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?


THE ABSENCE OF GOD


Sometimes we face hardships in life.  Usually one prays to God for a solution.  Sometimes, we start to believe that God is absent.  He doesn’t care about human concerns.  This leads us to despair, cynicism, carelessness in our sacramental life, such a going less and less to Confession and Holy Communion, and abandoning prayer altogether.

We must ask ourselves, “Does Jesus lie?”  Did he not say that He would be with us until the end of time?  Didn’t he also say that we could do nothing without Him?  Jesus never made empty promises, promises that he did not intend to keep.

We may feel like Mary Magdalene when she discovered the empty tomb.  She was afraid that Jesus had been taken away.  Suddenly, she heard His voice behind her calling out her name, “Mary”.  Jesus had been standing behind her all along.  He had not left her to despair.  She worried instead of looking for Jesus.

When we feel that Jesus has been taken away from us. We begin to speculate that God doesn’t care.  He created man and now sits back watching how life unfolds as if He were in a theater.

To believe that God created the universe only to observe implies that God needs to be entertained.  Wasn’t this the belief concerning Greek and Roman gods?  When the Greek and Roman empires fell, were there any pagan believers present to rescue the poor, the wounded, the abandoned or to help raise up humanity?  However, when catastrophe,

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

war and natural disaster happen, Christians rise to the occasion in response to the needs of those who are hurting.  Their faith in Jesus and His grace drives them to respond to the weakest and the most vulnerable.

Let’s look at this logically.  If Jesus had not walked out of the tomb, for 2,000 years millions of people have believed in a myth.  But how to explain supernatural experiences, conversions, visions, and the development of Christianity.  While it is true that millions have subscribed to Islam for 1,500 years, but what has Islam done for mankind?

Christianity has been the impetus for institutions of learning, healthcare, charitable services, and the preservation of culture.  The Catholic Church has been the sponsor and protector of the arts, scientific research, and missions all over the world.  She is the largest charitable benefactor in the world, despite the many sinful people who are part of the Church.  Charity, love, grace, and penance can never be obscured by sinful men.  These only appear to be absent when we focus on the sins of men to the detriment of all that is good and holy in the Church and the world.  When we focus on sin, without taking note of the larger population of faith and committed Catholics, we begin to fall into darkness.

Christ is always with us, but we must be like Mary.  We must keep looking and never lose our trust.  God’s plan for humanity is not necessarily compatible with humanity’s plan.  Nor does God operate according to our rules and timetable.  He is the Law Giver, not man.  He existed before time and will exist after the end of time.  Man will die leaving behind a legacy or not.  In which case he is forgotten and becomes an invisible part of human history.

Christ is part of human history.  He was born, lived, and died at a specific time and place.  However, as the Gospel of John tells us, He existed before all else.  He existed before history.  He becomes incarnate within history for our salvation.  He was executed for our sins; but he walked out of the tomb on the third day.  He can never be killed again, not even by our lack of faith.

It’s time that humanity tare down the walls it has built between itself and God.  The walls will come down when man realizes that he is not God, acknowledges his arrogance, and stops trying to control life and the world around him.

God is the Law Giver, not man.  When we stop trying to create laws that conflict with God’s law, we will be free of our blindness and we shall see God’s presence among us.

God has never been absent.

Published in: on June 12, 2019 at 8:29 PM  Comments (1)  

The Palm Branch, the Needle on Our Compass


About 2,000 years ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds honoring a king waving palms and laying their mantles on the ground to protect Jesus from the dirt in the city streets.  But Jesus knew this would be his last entrance into Jerusalem.  He was walking into the hands of his executioners.  Armed with faith in the Father and the courage of the Holy Spirit, he entered the city where he would be scorned, insulted, brought to trial with false charges and eventually he would be killed.

On Thursday of that week Jesus borrowed an upper room where he was to eat the Passover meal with his friends, the apostles.  It was at the meal that he gave the Apostles the power to do as he had done, change bread and wine into his body and blood.

He gave this gift to his apostles, not only for their benefit, but for the benefit of all who would listen to the preaching of the Good News that the man executed on Friday walked out of his tomb on Sunday morning.

For the first 200 years or so after the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, many believers were executed in the cruelest forms, because they refused to deny the truth that they knew about Jesus the Christ.  These martyrs were not morose men and women who wanted to die and who deliberately sought death.  Like Jesus, they loved their friends, family, and home.  But like Jesus, they could not deny the truth, even if it cost them their lives.

Today, millions of Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus made his triumphant entry into the city of execution. Unfortunately, many people regard it as a special day of the year when they received blessed palm branches.  Churches are packed with people who would normally miss Sunday Mass.  On this Sunday, they get something for free and fulfill a cultural and family tradition.

We have forgotten that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem to be honored with palms and “hosannas”.  The palms were icing on the cake.  Jesus entered Jerusalem to suffer and give his life to redeem mankind.   He was willing to put up with false accusations, disrespect, scourging, a crown of thorns penetrating his head, and finally nails trespassing through his hands and feet.

Palm Sunday should remind us of Jesus’ obedience to the father, of his humility, his dignity, and his love for mankind.  These were the forces that led him to the cross, not the political power of the high priests and the Romans.

Today, many of us respond with drama, vitriol and even violence when someone says or does something disrespectful.  The common excuse is, “I’m not Jesus.”

True enough, none of us are Jesus.  But Jesus says to us, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  He makes this imperative several times in the Gospels.  Yet, many of us recoil from the slightest offense, an illness, an unwanted pregnancy, poor health, and anything that could potentially inconvenience us or cause pain.  Just as the martyrs did not seek death, nor did Jesus, the voice of God the Father must be heard and obeyed.  We’re not commanded to be doormats, to seek to get sick, or to take an aggressive stand when we believe that we’re being humiliated.

We are called to be like Christ, to speak the truth when others try to hurt us or hurt another person; but we are not called to punish the world for its sins, cruelty, or foolishness.  That’s not the man that we see entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Jesus simply spoke the truth and took the consequences for preaching the truth.

For those of us who attend mass on Palm Sunday, the question is, are we willing to speak the truth with dignity and respect?  Are we willing to accept pain and suffering that is a natural part of life, without reneging, bullying others under the pretext of suffering, or casting doubt on God?  Are we willing to keep silent, as Jesus did when he faced the Sanhedrin, realizing that there was nothing he could say that would change their mind and their arrogance?  Are we willing to respond to others as Christ responded to the questions asked by Pontius Pilate, with dignity, honesty, respectfully and frankness, without argumentation or vitriol?

Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week.  The week is holy because Christ’s words and actions were not driven by sin, desire to get revenge, an urge to punish the world, or an effort to hide his true mission.  His humility, living the truth and his love for those who sinned as well as those who were holy never wavered.  In the face of pain and death he says to the Father, “Not my will be done, but yours.”

On this great day of the liturgical year, we must think about how we respond to natural events that may be painful, how we respond to those who are rude or even cruel, how we respond to those who surround us when we’re sick or dying.  Palm Sunday is the beginning of a week where we remember Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  Palms should be the needle of the compass to guides our lives.  Holy Week is made holy by Christ’s passion and death.  Those of us who act contrary to Christ’s actions, soil that which is holy.

Let us never forget that Christ gives us the Holy Spirit who strengthens us with the necessary grace to face any difficulty.  But we must be willing to do as Christ did. Seek opportunities for silence and avoid the distractions of the world, to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding us to make every week of the year, holy.

Published in: on April 14, 2019 at 9:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

Abortion vs. Human Aspiration


I’ve been thinking, trying to understand why people who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life have been speaking for four decades and have yet to hear each other.

The abortion argument has focused on the dark side of conception.  The fertilized egg is just that, an egg, like any egg that you would find in a refrigerator.  It can be discarded because it’s not alive.  Until very recently, medical science had denied that humanity of the fertilized egg.  But one can deny the truth only for so long, before it becomes impossible to hide it.

Morality was central to the argument.  An abortion is murder.  People found myriads ways to justify the act of abortion and ignore the behavior of which conception is the natural outcome.  When speaking about abortion, we make it a woman’s issue.  Why?  Because coupling is left out of the discussion.  Therefore, there is no need to involve the father, much less consider his point of view.  It’s as if women conceived without any assistance from a man or as if the man’s contribution to the dynamic of conception is less important that that of the female, simply because her body hosts the unborn child for 40 weeks.

Hosting is not part of conception.  Human beings serve as hosts to bacteria and viruses; but we don’t consider these cells and organisms to be part of our body.  We’re certainly not their progenitors. Just as an example, we understand and accept that we carry the flu virus, but it’s not part of who we are.  We’re the host.

We try to rid ourselves of the virus with little or no success, because viruses are difficult to kill.  We also have no sense of responsibility for the life of a virus or bacteria, because neither will ever become more than what we see under a microscope, a virus, or a bacterium.  That’s the extent of their reality.

The fertilized human egg has the potential to become a man or woman who makes wonderful contributions to the world around him or her and to the wider spectrum of society.  To dislodge it from its host is not the same as fighting a virus or bacteria, which have no future, no potential to contribute positively to humanity.  If left undisturbed, the fertilized human egg can become a great man or woman, even if it’s just in his home or field of employment.

The killing of a defenseless human being, who has done no harm, is a great moral evil, greater than we think.  Killing a human being, is bad enough.  Abortion robs humanity of that which could have been.

Every human being aspires.  Our ability to aspire is not learned.  It is innate to our humanity.  Our pet dog or cat doesn’t aspire to be more than what it is.  Yet we have strong laws and penalties to protect them from human cruelty.  We human beings aspire.

At what point in our development do we begin to reach beyond ourselves and our present life context?  Who knows?  But once a child begins to speak, he or she can tell you that they want to be a firefighter, a dancer, a doctor and much more.  Becoming a physician, firefighter, dancer, and more are realities beyond one’s current state, be it in the womb, in a crib or in kindergarten.

The destruction of a fertilized egg is greater than the destruction of human matter kills the future destroying the good that this person can do in the world.  It kills aspirations proper only to that person.  Some of which he could realize, if left to develop and be born.

Herein lies the disconnect between prolifers and prochoice.  Today we don’t place much value on aspiration.  To aspire is often considered to be “day dreaming.”  It is discouraged.  Instead, adults direct the young toward a goal that will make the parent feel satisfied or that will satisfy a social need.  It’s more about the parent and society than the individual person.

Unless we begin to value human aspirations that transcend our physical and social boundaries, it will be difficult for some to consider abortion a crime against humanity.

That’s what abortion is. Humanity is being denied the benefit of one person’s contribution to life, a contribution that may change the course of history.  Every time a child is aborted, humanity is denied the benefit that comes from a person whose aspirations transcend our current state or condition.  We enslave ourselves by cutting off the potential of social, political, economic, intellectual, and spiritual progress.  Abortions trap us in the status quo.  Society cannot grow and become better when there is not a new generation whose vision transcends that of the current generation.

Abortion deprives man of new aspirations.

Published in: on March 21, 2019 at 12:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

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)  

New Year’s Thought from the Franciscans of Life


The Franciscans of Life wish every one of our family, friends, and benefactors a Happy and Blessed New Year.

We want to remind everyone that January first is not only New Year’s Day in the western calendar, but it’s also a special solemnity in honor of Our Lady.  It’s the Solemnity of the Mother of God.  It is the only feast day that we celebrate honoring Our Lady’s “divine maternity”.

In a world where motherhood and childbearing are often viewed as a burden or an inconvenience, at the very least, Catholics remember that motherhood is a gift from Heaven.  God becomes man and is born into a human family.  Every one of us has existed in the mind of God the Father for all eternity.  This “divine thought” becomes a human being at conception.  God has seen us in His image and likeness since the beginning.

Let us pray that this year, humanity will awaken from the nightmare of abortion and euthanasia.  Pray that nations come to respect life, from the womb to the tomb, as a mystery that comes from God and is destined to return to God at a time according to His plan.

Topic shift:  the Franciscans of Life have completed our year-end review.  We planned our days, schedules and activities for this new year, to allow us more time for silence, solitude, prayer, penance, a fraternal life.  Like every human family, a community of consecrated persons, religious or lay, is called to live as a family that reflects the community of the Holy Trinity.

It is very easy to get caught up in the “to do’s” of everyday life, to the point where doing becomes man’s only source of satisfaction and enrichment.  Unfortunately, becoming or being is forgotten and replaced by doing.  We hope that others will join us in the quest to become people of deeper prayer, more sacrificial penance, and joyful members of families, parishes, and communities.

       

Finally, it is with great joy that we announce that Brother Bernardo will profess perpetual vows on January 7, 2019.  I [Br. Jay] will have the honor of receiving those vows in the name of our community.

Brother will vow to live in obedience to God, the Church, and the constitutions and superior of our community.  He will surrender the right to own property and will vow to live the rest of his life without property, money, or special distinctions.  He will vow to live celibate chastity until death, so that he may devote every moment of his life to Christ, the Immaculate, and the people of God.

Franciscans of Life also make a fourth vow: to proclaim the Gospel of Life to the voiceless.  We follow the example of St. Francis and his command to the first Franciscans, to live in peace with all men, to have a special place in our hearts and their mission for the poor, elderly, sick and abandoned.  The Gospel of Life demands in a special way that we treat all travelers and immigrants with respect and charity.  Please pray for Brother Bernardo and for the Franciscans of Life, that we may be faithful to the end.

    —>   

May the new year bring many blessings into your lives.  Let us pray that it will be a year where man moves closer to peace, deals more justly with other people, and detaches from excessive material goods to the detriment of his soul.

 

[click to see full-scale picture]

FRANCISCANS PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS


The Franciscans of Life prepare for the Christmas celebration in several ways.  We hope that those who read this blog will be inspired to find their own way to prepare to celebrate Christmas.  Feel free to borrow from us.

The first step in preparation for Christmas is Reconciliation.

We acknowledge that we have sinned, that we have distanced ourselves from God by our thoughts, words and actions.  We approach the confessional with the same simplicity and humility as the peasant shepherds approached the newborn Messiah in the stable at Bethlehem.  We confess our sins, beg for forgiveness and kneel in adoration of a God who never denies us forgiveness, not matter what we may have done or failed to do, as long as we are truly sorry.

Second, we create an environment with periods of silence.

St. Joseph is our model.  As we read the account of Jesus’ birth, we notice that Joseph does not speak.  He contemplates the newborn Messiah and his Virgin Mother.  Like St. Joseph, we need periods of silence.  Periods of silence does not mean quietly working on the internet or some other project.  A period of silence involves total disconnection from the world around us.  These need not be long periods.  Several short periods during the day can be beneficial for those of us who are restless and can’t be quiet or still for an extended period.  Whether one chooses a long period of silence once a day or several shorter periods during the day, the important thing is to imitate St. Joseph.  We must reflect on the miracle of the incarnation and the nativity, reflect on how this event invites us to change the way we live, think and behave.  The Christ child invites us to draw from our innate desire to encounter God.

Third, order is necessary.

It is very difficult to experience internal silence, if we live in a disorganized environment.  Disorder can take the form of clutter and lack of order in our physical environment.  It can also be failure on our part to discipline ourselves: stop using profanity, find the good in every situation, give up skepticism and negativity, accept that we can’t change the world, the Church, our community or ourselves with the snap of a finger.  We must work at change.  Begin by harnessing anger.  Like the Wise men from the East who persevered following the star that led them to the Christ Child, we must continue to follow the star that leads to self-control and self-discipline, as that of the Wise men.  Order and internal silence are graces that we must actively pursue through concrete actions and insistently pray for the grace to move forward, even if it’s one step at a time.

Fourth, this is a time to reconnect with our families, communities, parish and colleagues.  We accept that nothing human is perfect, but we insist on finding the good in every situation.

Joseph was pressed for a solution when he could not find a place for Mary to deliver her firstborn and only son, Jesus Christ.  Yet he did the best he could.  He found a clean cave to serve as the delivery room for the

Birth of Jesus

Son of God and Son of Mary.  He did not express disappointment or frustration because the accommodations were less than

those at an inn or at the home of a relative.  On the contrary, he took what God had provided and made it the first tabernacle in history.  The cave housed the Son of God, body, blood, soul and divinity.  He and Mary welcomed the peasants and shepherds to their “tabernacle” under the rocks.

The birth of Christ proclaimed a new age, an age of redemption for all who were willing to believe and to join the community of believers in fraternity, without class, racial or gender distinctions.  The Holy Family in Bethlehem opened its doors to anyone who wanted to join them.  We too must be willing to open the doors that allow those who would normally be shunned or left out to join our family and with us, contemplate and serve the new born Son of God.  So, we reach out to family, friends, and others in a spirit of humility, acknowledging that it is not us whom others come to find, but the newborn King of Kings.

Prepare for Christmas:

  1. go to confession and do penance,
  2. seek out daily periods of silence,
  3. return order to your life, starting with your surroundings and continuing with your behaviors; and
  4. connect with family, friends, community members, fellow parishioners.  Reach out and welcome others into your spirit of Christmas.

A MERRY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO OUR FRIENDS AND BENEFACTORS

Published in: on December 21, 2018 at 2:30 PM  Comments (1)  

WHAT EVERY CATHOLIC MUST KNOW


December 8, 2018 Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The immaculate conception refers to the conception of Mary the mother of Jesus, even though Jesus was conceived without sin, his conception is celebrated March 25th during the Feast of the Incarnation or Feast of the Annunciation, depending on whether you’re in the Eastern or Western hemisphere.

From the early days of the Church, the Christian community held that Mary was conceived without Original Sin.  She was selected by God the Father, before the creation of the universe as we know it, to be the mother of the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son.  A conception that was to happen without human intervention, only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For centuries theologians debated whether Mary was conceived without sin or was born without sin.

Conceived without original sin:  means that from the very moment that the egg and the sperm cell became a human being, this human being was free of original sin.

Born without original sin:  means that the fetus in the womb had original sin, but through an act of God, was cleansed of the stain of sin, before birth.

There were some biblical indicators that Mary was sinless.

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,

To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Luke 1:26-28)

Saint Luke and the first-generation Christians understood that one who is “full of grace” is filled with God’s life.  God’s life cannot share space with sin.  Gabriel confirms this when he tells Mary two things:  The Lord is with her and she is blessed among women.

Before Mary became pregnant with the child Jesus; God’s divine life filled her soul.  This does not make her divine.  Notice that we say, “God’s divine life”.

Secondly, Gabriel points out to Mary that she is “blessed among women”.  He is referring to every woman before Mary, during her life, and those women born in the future.  No one has been as blessed as Mary.

In Genesis 3:15 God speaks to Satan, represented by the serpent (snakes are not devils), he said,  I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, . . . “

By enmity it is understood that there was to be no interaction between “the woman” and Satan.  She was protected from the devil since time began.  When God sentences Adam and Eve, he predicts that there will be a woman whom Satan cannot touch, because there is a “buffer” of grace between the woman and the devil.  We understand this woman to be Mary.  Who else could be the enemy to “Satan’s seed” if it were not Jesus Christ, the seed of Mary?

Why would God create a woman who never had contact with sin, not even Original Sin?

Because she was the be his son’s mother.  Jesus is sinless.  Reason tells us that he would not be conceived in the womb of a woman who had any contact with sin, even if it was before she was born.  The womb that bore him who was to be the Unblemished Lamb had to be unblemished before he was conceived.  To prevent Mary’s womb from contamination with sin, she was conceived without Original Sin.

During the Middle Ages, a Franciscan scholar (Bl. John Scotus) pointed out:

God can do this.  It was appropriate that God do this, So, he did it.  Nothing is impossible for God.

Finally, in 1854, with the Bull Ineffabilis, Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and put permanent closure on the discussion regarding Mary’s own conception and protection from Original Sin.

 “… We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful”

Observe the words of Pope Pius IX:  declare, pronounce and define.  He is stating a fact, not a theological opinion.  He states that she was free of any stain of Original sin, “from the first moment of her conception.” 

Mary was not cleansed from Original Sin while in the womb.  She came into existence in the womb, free of Original Sin.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross redeemed every man and woman before him, during his time, and those to come.  Christ redeems his mother before the soul enters the fertilized egg in Anne’s womb.

The Immaculate Conception is not an opinion or a theory, it is a fact that every Catholic must believe or you’re not Catholic.  At the time of our baptism, our parents swore that they believed everything that the Catholic Church teaches and believes.  They handed down their Catholic faith to us.  We cannot claim ignorance.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary is the Father’s gift to the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Published in: on December 3, 2018 at 5:06 PM  Comments (1)  

Franciscans of Life in Defense of the Family


While driving down the road to Mass, I noticed a trailer park that I had not seen nor heard of before.  It sits in the center of a middle-class neighborhood.  It looked overcrowded with trailers.  There was no paved road leading into the development.  People lived in trailers, not mobile homes.  The trailers did not appear to be sturdy nor new.  They looked rather shabby.  For a moment, I saw a woman walking through the trailer park.  I did not have time to take a close look at her, which would probably have been rude.  Her clothes gave her away as a member of a low economic class.

A trailer park. (c) Caren Mack Photography

When we arrived at the church, I began to pray; but all I could think of was that trailer park and the woman. Questions began to surface in my mind.

  1. Why did people live in such a place? It’s not a safe place.  A hurricane can come through and destroy many of the old trailers in the park and hurt many more people like the woman whom I saw.
  2. Were the men and women who lived in this poverty the people who came to our emergency pregnancy centers looking for an abortion; which is contrary to what we do.
  3. How long had they lived in such a state that they had begun to take it as “normal”?

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

As a human community, a social body and as a Church, no effort should be spared to help these families safeguard family values, from respect to unborn life and senior citizens who often need assistance to accomplish the tasks of daily living.  The first and most important value is the family itself.  Any attempt to alter the natural definition of family contributes to the creation of such impoverished communities.  Until we acknowledge the dignity of the family brought together through matrimony and that no other type of relationship is analogous to this divine plan, there will not exist the indispensable human act, the recognition of the world’s obligation to protect the family not redefine it.

(c) Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The promotion of the family is the first step in the process of protection.  Protection is a process.  It is not a single isolated act, legislation or moral law.  To eliminate impoverished communities such as what I describe above, Catholics must cooperate with each other and organizations to protect the definition of the family, to identify what humanity needs to maintain families in healthy environments, and activate systems within the political, industrial and ecclesial world that recognizes that these are real families living in squalid conditions.

Until the world recognizes that natural society is founded on marriage and procreation, we will continue to focus on meeting the demands of those who lobby for marriages and family structures that are inconsistent with God’s plan for humanity.  One can say that the energy, time and money involved in redefining family and parenthood has been stolen from the poor.

Special interest groups do require our attention and services.  It would be a great injustice to ignore the dignity, needs and humanity of special interest groups.  However, our outreach must be rounded, like the flame of a camp fire.  You can sit on any side of the fire and feel its warmth and use the light that such a fire gives off.  If we redefine the properties of fire and force it to fit into our definitions, those who are in search natural fire are ignored.  Attention, protection and support is usually provided to those with deep pockets.  If there is anything left of the flame, we allow those who are poor to gather around a dying flame in search of a little light and warmth.

Catholics must pay close attention to Saint James when he says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  We cannot just say that we believe in the family and its place in society.  Catholics must engage legislators, business people, and other members of the community to protect the social priority of the family.  When this happens, our eyes will be opened, and we will see those families who have been left out of the mainstream.

 

It does not take much: volunteering an hour or two a week, tutoring their children, educate the adults in the real meaning of family and provide them with some of the basic supplies needed to begin to work toward the expression of the family that was Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Our families must reflect the family of Nazareth, not through stories, paintings or statues; but by our everyday lives.

 


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Brother Jay Learns Meekness and Firmness from Caring Healthcare Professionals


OK!  So where has Brother Jay been since March?  I was on dialysis for three months.  But my kidney function improved.  It’s not perfect, but it works.  Doctor says I may need dialysis in the future, but not for now.

I miss the people in the dialysis center.  You get the same people scheduled at the same time, after a while you become family.  The patients were very nice.Male Doctor Holding Clipboard

What can I say about the staff?  Nurses, technicians, doctors and administration were the most delightfully people I Dialysis device with rotating pumps.have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  Best of all, they knew what they were doing, and everyone walked by and greeted you.  For me, it was an example of Christian service.

Let’s stop and think how often we lose our patience with a spouse, a child, an older parent, or a disabled family member.  Do we remember that Mary, the Mother of the Lord, did a charitable act going to Elizabeth, even though she was pregnant too?  Read the Magnificat in Luke’s Gospel.  Mary begins saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  She doesn’t begin the conversation telling Elizabeth how tired she was.  Riding on camels and donkeys, up to the highlands of Palestine was not an easy trip.  Then there was always the fear of highway robbers.  We never hear Mary complain.  However, let us not confuse meekness with weakness.

Going back to the dialysis center, the staff was very meek and gentle, but when they had to be demanding with the patients, they could be very straightforward, without being rude or authoritarian.  They often gave the patient a choice between A and B, explaining the risks involved in both choices.  They stepped back and let you discern what you wanted to do.  Every choice had to be explained.  You couldn’t choose A because it sounded better than B.  You were expected to explain why you believed A was better than B for you.

Let’s go back to the Mother of the Lord.  When Jesus was 12-years old, he, Mary and Joseph made a family pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  On the third day of the return trip, Joseph and Mary realize that Jesus was not with them.  They retrace their travels back to Jerusalem, hoping to find him.  When they find him, something very interesting happened.

It is not Joseph who asks Jesus to explain himself, which would have been his right as the patriarch of the Holy Family.  It was his mother who spoke up.  This was at a time in Jewish history when women didn’t speak before their husbands.  They certainly could not walk freely around the temple.  Certain parts were off limits to women.

Mary does not concern herself with man-made laws.  She was a mother, concerned for her son.  When she finds him, her dialogue with him is not as poetic as her dialogue with Elizabeth.  She said, “Why have you done this to us?  Don’t you know that your father and I have been looking for you for three days?”

Mary is very firm with her son.  She wants an explanation; but she does not raise her voice or humiliate Jesus to release their anxiety or vent their anger.  She simply laid out the facts.  When Jesus responded, she didn’t quite understand his response.  “Don’t you know that I am about my Father’s work?”  Then he went and was obedient unto them.”

Granted, we’re not all are Mary and Joseph and not every child is Jesus, but the lesson remains applicable.  A truly caring person, whether it’s a parent or a nurse, knoRelated imagews the difference between being clear and firm, and being punitive and unwilling to listen to the other person.

In both scenarios, Mary models for us what I call “grace filled behavior.”  She doesn’t complain about her trip from Nazareth to Elizabeth’s.  She acknowledges that all the good that has surrounded her during her entire life, comes from God.  She doesn’t assault her son with questions and whining about the fear they experienced.  This would be very typical of us.  She asks him what she wants to know.  When he answers, she acknowledges that it’s a reasonable response and says nothing more.  She treasures these things in her heart.

The people that I met at the dialysis center, often reminded me of Mary.  I took every opportunity to let them know.  Most, even the Catholics, don’t connect the dots between the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and their lives today.  Humanity does not change as quickly as technology and fashions do.

When Mary plays a role in our lives, meaning that she’s not just a holy woman whom we crown every year in May and place her in a manger at Christmas, we experience how real she is in our lives.  She is alive in body and soul, always near us, hoping that we call on her to teach us meekness and firmness or strength, without the shouting, insults, complaining, and punishment that can often do incredible damage to a relationship between two people.

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