Category Archives: Confession.

Our Top-Secret Sin by Fr. Theodore from St. Michael’s Abbey

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.”

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How can anyone accept the Gospels and not be Catholic?

How can anyone read the Gospels and not be a Catholic?
Where does “The BIble” come from? The Catholic Church.
Where do the titles of the Biblical books and authorship assignation come from? The Catholic Church.
Where do Bible verses come from? Medieval Catholic monks.
Matthew 7:21 kills “sola fide”
John 20:30-31 and 21:24-25 not only kill “sola Scriptura” but tell us that the things John tells us about Jesus are particularly important.
Matthew 16:18, Luke 22:32 and John 21:15-19 establish the role of Simon Peter (Greek “Petros,” Aramaic “Cephas,” meaning “bedrock”; first recorded use of Petra/Petros or the gender neutral Cephas as a proper noun in either language).
Genesis 3:15: God promises “enmity” between Satan and the Woman, whose seed will destroy him.
Luke 1:28: Gabriel greets Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant (Rev 11:19-12:1; remember how those pesky chapters and verses were inserted by medieval Catholic scholars? The original Greek runs together) as “full of grace,” something impossible if she had the stain of sin. Until a few centuries ago, all Christians agreed that Mary was free from personal sin; they only disagreed on questions of original sin, when the soul is created, and whether Mary was free from original sin. Under the Old Law, anyone with sin who touched the Ark of the Covenant would die. If Mary had sin, how could she bear God Incarnate in her own body?
Luke 1:43: Elizabeth calls Mary ‘Mother of my LORD,” “Mother of God.”
Luke 1:45: Elizabeth says Mary is blessed for trusting in God’s word, a blessing Our Lord repeats in Luke 11:28, saying that Mary’s blessing is more than just biological
Luke 1:48: Mary predicts that all generations will call her blessed
Luke 2:35: Simeon predicts that Mary will participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering “that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”
John 2:4-5: Jesus, echoing Gen 3:15, calls His Mother Woman, and says His time has not come, referring both to her need to act first and to His “time” in John being His glorification on the Cross.
John 19:26: Echoing His earlier statement (cf. Luke 8:21) that anyone who hears His Word is His “Mother and Brother”, He assigns His Mother to John, in front of John’s biological mother, making John His Brother and Mary the Mother of all who believe in Him, ,so that those who were “servants” and “friends” (Jn 15:15) can now be “brothers” (Jn 20:17).
Thus, when He asks Peter, in the Greek translation, if Peter has the Agape love of a Servant (Jn 21:15) Peter replies that he has the philos love of a brother, and after asking three times to help Peter repent of his sin, Jesus tells Peter that if he loves Jesus as a brother, he will die for him (Jn 21:18).
At the Resurrection, Jesus commissions the Apostles to forgive sins (Jn 20:23).
Then there’s John 6, 1 Cor 11; Mt 26; Mk 14 and Lk 22. As someone put it, when Jesus says, “This is the New Testament,” He isn’t holding a book; He’s holding a Chalice. 1 Cor 11, by the way, is the only time St. Paul in any of his letters tells a Gospel story in detail.

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.

On the Eighth Commandment

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.

On celebrity deaths and the Spiritual Works of Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Things I know I need Most

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.

Why Kenny Rogers and John Lennon were wrong

“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.”

"YOLO? No, bro"

Living for today is a good thing if you’re focused on the eternal “today” that is our destiny.

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.”

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

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.