directly teach about resurrection, so if Osteen stood by his teachings, and King stood by his own religion, they ought to be able to shake hands in agreement, that Larry King, if he remains Jewish, will not go to Heaven, and he will not go to Hell: according to Osteen, and the literal reading of the Old Testament, he will simply cease to exist.

The Abrahamic tradition is radical in claiming there’s only one God, but the Old Testament primarily deals with the worldly consequences of failing to properly worship that one True God. Christianity is radical in introducing the notion that there is One Savior, that no one can come to the Father except through Him, and that, yes, people will go to Hell simply for not believing in Jesus.

This is because the underlying thought of people like Larry King and Joel Osteen is that, whatever they may say, their minds are deeply secular, and they still see religion as ultimately a more sophisticated form of “Santa Claus” and the “Tooth Fairy.” People call me a nut for saying it, but this is the teaching of Freemasonry, as I say time and again. It’s one of the main points in the original Papal documents condemning Lodges from the 1700’s: the notion that all religions are equal and exist primarily to make people good citizens. This notion has so deeply infested our society that even sincere people of faith think it.

I’ve also written many times of how Our Lady of La Salette predicted these New Age “Near Death Experiences”. She said, back in 1846, that in the late 20th Century, people would claim to be back from the dead, bringing stories of the afterlife that contradict the Faith, and not to believe them because they would be possessed. So, today, people “come back” with stories of seeing “beings of light,” or “Illuminati” or “Enlightened Ones” or whatever (clear-cut Freemasonry), or people who say they saw family members, or people who say “If you’re a Christian, you see Jesus. If you’re a Muslim, you see Mohammed.” Now, there *are* true Near Death Experiences: Saint Augustine had one. Lots of people have authentic visions of nearly dying and encountering Christ and nearly going to Hell or possibly tasting Heaven, but these modern stories exist to muddle the truth.

Another common falsehood is this image of people dying and being judged by St. Peter, a popular misinterpretation of Matthew 16:19. If anything, the words of the ancient Roman liturgy say that the dead are guided to judgement by St. Michael, the Standard-Bearer, but they are still judged by Jesus, and Jesus alone. God does not sit off in an office somewhere. His eye is in the sparrow. He counts the hairs on your head. He’s going to be there when you die and not a mysterious distant person in a metaphorical office. And He’s going to be there in the person of Jesus Christ.

The plain fact is: Jesus is real.

That is the answer Joel Osteen should have given. There is One God, and One Savior, Jesus Christ, and He is a real being, a Person, whom you will encounter directly when you die, and how you react to Him when you meet Him will determine your eternal destiny. St. Faustina said Jesus told her that, in the split seconds before people die, He calls out to them three times. The Catholic Church allows a priest to administer extreme unction or even baptism for a certain period of time (I’ve heard 30 minutes) after death since we do not know when the soul leaves the body. St. Teresa of Avila says that each person, when he or she dies, will see Jesus and react instantly in either fear or love, and that is what Judgment will be.

So, that’s all there is to it, Joel and Larry. When you die, you face Jesus. It’s entirely possible that at this moment, there are some Muslims, atheists, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans making their last breaths, and they’re seeing Jesus face to Face and saying, like C. S. Lewis’s Emeth and Orual, “Really? It was You, all along? I was so wrong. I’m sorry, Jesus. I love You.” And it’s absolutely certain there are lots of Christians at this instant facing the Man they claimed to love and worship, and like Victor Hugo’s Javert, reacting at disgust that the Person they thought they were serving was not at all like what they expected, and choosing to go to Hell rather than spend Eternity with a God who disgusts them.

That’s the answer to Larry King’s question. It’s all about a Person, the Person of Jesus, and, yes, it does matter in this life, because even though there are lots of Christians in Hell and, while there may be plenty of people in Heaven who only became Christians in the seconds before death, the better we get to know Jesus *now*, the better we will react to Him when we meet Him

“When Children Rule the World”: Andrew Lloyd Webber Revisits the Gospel in _Whistle Down the Wind_

It has been years since I’ve listened to Baron Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Jim Steinman‘s _Whistle Down the Wind_, though I like several of the songs (I read somewhere that the Boyzone single of “No Matter What” is ALW’s most commercially successful song of all time, at least by a particular performer; and “When Children Rule the World” was an instant Christmas standard, and performed at the 1998 Olympics). Anyway, the story is *very* powerful. Based upon the Hayley Mills movie which, in turn, was based upon a novel by Hayley Mills’ mother, ALW & Steinman (king of the “power ballad”) change the setting to Louisiana in the 1950s (ALW’s favorite decade–I often think of a possible crossover between characters from all his shows set in the 50s).
The story tells of a family of 3 children (Swallow, Brat and Poor Baby) who find a convict (“the Man”) in their barn. He has cuts in his hands and feet. When they ask who’s there, he exclaims, “Jesus Christ!” taking Our Lord’s name in vain, and then faints. They think he’s answering them, and are convinced he’s Jesus. The children of the town spread the news among themselves but keep it secret from the adults (“When Children Rule the World” and “No Matter What”), who are on the prowl for the escaped killer. Meanwhile, a group of snake handling preachers come to town for a revival (“Wrestle with the Devil”). There is a clear contrast between the snake handlers “putting God to the test” and the children, who are exemplifying what Jesus *really* meant when He talked about handling snakes. And by believing that The Man is literally Jesus, the children are exemplifying the teaching of “Whatever you do to the Least of my brothers.”

At the climax, Swallow, who has developed feelings for “Jesus,” has a Phantom of the Opera-esque moment with “The Man” (“The Nature of the Beast”). He tells her there’s no hope for him. He tries to tell her the truth of who he is. He tells her that he stabbed his own feet with a pitchfork to go to the infirmary and escape, and that he cut his hands on barbed wire. She refuses to believe him. “You’re lying!” “Would Jesus lie?” “He were if he were pretending to be a man!”

Meanwhile, outside, the angry townsfolk and police surround the barn. The children form a wall around it to protect “Jesus.” The children sing the third reprise of “When Children Rule the World,” over and over, in protest as the adults scream and sing about “protecting the children” and “wrestling with the Devil.”

Meanwhile, inside, both Swallow and The Man truly wrestle with the Devil regarding the possibility of the Man’s salvation, their feelings for each other, and Swallow’s faith in “Jesus.”

The Man is Jean Valjean before the bishop. He’s Flannery O’Connor’s Misfit. Indeed, I wonder if ALW and Steinman set it in the American South because they recognized the similarity to O’Connor’s themes.

Early in the story, the children lament that “I Never Get What I Pray For,” complaining about their childlike “Santa” prayers, in conjunction with their real sorrow over their mother’s death. The little boy, “Poor Baby” (his “real name” is Robin, though that’s not used, and he’s “Charles” in the original story), keeps saying he wants a Christmas bonfire, because without a bonfire, Santa can’t see their house, but they’re so poor, his father cautions that they can’t afford a bonfire, and therefore Santa probably won’t bring any presents.

After repeatedly asking them why “he” let their mother die, and why “he” let Poor Baby’s new kitten die, the Man repeatedly tries to explain, in his nihilistic way, that everyone dies (through the stories of “Annie Christmas” and “Charlie Christmas,” which, he says, will be in the “Next Testament”). Both “stories” end with the children chanting, “And the moral is? And the moral is?” “I DON’T KNOW”

Finally, the children accept that “Jesus” has been trying to teach them to figure things out for themselves. They reason that their mother died because she’d been so sick for so long, and it was the only way to release her from her suffering.

I don’t know Steinman’s religious background, though his collaborations with “Meat Loaf” tend to be of a rather dark, nihilistic sort. There is a challenge in dealing with the musical, that the composer is given primary credit but the lyricist really writes the “story,” and we often never hear of the person who writes the “book,” if different. For example, most people associate _West Side Story_ with Leonard Bernstein, not Stephen Sondheim.

Lloyd Webber considers himself a believer–I’m not sure how devout the thrice married Anglican can be, but he has written at least two very good liturgical pieces–his award-winning _Requiem_ and the setting of the “Benedicite” he wrote for his third wedding (the melody of which he reused in _Sunset Boulevard_ in several tempos). His famous collaborations with Tim Rice–though he’s actually worked more with Don Black and Richard Stilgoe–worked because of their differences in views. Lloyd Webber despised Eva Peron; Rice loved her. When it came to _Jesus Christ Superstar_, Rice was an agnostic; ALW was a believer.

_Whistle Down the Wind_ deals with several of Lloyd Webber’s favorite dramatic themes (and reuses a few musical themes): the importance of believing in oneself in spite of society’s disapproval; the dangers of going along with the crowd; finding the beauty or goodness in those society despises.

Again, though I’ve never seen it (other than a few YouTube clips), nor studied a detailed libretto, listening to it the other day, I had vivid ideas of the scenes. I could see The Man and Swallow, in their great moment like the Phantom and Christine or even Norma and Joe.

In any case, the Man escapes, but the barn catches fire. Swallow comes out. The authorities go in. They come back and are astonished that the man has vanished with no sign.

Swallow’s father says that she must realize he wasn’t who she thought. “He wasn’t Jesus.” “How can you be sure?” she asks. For, indeed, he *was* Jesus.

If _Superstar_ is about seeing the humanity of Our Lord, and seeing the Gospel from Judas’s perspective, then _Whistle Down the Wind_ is about seeing Our Lord in humanity, and seeing the sinner from God’s perspective. For to the Father, every human being is His child, and therefore Jesus, and that’s how Jesus asks us to see each other.

In O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother’s ability to see the killer as her son, to consider the possibility that she could love him unconditionally, leads the Misfit to shoot her, in part because he recognizes such perfect goodness in her in that instant that he knows he’ll send her to Heaven: “She’d have been a good woman if it’d been someone there to shoot her every moment of her life.”

Something similar is at work here, though not the same, for The Man is confronted with childlike innocence.

I have quoted before the words of a wonderful priest, the late Fr. Gregory Kirsch, JCL, VF, whom I wish I had been able to know better in this life: “I get so sick and tired of answering the door to another drunk wanting money, but I know the time I don’t answer, it’s going to be Jesus.”

It’s always Jesus. One of the challenges of our lives is to learn to see Jesus in everyone, particularly if that person is baptized (note that in one of Our Lord’s teaching on charity, He mentions giving a cup of water to a *brother*), but even if the person is *not*. We are called, after all, to love our enemies. The children in _Whistle Down the Wind_ do all that and exemplify the Gospel in its entirety while the “good adults” of the town, in the name of “protecting” the children and promoting Christian virtue, seek out to destroy the very person Our Lord says they should love and embrace.

In the end, in a profound recognition of Providence, “Poor Baby” points to the burning barn and says, “Look! I prayed for a Christmas bonfire, and we got the biggest bonfire of all!”

“You gotta wrestle, wrestle with the Devil in a heart beat”–but you don’t do it by handling snakes or hunting down wicked men to kill them. You wrestle with the devil by confronting the wicked face to face and daring to see that they are God’s children, that they are your own family, and daring to love them in spite of whatever horrors they’ve committed.

Invincible Ignorance or Lack of Faith?

I’ve been thinking lately about how much contemporary theology is prone to excuse sheer lack of faith.

For any given doctrine, including the very divinity of Christ, you’ll hear someone say, “I just don’t believe it.”  The Bible is very clear about the importance of taking God at His word.

For example, a video has been circulating Facebook of a Muslim imam saying that it’s a sin for a Muslim to say “Merry Christmas.”  Of course, technically, from the perspective of Islam, he’s absolutely right.  What strikes me most about this video, though, is that the imam insists that it’s not only heresy (from a Muslim perspective) but outright stupid to suggest that God would become Man.   He clearly *understands* what the Catholic Church teaches; he just don’t think it’s true because he refuses to believe it.

A similar discussion has gone on recently regarding an Irish bishop who told Catholics who are just filling up pews because they see the Catholic Church as a cultural tradition but they have no real commitment to their faith to be honest and leave (kind of like the words of Jesus in Revelation about “be hot or be cold, but if you’re lukewarm, I’ll spew you out”).

The concept of “Anonymous Christian” or “Baptism by Desire” suggests that a person who truly doesn’t *know* the Christian faith and has no opportunity to know the faith but would be open to it if he or she were taught it *might* possibly be saved through an extraordinary act of God’s grace.  The Feeneyites argue that such a person wouldn’t *need* an extraordinary act because God’s providence would provide such a person with a Christian missionary at the right time.

The next stage after that is someone who has “invincible ignorance,” a term which in most formal theology applies to those who are mentally or intellectually handicapped in a manner that impedes their right judgement.  Such a person may be told, “Jesus is the Son of God,” but not be capable of comprehending what that means.

OK, fair enough.  It is always important to remember, when dealing with these questions, that we’re talking about speculation regarding what *may* happen in extremely rare circumstances, to other people.  For the most part, the whole point of these hypothesized “extra-ordinary” means of salvation for those outside the Church is that the person in question has never met a Christian.  Many contemporary theologians speak of Rahner’s idea of the “invisible Christian,” or of “invincible ignorance” or of baptism by desire, and they apply it to people they know.

I’ve argued with some neoconservative Catholics who have a very interesting view of Islam.  On the one hand, they claim that Islam is an evil religion (as a religion, it is, but that doesn’t mean all its adherents are evil people), and they claim that all Muslims want to kill everyone else.  So they argue that Muslims should be killed.  *Then* they say, when confronted with the fact that they would be sending these Muslims to Hell, that, “Well, Muslims are invincibly ignorant, so they can still go to Heaven.”  So they’re Evil, and they deserve to be nuked because they’re so Evil, and they’re going straight to Heaven??

Some people seem to use “invincible ignorance” as a catch-all for *any* ignorance or any denial of God’s truth, and then basically use it as a catch all to say that just about everyone who isn’t Christian is going to be saved anyway.  This is exactly the mentality that RadTrads object to in post-Vatican II thinking.  It doesn’t really matter if someone is Catholic, except that it’s an easier way for that person to get to Heaven–supposedly.

To this mentality, a man can live your life as a Muslim, commit acts of terrorism, familial abuse, rape, adultery, incest and murder in the name of “Allah,” and then go straight to Heaven because he’s “invincibly ignorant.”
A baptized Catholic can use birth control her entire life, aborting who knows how many children via the Pill’s abortifacient effects, maybe have a surgical abortion or two, get divorced, shack up, et cetera  paribus, and never go to Confession because “She was probably badly catechized, so she’s invincibly ignorant.”
And so on.

A similar claim is that Protestants are Christians just as much as we are, and they have valid Baptism (which the do), so they’re OK without the Eucharist or Reconciliation.  Yet Catholic dogma clearly states that a person, once baptized, who commits mortal sin cannot be forgiven of that mortal sin without Reconciliation or at least the intention to receive the Sacrament.  Again, some Protestants may be forgiven for their ignorance, but all of them?  Doesn’t the validity of their Baptism put them in a precarious spot, especially versus the so-called “anonymous Christians” who don’t get sacramentally baptized at all?

Now, I’m willing to grant quite a lot in these regards.  For example, a Protestant who has grown up with a lot of biases against the Catholic Church and a lot of misinformation may be totally sincere in rejecting some aspects of Catholic dogma.  But it just seems to me to be taken way too far.  Certainly, again, the very valid complain of many RadTrads is that the generous teachings of Vatican II are used as an excuse by most Catholics–certainly laity but including priests and bishops–to *NOT* engage in their duty to evangelize and their duty to admonish sinners.  They’ll even argue that by not evangelizing, they’re helping to save souls by giving them the excuse of ignorance!

And what always strikes me when these topics come up is the importance of Faith in the Bible.  “Nothing is impossible with God,” we are reminded several times in the Bible.  The Bible treats it as a pretty serious crime when God promises or works a miracle and a person refuses to believe.  Indeed, it is precisely in this context that Jesus refers to the “sin of the Holy Spirit.” The different places where Jesus says that the “sin against the Holy Spirit” cannot be forgiven in this life or the next are when He’s talking about the Pharisees rejecting His miracles or His ability to forgive sins.

Another thought that brought this to mind was a discussion at my Carmelite meeting about St. Paul.  I pointed out that St. Paul, when he was persecuting the Christians, was being “righteous.”  He was not killing Christians sadistically; he was doing it because he thought it was what God wanted.  Out of all the Pharisees who were going around persecuting Christians at that point, Jesus reached out the Paul because Paul was sincere.  Paul was ignorant (not invincibly ignorant, just ignorant) of the truth of Jesus Christ.

Compare him to the Pharisees who actually witnessed Jesus’ miracles firsthand yet rejected Him.  They were *choosing* to reject what they saw before their own eyes.  Many of the Pharisees had enough knowledge of Christianity to at least make an informed choice, and perhaps knew full well it was true, but they simply refused to accept what they knew, and they reacted against it in anger.

Now, when it comes to what actually happens at personal judgement, I prefer to keep in mind that Our Lord is a Divine Person, and from His perspective, it is all about relationship and about love.  I think Judgement is more like C. S. Lewis’s idea of “God in the Dock,” that when each person dies, Jesus appears, and the person either greets Jesus with love or fear, and that’s it–St. Teresa of Avila says something similar.  The Sacraments dispose us to be more ready to receive Christ, but that doesn’t preclude some “anonymous Christian” from dying and seeing Jesus and saying, “Hey!  You’re the One I’ve hoped for my whole life but never knew about.”   But most people outside the sacraments are going to be bound by some kind of sin, and/or they’re going to be bound by some kind of insistence of the absurdity of the Truth.

I think of the amazing passage in Les Miserables when Javert commits suicide because he spent his life, he thought, serving God and found out that what he *thought* God wanted was wrong and that God actually wanted mercy.  Confronted with his “Road to Damascus” moment, Javert doesn’t change his ways like Saul/Paul did; he turns in his resignation to God and commits suicide.

It’s easy to say that maybe the YouTube Imam is missing something.  Maybe he is invincibly ignorant in the true sense of the word, incapacitated by mental handicap of some sort (in which it would be the duty of a Christian to pray over him to be healed).  But the plain fact of his video is that he is sitting there, claiming to be a Muslim theologian, insisting that he is *not* invincibly ignorant, saying that Christian teaching is that God became Man, which is true, and saying that he refuses to accept that God became Man.

Do you *really* think that such a person, so opposed to the notion of Jesus, when he dies and confronts Jesus in Person, will react the way Paul did?  And if he *would* react the way Paul did, then why doesn’t God reach out to him now and convert him to Christianity so he can be a missionary?  Or rather, when he dies, will he see Jesus and react in outrage that God would so condescend to become Man?  Would he say, “I want no part of such a God!”  After all, that’s what Satan said.

The Hour of Mercy

I don’t have my copy of Divine Mercy in My Soul (the diary of St. Faustina) in front of me, and I wouldn’t know where to look in it if I did, but Jesus, in His Mercy, keeps His demand for the “Hour of Mercy” rather general. While the Chaplet is recommended, He asks that we make some act of devotion to His Passion and/or His Mercy during that hour. Certainly, it’s an ideal time to make a Holy Hour: say the chaplet, say the rosary (particularly Sorrowful or Glorious Mysteries), stations of the Cross, etc. I like to say the Prayer before a Crucifix that hour, if I haven’t already, or to say the 15 Prayers of St. Bridget.

But another way I like to observe the Hour of Mercy, with or without the Chaplet, is to pray the Penitential Psalms. On Divine Mercy Sunday itself, I posted links to YouTube videos of all seven. In the modern day numbering, they are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. I also posted a YouTube video of each Psalm for each day of the past week at 3 PM.

If haven’t already, please scroll through the icons. I found some really cool videos. Some are classical settings of Psalms; some are “praise and worship” settings. At least one is in Latin. One is in Hebrew. Some are in other languages. Some are recited; some are sung. KJV and NAB are both represented. If the translation wasn’t provided in the video, I provided it below.

Now that I know how to advance post, I’m trying to set it so that there will be some special feature here for the Hour of Mercy every day. This week, I’m linking the Psalms in the New American Bible online (just click the title bar to get the Psalm), and posting an image of Jesus (three versions of Divine Mercy, and other images related to the Paschal Mystery) to reflect on as you pray the Psalm.

We’re entering into the Month of May. Time for the Thirty Days’ Devotion to Mary. From our brethren in the Eastern Lung, it’s also a great month for praying the Moleben to Mary.

Fulton Sheen on Palm Sunday

“It was the month of Nisan. The Book of Exodus ordered that in this month the Paschal Lamb was to be selected, and four days later was to be taken to the place where it was to be sacrificed. On Palm Sunday, the Lamb was chosen by popular acclaim in Jerusalem; on Good Friday He was sacrificed” (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ., Ch. 33 p. 272).

Bishop Sheen points out that the request for teh donkey (Luke 19:31) embodies the paradox of the Incarnation: “the LORD has need of it.” God humbled himself to share in our humanity. He who has no need, who is “that greater than which nothing can be imagined” chose to have need. “It is sufficient for those who know Him to hear: ‘The Lord hath need of it'” (Life of Christ, Ch. 33, p. 273).

Until this point, Jesus has always discouraged people’s praise and proclamation, commanding them to silence. On Palm Sunday, for the first time, He encourages their celebration. Even the Pharisees acknowledge the world is turning to Jesus.

“His ‘Hour’ had come. It was time now for Him to make the last public affirmation of His claims. He knew it would lead to Calvary, and His Ascension adn the establishment of His Kingdom on earth. Once He acknowledged their praise, then there were only two courses open to the city: confess Him as did Peter, or crucifiy. Either He was their King, or else they would have no king but Caesar” (Life of Christ, Ch. 33, p. 274).

Sheen goes on to discuss the prophecy of Zechariah that Jerusalem’s king would come riding on a donkey. Great conquerers always ride on horseback, “sometimes over the prostrate bodies of their foes” (Life of Christ 274). But Christ comes on an ass.

“How Pilate, if he was looking out of his fortress that Sunday, must have been amused by the ridiculous spectacle of a man being proclaimed as a King, and yet seated on the beast that wa sthe symbol of the outcast[. . . .] If He had entered into the city with regal pomp in the manner of conquerors, He would have given occasion to believe He was a political Messias. But the circumstances He chose validated His claim taht His Kingdom was not of this world. There is no suggestion that this pauper King was a rival of Caesar” (Life of Christ, p. 275).

Conversely, the adoration of the people exceeds that which they might give to a mere King :they give him the adoration of a God.

Discussing the response of Christ to the Pharisees’ complaints (Luke 19:40), Sheen points out, “Stones ar ehard, but if they would cry out, then how much harder must be the hearts of men who woudl not recognize God’s mercy before them” (Life of Christ, p. 276).

(edition is New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.)

It *IS* Christmas every day!

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

A common expression, often related to the joy of getting, is “Why can’t it be Christmas every day?”

For those who judge things by feelings, Christmas gives good feelings and therefore should be every day.

Fair enough. Yes, it would be nice if everyone lived in a spirit of giving and peace and love and all that.

But the one way to make that happen is to realize the TRUE meaning of Christmas.

Isn’t it funny how many television shows and movies set out to tell us the “true meaning of Christmas is giving” or “the true meaning of Christmas is family” or “the true meaning Christmas is children,” or all these things that *aren’t* the “true” meaning of Christmas? Overtly, they’re telling us to think of Christmas as being “about” those things, as opposed to gifts and parties and decorations. However, subtly, they’re also telling us that the “true meaning of Christmas” is giving or charity or love or family or children instead of Christ’s birth.

Christmas is the day we celebrate the day God became man. Most Americans, like Joan Osborne, seem to have missed the memo while opening their presents from “Santa Claus”: God *is* one of us. Jesus Christ Emmanual (the Anointed Savior, God-with-us), the Word of God, became flesh and dwelled among us, and we have seen his glory.

Yet He did not just become flesh and go away. The hope of Christmas is that God came to love us and save us. The hope of Easter is that Jesus rose from the dead so we could, too.

Most people don’t seem to realize that most Catholic/Fundamentalist issues boil down to one principle. I forget the exact verse or quotation, but it is, I think, from Hebrews, that Jesus rose to the Father’s right hand and will stay there to the end or something. Catholics most certainly believe that–indeed, we use it as one of the “proof text” arguments against the Rapture, since Scripture is clear Christ will not return in full bodily form until the end.

However, evangelicals take this passage as an indication that Jesus is no longer man. This is why they deny Mary is Theotokos: Jesus was God-Man on earth, but, they say, now that He has risen, He is no longer man any more, even though He ate food in almost every post-Resurrection appearance.

Jesus promised to leave us orphans, and He didn’t. He who was born in the House of Bread (Bethlehem) proclaimed Himself to be the Bread of Life and proclaimed bread and wine to be now His Body and Blood.

“Christmas” means “Christ’s Mass.” Christ’s Mass takes place every day. It is amazing how many people show up for Christmas Mass. The priest at the Mass I attended said they had 12 masses at his parish for Christmas. Many of these people are “CAPE Catholics” (Christmas, Ashes, Palms and Easter) who “fly away” the rest of the year. Many are Protestants who come, either because their churches don’t have services for Christmas or they recognize the greater solemnity of Catholic worship for the occasion.

One Christmas, when one of our patrons, St. Louis IX of France, was meditating on the Nativity in his private chambers. A courtier burst in. “Your majesty! There has been a great miracle at Midnight Mass in the palace chapel! While the priest uttered the words of consecration, the face of Christ appeared in the Host!”
The king, perturbed, turned and asked, “Why have you interrupted my meditation on the birth of Our Lord and Savior to tell me of a miracle which occurs at every Mass?”

The Christmas Miracle happens every day. God becomes flesh at every Mass. If everyone took advantage of that gift, every day *would* be Christmas.

Yes, I’m sure Jesus would tolerate abortion.

I’ve never understood the myth of the “tolerant Jesus”. When liberals talk about how Jesus would have tolerated homosexuality, abortion, etc., I wonder “What Bible are they reading?” Yes, Jesus dined with sinners: THE ONES WHO REPENTED. Several times in the Gospel of John, most famously the woman caught in adultery, Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.”

Jesus called His own Apostles a “wicked and perverse generation.” He routinely called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers,” etc. He told them that their father was Satan. He called his best friend “Satan” (though some argue that that was an exorcism). The Lord God Almighty is not a “nice guy.” “He’s not a tame lion.”

The Man Who called for the death penalty for anyone who would ever harm a child (Mt 18:6) would hardly tolerate abortion.

Think about it.

Crosses and Crowns of Thorns

Meditation on the Passion is a hallmark of authentic Catholic spirituality: all the Mystics recommend it. Aquinas recommends it. Most of our devotions are based upon it. St. Louis De Montfort cites many voices lauding meditation on the Passion as one of the reasons to say the Rosary. As I’ve noted before, Protestants look at the Passion and say, “Look what Jesus did for me so I don’t have to suffer!” Catholics look at the Passion and say, “Look at what Jesus did, and He didn’t deserve it, but I do!”

So we try to reflect on what it was like for Him, so we will be less likely to sin and cause Him pain, so we can be moved to perform acts of reparation to atone for the great injustice done to our God.

There are so many ways we pray the Passion: Crucifixes, Stations of the Cross, the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Bridgetttine Prayers, the Devotion to the Holy Face, Devotion to the Holy Wounds, etc. Mel Gibson’s movie has given us a contemporary way to do so. Even the Psalms, prayed from a Catholic perspective, include meditation on the Passion.

Protestants don’t understand Catholic emphasis on “works”–works of devotion or works of charity–but that emphasis is not about “winning salvation” but rather making reparation for what Christ had to suffer.

Even the Stigmata, one of the more sensational aspects of Catholic mysticism, are not so much a badge of honor as a way of living the Passion, as St. Pio was always quick to note.

Many saints have had partial stigmata or spiritual stigmata, feeling the Wounds without them being visible.

For the rest of us, the prayer should be that we may feel some of that. When we reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries, we must imagine what it was like for Jesus in the Garden, or being whipped, or having long, sharp thorns pushed into His skull, carrying His Cross, or being naled to it and hanging from it.

And sometimes, our sharing in Christ’s sufferings is more practical. Pope Paul VI once described the stress of the Papacy as a daily Crown of Thorns.

When I was a kid, I wanted to get the Stigmata. As an adult, I look into the backs of my hands and see the scars from the IVs after my surgery.

My hands have always been mildly arthritic, and my left hand has had a slight twinge of pain since I broke it 7 years ago. These twinges of pain help me to think about what Jesus went through for me.

Between sinus headaches, tension headaches from my glasses, migraines and the brain aneurysm (the latter two probably being the same), I almost always have a headache of some sort, and my head is almost always surrounded in pain. I identify with the Crown of Thorns.

Tonight, at Adoration, I chose to pray with the nice 1950s-ish Rosary pictures in the Bible I had rather than read meditations. I meditated the way St. Teresa of Avila and St. Ignatius of Loyola recommend, and I tried to really imagine what it was like for Jesus.

And I thought of the throbbing aneurysm in my descending aorta, which constantly presses on my spine these days, where I always feel a sense of dull pressure. I don’t know exactly where the aneurysm is vis-a-vis my scoliosis, but there is one definite spot that has been in pain for the past 4 years, since before the new aneurysm was diagnosed.

For a long time, I’ve had a hard time leaning back in a chair or bed without excruciating pain if I put pressure on the wrong part of my back. When I get tired or over-exert myself , the throbbing sensations and pressure that used to plague my chest in my teen years now plague my back.

Lately, without my wheelchair, it has been especially hard. I can’t sit up or stand up straight for long. I’m almost always hunched over. The pain and pressure are just oppressive.

And, so, tonight, I sat, hunched over, with that pain throbbing in my back, feeling like I had “the weight of the world” on me, and I looked at that picture of my Dear Jesus carrying that cross for me–and I thanked Him for letting me share in His Cross.

A Little Easter Humor

The Angel said,
“You seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. Has has risen, and He has gone out for Sunday brunch.”

The women looked puzzled.

“Come on, He hasn’t eaten since Thursday evening. He’s hungry.”

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41).
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” (Jn 21:12).


Six years ago (hard to believe!), my dad and I went to see a movie.

This was a controversial film, a film that was, we’d been told, horribly offensive. Many argued it should have had an NC-17 rating, and were offended that the MPAA let it get by with just an “R” rating.

No major studio would distribute this film, so its producers shopped it straight to theatres themselves. When it was successful, in spite of its many critics, this film marked a new area in film marketing, and many thought it was indicating a huge shift in American culture–a shift that just four years later would seem to have reverted back in the other direction.

One of the advantages of the major studios opting out is that this film had no trailers. We sat in the theater. The slideshow of in-theater advertisements played with the semi-dim lights. When the lights dimmed completely, there was no wait. There was no deep-voiced guy saying “in a world where . . . .” It was also almost completely devoid of logos flashing across the screen.

The room went dark. A flash of lightning and the word “Icon,” with the Blessed Mother’s face.

And then darkness. And the theater felt like a theater, not a cinema. We sat in a seat and watched a showo without the blatant commercialism of the cinemaa.

Yet we were truly transported into another world. The film came alive like no other could, not just because of its content and fantastic cinematography, but because its rejection by Hollywood allowed it to stand out as something different.

And it wasn’t long before you knew it was. As I sat in that theater, I began saying my rosary. I never stopped, the whole way through.

People said it was gruesome and disturbing–of course it was. It was the depiction of the greatest evil ever committed in history.

It was also the visualization of the reflections any devout Catholic should make in prayer, especially during Lent, and especially during Holy Week. The Stations of the Cross, the Prayers of St. Bridget, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the “way of perfection” of St. Teresa of Avila, the Prayer before a Crucifix, . . . . All there.

And how many devotional images: the miraculous medal, the Pieta, the Divine Mercy, and of course the Shroud of Turin. . .. All brought to life in a stunning sequence.

This film truly is an Icon, an artwork that is a prayer, a window into Scripture.

St. Teresa of Avila says that holy tears are one of the greatest gifts one can achieve in the spiritual life. I forget where I first read that, over 20 years ago. But wherever I first heard, it became an objective of mine to treat my meditation on the Passion of our Dear Lord Jesus Christ with such reverence that I would receive the gift of crying over it.

I developed a very strong devotion to the Stations of the Cross. I wish I could remember *when*, exactly, I first received the gift, but I believe it was sometime in 1990. While I can’t remember the date, I do remember the experience. I remember praying the Stations of the Cross and really considering Our Lord’s sufferings and crying, and then experiencing joy that I could feel the sorrow for it, and expressing to my brother my joy that I had been given this gift, and then not being understood.

Mel Gibson gave the world a great gift. He has taken a huge fall since then, but Holy Mother Teresa of Avila says, the artist doesn’t matter; the Devil himself can make an image of Christ worthy of reverence, so long as one is revering the subject of the art and not the painter.

Those who view The Passion of the Christ and take offense, or get angry, miss the point completely. I pray that they have their hard hearts softened.

St. Teresa on the Passion

“If it’s true, Lord, that You want to endure everything for me, what is this that I suffer for You? Of what am I complaining? I am already ashamed, since I have seen You in such a conditoin” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 26, para. 6).Add Image