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)  

New Year’s Thought from the Franciscans of Life


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

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

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

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

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

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

       

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

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

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

    —>   

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

 

[click to see full-scale picture]

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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