Category Archives: Confession.
Went to Confession today. Didn’t want to be a “10 minute Confession,” so I prayed a long time about it–including my post about the Saints last night–and I talked about my existential doubt/Dark Night, my doubt of the Church, and rash actions committed because I was really angry at God and didn’t realize it. Father said to pray the Glorious mysteries and focus on the third. Didn’t even say that Penance till later this evening, but when I came out of Confession, I sat down, rejoined the people saying the Sorrowful Mysteries in church, and felt a deep sense of God’s Presence to a level I haven’t felt in a long time, and didn’t think I’d ever feel again now that I ‘m in the last stages of the Dark Night. I felt so overwhelmed by JOY, by LOVE, by PEACE, that I practically felt like a Charismatic. I thought of Joy Davidman Lewis’s famous description of her conversion:
“All my defenses—the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I hid from God—went down momentarily. And God came in.”
Since you tried to steal my identity, I’m here to reclaim it. My name is John Hathaway.
You obviously know my address as well as SSN because the card was sent to my home. If you want my identity, I think you should know what goes along with it.
You’ll probably never see this, but hopefully it will go viral.
I have Marfan syndrome
(Regular readers should know this)
If you want my name and my “credit,” would you like the dissected and twice-grafted aorta that goes with it? How about the brain aneurysm? The scarred lung? The leaking heart valves? The bleeding and bruising from Coumadin? The joint and rib pain? Would you like to share in those?
Would you like to share in wondering any time you have a sharp pain if it will be your last, in genuinely being aware–every day of your life–that you have no idea when you will die? Many people live that way, of course. Maybe you do, but most do because of the threat of violence from people who care more about $200 watches than they do about other human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God.
I am Catholic
I have a deep love for Jesus Christ, and the Church He established, particularly His Mother and His Saints in Heaven. If you want to share in my “identity,” I invite you to share in the love of Christ.
I wish I could afford to be as generous as the Bishop in Les Miserables.
But I do forgive you, and I do call you my brother.
You need to know that your action has violated three of God’s Ten Commandments,
The seventh, eighth, and tenth, specifically.
7. You have obviously stolen my legal “identity,” and you have stolen two expensive watches from Belk.
8. You have also born false witness against me by performing an act in my name that I never would have done.
10. You have done this out of covetousness.
For my part, I forgive you, and God is willing to forgive you, too. If you are not baptized, please seek out any Christian, but ideally a Catholic priest or deacon, and request to be baptized. If you are baptized, please find a priest and confess your sins and sin no more.
You need to know that your action has done in my name something that I find morally repugnant
I can’t remember the last time I bought anything at Belk. I don’t even wear a watch, and if I did it would be the least expensive, most practical watch I could find. I think it’s wrong to pay more than $30 for shoes without a good medical reason or more than $30 for a watch for the same. The most expensive items of clothing I have ever bought myself were the blazer for my wedding, which I still wear; the overcoat I bought at Penney’s in 2005 to wear over my blazers when I worked outside the home; and a few other blazers for when I worked, which I gave away to charity because I believe and do a very poor job of practicing the teaching of St. John the Baptist that anyone with two coats should share with the one who has none.
My family spends way more than we should, but most of that is on fast food. With six people with various physical impairments and on the autism spectrum, we have a lot of medical appointments. Other than that, our incomes goes to housing, utilities, food, and a bit of technology. We enjoy way too many luxuries yet far less than most Americans.
I would never spend $200 for a watch, much less $400 for 2! And these days I’d buy a $30 cell phone rather
We don’t even have enough to regularly donate to the Church. Usually, when we do plan to give something to the Church, we find some person in urgent need first. I don’t say this to brag, but to make an appeal to you not to be materialistic and greedy, and to think about others.
I once dropped a credit card at a gas station. The person who found it used it to buy gas someplace else. While I disputed the charge, I also thought “At least they did something practical.”
We are just getting our credit up to where we might be able to get a loan to make repairs on our home without appealing to charities for help in making them.
It is cosmically unjust that if I apply for credit at a store I actually shop at — and not because I need it but just to take advantage of one of those offers and then pay it off — I get denied, but you, my brother, have managed to get credit at a store that I rarely even enter to buy products that I not only would never buy but whose very existence I consider mortally sinful per the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.
For those reasons this hurts me deeply, but I seek the grace in my pain. I pray that, like St. Stephen and St. Paul, my prayers will inspire your conversion and we can be together in Heaven where we will both share the identity of Christ.
This is Mary, John’s wife posting. I found this homily exactly the challenge I need to grow in holiness by rooting out the base that is in me, through God’s Grace.
“The mentality just described by St. Francis might be summed up in one sentence: “I’m too weak to practice virtue—at least, not heroically like the saints did—so I’m definitely dispensed from doing so.” Some of us here may be thinking similar thoughts. Despite this presumption, we might still manage to save our own soul, but many others will be lost—those onetime wayward souls whom any given saint manages to drag along with himself to heaven. Even one mortal sin can cost us much peace of mind, yet umpteen souls are lost and our conscience won’t be any worse for the wear, because here below this sin of which we speak will remain buried under a heap of excuses. We wanted to avoid the cross, but in the end we only managed to exchange one cross for another—perhaps even a heavier one. In the process, we forfeited ever so much joy to which the saints are privy both in time and eternity. What shall we say about all this? How about a prayer? Lord, spare us so rude an awakening in purgatory! Save us from our secret sin—and from our top secret sin: ingratitude. Make us thankful in thought, word and deed. Amen.”
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.
After “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain,” the Commandment that’s probably most often broken is the eighth. As it happens, the two are often broken simultaneously, as Ephesians 4:29, which sometimes is translated as “unwholesome talk,” and others as “foul language,” attests. Either way, it finishes with the famous, “Say only the good things men need to hear, to build them up. . . .”
When we say things, are we loving our neighbor? Are we loving the person we’re speaking about or the person we’re speaking to by saying them?
As I mostly look out on the world these days and can barely even use my voice, I see the evils that people spread, perhaps unwittingly, with their words. I regret the many, many times I have done the same. When I laid in the hospital, “Hallucinating” for three weeks that seemed like 3 years in 2013, the guilt I bore for my many unconfessed sins against the 8th Commandment was one of the things that bore down on my conscience. As experiential arguments for Purgatory go, even if I was sacramentally absolved, and that seems to depend upon which saint or mystic one quotes, I still needed to be purified of it.
We look at it in face value and say, “Well, I never testified against somebody in court, so that doesn’t apply to me.” Yet, as the Catechism warns, we become guilty of it in several ways, beyond lying about someone else, in particular Detraction and Rash judgement. They both seem to come up all the time: with kids and family, with other adults, in parish life and city life, national politics, the hierarchy from the parish office to Rome. Our pastor has been talking a lot about it lately, and it strikes me how people will gossip about his homilies against gossip. I balk myself a bit, but this is definitely a case where it’s sometimes hard to hear hard truths. Like I say, the Rich Young Man’s sadness seems to me to indicate that he, unlike the many who left Jesus’ presence in anger, and the rest of us when we leave angry from hearing God’s message, was acknowledging that Jesus was right. When we condemn ourselves to Hell, we do so in defiant anger that we disagree with how God wants things to be.
“I’m just being honest,” we protest, like a child justifying saying something cruel to another child. “I’m just telling the truth.”
No, there are times when it is not necessary to divulge a truth, or when it’s more appropriate to remain silent. When Ahab killed the prophets of the Lord, and Elijah pronounced the drought, the Lord sent him into hiding for “some time” (1 Kings 17:3-7). Our Lord Himself remained silent for most of the first 30 years of His life on earth. We must pray for guidance on these matters. St. John the Baptist was beheaded for denouncing Herod Antipas’s illicit marriage, but when St. Thomas More was executed for essentially the same reason, he had never openly denounced Henry VIII’s sin. It has always been a constant temptation in public life, particularly in American culture. We blame the digital media or electronic media in general, or even the printing press, but we can look through history and see examples of the same kinds of “mudslinging” and personal attacks in ancient Greece and Rome and other cultures.
Rash judgement seems to “You did that *on purpose*!” “You did that to be mean!” I know I very often fall into it. It takes a lot of prayer and grace to resist it. How many lives have been shattered by rash judgement? Nations?
Like St. Elijah in confronting Ahab and Jezebel, we must often be silent and patient, waiting on the Lord to tell us when or how to speak or act. If we feel the need to do so, we should follow St. Paul’s advice to speak in ways that build people up. St. John of the Cross says that the one who flees prayer flees everything good. I have often wondered how much better everyone’s lives would be if we all made prayer our default mode of conversation. The next time you’re tempted to gossip or complain, or you hear someone else doing it, why not ask them to join you in a Divine Mercy Chaplet or Rosary? Or the Office?
Pray for me that God will grant me the grace to do the same.
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.
If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that things work better with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
I am a sinner. My worst sins have been hypocrisy, pride, presumption and sacrilege, justifying and excusing my bad habits. I need Confession, even when I don’t “need” it. I need to confess every two weeks, preferably to the same priest, to avoid falling back into my bad habits. While I prefer to kneel and use the veil, for formality, my vocal cord paralysis has necessitated face-to-face. The knowledge that I am going to Confession, and that I am going to have to Confess it to the priest who’s followed my progress, helps me use that pride to my advantage, and I don’t sin as much. Not only do I feel better spiritually and psychologically, but my life works better.
The same goes for Adoration. In combination, weekly Adoration and biweekly Confession are crucial. I say yo my shame that I live in an area where multiple churches have weekly, daily or even perpetual Adoration, and I don’t avail myself of it. There are several reasons, mostly health related, but every day I think about figuring out how we can work it out.
Again, when I’ve been signed up for a Holy Hour and thus obligated, or else just made a point of going after work at night, things have gone a lot better for me and ny family. Add in daily Mass, and it’s amazing.
Why do I stop, then? Inevitably, the Devil attacks, first with the easily dismissed “scare tactics,” and eventually through personal attacks and phenomena that require moving.
Again, at our last move (which will hopefully be our last change of region), We chose an area with a lot of good parishes. We have, cumulatively and at various times, daily Mass, Confession, Adoration, Divine Mercy Chaplet, a Rosary, Confession, Morning Prayer, Vespers (both Roman and Byzantine), and public Novenas. What happened after we moved here? I didn’t get the job I moved for, and I suffered an aortic dissection. I write this in part not only to encourage you, gentle reader, to improve your life by Confession and Adoration, but also for the same reason I need Confession: to shame myself into better behavior.
“The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep,” said one.
“Imagine all the people living for today,” said the other.
Our neighbors like to have bonfires on the weekends and play the radio. Usually, they do it in fall and our relatively mild winters, but, given the bad winter we’ve had, coupled with yard debris, they’ve been having them the last several weekends. When we were leaving for Mass, the repulsive “Imagine” started playing on the radio at the neighbors’. I quickly started the car engine, knowing it was on Casting Crowns. I thought about switching to Fr. Antonio Vivaldi’s _Four Seasons_, but figured I’d rather hear content to get Lennon’s book of Marx out of my head (so to speak; “Imagine” came out nearly a year after “American Pie”). I didn’t, and it fit in with the weekend’s meditations.
“Imagine all the people living for today”??
That’s exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in. That’s what Thomas Hobbes famously describes as the state of nature: the war of “all against all” because everyone is “living for the moment,” and “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
In his address at the 1998 Seattle C. S. Lewis Institute, Peter Kreeft quoted Voltaire saying that too many people had their minds on Heaven and Hell and not on France. “I don’t know where Voltaire is now,” said Kreeft, “but, wherever he is, he’s not in France.”
Liturgically, this weekend’s theme of course was resurrection in anticipation of the upcoming Easter. Saturday, we also celebrated the Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, known for his preaching on the Last Things, for promoting the following:
Prayer of St. Vincent Ferrer to be Sinless at the Hour of Death
Lord Jesus Christ, who willest that no man should perish, and to whom supplication is never made without the hope of mercy, for Thou saidst with Thine own holy and blessed lips: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, shall be done unto you”; I ask of Thee, O Lord, for Thy holy name’s sake, to grant me at the hour of my death full consciousness and the power of speech, sincere contrition for my sins, true faith, firm hope and perfect charity, that I may be able to say unto Thee with a clean heart: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth, who art blessed forever and ever. Amen.
As we usually do, ironically, when I actually make it to Mass with my family, we went to the “last chance” college Mass, with a very kindly priest of the Holy Father’s generation who tends to overemphasize, as it were, “Niceness.” He gives pleasant, uplifting homilies but never really challenges people. He has a lot of good qualities, but I found his homily a bit lacking in the caution that should come with these themes.
“I am one of those who believe this life isn’t all there is.”
I should hope so.
He emphasized, “But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:10).
He kind of left out the conditions “if” and “because of righteousness” and went with, “Christ is in all of us, so we’re all going to be together.” He phrased it in that “ambiguous” manner that typifies his era, but he definitely promoted presumption.
I don’t know if it was posted because of St. Vincent, or the Sunday liturgy, or just an act of Divine Inspiration, but a blogger who goes by Tantamergo at “Dallas Area Catholics” posted a great piece on praying for a Happy Death, particularly praying for the opportunity to be conscious, as St. Vincent recommends above, so we can invoke Our Lady in our dying days, with various examples from Saints to that effect.
Thus, it was dismaying coming into Mass with those things in mind to hear Father say how most of his family were dead, and they’d all died of cancer, and he hoped to be fortunate enough to die in his sleep or suddenly!
No, the best we can hope for is not to die in our sleep; it is to die fully aware so that we’re not further punished for putting off our repentance.
Reports claim that Yellowstone is getting closer to eruption, and the animals are fleeing. Others say that the supervolcano theory hasn’t been proven, that the animals are just engaging in normal migration, etc. I say that, obviously, if they knew it was going to happen, they wouldn’t want to trigger mass chaos by saying that a mass extinction event is coming. Either way, whether it’s Yellowstone, cancer, a heart attack, a gang playing the “knock out game,” or the proverbial bus, we must all heed Our Lord’s warning to store up treasure in Heaven, not on Earth. Whether we die tomorrow or 90 years from now, we’ll still face the same personal judgement and the same two options for Eternity. We worry so much about preparing for “retirement,” or how to survive various disasters, but do we worry about what will happen if we die a sudden and unprovided death?
Daily examination of conscience
Daily devotion to Our Lady and to Our Lord’s Passion
Self-sacrifice and almsgiving
Frequent recourse to the Sacraments
and, most of all
Praying daily that we and our loved ones will experience a “Happy Death,” with complete Confession, the Anointing, Viaticum, and the Apostolic Blessing (collectively, “Last Rites”).
These must be everyone’s priorities.
A daily examination of conscience is something everyone should do. It helps us to prepare for weekly or biweekly confession and on a daily basis to know what to work on. The Devil’s greatest deception, they say, is not “convincing the world he doesn’t exist” but convincing the world “there’s plenty of time to get right with God” or, worse, “There’s no need to get right with God.” People say, “God loves you unconditionally,” when we should ask ourselves whether we love *God* unconditionally.
St. Ignatius recommends keeping a journal of one’s daily examins–using coded symbols if one prefers–and checking off the number of times a particular sin was committed that day. While we should obviously keep note of all serious sins to confess as soon as possible, we should also try to focus on a particular bad habit.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.
More recently, however, His Holiness showed another example of what he does *not* mean when he warned the Mafia that they’re in danger of Hell.
Meanwhile, in an example of what “judge not lest ye be judged” most definitely *does* mean, poor Fred Phelps, Sr.. Phelps’s story is a tragic example of the path of heresy: starting out with zeal for the Lord but losing the love he had at first (Rev 2:4). He started as a reknowned civil rights activist known for participation in the _Brown v. Board of Education_ case and moved on to peace activism but somehow, while apparently retaining those positions became known for a strong “anti-gay” polemic (that is to say, “anti-homosexual,” rather than “anti-homosexuality”). His “congregation” Westboro Baptist became known for protesting various funerals, ranging from soldiers (see anti-war, above) to prominent homosexuals to children, with their notorious “God hates [sinners]” signs.
So, what of Fred Phelps?
1. He promoted hate, making a career (both as a disbarred lawyer and as a “minister” without any ties to any “denomination” or “hierarchy”) out of attacking various individual and social evils with straight-on hate rather than authentic zeal or love. He “lived by the sword” and by “judging others,” to the extent that his own family will not have a funeral for him because they don’t “worship [or pray for] the dead.” Again, most certainly if someone lived the opposite of “judge not, lest ye be judged,” it was Fred Phelps.
2. He was anti-Catholic, attacked the Church Jesus founded, and presumably, as someone who claimed to know the Bible, read and ignored John 20:23 and James 5:16 (“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”) How can one who is Baptized and claims to know the Bible be forgiven of mortal sin without the Sacrament of Reconciliation? He not only preached that pretty much everyone was damned to Hell but also helped keep people away from that powerful Sacrament, and he discouraged praying for the poor souls in Purgatory.
3. Oddly united just about everyone in hating him back or pitying him. From atheist and “gay rights” leaders to conservative Christians, many people outside his own congregation have called for treating his death with compassion and forgiveness, while others are calling for counter protests like, “God hates Fred.” Already, cartoons and memes are appearing joking about him potentially being in Hell.
Certainly, if there’s anyone we can say with certainty is in Hell, it’s Fred Phelps, right?
We can’t do that.
I always imagine personal judgement as the personal encounter described by St. Teresa of Avila and by St. Faustina, Jesus coming to the person and the person reacting either with love or with fear and loathing–or perhaps C. S. Lewis’s version where the person is greeted by the person they would least want to see in Heaven who is there (_The Great Divorce_ is a must-read).
I look at the life of Fred Phelps and wonder how it’s possible, objectively *or* subjectively, for him to face personal judgement and embrace the love and forgiveness of Christ? I imagine rather the response of Javert, the response of Judas after the Last Supper in the 1973 _Jesus Christ Superstar_ movie, where Jesus tries to give him a blanket, even after he has publicly denounced Jesus and left the company of Apostles, and Judas recoils.
Nevertheless, I also have to hope that his reaction is different. I have to hope that he repented even in those split seconds of death and was snatched from the Devil’s grasp, because otherwise, what hope to I have? What hope do any of us have? Fred Phelps may have been greeted by the souls of every saved person whose funeral he picketed, and how did he react? What if he reacted by asking forgiveness?
So what if, when you or I have our time, we find ourselves face-to-face with Jesus–and with Fred Phelps, or Adolf Hitler, or Judas Iscariot? Someone we were absolutely convinced was beyond asking God’s forgiveness yet wasn’t? How would we react? Would we ask, “How could You forgive *HIM* and not me??”
One final point: if he did repent of his mortal sins, he definitely had a lot of Purgatory in store to clear away his attachments. Pray for him, since by his own doing he has taught his family and friends not to.
For further reading, an older post I often link at times like this:
“Absalom and the Prodigal Son”
Supposedly, there are 50 Reasons Why We Should Fear the Worst from Fukushima.
We keep hearing about dangers of nukes, ships, and EMPs from Iran, China and North Korea.
IRS. NSA. TSA. DHS.
We are constantly being told to worry about the future: about money, health, property, “safety” and “security.”
41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NAB).
Do we live “according to the flesh” or “according to the spirit”?
5 For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. . . . 35What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? (Romans 8:5,35, NAB)
It just when we say “peace and security” that the “Day of the Lord” will come on us like a “thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5:2-3).
7 “When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. 8 Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains. 9 Watch out for yourselves. They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as a witness before them. . . . 11 When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the holy Spirit. . . . 14 When you see the desolating abomination standing where he should not (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, . . . 15 [and] a person on a housetop must not go down or enter to get anything out of his house. . . . 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. (Mark 13, NAB)
We should only fear one thing: offending Jesus. That’s it.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. (Matthew 10:28, NAB)
If we put as much effort into frequent Confession and daily examination of conscience that we do into worldly matters, we would certainly have nothing to fear from those, and things might indeed go far better for us as a society.
Trust God for the rest.
My New Year’s Resolution was to get back in a better habit of daily prayer, particularly the St. Bridget Prayers, and I have been lately overcome by the repentance and awareness that comes with such efforts. It seems like every day this past few weeks, something comes up on my Facebook feed like this article on what constitutes “serious sin,” or particular posts regarding sins I know I have or have previously had on my conscience.
One story that hit close to home, though I’m sure it’s dubious for a number of reasons (first and foremost that we are not supposed to listen to “messages from Hell”) is one a saint told of a monk who had committed some sin in his adolescence and been so prideful (his real sin) that he never confessed it (then sacrilegiously confessed and went to Communion). He developed a reputation for piety, like Hawthorne’s Rev. Dimmesdale, and his fear for his reputation led him to repeatedly conceal this sin in the confessional. He kept thinking “one day I will confess” until he was struck ill and could no longer do it. When he died, the monastery was preparing his funeral and he allegedly appeared to the Abbot and said to stop praying for him because he was in Hell. Although I know I have confessed fully on many occasions, I still felt identification with that story.
I know on the night of my aortic dissection that the demons were there to drag me into Hell, quite gleefully, because I had neglected the Confessional for over a month and had sinned that very night, committing the additional sin of presumption that I could confess the next day. I screamed for God’s Mercy, and they left, and I confessed to the priest in the ER a few hours later. I improved some of my behaviors over the next two years but still had some bad habits (still do). Then, in April of 2013, while I was in the ICU, and even after making a thorough Confession, I went through a deep “ICU psychosis” that was in many ways a deeply spiritual experience, truly one of the “passive nights” described by John of the Cross. I saw how many of my inclinations and impure thoughts, bad habits, and such were just as bad as committing the worst sins in their categories. I came out of the experience feeling like I had been purged of a great many problems, and I was, but now I just keep plunging deeper and deeper into things.
The other night, after reading the above article, I was overwhelmed with guilt and disgust at the fundamental sin that permeates our culture. Then, Adam Shaw, FOX News’s video game reviewer turned anti-Pope Francis attack dog, wrote this piece claiming the Pope is leading a “War on Aspiration,” and I thought, “Isn’t that what every Christian should be doing?” Aren’t we supposed to aspire to be Saints? Aren’t we supposed to *not* aspire to worldly fame and fortune and “success”?
St. Joan of Arc was asked at her “trial” (which of course was not conducted nor sanctioned by the official Inquisiton) if she believed herself to be in a state of grace. It was a Pharisaical trap: if she said, “no,” they’d say she was admitting to witchcraft; if she said, “yes,” they would say she was prideful. So she replied, “If I am, may God keep me there; If I am not, may God put me there.”
We must never endanger our souls with pride and presumption.
Please make sure to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation, even for venial sins. Remember: the Pope goes every week. It breaks my heart to think of anyone suffering eternally.
Something dawned on me today about Luke 17:6:
“The Lord replied,
‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.'”
We always take this as being “if you have enough faith, God will work miracles for you.” In context, it’s just the opposite.
Our Lord tells the disciples that it’s worse to cause another to sin than to sin (17:1-2); then He says to rebuke sinners but forgive them when they repent, even several times a day (17:3-4).
In that context, the disciples ask, “Increase our Faith” (17:5), and Jesus replies with the mustard seed metaphor. Continuing from there, He teaches about the servant who cooks and serves dinner *after* working in the fields all day, and says, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do'” (17:7-10), the definitive text on heroic virtue.
So, in context, the disciples ask for more faith because it’s difficult to a) speak out against sin and b) forgive people. Jesus says they can do anything with minimal faith, and then says it’s important to do *more* than God commands of us. So He’s not saying “with ‘minimal faith,’ God will do great things for you”; He’s saying, “with ‘minimal faith,’ you will do great things for God.”
It’s like the vision St. John Bosco had late in his life, after he had lived to see his former student Dominic Savio canonized. He was in the most beautiful place he had ever seen, hearing the most beautiful music he had ever heard. There were, as my great-uncle put it in his dying moments, “Millions of children playing.” There were also even more boys standing at a gate, in a dark place, clamoring and screaming to be let in.
Dominic Savio appeared, and Don Bosco asked, “Dominic! Where am I? Is this Heaven?”
“No. No one can see Heaven and live.”
So St. John pointed to a bright light from beyond a distant mountain.
“Is *that* Heaven?”
“Not even the gateway. Heaven is even more beautiful than that.”
Then he pointed to the children at the gate: “Who are they?”
“Those are the boys you could have saved but you did not have enough faith.”
At the end of every day, when we examine our consciences, *even* if we have completely avoided sin and fulfilled our basic “obligations,” we must remind ourselves that we are merely unprofitable servants and beg God’s forgiveness.
“The Pope says all priests have to be Jesuits.” “The Popes says all Catholics have to like Puccini, Dostoevsky, Manzoni, Caravaggio, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.”
Those proposed “headlines” would make about as much sense as the actual MSM headlines about the interview Pope Francis recently gave with Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, the editor of the Italian Jesuit journal _La Civiltà Cattolica_. The Jesuits have had it translated into numerous languages and published in various national journals, including _America_. Normally, I would say that referencing something in _America_ to refute something in the _New York Times_ would be like referencing _Das Kapital_ to refute _The Communist Manifesto_, but in this case, the original is far different than what the NYT and other MSM outlets are reporting. The standard headline is that the Pope said, “The Church will fail if it doesn’t stop talking about abortion, homosexuality, and abortion” or “The Pope has said to stop talking about doctrine.” That is quite the opposite of what he said.
Let’s look at a few quotations. First up is the following radical statement by the Pope:
We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.
I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.
If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.
Oh, wait, this isn’t Pope Francis. It’s an address Pope Benedict XVI gave to the Swiss bishops in 2006.
Or, how about this “spirit of Vatican II” statement about how priests should preach about the positive aspects of the faith before they preach against sin?
‘But many priests want to preach thunderously against the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine he needs to be prepared by being put in the right frame of mind to really benefit by it.
‘This is why, before doing anything else, priests should try to kindle a love of prayer in people’s hearts and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter. If only they would all start saying it and would really persevere, God, in His mercy, could hardly refuse to give them His grace. So I want you to preach my Rosary.’
Nope, that’s not Pope Francis, either. It’s a quotation of an apparition of Jesus to St. Dominic, related by St. Louis de Montfort in _Secret of the Rosary_.
So let’s keep those in mind as we read the quotations from the interview with Pope Francis, which can be found here.
“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”
That sets the context for the couple lines the media have cherry-picked, and sounds a lot like what de Montfort quoted, doesn’t it?
Now, here’s what the media have selectively quoted, emphasizing the “small minded rules” bit and ignoring the rest:
The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds [emphasis added]
Yet the media have claimed that the interview says certain things are no longer sins. That’s exactly the *opposite* of what he’s said. He goes on to say how just “leaving the doors open” in tolerance is not the right approach, though some people feel they cannot be forgiven and need to be reached out to:
Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.
Again, he emphasizes that the role of the Confessional:
This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?
She’s obviously shown progress in many respects and is in a canonically irregular situation. Obviously, the Holy Father’s point is that “rigorism” is keeping her from the Church. She has options.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
Now, one of the parts that’s troubled some of us his statement, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” since most of us do not find the hierarchy speaking much about these issues *at all*, and there really are many people out there who think the Church says they’re “OK.” However, it’s ironic that in a wide-ranging interview, all that people want to talk about are the three things he says it’s not necessary to talk about all the time!
Here’s the other one the media keep pulling out of context:
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.
Compare this to the statements of Benedict and Louis de Montfort above. People need to desire Christ and accept the message of salvation. Getting the “disjointed” teachings doesn’t help anyone. He never says the Church will “fail” if She doesn’t stop talking about these “hot button” issues. He says her ability to promote these teachings will fall if it’s not grounded solidly in the wider Christian context.
“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”
“He chose poorly”:
“Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:27)
On this feast of Corpus Christi, we should do penance for all the sacrilegious communions that take place, particularly in this country, my own included. Every Catholic should *at least* go to Confession once a month (the concept of “obligation to go once a year” is based upon the Easter Communion obligation, and the presumption that reception of Communion is preceded by Confession, particularly from those who’ve been away). As Mother Angelica would say, we take baths or showers every day, even if we’re not that dirty. It’s just spiritual hygiene, and I daresay most of us commit at least one mortal sin per month (I know I do). So please get thee to the Confessional, and make a frequent habit of it–even the Pope goes every week.
“Unless you change and become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Think yourself free from sin?
If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
When I was a kid, and I’d have pain, my dad, not knowing what else to do, would say, “Don’t think about it. It’ll go away.” I’m laughing, kind of, because I just heard Fr. Apostoli use those very words on _Sunday Night Prime_, referring to the attitude most people have about Hell.
Hell is real. In order for God to be loving, in order for God to be merciful, there must be a justice from which He is merciful. In order for us to love God freely, He has given us the choice not to accept Him, and that choice is Hell: eternal suffering that comes from the fact that a) even though we are free to reject God, we still need Him, and those in Hell suffer from lack of His grace, while b) they require at least some of His grace to exist, and God is everywhere, so the presence of God, in spite of their hatred, forms part of the sufferings in Hell.
Ignoring Hell isn’t going to make it go away. Repent. Present yourself to Jesus in the Sacraments. Turn your hearts to Him.
You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of
power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death,
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come, and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting.
Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance.
Govern and uphold them now and always.
Day by day we bless you.
We praise your name for ever.
Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us your love and mercy;
for we put our trust in you.
In you, Lord, is our hope:
and we shall never hope in vain.
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator come,
From Thy bright heavenly throne!
Come, take possession of our souls,
And make them all Thine own!
Thou who art called the Paraclete,
Best Gift of God above,
The Living Spring, the Living Fire,
Sweet Unction, and True Love!
Thou who art seven-fold in Thy grace,
Finger of God’s right Hand,
His promise, teaching little ones
To speak and understand!
O guide our minds with Thy blest light,
With love our hearts inflame,
And with Thy strength which ne’er decays
Confirm our mortal frame.
Far from us drive our hellish foe,
True peace unto us bring,
And through all perils guide us safe
Beneath Thy sacred wing.
Through Thee may we the Father know,
Through Thee the Eternal Son,
And Thee the Spirit of them Both
Thrice-blessed Three in One.
All glory to the Father be,
And to the risen Son;
The same to Thee, O Paraclete,
While endless ages run.