Divine Mercy Sunday – Remember Me


As we approach the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, it is important that we understand what the Lord Jesus meant when he spoke about mercy, in the Scriptures and to Sister Faustina.

There are some very conservative Catholics within the Traditionalist community who do not trust Sister Faustina’s visions and dialogue with Jesus.  At the other extreme, many Catholics focus solely on the humanitarian dimension of the Gospel and on the hot button issues of today; these Catholics have watered down God’s Mercy.  They have interpreted God’s mercy to mean the same as “good works”.  Neither group leaves room for God to be God.  God must do and speak according to a script as they conceive it.  In the end, both groups deny God’s freedom.

The extreme conservative asks for a reason behind Mercy Sunday.  After all, we have the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  The other extreme likes Divine Mercy Sunday, because it’s new and because it says what they want it to say about good works and it affirms their presumption of God’s forgiveness and mercy; so, they believe.

Original “Divine Mercy” painting prepared under the guidance of Sr. Faustina and her Spiritual Director

The truth is that God’s mercy is infinite and available to anyone who asks for it.  The infinity of God’s mercy should comfort us.  God’s mercy is infinitely greater than his creation.  Man is his crown jewel and we know that God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is of man’s doing, not God’s doing.  Since it is man who sins, then man is superior to sin or greater than sin.  This greatness does not relieve him of his responsibility.  On the contrary, it points to man’s sinful will and his obligation to atone and ask for mercy.

God’s mercy is infinite.  Man is God’s creation.  God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is man’s creation.  Man is greater than sin.  If God is infinitely greater than man, then he is infinitely greater than sin.  The only sin that God cannot forgive is the one that we believe surpasses God’s power to forgive.  Such a mindset places the supremacy of sin over the breadth and scope of God’s mercy.  Believing that this is the case, the sinner fails to confess his sin, express contrition and ask for forgiveness.

First painting of the Sacred Heart (1780, Batoni), disapproved by Congregation of Rites. The Sacred Heart was first depicted alone. The Congregation of Rites approved these for private devotion, but required the visible figure of the Heart represented externally on the breast of Our Lord for public exposition and veneration.

To benefit from God’s mercy, man must have something to offer in exchange.  He offers contrition and a resolve not to sin again. Some will say, “I know that I’m going to fall again.  I’m human,” or “I have an addiction to a certain sinful behavior.”  This is not the time to worry about this.  We must focus on the present moment and surrender ourselves to God as we are.  We are sinners.  We are contrite and willing to do penance.  We ask for absolution, particularly in the confessional.  From that moment, we are free of sin.

We must never live recklessly, but we must not live in fear of the “next time I sin.”  The more we worry about the next time, the more likely we are to fall sooner.  The enemy has a way of taking advantage of our fears and using them against us, to the point that what we believe to be moral caution is a temptation; because our minds are not free of a particular sin.  We must place ourselves in the hands of the Immaculate and go forward, doing whatever he asks us to do in the present moment.

Not only is God’s mercy infinite, but it is always available.  God never tires of forgiving us.  It is we who tire of begging for forgiveness.  Let us take the example of the “good thief”.  At the eleventh hour he said to Jesus, Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  The first two words say it all.  “Remember me”.  He believed in Christ’s mercy, even though he was about to die and no time to atone for his sins.

Painting of Christ and St. Dismas, the “Good Thief” – unknown author

Why does he request that Christ remember him?  Because deep in his heart he knows that Christ’s mercy is available for the asking, even when Christ himself was about to breathe his last dying breath.  Christ was on the cross to save the world, not to condemn it.  The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s mercy.

Only the perfect man can offer the perfect act of atonement for humanity’s sins.  Human parents could not conceive a perfect son.  However, God the Holy Spirit and Mary of Nazareth can and did do conceive such a perfect son.  He is Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  Out of mercy, God becomes man.  From his side, he poured blood and water, his humanity and his divinity, poured out of mercy for us.  It was not for his benefit.  Who in human history, besides the Immaculate Conception, has no need to appeal to God’s mercy?

Divine Mercy Sunday is neither a feel-good day for our acts of charity and compassion for our neighbor; nor is it a replacement for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  Mercy Sunday reminds us that we can trust Jesus, because he poured himself on the cross out of mercy for us and to prove the veracity of his sacrifice, he rose on the third day.  On Mercy Sunday, it is Jesus who speaks the words of the good thief, “Remember me.”  To which we respond, “Jesus I trust you.”

Depiction of the Sacred Heart attributed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (c. 1685).

Aftereffects of Holy Mass


The following is a non-exhaustive list of the aftereffects of Holy Mass:

  1. Peace:

My soul and my mind are at peace.  It shows in:

  • The ability to communicate with others (human and animal) in a peaceful manner.
  • The strength to brush off words, events and people that usually rattle me.
  • The absence of anger in my mind, words and actions.

  1. Humility:

The realization that I am what I am before God.  I am nothing more and nothing less, as evidenced by:

  • An effort to present myself to others as I really am:
    1. Without fears
    2. Without pride
    3. Without condescension
    4. With sincerity that is not blunt or offensive
  • Apologizing if I am in the wrong
  • Remembering that I don’t have to do battle with the world

  1. Charity:

I give more to others than what they expect, as evidenced by

  • Greeting with a smile
  • Waiting patiently in the parking lot
  • Yielding the right of way to others
  • Refrain from name calling or ridiculing others
  • Reminding myself that as I treat others, so I treat Christ
  • Avoiding sternness (intimidating rigidity)

  1. Faith:

No doubt that I have witnessed the sacrifice at Calvary and that I have received the body and blood of the living Christ:

  • Comfortable explaining the Eucharist to others
  • Not becoming upset if others are upset that I go to mass too often
  • Remembering that everything in life does not have to be explained to be believed, life has mysteries
  • Aware of God’s presence wherever I go and whatever I do, and of His awareness of my thoughts and intentions


If this is not happening, one must question him or herself: “Am I focusing on the right things?

These are also the sort of things the devout soul – especially the consecrated man or woman – must discuss with a spiritual director.

Published in: on April 3, 2017 at 1:00 AM  Comments (1)  

David and John


How-The-Human-Nervous-System-WorksDuring Lent, many of us agonize over what we should sacrifice during this holy period in preparation for the celebration of Easter.  Chocolate seems to be the most common “expiatory lamb.”

I’ve always wondered how giving up chocolate is a real penance.  I realize that for some people, chocolate is addictive, as is smoking for others.  But is the idea of penance to make ourselves miserable for misery’s sake or is the idea of penance to offer God something in atonement for our sins?

If we look at the Old Testament, David dressed in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of atonement and

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NATHAN REBUKING DAVID FOR HIS SIN

was excoriated by Nathan.  But it was a sign.  His atonement included much more than making a fashion statement.  David fasted.  He dealt more justly with his people, especially those whom he had offended.  He offered the animal sacrifice prescribed in the law.  Above all, he prayed.  Many of the psalms are the product of David’s intense life of penitential prayer.  David has become the model penitential man for the Jewish and Christian people.

 

Another personality that jumps out at us as a model penitent is John the Baptist.  The New Testament tells us that he came dressed in animal skins and ate bugs.  Yuck!  He preached conversion from sin.  His fight against sin cost him his head when he pointed out that Herod was living in an adulterous relationship with his sister-in-law.  David and John are still relevant penitent models.

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JOHN REBUKING HEROD ANTIPAS

David teaches us that atonement for sin goes beyond, “I’m sorry.”  There are consequences that the responsibly contrite person must assume.  This was the king who walked through his kingdom in sackcloth and ashes, dressed as a pauper instead of royal robes.  This was the king who humbled himself before his people admitting that he had sinned against God and against man.  He tried to do something to make it up to both God and man.  David understood and taught that true penance must cost us something and that it should offer a gift to God and man; but it had to be a gift that came from the penitent’s heart, not from his wallet.

John, on the other hand, had no sin for which to atone.  But he knew that many people around him needed to atone for sin.  He did penance for those who didn’t do penance for themselves.   Essential to a penitent life is to bear witness to the Truth.  John proclaims,

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“Behold the Lamb of God, and I must decrease so that he can increase.”  By decreasing, John, like David before him, surrenders the glory that comes from attention and admiration and directs it to God.

Our life should be an on-going Lent.  But during the Great Lent, 40 days before Easter, let us be truly sorry for our sins.  David and John are our models of penance.  We must present ourselves to the world, not in the best possible light, but as we really are, men and women who struggle with human weakness and sin, one hour at a time. True penance reaches out to those around us, especially those who are most in need of our compassion, the man and woman involved in abortion, the adolescent who is rebelling out of control, the neighbor who has lost a loved one, lost a job or is in deep financial crisis.  The person whom we fear is also worthy of our love and prayer, especially those who engage in acts of terrorism, those who molest children, or those who abuse their spouses.

In our family, there is always the one person who is the thorn in the side.  We must have the courage of

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THE INEVITABLE THORN

John and denounce his or her sin.  But we must also have the humility of David and admit that we too are sinners. Finally, let us not forget to proclaim the Truth.  God forgives and embraces a humble man.  Humility is being who we are in the sight of God.  Nothing else.

 

Published in: on March 2, 2017 at 12:23 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Power of Words: Word Control


Nothing on earth does greater harm to the human community than the absence of “word control”.  Word control applies to the written word as well as the spoken word and thoughts.  Those who use social media to express their feelings and opinions can do just a much harm as those who speak recklessly.  We can’t examine every possible situation in life, but we can look at some of the more common misbehaviors and learn what the proper behavior should be.

So, you’re in a bad mood.

One can be in a bad mood for many reasons: fatigue, sleep deprivation, illness, worries, or the aftermath of a conflict.  Being in a bad mood for any of these situations or others is not out of the ordinary for any animal.  Even dogs and cats have good days and bad days.  Is it OK to snap at people, ignore others, command those whom we should not command or simply whine?  Would you allow your dog to snap at you, because he’s in a bad mood or your cat to dig his claws into you?

Alternative appropriate behavior:  The first appropriate behavior is silence. One must bite one’s tongue rather than use it as a sharp cutting edge.

The second appropriate behavior is to be reasonable.  Not everyone around us is our enemy.  Why push others away with our caustic remarks and behaviors?  Remember, everything gets old, even if it comes from people we love.  How long can a parent or a spouse tolerate such behavior?

Body language that sends very clear signals, “Beware of dog,” doesn’t delete our bad mood and certainly does nothing for others.  This can be an open window that allows divisive evil to enter the scene. Smiling at someone who has done no harm can be an act of heroic charity.

Spouses are neither our property nor our children.

There seems to be a mistaken notion, in some homes, that a spouse can be spoken to as if he or she were an indentured servant or a child.  A spouse who believes that he can rattle the other is setting a very poor example of social skills, justice, and charity.  No spouse has the right to command the other to do or not to do something.   Much less does any spouse have the right to lay a hand on the other.  It’s immoral.  It makes a bad situation worse.  Someone can get hurt.  In a home with children, it teaches children that the only way to win is to shout and strike.

Appropriate behavior when you disagree with your spouse:  The best thing to do is to say nothing, initially.  “Let me think about this,” is a perfectly respectful response.  Then you put some distance between you and the other person.  Avoid, if you can, leaving the house. Nothing is as offensive to a human being than to see a door closing between the person he loves and the self.  At this point, disagreement can feel like dismissiveness.  Taking the dog for a walk is OK; but let the other spouse know that you’re going to walk the dog.  You’re not running away from the disagreement.  Besides, disagreements don’t go away, because we leave.

Once you’re alone, you must be honest with yourself.  You must ask yourself what is that you find disagreeable and why?  Finding something disagreeable, because it’s not the way that I think things should be is not much of an argument.  On the other hand, if the way I think things should be is better for the good of the marriage and the household, then I need to communicate that.  It’s more effective than saying, “I don’t agree,”  “Nope!”

There is a big difference between commanding and bullying a spouse and requesting, suggesting, or simply disagreeing.

Gossiping with yourself

We do this more often than we care to count.  Spreading gossip, where one is telling the truth, exaggerating it or simply lying, is sinful.  It violates several moral laws, the first one being justice.  Everyone has a right to a good reputation.  Not everyone has the need to know about another person’s life.  If someone’s good reputation is damaged, let his actions speak for themselves.  They don’t need your help.

Back to gossiping with oneself. We engage in what I call loop talking.  Loop talking is when we repeat to ourselves every fault that we find in another person.  We repeat it so often that it becomes a loop.  We do it without pushing the play button.  The evil part here is that in time our souls becomes darker and darker with resentment.  When we cross a certain point, it’s very difficult to undo the program that we have installed in our minds.  We need help.

Alternative and appropriate behavior, rather than gossiping to yourself:  If there is someone whom you trust not to spread gossip, such as a confessor, spouse, superior or spiritual director, they may be a good place to “dump” your feelings.

If you find that you’re repeating the same negative thoughts about another person more than 24-hours, it’s time to have a talk with the other person, not a confrontation.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to talk to someone who does not listen or fails to understand.  An attempt to speak to such a person can lead to frustration, anger, hatred and even vindictiveness.  Best not to have that heart-to-heart talk, without a mediator, never alone.

Unless the other person is Satan himself, every human being has something positive that he or she brings to the table.  Very often, these persons have done something good for us.  Taking an inventory of the good that this person has contributed to the group or to my life can be a way of changing the recording.  I’m engaging in a more positive dialogue with myself.

I must always remember, none of us can change another person.  But all of us can do something to change what we think, what we say about others and how we deliver the message.

Everyone disagrees with authority figures at some point in one’s life.

This is not unusual.  When an authority figure asks for something against God’s law, one has no obligation to agree or obey that specific request or command.   People in positions of authority make mistakes.  One can even say that they often make foolish mistakes.

Appropriate response to authority:  We must make sure that the person has the right to command that which he or she commands.  Never forget that those who exercise authority legitimately, have the right to command what is within the scope of their role. This includes things that make no sense to us.  There is no rule that says that people in authority must always make sense.  We hope they do make sense.  But don’t expect that to be the case all the time.

Ask yourself, “Is this request a violation of God’s moral laws?”  You should also ask yourself, “Does this request undermine a command from a higher authority, a person higher in the hierarchy of authority?”

When this is the case, you have a moral duty to explain why you cannot comply.  But you do not have the right to use an aggressive tone of voice, vulgar words, raise your voice, or walk out before the person in authority has the final word.

Remember, your issue is with a very specific command that violates moral duty.  Your issue is not with the person giving the command and much less with the office that he or she occupies.  You must remain close to that person and that office.  Otherwise, you break communion with the person in authority.  What do you do now that you have severed your ties with the person at the top?

Bossy People

There are some people who have difficulty suggesting, requesting, asking for, and least of all persuading others.  They simply speak to others as if they were the authority and the other person the subordinate.

Appropriate behavior for bossy people:  The first suggestion is that if you can’t say it without commanding, being quiet may be a good idea.

Take careful note to whom it is that you’re speaking.  If the other person is the authority and you’re the subordinate, but you’re doing the commanding, you’re probably being rude and in violation of justice.

If you’re the person in authority, remember this.  The most effective person in a position of authority is not authoritarian.  Good leaders are frank, respectful, assertive, kind, and flexible.  They know how to listen and to how much they should listen.

The subordinate person would be wise to let the person in authority have the last word.  If you try to have the last word, you’re letting your pride do the driving.  Humility goes a lot further than arrogance.

Language must be used responsibly.  Language was given to man to express the wonders of life and to communicate Divine Truths.  The world was created when “God said”.  (Genesis).  “In the beginning was the Word”. (John)

Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 3:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

To Women of Faith


This year we have heard much talk on women’s rights and women’s healthcare.

Unfortunately the natural and divine rights of women never form part of the discussion.

When God created woman using whatever method served the ultimate good of women, He instilled into natural law His divine plan for women. Believers and non-believers who are properly educated know of the existence of Natural Law. Human logic cannot deny the existence of Natural Law. Nothing that follows a fixed process is random. It submits to a series of laws that allow the process to repeat itself. These fixed processes are laws that exist independent of human will.

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The first and most significant process is conception. Without conception, a species becomes extinct. The conception of a human being secures the continuity of humanity. The child that is conceived has a purpose, to secure the future of the human race. To fulfill his or her mission, the child must emerge from the womb into the greater world of man. Therefore he follows the logic.

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A human being in the womb has a mission and a place in society. To fulfill that mission and fill in the place that only she can fill, because of her singularity, she must emerge from her mother’s womb. Therefore, we can logically conclude that a human being has the right to be born.

The right to be born is inseparable from a woman’s right to bear children. But a right that is a burden is not much of  a right, unless we understand pregnancy as a burden. If pregnancy were a natural burden, how can it also be nature’s way of securing the continuity of the human race? Can we honestly say that the preservation of humanity is a burden imposed on the female of the human race? Such a conclusion is absurd to the extreme. The conception and birth of a child, under any circumstance and with whatever abilities or disabilities, is not a burden placed or imposed on women.

2017_01_25_christmas_babyConception and pregnancy is one right and at the same time a duty belonging to mother and child. Women who conceive have a right to carry a child to term. They also have a duty to protect the child’s right to be born. A child comes into the world to fulfill a mission, to occupy a place in society that no one else can occupy, and to secure the generativity of the human race.

Therefore, women have a natural right to be mothers. To shame them or frighten them to avoid motherhood is a heinous violation of a natural law that is given only to women. It is a covert form of mind control.

familyThe right to motherhood must be protected by other rights: healthcare, education, safety, protection from abuse and exploitation, equal pay for equal work, and the right to extend herself to family, friends, public service, and to participate as an equal partner with men in business and governance.

For the sake of clarity, equal does not mean the same. A ten-year-old child has the same rights as her mother, but they are also very different. The ten-year-old only gets to exercise these rights when she has the physical, intellectual, and emotional ability to do so.

So too it is between men and women.. Each has the right to those life domains in the measure that he or she is able to do so. The measure of a woman’s ability to exercise other rights is never determined by her male counterpart. The measure to which a woman exercises her rights is dependent on her natural abilities. Neither women nor men can interfere with or deprive one of abilities endowed by nature and by nature’s Creator.

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Published in: on January 26, 2017 at 7:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

Our Forefathers Have Been Betrayed


As we approach the inauguration of a new presidency and the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, I assume that many of our friends expect the Franciscans of Life to say something wise and uplifting.  Try as I did, I was unable to come up with anything wise to say.  Perhaps is the fact that I fell today and lacerated my forehead.  Thank God that my cranium was not currently occupied.  In any case, I can’t come up with some wise and profound comment to make.  So, I’ll let my simple country logic do the talking.

Roe vs Wade must never be forgotten, not only because it made abortion a constitutional right in our country, but it did much more.  It stripped the preborn human being of the right to be born.  Roe vs Wade was one of the most selfish acts that the American people have ever perpetrated on its citizens.

Our Founding Fathers rebelled against a monarchy and parliament that was tyrannical, a king and government that had no respect for the basic human rights of its citizens on the western side of the Atlantic.  As far as the English crown was concerned, the colonists and their descendants were to be silenced when it came to matters that affected their lives, the lives of their families and the future of the kingdom.  We must say “kingdom”, because on July 3, 1776 there was no United States.  There was simply the American colonies and territories of the English Kingdom.

But our forefathers changed all that.  They fought and many gave their lives for the right to live, the right to have a voice about their lives, and the right to choose their future.

Hilary Clinton once said that the unborn CHILD has no constitutional rights.  The issue on the table is not whether the being in the womb is a person, human being, child or other.  The question has been settled.  The being in the womb is a CHILD.

The laws of nature dictate that the child of two human beings cannot be a chimpanzee.  He must be a human being, regardless of his parents’ faults and virtues.

Yet, this human being, who lives in our midst, is denied the right to be born.

We have dared to do the unimaginable.  We have dared betray the memory of those who fought for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We betrayed their dream of a nation where people were given the right to live according to the graces endowed by their Creator, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote.

We have misrepresented the mind of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  In other words, we have hijacked the American dream.

Roe vs Wade limits the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness to those who have the power and cold-heartedness to terminate the life of one who is weaker and defenseless.

Br. Jay, FFV

Video by youtube user on ultrasound of their 8-week baby.

Watch full-screen!

See and hear baby’s heartbeat, watch the 1-inch baby wiggle,
and see description for link to video of 1st year birthday.

Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life

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Christmas in a Galaxy Not So Far Away


Earlier, one of our younger brothers asked me if I had an article to publish for the blog, because he noticed that I wrote several articles this week.  I told him that none of my current articles were Christmas material, to which the young brother asked me for permission to read my articles and determine for himself if any were good Christmas material.  Just a few minutes ago, he approached me and said, “You’re right, none of these articles is Christmas material.”

I was very touched by his interest in publishing a Christmas article written by me, given the fact that he is a much better writer than I am and a lot smarter, he can probably write a better article.

Suddenly, the thought hit me, “There is a dimension of Christmas that is rarely mentioned.”  During the Christmas season, we write beautiful cards and letters wishing our loved ones a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whatever the custom in your family may be.  We inject adrenaline into the household with shopping, travel plans or preparations to welcome friends and loved ones for the holidays.

When we go to Church, be it Midnight Mass or on Christmas Day, we hear beautiful sermons about the birth of Jesus, God’s love for humanity and how Christmas sets the stage for the Cross.  Let’s not forget that Jesus was a child born with a price on his head.  The Holy Family did not travel to Egypt to visit the great pyramids.  The Egyptians and the Canaanites were not the best of neighbors.

Mary and Joseph pick up and go to Egypt out of love for their son.  They wanted to protect him from Herod’s insecurities, which would have concluded in murdering the child along with the rest of the innocents at the time.

The more that I thought about these points and the fact that the young brother was so interested in publishing one of my articles, rather than using a piece of his own exemplary writing, spoke to me about the undercurrent of Christmas.  It is the undercurrent of Christmas that truly counts.  That undercurrent is love.

Just as an undercurrent draws in everything that gets close, so too does the love that is born at Christmas.   Brother wanted to publish one of my articles, not because I’m the best writer in the world.  We all know that’s not true.  He wanted to publish one of my articles because of love.  He loves his superior and his brother.  He rejoices when others learn from his superior’s writings and when they praise what they read.

In a simple request, Brother taught me that the Christmas spirit is truly the Love of God breaking into human history and radiating through every century, every culture and every human being to this day.  Christmas is not simply a happy holiday, it’s a celebration of generous love.  We keep Christmas alive not only when we give gifts, welcome guests or visit others.  Those are just starters.  Once the gifts are unwrapped and the greetings are over, what’s there besides food?

There is the love of God that has broken into our lives and is here to stay.  God’s love is not a feeling, but a living being whom the Father calls “Son.”  The Son of God wants to show all men that they are loved, not just give them a warm Christmas hug and a gift.  He wants to gaze into the eyes of our neighbor, through our eyes and say, “There is something special about you that I believe must be shared with the rest of the world.”

This faith in the giftedness of the brother is the highest expression of love on this side of Heaven.  It makes the birth of Christ closer to home, not as a story of long long ago in another galaxy far far away, as they say in Star Wars.  No, the birth of Christ is God saying to man, “You are special and I will prove it, by sharing in your humanity and lifting you up to my divinity.”

Brother’s request for an article was a subtle message that told me, “You’re special to me.”  This is the true message that the eternal Word of God says to mankind on Christmas morning.

Br. Jay

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“In God We Trust” Really?


I’ve been trying to keep up with news and thoughts by and about Catholics on Facebook.  However, I’m starting to feel somewhat disappointed.  It is naive to believe
St_Setonthat one is going to find much that is worthwhile on Facebook; but occasionally one runs into another person who thinks with clarity and shares his or her thoughts in such a way that encourages us to rise to higher moral ground and to a more intense life of virtue and prayer.

Having said this, I must confess that it has been a great disappointment to find the many priests and consecrated religious who post on Facebook talk about every social and civil ill, encourage people to rise in protest, at times denounce those who do evil, but something is obviously lacking from their posts.  God, Jesus, the Immaculate, prayer, the perfection of charity and atonement for one’s sins and those who don’t do penance.  These are never mentioned.

A good example of this gap in “Catholic” posts is found in discussions on discrimination and racism.  Since the US elections several Catholic bloggers have taken to the Internet to denounce racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination, be due to religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender-dysphoria.   They have denounced politicians, Church hierarchy, business men and women, and other members of society for behaviors that are often cruel and unnecessary, or at times for failing to speak up for the voiceless.

Another important area of life in which we find protesting, finger pointing and even name calling is in religion.  We have politicized religion to such an extent that we now speak of fellow believers using popular political jargon:  liberals and conservatives or novus ordo and traditionalists.

Here too, the language is very often offensive.  At times, it offends because it is vulgar and sometimes it offends because words are used to assassinate someone’s character.  They don’t simply describe an immoral behavior or a statement that contradicts absolute truth.  These are words that encourage hatred.

It is important for all of us to be aware of injustices, abuses and disregard for God and man.  When priests and consecrated religious brothers or sisters write only about the evils and don’t mention what the Scriptures, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium have to say about these things, we fail our people.  People have a right to expect clergy and religious to refer to faith to enlighten human life.  We don’t become priests or religious to be social workers or activists.  Ordination and consecrated life are not essential to the work of an activist.  Conviction is what matters.

I encourage clergy and religious who post on Facebook and in blogs to remember that faith enlightens reason.  Reason enlightened by faith strengthens convictions.  Christ did not come into the world to lead men into a godless revolution.  His followers were to be guided by their faith.  Their faith shed light on the rightness and wrongness around them.  Then they denounced what was wrong and defended what was right.  But they always proclaimed the faith that enlightened them.  Many were martyred for doing so, but there were more converts than martyrs.

Let us look at the world, including the Church, through the eyes of faith.  Let faith help us see what is good and what is evil.  Let faith supply the courage to fight for good and against evil.  Most importantly, never forget to share the faith that drives us, lest others see us as simple social activists or worse.

We who are priests or consecrated men and women have committed our lives to living according to the faith.  The Church has charged us with the duty to proclaim the perfection of charity and the Kingdom of God.  The first step in serving God is to find Him.  The search for God is the search for truth.  We must begin by discerning what God has called each of us to do and how God wants us to go about it.  For priests and religious, the call is not a call to godless social work or godless political activism.

We must never give up and never surrender our awareness of God’s presence in human affairs.  Going into battle for purely human reasons or as some say, for the sake of justice alone, is not the Gospel.  Christ exemplifies true justice.  The exercise of evangelical justice leads man back to the Father.  Christian justice and renewal is built on faith and preached with courage.  There is nothing courageous in insulting another person or group of people.  There is no hope when God is not part of the discussion for justice.

SPARE ME THE LITURGICAL GEOMETRY LESSON


People have been trying to impress upon me and others too, that the “new” form of the mass is horizontal whereas the traditional Latin mass is vertical.  I’ve given this a great deal of thought.  From the perspective of language (not Latin, but words) the traditional Latin mass orients the person’s focus toward the transcendent.  There is no mistake about this.

But there is another mistake, which is to say that the current form of the mass fails to orient us toward the transcendent.

There are two ways to “touch” the transcendent.  One can reach up, or that which is transcendent can reach down to man.  Whether man reaches up or God reaches down, the vertical dimension of worship and Catholic spirituality has never been abrogated.  Rather, the action can be uplifting or incarnational.

I think that it would be fair to say that today’s form of the mass, if and when it’s celebrated as per the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM), has a very dynamic vertical dimension, because it places the focus on God breaking into human history:  the Incarnation.

Everything begins with man reaching out to God asking for forgiveness, during the penitential rite.  This rite is found in both extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Roman rite.  Next, we move to sacred Scripture.  In the ordinary form of the mass, the scriptures are proclaimed in the language of the people.  In the TLM, Latin is usual.  For those who understand Latin or have a missal with the translation, following the proclamation of the scriptures is not a hardship.

Here is where the weakness of both those who love the extraordinary form and those who love the ordinary form of the mass is most visible.  Unfortunately, catechesis in  the Latin Church has been very weak in the area of Sacred Scripture.  To say that many of the religious education books published in the United States could have just as well been produced by Disney Enterprises would not be much of an overstatement.  They fail to convey  the fact that God speaks and we must listen and then respond.

For many Catholics, traditionalists and other, the proclamation of the Sacred Scripture is like story time in elementary school.  Our priests and deacons add to the reduction of the proclamation, because they often fail to mention that what we are about to hear and what we have heard is God’s voice, not the lector’s or the clergyman’s.  Those people are conduits through which God wants to speak to His people.  The vertical quality of the Word of God is obscured by a lack of appreciation on the part of the congregation, poor delivery from those who read it, and very often sermons or homilies that sound more like motivational talks than Divine messages from God to man.

Those who see and hear the voice of God in the proclamation of the Scriptures are definitely praying, because prayer is simply lifting one’s mind and heart to God.  We don’t have to do more.  God does the rest.  During the proclamation of the Scriptures and the homily God calls out to man, as he called out to Adam in the garden, to Abraham, Samuel, and Moses, and to the apostles.  He communicates His love for man and repeats His promise to be save us.

But God also communicates the conditions necessary for salvation.  He reveals to man the moral law that we must observe to be saved.  He offers the means to reconcile, if we violate that law.  He also reveals the consequences for those who violate the moral law and do not repent.

It is during this message that says, “I AM your God and you are my people,” that the soul is intimately tuned in to the voice of God.  But the soul must have a springboard to make the leap from here, into the Word of God.   The springboard for the soul is not an object, but awareness.  We must be aware that it is God who is speaking and that we are commanded to listen carefully.  This is not story time, history class, catechism class or motivational speech to improve your fortune and acquire a younger and better looking wife.  This is the literal voice of God that becomes Incarnate in the Word.  This Word will be offered to the Father in an unbloody sacrifice under the appearance of bread and wine.  Then again, God responds by offering us the Word as spiritual nourishment in Holy Communion.

The horizontal dimension of faith plays an important part in the ordinary form of the mass.  We come to God as a people to fulfill the two Commandments that God gives us, “Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.”   To understand that we relate to each other, not by how we interact at mass, but because of who we ARE, the People of God, and to convert our manners so that everything we do and say reflects God rather than us, adds the horizontal dimension necessary to complete the cross.  This is called ecclesial consciousness.

The ordinary form of the mass provides us with the means to touch and be touched by the Transcendent who speaks directly to us through the Scriptures.  The Word that is proclaimed in the Scripture points our attention to the sacrifice on the altar, which is the life of the Word Himself laid down for our Redemption.  But the Word does not remain in the grave.  It rises and reveals himself to us, glorious and triumphant at every elevation of the sacred host.  He invites us to eat and drink His body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine.  Such great wonder and mystery becomes visible to those who are familiar with the Sacred Scripture, who have an ecclesial consciousness and who attend mass  to present themselves to God, not to fulfill an obligation or to experience the warmth and friendliness of parish life.  Parish life that nurtures the soul is that life which begins with the acknowledgement that the Word has become flesh and is speaking to us.  This is not a replay or a reading of some historical event.  This is reality, more real than the pains of a woman in labor.

 

Br. Jay

The Quiet Amidst the Storm – Part 2


In our previous article on Hurricane Matthew, we closed discussing the attitude of anxiety that can contaminate others during such events, and we mentioned that our Holy Father St. Francis taught us instead to always go through the world filled with the Lord’s peace and joy.

In this article we wish to share a bit more alongside some practical “hints” on how to achieve and maintain inner peace during difficult times.

Transitus at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish

Transitus at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish

On his deathbed, afflicted by physical suffering and by the struggles of the newborn Franciscan family, St. Francis was able to compose his beautiful Canticle, of which we quote only some strophes:

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures…

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather …

 Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water…

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire…

Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation…

Blessed are those who endure in peace…

Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death…

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy willl…

This is the commitment that the brothers take upon themselves when they profess to follow the life of St. Francis, when they commit to become mirrors of perfection.

Such was the inspiration that our Father gave us, that he would inspire other great saints to imitate this model. St. Teresa of Avila would write: “Let nothing disturb you”. St. Ignatius of Loyola would speak of “holy indifference” as “not preferring health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to humiliation, long life to a short one[; instead] wish only for those conditions that will aid our pursuit of the goal for which we have been created”.(Spiritual Exercises) There are many other examples, but  ultimately, they all refer back to the ultimate source of Peace and Joy, the good Lord who once said: “Do not worry about your lives…do not worry about tomorrow!” (Mt 6:25,34).

lighthouses-lighthouse-looking-wide-open-sea-horizon-cloud

Furthermore, as Franciscans of Life, we bear the additional commitment of witnessing to the power and majesty of Life, eternal and all-powerful. “I have come that you may have life, and have it fully” (Jn 10:10). Church Father St. Irenaeus once commented:

“The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already brings life to all living beings on the earth, how much more will the manifestation of the Father by the Word bring life to those who see God.”

In a practical way, we know that “nobody has seen the Father except the one He sent” and that “he who has seen the Son has seen the Father”, as our Lord reminds us of this and St Francis wishes us to imitate this. Therefore the Franciscan of Life, when seeking to proclaim the Gospel of Life, looks at the person of our Lord within his earthly life, particularly at times when He was surrounded by great agitation and nervousness. How did He act? What did He say?

Thus walking unhurriedly amidst a hurried crowd, being polite at a tired stored employee, smiling at an upset customer, helping a frustrated stranger who is looking for batteries, all of these take a different meaning as they proclaim the Light that shines in the darkness.

A friend of our community mentioned to us during a recent conversation that she felt “ashamed” as she, too, was guilty of having rushed through several stores and having been glued before the TV screen following the alert updates. We do not wish you to misunderstand us… as we said, we too went through the necessary preparations, as prudence is a great virtue. There are, however, certain elements that everyone – even those who have not been through years of formation in Franciscan spirituality – can apply in their daily life to find more of that interior silence that helps us maintain the quiet through the storm.

For example, we avoid following the secular news – including weather updates. The Superior, a man who has mastered interior silence, is tasked with following the development of the event – whatever the event may be – and sharing what he considers necessary for the brothers to know.

To build on a metaphor by Thomas Merton, it seems that the media in this day and age has sadly become a sort of “digital acupuncture” designed to stimulate every possible nerve in the human body, to keep us “on the edge”. “Fortunately”, though, our first-world stores come to the rescue with every sort of product that will reinforce our sense of safety by reinforcing our sense of “having” – even when we purchase those items on credit cards and therefore we are increasing our degree of “not having” (that is, if we assume for the sake of the argument that money is something one can “have”, that is, if we assume that money “is” something).

To make things worse, the media – even those with the best intentions – often miss the elephants in the room. Mother Teresa, recently canonized to the great joy of us all and of so many around the world, reminds us that we need not look far in order to find our neighbor in need. Even before we look at Haiti and the Caribbean, we ought to ask ourselves what we can do to help the homeless men and women on the streets of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and many other cities of Miami-Dade and Broward who may not even know that there is a deadly hurricane coming their way. Some of them may not have the means to reach a shelter, others may lack an ID that will allow them access into a shelter. Could we find it in our heart to welcome them into our homes for the length of the emergency?

To turn off the “excitement” of the media and to turn from “self” towards the “other” – here are two very useful ways to maintain inner silence, peace, and joy.

The last suggestion I would like to make comes from the spiritual director of St. Teresa of the Andes, a young Carmelite mystic to whom the Lord revealed that she would die within the month. Upon mentioning this to her spiritual director and asking how to go about the remainder of the month, she was told: “Live as usual, as if you were not going to die“. For, in the words of St. Francis, “blessed are those whom the Lord will find doing His holy will“. Then even dreadful, ugly, scary Death becomes no longer our enemy, but our sister.

Francis_blessing