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.

The Case for the Mask – on God’s Care for our Health


The Christmas season is upon us, and I find myself with a few days of “vacation” allowing me to reflect on a number of issues I ordinarily entrust entirely to the Divine Providence. Br. Jay always teaches us, “do not get upset at things you cannot control, focus on preserving interior peace at all times”. Yet these days I have meditated upon some such matters – matters “great, too difficult for me”, if only to remind myself that I am not – and should not – be in control.

During this process, which also involved some online reading, I stumbled upon an article trying to make a case against wearing masks in times of Covid through the arguments of faith and philosophy. I have heard and overheard many arguments for or against masks over the past year, but never had I seen such a bold attempt, and I was moved to address it here. Life calls out to life, and I feel urged to speak in defense of it, inasmuch as I am keenly aware that not wearing masks (among many other precautions) directly increases the spread of this deadly virus.

The article, when read according to the light of the Catholic faith and not someone’s political agenda, actually helps those who strive to be good Christians to understand a few important things, in spite of its flawed conclusions. There are a few key points I wish to quote and go over, not for argumentation but merely for the sake of reflection.

 

(0) “There is not a consensus among doctors and scientists, at the end of 2020, about the infectious nature of [Covid-19] or the efficacy of wearing masks.”

In other words, there is debate about how helpful it is, due to the question of how exactly does the virus work. However, there is no debate as to the fact that masks help. It is a basic tenet of the Faith that people should clearly do what they can to help others, even when it is burdensome to themselves. The crown of thorns was much more burdensome to wear.

 

(1) “It is wholly un-Christian to consider any other human person first as a threat to oneself. Man is called to love his neighbor and to be in communion with him.”

When we encounter our brothers and sisters, we should not consider them a danger to us. Our attitude should be one of love and communion.

Furthermore, we are not called to be apprehensive when we see another human being – unless there is an overt threat to our safety. We are not considering the person to be a threat – the threat is there, invisible, and it is the threat that we single out as a danger, not the person. This is not unlike an early Christian who may have felt fear when seeing an approaching Roman soldier – not so much in his person but in the potential threat of persecution and death. And do not reply that “perfect charity casteth out fear“, for the Good Lord himself “began to fear and to be heavy” at the prospect of His Passion, so much so that he sweat blood, yet He remained firm in the Father’s will, teaching us that it is natural to fear danger, and there is supernatural merit in facing it with God’s help.

 

(2) “Charity is any action we do for God or do for others for the sake of God. If we do not act for the sake of God, the action, while good, is not charity. Is charity actually the reason why many wear masks?

When encountering our brothers and sisters, a loving attitude of communion is reflected when we think that perhaps I may be a carrier unbeknownst to all – even me – and wearing a face mask lowers the risk that my coughing or sneezing or even just talking would expose my neighbor to a potentially deadly disease. My wearing a mask says to my neighbor ” I love you, therefore I am doing something to care for you“. It is both a physical and a spiritual act of charity – physical inasmuch as it aims to protect my neighbor’s health, spiritual inasmuch as I am acting out of love of God and neighbor. I am certainly grateful when a surgeon wears gloves, so let us be grateful when we see each other wearing a face mask.

 

(3) “Masks indirectly promote thinking of others in terms of oneself. ‘You are not wearing a mask; you are a danger to me. You are making me feel uncomfortable by failing to wear a mask.’

Yet a good Christian does indeed focus on himself rather than others, inasmuch as he is called to a personal obedience of God’s will. I must not focus on whether the other is not wearing a mask, but on whether I am. For it is my duty to help, nay, even to lay down my very life for my neighbor. Let us not forget that just yesterday we commemorated St. Stephen, whose last words were to the Father regarding his unjust oppressors, who were killing him: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!” In spite of the “discomfort” that they made him feel, the Protomartyr acted towards them in faith and love.

Does our neighbor’s failure to act on wearing the mask make us feel uncomfortable? I would say that all manners of sin (should) make us feel uncomfortable, whether the sin is an objective reality or a mere subjective understanding of our mind. We see this very clearly in the many occasions when men are scandalized by the actions of the Lord or the Apostles, whom they thought were contravening the Law, and never does the Lord or the Apostles rebuke them, but always do they instruct them to an objective and orthodox understanding of things. Sin is only that which offends the Divine Will, not the will of men. When I see my neighbor failing to wear a mask, and I am stirred to discomfort in what appears to be sin (considering that this act of omission exposes others to potential dangers and also scandalously manifests one’s potential lack of care and concern for neighbor) I must first and foremost be reminded of the Lord who once said: “Do not judge! Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly”… My attitude must also be devoid of all pride: just because I happen to be wearing a mask while others fail to do so (or advocate against it), I must not imitate the proud man who says “O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men”, but rather I must obey the Divine Precept that commands us, “when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.”

 

(4) “Physical health is neither the primary nor the sole determinant of a man’s actions. There are more important realities than bodily health, especially spiritual health.”

Yet it is written, “The light of thy body is thy eye”, and also, “know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?”. The preservation of physical health is part of the Lord’s Holy Will, as he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. It is not above the spiritual health, it is wholly part of spiritual health.

Hence, Christ on the Sabbath allowed His Apostles to contravene the law and pick grains, for they hungered, and the Divine Teacher manifested that in the eyes of God, such an act was fully lawful, as it was already manifested in the days of King David.

The Incarnate Word once rebuked Satan’s temptation by declaring that “Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” Yet after He Himself having spoken to the people, He said to the Apostles, “I have compassion on the multitudes, because they continue with me now three days, and have not what to eat, and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” And lo, He went and performed the astounding sign that is the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes.

Let us not forget other equally wholesome examples such as the Passover Meal, the provision of Manna in the desert, the splitting of the rock to provide water, and many other ways in which God’s Divine Providence has time and again tended to the care of our physical health.

Therefore, a man’s duty to preserve physical health becomes wholly aligned with the Lord’s will when done out of love of God and neighbor and out of reverence for deeper, invisible spiritual realities inherent to man being both flesh and spirit by the Divine Will.

If you are not fully convinced of this argument, consider that consuming wine at a wedding is not a health nor a nutritional necessity, yet the good Lord deigns to provide wine at Cana in a miraculous way, thus meeting a much simpler need – yet we know that there was a profound spiritual significance to His action.

Let us also remember that we do not need to see, hear, or walk in order to go to Heaven – yet, time and again the Lord has mercifully healed such merely physical needs, and the Blessed Virgin herself deigned – and still deigns – to intercede for the healing of many at the miraculous spring of Lourdes.

Holy Church herself was gifted by Christ with a Sacrament specifically intended to heal the physical health: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”. Clearly, there is a deep relationship between physical and spiritual health. “For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or ‘Arise and walk’?”

 

(5) “When one looks at the body, to the exclusion of the face, one encounters an object, a thing, rather than a person. Objects are meant to be used; that is, to be used as a means to an end. Persons are primarily subjects to be known and loved.”

We must always encounter and commune with our brothers and sisters in the way God intended us to: as our brothers, human beings with a body and

a soul. Different cultures and standards lead to wearing more – or less – articles of clothing, and it has been one of the sharpest thorns of modern secular culture to promote objectification by means of the removal of clothing, whereby most contradictorily to the original tenet, it is the lack of coverage and not its presence, which leads to objectification. When we encounter a fellow human being, whether he or she wears a mask or not, whether he or she wears something that makes us feel uncomfortable or not, we always approach them with the same love that Christ modeled for us. Why, I have no doubt that on his first encounters with the Touareg – their face fully covered by the tagelmust and their voice absent or altogether incomprehensible – Blessed Charles de Foucauld still managed to commune with them in the love of Christ, so much so that he became known to them as “the Christian Marabout” (“holy man”).

 

 

(6) “Man communicates most profoundly with his face—with words, looks, facial expressions. [The mask] muffles the human voice; it hides the human smile; it obscures the deeply human facial expressions which are integral to forming human friendships.”

The Holy Father with Mr. Oreste Tornani

Yet the Seraphic Doctor recounts in his Vita Maior [p.1 c.1] that one day St. Francis met a leper and “felt sick at the sight of him”. Given this sharp description and the knowledge most of us have of the terrible progression of Hansen’s disease, it is fairly possible that the leper no longer had what we commonly describe as a face, or at least was unable to produce facial expressions beyond terrible distress. Yet Bonaventure recalls that Saint Francis “remembered his resolve to be perfect and the need to overcome himself first”, and proceeded to show brotherly love to the sick man.

This story, as do many others – I am reminded of the entire life of St. Damien of Molokai – show that the burden is on us to perceive, understand, and treat our neighbor with love, rather than blaming them – or their lack of facial expressions or voice – for “obstructing the development of genuine community“, as that article does (perhaps inadvertently).

The Holy Father with Mr. Vinicio Riva.

Let us strive in these difficult times to show ourselves ever more empathetic and comprehensive towards one another when we do not have the luxury of being able to expose our face without risk to our health – an experience quite common in places of extreme heat or cold, or in general in the field of healthcare.

 

 

In conclusion, let us cast aside – if only for a moment – all manner of ecclesial or secular politicking, and be reminded that it is but a small act of love to wear a face mask and keep a 6 ft distance from our neighbors during times of pandemic. It is on us to embrace these measures out of love of God and neighbor and to strive to show even more love and care than under usual circumstances to our brothers and sisters who – no doubt about it – live in a world that is making of fear one of its primary movers.

Please forgive any imprecisions in my writing – these are merely my thoughts – and please pray for the end of this health crisis through the special intercession of St. Joseph most obedient, terror of demons, patron of the Church,  mirror of patience. By the will of the Holy Father, we are now in his year, so let us reach out to him, now more than ever!

Br. Bernardo D’Carmine, a sinner.

St. Joseph, Pray For Us

 

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.

The Palm Branch, the Needle on Our Compass


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we Minions?


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About two years ago, Brother Bernardo convinced me to see one of the Minions films. For those who have seen the movies, I refer to the first, titled “Despicable Me,” in English. I have no idea what it’s called in Spanish. In any case, the film seemed nice, but nothing special.

Last week, Brother Bernardo exposed me to the third film of the Minions, which gives you some of the history behind the yellow creatures with the big lenses.

I noted that Minions is not so much a cartoon movie for children, but for grown-ups. This time I enjoyed it much more than before. I do not know if it was the intention of the author of the script. I found that the Minions bring us face to face with the human condition, not as it should be; but as it is today, with its weaknesses and its pursuit of something better than ever that never seems to come.

Also, we realize that the Minions have a transcendental sense of their existence. They are in search of a supreme being who offers them protection and gives meaning to their lives. They cling to the dinosaur, then to the wild bear, then the caveman, to the Egyptians, followed by Napoleon Bonaparte and other figures with great power, but bad intentions. The Minions’ attachment lacks good judgment. They perceive as supreme the strongest, the most astute, not seeing the weak moral character of their new leader.

Has this not been our human reality since God created Adam and Eve?  Man always seeks beyond himself. Our nature is transcendental, going beyond our person. All too often, we make the mistake of following the most perfidious (one whose cunning is malicious). Of course, things never end well. We must start over in search of another supreme being to serve and protect us. That is the great pursuit of the Minions. One who does not understand that the only supreme being who can satisfy one’s need to serve and to be loved and protected is God, is a Minion.

 During a part of the film, the Minions place their trust in the commercial, urban, technical and organizational development of their environment. They build a great society with countless wonders. When they consider their work, they are empty. Technology, science, politics, economics, and no form of material development satisfies his thirst for God. Unfortunately, the name of God is never mentioned in any segment of the series, although in the first movie the three young orphan girls are seen praying before going to sleep.

St. Augustine said, “Our hearts will not rest until they rest in you Lord.”  Augustine is a respectable example of a human Minion. He sought to find the haven of Truth ubiquitously.

When he did not find her, he concentrated on himself, on the pleasures of the flesh and mind, on the satisfaction of his passions. But nothing filled him; because what his soul sought was not in the possessions and forces of this world.

The Minions, despite having their bosses and their great scientifically advanced society, were dying.  They were failing to become what they were meant to be.   Finally, three go out in search of a new foreman, convinced that their lives would be saved if they found the strongest and most astute chief. With a foreman to protect them and give them direction, they would find happiness.  So, they believed. They find other sinister characters and believe they have found their health and safety, just as men do. We cling to those present us with powerful, technology, and ideologies. We seize the job and its “reward” and attach ourselves to shaded individuals. At the end, nothing satisfies the hunger of the heart.

As we follow the series of the Minions, we realize that the satisfaction of the Minions and their foreman lies not in what this world offers, even when they are good things. Their happiness genuine in the measure that they detach from the immoral, the unnecessary and of the supposed security that gives us power. Their true happiness and purpose of their life, is perceived to the extent that the protagonists identify and surrender to the force of love. Even when such love is not seen, its presence is felt.

The experience of the Minions reflects that of many men and women. Conversion does not occur overnight. Change is possible to the extent to which they love and accept being loved.

I cannot tell you when and how the total conversion happens. First because the series is still developing. Second, I believe that the realization of the human being is achieved only in the encounter with the Perfection of Love. For most of us, this encounter occurs at the precise moment when the soul about to be freed from the body. We come face to face with Whom we have always sought. We must pass a judgment to determine if we are worthy to gaze into the eyes of Love for all eternity.

The series of Minions can go on forever, if it stays faithful to the human condition. Even if the producers give a conclusion to the search of the Minions, we know that the end of our earthly life is merely the first page of the next chapter.

The Power of Christian Parenting


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grandchild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reading time with Uncle Julian!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You Were Born on Labor Day


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Labor Day is here.  In most countries, this holiday is an unknown.   To add to my unorthodox way of thinking, I believe that Labor Day and Mother’s Day should be celebrated together.  Make the first Monday of May, Labor Day and the second Sunday of May, Mother’s Day.  I can’t imagine a more tender experience and a greater work of love than giving birth.

Having said this, I would like to share with you how the Franciscans of Life are taught to think of Labor Day.

First:  The day should begin with a reading of the Story of Creation from the Book of Genesis.

It must be read the way that the writers intended to share it with their descendants.  It’s not a scientific or even a historical account of creation.  It is bigger than that.  It is a Revealed Account of Creation.  God revealed Himself as the origin of all that exists. He reveals Himself as a generous Father who gives his children everything they need.  Until the fall of Adam, nothing was missing from man’s life.  He reveals that everything in Creation, even those pesky little insects that annoy us are good.

Observe that each stage of Creation ends with, “and God saw that it was good.”  If man respects the goodness of the natural order and the goodness of all created things and beings, the world would truly be a Garden of Eden.  This message is very clear in Genesis.  The Garden of Eden is a place where all things and beings co-exist in harmony, each respecting the domain of the other and everything fulfilling its role in God’s plan for our salvation.

Second:  When I was a missionary in South America, people often asked me why Americans didn’t work on Labor Day.  They found this to be a contradiction.  I always explained that it is a day that we set aside to honor workers and human enterprise.

The question is, do we in America truly think about all workers, not just those who sit behind desks?

Do we appreciate the fact that were it not for those who work for the Department of Sanitation, we would be living in the Middle Ages, where rats and insects fed off the garbage that people threw into the streets and that children often played with these little critters, were bitten and died?  Thanks to sanitation workers, American children don’t have to feel threatened by infected rodents and insects.  They can play in relative safety in their back yard or a park.

(C) New York City Dept. of Sanitation

Holidays come and go.  Mornings come and go.  Who remembers that the sanitation worker, the teacher, the lawyer, the doctor and every working man and woman in the world has a life beyond outside of their work place?  Sometimes, they face great difficulties in their lives outside work.  For some, work is a respite from family problems, the illness of an elderly parent, an abusive marriage and more sadness.  If we don’t pray for these people during the year, can we at least remember them in prayer on Labor Day?

Third:  I was not kidding about mothers.  Giving birth is an act of real love.

For 40 weeks, a woman gets ready to meet her little one.  But as the weeks go by, the discomforts increase.  There are back aches.  There are issues with gestational diabetes and intra-uterine blood pressure.

Then there are all those things that people keep telling us can happen to our babies: blindness, intellectual disabilities, brain damage, and more.  The truth is that the number of children born with these conditions is a very low percentage and today we have the means and the knowledge to provide for them.

The day finally arrives.  It’s “Labor Day”.  The promise made by God to Eve in the Book of Genesis is fulfilled.  A mother experiences great pain and anxiety for hours between the onset of labor and the actual birth of her child.  However, when she sees and counts those 10 little fingers and 10 little toes, all that pain and anxiety is forgotten.

Dads have been standing by trying to be as supportive of Mom as possible, often feeling helpless.   Some men feel guilty when they see the pain of labor and delivery.  They feel that somehow, they have contributed to the suffering of the woman they love.  Those feelings disappear when they get to hold their child and glance into that tiny face covered with a knitted cap and wrapped in a white receiving blanket (with blue and pink stripes, just in case).

  Grand-parenting can be exhausting!

Do we pray for parents on Labor Day?  Do we remember those who find themselves in unexpected pregnancies and are struggling with the question, “Should we go forward with this pregnancy or get an abortion?” How many parents pray for their sons and daughters that when their time comes to be parents, they will choose labor, not death.

This Labor Day, let us remember to thank God for the Work of Creation.  Let us commit to co-exist responsibly, using what we need and preserving what we don’t need so that others may reap some of the benefits of creation.

Remember that every person has a life beyond the job that he or she does.  They need our kindness, our respect, our patience, and our prayers.

Please do not forget your parents and the labor of love that brought you into the world and the work that they have done or are still doing to help you grow and live happily.

Finally, remember those couples and those pre-born children who may be in crisis this Labor Day.

THE WITNESS OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE


Statue at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish, sculpted by Sr. Margaret Beaudette, S.C. – (c) Jim Davis, Florida Catholic

Those who have heard the name Maximilian Kolbe, immediately remember the friar who gave his life in Auschwitz.  He took the place of an innocent man whom the Nazis wanted to execute as an “example” to others of what happens when prisoners escape.  Nazi logic is as dull as the edge of a butter knife.

They believed that a prisoner had escaped, because they could not find him.  They decided to make an example to discourage escaping; but their victim was an innocent man who had not attempted escape.

Maximilian contemplated this insane scenario.  Insane, because there was no logic to the proposed execution. This irrational sentencing to death of an innocent man was unlikely to discourage any further attempts to escape.  On the contrary, it had the potential to encourage more attempts.  Those present understood that their chances of survival were probably greater if they tried to escape.  If they did get caught and killed by the guards, their death had some meaning.  To be executed to deter further attempts to escape, when one had never attempted to do so, was irrational.

The man whom they chose to execute was a husband and a father.  He cried, not for his life, but for that of his family.  An intact family would soon be deprived of its father, because a group of men with no moral conscience, no sensitivity and no respect for human life were about “console” their wounded pride, because they failed to capture the escaped convict.  The execution of this innocent man was really a ruthless act to appease their disturbed pride.

“Jesus stepped forward… ‘I am he…let these go’ ” (Jn 18)

God had graced Maximilian with intelligence, a conscience, courage, love for all men, a spirit of detachment from all things of this world, and an unwavering trust in the Immaculate.  The Holy Spirit energized the graces that the Father had poured into Maximilian through the cross of His son.  There was no need for time to consider the consequences. Maximilian stepped forward and volunteered to replace the innocent husband and father.

This is God’s moment of glory in the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, for all to see.  In an instant that required no time and no consideration of the facts, the power of grace, as strong as the wind of a hurricane and burning like flairs from the sun jolted Maximilian.  The rest was up to his will.  He could choose to ignore grace or surrender to the supremacy and wonder of God, knowing that his earthly life was about to come to a cruel and unjustifiable end; but a new life was about to begin.

Maximilian freely chose martyrdom.  But martyrdom is not the choice of a godless man.  God offers martyrdom to those who have lived their lives in His grace and are spiritually solid enough to tolerate martyrdom. They love as they have been loved.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1) – Foto (c) ANSA

We honor Maximilian Kolbe and we look to him as a model, not as a hero who gave his life for another man.  Such heroism happens more often than we think.  But Maximilian’s choice was much more than an impulse to protect a life.  Maximilian’s choice was free cooperation with the Love who had loved him first.

Unless we are aware of the presence of the Beloved in our lives and return love for love, we will never have the courage to freely lay down our lives for pure love.

Such courage comes from grace that is not merited by man, but freely offered by God to some souls.  The soul becomes aware of the rule of grace. At the right moment in time, that soul freely and lovingly places itself under the shield of grace and accepts martyrdom.  For this, man must live in the presence of Christ.  Always linked to him through the Immaculate.

“The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men…the Immaculate alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. Assumed into Heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, wh o will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of the Kingdom of God upon Earth.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe. [drawing (c) Franciscans of Life]