My Sins and The Nails that Pierced Christ


Holy Week is an invitation by Christ and the Church to meditate not only on the suffering of Christ on the cross, but especially on the cause of Christ’s Passion.  For centuries, we Christians have proclaimed that Christ died on the cross to redeem us.  But very rarely do we say It is my sins that led Christ to be executed by the cruelest form of capital punishment of the time.

Today we hear many sermons and read many spiritual books on God’s love for us and our obligation to love God and others.  These points are true.  However, we rarely hear Your sins contributed to the cruel passion of Christ.  It has become unfashionable to speak to people directly about personal sin.  The excuse that we most frequently hear is It is not for me to judge.  It is true that it is not for us to judge the state of another person’s soul.  But we certainly have a duty to reflect on the state of our soul.  

It is not enough to say I have always been a good person, or I have always tried to do the best that I could in any given situation.  These statements are like the clouds that block the light of the sun from reaching us on a dreary day.  I am a good person is often cloud cover.

When mediating on the suffering of Christ and His Blessed Mother we must ask ourselves some very important questions, such as:

  1. Do I tell myself that God is a loving god who, in the end, will pardon my sins and welcome me to heaven?

That is presuming God’s mercy while not considering his justice.  The mercy of God is an absolute truth. So is His justice.  We must pay for our sins.  Otherwise, we are guilty of the sin of presumption.

  1. Have I ever believed myself or my community to be superior to others?

Looking down at others is a sin of arrogance.  It may be true that I live a more virtuous life than the person next door.  But we can only see external acts, we do not see what God sees.  He sees the whole person.  He does not measure a person’s value by their race, culture, achievements, sexual orientation, parentage, or religion.  God knows about all these things and what He blesses and what He condemns.  However, Christ tells us, “do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt 7:1).

  1. Do I truly believe doctrine and moral law that the Church teaches, or do I create my own doctrine and my own moral law?  

Maybe I question the Church’s teaching on same sex marriage, abortion, birth control, marriage of divorcees, sex outside of marriage celibacy. 

Maybe I believe that Christ is in the host, but not that the host is the real body and blood of Christ.  However, the host is not an outer shell within which hides the Lord Jesus Christ…the consecrate host is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ makes this very clear when He told his followers, Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life . . . “(Jn 6:54).

  1. Do I look down on non-Catholics or maybe I do not ever think about non-Catholics?

Catholics are often indifferent to other religions, believe that all religions are the same, or are hostile toward non-Catholics.  When we are indifferent about the existence of other religions, we are indifferent about our own Catholic religion.  We fail to see the need to bring others into the fulness of the Gospel which subsists only in the Catholic Church. 

To subscribe to the idea that all religions are the same is as intelligent as believing that all cultures are the same.  They are not the same.  Other religions have some beliefs that are the same as Catholic beliefs, and some beliefs that are completely mistaken because they ignore or distort Truth. 

Hostility toward people of other faiths contradicts what Jesus has taught us.

Jesus was asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “

Do this and you will live.” (Lk 10:25-28)

I must never stay silent in the face of error for the sake of political correctness.  To do so is to give consent to the error.  But I must never consider myself above others.  Truth comes from Christ, not from man.

If I consider myself above non-Catholics, then I am as wrong as they are.  Because my Catholic faith is not of my creation, but a gift from God.  I must share this gift whenever the situation presents itself, with respect and kindness.  Never with aggression or condescension. 

In conclusion, let us not think only those sins which are observable: adultery, impurity, injustice, slander, rudeness, vulgarity, passing up an opportunity to practice charity…  We are guilty of many sins that are not easily observable and which we believe can be swept under the rugs.  Yet, no sin in hidden from the sight of God. The nails that pierced the hands and feet of Christ are my sins along with those of others.

REMEMBER THAT UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN


Today we are seeing people dying in the hundred thousand from COVID-19.  Just as we are celebrating that vaccines are created by several pharmaceutical companies, along come variations and mutations of the original virus. There are still areas in the United States and countries with fewer resources where the vaccine has not reached and there is no set date for its arrival.

In the United States millions of people are living in arctic conditions, thousands without electricity.  No electricity means no heating.  Already, people have died from complications caused by frigid temperatures.  People are leaving their homes to shelter in facilities that have electricity, such as enclosed stadiums.  Let us not forget the thousands of people who are stranded in airports because the weather has caused more than 3,000 flight cancellations and hundreds of delays.  Driving home is not always possible.  The safest place to protect oneself and one’s family is the airport.

Around the world, people die from hunger, violence, wars, and natural disasters.  The point is that we are probably more aware of death today than we were twenty years ago.  Death is knocking at doors that are too close to home for comfort.

Ash Wednesday, being the first day of Lent in the Christian world, calls us to forty days of reflection and sacrifice.  The number 40 is not random.  We remember Noah in the ark for 40 days, Jewish slaves fleeing Egypt through the desert for 40 years. Christ retreated into the desert for 40 days. Finally, the risen Lord remained 40 days with His apostles before His Ascension.  Forty were periods of suffering, atonement, penance, and the journey to glory.

With the number of deaths around us, the Church invites us to remember that Christ carried the cross up Mount Calvary.  On the pinnacle of Mount Calvary, He died and redeemed all of humanity.  Redemption is not to be mistaken with forgiveness.  Redemption is a moment in time that makes forgiveness possible for all who are willing to carry the cross.

For some people, the cross may be living through COVID-19 patiently, trusting that God will do what is best for our salvation.  It is a time of suffering and an opportunity to place our trust in God.

The Arctic conditions that millions of people are experiencing, perhaps without electricity to heat their homes, can be offered as a cross that, if carried with faith in God and charity toward our neighbor, can be the best Lenten sacrifice.  If one does not suffer from COVID-19 or Arctic weather, we can remember to make a daily sacrifice for the benefit of those who are suffering and remember them in our daily prayer.

Lent is a time for conversion, change.  We carry our crosses with patience and trust that God knows what is best for us.  In times of crisis, we reach out to our neighbor to offer our help or to ask for help.  Sometimes, asking for help is more difficult than helping.

Why do we take up our cross during these 40 days?  At the end of his life, Christ died for all men.  Three days later he rose from the dead no more to die. “He who wishes to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.”  Christ does not invite us to carry our cross for the sake of imitation.  He invites us to carry our cross so that we may never forget that we are not omnipotent and will leave this world on a given day and time.  Those who have carried their cross with the same love as Christ, will also rise to eternal life in Paradise.

“Was crucified, died, and was buried…On the third day, He rose again. “

The Case for the Mask – on God’s Care for our Health


The Christmas season is upon us, and I find myself with a few days of “vacation” allowing me to reflect on a number of issues I ordinarily entrust entirely to the Divine Providence. Br. Jay always teaches us, “do not get upset at things you cannot control, focus on preserving interior peace at all times”. Yet these days I have meditated upon some such matters – matters “great, too difficult for me”, if only to remind myself that I am not – and should not – be in control.

During this process, which also involved some online reading, I stumbled upon an article trying to make a case against wearing masks in times of Covid through the arguments of faith and philosophy. I have heard and overheard many arguments for or against masks over the past year, but never had I seen such a bold attempt, and I was moved to address it here. Life calls out to life, and I feel urged to speak in defense of it, inasmuch as I am keenly aware that not wearing masks (among many other precautions) directly increases the spread of this deadly virus.

The article, when read according to the light of the Catholic faith and not someone’s political agenda, actually helps those who strive to be good Christians to understand a few important things, in spite of its flawed conclusions. There are a few key points I wish to quote and go over, not for argumentation but merely for the sake of reflection.

 

(0) “There is not a consensus among doctors and scientists, at the end of 2020, about the infectious nature of [Covid-19] or the efficacy of wearing masks.”

In other words, there is debate about how helpful it is, due to the question of how exactly does the virus work. However, there is no debate as to the fact that masks help. It is a basic tenet of the Faith that people should clearly do what they can to help others, even when it is burdensome to themselves. The crown of thorns was much more burdensome to wear.

 

(1) “It is wholly un-Christian to consider any other human person first as a threat to oneself. Man is called to love his neighbor and to be in communion with him.”

When we encounter our brothers and sisters, we should not consider them a danger to us. Our attitude should be one of love and communion.

Furthermore, we are not called to be apprehensive when we see another human being – unless there is an overt threat to our safety. We are not considering the person to be a threat – the threat is there, invisible, and it is the threat that we single out as a danger, not the person. This is not unlike an early Christian who may have felt fear when seeing an approaching Roman soldier – not so much in his person but in the potential threat of persecution and death. And do not reply that “perfect charity casteth out fear“, for the Good Lord himself “began to fear and to be heavy” at the prospect of His Passion, so much so that he sweat blood, yet He remained firm in the Father’s will, teaching us that it is natural to fear danger, and there is supernatural merit in facing it with God’s help.

 

(2) “Charity is any action we do for God or do for others for the sake of God. If we do not act for the sake of God, the action, while good, is not charity. Is charity actually the reason why many wear masks?

When encountering our brothers and sisters, a loving attitude of communion is reflected when we think that perhaps I may be a carrier unbeknownst to all – even me – and wearing a face mask lowers the risk that my coughing or sneezing or even just talking would expose my neighbor to a potentially deadly disease. My wearing a mask says to my neighbor ” I love you, therefore I am doing something to care for you“. It is both a physical and a spiritual act of charity – physical inasmuch as it aims to protect my neighbor’s health, spiritual inasmuch as I am acting out of love of God and neighbor. I am certainly grateful when a surgeon wears gloves, so let us be grateful when we see each other wearing a face mask.

 

(3) “Masks indirectly promote thinking of others in terms of oneself. ‘You are not wearing a mask; you are a danger to me. You are making me feel uncomfortable by failing to wear a mask.’

Yet a good Christian does indeed focus on himself rather than others, inasmuch as he is called to a personal obedience of God’s will. I must not focus on whether the other is not wearing a mask, but on whether I am. For it is my duty to help, nay, even to lay down my very life for my neighbor. Let us not forget that just yesterday we commemorated St. Stephen, whose last words were to the Father regarding his unjust oppressors, who were killing him: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!” In spite of the “discomfort” that they made him feel, the Protomartyr acted towards them in faith and love.

Does our neighbor’s failure to act on wearing the mask make us feel uncomfortable? I would say that all manners of sin (should) make us feel uncomfortable, whether the sin is an objective reality or a mere subjective understanding of our mind. We see this very clearly in the many occasions when men are scandalized by the actions of the Lord or the Apostles, whom they thought were contravening the Law, and never does the Lord or the Apostles rebuke them, but always do they instruct them to an objective and orthodox understanding of things. Sin is only that which offends the Divine Will, not the will of men. When I see my neighbor failing to wear a mask, and I am stirred to discomfort in what appears to be sin (considering that this act of omission exposes others to potential dangers and also scandalously manifests one’s potential lack of care and concern for neighbor) I must first and foremost be reminded of the Lord who once said: “Do not judge! Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly”… My attitude must also be devoid of all pride: just because I happen to be wearing a mask while others fail to do so (or advocate against it), I must not imitate the proud man who says “O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men”, but rather I must obey the Divine Precept that commands us, “when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.”

 

(4) “Physical health is neither the primary nor the sole determinant of a man’s actions. There are more important realities than bodily health, especially spiritual health.”

Yet it is written, “The light of thy body is thy eye”, and also, “know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?”. The preservation of physical health is part of the Lord’s Holy Will, as he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. It is not above the spiritual health, it is wholly part of spiritual health.

Hence, Christ on the Sabbath allowed His Apostles to contravene the law and pick grains, for they hungered, and the Divine Teacher manifested that in the eyes of God, such an act was fully lawful, as it was already manifested in the days of King David.

The Incarnate Word once rebuked Satan’s temptation by declaring that “Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” Yet after He Himself having spoken to the people, He said to the Apostles, “I have compassion on the multitudes, because they continue with me now three days, and have not what to eat, and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” And lo, He went and performed the astounding sign that is the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes.

Let us not forget other equally wholesome examples such as the Passover Meal, the provision of Manna in the desert, the splitting of the rock to provide water, and many other ways in which God’s Divine Providence has time and again tended to the care of our physical health.

Therefore, a man’s duty to preserve physical health becomes wholly aligned with the Lord’s will when done out of love of God and neighbor and out of reverence for deeper, invisible spiritual realities inherent to man being both flesh and spirit by the Divine Will.

If you are not fully convinced of this argument, consider that consuming wine at a wedding is not a health nor a nutritional necessity, yet the good Lord deigns to provide wine at Cana in a miraculous way, thus meeting a much simpler need – yet we know that there was a profound spiritual significance to His action.

Let us also remember that we do not need to see, hear, or walk in order to go to Heaven – yet, time and again the Lord has mercifully healed such merely physical needs, and the Blessed Virgin herself deigned – and still deigns – to intercede for the healing of many at the miraculous spring of Lourdes.

Holy Church herself was gifted by Christ with a Sacrament specifically intended to heal the physical health: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”. Clearly, there is a deep relationship between physical and spiritual health. “For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or ‘Arise and walk’?”

 

(5) “When one looks at the body, to the exclusion of the face, one encounters an object, a thing, rather than a person. Objects are meant to be used; that is, to be used as a means to an end. Persons are primarily subjects to be known and loved.”

We must always encounter and commune with our brothers and sisters in the way God intended us to: as our brothers, human beings with a body and

a soul. Different cultures and standards lead to wearing more – or less – articles of clothing, and it has been one of the sharpest thorns of modern secular culture to promote objectification by means of the removal of clothing, whereby most contradictorily to the original tenet, it is the lack of coverage and not its presence, which leads to objectification. When we encounter a fellow human being, whether he or she wears a mask or not, whether he or she wears something that makes us feel uncomfortable or not, we always approach them with the same love that Christ modeled for us. Why, I have no doubt that on his first encounters with the Touareg – their face fully covered by the tagelmust and their voice absent or altogether incomprehensible – Blessed Charles de Foucauld still managed to commune with them in the love of Christ, so much so that he became known to them as “the Christian Marabout” (“holy man”).

 

 

(6) “Man communicates most profoundly with his face—with words, looks, facial expressions. [The mask] muffles the human voice; it hides the human smile; it obscures the deeply human facial expressions which are integral to forming human friendships.”

The Holy Father with Mr. Oreste Tornani

Yet the Seraphic Doctor recounts in his Vita Maior [p.1 c.1] that one day St. Francis met a leper and “felt sick at the sight of him”. Given this sharp description and the knowledge most of us have of the terrible progression of Hansen’s disease, it is fairly possible that the leper no longer had what we commonly describe as a face, or at least was unable to produce facial expressions beyond terrible distress. Yet Bonaventure recalls that Saint Francis “remembered his resolve to be perfect and the need to overcome himself first”, and proceeded to show brotherly love to the sick man.

This story, as do many others – I am reminded of the entire life of St. Damien of Molokai – show that the burden is on us to perceive, understand, and treat our neighbor with love, rather than blaming them – or their lack of facial expressions or voice – for “obstructing the development of genuine community“, as that article does (perhaps inadvertently).

The Holy Father with Mr. Vinicio Riva.

Let us strive in these difficult times to show ourselves ever more empathetic and comprehensive towards one another when we do not have the luxury of being able to expose our face without risk to our health – an experience quite common in places of extreme heat or cold, or in general in the field of healthcare.

 

 

In conclusion, let us cast aside – if only for a moment – all manner of ecclesial or secular politicking, and be reminded that it is but a small act of love to wear a face mask and keep a 6 ft distance from our neighbors during times of pandemic. It is on us to embrace these measures out of love of God and neighbor and to strive to show even more love and care than under usual circumstances to our brothers and sisters who – no doubt about it – live in a world that is making of fear one of its primary movers.

Please forgive any imprecisions in my writing – these are merely my thoughts – and please pray for the end of this health crisis through the special intercession of St. Joseph most obedient, terror of demons, patron of the Church,  mirror of patience. By the will of the Holy Father, we are now in his year, so let us reach out to him, now more than ever!

Br. Bernardo D’Carmine, a sinner.

St. Joseph, Pray For Us

 

Light In The Darkness


My mother always said, “Darkness can never conquer light.”  Looking at the world today things look dark if we don’t seek out the light.

Covid-19 has done more than making some people sick and kill others.  It has thrown families into crisis.  Some mourn a loved one.  Others wonder about an elderly relative in a nursing home where visitors are not allowed.  Spouses spend hours sitting, praying, and wondering if their partner is ever coming off the ventilator.  Patients struggle to breathe.  Their bodies ache.  They have lost all sense of taste and even of smell.  The endless coughing does not allow them a peaceful night’s sleep.

We must also consider how this virus has impacted the lives of healthcare professionals. They do not lose their humanity.  Many have loved ones, including spouses, parents, children.  Upon entering nursing school or medical school, they never dreamed that their lives would be on the line.  Those things happened to people in the armed forces, not to healthcare professionals.  

Long days on your feet were to be expected, but caring for more than ten patients was not a common occurrence among nurses.  There was little fear of taking home a virus that could literally kill one of your children or elderly loved ones. As the number of nurses, doctors, medical technicians, and others contracted the virus, the workload became heavier.  Instead of 12-hour shifts, some people were putting in 18-hour shifts.  Yet, these people have spouses, children, parents, and even pets at home, waiting for them.   

When your loved one is a patient in a hospital, a resident in a lockdown nursing home, a nurse, physician, or technicians, one doesn’t always enjoy a good night’s rest, wondering, worrying.

Also, the loss of income to many workers has stretched their resources beyond their means.  When businesses are locked down, real people are home paying bills and buying groceries, with no idea when they will go back to work and bring home a paycheck.   People who have worked hard all their lives to open a small retail store are now paying bills with no income.

Then there is also violence, looting, and confrontations on our streets.  This has been one of the most active hurricane seasons in decades.  Wildfires have left thousands of people homeless.  Terrorism and military posturing have not taken vacations.

People wonder: “where is God in all of this?  If God is so loving and merciful, why are so many people suffering?  Does prayer really produce results?”  Some are angry at God.  They feel abandoned.

Given the picture of the world today, it is very natural to question one’s faith.  God does not get angry because we doubt, or because we are angry at Him.

We find answers to our questions of faith when we reflect on the lives of men and women of faith such as: Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe who died in a concentration camp to save the life a family man; Saint Teresa of Calcutta who left home at the age of 18 to become a missionary in one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Then there are spouses and parents such as Saint Gianna Beretta Molla who chose to give her life rather than abort her preborn child.  She delivered this child and died shortly after. 

Speaking of people with strong faith, I can never forget what the Blessed Mother said to Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, as she lay, dying of very painful bone disease, at the age of 35: 

I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.

Christ never promised us that life in this world was going to be painless.  As we enter the Christmas Season, we must meditate on the fact that the Son of God was born with a price on His head.  Herod was looking to kill the little boy.  His parents had to flee with Him into Egypt.  Despite the threat of infanticide and later execution on a cross, God chose to be born into a world that offered Him no exemption from suffering and loss.

God chose to be born into a world filled with suffering and loss of many kinds.  He navigated through this world always remembering that nothing is impossible for the Father.  Let us never forget that God brought light into the world at a stable in Bethlehem and later at the resurrection from the dead. 

Christmas is a commemoration of the time when God broke into the darkness of humanity to bring the light of faith, hope and charity.  It is also a time of anticipation.  Christ promised that He would return to judge the living and the dead.  He will return to shed light on our sins and our acts of love.

Christ said the greatest act of love man can do is to lay down his life for his neighbor.

The chaos, fear, conflicts, and confusion that we’re experiencing can be moments of light if we reach out to those who suffer.  We don’t have to give them anything. The shepherds who went to the manger to see the divine infant didn’t come bearing gifts.  They were poor themselves.  But they brought the greatest gift of all: support, love, and companionship to a young family in trouble.

Beware of Interior Demons


When will it be enough?  To protest injustice is the obligation of all just men and women.  There is a moment when protest can lose its sense of reason.  We become irrational and do things that we would not normally condone. 

Examples of this demise in reason become obvious when those who begin a protest for a just cause raise it a few notches where they are destroying private property of people who need said property to support their families. 

When people are injured, even killed, a protest ceases to be a protest and turns into chaos.  Often, innocent children are the victims, as are those who have no guns and panic to find shelter. 

Taking a life does not restore the life of a victim.  When protest evolves into destruction, we must understand that we have crossed a moral threshold that should never be crossed. Killing in defense of the self, family and other innocent people is a proportionate response to a threat.  However, killing out of anger and destroying private property is uncontrolled rage.   

Rage does not see the difference between righteous anger and violence.  The Apostle St. Paul warned us about this almost 2,000 years ago:

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27) 

Anger such as that fails to think first, before acting.  We allow ourselves to lose control.  We lose our ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, anger and rage.  We lose a piece of our humanity: the ability to discriminate between right and wrong and to choose that which is right.  The Apostle St. Peter warned us about this more than 2,000 years ago:

“Beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:17b)

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,” (1 Peter 4:31) 

Our expression of anger must always be justified by absolute moral rules that dictate what is right and guide us away from what is wrong.  Let us be careful not to become the demon we are trying to slay.   

God’s Justice and Mercy Are Within Our Reach


At the end of the Roman Empire, Romans blamed Christians for the fall of the Roman State.  Saint Augustine’s response was true then and is still true today.  The pagan gods did not save Rome because they were nothing more than statues and myths.  If Roman and Greek literature were to be believed, the gods loved themselves, not each other…and much less humanity.

But Augustine also taught a great truth: our God is merciful and just.  The difficulties that men experience are the product of Original Sin.  It is just that man should make reparation for the sins of our first parents and our own that followed.  However, God’s merciful arm is longer than His arm of justice.  While He allows Mankind to experience suffering, He is also present to save us from tragedy, if it’s good for our salvation and that of others.  He gives us an opportunity to offer our sufferings in reparation for our sins.  It is not God’s wish that any of us be lost.  Those souls who lose Heaven do so because they did not take advantage of the opportunity to reconcile with Christ by offering up their sufferings.

But God does not only allow suffering consequently for sin.  Suffering is also a great opportunity for us to engage in the corporal works of mercy.

  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matt 25:34-36).

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did it for me…as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Matt: 25:40,45).

 

Today it seems as if the world is falling apart.  There are wildfires, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, melting ice caps, crime, wars, and now a virus that could kill us without warning.  In justice. God allows these things as a consequence for our sins:  greed, bigotry, lying, pride, pornography, sex for recreation not for love, adultery, child abuse, neglect of the older members of society, wanting for more than we need, while others do not have satisfaction for their basic necessities, and there is much more that we can add to this list; but I believe that this gives us something to think about.

Saint Francis of Assisi became one of the best known and beloved saints because of his poverty.  But poverty was detachment from anything and everyone that led him away from God, including his father.  Francis fell in love with the Crucified Christ.  He wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings for two reasons.

First: he felt remorse for his sinfulness.  He could see how his sins contributed to the suffering of Christ on the cross.  His entire life was dedicated to making reparation by doing simple things such as fasting and abstinence – and extraordinary things, such as throwing himself naked into snow and later thorny bush when he felt tempted to sin against purity.

          Second: Francis saw Christ crucified in those who suffered leprosy, poverty, injustice, hunger, abuse of any kind.  When one of these sinful events took place within his reach, he protected the suffering, corrected the offender, and counseled those who were on the wrong path.

Francis never saw natural or human disasters as something to be wished for, or to be cursed.  He certainly did not wish for the atrocities committed against Christians in the Holy Land.  He set out to convert the sultan and offer his life in martyrdom.  He was unsuccessful in both.  The sultan grew to respect him and admire him, but Francis did not convert him, nor did the sultan execute Francis for being a Christian intruder.  He admired his courage and his faith – even though he believed that Francis was in error.  But the sultan learned a great lesson in love.  Francis arrived with a few friars, not with a company of Crusaders.  He was there to speak the truth, not for revenge or hatred of Islam.  He pointed out the errors of Islam to the sultan and his court, without intimidation and without argumentation.

         Leprosy was out of control during the Middle Ages, as COVID-19 is today.  St. Francis referred to the lepers as his “Christian brothers”.  He did whatever he could to make them more comfortable and to remind them that they were human, therefore part of humanity and worthy of love.  Francis exposed himself to leprosy, in part because he didn’t know any other way to care for the lepers than to bathe and feed them.  But he also remembered what Scripture said, “[Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us. And likewise we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1John 3:16).

There are many ways of offering one’s life for one’s brother.  We don’t have to walk into a minefield to do so.  Every cross that we must bear can be offered for those who suffer as much as – or more than – we do.  In doing so, with faith and without complaining, we earn grace toward our salvation and that of others.

Tragedy can be an experience of God’s justice and an opportunity to ask for His mercy, which He wants to give more than we desire it.

Our Catholic Faith


Our Catholic Faith is a gift of the Father given to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. We often forget that it is thanks to the blood of the martyrs that the Faith was strengthened.

The Faith is built on the blood of the martyrs. For centuries, Catholic men, women, and children have chosen death rather than deny Christ. Yet, how easy it is for us, in our politically correct world and our inclusive society, to hide our Faith or misrepresent it.

It is not that we are opposed to inclusion and to social graces. But there is a right way and a wrong way to welcome those who believe differently from us.

Political correctness and inclusion must never deny or hide the truth. Christ demands that we treat everyone with respect. Even in the case of a non-believer there exists a hunger for the transcendent. The transcendent points to God, even when people profess to deny the existence of God. That little light that seeks to understand a God who is denied, that little light is actual grace that God gives to humanity so that we may seek and find Him.

Justice demands that we speak up for Christ and the Catholic faith when societal norms and politeness try to impose upon us that which is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. It is not within our ability to question God, much less to re-design truth so as to include everyone. Inclusion and political correctness must be built on justice and fidelity to God.

The Seraphic Father binds us to the True Faith

The Pinnacle of Arrogance


Much has happened during the first half of 2019 to stir the human conscience.  While some legislators try to place restrictions on abortion, which would protect the life of the preborn child, others have legislated that abortion is permissible up to the end of the pregnancy.  In some cities, the government has declared that it would pay for abortions of its residents and of those who come from other places seeking such service.

The battle between good and evil has intensified.  While states regulate abortion, organizations, special interest groups and individuals are using every means available to block the enactment of such restrictive laws.  Certain legislators have publicly stated that those who restrict abortion “hate women”.  Another popular junior legislator has publicly denied the holocaust of abortion.  The saddest thing of all is that some religious leaders have preached the abortion is “a gift from God”.  To the best of my knowledge, no Catholic bishop has made such a statement.  But I don’t live in every Catholic diocese.  I neither condone nor condemn those whose position on this grave issue I don’t know.

We must examine certain important facts.  Unfortunately, this article can turn into a book if we were to discuss all the faults in the reasoning of those who are pro-abortion.

Let’s carefully examine the one myth,  “pro-life people hate women.”

First, accusing someone of hating another group, sex, or religious community must be proven using observable and measurable hateful acts that targets women or anyone else.

Those who make such statements must prove what they say.  The burden of proof is on them.  Anyone who takes their opinions as dogma, without any evidence, is not acting intelligently.  They’re drinking the Kool-Aide.

If someone said that all Black people are thugs, all Hispanics are drug dealers, or all wealthy people care only about themselves, aren’t those very broad generalizations?  Many of us would be outraged by such allegations and demand proof or condemn the speaker of hate speech.

However, when someone says those who vote for restrictions on abortion hate women, is that not hate speech?  Does that not pit one group against another, rather than inviting the other to a mature dialogue in search of Truth?

Such statements are dismissive and condescending.  It is dismissing the person who is prolife and the woman in a crisis pregnancy, offering her no support or empathy.  On the contrary, if offers a quick way out for politicians that can leave a lasting scar in the life of a woman.

But that risk is not taken into consideration, because it requires commitment from the greater community to be supportive of women in crisis pregnancies and to hold their partner responsible for his preborn child.  Many believe that challenges can be solved if we throw a few million dollars at them.  As if money can truly liberate us from our social and moral responsibility.

We need to help the world’s legislators see that throwing money at a problem does not make it go away.  Society has a duty to protect every human being’s right to life, especially those who are not guilty of any crime, whose only “crime” is to have come into existence.

If being born is an inconvenience or an evil, does that mean that our conception and birth was without any inconvenience to our parents?  Did our conception not demand of our parents a change of life and agenda?  That’s a very haughty position to take.  “I’m allowed to be here, because I was never a challenge or required my parents to change; but the conception of children today, presents a challenge to parents, is a burden to society and a crime against humanity.”

If these statements do not touch us, or our loved ones, then we can make them freely and sleep well at night.  Is this true social progress, or the height of arrogance?


Thinking about Lent and Penance


The Christmas Season ended a few weeks ago and we’re already for Lent.  Ash Wednesday is around the corner, the sixth March.

Birth of Jesus

It appears to us that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary comes before his incarnation and birth at Christmas, at the end of the year.  But that’s not really the case at all.

The Church’s liturgical calendar begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  That is actually “New Years Day” on the liturgical calendar.  January 1st was adopted as the beginning of the New Year in 1752 when Pope Gregory XIII ratified the current calendar, which we call the Gregorian Calendar.

The first solemn Christocentric celebration occurs on December 25th when the Second Person the Most Holy Trinity breaks into human history as the child Jesus.  We celebrate Christmas with great joy and solemnity, because God has humbled himself to become human.

Lent follows the Christmas season on the liturgical calendar, beginning on Ash Wednesday.  It is a time of penitential preparation for the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and a time of expectation as we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Catholics have always sacrificed something during Lent.  Some people didn’t eat candy, others didn’t east dessert, many would not attend celebrations, carnivals and were not usually married during Lent. These things are good in the eyes of God.  God does not measure quantity, but the intent of the heart.

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

However, if we look around us at today’s world, we have a lot of reasons to do penance for ourselves and those who don’t do penance.  We have had horrific scandals in the Church’s human element, because its divine character comes from Christ, not from man.  Christ is perfectly sinless.

Our country is split over politics and policies.  Everyday the back stabbing gets worse.  Terrorism has spread to Europe and North America.  Once upon a time it was contained in the Middle East.  That’s no longer the case.

People must abandon their homes out of fear.  They fear that they will be dragged out and killed.  While adults may feel strong enough to combat criminals, those who have children find it very difficult to do so.  What happens to my kid if I were killed in a resistant uprising?

A trailer park. (c) Caren Mack Photography

Poverty also triggers migration.  In the United States, poverty in some of our southern states is never mentioned, but it’s there.  People live in conditions not fit for human beings.  The people migrate to the coasts where they hope to find work and housing in the big cities.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  The same is true for people of many countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Families must emigrate from their homes because they don’t earn salaries to support themselves.

This leads to all kinds of problems in the host countries, from a shortage of resources to violence.  The violence is usually rooted in frustration, distrust, or simply there are individuals among the immigrants who have criminal history.  This cannot be avoided.  Every country, every race, every ethnic group has its fair share of criminals and delinquents.

The Franciscans of Life are encouraging all our relatives and friends to offer this Lent for a peaceful resolution to conflict and dishonesty in the world.  Will it happen?  Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God.”  But let’s sacrifice something that really hurts, without doing damage to our mind or body.

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Some suggestions for Lenten sacrifice:

1. Turn off the television or restrict its use to a specific time of the day without exceptions.

2. Turn off the game systems and computers.  If you can’t live 40 days without Facebook, try at least three days a week in honor of the Blessed Trinity.

3.  Stop smoking or drinking alcohol.  How many people die because of smoking cessation or because they reduced the amount of alcohol they put in their bodies?

4. Children and adolescents may pick up an extra chore around the house.  If one’s job is to take out the garbage and the parents must remind the young person to do his duty, taking out the garbage is not a Lenten sacrifice.  Taking out the garbage is justice.  It’s your contribution to family life.  Taking on an extra chore from Mom or Dad, is a sacrifice, even if it’s two days a week.

5.  Man has become an extension of his cell phone.  The cell phone is no longer used just for communication when you can’t get to a landline or a payphone.  It’s where people watch movies, play video games, use as time pieces, or status pieces.  There are people who pay their monthly visit to parents or grandparents via Skype.  We can reduce the use of the cell phone and limit it to communication.  It doesn’t have to be our diary, calendar, notebook, or library.  Any or all those applications can be sacrificed and offered in atonement for our sins and those of people who don’t to penance. 

6. For many people, healthy living is a penance:  going to bed early and rising early, going on a diet, engaging in physical activity, or sitting with your family for dinner, even though you know that the kids are going to bicker, complain, play, and do many things that we adults can’t imagine.  Using dinner time as a learning experience can be a healthy sacrifice. 

You may ask, “Why do penance for those who don’t do penance?”  The answer is simple.  What would have happened to our immortal souls if Christ had not offered his life for humanity?

Look at these suggestions and see if you can try one of them or come up with a penance that is truly a challenge for you.

 

Published in: on February 23, 2019 at 7:49 PM  Comments (1)  

Proclaiming Good News to the Poor


In 2009, a solitary Franciscan set out to serve families and individuals who struggle with abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, infanticide and capital punishment.  Most important we work for the salvation of soul and body.

Today, there are six brothers.  Three are Regular Brothers and three are Extern Brothers.

The Regular Brothers make vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and a fourth vow, to proclaim the Gospel of Life.  The Extern brothers make a solemn promise, which they renew annually, to support pro life ministry, to live a life of prayer and penance, and to observe the Rule of Penitents, given to us by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1221.

The proclamation of the Gospel of Life demands that we appreciate every man, woman and child as a gift from God, in whom God resides.

The brothers run Project Joseph, for the Archdiocese of Miami Respect Life Ministry.  We are currently in four centers where we reach out to men who are considering abortion, who are too poor and are anxious about another mouth to feed, and men who are not aware that Christ loves every human being and will not leave us to struggle alone, though at times it may seem that way.

Our brothers teach the faith to children in religious education, where we present the Bible in the manner that St. Francis of Assisi taught it to his early brothers and friends.  One of our brothers is the community questor.  He teaches at a school for students whose needs cannot be met in the local public-school system.

His small stipend goes to paying rent, utilities, groceries, gasoline, car maintenance, medical bills and unexpected expenses.  The brothers try to be truly poor, not just appear to be poor.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, we leave behind family, jobs, careers, bank accounts, inheritance, friends and everything that draws us into the secular world, instead of drawing us closer to Christ.

To date, the Regular Brothers live in a room that is on loan to them by a family member.  The situation is crowded.  In return the brothers take care of housekeeping, cooking, laundry, and other household chores.  This allows them to pay a very small monthly rent of $325.00.

We pray that God will send us house where we can welcome new candidates who wish to serve the family, the terminally ill and the immigrant poor.  It would allow us to expand our ministry as the number of brothers grows.

We invite any Catholic man between 18 and 50 years of age to talk to us.  Maybe God is calling you to be one with the poor, as was Saint Francis and to proclaim the Gospel of Life through your works, teaching, community living and life of prayer.

“Life calls out to life.”

Contact us

franciscansoflife@gmail.com

 

Published in: on October 18, 2018 at 2:41 PM  Comments (1)