Category Archives: Sacraments

Published on John’s Facebook page on October 6, 2018

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.”

selective focus photo of brown and silver rosary

Photo by Pixabay on


On Obligation versus Obligation

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “obligation.”  It’s my Asperger.  It’s my Americanism.  It’s my modernism.  But I balk at being required to do something.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “obligation” and the faith, and I thought I’d look up what the word actually means.  While today it means more a “requirement” or “responsibility,” it originally meant “pledge.”  Before that, it came from a Latin word for “binding.”  In one sense, an “obligation” binds the person to do it, but also binds one party to another.
St. Augustine’s oft-misquoted “dilige et quod vis fac” comes into play here.  “Dilige” is the root word for “delight” or “delicious,” but it’s also the root for “diligence.”  So while St. Augustine is misquoted as saying “Love and do as you will,” with “love” here meaning “follow your delights” (something St. Augustine quite obviously would not endorse), he really means “Love your duty from that that do as you will.”
This is really a functional definition of “obligation.”  It is always an act of love.  Socrates says he accepts the death penalty because he loves Athens too much to be exiled.  The patriot loves his country so much he offers his life in military service, which involves obligations.  The student has an obligation to study, but if she loves learning, the obligation is easier.
I have obligations to my body.  I have had to drastically adjust my diet and lifestyle since epilepsy was added to my list of ailments last month.  Out of love for my family, I fulfill the obligations of my new condition, whether I really desire them or not.
I have obligations to my children.  Some are difficult.  Some are enjoyable, but I do all of them because I love my children.
I have obligations to my wife.  I keep those obligations because I love her.  Some of those obligations are tedious, like chores, while others are more pleasurable.  But they’re still obligations.  One of the things Natural Family Planning teaches about marriage is how to make love when one doesn’t feel like it: it’s an obligation.
Thus, when we speak of obligations in the Church, or even not obligations but “requirements” of devotions, the purpose is not to be legalistic as such: it’s to provide a tried and true guideline for building a relationship with Christ.  Just as hugging and kissing daily strengthen a marriage, so prayer and certain practices strengthen our relationship with God.  Sure, I could skip checking for discount flowers at the grocery store, but when I bring my wife flowers, she feels loved and I grow in love for her from that appreciation.  Sure, I can skip my Rosary, but when I give Jesus and His Mother that spiritual bouquet, they feel loved, and I grow in love for them.
Studies show that married couples should make love at least once a week, on average, to feel happy and fulfilled in their marriages.  That, again, can be an “obligation” if one or both isn’t “in the mood,” or especially if they have to schedule a time, and if legitimate impediments exist, they are usually stressful situations that will either strengthen or weaken the marriage depending on how they’re handled: do the couple turn to each other or away from each other?.
Similarly, frequency of Confession and Communion builds our bonds to Jesus Christ.  It’s an “obligation” because it binds us to Him.  We should receive the Sacraments because we love Jesus.  Sometimes, the experience can be full of spiritual consolation.  Sometimes, it can be dry.  Sometimes, we receive indicators that we need to improve our relationship with Christ.  And as with marriage, when crises, however frequent or infrequent, impede us from coming to Him Sacramentally, do we turn to Him for help or away from Him?

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.”

Vegetables and Grace


Grace is received according to the mode of the receiver.

So are vegetables.

Some people naturally love vegetables. Most people don’t.

Most people love a few particular vegetables. For me, my favorites are broccoli and spinach, which I’d eat an entire package of on my own if I could but I take Coumadin so I’m only allowed to eat small amounts of them. Ironically, a few months ago I ate a whole bag of broccoli by myself and sent myself to the ER with a clot.

If we don’t have any desire to eat vegetables, we need to have our desires adjusted before we can eat them.

If we grow up eating vegetables, it is easier to love them as an adult. Often, if we grow up eating both, or having our vegetables coated in twinkies, as someone recently suggested, then we are really being taught that vegetables are not desirable.

If we have a desire to eat vegetables but a greater desire to eat junk food, we might eat *some* vegetables but not all the vegetables that are being served to us because we spoiled our dinner by filling up on junk food.

If we fill up completely on junk food, we have no room for vegetables.

So it is with grace.

Our Father in Heaven is offering us a smorgasbord of spiritual vegetables. Our Lady of Victory told St. Catherine Laboure that the precious stones falling from her hands on the Miraculous Medal–the stones which Mel Gibson symbolically has her casting to the earth in The Passion of the Christ, are the graces that go to waste because people aren’t willing to receive them.

Original sin and concupiscence are such that most of us are disinclined to accept His Grace.

Some people are born more naturally receptive to grace.

Some people are born with an inclination to particular graces from God, rather than having a well-balanced spiritual diet, gorge themselves on one kind of grace to the detriment of their overall spiritual life (such as a preference for Scripture or a particular devotion, a scrupulous devotion to COnfession, fasting excessively, doing charitable works without prayer, etc.).

Some people are raised in holy homes and taught to shun the world.

Some people are raised by holy parents who try to teach them the right way, but the enemy sows his seeds of spiritual junk food anyway, and the parents themselves don’t realize the subtle ways they’re teaching that God is second in their lives or that faith is not desirable in itself.

Most people don’t even try to accept God’s grace, and if they try, they get their souls so full of sin that they can’t, and they need to get that out of their systems, one way or the other, before they can take in the graces God is trying to offer them.

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.

A Question for Pastors

I have a serious question to ask to any priests who may happen to read this, but first, I’d like to begin with an example.
Arguably, the worst pope in history was Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia: we say “Borgia Popes” when there was really only one, but his reputation defined an era; his daughter(!) Lucretia is ranked in history and myth with the likes of Jezebel and Medea; his son(!) is believed to be the model for the behaviors Machiavelli describes in _The Prince_.
During an era when women were forbidden, both in canonical and civil law, from preaching, a woman who claimed to be a locutionary and prophetess was brought before the throne of Alexander VI on charges of witchcraft.  She began to recite and denounce the sins of Rodrigo Borgia.  The Pope, not known for any particular respect for human life, could have publically or privately ordered her tortured or killed in any way he wanted, but he acknowledge the truth of her words and ordered that she be released.
I have known few local pastors willing to demonstrate such humility when laity have even so much as questioned their decisions on morally neutral matters, much less challenged them for setting a bad example or being outright cruel.  13 years after the so-called “scandals,”  which were really for some reason a sudden media outburst about problems long known and rumored, have we learned nothing?
While the Church has addressed child sexual abuse nominally by targeting parents and making up draconian policies based more on legal, insurance and PR concerns than morality–which was the problem to begin with–and while some reports suggest the cases of sexual abuse have gone down, verbal and emotional abuse by pastors goes on unabated.
When a few lay organizations perhaps go overboard in their zeal for prophetic witness, they are dismissed as “causing division,” while the average Catholic who cares about the Church is still ignored or dismissed or even banned.
The Holy Father worries about pastors “obsessing” in homilies about a “few disjointed moral issues,” yet most of us have rarely, if ever, heard those moral issues addressed from the pulpit, except by priests who preach of “tolerance” and “more important issues,” and the ones who do preach about them tend to “disappear,” get  passed up for pastoral appointments, or suddenly adopt a softer tone.
You see, if a rich liberal Catholic writes an angry letter to the bishop, that letter gets heard, but if a traditionalist, whether rich or not (but usually we have less disposable income because we actually have kids) writes to the bishop, in that case the letter-writer gets ignored or worse.

Poll after poll shows that most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of Our Faith, and it’s not preached about, even when we have the Bread of Life discourse every three years.  Poll after poll shows that only a small percentage, if only a fraction of a percent, of Catholics are using NFP.
We’re told, if we point to the lack of children in the pews as a cause for pastoral concern, that we’re “being judgemental” and that maybe all those people are suffering infertility.  If that’s the case, then priests should be preaching about adoption or about how the birth control hormones polluting our water supply are causing rising infertility rates.

Yet, when the saints, and the Popes (including Pope Francis) suggest avoiding preaching against sin, they usually do it with the alternative of preaching prayer.  St. Louis de Montfort and St. Teresa of Avila both call on priests to teach prayer and devotion to Our Lady, that sinners want to know how to repent, and God will open the truth to them in prayer.

We’re told about the Pope’s admonitions against using air conditioning, but not his admonitions against priests living in luxury and his calls for pastors to “smell like the sheep” and go out among the poor.

And the question that I always come back to is: Father(s), do you care more about saving souls or about saving money?

Do you care that the majority of your flock are likely to go to Hell?  Why don’t you warn them?   Do you understand that, when you don’t encourage families to be in the church, when you tear down playgrounds or forbid people from using them, you’re telling people “children aren’t welcome”?  Do you care about the souls of people you push away?  St. Alphonsus warns that pastors will be held accountable for every soul lost to Hell because of their sins of deed or omission.  Even St. John Bosco had a vision, late in life, where St. Dominic Savio admonished him for permitting too many boys to be lost to Hell because he lacked enough faith!

If you find yourself wishing that the most fervent of your followers would die off or get over the alleged “fad” of Tradition, think about it.
If you find yourself suggesting you’d leave the priesthood rather than following Pope Benedict’s call to offer the Extraordinary Form to any group who requests it, or St. John Paul’s call to say part of every Mass in Latin, think about it.
If you find yourself saying things like a hole in one is the greatest moment in your life, think about it.
If you’re more concerned about money issues than whether children or families with children feel welcome in your parish, think about it.
If you find yourself too proud to read something like this and take fraternal correction in humility the way even Rodrigo Borgia was able to do, think about it.

And when you’ve thought about it, I invite you to make or renew a total consecration to Our Lady.  Start today.  Even if it’s not 33 days from a Marian feast, there’s no time like the present.

A guide to St. Louis de Montfort’s Consecration
A guide to St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Consecration
Please, Father, whoever you are reading this, please act now.

To the Baptists who came to our yard sale this morning

Dear missionaries of Lighthouse Baptist:

First, let me say, I commend your faith. I commend your courage and bravery in coming to strangers’ homes and trying to win them over to Jesus.
Further, compared to others like yourselves, I commend you for accepting that I am already a Christian. Too often, when I’ve been approached by evangelicals, if I say, “I’m already a Christian” or “I already have a church,” there is a certain kind of anger that bubbles up. A “transitional” deacon friend who was my Catholic hospital chaplain when I was in cardiac rehab 2 years ago described the same when he visited some non-Catholic patients on the floor.
I hope that, if I had my voice and had spoken the words, “I’m a Catholic,” you would have kept that smile and “we’re brothers in the Lord” attitude.

2 and a half years ago, before I lost my left vocal cord, I would have welcomed a conversation. Hopefully, it would have proceeded in mutually respectful dialogue.

However, I’d like to point out a few things:
1. Jumping in with “You have to believe in Jesus because there’s a judgment coming” isn’t the best way to approach people.
2. You handed me a pamphlet and said it had “All the verses you need to know.” I had intended to look at your pamphlet but misplaced it, so I dug around your website, and found a list. Assuming it’s the same list, I have a few questions, which I might have asked had the conversation proceeded in such manner.
a) If I had been a nonbeliever, why would I care what the Bible says at all?
b) As I am a believer, where in the Bible does the Bible speak of “verses”? Why must I only “need to know” a few out of context verses? Are you aware that “verse numbers” were added to the Bible by Medieval Catholic theologians to help make it easier to reference?
I know that ” All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). I know that St. Paul says, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thess 2:15), and that Peter says: “19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:19-20).
So how can it be “just me and Jesus,” when Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” (Mark 14:24). Yes, He knew Me from before time, and yes, if I had been the only sinner ever, Christ would have still died for me, but He died for many, including me, not just me.
c) If all I have to is confess faith in Jesus, why bother coming to your church?
And what about where Jesus Himself says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

3. I would hope that, having shared your verses with me, you would be interested in hearing some of the verses upon which I base my life and faith. For example, one of my favorites is Gen 3:15, which is also on your list. I suppose then, that you honor the Woman (Jn 2:3) whom the beloved disciple must take as his mother? (Jn 19:26-27).

Another verse I find interesting is John 20:30-31:
“30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Interesting that the Gospel which my evangelical brethren seem most ready to dismiss and most ready to downplay (other than John 1 and 3:16) is the one in which Jesus says the above words from the Cross to the author of the Gospel.

One of the things I have learned from having vocal cord paralysis is how painful it is to speak when you can’t breathe. I cannot breathe and speak at the same time. When I speak too long, it becomes deathly painful because I asphyxiate a bit. Every word I speak these days is deliberate. Someone being crucified asphyxiates. Jesus was asphyxiating on the Cross, and took the time to say, “Woman, behold your son,” and “Man, behold your mother,” and the disciple who calls himself the beloved, who tells us that his Gospel only includes Jesus’s most important sayings, tells us he took her into his home. In that context, was the Man who said, “Let the dead bury their dead,” and Who knew fully well His death was coming and could have done it before, *really* just tending to His mother’s temporal care, especially by putting her into the care of a non-related apostle when He had, as the Scriptures tell us, “brothers”?

Oh, speaking of “brothers,” Jesus and His followers spoke Aramaic. We know they were not multilingual since, on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles astonished everyone by suddenly being not just multilingual, but people of different languages were hearing their own tongues when the Apostles spoke.

So, while the Gospels were originally written in Greek, they were written by people whose native tongue was Aramaic, recounting stories they’d heard or witnessed that originally *happened* in Aramaic.

So in Aramaic, there is one word for “kinsmen” or “brethren.” When the Apostles wrote their accounts in “Greek,” they translated the Aramaic for “brethren” as the Greek for “brothers,” identifying James, Simon, Joseph, and as “Jesus’ brothers.” Note there are no “brothers” mentioned in the Finding in the Temple. Note that they never identify “James, Simon,” etc. as “Mary’s children.”  If James, Simon and Jude were Mary’s biological sons, why would Jesus have given her to John to take care of, especially when John’s own mother was standing by the Cross, as well? (John 20:20). Also note that Jews do not name babies after their fathers, but only after deceased family members: St. Joseph could not have had a son named “Joseph” and been the just law-abiding Jew that Scripture tells he was!

Surely, there must be something to the fact that the early Church decided that she whom Elizabeth identified as Mother of the LORD (Lk 1:43).

4. Another passage that struck me as conveniently out of context is your inclusion of Matthew 16:21-26, but not Matthew 16:13-20:

Matthew 16King James Version (KJV)

16 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.

2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.

3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?

9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

This is another case where knowing that Jesus spoke Aramaic is important. The Aramaic Cephas, “bedrock,” is gender neutral. Greek “Petra” for bedrock is feminine, so Matthew translated “Cephas” to “Petros,” masculine, the first ever occurrence of that name in Greek, and the first ever use of “Cephas” as a name in Hebrew. Elsewhere in Scripture, it is rendered “Cephas,” rather than Peter, though I’ve encountered people who insist that the Cephas St. Paul refers to is someone else.

Thus, Jesus, who promised to raise up descendents to Abraham from the stones told Simon that he was to be called stone and on this stone Jesus would build His Church.

21. Lastly, in John the Gospel which only told us the important stuff, Jesus gave us the “Bread of Life” discourse (John 6; whole chapter)

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

When the people take offense, Jesus “doubles down,” as they say. When the Apostles take offense, Jesus points to Judas as a “Devil.”

Then, in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, St. Paul tells us the importance of the Eucharistic meal. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). This is no mere community pot luck, he tells us, for we can eat at home (1 (Cor 11:22).

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

1 Cor 11:23-29

5. One other passage I find that my evangelical brethren love to cite, which is on your website, is some variant of Romans 3 (23-25, in this case), to try to emphasize “sola fide,” yet I never hear anyone cite Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law,” and Our Lord Himself says,
“17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18).

5. Thank you for taking the time to consider these passages as I have considered the passages you sent me, many times in fact, as I’ve made a point since I was a young boy of being familiar with the Scriptures. God bless you in your ministry. I pray you find the fullness of Christ’s truth.

I would like to reciprocate your invitation: come experience the Real Presence of Jesus. If you’re not ready for Mass yet, come visit one of our local churches during Adoration and just spend time in silent prayer. See what the Holy Spirit can do:

St. Mary Help of Christians, Aiken, SC

St. Gerard, Aiken

Our Lady of the Valley, Gloverville

Our Lady of Peace, North Augusta

St. Edward, Murphy Village

The Most Holy Trinity, Augusta, GA

St. Mary on the Hill, Augusta

St. Ignatios

Or else, enter your zip code into

Would you do it?

Two pairs of brothers, the J’s and the Z’s, are business partners. One day, the two younger brothers go to listen to some popular speaker and come back talking about some new guy that the other one says is even better, and how they want to drop everything and join his cult. Their business requires working at night, and things haven’t been going well. The older brothers think they’re too stressed and going kind of nuts. All night long, they work hard but get no sales. The younger brothers keep harping all shift about this new preacher, and then, in the morning, when they’re tired, and ready to go home, the guy shows up at their *office*.
And he has a bunch of people with him. And he stands their preaching. Then he tells the four salesmen to work a bit longer. Suddenly, they get a wave of sales that crash their servers! The Z brothers try to get the servers back online, while the preacher talks to the older J Brother. “Follow me,” he says, “And I will change your life and your name.”
So the four men literally drop everything to go follow the preacher. They occasionally return to work to pay the bills, but it’s not as important.

Would you do it? Peter and Andrew, the sons of Jonah, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, did:

38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.* 40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”* (which is translated Anointed). 42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John;* you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).(Jn 1:38-42)

1 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
5 Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”
6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.
7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
9For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything* and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

People fret about alleged “contradictions” between the accounts, but, like all attempts to challenge the “historical authenticity” of the Bible, they do so because the truth, faced head-on, is too overwhelming. Would you, if faced with Christ’s call, drop everything–or even anything–to follow Him?
Would I?
I know when I have done so, I’ve been far happier then when I haven’t.

He is here, today, waiting for us. He waits for us in the Scriptures and in the Blessed Sacrament. He waits for us in the poor, the sick and the imprisoned. He wants us to follow Him and visit Him. Will we answer the call?

Go to and type in your zipcode. Find out when you have daily Mass or adoration available to you, and please make time to visit Him.

Will the real Fatima.please stand up?

It dawned on that, everywhere I look, I see people who need Fatima’s message, yet even most who “promote” it get it wrong.
For many, Fatima is “about Vatican II,” when, if anything, Vatican II was about Fatima.
For many, it was and is about a magical formula for the “consecration of Russia” that will lead to the magical “conversion of Russia,” and in turn to an “era of Peace.” Those prophecies are open to interpretation until they can be seen through the lens of history. Sr. Lucia said St. John Paul fulfilled it. If he didn’t, it’s too late, anyway.
Russia’s errors have spread through the world: not just the Communism that is encroaching on the US thanks to so many money-hungry “Catholics” voting for Obama, but also abortion (the USSR was the first country to legalize it).
The reason we have not seen mass conversions and world peace is not because the Pope failed to say the right words at the right place and time with the right bishops. It’s because laity, priests and religious fail to answer Our Lady’s call to conversion of heart:
sacrifices (in the manner of the Little Way);
true contrition and monthly (at least) Confession;
Frequent, sincere and meditative praying of the Rosary;
Devotion to and respect for the holy Eucharist
Wearing the Scapular or Miraculous Medal.
How many people do these practices at all, much less with the depth and sincerity Our Lady called for.
Francisco didn’t see her the first few times. He was below the age of reason and yet she still said he was guilty of too many sins and needed to say many Rosaries to see her and to avoid Purgatory. Yet we presume we’ll all be instant Saints.
She showed them souls falling into Hell like snowflakes, yet we hold to a watered-down universalism.
She said souls go to Hell mostly for sins of the flesh, which are as disgusting to the Devil as they are to God, and that, “Fashions will be introduced that will offend my Son greatly.” Yet we fall right into the filth with the rest of the Culture of Death.


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.

Religion is more than just something to do on Sunday

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” –G.K. Chesterton

Football season is beginning. It always strikes me that people who are afraid to talk of “politics and religion” for fear of offending friends or relatives will get into absolute feuds over football. Meanwhile, they treat politics and religion the way they treat sports: a form of recreation; merely something to do on the weekends.
The other thing that football has in common with politics and religion is that people generally seem to choose their religious and political affiliations the way they pick their football teams: as a form of patriotism, or because of their families (either to show loyalty or spite their families), or because of their friends. Thus, just as they support the Steelers, or the Redskins, or the Browns, or the Panthers because of where they happen to live, people tend to simply accept (or reject) their family’s religion or political party without necessarily thinking of *why* they support it.
Thus, people will speak of “religion,” as a concept, in ways that can be quite baffling. On the one hand, you have people who insist that they’re Catholic, even though they reject the Church’s teachings from transubstantiation to the evil of contraception to the very Incarnation itself, because “it’s too hard to leave the Church,” like She is some kind of blood cult or something. They’re attached (rightly) to the nostalgia evoked by the liturgy (particularly the infamous Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter liturgies), and they attribute the devotion of other Catholics to a kind of extreme nostalgia (hence the “People who want the Traditional Latin Mass are just old people who don’t like change” argument).
On the other hand, you have people who say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” meaning that they’re not affiliated with a particular denomination or worship service. “Religion” has come to be defined according to the Masonic view as something subservient to “society” or “culture” (which is the main reason the 18th Century popes condemned the Masonic Lodges). The “church” or synagogue, temple or mosque is treated as something like a Lodge: a place to meet every week, have some fun, engage in organized charities, and host major life events like weddings and funerals. The Sacraments become similar “life events”–Baptism (or “Christening”) becomes a ceremony to recognize a birth, and so the same young parents who were offended at the notion in pre-Cana counseling that they should live as Catholics become offended at the notion they must promise to actually raise their children Catholic. They participate in First Communion and Confirmation (aka “graduation from CCD”) for the same reasons. It’s really very sad.
Thus, both the nominal Catholic and the “spiritual” non-Catholic are baffled by the notion that any religion should claim to be superior or to actually teach the Truth about Divine and Human Nature. Theology is seen as arbitrary and superstitious. Ironically, though, the claim that all religions are equal and that people should have “freedom of worship” means that “religion” should not be extended into “public life.” It’s just something to do for an hour a week, and not to actually effect one’s life beyond some base common denominator of being a “decent person” or a “good citizen.” Any religion that claims to do *more* that that is immediately suspect for violating the commonly accepted definition of “religion” that the Masons have taught us for nearly 300 years.
So the Left has fought for legalization of so-called “same sex marriage,” insisting they only want “equal rights,” and that no one should feel threatened by it. Christians warned that it would lead to persecution of those who didn’t want to participate. Others insisted and continue to insist that it was about “marriage equality” and that opponents were “homophobic.” Yet, now that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized it nationwide by throwing out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the California Proposition 8, a court has ruled that Christian photographers cannot refuse to photograph gay weddings, a Christian bakery has closed due to “LGBT” threats and protests, a millionaire “gay” couple has sued a church in the UK for not performing their “wedding,” and Ugandan homosexuals have sued a Christian evangelist for “crimes against humanity.” Yet, like Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), “conservative” Catholic literary critic Joseph Bottum argues that we have to allow gay marriage to happen to see if it might do some good.
The LGBTQ lobby is powerful, as the UK case illustrates, precisely because it’s rich, but also because of “well meaning” Christians who think it’s about “fairness,” and others who don’t think that “religion” shouldn’t intrude on the “public sphere.” It’s the same reasoning behind the HHS contraception mandate: the alleged “right” to violate Natural Law supersedes the right of employers to chose not to engage in material cooperation. Indeed, the notion of “material cooperation” goes over most people’s heads or is used in the opposite of its intent.

Get thee to a Confessional

“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)

Start with these:

And since there’s a Plenary Indulgence attached to studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church this year, a good place to start would be the section on the Commandments.

Pope Francis Holding a Monstrance

Do the “Scandals” merit “boycotting” the Catholic Church? Is being Catholic merely a matter of personal choice?

1. The Catholic Church is not “my” church or “your” church: She is THE Church, the one True Church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit through the Centuries. We must avoid the Masonic heresy of indifferentism and suggesting that Protestant heresies are equally valid “churches.” Our Lord Himself chose Judas Iscariot for an Apostle, and there’s a reason. The Church has weathered many storms, and those are the proof of Her protection by the Holy Spirit. No worldly institution; no worldly “religion” would have survived the Borgia Popes, the Cadaver trial, and so many other scandals, without shattering to pieces. Napoleon boasted to the Archbishop of Paris that he would destroy the Catholic Church. The Cardinal replied, “Priests and bishops have been trying to do that for 1800 years and have failed. What makes you think you’ll succeed?”
2. In the 1830s, Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in Rue de Bac, France, condemning the American and French revolutions and predicting that America’s democracy would spread moral filth around the world. She gave her the Miraculous Medal as a weapon against this modernist threat. In the 1840s, she appeared in La Salette and warned that, in the 1860s, the Demons would be freed from Hell and given a century to undermine society and destroy the Church. She predicted that the Demons would inspire people to invent all sorts of devices: devices that would allow people fly, to communicate across great distances, etc. She predicted that, starting in the 1960s, there would be people who would claim to be “resurrected dead” (“Near Death Experiences”) and offer visions of the Afterlife that contradict the Truth Faith, but she warned these would actually be demons inhabiting dead bodies. All these predictions have come to pass. In the 1880s, Pope Leo XIII, who had met with the La Salette visionary Melanie, had a vision of Satan daring God that given 100 years he could destroy the Church. The 20th Century was Satan’s Century in all respects, and yes, by the rampant homosexual infiltration of the Church, he has nearly destroyed Her in her worldly institutions. All of these have been proven true, yet no one listens to Our Lady. The Sun danced at Fatima. Tens of thousands of people were standing in the rain and mud, including atheists. It was photographed . After a few moments, they were completely dry.
3. However, that said, it outrages me that for centuries the Church had the Inquisition to enforce the behavior of priests. Pope St. Pius V, implementor of the Tridentine Reforms, institutor of the Feast of the Holy Rosary, etc., declared that any priest found guilty of sodomy was to be stripped of office and rank and property, laicized, and then executed. For centuries, the Church was condemned because of Protestant lies spread about the Inquisition. So the Inquisition was reformed: first into the Holy Office, without which the Allies would not have won World War II & without which countless more Jews would have been killed; and later into the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Once the Inquisition was stripped of its “teeth,” as it were, these infiltrators from the Communists and the Masons were allowed to go around molesting children. Bishops who feared the stigma of being too “judgemental” or “authoritarian” or whatever listened to the psychotherapists and chose to follow a policy of “rehabilitation” rather than discipline.
4. Most of the perpetrators in this scandal were actively homosexual priests, though every effort has been made by the Mainstream Media to brainwash everyone otherwise. Most of the victims were teenaged boys. As theologian Michael Novak put it, “When I was 16 years old, if anyone had done to me what that alleged victim said, priest or not, I’d have punched his lights out.” The actual rate of true pedophilia among Catholic priests is a small fraction of that of pedophilia among any other profession that deals with children, particularly school teachers.
5. The late Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM, said on his series _Bedrock Basics_ that one does not judge a belief system on those who follow it badly. If one wants to know if Communism, for example, is a valid belief system, one doesn’t look to people who are bad at Communism, but to people who try to follow it 100% and adhere to all its teachings. If one wants to know if a religion is worthy of belief, one should not go to the people who follow that religion badly but to those who follow its teachings explicitly. As St. Augustine put it, the Catholic Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hospital for saints. One should not judge the Catholic Church by the many bad apples but by the Saints. Show me any other belief system that has produced the likes of Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, Louis IX, Dominic Savio, Louis de Montfort, John Vianney, Pio of Pietrilcina, Teresa of Calcutta, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, John of the Cross, John Bosco, Catherine of Siena, Edith Stein, Thomas More, Joan of Arc, Francis Xavier, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi, Dominic, Maria Goretti, Bernard of Clairvoux, etc., not to mention our most Blessed Lady.
6. How could anyone speak of boycotting the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? How could anyone take the great gift of the Sacraments and spit in Our Lord’s face and call Him a liar in His promise that the Gates of Hell should never prevail against the Church and His promise to remain with us in the Sacraments?

Fr. Guzman Speaks Out

Fr. Marcel Guzman, the founder of Aid to the Church in Russia who was recently “suspended” for charges of “intimidating behavior” after he refused Communion to a Buddhist Lesbian at a funeral (who proceeded to receive from the EMC, which shows her lack of respect for the Eucharist and the reason we should not be using lay EMCs), has issued a statement in his self-defense.
Now, here’s the situation as Fr. Guzman explains it:
1. He heard Confessions for an hour before the funeral.
2. After he was done hearing Confessions, but while he was vesting in the sacristy, Barbara Johnson, the decedent’s daughter, introduced herself to him and introduced another woman with her as her “lover.” He began to say something, and Johnson immediately turned and left. He tried to follow, but her “lover” positioned herself in the door way so he couldn’t get by (who’s engaging in “intimidating behavior”?).
3. Johnson came up for Communion. He put his hand over the paten and very quietly refused her communion–contrary to statements that he publicly proclaimed her sins to everyone–so quietly that even the EMC standing next to him did not hear. Johnson went over to the EMC and took Communion sacrilegiously.
4. During 25 minutes of eulogies (which, of course, shouldn’t be happening at Catholic funerals), Fr. Guzman left for a few moments to take some migraine medicine because he felt a migraine coming on.
5. He finished the funeral and accompanied the body to the hearse, but he felt the migraine coming on full force, so he asked another priest to cover for him at the grave site.
6. He says that while people keep arguing Canon 915, Canon 915 has nothing to do with this situation. As I’ve argued regarding this case and regarding the Archdiocese of Washington “policy” in general (discussed below), there are other situations about Communion that have nothing to do with Canon 915: such as when a person comes to Communion drunk or immodestly dressed or high on drugs or something. He said this was that sort of situation.
7. Contrary to reports (and the claims of the aux. bishop of Washington, Barry Knestout) that there were “long-standing” reports of “intimidating behavior,” Fr. Guzman says that the bishop told him directly that the “accusations” came from two conversations with participants in the funeral, and Fr. remembers both conversations being civil. Bishop Knestout had the letter signed on his desk when Fr. Guzman came to meet him to “discuss” the matter. This sounds more and more like Bishop Loverde’s treatment of Fr. Haley and Fr. Clark (the latter of whom sucessfully appealed his case to the Vatican).

Now, here’s what we knew about the case before Fr. Guzman’s statement:
8. Johnson didn’t say it to him, but she’s a practicing Buddhist, and not even Catholic.
9. Bishop Knestout says that the official policy of the Archdiocese is never to deny anyone Communion (even in the cases like someone who’s visibly drunk?) A priest, according to the Archdiocese of Washington, should privately advise people who are unworthy not to receive, but never refuse someone who presents himself/herself. This policy was established by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick and apparently not rescinded by Cardinal Wuerl, who claimed he would at least honor the decisions of other bishops regarding politicians (i.e., the bishop of Kansas City, who has since been arrested on trumped-up charges, telling Kathleen Sebelius she’s not to present herself for Communion). McCarrick infamously said that he didn’t believe in turning Communion into a “fight.” This is presumably also the position of San Francisco’s Archbishop George Niederauer, who infamously gave Communion to members of the notorious “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” claiming that he didn’t know who they were and just thought they were “oddly dressed.”
10. Barbara Johnson made all sorts of accusations about Fr. Guzman’s demeanor which he says aren’t true, and she implied that he made up the migraine just to snub her family.
11. Fr. Guzman’s situation is rather tricky. He’s founder of Aid to the Church in Russia. He was ordained in Russia and is incardinated as a priest in a Russian diocese; he is only officially a visiting priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, and he was only serving as a parochial vicar. He is not “suspended” as a priest; he is merely on “administrative leave” and has had his *faculties* suspended in that Archdiocese (so, for example, he could get faculties from Bishop Loverde of Arlington–though I doubt Loverde would do it–and begin serving in that diocese). A canonical suspension would mean that he can’t serve as a priest, period, until the Archdiocese says otherwise, but he’d have to be incardinated in that diocese to have that happen. Any bishop in the US who wants to pick up a priest can grant Fr. Guzman faculties tomorrow.

Now, prior to this statement by Fr. Guzman, my “take” on the situation had been that I think this is a situation where both sides were a little right and a little wrong, though I thought it was clearly a hit job by a liberal Archdiocese against a conservative priest. I know someone who used to work for him at Aid to the Church in Russia and complained about how difficult he was to work for, but Fr. Guzman has now said that the Diocese didn’t say anything about long-standing disputes. On the other hand, as Fr. Dwight Longenecker has pointed out, accusations of “intimidating behavior” are made against priests all the time (esp. when they’re conservative), and are a great way for having a witch hunt.

Nothing triggers a migraine like anger or stress, and while I believe Fr. Guzman is sincere in saying he had one, I also believe he might have let Ms. Johnson’s intimidating behavior agitate him enough to give him a migraine. Even *if* the Archdiocese were acting on longstanding questions of Fr. Guzman’s temperament, this would be a horrible time to act on it, as it makes it look very much like the Archdiocese puts human respect above the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament. In any case, my suggestion to Fr. Guzman would be to try and learn some relaxation techniques and study contemplative prayer to achieve some inner peace, so he can help prevent his migraines.

Regardless of whatever Fr. Guzman is or is not accused of doing, the Archdiocese’s policy of not denying anyone Communion is downright evil and needs to be overturned by the Vatican.

I also saw a comment somewhere by a Buddhist who said that Barbara Johnson’s actions were doubly offensive from a Buddhist standpoint. For one thing, she was being disruptive and making a show of herself to make a point, by forcing herself into a ceremony she did not belong in just to make a point and disrupt others’ peace (i.e., contrary to her claims about Fr. Guzman, *she* is the one who disrupted her mother’s funeral, and if her mother was at all deserving of a Catholic funeral, I’m sure her mother would agree). Secondly, she was engaging in the Buddhist equivalent of breaking the First Commandment: she claims to be a Buddhist yet is engaging in another religion’s service that symbolizes unity–either she’s a Buddhist or a Catholic; she can’t be both.

HOWEVER, having read Fr. Guzman’s statement, I have several observations about why I think Fr. Guzman’s self-defense rings true, especially when contrasted with Fr. John Corapi’s public statements last year.

1. In the Fr. Corapi situation, I saw a comment from a police officer who said, “Innocent people talk.” Fr. Corapi’s statements were very selective. He selected very few facts to discuss, always the ones in his favor, and totally ignored complete claims made by SOLT or others he was supposedly responding to. Instead, Fr. Corapi’s statements focused on deflection, attacking his accusers or critics. This police officer was saying that Fr. Corapi’s statements had all the tell-tale signs of someone lying, whereas an innocent person will give great detail about the facts and try to be as polite as possible to the accuser.
In this case, Barbara Johnson has gone out of her way to say what a horrible person she thinks Fr. Guzman is–and, let’s face it, she’s a lesbian, which means she already has issues with men, authority, etc. I’ve never met a lesbian, or even a heterosexual feminist, who didn’t have a deep-set hatred of men or see all men as inherently intimidating (which probably comes from unfortunate histories of abuse in their own backgrounds, but it’s unjust of them to accuse all men of abusive behavior because of whatever happened to them). Her mother’s Catholic, and she’s a Buddhist, which means she has nothing but antipathy towards the Catholic Faith. Fr. Guzman, however, never attacks Johnson in his statement, other than to mention the physically intimidating behavior engaged in by Johnson and her “lover.” He gives great detail on the day’s events, and the subsequent events from his perspective.
2. As an English teacher, I teach my students about critical reading techniques, and how to discern between two sources with contrary versions of events. Usually, we should presume both sources are manipulating the facts in their own favor, and I’m willing to grant that there may be a certain amount of that going on here.
However, the one with the agenda in this case, the one with the most to gain, is Barbara Johnson. Worst case scenario for Fr. Guzman is he goes back and serves his home diocese in Russia. Yes, he has a reputation to protect, but he doesn’t have the agenda that Johnson does. Everything Johnson has said and done in this situation is to push a radical homosexualist, anti-Catholic agenda. As one commenter noted, by not taking Fr. Guzman’s side, the Archdiocese of Washington has just given carte blanche for homosexualist protestors to do just what Johnson did: march into Catholic churches, whether they’re Catholic or not, present themselves for Communion and then try to get priests suspended for refusing them Communion.
Fr. Guzman’s worldly interests would be best served by acquiescing in the situation. Instead, he’s standing on principle. Again, a big difference from Fr. Corapi is that we’re talking about *principles*. No one is disputing the facts in this case, except for the question of Fr. Guzman’s demeanor and the question of his migraine. Fr. Guzman is not accused of any real wrongdoing. He’s being accused of being “mean.” He’s being accused of violating a diocesan policy that is itself unjust and sacrilegious. So it’s not the same thing as a priest refusing to comply with a legitimate investigation in to allegations of wrongdoing.
Further, in the “he said/she said” aspect of it, his description of events perfectly conforms with what she said–she’s just making allegations about his motives and attitude.

I think Fr. Guzman’s best call is to seek out a friendly bishop who will take him in–I’m sure there are at least a few, maybe Vasa or Jurgis or someone like that–and shake the dust of Washington, DC, off his feet.

When God says, “Shut up so I can talk”: 20 years of Prayer in 2200 words.

Recently, I’ve experienced the second great sea change in my prayer life.  Now, I’ve had a number of conversion experiences, major theological realizations, etc., over the years, as well as periods where I’ve been better about praying than others.  But, in essence, my prayer life has remained the same since I was a teenager.

I’ve always figured this meant I was either quite advanced or else hopelessly lost.  Every time I’ve read the Interior Castle, I’ve figured I’m stuck in Room 1.  At the same time, I have my bad habits and sinful tendencies that I’ve likewise figured were either hindering my prayer life or else were the proverbial “thorn in the side” God was using to keep me humble (fat lot of good that did).  So, I trudged along, just waiting for God to do what He needed to do.

In fact, I didn’t think there was anything “wrong” with my prayer life, because in my study of the writings of the Saints, it seemed like I was doing OK.  I recognized the experiences they described, to tell me I was doing things “right,” and I just figured it was a matter of time before I’d reach contemplation, or else I was already there and didn’t know it.

Christmas 1996, after my aortic root replacement, was our first Christmas with the Internet and  I had made my mom a list of books I wanted, and categorized them into novels, philosophy, spirituality, etc., so she could pick a book or two out of each category.  Instead, she gave me the *whole* list.  Among these were many Saints whose writings I always wanted to read.  After my formal studies began as a Carmelite, I picked up several Carmelites I hadn’t read yet.

Prior to that, I’d read a lot *about* saints, but not a lot *by* saints.  I do remember reading the Life of HM Teresa of Avila when I was in high school, from the Catholic high school library, but I don’t remember when, exactly, or if I read any of her other books.  I just remember that that, like my various attempts to read her works over the years prior to 2008, left me feeling like I hadn’t gotten anything out of her.  She kind of tends to dance around things, and it wasn’t until I’d studied a other things, particularly Ignatian spirituality.  One of HM Teresa’s great mentors was St. Francis Borgia, the great Jesuit (yes, those Borgias–the infamous Pope Alexander VI was his great-grandfather; Francis was a wealthy Spanish prince who married and had children, then had a conversion experience after his wife’s death, signed over his title and fortune to his eldest son and became what we now call a second career vocation) .   Another great mentor in her life was St. Peter of Alacantara, the Franciscan.  So I had to get a deeper understanding of Jesuit and Franciscan spirituality in order to get a better foundation for reading Teresa.

Anyway, I know I read her in high school, and I know that, relatively early in life, I developed an understanding of the female mystics.

Again, I certainly read *about* them.  Even the Miniature Stories of the Saints by Fr. Daniel Lord, SJ, gave me a pretty profound insight into how Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Catherine of Siena, and Clare of Assisi saw their relationships with God.  Between them and the great Virgin Martyrs, all of whom seemed more interesting to me than the male saints, I often joke that I grew up wanting to start an order for “men who want to be nuns.”

Probably the only male saint who really spoke to me was John of the Cross, and I never *read* him because I allowed myself to be hindered by all the people who say not to read John of the Cross because he’s too “advanced”–HA!  When I finally *read* John of the Cross for the first time last year, other than quotations and short passages, I was like, “Nothing could be simpler than this!”

But God let me understand what He needed me to understand to steer me to the right vocation, and somehow my understanding of the female mystics led me to intuit the Theology of the Body and realize God was calling me to marriage, and, as Chesterton describes, when I began reading the “hard stuff” after that Christmas in 1996, I felt like I was reading stuff I already understood.

Now, maybe that high school reading of St. Teresa of Avila was right after I started high school–that much I don’t recall, Senator–but by Christmas 1990 I had developed an understanding of the importance of tears.  Teresa of Avila says that, out of all “consolations” one might receive in prayer, holy tears are the most important.  Other consolations are like God patting you on the back and saying “Good job.”  Tears–which most people don’t even think of as a spiritual experience–tell us we’re really appreciating what Jesus did for us, and short of spiritual or physical stigmata, are a sign that we’re fully understanding the Passion.

So the first of the two major “breakthroughs” was the first time I experienced Tears.  I’m pretty sure it was during my annual Infant of Prague novena in 1990.  My grandma sent me an Infant Jesus of Prague book in 1989, and I began making a Novena every year from the 16th to 25th of December (technically, two overlapping Novenas).  During those years, I’d dedicate an hour or more to prayer, saying not only all the prayers in the Infant of Prague book, but also the Rosary and other prayers.

I remember the experience, but I don’t remember whether I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries or the Stations, but one day in prayer–again, I’m pretty sure it was during my pre-Christmas Novena–I was hit by the realization of the Passion, and I began crying.  I knew this was an important spiritual gift, and I got very excited, and told my brother, who thought I was weird.

And I know it was no later than 1991 because my brother was living at home at the time.

So, for 20 years (WOW), I’ve basically stayed at the same level in my prayer life, which I knew to be a fairly “advanced” level but wasn’t sure why I’ve stagnated.  On the one hand, gauged against the “average person,” there’s always a tendency to be like the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and say, “Well, I’m much more advanced than they are.’  However, gauged against the Saints, I knew I was on the right track but missing something, and thought it was just a matter of time.

Meanwhile, in my formal studies as a Carmelite, I’ve struggled with understanding certain aspects of Carmelite prayer.  Again, I thought I was “doing it right” by my reading of the Saints, but I have heard many different things from living people about it, and it’s really been a puzzle to me.

The OCDS Constitutions and Statutes (formerly the Rule of Life and Statutes) require a half an hour of  “mental prayer.”  I knew that all prayer is supposed to be “mental prayer,” and the “prayer of quiet” is supposed to be more of a gift from God.  I knew I *was* practicing mental prayer, particularly because of the experience of tears 20 years ago, but I was never sure if I’d achieved “prayer of quiet” or “contemplation,” but again some experiences I have fairly regularly in prayer match Our Holy Mother’s description of “contemplation.”  The one I like best is in _Way of Perfection_ where she calls it a “spiritual swoon.”

So my question started as a legalistic one: I always figured that as long as I was practicing “mental prayer,” which I was, I was on the right track and just had to wait for God.  Yet most Carmelites insist that the requirement in the Constitutions is for “mental prayer,” not “prayer of quiet,” that even though they’re separate terms, in Carmelite spirituality they’re basically the same thing.

So I had to hammer out some conversations with some of my most knowledgeable Carmelite friends, in person and online, and I kind of figured it out.

I don’t want to get into all the confusing details of the various issues I was trying to work through, but a few things were questions related to psychology and educational theory, a few had to do with terminology.  Some had to do with those “Catholic reflexes” about avoiding any practices in prayer that sound “too Protestant” or “too Buddhist.”

My President described Prayer of Quiet as being a state where one is in such deep meditation that it’s like sleep.  Now, he’s good about explaining the differences between authentic Christian prayer and Quietism or Buddhism, but his description of the method sounded very Buddhist to me, and I was confused a bit there.  Then a very good Internet friend explained how she sees it, and I said, “Sometimes, I just sit and hold a Crucifix in my hands and just adore Jesus.”  Her response was the online equivalent of Lucy van Pelt yelling, “THAT’S IT!”

So those observations helped me, and, a few Sundays ago (either First Sunday of Advent or Christ the King), I began saying a Rosary on our way to CCD.  I used the method which I find to be the most effective for meditation, where you break up the Hail Mary’s with reflections on the Mysteries (i.e., “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you as Gabriel said.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners to obey His Will, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”)

I was praying as slowly as I could.  It took me about an hour and a half to say 5 decades.  Plus, I was holding in my hands a rosary as well as a big crucifix I sometimes carry with me in the aforementioned method of prayer.

During Mass, I got hit by the experience I recognize as the “Prayer of Quiet,” but, because of the various “Cradle Catholic Reflexes,” I always insisted on responding to with “vocal prayer.”  I always thought prayer needs “content” to be Catholic.  I also realized that a big misunderstanding in my Carmelite spirituality was that I’d confused “don’t be attached to consolations” with “avoid consolations,” so I was pushing consolations out of my mind–both my friends I was consulting said, “Heck, no.  John and Teresa teach that if you *have* a consolation, you should run with it.”  The third reason I would insist on “praying back” in that experience was just out of joy and Thanksgiving, like Peter saying “Lord, it is good for us to be here.  Let’s built 3 tents!,” “because he didn’t know what else to say.”

So, this time, I just shut up and let it happen, and I experienced Contemplation.

Now, this answered a major question about my prayer life I’ve posed from time to time but generally took for granted.  I’ve always found that, when I pray a certain amount, I hit what I call a “wall,” where my brain can’t think of the words any more.  I start to get a headache if I “try” to pray.

I always thought that experience was the Devil trying to stop me from praying, or else it was physical fatigue, so I’d either try all the harder with “vocal prayers” because I was trying to fight the Devil or fight the Fatigue.

Now, I realize that that “block” is God putting up His hand and saying, “Shut up.  It’s My turn to speak.”

So, tonight, Mary and I went to a Penance Service.  We got there after the “service” part and stood in line for 45 minutes.  We got in what appeared to be the shortest line but actually took the longest.  We weren’t sure if it was short because the priest was “fast” or because people were avoiding the priest.  Apparently, people were avoiding the priest, but depriving themselves of a great gift.  We both said it was the best Confession we’d had in years, and we experienced what Confession should be, Christ speaking to us through the priest.  Mary’s even pretty sure he addressed her by name even though she didn’t tell him her name.

In line for Confession, I prayed Vespers according to the Roman Rite, the Byzantine Rite and the Coptic Rite on my phone, plus the Confiteor in Latin, the Seven Pentitential Psalms, and just whatever daily prayers I could think of.   I planned to say a Divine Mercy Chaplet after I got out of Confession.

I could feel the “prayer of quiet” coming on even before I went into the Confessional and “shut up” in my prayers when that happened.  Then I had this profound Confession experience.  I began saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I said the Our Father and Hail Mary that were my penance, anyway, and then I started the Creed, but tried to be slow and deliberate about.

Then I found that “block” happening in my head.  I couldn’t remember the words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  So I’d just stop.  I’d feel the prayer of quiet for a few minutes.  Then I’d pray another decade of the chaplet, feel God’s metaphorical hand go up, and stop and go quiet for another several minutes.

And all I can say is, “WOW.”

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.

My Funeral, and thereabouts.

Basics of what I want for my funeral, when the time comes:
1. Somewhere in the mix, I want the following hymns:
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Now We Remain
On Eagle’s Wings
I am the Bread of Life
excerpts from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem (or the whole thing, if in the usus antiquor).

2. Readings, if the Eucharistic Liturgy is in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite:
Sirach, Chapter 18:1-13
Psalm 15 or Psalm 127
1 John 1-10
John 6:48-64

3. Ideally, I’d like the liturgy to be according to the usus antiquor of the Roman Rite or according to the Byzantine Rite, which might obviate parts of 1 & 2. Regardless of Mass, I would like to have the Office of the Dead prayed in community for me the day of my funeral, as well as the Rosary (Luminous Mysteries), Divine Mercy Chaplet (at 3 PM) and Paraklesis

So, ideally:

Scenario 1:
In the morning, Office of the Dead–Office of Readings and Morning Prayer according to the modern Roman Rite, with “Now We Remain” as the opening hymn.
Just before Mass, “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”.
Holy Mass in the usus antiquor of the Roman Rite, with Lloyd Webber’s settings.
“I Am the Bread of Life” for Communion.
At 3 in the Afternoon a Eucharistic Holy Hour (give or take) consisting of
O Salutaris/Exposition
Come, Holy Spirit
Divine Mercy Chaplet
Sirach, Chapter 18:1-13
Rosary (Luminous Mysteries)
1 John 1-10
Service of Paraklesis recited; chanted if possible, with John 6:48-64 as the Gospel
Vespers according to the modern Roman Rite, with “On Eagle’s Wings” as the opening hymn.
Benediction, with Tantum Ergo, the Te Deum and Flos Carmeli as the hymns. St. Michael Prayer.

Scenario 2:
Office of the Dead, Office of Readings and Morning prayer, according to the modern Roman Rite, with “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” as the opening hymn.
Funeral according to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

At 3 o’clock, Eucharistic Exposition and Holy Hour (give or take):
O Salutaris
Divine Mercy Chaplet
“Now We Remain”
Rosary, Luminous Mysteries
“On Eagle’s Wings”
Sirach, Chapter 18:1-13
1 John 1-10
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Requiem, parts 1-4
John 6:48-64
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Requiem, parts 5-8
Evening Prayer from the modern Office of the Dead, “I Am the Bread of Life” as the hymn
Benediction, with Tantum Ergo, Te Deum, and Flos Carmeli as the hymns. St. Michael Prayer.

Scenario 3:

Office of the Dead, modern Roman Rite, combined with the funeral liturgy in the Ordinary Form.
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Now We Remain
On Eagle’s Wings
I am the Bread of Life

Sirach, Chapter 18:1-13
Psalm 15 or Psalm 127
1 John 1-10
John 6:48-64

At 3 o’clock:
Exposition, with O Salutaris
Divine Mercy Chaplet
Rosary (Luminous)
Lloyd Webber Requiem
Evening Prayer from the Office of the Dead
Benediction, with Tantum Ergo, Te Deum, Flos Carmeli and St. Michael Prayer

Here is the text of the Byzantine Funeral Service

What Andy Warhol and Susan Lucci have to teach us about being Catholic.

I just learned from Father Joe’s blog that Andy Warhol was a practicing Byzantine Catholic his entire life.   As his personal life goes: he was raised Catholic, buried Catholic (with a prayer book in his hands), and reportedly attended Mass at both Byzantine and Roman Churches his entire life.
While people claim he was homosexual, those closest to him also say he was perfectly chaste.  His work was intended to draw out the hypocrisies of America’s blend of commercialism and faith; works which superficially seemed sacrilegious  were intended to show how much of our treatment of religion in America is sacrilegious.  Now, I don’t really know much about Warhol except the infamous Campbell’s Soup can and the “15 minutes of fame” quotation.  I’ve learned more abut him from this article than I’ve ever known.  Whether the article is correct about interpretation of his works, or whether Warhol was successful in what he tried to do, that’s a matter of opinion.  However, it strikes me that the article discusses how Warhol is often criticized for works that put Da Vinci’s _The Last Supper_ in secular contexts, which he intended as a symbol of how that’s done all the time in our culture.

In any case, it strikes me that it also gets to the relativism of what constitutes sacrilege.  Byzantines, after all, are very disdainful of Western religious art–not, as many Westerners think, because of iconoclasm but because they think Western art is not properly religious.  Iconography is a sophisticated code of theological meaning, and an Ikon has to follow a particular set of rules, or else it just isn’t an Ikon.  In Byzantine theology, the Ikon is itself a kind of “Real Presence.”  If we can equate  the Presence of the Host to being physically next to someone, and the Presence of the Bible to talking to someone on the phone, then the Presence of Ikons is that of a video conference.  Icons are Windows into Heaven.  Western religious art, by contrast, expresses an author’s perspective.  Increasingly, as Western art has diverged from iconography, it has come more and more to embody personal perspectives of artists, allowing their personality to skew the theology and prayer aspects of the work.  Put simply, to a Byzantine,
The Statue of "The Blessed Virgin" in Cardinal Mahony's Cathedral in LA

Is the natural result of this:

A cheapish picture of Our Lady of Grace

.  Whereas, this
Our Lady of Perpetual Help

is not just a “work of art,” not just an artist’s rendering of his subjective views but a theological lesson, a spiritual lesson, a prayer, *and* a very real means of accessing the Reality of Jesus and Mary.
So while Warhol  may have seen the Last Supper, for example, as worthy of reverence as a work of art, if he was a properly catechized Byzantine, he may not have seen it as particularly worthy of reverence as a work of religion (not saying I agree, just pointing this out).


That said, the keynote of the article is that Warhol remained a devout Catholic his whole life.  However, he did not advertise it, for fear that, while he intended his work to send a prophetic message, it might scandalize people if they knew he was Catholic, so he sat quietly in the back of church and didn’t go to Communion where he might be recognized.  While the latter is perhaps a bit extreme, it also gets into Western versus Eastern views of receiving Communion.

This all reminds me of an article I read recently about 40+ year _All My Children_ star Susan Lucci (Erica Kane).  She recently came out with an autobiography called _All My Life_.  In that memoir, and interviews related to it, she tells the story of what it was like in real life for her when she performed in the infamous story where her character had the first legal abortion on television.  (Interestingly, they’ve recently done a story where it turned it was a “botched abortion”, and the baby survived and recently returned as an adult–this inspired a column that argues how abortion is the cause of the death of the daytime drama, since not as many women are stay at home moms anymore.)  Anyway, Lucci says she performed in the story to show how horribly abortion hurts women, how she felt a certain level of guilt about it and confessed it sacramentally, and how people reacted to her.  Again, like Warhol, she began being discreet about her Catholicism because people were scandalized by the character she portrayed on television.  (I’ve also seen Lucci listed as a “pro-choice Catholic” today, but can’t find any corroboration of where that comes from).

In any case, it should be a sobering lesson that these celebrities tried so hard to reconcile their faith with their work, but also showed great humility in practicing their faith quietly given their potentially scandalous circumstances.

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.