Who said that you have to like the Pope?

Saint Pius XI found this article to be very helpful and supportive of what I presented in an earlier post, “Under Whose Authority “

Apparently, I’m not the only one who is noticing that people are not making a distinction between what they like and what they don’t like but must learn to live with.

When I was growing up I hated almost every rule that my father imposed on us.  As far as I was concerned, he was a totalitarian despot.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I had no idea what a “totalitarian despot” meant.  But I had read the term in a social studies book in school and it sounded like an appropriate label for my dad.

As the years passed and I transitioned from a child to an adult, I came to realize that my father was just a very conservative man from a different generation.  The truth of the matter was that nothing that he imposed on us did any harm to our bodies, mind or souls.  Some of his rules and statements were arbitrary and others were right on the money.  As I became an adult, I jettisoned that which was arbitrary and incorporated into my script that which was truth.

The same applies the pope and others in the hierarchy.  Many times, just like our parents, they say things that are right on the money, but we don’t like what we’re hearing.  That does not mean they’re wrong.  Other times they say things using a language that is different, one that we’re not used to.  That does not mean that they’re wrong.  It simply means that we have to pay close attention to the nuances.  Finally, they may even say things that sound silly to us or not consistent with what came before.  That does not mean that they’re wrong either.  It means that they are speaking to a different generation, at a different time in history, using a different language, and building on what came before, not denying it.

If we don’t understand, it’s like not understanding our fathers or mothers.  We have to learn to respect the person and the office.  The rest is a matter of biting the bullet.  How many people would belittle their parents with such labels as “modernist, apostate, heretic, infidel, devil incarnate” and more, because the parent does not seem to tow the line with what we believe our parents should be saying or doing, in matters of home management, discipline and even faith formation of the children?

I remember that my father was a twice a year mass attendant.  It was not until my mother converted that he started to attend mass every Sunday.  My mom was a formidable woman.  If she said “We’re going to mass,” we were going to mass.  No discussions.  Having said that, I wouldn’t dare place my father on the stand and accuse him of being any of those things that some people attach to the Holy Father.  Respect and love do not depend on being right or being lovable.  Respect and love are a choice that we make to treat every man and woman as Christ did.  Let us never forget that even though Pilate was wrong, he was given authority from above to judge and execute Jesus.  Jesus acknowledged that authority.  He was not a fan of Pilate, but he was a loyal Son of the Father.

We too must learn to live in the Church as loyal sons of the Father.

One last note, this is not an attempt to bash Traditionalist Catholics or the Traditionalist movement.  There are many Catholics in the movement who are very holy people and exercise great self-control when they don’t like something and know how to speak with firmness and respect.  They are to be admired and applauded.

Some of you may like this article.  I thank Scott Eric Alt for sharing it.


Published in: on January 28, 2016 at 2:20 PM  Comments (1)  

Under what authority . . . ?

right and wrongI will never forget what a 10th grade student taught me a long time ago.  I was teaching social studies in a high school.  Mind you, I’m not a sociologist or social scientist.  Our social studies teacher was on maternity leave and I was elected to cover for her.  That being said, the lesson was on the United Nations’ declaration on human rights.  As we were going through the highlights of the document, Chris asked me a very serious question.

“Why doesn’t this say that everyone has the right to be born?  If you don’t have the right to be born, the other rights are useless.” 

I have never forgotten that question or that lesson.

Today, thousands of people prepare to march for life in many cities in the country, the largest march being in Washington, DC, despite the horrible weather.  Why are these people willing to suffer freezing temperatures, numb fingers and toes and 12 inches of snow and ice?  The answer is simple.  They believe in the right to be born.

It is true that many attend the march for life in protest of abortion.  However, there is more to this issue.  We must put abortion in context.  The medical community refers to abortion as the “termination of pregnancy.”  It’s actually a very accurate statement.  Many people prefer to call it murder, holocaust, eugenics, and many other terms.  None of these are wrong.

Nonetheless, the principle behind abortion is flawed, not only because the procedure takes the life of a vulnerable human being.  It is flawed because the right to terminate a pregnancy presumes that society can deny any human being the right to be born.  Birth is not possible, if you terminate a pregnancy.

This puts us on a very slippery slope.  If human beings can lose the right to be born, what is there to say that we can’t lose the right to remain alive?  Why are we crying over the extermination of Syrians, other groups in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa?

Why doesn’t it follow that a society with the authority to withdraw someone’s right to be born can deny the right to stay alive after the fact?

The answer has to do with vision.  We can see the carnage in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Eastern Europe.  We don’t see the carnage behind the doors of an abortion mill.

When I was a graduate student, I learned about a concept called “object permanence.”  A young child believes that an object exists only when he can see it.  When mom says that the toy flew away and hides it behind her back, the toy ceases to exist.  In simple English, the permanence of an object depends on the subject’s ability to see it.  If one can’t see it, it does not exist.  It’s a more primitive version of “out of sight, out of mind”.  Except that this primitive version is normal in human development.  As the person matures, the brain’s functions become more robust and object permanence is no longer dependent on perception, but on knowledge.  “The thing exists, because I know it exists even when I don’t perceive it with my senses.”

For many people, a crime against human life exists only when the human being is perceptible.  When you don’t see the human being, the crime ceases to be.   Therefore we do two things in contemporary society.

First, we look at the fetus and we fail to see a human being who is a real person.  We only see tissue and cells, because that’s what we want to see.

Second, we look at a fetus who is over 30 weeks old and we see what “looks like” a baby.  It only looks like a baby.  It’s not a baby, because we fail to see the baby.

To understand abortion in context, we must keep in mind that human beings often fail to see what they don’t want to see.  It’s called selective blindness.  They convince others that the thing they cannot see does not really exist.  The baby that we cannot see is not really there.  It’s just a “fetus” or tissue.  When I was growing up, they called this “turning a blind eye.”  Today, some people call it “reality”.

ISIS is murderous, because it kills people whom we can see.  We cannot deny their existence, as much as we would like to ignore them.  We have to call such barbaric acts what they are, the murder of innocent people.  In our distorted way of thinking, abortion is not murderous, because no one visible to us is being killed.  At the end of the day, what are we saying about choice and abortion?

It looks like we’re telling ourselves and our neighbors that man decides who has the right to live.  Such a decision depends on the individual’s perception.  If he does not see a human being, terminating a pregnancy is not murder.

The problem with this concept, besides the attack on innocent life, is that every individual can see whatever he or she wants to see and be blind to whatever he or she does not want to see.  The right to be born becomes subjective, no longer an absolute.  The right to be born is determined by the subject who has the power to terminate a vulnerable life. . . the power to see only what he wants to see.

This begs the question.  “Under what authority can man grant or deny another human being the right to be born?”

We must ask ourselves this question as we remember Roe vs Wade in 2016.

Brother Jay Rivera, FFV

Published in: on January 21, 2016 at 7:33 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Tradition of Hopelessness?

I’ve been reading certain blogs and newspapers online by Catholics who believe that the Church has lost her Catholic identity and her traditional roots.  I must admit that the reading is very depressing; but not because of the alleged crisis in the Church.  This is not to deny that there is a crisis of faith in the world, which affects people of all faith traditions.  We can address that in a later post in this blog.  For the time being, allow me to speak about the blogs and periodicals that are being posted online by Catholics.

When I was growing up, I was taught that in a democratic society, disagreement is a sign of health.  When disagreement triggers dialog, the possibility for growth is endless.  Along with such sage advice, my mother also taught me that disagreement must never rise to the level of disrespect for a person or his office.  Crude, disrespectful, dismissive or condescending behavior is simply arrogance.  Arrogance, like any other evil, has no rights.  Therefore, the arrogant person forfeits his right to a dialog with civilized and intelligent human beings.

What we have is certain Catholic journals and blogs publishing articles and posts that disagree with much of what Pope Francis does and say.  There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the Church is open for dialog, which she is on certain points.  However, they take the liberty to apply such terms as Modernist, apostate, heretic, Marxist, sacrilege, indifferentism, syncretism, and more to the Vicar of Christ.

Everyone knows that there has never been such a person as the perfect pontiff.  From the first day of its existence, the pontificate has been plagued by human weakness.  Yet, it has survived.  It has survived, because Grace has never been absent in the Church, especially in the Petrine Ministry.  The first pope denied his master three times.  He behaved with certain prejudices toward Jews and Gentiles, causing Paul to “lose it.”

However, when Paul lost it, he challenged Peter’s behavior and position.  But he also addressed him by his proper title, Cephas or Rock.  Paul did not cease to insist that Simon was the Rock upon which Christ built his Church.  Paul was smart enough to see the weakness in Peter’s behavior when it came to the conversion of Gentiles and smart enough to remember that despite it all, Peter was the Vicar of Christ, not him.  So . . . he took his argument to Peter and to the Council of Jerusalem.  But not once did he stick disparaging labels on Peter.

Some “Traditional Catholics” invoke Irenaeus as their model or Catherine of Siena.  Both of these people held on to the faith during times of crisis in the Church and the world.  Both were honest enough to speak their mind to the pope and point to the errors in the pope’s thinking.  Maybe, the reason why Irenaeus and Catherine share the label “saint” in front of their names, is not because they challenged and questioned, but because they loved and respected.  They acknowledged that whatever they saw as mistakes didn’t change the fact that the pope was the legitimate successor of Peter who was the Prince of the Apostles and the Vicar of Jesus Christ.  They spoke up without mocking, insulting, and labeling the pope or encouraging others to do so.  They communicated their protest with dignity, charity and humility.  I often find this lacking when writers in blogs and periodicals apply hurtful labels to the person of the pope and to his ministry.

Surely, we can learn from Catherine, Irenaeus and many other great men and women in Catholic history, how to speak about those things that are difficult and disturbing without arrogance, rudeness, and hopelessness.


Published in: on January 19, 2016 at 10:14 PM  Leave a Comment  

Brother Bernardo Makes Vows

After three months as an aspirant, three months as a postulant and 12 months as a novice, Brother Bernardo D’Carmine made temporary vows as a Franciscan of Life.


The vows are obedience, poverty, chastity and a fourth vow to proclaim the Gospel of Life.  Brother made vows during a solemn celebration of evening prayer (vespers) on January 18, 2016 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapel in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Presiding over the Liturgy of the Hours was Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner.  Deacon Scott also preached the “exhortation” reminding us all that one man’s conversion can change the Church and history, referring to the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi. DSC_0027

The first step is to embrace the poverty of Christ and his most blessed mother.  He also reminded the Franciscans of Life that we are an outgrowth of a long and venerable family that is more than 800 years old, with more than 100 different congregations, orders, societies and institutes.  Today, there are almost one million Franciscan men and women around the world, secular and religious, lay and cleric, men and women.  It all began with one man who responded to Christ’s call to “rebuild his house.”

Deacon Scott witnessed the profession, but he did not receive the vows.  Brother Jay Rivera, superior of the Franciscans of Life, received the vows.   Mrs. Tina Handal led the singing with the litany of Franciscan saints and blessed.  She did an outstanding job for the Lord and the community that was present.  She has an incredible spirituality and a voice that expresses it beautifully.    Extern brother, Chris Handal and regular brother, Leo Ballanger were the witnesses to the profession.  Present were friends of DSC_0073Brother Bernardo’s from his days at university, other friends from the area and his mother, Mrs. Angela Torres.  The group was small.  The ceremony was simple, dignified, reverent and above all, prayerful.

Brother Bernardo will continue graduate studies in computer science, computer engineering, theology and philosophy.  In addition, during the period of temporary vows, the brother continues his Franciscan formation with studies in Franciscan history, spirituality, rule and constitutions, Franciscan pastoral practices, and Sacred Scripture.  Along with classes at the university, several hours per week active in the apostolate, a life in community, the brother is also homeschooled in Franciscan studies and Scripture. The years as a “student-brother,” as we call those in temporary vows, are very busy and exciting years.  The most exciting part of all is the brother’s knowledge that his life now belongs to Christ and to the voiceless.


Litany of Saints

Published in: on January 19, 2016 at 8:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

Let God do the driving

As everyone who follows us on our blog or on Facebook knows, we were in desperate need of a car.  Our car was totaled on December 26.  A few days after the accident, I remembered something that St. Francis said in his Testament.

Let those who know not [how to work] learn, not through desire to receive the price of labor but for the sake of example and to repel idleness. And when the price of labor is not given to us, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door.

I know that we do not bring in enough money to purchase a car, not even a used one.  Other than a few hundred dollars from the insurance company, we had nothing.

However, God will never be outdone in generosity and in pity for us.  I remembered this passage from the Testament and decided to beg for help.

In less than 24 hours after posting our cry for help, we received three offers to help us.  The first was from an old friend who said, “I have a car that I want to give to you.”   Imagine our joy when we heard this good news.  But there is more . . .

An hour later, a dealer who supports our work for the Gospel of Life called me.  “Brother, I can help you.”

The next morning we received an email from another generous person.  “Pick the car you want.  I’ll pay for it.”

All of this is leading somewhere, so please stay with me.  The Franciscans of Life have just finished a three month process during which we reviewed our constitutions and did some editing for greater clarification.  The chapter on poverty required the greatest amount of attention.  For greater clarity we inserted an article into the chapter on poverty.

The brothers shall own only one car per house.  They may not own a new car, nor an old car that is commonly used by the wealthy.  They are to acquire used cars, either through their effort or the generosity of others.  Let these vehicles be such that they conform to what the working man or woman in the lower economic sectors would drive.  Let them not use said vehicles for recreation.  They are tools for service to the voiceless.

We now had an interesting situation.  We had a vendor who was willing to give us a very generous deal on a used car.  There was a benefactor who wanted to purchase a car of our choosing and there was the father of a family who was offering his car as a gift.

We, the brothers, discussed what to do and which offer to accept.  It was finally decided that the superior should decide.  I hate it when the brothers do that.  😦  Guess who has to decide?  😀

The question on the table was, “What would be the most natural for a poor man?”

This was easy.  People don’t usually call the poor and offer to purchase a vehicle of their choice for them.  That offer was now off the table; although we are very grateful.  The poor don’t get telephone calls from dealers offering them a bargain on a car, simply because they’re poor.  I wish this would happen more often.  Unfortunately, it does not happen often enough.  That offer was off the table as well.

This left one offer on the table.  The older family car that was offered to us free of charge.  I remembered that the first car I ever owned was a hand-me-down from my sister.  I was broke.  The only thing that I could afford was that old car.

The end of the story is that we have a car and it’s beautiful.  It’s a 2004 Dodge Grand Caravan with 156,000 miles and a few dents and scratches on the outside, but it’s perfect under the hood.

Here are the pictures.

There are several other dimensions to this story.

First:  The brother who was involved in the accident in one of our novices who is about to make vows this week.  The car was totaled; but Brother walked away without a scratch, not even a headache.  Not only was he not hurt, he was smiling when he arrived home.  His first words to me were, “I feel very peaceful.”  If this is not a sign of a man whom God has called to himself, I don’t know what is.

Second dimension:  During our review of the Constitutions, we asked The Immaculate to point us in the right direction.  “Are we doing the Will of God?  Is this way of life and this work what God wants from us?”  The Lord protected our novice from physical harm and blessed him with great peace and joy, despite the hardship.  Interior peace is the best sign that one is in compliance with God’s Will.

Finally, the third dimension to this story, without the car, our student brothers cannot travel to the university.  We cannot continue our work in hospice, pregnancy centers, university campus, religious education and among the immigrant poor.  We live in an area where public transportation is very poor.  It would take two hours to get to the university using public transit, when it takes 25 minutes by car.  A brother would spend four hours on the road to go to a class.  This is time that has to be stolen from prayer, community, and apostolate.

Not only did God’s providence come through for us through the generosity of others; but he confirmed us in our vocation.  God does not provide transportation to go where he does not want us to do so.

The last thing for today, we need to do some body work on the car.  We have $1,300.00.  We need about another $500.00.  If you can spare $1.00, it would help.  If you know someone who does body work in the Fort Lauderdale area and can hook us up with a good price, that would be very helpful.

While we’re on the subject of money.  We want to thank everyone who donates to Franciscans of Life.  Every month, we manage to reach the necessary dollar amount to pay our rent and utilities for that month.  Isn’t that awesome.  🙂