It Seems Fitting!


We have observed in the span of a few days, some major celebrations, namely the feast of our patron Saint Maximilian Kolbe OFM Conv., confessor and martyr, and the great Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady!

The fact that St. Max was martyred on the vigil of the Assumption and his body cremated in the ovens of Auschwitz is no coincidence. He spent his existence at the service of his Queen, striving to earn the two spiritual crowns She had offered him when just a boy – purity and martyrdom – and he once wrote to his brothers:

Would that my ashes might be scattered to the four winds in order to bring Jesus to souls, to bring to them the cause of His Mother and our Mary!

We invite you to read more about St. Max on our blog as well as on St. Max’s Parish website, but in this article we’d like to highlight the glory that is the Assumption (known in some places as the Dormition) of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Had you attended the 11 AM Mass this morning at St. Max, you’d have heard a wonderful theological sermon on the subject by our good friend and “out of the ordinary” preacher, Dcn. Pierre. You were right – I should have taken notes!

We will however do our best to celebrate the momentous occurrence with a few words.

Fr. Ludwig Ott wrote in his eminent work on Dogmatic Theology, “it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death…” and, on that same note, St. John Damascene wrote:

It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.

“Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14” (as quoted by Ven. Pius XII)

and, in a more “eastern” tone, bishop Theoteknos of Livia wrote:

It was fitting that the most holy body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory, should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in Glory, with her soul pleasing to God.

The Venerable Pius XII, who infallibly defined what the Church always believed on this matter in his Apostolic Constitution “Muneficentissimus Deus” on November 1st, 1950, also wrote in the same document:

Immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.

Such is a summary of a doctrine that was already believed and accepted by Christianity from the very beginning! Indeed Ven. Pius XII reminds us:

the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree…it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ’s faithful

It seems fitting. St. Paul makes it clear in his first letter to the Corinthians:

I delivered to you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: and that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven.

[…] if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain […] But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep […]

For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in their own order: the firstfruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming.

Our Lord Jesus Christ never found more perfect believer in his coming that She who conceived Him in her immaculate womb, so much so that Christ Himself found it fitting to underscore this aspect of the Immaculata’s glory:

A certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: “Blessed is the womb that bore thee…” But He said: “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it!”

Luke 11:27-28

This is emphasized in today’s Gospel readings in the words of St. Elizabeth:

How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!

This blessing, this glory, is in primis of Our Lady, the perfect disciple. In imitation of Christ, she died, was buried, rose again, and she was seen by so many witnesses (we bear in mind in a special way St. Francis, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Bernadette…though so many from the very early days of the Church attest to Her visits and support…).

Yet, a most kind mother, and in perfect alignment with the divine economy, she wills us to be her imitators in her belief until that glorious day when we, too, will be reunited to our glorified bodies and rejoice with the angels and the saints, God willing.

What Deacon Pierre stated this morning, St. Ambrose made extremely clear in one of his own homilies:

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit after con­ceiving a son; Mary was filled before. “You are blessed,” said Elizabeth, “because you have believed.”

You too are blessed because you have heard and be­lieved. The soul of every believer conceives and brings forth the Word of God and recognizes his works. Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to glorify the Lord. Let her spirit be in each of you to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one Mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ by faith. Every soul free from contamination of sin and inviolate in its purity can receive the Word of God.

from the Little Office of the B.V.M.

Oh, Immaculata, beloved mother, who in your great sorrow consoled your Lord and Savior on the way to Calvary, rejoice and be glad, for today He in His great joy consoles you on the way to Eternity! Pray for us, your children, your servants! We are all yours, o Mary, this is our fiat to you, o Immaculata, that through your intercession we poor sinners may be made fit instruments to extend the kingdom of Christ!

Image edited by one of our brothers, based on the icon of the IV Station of the Cross at St Maximilian Kolbe Parish

“remember me, your poor mother…”


Today many Franciscan communities celebrate as a Solemnity the feast of our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, Virgin.

(holy card courtesy of the Poor Clares of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery)

Born of a noble family, she chose to follow the example of her townsman St. Francis, wishing to follow the Lord with her whole heart in an austere life of poverty, but rich in the practice of charity and loving care.

She professed vows in the hands of Saint Francis on March 18, 1212, thus founding the “second order”, whose nuns would be first known as Poor Ladies. (In her honor, in 1263 Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare.)

St. Damiano – where Christ had deigned to speak to St. Francis – was eventually the chosen residence of their first community. St. Clare was joined by her sister Agnes and even by her own mother!

Much could be said about their spiritual relationship to the other Franciscan orders, and to how she encouraged and supported St. Francis (particularly after he received the Stigmata, whose secret he kept from all but a few…)….of her miracles…of how she protected Assisi…but perhaps she would like us to remember in particular her Franciscan devotion to holy poverty, whom Franciscan scholars point out as the foremost characteristic of her spirituality.

When Cardinal Ugolino (Pope Gregory IX) imposed the Benedictine rule on them, for years she strived to have a rule in the spirit of Saint Francis for her sisters, and her rule was approved by Pope Innocent IV two days before her death, the privilege of “highest poverty” being the final gift in this earthly life by her Divine Spouse…she died at the age of 60 on August 11, 1253.

“The Apostolic See usually acquiesces in the pious and honest wishes of those who ask that a kindly favor be given them. Therefore, beloved Daughters in the Lord, inclined to your prayers, we confirm with the same apostolic authority the Rule and way of life of your Order…”

“Solet Annuere (1245)”, Pope Innocent IV

At her funeral, Pope Innocent IV insisted the brothers perform the Office for the Virgin Saints rather than the Office for the Dead…indeed, she was formally canonized just two years later by Pope Alexander IV, who would call her “Clara claris praeclara meritis“, “a clear mirror of example”, and would say of her: “O clarity of blessed Clare to be admired!

O blessed poverty who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!” – she would write. And to her Divine Spouse she would say: “Contempt of the world has pleased You more than honors, poverty more than earthly riches“.

She wrote several letters to St. Agnes of Prague, who was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. St. Agnes of Bohemia (as she is also known) refused marriage proposals from the kings of Germany and England, and from the Holy Roman Emperor himself – all for the sake of following in the footsteps of Christ! Her family financed the construction of a monastery in Prague, where she entered with seven other ladies in 1236. Pressured to be elected Abbess, she insisted she be called “senior sister” and often cooked for the sisters. She died on March 2nd 1282, was beatified in 1874, and was canonized in 1989. To one such letter belongs the title of this article, specifically found in today’s Office of Readings:

“Happy indeed is she who is given the grace of sharing this holy way of life, of clinging to it with every fiber of her being…behold the poverty of him who was laid in the manger…What wondrous humility! What astonishing poverty! Note the countless toils and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race…As you meditate in this way remember me, your poor mother, and know that I have inscribed your happy memory deeply on the tablets of my heart”

from a Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes of Prague

I wish to close this post with some of today’s antiphons. They are, in themselves, a powerful summary of our Holy Mother’s life.

Clare was concerned with the things of the Lord to be holy in body and spirit……she wore and humbled her body with fasts…she accounted all else rubbish therefore she found better and more permanent possessions. She spurned the world’s perishable glory to gain Christ.

The hand of the Lord strengthened her, she will therefore be blessed forever. She cast all her care upon God. She hoped in him and he came to her assistance.

Come, let us adore Christ the king whom Clare loved with all her heart.

Proper offices of franciscan saints and blessed in the liturgy of the hours

“I want to send you all to Heaven!”


“[A] lovely, subdued melody floated through the forest above the solitary and forsaken little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, just when a shepherd was passing by with his sheep. The shepherd turned pale and looked up at the fallen-in roof, but there was nothing to be seen. “Have they got an organ now?” he wondered. He pushed the little door open. All was dark and still within. Overhead the music was becoming more and more heavenly, as a hundred golden voices seemed to mingle in counterpoint. “Lord, how beautiful! It’s enough to make one want to die, it’s so beautiful!” he thought, for he was so moved that he could not utter a word. His heart told him what was happening…” 

From “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, Timmermans

August 2nd is coming along, and with it, two happy occasions – the “Great Pardon” (as the Portiuncula Indulgence is known in some places) and the “flocking” of the Franciscans of Life (regulars and externs) to the Motherhouse after a bit of a hiatus from community gatherings.

There will be a note of sadness, as our dearest brother Leo will not be with us for the first time…since his passing on May 26th of 2020. Four hundred years earlier, St. Philip Neri passed away on the very same day. Let’s pray for the repose of our dear brother Leo, and ask in a special way for the intercession of St. Philip, “Pippo Buono” as the Romans called him due to his kind and gentle disposition… All who knew our Brother Leo knew of his natural gentleness and kindness, which is what, perhaps, inspired our Superior to name him Leo at Novitiate, in honor of that first brother Leo, a gentle soul whom St. Francis used to call “ you little lamb of God”.

But this article – which from its prolixity you will most likely know is authored by brother Bernardo – is not so much about our community as it is about the Portiuncula Indulgence! We will go over the Porziuncola, “Santa Maria degli Angeli”, and then we will dig a bit more into the matter of indulgences – a matter of heavenly and motherly love – and its relationship to the wonderful Sacrament of Confession – so, please, stay with us!

On Saint Mary of the Angels, called Porziuncola (“little portion“)

 1704 illustration from “Collis Paradisi Amœnitas, seu Sacri Conventus Assisiensis Historiæ“, as found on p.107 of “The Story of Assisi” by Lina Duff Gordon

If we dig a bit, we find a nice summary by Pope Benedict XV on the salient points regarding this very special place, which we summarize below:

  • It is taught that in the days of Pope Liberius (IV century) pilgrims from Palestine brought here a fragment of the sepulcher of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is to say, the place of the Assumption, and thus was the place named Saint Mary of the Angels.
  • Here St. Francis wrote the rule approved by Pope Innocent III (“admonished by divine vision”, writes Benedict XV).
  • Here Clare, the noble virgin of Assisi, having forsaken the world, was clothed in the poor Franciscan habit, and instituted the second Order.
  • Here also originated the Third Franciscan Order [note of clarification: that of the Penitents, whose ancient rule we follow].
  • By this place were the first Chapters of the Franciscan order, including the famous “Chapter of Matts” of Pentecost.
  • Here St. Francis, after refusing six times, finally agreed that he and the brothers would share a meal with St. Clare and the sisters. It is recounted that their souls glared so brightly that the people from the surrounding areas thought the forest was ablaze.
  • Here St. Francis had a vision of the Lord and Our Lady, and went to Perugia to implore Pope Honorius III in 1216 for a most extraordinary and unusual favor: “that anyone who comes [to the Portiuncola] confessed and penitent be absolved from the punishment and guilt from the day of baptism to the day and hour of entrance in said church”. Such an indulgence was unheard of in those days! Yet, three times did the Supreme Pontiff give his assent. Upon the Saint rejoicing and departing his presence, came the Pope’s affectionate remark and the Saint’s moving reply:
    • You simpleton, where are you going? What proof do you carry?
    • Your word suffices to me! I seek no further instrument, other than the Virgin Mary be the parchment, Christ the notary, and the Angels the witnesses!”.
      • There is a pious story coming from the nephew of one of the early brothers, who accompanied Francis back from Perugia to Assisi. They stopped to rest a while and, upon awakening, St. Francis said: “Brother Masseo,I tell you from God that the Indulgence that the Supreme Pontiff gave me is confirmed in heaven!
  • Here Francis stood by the entrance after returning from Perugia and, stretching his fatherly arms, said to all:

“I want to send you all to heaven!

I announce to you an Indulgence

which I obtained from the mouth of the Supreme Pontiff…”

St. Francis at the Portiuncola, 1226
  • Here Francis implored his Guardian and his brothers to take him to die. 
    • “No, no! To Our Lady of the Angels! – Francis begged – I want to die where I began!” (from “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, by Timmermans)
  • Here that he dictated his wondrous Testament: https://ofm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Testament.pdf
  • Finally, here he died, naked on the floor (ref. Job 1:21), a broken, small 43-year-old man, marked with the Stigmata of the Lord he so loved, surrounded by his brothers who so loved him, under the loud warbling of hundreds of larks soaring heavenward…St. Francis of Assisi, whom Holy Church would call the Seraphic Father, the Alter Christus, but who, in his letters, introduced himself as little brother Francis….the little one….your servant…a worthless and weak man.

On the Great Pardon, or the Portiuncula Indulgence

One scholar wrote: 

“it seems incredible that a perpetual plenary indulgence with no attached condition of almsgiving or personal sacrifice should have been granted in favor of an obscure chapel in Umbria. Yet we have six sworn statements of contemporaries, regulations of the General Chapters of the Order, and 53 pontifical acts of the XIVth century either confirming it or defending it”.  

The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan., 1939), p. 466

This is just as St. Francis had told Pope Honorius: “If it is the work of God, He will make it manifest” – and this He has done – through His Church – through the centuries!

Of this plenary indulgence can benefit the faithful – for themselves or for a deceased as suffrage

(a) either by directly visiting Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Porziuncola shrine it contains (in Assisi)

or (b) by visiting, within the US (to our understanding) a minor basilica, a cathedral, or a parish church.

The conditions, to our understanding, are as follows:

  • Receive absolution in sacramental Confession
    • (in the time period including the 8 days before and the 8 days after the visit of the church)
  • Attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion within the same time period
    • (although it is convenient that this occur on the day the work is performed)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Visit the church
    • …where they will renew the profession of faith through the recitation of the Credo (which, to our understanding, can be either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed…).
    • …and they will recite a Pater (Our Father) to reaffirm their dignity as children of God received in Baptism
    • …and they will pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, condition which is satisfied by reciting one Pater and one Ave, although one may also recite any other prayer if recited for this intention. This would also be fittingly performed on the same day.

On Indulgences in general, and Plenary Indulgences in particular – or, how to gain one

To benefit from an indulgence, the person must be baptized, must not be excommunicated, and hopefully in the state of grace. Furthermore, one must have the general intention of gaining the indulgence, and of course carry out the works mentioned above.

Most importantly, however, for the indulgence to be plenary and not partial, it requires the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin

This has been historically considered the most complex of the conditions: no man, however holy, can call himself free of sin, but many can honestly call themselves free of affection towards sin, to the best of their knowledge!

In 2004, the Apostolic Penitentiary used the following language:

…as long as they are totally free from any desire to relapse into sin…

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20041225_miraculorum-maximum_en.html

On SpiritualDirection.com (an apostolate of the Avila Institute by our kind friend Dan Burke) , Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC writes (we paraphrase!):

“The requirement is not “freedom from all sin“, rather, that “there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce”.

A person should know if he’s in compliance, because an attachment implies a refusal to fix a situation – as when sometimes, deep down, we don’t want to let go of certain sins, even if “small”.

This is quite different from weakness, or habitual sin that is being battled…to souls in these situations, the Church is ready to aid!”

Confession, Reparation…and Indulgences – or, how they are closely related!

Pray to the good Lord to take away any desire, albeit small or hidden, for sins both grave and venial, and go as far as to bring forth in your heart a salutary hatred of sin, remembering that God is all-good and all-loving and that even the smallest sin displeases him. 

After all, what is an indulgence if not but a “continuation” of the Sacrament of Penance? That is to say, “a remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven”? 

We know that the matter of sacramental Confession is the acts of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction.

say NO to sin!

We should strive to a perfect contrition (CCC 1452) and perfect contrition builds more and more on detachment from sin, first from the “great” sins and then from the “small” ones! A devout soul, then, should not find much difficulty in complying with the requirement to be detached from all sin. The rest of us should simply keep working our way there, knowing that it is entirely up to us to not want to sin, while it is entirely a gift of God to bless us with the grace needed to overcome sin. “Without me – says the Lord – you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), but He also says, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), and later, to St. Paul, “my grace is enough for you” (2Cor 12:9).

In the form of the Sacrament, “I absolve you, assuming the penitent did not put any obstacles, such as willfully lying or withholding, or later failing to do any satisfaction, but rather that the penitent had a sincere sorrow for their sins and a firm resolution to avoid them in the future, all their sins from the very moment of Baptism (or from their last Absolution) till that moment are forgiven and remitted through the power of the Keys – even sins that you may have forgotten to mention!

The pains of Purgatory in a painting by Fontebasso

Yet, such forgiveness and remission of sin does not imply the forgiveness of the temporal punishment due to every sin.

Sin carries both a stain and a punishment. When the stain is cleansed from the soul by sacramental absolution, the temporal punishment is not always remitted, except through the remedy of satisfaction, by avoiding near occasions of sin, resolving to sin no more, and doing works of penance. Such satisfaction also atones to our Mother the Church, whom we often forget is injured by our sins, and it also deters others from sin by way of example.

Last but not least, temporal punishment is the reason for Purgatory…the ecclesia dolens… Someone reported that St. Padre Pio once said: “let us do our Purgatory here on earthby accepting everything from God’s hand“. (ref. Job 1:21…again…)

Interiorly, satisfaction heals the wound caused by sin. St. Bernard taught that “the stain is removed from the soul by God’s mercy, while the wound is healed through the remedy of penance…and even then, some scar remains”.

In this we see the great love and care of Holy Mother Church, Bride of Christ and as such minister of Redemption, custodian of that great treasury of expiatory works of Christ and the Saints! By granting an Indulgence, our Mother the Church is coming to our help in ridding us of the temporal punishment we have accumulated by our sins – or, when we apply the indulgence to a faithful departed, to help us help one another!

St. John Paul II summarized this wonderfully in 1999:

“[indulgence] is a sensitive subject, which has suffered historical misunderstandings […]

The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God’s mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great “indulgence” that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins […]   in the logic of the covenant, which is the heart of the whole economy of salvation, this gift does not reach us without our acceptance and response. […] 

[I]t is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual’s personal effort and the Church’s sacramental work.

For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centered on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually “healed” of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the “punishments” […] Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love.

The temporal punishment itself serves as “medicine” to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the “satisfaction” required in the sacrament of Penance.

The meaning of indulgences must be seen against this background of man’s total renewal by the grace of Christ the Redeemer through the Church’s ministry.

The Church has a treasury, then, which is “dispensed” as it were through indulgences. This “distribution” should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of “things”. It is instead the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when – in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints – she asks Him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed […]

We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of “discount” on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion “of all attachment to sin, even venial sin” […]

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God’s mercy and in the marvellous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride.”

St. John Paul II, PP – General Audience – 29 Sep 1999
“Virgo Ecclesia Facta” – the Church is our loving Mother

My Sins and The Nails that Pierced Christ


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholics in Crisis or Crisis among Catholics


During the last 75 years a seed has been planted and nurtured that has confused many Catholics, disappointed others, and persuaded others that much must change within the Catholic Church.  The intensity of the confusion has increased since the closing of the second Vatican council, approximately fifty-years ago.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us: “For even as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . For the body is not one member, but many,” (1Cor 12:12-13a, 14).

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ; but it’s also a human body. “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” (1 Cor 12:27).  The body of Christ is free of any stain.  It is perfect in every sense. There is nothing that man can do to soil Christ’s body.

Saint Paul also tells us that we are individual members of that same body, just as the different members, organs, and systems are individual parts of the human body.  Millions of people suffer from different conditions. For some there is a cure and there are other conditions that can only be stabilized until such time as someone discovers a cure.  People suffer from malnutrition or obesity; these are conditions that can be remedied with proper nutrition and exercise. 

Others suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, COPD, cancer, brain damage and many other conditions for which we have yet to find a cure.  But do we deny the child with juvenile diabetes education, the opportunity to engage in sports, to have friends and to be part of a family and community? Diabetes is the product of a deficient pancreas.  It is not an indicator of a deficient person.

Senior citizens in our families often suffer from hypertension.  High blood pressure does not stop them from being loving parents and grandparents or from making significant contributions in life.  The same is true for many other conditions. A dysfunctional organ is not a sign of a deficient body. The essential value of the body is not lost because of a health problem or disability.

The same is true of the Body of Christ.  Individually, we are organs and systems in in His body.  Just as the human body does not lose its value and dignity because of a health problem, so too the Body of Christ does not loose its sanctity and essence because some organs are flawed.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Christ is greater than the sum of those who make up His Mystical Body, even when some or many are malfunctioning.

Even though there is a lot of misinformation about the Faith and there is an attempt by some to modify the Faith of the Mystical Body so as to make it more palatable to the world and to people of other faiths, the glory and sanctity of Christ’s body is not affected.  The individual parts that make up the body are confused, heretical, misinformed, incompetent, or afraid to stand up for truth.

However, Christ’s Body, the Church, is not confused, heretical, misinformed, incompetent, or afraid the proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Sometimes, it may seem that the Church has lost its essence, which is its sanctity and connection to the head, which is Christ himself. Such a feeling must be dealt with as we deal with biological, physiological, and psychological challenges.

We should never ignore the malfunctioning parts of the body.  On the contrary, we must try to compensate for the dysfunctions of the members of Christ’s body by standing up for the truth, living our Faith as it has been handed down to us from the apostles.  Believing that which has been revealed by God, rather than believing the novelties that men try to claim are of divine inspiration.

Archbishop Charles Chaput once said that confusion is the work of the devil, not the work of the Holy Spirit.  These words are true. That which comes from the Holy Spirit sheds light on our Faith, strengthens us in the Faith, makes clear waters that seemed cloudy.

Anything that contradicts the Faith that has been handed down to us by the Apostles, anything that confuses the faithful rather than shed light in our lives, and anything that introduces something new to the dogmas of the Church, does not come from the Holy Spirit.  At best, it comes from man and, at worst, it comes from Satan himself.

Satan is the great accuser.  But he can only accuse us of our weaknesses.  He does everything in his power to confuse and misguide the believer to cause him to fall so that he may accuse him at the final judgment.  Often, he uses those who should be the pillars of the Faith to misguide us. Let us always remember that popes, bishops, priests and religious are products of their origins, formation, and experiences.  They can make mistakes, even with the best intentions. Only when the pope invokes infallibility does he decree and define free of error. These are not everyday occurrences.

We must always be respectful and helpful.  To complain without helping to make right that which is wrong is just aggravating a situation.  To ridicule, speak badly about a member of the hierarchy, or point fingers, only triggers anger and destroys trust.  The devil loves these kinds of self-righteous protestations.

Do not follow what is inconsistent with the Faith, but do not do harm either. 

There are many ways that one can defend the Faith without becoming a pawn of the devil.  He loves confused Catholics and never stops adding to the confusion. But we have a free will, free intellect, and the fullness of truth.  The only way that we can lose is if we give up our freedom and ignore the truth handed down to us for more than two thousand years.

Published in: on February 11, 2020 at 11:20 AM  Leave a Comment  

Our Catholic Faith


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

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

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

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

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

The Seraphic Father binds us to the True Faith

Advent: time to Remember and Prepare


Most of us enter the Advent season looking forward to the Christmas holiday.  We’re planning meals, making guest list, shopping for gifts or planning to travel.  As we spiral into Christmas, we sail through Advent without taking note of its true meaning.

From our Jewish roots in the Old Testament God invites us to remember.  He supplies the flood and Noah’s ark with the rainbow as a remembrance of His promise never to destroy the earth by water again.

When men tried to reach for Heaven building a tower, God brought it down with His mighty power.  The failure of the tower of Babel reminds us that man cannot reach God by human means, only by the means that God has given us through the Patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Moses.   He speaks to us through the prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezequiel.  Each contact with man was a reminder of who is God and who is man.  Then there were the kings, beginning with Saul, David, Solomon, and others.  Through each new era, using different human beings, God continues to remind us that only He is God and we are His people.

Faithful Jews carefully remembered and protected the memory of these events.  When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, he struck him mute to remind him of God’s power and free will.  Whereas when he appears to the Virgin Mary to announce the conception and birth of the Son of God, he does not need to remind Mary of all the signs that God had given in the past to remind us that He was God.  Mary knew exactly what Gabriel was talking about.  She was a faithful daughter of Israel who remembered the Lord’s great signs in the past and the prophecies that promised a redeemer.  She does not ask Gabriel for proof. She raises only one question, “How is this to be, since I do not know man?”

The encounter between Mary and Gabriel is the beginning of the first Advent in history.  God goes beyond communicating His expectations and plans for humanity.  Through Mary, he throws Israel into the future, into things to come that the prophets and patriarchs had foretold.    God doesn’t deny humanity knowledge of His power and providence: “Nothing is impossible for God.”

Instead of giving Mary more laws and more guidance, He announces His break into human history.  The Incarnation is a historical event that reminds us of God’s great love for humanity, especially Israel.  The Incarnation is also the singular event that sets in motion anticipation for Him who is to come.  To believe that God can and is going to break into human history, we must remember the past.The memories of what God communicated in the past explain the reason for the birth of Christ. This was a period of reflection and anticipation of what was coming.  It was the words spoken through God’s chosen instruments and events in the past that clarified who was to come and why He was coming.  From the moment of the Incarnation to the day of Christ’s birth, those who remembered God’s operation the past understood that God’s activity did not end with the last prophet.  On the contrary, God’s activity was about to be personalized.

The Second Person of the Holy Trinity was coming to redeem us from sin and save us from our indifference, lust for power and pleasure, our search for comfort in worldly things while forgetting that which comes beyond our life on earth. He planned to enter the world to redeem humanity from its sin, to save us from ourselves. God’s plan for redemption was not going to be influenced by the sins, beliefs, and practices of Israel.  Man could do nothing to prevent the Creator of human history to enter human history.

Advent did not end with the birth of Christ.  Nor did it end with His Passion and Resurrection.  Jesus left us with much to remember, the Beatitudes, the corporal works of mercy, moral teachings, and most importantly, Himself present in the consecrated host that we receive and that we adore.

He promised to return.  But this time, not to redeem humanity.  He has already done this.  He promised to return to judge the living and the dead.  Those who remembered everything that God has revealed through human history and lived accordingly, will be saved.  Those who choose not to remember cannot possibly prepare for the advent of Christ as judge.

Most of us are comfortable with ourselves, because we never examine our thoughts, actions, and beliefs using the everything that God has revealed and promised.  We fail to live according to God’s plan.  Like the builders of the Tower of Babel, we dream and work on our achievements, not knowing if they’ll ever become reality.  The only reality of which we can be sure is that Christ does not lie.  He promised to come as a judge and king, he will not digress from this plan.

We can continue to ignore what God has told us to remember, ignore what Christ did, ignore what the Apostles handed down to us, and live our lives according to our plan not knowing if our plan conforms to God’s plan.

Or, we can choose to examine our plans, thoughts, desires, and actions against the background of Revelation, and to turn away from everything that distances us from God, everything that condemns us to eternal damnation.

Advent is a time to reflect on what God has taught and done for us to prepare for His second coming.

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  Comments (1)  

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)