CONSCIENCE IS NOT A TECTONIC PLATE


We are facing recent proposals to extend access to abortion until the time of birth for any reason.  In the mind of some legislators, if a child is born alive after an abortion attempt, it is justifiable to allow the infant to die.  That is, not to provide and lifesaving medical assistance.

There are some Catholic legislators and politicians who support unrestricted abortion.  When asked about their Catholic faith, the response is usually to claim that the Catholic Church respects the primacy of conscience and in their conscience, they are not committing a sin.  They lean on the documents of Vatican II to justify this position. Others claim that their faith is separate from their politics, because their faith is personal and their political position on abortion is dictated by their constituents.  The worse part of this is that many voters hear or read statements from these politicians and they assume that the politician knows what he or she is talking about.  Nothing can be further from the truth.

In the first place, the primacy of conscience as is exposed in the documents of Vatican II must be understood in a manner consistent with Catholic tradition.  That is, with that which the Church has always believed about conscience.

Neither Vatican II nor any other authority has said that each person has the right to determine what is right and wrong.  The very thought of such is a recipe for anarchy.

The primacy of conscience means that no one has the authority to impose on an individual any action or an ideology that is inconsistent with a well-formed conscience.  A well-formed conscience is one that subscribes to that which the Gospel and the Church have proclaimed as right and wrong.

A Catholic whose conscience is contrary to what the Church has always believed and taught on the right to be born is either acting with an uneducated conscience that does not know the tenets of his or her faith or with a “convenient” conscience that allows him or her to be elected to public service.  This begs the question, is such a person honest?  Do I want someone whose moral convictions are shaped by his or her constituents?  Constituents change.  They subscribe to one thing today and another tomorrow.  Many choose that which is convenient to them and others aren’t aware of the rightness and wrongness of their choice.

Any politician guided by such a fluid set of values is one who has no respect for absolute values.  He or she believes that right and wrong depend on the individual, not on an absolute natural or moral law.  A person who steals should not be condemned for his actions, because his conscience justifies stealing or because he doesn’t know that stealing is immoral.

An individual who alleges to be Catholic but supports and believes that ideas and actions contrary to their faith are morally acceptable in the public square, such a person is unfaithful to the faith that he claims is an important part of his life.  He or she is dishonest.  Such a person lives as a dual human being.  He’s holds one thing to be absolute in his home.  In the political arena right and wrong is not determined by absolute truth, but by the popular mindset.  Rather than standing on firm ground he or she stands on a floating tectonic plate.

Image result for tectonic plates

When right and wrong are determined by modality, the term “absolute” becomes obsolete.  Nothing is right or wrong.  Everything is relative.

Faithful Catholics must form their conscience according to what the Catholic faith has always believed, regardless of what many Catholics do or say.  Catholic truth is Gospel truth.  Gospel truth is not determined by the ideas and actions of men, not even those who are clergy or religious.   Because Father N supports abortion does not mean that he is right.  Father N is stepping outside of what the Church has always believed and has become a magisterium unto himself.  He is an unfaithful priest.  Receive the sacraments from him, but do not follow his teaching if they are contrary to the faith of the Church.

Politicians have the same obligation as any other Catholic to be faithful to the Catholic Church’s long held beliefs.  One cannot allege to be a person of faith and be unfaithful.  This does not mean that a Catholic politician is imposing his Catholic beliefs concerning abortion or any other moral issue on the people he represents.  It means that he represents his constituency with integrity, not a mind that believes one thing today and another tomorrow.  Such a person is not trustworthy, because he or she does not stand on solid ground.  Rather he or she stands on tectonic plates that move randomly.

 

Published in: on September 26, 2019 at 9:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

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)  

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.

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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]

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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The Holy Family: “Plan A”


This Sunday, which is also New Year’s Eve, we celebrate the Holy Family.

In the eyes of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus we find a family that experiences an intense relationship with God while at the same time deeply involved in the everyday struggles of daily life – yes, even Our Lord, who “in every respect was tempted like us yet did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Pious modern considerations aside, we must bear in mind that the Holy Family is not the result of lack of planning. The Incarnation and Nativity of the Savior may have been surprising, but not unplanned. The Holy Family is the very mirror of the Holy Trinity, a mirror thought by the Almighty before the beginning of time and manifested only in the “fullness of time”.

Joseph of Bethlehem, of the line of King David, was not living at Nazareth by coincidence. He did not meet Our Lady by coincidence. They were soulmates. He is the good, faithful, and discrete servant of God, of whom the Church says: “He made him the lord of his household, and prince over all his possessions” (Litany of St. Joseph, 1909). He is the model of fatherhood for the divine Child.

Mary of Nazareth, of the line of King David, was not just any woman. As the ancient Little Breviary says, “In the beginning, before the centuries, I was created, and for eternity I shall remain. In the holy place I ministered before Him” (Eccl. 24) She is the Woman of whom Genesis spoke. She is that virgin handmaiden that would be found with child, a child to be named “God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14). She is the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”.

And what shall we say of the Infant, the Child, the Man Jesus, born in Bethlehem, called from Egypt, known as the Nazarene? He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is our Lord and our God. He is the Just One that rains down from above, the King of Glory who comes, the Hope of the Nations. He is “the Living One, who was dead, and now is alive forever and ever” (Rev 1:18). “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).

The Almighty for whom nothing is impossible has brought forth in the Holy Family the mirror of the domestic Church. As the Holy Father reminds us, the Holy Family is united in pilgrimage, and in doing so it teaches us, and our families, to journey together in a life that is a series of small and big pilgrimages.

This relationship of faith, peace, joy, and deep charity is never isolated and exclusive, but rather always open and welcoming towards the other, the neighbor, even the stranger. Do we not see Our Lady and the preborn Christ undertake a difficult journey and a long stay to visit Elizabeth, mother of the Baptizer? Do we not see relatives of the Lord traveling with, and even dedicating their lives to, our Lord? We hear of “his brothers and sisters”, and of James “the brother of the Lord”, and exegesis teaches us that they were not children of Joseph or Mary, but relatives. Does not the Lord after the Resurrection tell the holy women to go back to the apostles with a message that begins: “Tell my brothers…”? And did He not say, surrounded by the crowd, “he who does the wil of my Father is my brother and sister”? Did Mary not welcome John as her son, and John take Mary as his mother? Has she not called upon us time and again as “her children”?

The Lord came “that we may have life, and have it to the fullness”. The Holy Family proclaims the value and inviolability of human life from the first instant of conception to the very last moment of our life on earth, when we experience natural death as willed by God. In this we have the experience of St. Joseph, patron of a holy death, the first of the Holy Family to end the earthly pilgrimage.

Thousands of years – in fact, millions of years, according to the most widely accepted scientific theories – have passed in the life of humankind. “Grow and multiply” was the commandment given to Adam and Eve, and one of the unfortunate effects of Original Sin (welcomed by some confused scientists as a “survival skill”) was the disordered, unregulated search of a mate not merely for reproduction but also for mutual pleasure, often without any stable bonds. We see this even in some of the early parts of the history of the Chosen People of God, to whom the Lord commands not to commit adultery and not to desire the neighbor’s spouse. We witness it in the astonishment of the crowd when Christ says: “He who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart…what God has united no man can divide”.

God’s perfect plan for the human family, like all things in the economy of salvation, developed over time (our time, since God transcends such limitations). Wisdom and knowledge were given to mankind to bring forth order, stability, and holiness in society and in the world.

However, the same Culture of Death that led to the slaughter of the Innocents and to the unspeakable depravity of the pagan nations has slowly regained its grip upon the world at large, thanks to a slow but steady process of secularization that has broken the divine bond between faith and science and relegated religion to the sphere of the few while building altar upon altar to the Idol of Science, the golden calf of modern mankind, from whose udders all seek to drink a life-giving milk that cannot be and will not be. Nihilism and two world wars have brought disillusionment and despair in the hearts of men. A distorted rebound has led to narcissism, hedonism, and the hyper-sexualization of entire sectors of society.

It was only a matter of time before man’s idolatry brought forth artificial means to regulate birth and, when impossible, to terminate preborn life before, as someone once said, “the pregnancy becomes established”, or even afterwards, for no atrocity of old ages can compare to the sanitized surgical procedures employed in “early termination of pregnancy”, or rather, extermination of the unborn through abortion.

Now we have stores, pharmacies, places once honored as houses of healing, not merely selling means of contraception but in fact “joyfully” promoting abortifacient drugs such as Levonorgestrel, popularly known as “Plan B” or “Take Action”, marketed with the absurd misnomer “emergency contraceptive” based on brand-new definitions of “conception” and “pregnancy”.

From a Facebook pharmacy group

And we see some pharmacists and pharmacy staff react with amusement and even joy at the spike of sales of such products during the Holidays – especially during Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!

The Curse of Babel still weighing heavily upon us, men have become better at verbal engineering than they have at chemical and genetic engineering. Therefore while the methods to tamper with God’s perfect plan for human reproduction are still rather primitive, the Culture of Death has developed beautiful, polished words to define and re-define concepts, with the ultimate goal of rationalize its own selfishness and then, in total delusion, establish it as the superlative of its very essence, speaking of “reproductive healthcare” to describe drugs and surgeries that alter, cut, destroy, and kill. And to all those involved in healthcare, we ask the question – whatever happened of the enlightened ethical principle of Hippocrates, upon whom the medical profession was once bound by oath, which begins with the imperative “Primum, Non Nocere”, “First, Do No Harm”?

The manufacturers of “Plan B” state that their product “is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In addition, it may inhibit implantation by altering the endometrium.” In other words, “Plan B” may cause a newly-conceived embryo to die (and be expelled) because it cannot implant itself in the lining of the womb.

“May” is a vague word. Can it be quantified? Yes, to some degree. Dr. Donna Harrison has written extensively on how when “Plan B” is administered one to two days before the egg is due to be released, then egg release is not reliably prevented and breakthrough ovulation occur 71% of the time. Furthermore, most of those ovulations show luteal-phase defect, namely the ovary does not produce enough progesterone to allow the embryo to survive. So, the embryo formed would not survive long enough to produce a positive pregnancy test.

Can we quantify even further?

Dr Chris Kahlenborn writes that Plan B “has a high potential to work as an abortifacient” and “taken on the day of ovulation or later…it appears to be useless and may actually increase a woman’s risk of becoming pregnant” – a fact verified by pro-Plan B scholars (Trussel, Davidoff). Furthermore, women with a BMI over 30 who take Plan B have a 400% higher failure rate (confirmed by Dr. Anna Glasier).

DOJ recommends Plan B for raped women, but most emergency rooms rarely if ever test women’s ovulatory status (luteinizing hormone and progesterone levels), actually increasing their risk of pregnancy. Dr. Kahlenborn also points out that there is theoretical evidence that Plan B — like other progestins — may cause slowing of tubal transport of the embryo, which increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy (generally fatal for the embryo with or without emergency surgery).

Finally Dr. Kahlenborn mentions that soon we will be able to better quantify the abortifacient effect of “Plan B” through advanced testing – still experimental – that can often detect the presence of pregnancy within 48 hours of fertilization.

But those who state such facts are bound to become pariahs of the academic and research ivory towers, and to be labeled in the public square either with political misnomers or with the good old slogans of “railing against women’s rights”, particularly the “right to choose what to do with her own body” – although it is a fact that the result of a sperm fertilizing an egg is, at best, a new human being and, at worst, a parasite, but in any case an independent being, not part in any way of the mother’s body. And for those who insist on pushing the idea that the fruit of conception “holds the mother hostage for 35-40 weeks”, we must remind you that the mother-preborn relationship is not symbiotic but mutually protective, as countless scientific papers have shown.

In the past Centuy, St. John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI worked arduously in examining views and opinions concerning married life, and especially the correct regulation of births. The result was the groundbreaking, magisterial document “Humanae Vitae”, in which Paul VI, against a worldly tide that sought to strike God’s plan for the family with a “new plan”, declared infallibly that “Marriage…far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces…is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator… that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives… Married love is total…faithful…exclusive…fecund…ordained toward the procreation and education of children”.

While calling upon married couples to embrace responsible parenthood with regards to both biological processes and innate drives and emotions, Paul VI reminded us that there are precepts of natural law, expounded by the magisterium of the Church…established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break. Among these shines forth the fact that “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life” and therefore such an act is not just wrong for Catholics, but is in fact “equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman”.

It is a truth of the faith and a part of natural law that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded, as is direct sterilization and any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation.

While the world and the Culture of Death recoiled in horror at the “atrocious” and “merciless” statement of the Church, lifting up the banners of “overpopulation” and “sexually-transmitted diseases”, and the politically powerful banners of “empowerment of women”, the Holy Father declared in Christ that “though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it…consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.”

Humanae Vitae was prophetic in understanding the consequences that this mindset would have on mankind: “marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards…man may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires…the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law…the responsibility of procreating life…left to the arbitrary decision of men”.

St. John Paul II reinforced this theme in Evangelium Vitae, discussing all new threats to human life. Specifically mentioning contraception and of the more dangerous “contraceptive mentality”, the Holy Father declared that often contraception and abortion are “fruits of the same tree” and that, even when “practised under the pressure of real- life difficulties”, are a great evil, to be avoided at all costs.

In a very concrete, level-headed stance, the Holy Father also reminds us that “in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”

The issue at hand is not the use of this product or that chemical, but what St. John Paul called “an objective “conspiracy against life”, involving even international Institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available [and presenting them] as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom”.

St. John Paul points out that, in partial fulfillment of what Paul VI had written, various declarations of human rights show a remarkable contradiction, namely “the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others”. In other words, this is a Hobbesian “state of war agaist all” in which “man is a wolf to man” and only the fit deserve to survive. Yet “the theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others”!

Furthermore, St. John Paul points out that this distorted, self-centered, and delusional notion of freedom “marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion”, “exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them”. Reaching the heights of contradiction, then, in the Culture of Death “freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others”.

Furthermore, at a biological and psychological level “the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited”.

“Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents.”

Pope Francis emphasized in “Laudato Si” that this mindset extends indeed beyond the care for self and brings a deterioration of the care we have for our common home:

” How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away””.

Pope Francis, living one century later, teaches that the world has gone beyond doctrinal relativism and has embraced “a misguided anthropocentrism, a practical relativism [where human beings] give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative…irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests”. This indeed has given birth to a new idol, this time a true “abomination of desolation”, namely “the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power”, in an inseparable, contradictory spiral of mutual enslaving and annihilation.

In “Amoris Laetitia”, the Holy Father points out yet another very modern issue, namely how “consumerism may deter people from having children, simply so that they can maintain a certain freedom and life-style”. This is certainly not a difficulty in the face of “forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization, and even abortion”, which “the Church strongly rejects”. He further points out that today’s growing trend to either enter marriage in a hasty way or cohabitate without marriage is “selfish, calculating, and petty…[failing] to recognize the rights of another person and to present him or her to society as someone worthy of unconditional love”.

What are we to conclude?

The mindset that seeks to control beyond all natural and moral law ultimately tampers with the very nature of human beings. It is foolish at best, insane at worst, to tamper with something impressive and delicate like the reproductive system, with consequences that transcend the biological and span into psychology, social development, and human ecology.

Our stance on life, parenting, birth control, contraception, and abortion fundamentally alters and determines our relationship with self, other members of our species, our environment, and other species.

Ultimately, the rationale for contracepting is rooted in very simplistic and hedonistic reasons, backed up by cheap science, industry-funded academia, and politically backed organizational policies.

The Culture of Death to whom so many subscribe has developed all sorts of more-or-less-veritable stories (overpopulation, reducing STDs, reducing world hunger, women’s healthcare, reproductive rights) to justify a simple fact, that stands alone in all its base, brainstem-cerebellum (primitive) selfishness: human want to fornicate with as many mates as possible, no commitments, no matter the consequences, based on external consideration and pheromonal drive. Faith-based and religious considerations aside, from a purely evolutionary standpoint one may even go as far as to argue that such an attitude made sense… 2 million years ago! However, today it is nothing but primitive and irresponsible.

Yet in the first world, it is the foundation of “reproductive healthcare” and is being imposed on its citizens, misused for population control of the pariah of society, and exported to third-world countries whose natural resources are more important than their human resources! How can we open our hearts to migrants, if we are involved in a collective effort to reduce their population in their home countries? How can we become welcoming towards the stranger that unjustly has nothing and out of mercy needs everything, when we are hostile towards the very fruit of the womb, who in justice has nothing and deserves everything?

May the contemplation of the Holy Family, so important and dear to St. Francis, lead us back on the Way, that we may understand or at least humbly and wisely submit to God’s perfect plan for humankind.

This Advent, Let Us #ShareJourney


The Franciscans of Life #sharejourney with other Christian brothers and sisters praying for migrant and refugee families throughout the world.

This is part of a global campaign in support of immigrants and refugees launched by the Holy Father in September 2017 and embraced by the Archdiocese of Miami. In the words of H.E. Archbishop Thomas Wenski:

“The ‘Share the Journey’ campaign — which began with Pope Francis showing support and solidarity to the migrant with a simple gesture — will last till September 2019 and aims to shape conversations and actions to answer the Gospel call to love one’s neighbor: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'”

On the afternoon of “gaudete Sunday”, December 17, the Franciscans of Life attended a beautiful prayer service, in English and Spanish, organized by the Teresian Association of Miami, PaxChristi Miami, and the Archdiocese of Miami Office of the Mission. Rooted on the Taize’ spirituality, the service included chants, readings from Sacred Scripture, moments of silence and meditation, and prayers of intercession.

The hosts were very gracious to the attendees, offering them a peaceful prayer environment as well as snacks and beverages (the event lasted from 2 PM to 5 PM and was followed by light refreshment) and the good Lord gave us a wonderful afternoon, neither too warm nor too cold, for those who wished to step into the garden for their prayers and meditations.

We learned of the event through the social media, specifically a post on the Facebook page of the Archdiocese. In this, we are grateful to St. Maximilian Kolbe, our patron saint, who inspires our brothers to be somewhat “non-traditional” in making use of Facebook and every possible means of technology to spread the Gospel and bring all closer to Christ and the Church – of course, under the discipline of our Constitutions and the direction of our Superior.

What can otherwise be a means of dissipation becomes instead a powerful instrument in the hands of the Immaculate. And Our Lady was central in today’s prayer service: a beautiful icon of the “Theotokos” was prominently displayed, and we had occasion to reflect on her very own journey in the Holy Family, first to Bethlehem and then as far as the land of Egypt, as foreigners.

One of the less visible apostolates of our emerging community is our service to the immigrant who is poor and hopeless. This is part of our foundational charism. Most of the work in this area is carried out – again – through technology:

– we have a webpage (http://www.franciscansoflife.org/inmigracion.html) listing resources in Miami-Dade and Broward, which receives hundreds of visits every month.

– we are also contacted via email or contact form by migrants who seek assistance, even in other areas of the U.S. We are always glad to walk with them and point them in what we hope is the right direction.

We also support the immigrant and refugee in other ways:

– first and foremost by prayer and penance;

– second, by attempting to make life easier for them in their country of origin, for instance by supporting relief efforts after natural disasters, offering to collect goods and relay them to Churches or shipping centers from which they will be sent directly to the needy in the affected foreign country;

– third, by fostering tolerance and mutual understanding;

– fourth, by setting aside resources and raising awareness in order to open a “New Skills for Adults Room” for the immigrant poor; find out more about this project and how to help us bring it to life by contacting us via email, form, or on social media – and by reading here and here.

– Fifth, but not last, by supporting many immigrant and refugee fathers with parenting education and material assistance through Project Joseph, our joint venture with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami – for in the end, the most vulnerable member of every population is always the preborn child.

– used with permission –

Here is an excerpt from our Constitutions that summarizes our call to serve the immigrant poor:

“The brothers shall take an active part in any activity sanctioned by the Church for the protection of life.

We offer to serve the immigrant poor, regardless of his or her status.

While we encourage men and women of conscience to find a moral answers to the urgent questions surrounding immigration, our mission goes beyond the temporal and political.

When the crowd realized that they could not get the paralytic to Jesus using ordinary means, they cut an opening into the roof and lowered him into the presence of Christ, an unconventional way of entering a house. However, Jesus did not ask him how he got there or why they had violated the roof. Instead, Jesus ministered to his spiritual and physical needs. He forgave his sins and healed his disability. Like Jesus, we must render unto Caesar what is his and unto God what is God’s.

Like St. Francis, we want to be disciples by imitating the Master. The Master never turned people away. Instead, he turned their lives around.

We pray and hope to bring life into the existence of the immigrant poor who feels that he is a stranger, welcoming and serving him as we would any other member of our family. Jesus comes to us disguised as an immigrant in search of a new life. “I was a stranger and you invited me in,” (Mt. 25:35).

In keeping with the simplicity and universal spirit of fraternity of our Holy Father St. Francis, the brothers are to avoid all forms of partisan politics. They are bound to observe the rules of responsible citizenship as ordained by the Church and the Conference of Bishops, giving witness to the fact that faith enlightens citizenship.

Especially in situations of political conflict, national and international, the brothers shall bear witness to the fact that all life is sacred. They shall engage in works that promote peace among peoples of all nations and shall promote respect and love for every man. Let them take example from St. Maximilian Kolbe, who at the appointed hour gave his life for a man whom he did not know and of a different faith.”

This Sunday and this whole week, when the liturgy of the Church calls us to rejoice for the coming of the Savior, let us remember that, in awaiting that awesome, ultimate Parousia in which Christ will come to us “in a cloud with power and great glory…as lightning that flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other” (Lk 21, 17),  we must also strive to find him daily in our brothers and sisters, for truly He said:

“I am with you always, until the end of the age”

– Mt 28

Published in: on December 17, 2017 at 10:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Power of Christian Parenting


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grandchild

 I’m a dad, a grandfather…and the superior of the Franciscans of Life.  Like many founders before me, I had a family before becoming, Brother Jay.  The youngest member of our family is my delightful granddaughter and everyone’s little princess, Katherine.  Katherine celebrated her first birthday October 2017.  Before going further with Katherine, allow me to construct the context for my reflection.

Election day, 2017, the residents of the state in which my family lives elected a transgender person to the State Legislature.  Some people were very pleased, because we have made progress in inclusiveness.  Other people were very upset, because of the moral questions that arise when one mentions “transgender”.

I’m not going to address said moral concerns, nor the legal and political ones either.  I want to address something more important.  Raising our children in a world that is changing very quickly, a world where many changes conflict with our values, culture and identity as American men and women.  This does not mean that change is bad.  However, we must not fool ourselves into believing that change is always good.  When something works, we keep it.  We get rid of what no longer works and replace it with something else.  Sometimes, we simply live with the void left by that which we jettisoned.

This takes me back to Katherine.  When someone approached me suggesting that Katherine’s parents move to another state to avoid “the immorality” taking place where they live, the immorality being the election of a transgender politician, my immediate reaction was to say that there is no state in the United States, nor country where everyone lives according to the absolutes of natural law, much less guided by faith and morals.

That same week I read an article in one of the conservative Christian newspapers.  The author reported on a very special occasion, the baptism of an infant.  What caught my attention, more than the faith of the writer and the newly baptized child’s family was the author’s reference to the Catholic Church as the Titanic.  He clarified that he believes that the Church will not suffer the fate of the Titanic and sink, but that it’s taking on water and things are out of control.

These two events made me think about how we react to a new life among us.  There seem to be some people for whom the birth of a new person is a source of joy and anxiety.  We rejoice in the birth of our children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.  We should always be aware the good and the bad in the world around us.  How else can be protect our children and teach them to protect themselves.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Those who talk too much about the bad, the ugly, the sinful, the tragedy and the disasters don’t enjoy the birth of a child to its fullest, because they are hypervigilant.  The author of the article that I read and the person who suggested that Katherine’s parents move to another state seem to be hypervigilant.  There is a danger here too.  While we should not ignore the evil in the world, we must always seek ways for our children to thrive despite the world around them.  This takes me to a third experience that I had this week.

parenting006My son-in-law, who is an internationally known photojournalist, always has a lens on hand to record Katherine’s milestones.  Just this week, he sent a photograph and a short video.  In the photograph, Katherine is on her mother’s lap, her eyes are glued on the page of a book that Mama is reading to her.  Katherine’s family: parents, uncles and aunts are avid readers.  From the first week home, everyone took a turn reading to her everything from Dr. Seuss to Cicero.  She seemed to respond to the rhythm of the reading and followed the reader with her eyes.

parenting005Recently she has started to walk.  She now picks up a book that’s interesting to her, takes it to her mother or father, climbs on the couch next to Mom or Dad and demands that they read to her.  Dad captured one of these moments with his “dadmera” (Dad’s Camera).  A few days later, came the short video.  Katherine picked up a book of her choosing, opened it, and started to read it.

Before we decide to send this baby to MENSA, let’s make it perfectly clear.  She was holding the book upside down and was making sounds as her little finger ran across the page, something that she probably sees her parents do when they read to her.

parenting001

Reading time with Uncle Julian!

Katherine never ceases to surprise us.  Her parents are devout Catholics.  Katherine has been attending mass starting the week after she was born.  For a long time, like most babies, she lay in her carrier and slept through the Holy Mass.  When she discovered her voice she also discovered the choir.  When the choir struck up a hymn, Katherine joined them with her melodic babbling.

One Sunday, they were at Holy Mass as usual.  Something interesting happened.  The priest invited called upon the congregation to pray together The Lord’s Prayer, which begins with the words, “Our Father . . .”   To her parents’ amazement, Katherine heard the word “father” and chimed in with her version in Babble.  We have no idea what goes on in the mind of a 12-month old child who sings at mass, joins in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

parenting002My son-in-law deserves to be the “Fatherhood Poster Boy”.  He’s an excellent father.  He’s a black belt in Judo and has taught Katherine some of moves.  She squeals in delight when Dad engages with her. As we have said, Katherine has a very intimate relationship with both parents.  The bond of love expresses itself in reading, and squeals of delight doing Judo with Dad.   It’s too early to try to analyze Katherine’s thoughts.  We can only observe and report the interesting things that we see.

This takes me back to St. Peter’s “Titanic” and the election of the transgender politician.  Are parents like Katherine’s going to find a haven where their daughter will never hear or see anything objectionable.?  Probably not.  Can they stop the world around them from changing for the good and the bad?  Not so sure that’s possible either.  Nor can they bring down the price of housing, healthcare, gas, utilities and other necessities of life.  Like every parent, Katherine’s will have to deal with today’s moral roller coaster, the political hurricanes that come and go, and ideologies that can do serious harm to our minds and souls.

When we look at this little girl thriving, despite everything that’s going on around her, we must ask ourselves the question, “Is anything impossible for God?”

If Katherine’s mother and father continue the “road less traveled” and continue to provide spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and natural stimulation in an environment where she can reach beyond herself, as is the case in the worship of God every Sunday and holy day, Katherine may not grow up untouched by our weakened humanity.  But she will grow up with a taste and a hunger for those blessings that strengthen us for the journey.  Those are: prayer, books, worship, play, exercise, discipline, nutrition, love and good role models.

parenting004

A “Historical” Mass to “Look Back in order to Move Forward”


On Tuesday, August 15 we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The previous day (8/14) is the feast of our Patron St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was killed and cremated at Auschwitz on the eve of the Assumption.

In order to venerate him and Our Lady as a group, the Franciscans of Life made arrangements to attend a special event to which our community has been invited.

Gesu Church, the Jesuit parish in Downtown Miami, will be celebrating a Solemn High Mass in the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite”, on Tuesday 8/15 at 7:15 PM. Our community was invited by the celebrant, Fr. Christian Saenz S.J.

The Celebrant and the Parish

Fr. Saenz, S.J. – (C) Natalia Selin

Fr. Saenz studied at Belen, joined the Society of Jesus in 2002 and was ordained by H.E. Archbishop Wenski in 2011. He currently resides in Rome, where he is pursuing graduate studies.

 

Gesu Church is the most ancient Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Miami. In fact, it pre-dates the establishment of the Archdiocese itself. Until 1952, the entire State was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of St. Augustine, and it was only in 1958 that H.E. Coleman Carroll was installed as the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Miami. It was declared an Archdiocese by 1968.

Stations of the Cross and Stained-Glass Windows at Gesu Church – (C) TripAdvisor

The Church, now a masterpiece of architecture with beautiful stained-glass windows, a majestic organ, and a beautiful Main Altar entirely in marble, was initially built in wood in 1896 by the Jesuits and was known as Holy Name Parish. A new church was built on land donated by Mr. Henry Flagler and by 1925 Gesu Parish was built as it is today. In 1974 it was added to the United States Register of Historic Places.

Front of the Church of Gesu – (C) Natalia Selin

The Liturgy

The liturgy we will attend is the old form of the mass, which Pope Benedict called “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite. This liturgy is the “father” of our current “ordinary form” of the Roman Rite, which was reformed by request of the Second Vatican Council under the authority of Blessed Paul VI.

There are many elements worthy of historical admiration and sacred respect in this form of the mass. For example, the exclusive use of the Latin language, once considered the only liturgical language in the West, as well as the use of Chant and the Organ.

Some elements will be easily recognizable as they carry (though simplified) into the current liturgy.

Some elements will seem new because they did not carry into the new liturgy or became optional. For example: the celebrant faces the Main Altar throughout most of the celebration and prays most of the mass in a low voice (“vox secreta”); alongside the priest and deacon there will be a “subdeacon” who will be tasked with handing the paten and other items to the deacon (the order of the subdeacon was abolished); before mass the celebrant will pray “at the foot of the altar” a psalm and an “act of contrition”; at the end of the mass the celebrant will read the “Last Gospel” (which is actually the first chapter of the Gospel of John); there is a special procession and ritual for the proclamation of the Gospel; there are no Prayers of the Faithful.

Priest (top right), Deacon (top left), Subdeacon (back, holding Paten with Humeral Veil) – (C) Natalia Selin

Some significant variations include: the Sign of Peace is exchanged only between the clerics; the Our Father is prayed aloud only by the priest with the exception of the very last sentence (“et libera nos a malo”, “and deliver us from evil”); the faithful are expected (but not obligated!) to receive Communion on the tongue and by kneeling on the communion rail.

One must attend such a liturgy with an open mindset of gratitude to the Church and to the Holy Spirit for:

(a) unifying the liturgy in the West through the Roman Rite after the Council of Trent (a work which is partially due to the Franciscans, to whom the Roman Rite was first entrusted and who spread it across Europe), placing an emphasis on the transcendence of God and Heaven;

(b) inspiring the Church to adapt to “unity in diversity” by carrying out a reform of the Roman Rite that takes into consideration the cultures, languages, and musical instruments of different peoples who are “one in the Spirit” just like the liturgy is the “One Sacrifice perpetuated throughout time and space”, thus emphasizing the immanence of the God-Man who becomes “all things to all men” and of the People who are “His body”.

It is very unfortunate that a lot of politics – especially in the United States – have mixed with the celebration and attendance of what is called simply “the TLM”. For this reason we do not discuss it often in our blog, though we have touched upon the topic and upon Traditionalist issues from time to time.

One question, however, is worth addressing: what is the official relationship of the Franciscans of Life with the “Traditional Latin Mass”?

First and foremost: we have a historical connection. The Roman Missal was preferred by the Council of Trent “thanks” to the early Franciscans who received it from the Holy Father and made it widespread throughout the Catholic world during 300 years, even though our communities always celebrated it in their own Franciscan way (called the Seraphic Mass) until after the Second Vatican Council. And it is worth of mention that the American Franciscan Liturgical Commission awaits approval from the Holy See for the new Roman-Seraphic Missal adjusted to our own liturgical calendar, never abolished.

St. Pio, OFM Cap., celebrating the Seraphic Mass (moment of the consecration of the host)

Second: our Constitutions define very clearly our brothers’ relationship with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“The Franciscans of Life are to attend mass together and in the Ordinary Form.

With the permission of the superior, they may attend and celebrate mass in the Extraordinary Form or invite a priest to celebrate it for them, as long as the harmony of the house is not affected.

However, the extraordinary should never become the ordinary.

If the Extraordinary Form is to be attended or used, let it be on a day when there is not a conflict with the two calendars so as to avoid missing a feast that is part of our Franciscan patrimony.”

Why would the harmony of the house be affected? Because, unfortunately, there are two common errors in which the inexperienced and unlearned fall:

(1) to consider the old Latin Mass a museum piece or something for nostalgic folks

(2) to consider the old Latin Mass as the highest expression/best mass/true mass/immemorial mass of the ages/mass of the saints.

Both positions are wrong and lead to a schismatic mindset, that is, a mindset of division and mutual rejection.

In 2000 years the Liturgy of the Church of our Lord has undergone a process of development which Pope Benedict describes as a hermeneutics of continuity. Each apostle handed down what he received, but in slightly different ways. A Coptic mass and a Syro-Malabar mass look nothing alike, yet one was handed down by St. Mark and the other by St. Thomas, and both are equally Catholic!

There are dozens of different ways to celebrate the mass in the East as well as in the West. Some religious orders also have their own missals and liturgical traditions.

After attending the TLM on August 15, whether one leaves mass inspired or bored, moved or untouched, one must keep in mind that the old rite was characterized by grandeur, rigidity, and a definite separation between the clergy and the laity. This was a result of 1500 years of historical development within the Western culture and also a response of the Counter-Reformation of Trent to the over-simplifications, customizations, and blending of roles of early Protestant sects.

After the two World Wars the world entered a new phase and the Second Vatican Council was inspired by God to “look back in order to move forward”.

New documents were unveiled which described the liturgy of the early Church (thus the Prayer of the Faithful were reintroduced, alongside the Sign of Peace).

Elements that were added over time and became redundant were removed (such as the reading of the Last Gospel after the mass has technically ended, or the tracing of many signs of the cross and continuous genuflecting).

A more active participation of the people, now mostly literate and with a Bible in their house, was promoted by celebrating the mass in the language of the people.

The “common priesthood” of all the baptized was emphasized by allowing the priest to celebrate mass facing the congregation (although this was always part of the liturgy, since even in the TLM the priest says “Orate fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile faciat apud Deum”, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God”).

While preserving intact and unblemished the holiness of the ministerial priesthood of clerics, the Church did away with roles such as Minor Orders and instead brought forth the laity into the sanctuary through Instituted Lectors and Acolytes, as well as Extraordinary Ministers (women lectors, altar boys and girls, lay ministers of Holy Communion) whose function is to support the priest and deacon when necessary.

Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite celebrated by H.E. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami – (c) The Florida Catholic

It would be foolish to believe that the development of the liturgy has come to an end. The hermeneutics of continuity will not come to a halt until Christ returns in glory. The Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite will continue to influence each other, as will the Eastern and Western rites, and the secular and religious liturgies.

It is a great blessing to be able to “look back in order to move forward” and it is to be hoped that our participation will become more active in the Ordinary Form having “met its parents” and realizing that in this day and age we are called to be people open and receptive to the Holy Spirit “qui ubi vult, spirat” – “that blows wherever and however it wants”.

In the union of the Spirit, rigidity becomes unnecessary, and we are free to let the Spirit fill us with joy that at times expresses itself even loudly and in a way that appears confusing (didn’t King David in all his might dance before the Ark? Weren’t the Apostles called “drunk” after Pentecost, as they praised and worshiped as the Spirit guided them?)

On the other hand, today’s rituals are clearly defined by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) and they provide many options to the celebrant for many occasions, thus avoiding the need for novelties, local customs, and ad-libbing – all of which were quite common during the first 1500 years of liturgical development.

This is a splendid opportunity for two traditions, Jesuit and Franciscan, to celebrate together the Assumption of Our Lady using the liturgical form that we once had in common.

Published in: on August 5, 2017 at 2:26 AM  Comments (2)